Remembering a Friend of Many

CZ Guest, age 36, photographed for Town & Country in 1956 by Stephen Colhoun, wearing a Tiffany necklace by Jean Schlumberger and a gray flannel dress and a ranch-mink waist length "barrel" jacket, both by Mainbocher. From John Loring's new book Tiffany In Fashion (Harry Abrams Publishers).
On Saturday, a cold-ish, silvery day I went with a friend out to Old Westbury on Long Island to a memorial service for CZ Guest who died on that day a week before, and was laid to rest beside her husband last Wednesday.

The service was held at the small, very modest, modern, gabled stone Church of the Advent. There were more than 200 attending (see list), crowded to the point that about a dozen latecomers had to stand. The simple ceremony was conducted by Father Beardsley. I am assuming it was an Episcopal church because Mrs. Guest was by birth White Anglo-Saxon Protestant from Boston, and in that part of the world, the very social WASPs were very often Episcopalian, if not Congregationalists.

The program read: “The Burial of the Dead: Rite One. Lucy C. Guest” There was a singing of Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” There was a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures. Then Thomas Laine sang “The Lord’s Prayer” followed by the congregation reading (or reciting) the 23rd Psalm (“the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want ....”). Then a reading of the Gospel According to John. Then another hymn which I (brought up a Congregationalist) did not (however) recognize from the years of church-going in my youth. Then Father Beardsley delivered the Homily (which I promptly forgot).

Then William Ivey Long, the Tony Award winning Broadway costume designer, read a profile of Mrs. Guest that was written by her friend Truman Capote as an introduction to her first garden book, published in 1975 (the book was written by Elvin McDonald).

The designer is a curly-headed, round-faced, wire-rim bespectacled man with a jolly countenance and a perpetual smile. He is enormously creative and enormously successful and, on meeting, Mrs. Guest took him up with the same devotion with which she graced Mr. Capote. No doubt his talents intrigued and amused her in much the same way as did Mr. Capote’s.

Mr. Long’s reading was the highlight of the otherwise austere religious service because it was warm and witty, and confirmed once again what a great and wonderfully engaging writer Truman Capote was. There was also the element of wistfulness in the context of his piece being read at this moment before those assembled.

Capote’s “introduction” was written around the time he had published his then notorious Cote Basque 1965, which unmasked the gossipy and slanderous doin’s of the New York socialites of that day. He was roundly ostracized and treated thereafter like a pariah by many of them, especially those whose activities he set down in his semi-fictional stories. He never recovered from that and died seven years later.

Now of course, that “notoriety” and social exclusion is all just part of the writer’s literary history. Most of the people he was hoisting up to ridicule or spotlighting in acidic portrayal are dead and mainly forgotten, succeeded, as they always are, in this fasttrack “society” of New York, and mainly not by issue or descendants bearing family names. They have been succeeded by a new generation of themselves: ambitious strivers who bury their pasts in advance, as fast as they can or as well as they are able.

What separated Mrs. Guest from many of her world of high society and international celebrity, besides her own genealogy, was that she wasn’t a girl who felt she had anything to hide — behavior, heritage or otherwise. She was also one of the few Capote friends in that particular social orbit who never did exclude him after his piece was published in Esquire. He was often a weekend houseguest at her rambling brick house in Old Westbury.

So William Ivey Long’s reading not only entertained and amused, but served to remind the congregated (at least a few of whom could use a little reminding) what Friendship was all about.

After Mr. Long’s reading, there was the reading of “The Apostles Creed” and the saying in unison of the Lord’s Prayer, and then the Dismissal (“Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord: And let light perpetual shine upon her. May her soul and all the souls of the departed, Through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”). Then everyone sang all four verses of “America The Beautiful” and the service was over.

Mrs. Guest’s beautiful daughter Cornelia was the most bereft. After the service she held a buffet lunch for everyone at her mother’s house which is now her house: baked ham, macaroni and cheese, haricots vert, Brie and Stilton and crackers. It was a large and talkative crowd back at the house, and they were enjoying themselves being in CZ’s elegant but very country, very long-lived in surroundings. Those who were frequent guests over the years were especially full of cheerful nostalgia about the departed friend and hostess.

There was the story told with amusement about the summertime visits of Capote when his hostess was trying to help him stop drinking. She’d try to keep an eye on him by taking her with him when she was with her horses on in her garden. But he’d beg off, saying he preferred resting in the sun by the pool, where, after CZ was out of sight, he’d have the staff bring him a mineral water bottle filled with vodka.

Ushers for the Memorial Service for CZ Guest

• Mr. Alexander M.D.C. Guest
• Master Gregory Churchill Guest
• Master Winston Alexander Guest
• Mr. Frederick E. Guest II
• Mr. Alexander Lynde Cochrane III
• Prince Rupert Lowenstein
• Mr. Robert Burke
• Mr. Richard Dupont
• Mr. Robert Dupont
• Mr. David Greenough
• Dr. Bruce Horton
• Mr. William Ivey Long
• Mr. Elvin McDonald
• Mr. Kurt Rosenthal
• Mr. Robert Tartarini
• Dr. Scott Wells
• Mr. Paul Wilmot

Those whom I remember seeing at the service:

• John Richardson
• Pat Buckley
• Adolfo
• Helen O'Hagan
• Louise Grunwald
• Mark Shand
• Nan Bush
• Patricia Patterson
• Geraldine Shepheard
• Fred and Carole Guest
• Elvin McDonald
• Carroll Petrie
• Oscar and Annette de la Renta
• Gayfryd Steinberg
• Ann Downey
• Mona de Sayve
• Harry Phipps
• Billy Norwich
• Barbie Bancroft
• Dominick Dunne
• John Demsey
• William Ivey Long
• Calvin Klein
• Peter Duchin
• Christina Oxenberg
• Leonard and Evelyn Lauder
• Dr. Sherrell and Muffie Aston
• Paul Wilmot
• Dimitri of Yugoslavia
• Barbara Leary
• Nancy Holmes
• Annette Tapert and Joe Allen
• Barbara Allen
• Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera
• Taki
• Kathy and Rick Hilton
• Randy and Connie Jones
• Mary McFadden
• Tracy Ross
• Robert Tartarini
• The DuPont twins
• Eben Pyne
• Dr. Bill Davis
• Dr. Bruce Horton
• Yuki Irwin
• Kenny Lane
• Bob Collacello
• Aileen Mehle
• Jorie Butler Kent
• Michael Butler
• Millie de Cabrol
• Hamish Bowles
• R. Couri Hay
• Roger Webster
• Beatriz Patino
• Ezra and Cecile Zilkha
• Bettina Zilkha
• Pauline Pitt
• John Christianson
• Maria Cooper Janis
• Blaine Trump
• Armene Milliken
• Freddy Melhado
• Hilary Geary
• Jamie Figg
• Cathy Horyn


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/