12-09-1902

[l to r] Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg

LUCIUS BEEBE, journalist, railroad buff, dandy and bon vivant, born (d: 1966); Beebe was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, to a prominent Boston  family and attended both Harvard University and Yale University. During his tenure at boarding school and university, Beebe was known for his numerous pranks. One of his more outrageous stunts included an attempt at festooning J.P. Morgan’s yacht Corsair with toilet paper from a chartered airplane. His pranks were not without consequence and he proudly noted that he had the sole distinction of having been expelled from both Harvard and Yale, at the insistence, respectively, of the president and dean of each. Beebe eventually was readmitted to Harvard where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1926.

He worked as a journalist for the New York Herald, the San Francisco Examiner, the Boston Telegram, and the Boston Evening Transcript and was a contributing writer to many magazines such as Gourmet, The New Yorker, Town and Country, Holiday, American Heritage and Playboy. Beebe re-launched Nevada’s first newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise in 1952. Beebe was a noted gourmand. He wrote numerous articles in Gourmet, Holiday and Playboy about restaurants and dining experiences around the world. Some of the restaurants he covered include The Colony, The Pump Room and The 21 Club, Simpson’s-in Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, and Chasen’s. A noted wine aficionado, he was a member of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.

He wrote a column called “This New York,” which was quite popular in the 1930s. Brendan Gill has written that the column contained so many references to Beebe’s “intimate friend” Jerome Zerbe that Walter Winchell suggested it should be called not “This New York” but “Jerome Never Looked Lovelier.” Beebe is said to have been fond of inviting luscious young things to his private railroad car for what one wag described as “whisky and sofa.”

In addition to his work as a journalist, Beebe wrote over 30 books. His books dealt primarily with railroading and café society. Many of his railroad books were written with longtime companion, Charles Clegg. Beebe met Clegg in 1940 while both were house-guests at the Washington, D.C. home of Evelyn Walsh McLean. The two soon developed a personal and professional relationship that continued for the rest of Beebe’s life. By the standards of the era, the relationship Beebe and Clegg shared was relatively open and well-known.

The pair initially lived in New York City, where both men were prominent in café society circles. Eventually tiring of that social life, the two moved in 1950 to Virginia City, Nevada, a tiny community that had once been a fabled mining boom-town. There, they reactivated and began publishing the Territorial Enterprise, a fabled 19th century newspaper that had once been the employer of Mark Twain. Beebe and Clegg shared a renovated mansion in the town, traveled extensively, and remained prominent in social circles. Clegg and Beebe sold the Territorial Enterprise in 1961, and purchased a home in suburban San Francisco. They continued the writing, photography, and travel that had marked their lives until Beebe’s death from a heart attack in 1966, at the age of 64. Clegg committed suicide in 1979, on the day that he reached the precise age at which Beebe had died.