Once the head girl of the socialite set, Tinsley Mortimer is now exposing New York’s upper crust in her new ‘novel’
- Last Updated: 10:58 AM, May 1, 2012
- Posted: 11:45 PM, April 30, 2012
The petite Tinsley Mortimer perches like a rare bird on her beige velvet couch, her fingers moving through her long blond hair, her three dogs circling her feet.
On a large glass coffee table in front of her are stacks of her new book “Southern Charm,” out today from Simon & Schuster, which is dedicated to “BB, Bella and Bambi” — the Chihuahuas currently holding court in her living room.
The book chronicles Minty Davenport, who comes to the big city from Charleston, SC, gets photographed at all the right parties, is mentioned in all the gossip pages, attracts the eye of a “capital-C catch,” endures the rigors of life under the microscope and finally — well, let’s not give away the ending, shall we?
“Obviously, the book clearly parallels my life in a lot of ways. I mean, certainly I was inspired by it, and you write what you know,” says Mortimer, 36, who was, not so long ago, the queen bee of the younger set of the society circuit.
“There will obviously be a guessing game [as to who’s who], but the truth is that no character is any one person. They are all composites of different people.”
Mortimer herself took New York City by storm when she showed up seemingly out of nowhere in 2001, with big Southern blond curls, colorful dresses, a blinding smile and perfect breeding. She was soon a fixture in the party pages of Women’s Wear Daily and a perma-item on Page Six. It helped, of course, that she was on the arm of one of the city’s most eligible bachelors, Robert “Topper” Mortimer, an Upper East Sider whose great-grandfather was a president of Standard Oil. The two met at the Lawrenceville boarding school in New Jersey and married in 2002.
Since then, Mortimer (who still uses Topper’s last name — they have been legally separated since 2009 but are not divorced) has starred in an ill-fated reality show called “High Society,” launched a handbag line for the Japanese brand Samantha Thavasa, and now, has written a book that highlights the strange rites of socialites as only an insider could.
“There are so many people around me, in this world, that are inspiring and funny characters,” says Mortimer, who sketched out scenes in longhand on notepads, sitting on her big blue-and-white bed, next to two stuffed teddy bears nestled into a mountain of pillows.
Mortimer freely admits that a friend, who will remain anonymous, helped her write the book.
“We did this whole thing together,” says Mortimer of her anonymous co-writer. But it seems clear that the material is culled straight from the blond belle’s beautiful life. For instance, the book describes the chilly reception Minty receives from the chic clique of native New York City girls who eye her up and down cooly, and then turn the other way. “I was such an outsider at first,” says Mortimer. “Such a fish out of water. And there were these girls, I mean, these chic girls who aren’t wearing a lot of makeup and dressed in all black and so cool, and there I am with my color and all my makeup.”
“Of course, being with Topper helped, but they were like, ‘Who is this girl with one of our New York City boys?’ It took a couple of years before some of them would even talk to me. They were very cold to me. But some were very sweet from the beginning.”
The book also describes Tripp du Pont, an Upper East Side scion and playboy who sweeps Minty off her feet but doesn’t always approve of her ambitions and camera-ready attitude. Part of the reason Topper and Tinsley split is because Mortimer cultivated the spotlight, while Topper shunned it. (On society photographer Patrick McMullan’s Web site, there are 3,637 photographs of Tinsley, 172 of Topper, and only about 50 or so of the two together. Mortimer says Topper hasn’t read the book and probably won’t.)
Mortimer’s enormous Midtown apartment is a testimony to her love affair with the lens. Photos of the beauty queen line every wall. Here she is in Harper’s Bazaar, there she is in a promotional poster for “High Society,” in a photo on a table she is a debutante on her father’s arm in her hometown of Richmond, Va.
Oil paintings of her forebears get some real estate, but not much. “I have a lot of wall space,” Mortimer explains. A picture of Mortimer in a teal bikini that ran on Page 3 of a recent edition of The Post peeks out from under the giant glass coffee table, just below stacks of “Southern Charm” — the fictional account of the real live girl that lit up all those flashbulbs.
“For a long time these pictures were all tucked away, but I’m proud of myself for a lot of this stuff. I wanted to bring them out again and remind myself of all that I’ve done.”