Constantine A. Valhouli’s career (which he self-deprecatingly refers to as a ‘career’) began at The Washington Post and continued in leaps and bounds working for a former White House Press Secretary, directing two documentary films segueing as editor of his new treatise, “Miles, Chet, Ralph & Charlie,” @amazon.com, a fitting tribute to a long friendship that began when he was fitted at ten years old for a navy blazer required for his school dress code.
The book’s subtitle provides an appropriate synopsis: How Charlie Davidson (pictured above) turned a tiny store in Harvard Square into an unlikely literary salon, dressed jazz legends and presidents, helped Ivy Style to the mainstream, and occasionally sold clothing.
The book is an “oral history,” sort of a documentary without film, featuring interviews with me, G. Bruce Boyer and Alan Flusser, as well as a number of other people involved in the Andover Shop. It’s a storytelling format made famous by George Plimpton (a customer of both the Andover Shop and J. Press) and by Nelson Aldrich, Jr. (ditto), with whom Valhouli has another book forthcoming.
Among one of my quotes, “The magic wasn’t just the shop; it was Charlie himself. And I say this as a former competitor, an almost collaborator, and above all else as a longtime friend. I put Charlie on a par with some of the retailing greats such as Cliff Grodd at Paul Stuart, or Ralph Lauren …the store was an extension of him.”
More historical perspective from yours truly, “After the Air Force, Charlie worked at J. Press for both my father and my grandfather. When Charlie worked for the flagship J. Press just off the Yale campus, he sold a hat to the actor Gregory Peck. Now Peck would sometimes wear his own clothes in his films and wore that hat in Gentlemen’s Agreement…When he takes it off in one scene you can see the J. Press logo, my father and grandfather loved that.”
The saga of Charlie Davidson transcends the culture of Harvard Square, his epicenter of the universe. The chapter Storyville Nights details his insinuation in the world of Jazz illuminated by his irreverential comment, “I dressed Miles Davis before he went pimp.”
Charlie was an iconoclast often tied together with his Esquire/Boston Globe writer pal George Frazier. Frazier was set upon by the hospital nurses who patronized him on his death bed speaking to him as if he were a child, insisting he take a blood test because we’re sick. “No,” he replied, “we’re here for the Yale game.” He died shortly thereafter knowing he had the last word.
Mor Sène, former Andover Shop tailor, recalled his long friendship with Charlie, “The world we live in doesn’t produce many people like him. Which is why it’s so remarkable when one of them enters the orbit of your life.”
The Boston Globe December 11, 2019 obit headlined “Charlie Davidson, the Andover Shop’s ‘Baron of Bespoke,’ dies at 93.” Get the whole story in this entertaining portrait of a man who never suffered fools lightly.
Thank you Constantine A. Valhouli for compiling his vast sphere of influence.