I thought about Sharon Stone in Casino when I saw Babe Paley in bed. Remember that scene where Ginger is just gleefully laying there, surrounded by trays and trays of gold Bulgari? Jewelry people are semi-obsessed with it.
The scene in episode two of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans is the same, but different. We are not in Vegas anymore. Paley, wearing a nightgown and a massive strand of pearls, has invited her friend Slim Keith for a visit. Paley, like Ginger, is surrounded by jewels, but these she says, are the bejeweled apologies after each of her husband Bill’s infidelities. “The affairs end,” Keith exclaims, “but the jewelry remains!” In Ryan Murphy’s series, she has been summoned to the Paley residence at 820 Fifth Avenue to choose the piece she wants after Babe, diagnosed with cancer, is gone. “The Verdura?” Lady Keith asks after spotting a rubellite Pebble bracelet on a tray. That one, Paley tells her, was to atone for an affair with Happy Rockefeller.
The scene itself might never have really happened, but the jewelry? That stuff is real. Paley and Keith both had plenty of it. There is the story of Keith’s legendary amethyst Tiffany cross brooch, the one she ordered after visiting his salon with her friend Diana Vreeland and buying a pair of oxidized cufflinks and wondering what he might do with some amethysts she had at home. Keith also several Verdura pieces ordered throughout her life.