Ellin Saltzman; Betty Sherrill; Sydney Roberts Shuman; Peggy Siegal; Nancy Silverman.

Ellin Saltzman.
Fashion editor, longtime fashion arbiter, mother of another fashion editor Elizabeth Saltzman, widow of interior designer Renny Saltzman, (with whom she shared a famous Richard Meier-designed house in East Hampton), she now is working with the internet fashion site Bluefly. Ellin has been a sea of calm in a professional world filled with temperament and volatility, possessor of long and enduring friendships. And chic.

Betty Sherrill and Armene Milliken
Betty Sherrill. One of the most influential interior decorators of the past half century, Mrs. Sherrill started out working for Mrs. Brown at McMillen and eventually ended up (after Mrs. Brown’s retirement) owning the majority stock in the firm that has decorated the houses, apartments, yachts, offices and private airplanes of some of the most famous names and fortunes in America and the world. A girl from Louisiana who came to New York when she married investment banker Virgil Sherrill, she reflects on her career with a modesty that is believable even if not true. Her signature is classic and lastingness. Her own very stylish duplex apartment has not been re-done in more than forty years. As head of the board of her building (One Sutton Place South), one of the most prestigious residential apartment buildings in New York, Mrs. Sherrill is regarded as a very important political power. Despite her fulltime career, she has always managed a fulltime social life which greatly included volunteer and philanthropic activity both in New York and in Southampton where the Sherrills have lived in a Stanford White-designed weathered shingled cottage for more than forty years. Mother and grandmother, she oversees her business interests with what appears to be an iron hand (in a velvet glove) but at the end of the day, it’s her garden in Southampton where she finds the pleasure and the outlet for her passion for living and for her family.

Sydney Roberts Shuman. The friendly and attractive blonde Philadelphian Mainline debutante first married to a Gould, with whom she has children, and now (for a long time) to investor Stan Shuman, she is very active in New York philanthropy. The Shumans live in Manhattan and East Hampton.

Peggy Siegal. Peggy Siegal is possibly New York’s most famous and controversial publicist. Or at least, to be more specific, “woman publicist.” She’s as energetic as a teenager which might be what she was when she started out in her business umpty-ump years ago feeding items to the columnists and Women’s Wear Daily about any celebrity she could get her eyes on or even think of. This enthusiasm which she obviously came straight from the cradle with, which some would/could rightly call alpha-personality aggressive behavior, eventually got her enough notice so that within a certain circle of movers and shakers in New York during the past twenty years, Peggy Siegal is a name that registers, and often with an exclamation mark in the highest circles and along the corridors of power.

It’s impossible not to write about her without mentioning her noticeable effect on people, which in the past has often resulted in feuds and forays into the tumult and the shouting. Because Peggy does not go quietly into any good night. At least not until the party’s over and the press and her clients have been taken care of. She has long had a reputation for being a screamer, a yeller, a tummler (sp) and the wicked witch of the ballyhoo department on the Hollywood axis. But more about that later.

When you meet her, or even see her, you get a very attractive woman, long and slender, perfectly coiffed, very fashionable with a style that reflects a position of prominence. You might meet her at the fanciest parties or charity galas, at the designer collections, in Palm Beach, Aspen, around the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, (or the Peninsula), or any place else on the planet where celebrity-dom is holding forth. If she’s not working it, she’s been invited. And then she’s working it. If she hasn’t been invited, it’s been known that she will get herself invited. And then she’s working it. Why? Because she loves it. Like a perpetual teen-ager, she loves her work and the excitement and the personalities that move in, out and around her orbit.

For several years now, she’s been the top film publicist on the East Coast. A Peggy Siegal screening is an important social event in New York, and can even be major. First of all, her “list” — those she invites — is a thorough cross-section of the heavy-hitters who make up the New York scene, be it society, show business, publishing, fashion, Wall Street or the (current) billionaires boys’ club.

