Thursday in Los Angeles was a miserable day for a pool party—overcast and chilly—but the poolside patio at Robert Evans's legendary Beverly Hills estate, Woodland, was packed nonetheless. Evans, the producer behind Chinatown, Marathon Man and The Two Jakes, has now produced a signature line of eyeglasses for Oliver Peoples, and the outdoor lunch gave the company a chance to trumpet its relationship with Hollywood's most famous four-eyes.
The crowd included many types who would never otherwise be invited to Woodland: reporters, for instance, and guys like the one who wore lime-green pants and a yellow rain hat. There were also a few friends of Evans on hand, such as director Brett Ratner, who used to live in Evans's guesthouse.
Ratner bragged that he's making a biopic about Helmut Newton—the late photographer was perhaps Evans's closest friend—if, that is, he can secure the rights from Newton's indomitable widow, June. "I'm wresting with June," said Ratner, adding that he also wants to do a sequel to the documentary Helmut by June, which aired on HBO last year.
Then Ratner was peeled away by Lady Victoria White, who cut a rather chic figure as Evans's seventh wife, and the two joined a knot of conversation around Evans's longtime English butler, Alan Selka.
"Bob," as most people called him, was nowhere to be seen.
Turns out he was in his bedroom, the inner sanctum from which he often conducts business, and select guests were escorted in, either singly or in small groups, for a private audience. Behind a set of heavy wooden doors, Evans was perched on his velvet-upholstered bed like a pasha upon a pillow. He wore one pair of Oliver Peoples glasses and held a second in his left hand; occasionally he switched for effect.
"When I was growing up, glasses were medicinal," he said. "Now they're cosmetical."
Evans seemed to enjoy his visitors, especially the female ones, and he was attentive to them. His talk was very subtly funny, and he turned several phrases to particular effect, as if dialing down his humor to the lowest pitch at which it could still be perceived.
"Everyone should wear glasses," he said. "You'll see people you've never seen before."
Soon, a group of young men came in for their chance to kiss the ring, and they fell agog before a huge black-and-white Helmut Newton photograph on the wall. It showed two nude women sprawled under a sycamore tree at Woodland, not a stone's throw from where they stood that moment.
Evans noticed their gaze.
"They're not here," he said to the lads.
Or was the old rake speaking to himself, remembering happy days long gone?
Ah, Bob! Sic transit gloria mundi.