larkin2

One of my best and most knowing sources from Rogues’ Gallery, my book on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tells me that Jayne Wrightsman, arguably the last living society lioness, has died after a long decline at age 99. She was born Jane Larkin in Flint, Michigan, in 1920. The daughter of an architect who mysteriously disappeared from her life, but went on to build American embassies and consulates for the U.S. State Department during and after the Great Depression, and, as described in that book, “a whisky-voiced southern-accented nightclub habitue nicknamed Chuggy,” she became an icon of American reinvention. With the husband she met in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Charles Wrightsman, the son of an Oklahoma wildcatter and one of the wealthiest men in America, she climbed to the top of American Society when there still was such a thing, and helped ensure the Met Museum board’s status as the most sought after seat of social power in the city from the mid-1950s until the millennium–and beyond. The photo shows her in a Los Angeles nightclub in her days as an eligible girl-about-Beverly-Hills.