The Peggy Siegal Scene: A new picture, pre-release, in one of several private screening rooms in Manhattan, filled to capacity with “names,” “somebodys” (all buddies, or could or would be, for at least the moment), followed by, after the picture, a sit-down dinner for fifty or sixty (often with placement at Le Cirque, or the Four Seasons, or the Plaza Athenee or any number of the chicest, or latest, spots in town). They’re all there, at one point or another, and they’re all talking about the picture they’ve just seen. And very often the stars of the picture are there. And their spouses, and partners, girlfriends, lovers, former co-stars, directors, producers and agents. And the photographers; don’t ever forget the photographers. It’s real Hollywood by the Hudson. But real Hudson too. And it’s Peggy’s oh-so-personal production.

Sometimes she takes her show on the road and stages her screening soirees in the Hamptons where the dinner parties are not only star-kissed but sun-kissed. And the List, the Peggy Siegal List (PSL) is coded, reflecting each guest’s particular background and importance to her scheme of things. And the PSL changes too, ever so subtly (except to those who suddenly realize they’re not on it anymore), because Peggy is in the business of The Now In New York. She has a high regard for the grand old names as well as the bigshots and the hotties. You probably won’t see the latest teeny-boppers at her parties (unless it’s their picture she’s screening) because she’s got just a little bit older and after awhile, let’s face it, who needs to go there?

Once upon a time it was good for a reporter or columnist’s career to engage Peggy in a little back-and-forth (usually provoked by the scribe) because she gives good newsprint and says exactly what’s on her mind. One summer morning in Southampton a few years ago, I ran into her at the local cheese shop at 6 AM where we were both getting coffee. It was the morning after Lizzie Grubman hit the accelerator in reverse at a nightclub down the road. Peggy, at the time, was a business partner of Lizzie. I asked her what happened. Amazingly, she didn’t know; she’d just got back from Europe a few hours before and couldn’t get Lizzie on the phone. I wrote that little piece of non-news, real non-news, in the Social Diary the next day and it got picked up by media all over the country. Because it was Peggy Siegal saying she “didn’t know.” No one believed her! Although I did. And it was true; she didn’t know.

I’ve known her for a number of years now and I’ve heard all the horror stories (the yelling, the shouting, the snit-fits) but fortunately (thank God) I’ve never seen them front-row-center. What I get is this very smart, savvy woman, anxious to be helpful, always curious, with that clever brain always working, who can hold her own with any of the Big Boys (talk about the screamers and the shouters!). So it is impossible for me not to write about Peggy with admiration and affection. Her imprimatur is class. She’s a very hard-working woman, never, ever shirking from the top of her game (except for those occasional moments that have overwhelmed her in the romance department).

Dr. Gregory Bays Brown and Nancy Silverman
Like any good press agent, public relations woman, flack, flimflam ma’am, publicist, she can be unflappable, undeniable, formidable, indefatigable, and a brilliant hostess who always delivers. If a picture doesn’t have a buzz, she’ll buzz it baby, and it’s all caviar and champagne. She’s very popular (as you might imagine anyone with her film-and-sup-with-stars cachet would be), knows the best of them, dines with the lot of them, lunches with her myriad girl pals, and like some of us (or maybe a lot of us) non-stop New Yorkers, is not so lucky in love. When she falls, it’s hard, like a whirlwind waltzing with a hurricane, but when it’s over, it’s like the movie: get out the hankies and go see the picture.

Nancy Silverman. The dynamic wife of conglomerateur Henry Silverman of Cendant Corporation. Mrs. Silverman may not be a business partner of her husband (although for all I know, she may be) but she is articulate and even at times outspoken with her opinions about the state of affairs be they business, society, politics or current events. The very rich Silvermans are multi-residential but the humbler roots are not disguised by affectation under any circumstances.

Albemarle, Rufus

Aston, Muffie Potter

Basso, Dennis

Benedict, Daniel

Capehart, Jonathan

Cominotto, Michael

Curry, Boykin

Dahl, Tessa

DeWoody, Beth Rudin

Duchin, Peter and Brooke

Duff, Patricia

Eaton, Phoebe

Fales-HIll, Susan

Fekkai, Frederic


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com