Category: GripeBox

Beekman Town House: Now, That’s a Price Drop

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The late Princess Ashraf Pahlavi’s lavish Beekman Place townhouse has lingered on the market for years, burdened by its historical associations with the former rulers of Iran, and the misimpression that once-lusted-for Midtown East had fallen out fashion. Its recent sale, revealed by Big Ticket in the New York Times, might support that argument, as its sale price had dropped $38.5 million from its initial asking price of $50 million. Or it might mean that bargain hunters seeking a COVID-safe, crowdfree neighborhood have rediscovered an insanely affordable enclave of forgotten history and luxury, a few blocks from Midtown that also … Continue reading

The New Koch

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Julia Koch, widow of conservative tub-thumber and Kansan conglomerateur David Koch, is the subject du jour for Michael Kaplan in the New York Post today–and 740 Park, where they lived together, and she now owns their apartment, looms over the story.

Veronica Uncovered

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Ben Smith in the Times has a great piece on the latest dramas at the male-dominated women’s magazine publisher Hearst this morning. Twenty-nine years ago, a glamorous woman briefly ran the sprawling Hearst Magazines empire–creating public dramas galore and defying its reputation for discretion. In one of my three stories on Hearst Magazines that year, I called her TheIntriguing Mrs. Hearst.

Screaming ‘FIRE’ at 740 Park

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Bernie Madoff feeder and hedge hog Ezra Merkin has dragged 740 Park back into the headlines, suing insurance company AIG over his allegation of $41 million in losses in a 2016 fire that drove many residents of the ritzy co-op out of their homes. I don’t think there are any winners in this story. Only losses all around.

Goodbye, Javanka

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The Daily Beast’s Hannah Seligson considers the social fate of the Plastic Princess and her Super-Talented All-Knowing Prince of Darkness today—and I’m quoted. Where will they end up? Hell was not an option as that’s square one.

RIP, June Dyson of 740 Park

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June Dyson, 101, who lived at 740 Park Avenue for 41 years, died earlier this month. She was the widow of Charles Dyson, a public-school educated leveraged buyout specialist who put together a conglomerate in the 1950s and 1960s and then became a public official and philanthropist. He also served on the building’s board, and married June, who’d managed Rockefeller money, when she was 72 and he was 80, after each of their first spouses died. “I really have nothing to say to you,” she told me when I called and asked for an interview for the book. “We’re a … Continue reading

Need a Good Book?

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With containment, isolation and quarantine ongoing in much of Ameeica, I’m shacking up with a diverse batch of good books in May. I abandoned Hilary Mantel‘s The Mirror & the Light despite having devoured the first two books in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, but loved Julian Barnes‘ The Man in the Red Coat. Now I’m onto Jesse Kornbluth‘s JFK and Mary Meyer: A Love Story, and I have Sam Wasson‘s The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood on deck. It’s not easy to read as I’m writing most days, at work on my own next book, about … Continue reading

Layoffs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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The latest casualties of the Covid-19 Pandemic are 80 staffers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which announced layoffs and pay cuts yesterday. The museum also warned that its budget shortfall for 2020 might reach $150 million. “While we are not immune from the impact of this pandemic, the Met is a strong and enduring institution and will remain one,” Daniel Weiss, president and chief executive of the museum, said in a statement. It won’t make those staffers feel better to know that the museum has survived worse situations since it was created 150 years ago. But this is surely … Continue reading

Peter Beard, R.I.P.

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Peter Beard, whose death at age 82 was confirmed yesterday, was an iconoclast as well as a photographer, artist, adventurer, and nightlife iron man. These two brief excerpts from Model and Focus illustrate the same bracing candor, humor and unchecked honesty he brought to both his life and his work. Click to magnify.

Inside “a realm rarely known or understood.”

