My mother was a party crasher. An amazingly animated beauty, with a dazzling smile and a manner that made people feel welcome, towards the end of her life, as a child of the Great Depression, she panicked and blundered her way out of a very successful marriage, (if you didn't mind screaming and the police coming,) and made a number of economically foolish moves, selling a gorgeous 5 room penthouse apartment in the East 60s to the English director Michael Winner for $60,000, and all of her jewels and china and silver, a vast and glorious collection, for a pittance to an auction gallery-- I think it was Parke Bernet. Ending up in a studio at the Hampshire House, with hardly enough closet space for what had been her once splendid wardrobe, most of her suitors being laid to rest, she began crashing parties, looking for love and free hors oeuvres. When New York honored its two hundred most important citizens, Mom was among them.
Having never seen her in action, but already inspired into making her the heroine of my blossoming musical, SYLVIA, WHO? I asked if I could go with her and see her in action on one of those occasions. She went directly up to the head of security and without turning a hair, asked where the VIP section was, and charmed/dazzled/overwhelmed him into all but escorting her into the inner room, where we were seated with Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Claire Booth Luce and Roy Cohn, and the Duke and Duchess of Bedford.
"My friends can't believe I'm content to live so quietly," Nancy Kissinger said.
Without missing a beat, my mother said: "My friends feel the same way about me."
Having been gifted with a remnant of her smile, and a small degree of her fearlessness, I have traveled the world comparatively legitimately, free-lancing as a travel and food writer(who knew? but I did know how to taste, and had had a wondrous adventure on her final outing with Julia Child) for the Wall Street Journal Europe, under the aegis of my great editor Jim Ruane. Vicky King, the brilliant publicist for some of the world's great hotels, called me in Paris, where I had moved for a while, and said "The Wall Street Journal Europe is starting a travel page, and you'd be good at that."
"I have a great idea for a piece," I said to to Jim on the phone.'Swimming through Europe,' all the hotels with great pools." "I like it," he said. "Send me a couple of graphs."
"What is that?" I asked.
"Paragraphs," he answered.
And so it began, and continued for a number of years and a lot of exciting places, that welcomed me, expecting, as it was the Wall Street Journal, a Republican in a suit. So when I showed up the sense of relief was palpable. I made a lot of great friends, writing what I have to say objectively were pretty lively pieces, in-between a number of novels, and trying to recover from the loss of a wonderful husband, as my children, now grown, went their own way-- to put it mildly.
Still all good things must come to an end, and when Jim moved on, so did I. But my travel adventures continued, and fortunately life did, too, bringing us up to today, where, having moved back to Beverly Hills to work on the re-finishing of SYLVIA WHO? I am ensconced in a little apartment behind the Peninsula Hotel, my new favorite place in the world of hotels.
As gracious as they are top of the line, everyone there has made me feel most welcome. Still, the other night, when they celebrated being able to have celebrations, having just gotten their license to party on the rooftop terrace, stringing the pool with chandeliers (Can you believe it?) and about to launch a major fete, as I had not been officially invited, I went home. I could hear my mother's ghost admonishing me, telling me to go slip into something glamourous and slip back in. But I told her as I had not been asked, it would not be seemly, a word I learned the meaning of at Bryn Mawr.
"How was it?" I asked them the next day. "Great," they said. "But we were hoping for about 100 people and only about 60 came."
WHAT?!! They were disappointed? "I would have come," I said. "But I hadn't been invited."
"You should have just come," they said.
So there it is: the great lesson of Life. The only thing you should regret is what you didn't do. I am writing a song to that effect for my musical. I hope you will all come to the opening if/when it happens, whether or not you have to crash.