The Story Behind Slim Aaron's Poolside Gossip
To get the full picture of this iconic scene, let's first look at the home itself
This photo, “Poolside Loungers,” with Nelda and friends in the background, not hogging the limelight for once, gives us a chance to admire the midcentury architectural marvel that is the Kauffman Desert House. Just after World War II, Pittsburg business mogul Edgar J. Kauffman commissioned renown architect Richard Neutra to design the home, which was built in 1946. Kauffman had a keen eye for the modernist aesthetic, having already commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design his other home in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. In 1955 Kauffman passed away, and the home went through a series of owners.
Nelda certainly didn't need the help of her husband to have a good time, as we see Joe is nowhere to be found in the below photo "Poolside Gathering"
Now that we know a bit of the backstory of the house and the owners, let’s see how Slim Aarons was even able to capture these moments. The Linsk couple and Aarons were neighbors back in New York, and had known each other long before these photos were taken.
In an interview with magazine Palm Springs Life, Nelda recalls how the whole thing came together:
“He [Slim Aarons] happened to be in Palm Springs and called me up one morning and said he wanted to do some swimming pool shots. I said,
‘OK, come on over.” He told me to call up a few of my friends. I called up Helen, of course, and a couple of other friends. Slim came over about an hour later with a tripod and his camera.”
The day starts with our ladies catching up before festivities fully kick in. A time to get out the best gossip and latest news between old friends. Like most high class socialites in Palm Springs, these women knew each other through The Racquet Club. Nelda recalls:
“We were all at The Racquet Club together all the time. I didn’t know how to play tennis very well but I’d watch Dinah Shore or Barbara (Marx Sinatra) play and then we’d all have lunch together. Mousie Powell used to stage fashion shows around The Racquet Club pool and I started modeling along with Barbara and Helen Dzo Dzo (Kaptur), the other gal in the ‘Poolside Gossip’ photo. It was just a smaller world back then.”
As we get closer to showtime, our guests start making their way to the other end of the pool, to allow the waiter to set the table full of snacks and endless bubbles in “Poolside Waiting.”
“There were no assistants, no make up artists, no hair-stylist, nothing. We just put on the clothes we had in our closets. Very casual. In fact, if I’d known then what I know today, I might have dressed up a little more.”
These images make it particularly hard to believe no stylists were involved -