The Gentleman Scholar On The Bachelor Pad
Last month Troy Patterson, author of the Slate column The Gentleman Scholar, wrote an article on the history of the bachelor pad. It includes the following observation, certainly known to all of us here, but a worthwhile clarification for anyone who might stumble across his column, or this site.
Just because a single man inhabits an apartment doesn’t make it a bachelor pad. A bachelor pad is a very specific concept.
Thus, the bachelor pad—a midcentury institution and modernist trope, a machine for living large. The term has been horribly degraded over the years, so let’s be clear: A pigsty aspiring to the aesthetic of an unmopped sports bar does not qualify as a bachelor pad, nor do the vast majority of apartments inhabited by roommates, which lack the solitary bachelor’s freedom of environmental control. We’re talking about sophisticated digs, pretty toys, the sleek sovereign kingdoms depicted in Playboy’s design coverage of the 1950s and ’60s and in quite a few Hollywood films of the same era. Think of Frank Sinatra’s floating clubhouse in Ocean’s 11, of Tony Curtis controlling traffic in Boeing Boeing, of Rock Hudson’s projections of traditional machismo in Pillow Talk.
The article is a lengthy but great read, so sit down for it when you have a few minutes.
50s — 60s bachelor pads have always left me cold. Put me back in Algernon Moncrieff’s Albany.
I tend to agree with Mr. Wiilard. When my wife and I were looking for a home, a real estate agent showed us a house owned by a single guy whose bedroom was covered in orange shag carpeting. Not just the floor, the carpeting went up the walls to the ceiling. And the bedroom door was a wrought iron, gilded gate. I instantly imagined him wearing a polyester jumpsuit, English Leather cologne, and white patent leather boots.
I think that Dean Martin in the Matt Helm movies was about the coolest version of the 50s-60s esthetic. Somehow I never could think of a round motorized bed as gentlemanly.
Great piece; the filmography is mint.
I agree with Mr. Willard and Mr. Boyer. There’s something so painfully nihilistic in the article’s recommendations; I can’t embrace them. The parallel bed, the impersonal nature of technology, and the restrained strain to reach for an ideal comes off as affected. Fussell would have a field day. I have always preferred the worn look and feel of an old chesterfield or club chair, the warm crackle of a Crosley, the nuances in the design of a Persian rug, and the books on my shelf are there because I enjoy reading them. Too many Bachelor’s today think of B. Easton Ellis’s Patrick Bateman as an ideal as opposed to a warning.
Indeed, the bachelor of the eponymous pad embraces nihilistic hedonism, and is nothing to be admired or emulated.
While the high-tech gadgetry appeals to the technogeek in (some of) us, the moral bankruptcy of the bachelors who inhabit such pads is reflected in the coldness and sterility of their environs.
I wouldn’t trade my modest family home for the nicest bachelor pad in the world (unless I could sell the latter for a tidy sum and then purchase a nicer home for my family).