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Excerpt from Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Oh The Glory Of It All

by Sean Wilsey

Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey X
Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 480 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 496 pages

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She outgrew Howard so thoroughly that he grabbed a woman at a New Year's Eve party and kissed her passionately in front of Mom. Then he hit her—and Mom divorced him. He was, she always says, "boring and sterile—literally, his sperm were incapable of fertilizing an egg—and I never loved him."

Then came San Francisco. It was where she 'd had the heart surgery—San Francisco had saved her life—and she felt sentimental about the place. She was thirty-one. It was 1960. She walked into the CEO's office at the Joseph Magnin department store, without an appointment, and asked for a job. He chased her around his desk. She let him catch up, and slapped him. He was so impressed he hired her.

"I like the way you handle yourself, Mrs. Groves."

"Ms. Montandon."

He decided to put her in charge of the high-rolling gentlemen's formal department, called the Wolf 's Den—equipped with a fireplace and drinks and salesgirls who dressed up like tarty elves at Christmas. After she racked up the highest seasonal sales in the company's history he put her in charge of managing a new store up in Lake Tahoe, where she met Frank Sinatra, up for the summer, doing a show every night at the Cal Neva Resort.

She got squired around by Sinatra. "He was a perfect gentleman," she said. He always called her "Patty baby," and the word went out that no other man was to address or even approach her. "It was relaxing," Mom told me. "I could eat my lunch without anyone bothering me. And he always took me out for dinner, in big groups, with all his flunkies and friends. I was like the tail of the rat! I had him over to my house for a cocktail party after we first met and he got lost on the way, so he pulled over and knocked on a woman's door to ask if he could use the phone. That lady said ‘Sure!' and she never let anyone else touch the phone after that. When Frank got to my place I gave him a drink, and he saw a dog I was taking care of out on the porch. The dog didn't like strangers, but Frank said, ‘I'm good with dogs. They like me.' And he went out there and the dog bit him. I bandaged him up and he stayed late talking to everybody. He was so nice. I never saw any of the bad behavior he had a reputation for. He was wonderful to me that summer."

But it was only a summer, and when the season was over Magnin's brought her back to San Francisco. She dyed her hair blond (the only color I've ever seen it). She changed the pronunciation of her last name "back to the French." From "Mawntandun" to "Moan-tan-dawn." She had a date every night. She met and wed her second husband: "It was the only time I ever got married against my heart." (I suppose the first time was literally for her heart.) They moved into a beautiful apartment, on the crooked block of Lombard. Six months later the marriage was over. He moved out and Mom kept the lease on the apartment. It was all she wanted for a settlement.

She made it into the society pages for throwing flamboyant parties with the assistance of the window dressers at Magnin's. There was a mod party, an astrology party, a come-as-your-favorite-celebrity costume party, a Mexican fiesta. "Pat is the best thing that ever happened to this blasé city. Now every hostess is on her toes, trying to keep up with her," wrote the society editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Pat Montandon has no peer when it comes to partyplanning," said her counterpart at the Examiner.

She met Melvin Belli, the trial lawyer who defended Jack Ruby, and later represented the Rolling Stones. Mom married Belli, her third husband, in a Shinto ceremony in Japan in 1966. It was over three weeks later. "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," wrote Herb Caen, Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist for the Chronicle, longtime Mom chronicler, and enemy.

From Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey. Copyright 2005 Sean Wilsey. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Penguin Press.

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