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Two weeks shy of its 11th birthday, a reader’s review of Rogues’ Gallery, just posted on amazon, is one of the best it ever received. The reviewer, a longtime museum official, writes, “Having been in the museum field in various director and curatorial positions for fifty years, I can attest to the honesty and quality of this inside look at how these cultural institutions are governed and lead. The author has done impressive research into a realm rarely known or understood by the general public much less many in the museum profession. Museums have an aura and reputation that is … Continue reading

Christy and Naomi Have Model on Their Minds

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My 1995 book Model came up on today’s episode of No Filter With Naomi, model Naomi Campbell‘s streaming YouTube “chat” show, an hour-long talk with one of her fellow members of the supermodel Trinity, Christy Turlington, both of whom are characters in the book. Some back story. In early 1992, I was asked to write a feature profile for New York magazine on one of the supes. Not long before, late one night at Azzedine Alaia’s atelier, Naomi had wrapped a leg around me and asked, “Why don’t you write a story about me?” So I started with her but … Continue reading

Please Support Independent Booksellers

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I support the newest online bookseller, bookshop. Won’t you please click the link and support your local bookstore, too?

I’m a Someone!

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In the opening sentence of an article by a writer in a fashion magazine last month on fashion designer Vera Wang‘s years-long renovation of a Park Avenue duplex she inherited from her parents (address not identified), I’m referred to as follows: “THERE ARE 17 televisions in Vera Wang’s palatial Manhattan residence in a 1929 Art Deco building so famous that someone wrote a whole book about it.” Just for the record, the building and the book are both called 740 Park, and Wang’s residence there is noted on page 472 (i.e. it’s not a secret). The book was published in … Continue reading

Kenny Rogers, R.I.P

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Pop and country music superstar Kenny Rogers, who died on Friday at 81, owned one of the storied mansions featured in Unreal Estate, The Knoll in Beverly Hills, and sat for an interview in the book, just re-released as an e-book after years out of print. Read how he soared from flat broke to the heights of the .01% by clicking here.

A Koch Catch-up

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My book 740 Park got name-checked in an article on the Koch family’s real estate holdings the Wall Steet Journal last week. You can read it here. The late David Koch is pictured with the late Frank Lautenberg.

Peggy Siegal: The Wheel Goes ‘Round

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One time PR powerhouse Peggy Siegel is profiled in the new Vanity Fair, says The Daily Front Row, which appears delighted by her comeuppance—-as well as her dubious defenses and reportedly collapsing business—-in the wake of the cascade of indecent exposures regarding her close association with the late Jeffrey Epstein. In VF, per The Daily Beast, she even equated the generalized disdain toward her attempts to rehabilitate Epstein to Nazi-calibre anti-Semitism. This all reminded me of something I wrote about Peggy back when she was still riding high, as opposed to hanging on the ropes. In Social Life in a … Continue reading

Unreal Estate E-book Available Now

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Unreal Estate: Money, Ambition, and The Lust For Land in Los Angeles, the second book in my luxury real estate trilogy, is finally available again, exclusively as an e-book. Said the Los Angeles Times: “Paragraphs of jaw-dropping details about a type of extravagance that might have been scorned even by the very wealthy on the Titanic. But [Unreal Estate] also leaves the reader with a sense of history….[It’s] what would happen if Us Weekly and Architectural Digest had a love child that was much smarter than either. The book provides a panorama of what was going on inside some of … Continue reading

Imperial Populist: Rogues’ Gallery Redux

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With museum boards much in the news in 2019, why not a look back to 1939, when the improbable populist Robert Moses, destroyer of neighborhoods, took on New York’s plutocracy and demanded they let fresh air into what was then their private playground, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Closing the Tenth Anniversary of its publication, The Daily Beast excerpts Rogues’ Gallery, my book on the museum’s board and benefactors.

Happy Holidays

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All About Avedon

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Photographer Gideon Lewin‘s highly anticipated book Avedon is out this week after a long delay caused by a legal tussle with the Richard Avedon Foundation, which sought to claim ownership of images Lewin shot in his many years as Avedon’s studio manager, and to claw back pictures the generous Avedon had given him. It’s an important companion piece to Focus, my book on postwar fashion photographers, in which Avedon plays the most prominent role, with Lewin as one of the chorus of voices telling the great one’s story. I used no Avedon images in Focus because the foundation insisted on … Continue reading

The Night of The Hunter: Jeffrey Epstein and Jean-Luc Brunel

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Jean-Luc Brunel (pictured) is like Lay’s Potato Chips to the French media. They can’t get enough of him–even though he’s bad for you. FranceTV just aired the latest piece on Jeffrey Epstein’s rabbateur and asked me to describe my experiences with him. Watch it here (but you need to understand French).

