One of the few inspirations for this gay affair was the movie “Bright Young Things” by director Stephen Fry. I fell in love with this movie because it was based on one of my favorite books from college, Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Waugh was a apart of select group of young artists, socialites and aristocrats named by the tabloid press because of their decadent lifestyles and their lack of care for the promising futures. In the early years the group was made up of person between the ages of 20-35. The BYT were inspiration to Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited as well.
D.J. Taylor put it best in biography of the London Jazz set "Bright Young People secured a great deal of publicity by throwing wild parties and indulging in kindergarten orgies of gin, se and drugs which caused their faces to be printed on Sunday newspapers." Many great authors and artists were born from this wave of excess. From great artists like Cecil Beaton and Barbara Ker-Seymer to writers like Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh. All were looking to escape the stiffness of their upbringings for a free life, while most of the older generation just saw the BYT’s a bunch of heathens.
While the novel Vile Bodies was loosely built on many of Waugh’s friends, the real characters of this imaginative group became great personalities and characters of their time. I’ve even added many of their name to the list of great characters for guests to dress up as. There is the torrid story of Bryan Guinness’s marriage to Diana Mitford (one of the 4 Mitford sister) who later left Guinness for fascist leader Oswald Mosely. Mosely is a perfect antagonist for a Lifetime Network mini series. While he was lap dog for Hitler and the Nazi Party. His life before WWII and his affair with Mitford was like horrible saucy romantic novel. The man managed to not only cheat on his first wife with Mitford while she was on her deathbed. But had cheated on his first wife with his wife's younger sister and her stepmother.
One of my favorite Bright Young Things was Stephen Tennant. Not just because he was one of the few out of the closet members of this exclusive circle but he lived life like each days was new scene in a great story. Some say that Tennant was raised and groomed by his mother to bring forth the second coming of The Souls (another social group from the late 1800’s till 1920). Tennant’s mother and her siblings were the founders of The Souls and since Tennant was one of the early members of BYT, there might be some truth to this hypothesis.
The Bright Young Things were celebrities thanks in part to two reasons. First there was the elaborately themed parties the group put on for almost a decade. Almost all of these parties were fancy dress affairs. For us westerners, fancy dress is european saying for costume party. There were so many parties;
Wild West Parties
Literary Character Parties
and so much more……..
Second, was the thirst of the newspapers to have delicious scandal and opulent life stories written down in black and white to send their readers on a fantastic journey. The public ate up everything that was written about this crowd. Whether it was the restaurants they dined at or the clothes they wore. Would you seriously wear a green bowler hat. Man would I love to see a few of those walk through the door of the party.
This era of English bohemian’s was first noted in the press around the summer of 1924 and continued on till the early years of WWII. Most of the gents and ladies in this group volunteered during the second war. Most were just youth’s during the last one. I sure when the invitation go out or when you walk through the front door of the Cabaret Club, you will see many hints of the Bright Young People splashed about.
If you are interested in reading more about the Bright Young People or watching Bright Young Things skip over to the Books & Movies Section.