Sure, she was famously dubbed the “Deb of the Decade” (back when debutantes were all the rage), and spent her youth hanging out in the spotlight at Studio 54 and Area with the likes of Andy Warhol, Halston, Boy George, The Village People’s Randy Jones, and onetime boyfriend Sly Stallone (to name a few). At a time when socialites were meant to be pretty and demure and carry on the family name, she broke the mold, playing a part in two worlds: by day, as one of the uptown ladies who lunched; by night, as the girl who’d go downtown, partying it up with jet-setters, artists, musicians—the cool crowd.
Now, however, Cornelia Guest, the daughter of polo champion Winston Frederick Churchill Guest (heir to the Phipps steel fortune) and fashion icon C.Z. Guest, is more passionate about her philanthropy, animal activism, and business ventures. As sweet as she is stunning, Cornelia also reigns over her family home, Templeton, an 11-bedroom house in Old Westbury, New York, where I recently spent a day as her guest. With its classic and grand design, Templeton is spectacular, but its special-ness is in the details: the Salvador Dalí portrait of C.Z.; the Warhol of Cornelia; Cornelia’s tortoise, Socrates, who roams about freely; the donkey named Madonna; and nine (yes, nine) dogs who also proudly call Templeton home.
A committed vegan, Cornelia has built a lifestyle brand around her catering business, Templeton Events, which showcases her culinary talent (it was a real treat being served her mouth-watering cooking firsthand—who knew a vegetable lunch and vegan chocolate chip cookies could be so good?), and around her cruelty-free handbag line, set to debut at Bloomingdale’s. She’s also publishing a lifestyle book, which is scheduled to be on shelves next year.
As a host at Templeton, Cornelia was every bit the star she’s hyped to be. I loved being with her, and also loved being with the photographer Harry Benson, who not only captured that day as seen here, but remembered what it was like taking pictures of C.Z. in the same spots years ago.
Photographs / Harry Benson