Playboy Club closes…again

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I see that the Playboy Club has gone belly up. I covered that story…23 years ago!

Flashback: Trump Trips in ’91

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Today’s Wall Street Journal took me back to a story I barely recall writing in 1991.

Coming Soon: Unreal Estate, the e-book

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I’m happy to reveal that Unreal Estate, my social/real estate history of the richest communities in Los Angeles, will shortly be re-published, exclusively as an e-book, after almost seven years out of print. “Great Hollywood houses, great Hollywood tragedies, great book,” said The Chicago Tribune. I’ll post a link for purchase as soon as it’s available.

Rogues’ Gallery Redux

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Today’s New York Times reflects the current fashion for questioning the composition of the boards of cultural institutions. Ten years ago, Rogues’ Gallery did the same, using the sometimes sordid stories of the founders and boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a window on the ways cultural philanthropy is used by the wealthy and powerful to launder their reputations, and how those institutions encourage and protect them. The Times’ Book Review called the book “a blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws.” So is the paper’s must-read story today.

My Night With Jeffrey Epstein’s Rabbateur

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Twenty five years ago in Paris, I interviewed Jean-Luc Brunel, the model agent now alleged to have procured underage girls for the late Jeffrey Epstein, for a book on the modeling business subtitled The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women. That night I got an acrid taste of just how ugly it could be. Highlights of that interview appeared in the book. I never told the rest—until now. The Daily Beast has the story.

L’Affair Epstein: The French Connection

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Tonight’s edition of 66 Minutes, the French equivalent of our 60 Minutes, includes a segment on Jeffrey Epstein and one of his key enablers, the French model agent and Miami modelizer Jean-Luc Brunel. Brunel was first exposed on 60 Minutes in 1988, and (apparently) first responded in a lengthy interview he gave for my 1995 book Model, which is featured at the 42-minute mark. Click here to watch it. Thanks to interviewer Edward Bally.

On David Koch (b. 1940, d.2019)

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In 2014, as acting editor of Avenue, sitting in that chair for just a few months, I faced a challenge. The October cover had been promised to David Koch, the right wing zealot and social figure, on condition the story be focused purely on his philanthropy, which was a legitimate subject–and ignore his more controversial political activism and influence. So I faced the question, how to package a story I hadn’t assigned when I had issues with its content. Koch himself provided the solution when he posed for the cover at the American Museum of Natural History, one of his … Continue reading

Meet Jeffrey Epstein’s Enabler

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French modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel has become a focus of journalistic inquiry in the days since pedo Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. Yesterday, Brunel made the front page of the Washington Post in a story that cites Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women. According to RTL, the French radio network, I’m “one of the few people to interview the Frenchman.” You can buy the book here. (Photo: Craig Pyes) UPDATE: My in-box continues to be a beacon for reporters on Brunel’s trail. Expect more revelations to come.

Toxic Trustees: Named and Shamed

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New York Magazine’s Whitney Mallett and Katy Schneider have created a guide to the latest gallery of rogues to join the boards of the city’s leading cultural philanthropies. Rogues’ Gallery gets a shout-out–alongside Metropolitan Museum board members like Henry Kissinger and David Koch.

