Leading Newport Socialite Oatsie Charles Dies

Saturday, December 08, 2018


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Charles was friends with Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang PHOTO: MI6 Community

The leading American socialite has passed. GoLocalProv has learned that Bailey’s Beach Club — the Sprouting Rock Beach Association —  notified its members that Marion “Oatsie” Charles has died.

Charles’ friends included Doris Duke, Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, author Ian Fleming and Presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush.

A 2008 Vanity Fair featured Charles and her history and influence as an America socialite.

“Last week I had the opportunity to talk with legendary Washington, D.C., hostess and Newport society fixture Oatsie Charles. At 88 years old, she stands almost entirely alone as a representative of the Protestant establishment of her time. Oatsie’s sociable personality prevents her from mourning the passing years and the end of her stately aristocratic way of life,” wrote Jamie Johnson in a Vanity Fair feature about Charles in 2008.

“When listening to Oatsie’s stories, you get the sense there wasn’t a notable person she missed being friends with throughout her long life. One tale places her in the Oval Office with J.F.K., Teddy Roosevelt Jr., Noel Coward, and Nualla Pell, wife of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell. President Kennedy challenged the group to a weight-loss contest with a cash prize. At their next meeting, as the story goes, the president had everyone strip down to their underwear so he could weigh them to determine a winner. Coward acted as a scribe, writing rules for the contestants to follow. It was a classic vignette replete with a set cast of characters,” continued the story “Oatsie Charles Recalls the Wasp Heyday.’

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Architectural Digest referenced Charles' ties to Spanish designer Marciano Fortuny in 2018:

"Through her Madison Avenue showroom, McNeill Lee introduced Fortuny to clients including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, actress Greta Garbo, and fellow designer Albert Hadley—whose own clients included Brooke Astor, William and Babe Paley, and Washington, D.C., hostess Oatsie Charles."

Another Architectural Digest feature also referenced Charles in 2012 for her ties to legendary designer Albert Hadley. 

"Whether Hadley’s assignment was sketching curtains for the Kennedy White House or choreographing provocative environments for Fifth Avenue duplexes, the mild-mannered son of a farm-equipment dealer left an unmistakable stamp on 20th-century style. 'Rooms are meant to comfort you, cosset you,' says Washington, D.C., grande dame Oatsie Charles, a longtime client."

This story was first published 12/7/18 9:13 PM


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