She is draped casually across a linen tufted chair in the drawing room of her friend Kay Halle's Georgetown house. Her perfectly groomed graying strawberry blonde hair is pulled back in an elegant bun, the gold earrings, heavy pearls, jeweled brooch, simple beige silk dress, hint of understated money. The immaculate white gloves she will wear to speak later rest on a table nearby.
Alice-Leone Moats is a lady. A Southern lady at that. Her friends call her "Moatsie," a name picked up at the numerous girls' boarding schools and finishing schools she went to all over the world.
But Alice-Leone Moats, now in her 60s ("just say I've reached the age of consent"), has fallen upon hard times.
"Father was a big money-maker but mother and I were big spenders," she says."And so was he. That's the problem. And that is why I find myself in this incredible state of being broke right now.I'm very stupid about money."
A century ago a lady of her breeding under such unfortunate circumstances might have taken in swing. Fifty or so years ago she might have given French lessons.
Today she writes dirty books.
"Bawdy. Bawdy," she says. "But not pornographic. It's just as dirty as you may think it is when you're reading it. It's, well, off-color."
The book, "The Million Dollar Studs," which Moats is promoting now, is about the gigolos, the impoverished men of the 1920s through the 1950s who earned their livings by marrying rich women. The Mdivani brothers - Alex, Serge and David - and Porfirio Rubirosa, plus Doris Duke, Louise Van Alen and Barbara Hutton, figure prominently in the book. Moats was able to write the book, not by being an active party of the game but by being peripherally socially involved with the international jet set over the years, "I went to the same nightclubs, had the same dressmakers.
"They were very colorful people," she says. "They dressed well, traveled, had good parties, added a lot of fun. They weren't anybody you'd ever sit down and talk to or anything like that. They really had a sense of fun though. That seems to have gone out of the world. People don't have a sense of fun the way we did."
Nevertheless, they represented a dying breed, and she took it upon herself to chronicle their last days of glory. Her mother had died in Paris in 1974, the two of them having lived so grandly that the family fortune had been depleted. Moats, an author of nine books, including "No Nice Girl Swears," written at age 21 for fun, a writer for Time, Life, Colliers, Vogue and The Saturday Evening Post, flew to Philadelphia, rented one-room in a friend's house and proceeded to write "Millionaire Studs."
She knew she would have to make it dirty to sell. But selectively dirty.
"It is something I did deliberately," she says. "I just ramble along like Aunt Matilda for a while, then whammmmm. I think that has so much more impact than dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty."
As the interview came to a close, Alice-Leone Moats slipped on her neat white gloves, her simple but beautifully tailored beige coat and left the house. She didn't want to be late for yesterday's lunch at the Women's National Democratic Club where she was the speaker. After a few drinks, and lunch, Moats spoke, then took questions from the ladies. She was asked to say which of all the millionaire studs had been the "gest in the hay."
"The general opinion is Porfirio Rubirosa," she replied matter of factly. "And he certainly was if you go by the equipment."
The interesting thing about Alice-Leone Moats is that she is very old-fashioned, very square in her own way and she makes a very definite distinction about what's acceptable and what is not.
"I still think," she says, "tht it's much better to leave things to the imagination. If you catch the point, fine, if you don't that's fine too. I am a square in that I continue to dress in a very conservative way, stockings with seams, the pearls around the nect department. I do find people awfully messy now. I've always been very discreet about my own life. Though I'm very loose-tongued about other peoples lives. Nowadays people knock you down to tell you who they're sleeping with."
She is a funny combination of shocking explicitness and old-fashioned prudery, and it takes a while to get used to it until one realizes that she is simply from another era. And it occurs suddenly that what is shocking about Alice-Leone Moats and her book is not what she writes or says, which in fact is quite mild, but who is saying it.
If Erica Jong were being interviewed or speaking to a group and letting loose with a string of expletives it would seem perfectly natural and "Fear of Flying" could hardly be considered shocking any more. yet here is this elegant, uptown, older lady talking about measurements and one's immediate reaction is to call for the salts.
She realizes that she has that effect and loves to use it on people. She does it well, with a wry, tweaking sense of humor, a sense of delight and fun and frivolity that bespeaks her generation.
"I'm absolutely horrified about young people nowadays and that terrible Mzzzzzzzzzzz. Magazine. These young women are obsessed with men. The sex act, you know, is not all that pretty. You have to dress it up, flowers, little notes, candlelight."
She also deplores the language being used today. "I think it's terrible. And the way they dilute the words by using them all the time.
She prides herself on the fact that there is not a single four-letter word in her book. "My editor kept saying, 'Alice-leone, this is an elegant book.' He even made me change the word pants to trousers. (As in, "Their only asset was what they had in their trousers, and they parlayed that into millions.")
Interestingly enough, Alice-Leone Moats refuses to accept people's perceptions of her book as a sociological document of any kind. She laughs at the "innocent young girls from television stations who ask me the sociological implications," and she seemed a bit miffed to find that Doubleday in New York had placed her book in sociology section.
"It's not meant to be a sociological document," she insists with a grin. "It's meant to be a romp."
Nevertheless, despite her insistence, the book is an interesting, if not deliberate, comment on those times. And if pressed she will try to explain, not only how it all happened but why it never will again. She says that by coincidence during the '20s and '30s a lot of rich men died and left only daughters as heirs. And that there were no enormous taxes in those days.
"The rich are stupid as a whole," she says. "They're always terrified that the revolution is going to get them and they're afraid these days to show they have money. People don't inherit the way they did before, and also, people have become so earnest. My generation was not earnest. They say now that the world was not in such terrible condition then. Well, we had the Depression didn't we? Nowadays if a young man wanted to marry a girl for her money she'd more than likely make him go off with her and work in the ghetto . . ."
Moreover, she says, the women involved, the Barbara Huttons and Doris Dukes "were so isolated from the outside world they never got shrewd about people and they got taken right and left.
"Not only that, when sex walks in the door, sinse flies out the window. God knows, in my own life I had a passion for stupid men. If they were dumb enough I thought they were dreamy." She will only say she fell hard for three men but never married and she says she never fell for any of the subjects of her book. "For one thing they weren't my type and for another thing, I wasn't an heiress so they would never have been interested in me anyway."
At least then she had some money. Now she has absolutely none. Which is why she set out to write this book.
"I asked myself, what can I write to make money," she says. "It's really such an obvious idea. And boy, if this book goes at my age," she says with a laugh, "if this book book goes over they'll want me to do stud books forever.
"Of course," she says with a hint of haughty wistfulness. "I would never dream of doing it."