Margiela Unmasked

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According to Wikipedia, only one known photo of the Belgian-born Paris-based designer Martin Margiela exists, taken in 1997 by Marcio Madeira but never officially verified. Here’s a second, taken by me (so I can vouch for its veracity) in Fall 1989 at the second Margiela show I covered in what I understood to be a derelict playground on the outskirts of Paris. It’s one of a huge trove of photos I used as notes for my New York magazine column, The Cutting Edge, and then tossed in a box. They ended up forgotten until I found them again not long … Continue reading

It’s the Unreal Thing

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Owlwood, one of the most famous properties in Holmby Hills, has recently been price chopped to $115 million from an original asking price of of $170 million. First occupied by the estranged wife of the founder of the ritzy real estate development, it was later owned in turn by a partner of Conrad Hilton, movie pioneer Joe Schenk, who is alleged to have made love to a young starlet named Marilyn Monroe there, a wealthy oilman, actor Tony Curtis (in the photo), first Sonny and Cher and then Cher and Gregg Allman, a carpet manufacturer, a sleazy, sex-crazed Syrian, and … Continue reading

My Night With Bob Dylan

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In honor of this week’s release of Martin Scorsese‘s stirring mock-doc on Bob Dylan‘s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue, click the continue link below to read an excerpt of my report on that tour, focused on the night that November I–briefly–attended the after-concert party in Niagara Falls, mid-way through the tour. I’d befriended Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, who got me through the door, saved me the first time I was tossed out, but couldn’t when I then made the mistake of speaking to Dylan himself. Next morning, in the hotel lobby, as the troupe gathered for a trip to the nearby Tuscarora … Continue reading

Acidic Flashback to Trump’s Vietnam: A Dumb Deal Made by Morons

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In 1999, in an interview for the book My Generation, I asked Donald Trump his reaction to protests against the Vietnam War when he was finishing his education at The Wharton School and winning draft deferments for alleged bone spurs. On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, his reply deserves another airing. He said in his inimitable fashion (lightly edited only to add emphasis and eliminate repetition): “I always thought that the [anti-war] riots [of the late 1960s], as bad as they were and everything else, the tremendous conflict at home, gave the other side an incentive to go forward. Because … Continue reading

Two Jewish Boys, One Honeypot

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Tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review includes a sketch of a book published last month about the war over the web domain sex.com, pitting an internet entrepreneur named Gary Kremen against the conman who stole it from him, Steven Michael Cohen (shown as I confront him in Tijuana, Mexico). The reviewer calls the book “reductive,” but the story is, please pardon the expression, a sexy one. Should you want to read a lively reduction of its essence, I covered it for Playboy some fifteen years ago in a story titled “The Taking of Sex.com,” and you can read it here.

Dining with the Disgraceful

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I’m quoted in an essay on creepy society comebacks in the new issue of Town & Country. Read Horacio Silva‘s article here. Thge illustration is reminiscent of the cover I commissioned for last fall’s Avenue magazine Power issue.

Tattered Trump Tales

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Last night, in a commentary on Donald Trump‘s tax-dodging, Samantha Bee resurrected a clip from a 2003 doc in which Ivanka Trump recalled encountering a beggar with her father in the early 1990s. Apparently, this is a Trump family schtick, because her father told me the same story about four years earlier, only then, he was walking down the street (a dubious notion by itself) not with Ivanka but with his second wife, Marla. Compare and contrast Ivanka’s story with an unedited section of the transcript of that interview after the jump. IVANKA (2003): “I remember once my father and … Continue reading

“The Avenue’s Most Exclusive Address” –New York Times

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Looks like Park Avenue is the focus of the New York Times Real Estate section’s weekly “Living In” feature this weekend. And 740 Park gets the requisite name check. Thanks for that, C.J. Hughes.

Rogues’ Gallery: A Decade of Delinquency

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Rogues’ Gallery was published ten years ago today and remains both banned in the bookstore of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, its focus, and pointedly relevant, as last month’s death of longtime museum trustee Jayne Wrightsman, and this week’s frenzy over the Costume Institute’s annual gala, aka the Party of the Year, demonstrate. I think of the book as my favorite child, the one that caused the most trouble, was deemed a delinquent, and thus, merits extra love–my little James Dean, you might say, only this rebel had a cause: Highlighting how the wealthy use culture and philanthropy to launder … Continue reading

Never Mind Irma, Here’s St. Barth

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St. Barthelemy’s recovery from Hurricane Irma is almost complete, and it’s a moment of reckoning for the island. Will it return to its haute BoHo roots, or continue down the road to St. Bling? My cover story on St. Barth for the March/April issue of Departures is now online for all to read.

