She got to know Frank Sinatra after he separated from Ava Gardner in 1953. “Frank and I became very good friends when he was on his ass, when he was down and out,” she said. “I used to pick him up from the—what was the name of that place, there was a nightclub in the Paramount Hotel. The French casino! That was the only joint that would hire him. We were just friends. He was very gentle and he was absolutely, as they say in Italian, distrutto. He was destroyed. It was a terrible time for him. And we used to go and listen to Nat King Cole sing. We never discussed Ava. I think he had really done himself in emotionally, physically, with this woman, and he told me he was very naïve about everything.”
Her first trip to Europe was in 1959, when she found herself on movie producer Sam Spiegel’s yacht along with Rex Harrison. Aristotle Onassis chatted her up in Monaco.
“Onassis and I became very good friends,” she said. “He was never my boyfriend. Thank God! He confided in me his prowess with women. I suspect he was a great lover. I mean, Jackie Onassis wasn’t there for laughs. I think she really cared about him. I mean, she cared about the money.”
Naturally she dated Gianni Agnelli. “Onassis introduced me to him and he said, ‘Don’t get involved with him, he’s a drug addict,’” she said. “I didn’t know what he meant by that. I was dancing with him, and one of his legs was stiff, he’d hurt it in an automobile accident, but he was so handsome and charming, you died. Forget it. He was like a maid, he gossiped so much. It was nice cause he had a plane: ‘Would it amuse you if I sent you the plane?’ I said, ‘Send it!’”
Did she ever considered remarrying?
“Marriage? Oh, no, no, no,” she said. “Just the idea—oh! Just the idea of answering to somebody. Trapped is the word.”
In 1962, she was in Paris, modeling for Coco Chanel. “That’s why my clothes are as good as they are, because of Mademoiselle,” she said.
She rented a house near Monaco one summer. Greta Garbo was staying nearby, and while they were both swimming naked in the pool, the actress came on to her. “I just split, I said forget it,” Ms. Rogers recalled.
She dated Peter O’Toole.
“I used to wear white flannel pants and a blue Chanel coat and high heels, and we were quite a couple,” she said. “I was madly in love with him and he was drinking like a fish, he drank terribly in those days. He’d start drinking and disappear, and then he’d wind up at my apartment, and I wouldn’t let him in.”
Ms. Rogers isn’t impressed by the men she meets in New York these days.
“Nobody has identity,” she said. “These men that are terribly rich, they make a certain amount of money, and then they get their name in the Metropolitan Museum and you want to vomit.”
She laughed, put her hand on my thigh by accident, then apologized and laughed.
“You know, European men versus American men, you can’t compare them,” she said.
After Chanel, Ms. Rogers moved back to New York and eventually started designing for people like Babe Paley, Pat Buckley, Lee Radziwill, Jackie Onassis. “Lee has great taste, more so than her sister,” she said. “I never thought Jackie knew what she was looking at. Lee taught Jackie what to wear.”
These days she watches TV evangelist Joel Osteen every Sunday. “I turned him on the TV about two or three years ago and I said, “Who’s that handsome dude, he’s beautiful?’”
She ordered ice cream with fudge sauce.
“Things happen to me,” she said. “Like some people say, ‘I never find a parking space.’ I always find a parking space. I walk down the street and find money. The other night I was walking on Madison Avenue, and I looked down, there’s $300 on the street, rolled up. I looked around to see who lost it. There was nobody there but me. Things happen to me like that. Good things always happen.”
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