In the book The Art of Friendship, Roger Horchow and Sally Horchow have answered the age-old questions of how to be a great friend, how to make better friends and how those friends can enhance your life. We caught up with Roger, who reveals the secrets to his success that far exceeds the theory that we are all separated by six degrees. With him and his daughter, it’s more like one degree. Now that’s connecting the dots.
We all know the frantic pace and casual attitudes of modern life have made real friendship a rare experience. Seventy brief essays present simple but effective “rules of connecting” with action points to help you put each rule into practice in daily life. Woven throughout the book are personal anecdotes from the Horchows, sharing their experiences of friendship. Recognizing that friendships take many forms, the authors offer practical, proven advice that demystifies the process of making friends.
On a brisk winter afternoon, Roger Horchow is surrounded by his prized possessions and museum-quality art collection in his Texas residence. It’s the very good life he leads in a comfortable East Coast style home of a life fully lived. His mementos and a plethora of personal memorabilia already slated to be donated to Southern Methodist University at a later date dot the walls and line any available shelf. Several dozen scrapbooks and photo albums contain everything from White House invitations to photos of everyone notable from his glamour-filled life as an executive with Neiman Marcus and Foley’s and his own namesake Horchow Collection of one-of-a-kind objects inspired by global travels with his wife, Carolyn. He’s even a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer (Kiss Me Kate and Crazy for You). In short, he is a Texas legend. In fact, Horchow and his family might just be the most well-loved family in the state.
The idea of writing a book with his daughter Sally came naturally to Horchow. She adds a modern twist, as he says, in providing 70 simple rules for making meaningful friendships. Whether the goal is to form a new relationship, solidify a developing alliance, or refresh a long-time friendship, this book provides all the help one needs to make the connection. The Horchow father-daughter team have woven both their experiences on how they have successfully connected with the best and brightest across the world and Roger shares some of his wealth of advice here today.
Lance Avery Morgan: What motivated you to write The Art of Friendship?
Roger Horchow: Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote The Tipping Point, is a good friend of Sally’s. Gladwell talked about people who are connectors and people who are mavens and Sally said, ‘You really should meet my dad because he’s such a connector.’ Malcolm came to the apartment we have in New York for the article about that he was doing for the New Yorker about it. He gave me a quiz that was two or three pages…like out of phone book… and I had to check off everybody that I knew with a list of names. For example, if you knew four Youngs you could make four checks. When it was all over, I asked him how I did and he said I was second to Taylor from Brookline, Massachusetts. After the article, people began asking me why I didn’t write a book about all my friends and connections. So I started to write the book and I realized it was just from an old person’s point of view-mine and I realized we needed a younger perspective. I was looking at one of Sally’s articles in The New York Times and found that she wrote exactly how I’d like to write. That’s how the book got started.
LAM: So the apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it came to connecting. Maybe that’s why the book is so successful?
RH: Sally is a real connector, too. She recently had a friendship dinner at the Four Season in Los Angeles where she invited 10 celebrities to bring one friend. She had people like Owen Wilson whom she knew from Texas and he brought his director. She had a woman named Jennifer Westfeld, a classmate of hers who wrote Kissing Jessica Stein. It was just featured in People magazine. People are buying the books by the stack. It’s great because it’s non-controversial. Everybody likes to have friends.
LAM: What was it like working with your daughter, Sally, on this joint project?
RH: We just talked for days and days, weeks and weeks. We each learned things about each other that we otherwise wouldn’t have known. It was fun putting down on paper the things that have happened in my life that relate to friendships. Most chapters have a rule and then a story on the side. And then Sally will write a chapter about something that occurred to her. So that was the most fun, sort of brining it all together. And another thing, because of the book and because of
LAM: Do you think that in today’s world, maintaining friendships has become more difficult?
RH: We talk about that in the book; it is called the ‘ebb and flow of friendships.’ A friendship may come back, but unless you have something to reinforce it and you don’t have any new shared experiences, it’s all over. Sally calls it ‘spring cleaning.’ You especially have to do that in L.A.
LAM: That is one of the tough things about L.A. that I recall – it’s a transitory town with people coming and going and it is tough to maintain strong friendships. With that in mind, do you have a favorite rule from your book you like to follow?
RH: Don’t keep score. It’s a tough one because it’s hard not to do, but pretty soon you just have to. For example, you invite a new couple over and you like them. You say, let’s have them back. Then a month passes and you have them back and they love it and you had a great time and you never hear from them again. Then you call them again. So then finally you have the choice of ‘spring cleaning’ them or gritting your teeth and thinking they’re never going to call. However, Sally pointed out that she lives in a fairly big house and she loves to entertain. Her friends have little babies and small apartments, so they can’t entertain the way that she does. So they reciprocate in a different way. They’ll call to go to a movie or a ball game. People find different ways to reciprocate.
LAM: Do you think its tougher developing friendships these days based on your experiences?
RH: Well, these days there are fewer friendships because people are moving through life so fast. Men have much more of a problem with it than women. Men are afraid they won’t be macho enough if they devote too much time to maintaining freindships. Then there is the whole question of old people saying I don’t need any ‘new’ friends because they have enough. But I remember Stanley Marcus (of Neiman Marcus) used to say, ‘When you are my age you don’t have any friends because they are all dead, so you have to have young friends.’ I have lunch every week with someone much younger than myself. I have to keep up with the younger crowd, you know. The book points out that you are never too old to make new friends.
LAM: You list “Top Five Conversations” in The Art of Friendship.
RH: They’re kind of like pick-up lines, for example you see someone that you would like to talk to at an art gallery and you ask, “What do you think about that piece?” It gives them the opportunity to reciprocate and give their opinion. Sally says that, “If you are ever at a party where you don’t know anyone, no matter how social you are, will have to make an effort to start socializing.’
LAM: Your book also discusses your encounter with prominent author Scott Berg, which has evolved into a lifelong friendship. Were events like these a factor in your decision to write this book?
RH: No, it was just a story about ‘keeping your antenna up.’ A lot of it has to do with connections, like meeting Richard Rogers when I was at Yale. In New Haven, Connecticut they used to try out plays. So, when I was at Yale in the 1940s you could go for two dollars and sit in the balcony. It happened that in 1949 my junior prom date’s boyfriend was an understudy of Enzio Pinza, the star of the show, South Pacific, and we got into see some of the rehearsals. Right in front of us sat Richard Rogers and Mary Martin. Years passed, and in 1962 I was the buyer at Neiman Marcus and Dorothy Rogers, Richard’s wife, wrote a book, My Favorite Things about entertaining. As the buyer, I had to introduce her and sell the book so the Marcus’s invited Carolyn and me to dinner. Richard Rogers was there and he said ‘this wasn’t the first time he wasn’t a star… his wife was.’ I recalled for him that I had met him in 1949. They had a piano and I played a couple of Richard’s songs that he had forgotten he wrote.
LAM: Did you and your wife continue that friendship with the Rogers?
RH: We did. They said ‘if you come to New York, we’d love to see you.’ A month or two later we were going to New York and I sent them a note saying that Carolyn and I were coming there and what a great time we had meeting them at the Marcus’ and that we would love to stop by and say hello. Dorothy Rogers wrote back immediately and invited us for drinks and that began the friendship.
LAM: You’ve done so many amazing things in your life. Is there anything you wished you would have focused more on or done differently?
RH: I’ve been lucky that everything I’ve done has worked out successfully. Of course, I would have liked to have done everything better, but it’s hard to say what I would have