Self-invention to the Max: Jayne Wrightsman, 99

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Tomorrow’s New York Post features an obit/excerpt from Rogues’ Gallery on the extraordinary Jayne Wrightsman, who died this week. It’s really about more than one museum.

Jayne Wrightsman, RIP

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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. … Continue reading

Walking the Walk

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I’m quoted in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter in Beth Landman‘s story on walkers…the men who once (and sometimes still do) escort women, married or otherwise, with whom they are not intimate, to social events.  In it, one-time walker Boaz Mazor says women “don’t care about society anymore — they are happy to go out with their iPhones!” Men, too, are not as eager to attend galas, adds Christopher Mason: “A lot of walkers are happily married to each other now and have satisfying home lives.” Beth didn’t include my praise of Anne Bass (with me, above), so I’ll add that … Continue reading

Sacking the Sacklers: Too Little Too Late?

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Today’s New York Times details a backlash against the philanthropy of the drug-dealing Sackler clan, best known here in New York as the donors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur (above), Sackler Wing and Sackler Galleries. The back story of the current controversy is told in Rogues’ Gallery, my book on how the super-rich have used that museum–and other causes–to launder their reputations and in the words of the book’s epigraph from Bernard Mandeville, turn “Private Vices…into Publick Benefits.”  The story begins in 1963, and includes the family’s invention of modern drug marketing (Sackler made Valium the first … Continue reading

And for my next act….

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Expect Gripepad to come alive again, as I’ve left Avenue Magazine after just under two-and-a-half years as its Editor-in-Chief. It was fun while it lasted. Next!

St. Barth Bounces Back

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Holders of American Express Platinum cards can read my cover story on the rebirth of St. Barth post Hurricane Irma in the new issue of Departures.  Less privileged folk (like me, for instance) will have to wait until it is unlocked.

Calvin Klein Collection, R.I.P.

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And now comes the news that the owners of Calvin Klein, the brand, are closing its high-end collection business following the departure of designer Raf Simons, who failed to be its savior.  Calvin Klein, the man, lives on, both in the world and in my archives, thanks to my second-ever cover story for New York Magazine. It appeared in summer 1988, shortly after Calvin reappeared in New York to launch his scent Eternity following a much-publicized stint in drug rehab. Fun fact:  When I started reporting the story, the company pulled its advertising from New York, and didn’t return to … Continue reading

Patrick McCarthy, R.I.P.

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It’s been a bad season for fashion and today comes the news that Patrick McCarthy, former editor of W and WWD, has died at age 67, after a long period out of the public eye, and, reportedly, a short illness.  I profiled McCarthy at the height of his power and influence in 1997.  You can read that story, “The McCarthy Era,” here.  One caveat:  McCarthy, who never married, nor had any long-term significant other, and never made his sexuality a matter for public discussion or commerce, as many of my subjects did, agreed to cooperate on the condition that I … Continue reading

Isaac, Reconsidered

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In his new memoir, out today, fashion-designer-turned multi-media-performer Isaac Mizrahi cites my 1990 profile of him in New York Magazine as a “career-making story …with a long expose-style interview.”  At the time, I was told Mizrahi hated it because Harry Benson’s portrait of him on the cover was less than flattering.  I’m glad he’s changed his mind. Mizrahi writes that at the time, Calvin Klein‘s in-house flack Paul Wilmot commiserated with him over the fact that the story “made clear that I was gay,” something Mizrahi never denied.  “I was right,” Mizrahi writes.  Read the profile here.

Lee Radziwill, R.I.P.

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I first met Lee Radziwill, who died Friday at her home in Manhattan, more than thirty years ago when she handled public relations for the Milanese designer Giorgio Armani.  Years later, when I wrote about her childhood at 740 Park in my book on the storied apartment house,  she told me of the time her sister Jacqueline Bouvier (later Kennedy Onassis), saved her life after she tried to crawl out one of its sixth floor windows to escape the stifling atmosphere caused by her dissolute father, Black Jack Bouvier’s profligacy, and their parents’ failing marriage.  Window guards were subsequently installed … Continue reading