Fame and fortune may yet force themselves on Bill Paley Jr. As the only son of CBS mongul William Paley, 29-year-old Paley is becoming a power in the Washington-Baltimore restaurant world despite a penchant for privacy and a hedonistic, drug-filled youth that didn't thrill his parents.
"I try to turn every obstacle into a stepping stone," says Paley, who is part-owner of Capitol Hill's Gandy Dancer restaurant, the Brass Elephant in Baltimore and - coming in March to the Adams - Morgan neighborhood - the Baltimore Ballroom eatery. With this new commercial enterprises, he is less shy about his heritage, deciding that if it garners media attention, all the better.
His third establishment, the upstairs of a building at the corner of Biltmore Street and Columbia Road, will challenge the success of Columbia Station, just across the street; along with partner Fred Moore, Paley is betting the changing Adams-Morgan neighborhood can support both places.
Though the business world was kind to his father, the younger Paley tried hard to avoid following in his footsteps, working as a combat photographer in the Army, dropping out of college, brokering yachts, training dolphins, enjoying marijuana and, at one point, heroin. When people asked, he'd deny he was related to the Paley family of New York.
But in 1976 he met Moore, a Washington attorney, and along with several other investors, they entered the restaurant game. The Brass Elephant quickly became a hit in Baltimore and the Gandy Dancer overflows with Capitol Hill aides. National media has taken notice: New York Daily News gossip columnist Suzy said Baltimore's "social pace quickened - and not a moment too soon" with Paley's restaurant opening; Women's Wear Daily called Paley an "Establishment Gypsy."
And success has led to a reconciliation with his father, who stopped in the Gandy Dancer and had an egg salad sandwich and a bowl of onion soup brought to his limo after a black-tie dinner with the Kissingers.