10/8/03 - New
York lost another, true legend early yesterday when
the great doyenne, the founder really of fashion PR, Eleanor
Lambert, passed away peacefully in her sleep.
Eleanor celebrated her 100th birthday last August 11th
at her Fifth Avenue apartment surrounded by scores of friends
both new and old.
Although she had got noticeably frail in the past few months, Eleanor
still went to work everyday and often out to lunch, as well as dinner
in the evenings. Up until last year she traveled to Europe several times
a year, and always once to Germany to take special treatments to assure
her youth. Assured she was, for a very long time. She loved her work
and had only just closed her office a few weeks before, although she
did not quit, keeping five clients.
A little girl (she was no more than 5’2,” if that) from Crawfordsville,
Indiana, the New York life was her dream for as far back as she could
remember. She came to the Big Town at the beginning of the Depression
and got her first toe-hold in her profession promoting art galleries
who each paid her $25 a week for her efforts. Her first foray took her
to the desk of the famed editor of the Pulitzer paper, Herbert
Bayard Swope of the New York World. She proposed contributing
a column on art galleries and the art world and he agreed.
In 1940, at the onset of the Second World War and the closing down of
the Paris fashion houses, she invented the International Best Dressed
List to promote fashion in America. For decades thereafter, the Best
Dressed List was a household phrase in America, and women competed tenaciously
to be on the List (some men too).
On her birthday, her grandson Moses Berkson showed a
clip of a documentary he’s making of his grandmother’s highly
esteemed life and career. In an interview she said that she had been
drawn to New York from girlhood because it was “a city of ideas,” reiterating
that “if you have an idea, you can always find someone in New York
who will be interested in it.” (And if you couldn’t find
someone for that idea, you could always “get another idea,” she
Unlike most people in her (or any) profession, she never, ever, tired
of her work. It was always a mission, and always accomplished. I met
her only fifteen years ago, and after that she called me personally dozens
of times to pitch an idea for a client. These calls were always followed
by luncheon or dinner meetings of introduction and discussions to benefit
She was never high pressure, but had what they used to call stick-to-it-iveness.
Matter of fact, gentle-voiced, always obliging with assistance, she was
always generous (and sympathetic, never intolerant) in her recollections
of the paths she crossed with the rich and the famous down throughout
the 20th Century. She was a One And Only, patrician in her American Midwest
demeanor, a solid gold example of How It’s Done, and we won’t
ever see the likes of Eleanor Lambert again. May we all be as blessed.