Last Friday morning at ten o’clock, more than 800 people congregated at Christie’s in their main auction room for a memorial service for the late Nan Kempner who died last July just days before her seventy-fifth birthday.

Nan’s husband Tommy Kempner opened the service with an extensive pre-written memory of his life with his fashion famous wife from the first days of their marriage which lasted more than a half century. What emerged was a broader, deeper look at a personality that was very familiar to many people in the room, for Nan had a lot of friends.

The world, of course, knew how much she loved clothes but Tommy Kempner told us how much she loved food and how she could not only clean her plate but help herself to everyone else’s. This came as a surprise to those who did not know her well but remember her for being astonishingly thin.

The Kempners married in the early 1950s and after their honeymoon moved to London. It was the year of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and Nan wanted to attend although she had no invitation. So she suited herself up properly for the occasion and went down to Westminster Abbey where she made contact with Sir Winston Churchill, who feeling sympathetic to her plight, escorted her in.

Tommy Kempner’s amusing story of his wife’s trip to the coronation reminded me of another amusing incident when Prince Charles married Diana Spencer. Nan wanted to go to that one too but didn’t have an invitation. So eventually she got Valentino to take her with him on his invitation. After the story was recounted in New York, someone told Nan she thought that was a very pushy thing to do. Nan couldn’t have cared less what her friend thought. “I wanted to go to the wedding and I did,” she said.

After Tommy Kempner spoke,
he was followed by Jeanne Jackson who announced that she and Nan had been friends since they were 14 years old growing up in California. She recalled how Nan’s favorite thing in summertime was water-skiing on Lake Tahoe. She painted a picture of a very gregarious and sunny personality whom everyone noticed when she walked down the street of Lake Tahoe because she was so good looking and also, even at that young age, so fashionable.

Mrs. Jackson was followed by Nan’s two sons, Jamie and Tom Jr. They recalled their mother the hostess and party-giver who never kept after them to study but insisted they follow the rules of politesse and particularly grace. They told us how much she loved her children and one of the sons recalled an incident when one of the new grandchildren, still a toddler, came to the house and threw a tantrum, bawling away on the floor. No one could stop the child until finally Nan threw herself on the floor next to her grandchild and started bawling just as loudly. The shock of her histrionics stopped the child instantly.

The Kempner sons were followed by William F. Buckley Jr, a longtime friend of both Nan and Tommy and also a classmate of Tommy at Yale. He was followed by Kenny Lane whose talk was the briefest, although to the point. He said he believed that the day Nan died, a light went out in New York and the city was darker because of it.

She was a very unusual woman, who literally wore her wit on her sleeve, and was deeply committed to those things and people she loved. She lived her life luxuriously and richly. She traveled the world and met many of the best of them. She loved London, Paris, Lyford Cay, where they kept a house, and New York. She was graced with the good life and she lived it to the hilt but with grace.

After the memorial, there was a reception on the ground floor of Christie’s. Peter Duchin and his orchestra played and champagne was served. From there many people repaired to Swifty’s and occupied the entire front room including Dominick Dunne, Boaz Mazor, Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, Marguarite Littman, Betsy Bloomingdale, Gale Hayman, Georgie Abreu, Kate Gubelmann, Chris and Grace Meigher, Jeanne and Deke Jackson, Antoinette Guerini-Maraldi, Wendy Vanderbilt Lehman, Robin Hambro, Serena Balfour, Pat and Bill Buckley, Kenny Lane, Pauline Pitt, Sophie Commentaris, Lynn Wyatt, Mary McFadden, Harvey and Gale Glasser.

The night before at a dinner that Alex Hitz gave for more than 80 friends of Nan at the Colony Club, Tommy Kempner appeared with the woman who is said to have been his secretary, he has announced he plans to marry in the near future. Shortly before her passing, I was told, Nan told her husband that she hoped he would marry again.

Annette Tapert and Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos
Last Thursday, Annette Tapert co-hosted a luncheon with Lucie Arnaz, honoring Eduardo Machado, the Cuban born playwright who runs Intar Theatre, a 40-year-old Off-Broadway group committed to producing new plays in English by Latino playwrights living in the United States – both immigrant and American-born.

There were about forty guests in the Tapert-Allen dining room high above Fifth Avenue in the 70s. Lucie Arnaz spoke about Machado’s talent and his objectives. The daughter of a Cuban (the famous Desi), she said she never understood her father’s passion for his heritage until she was exposed to Machado’s work. His play, presented by Intar, “Kissing Fidel” directed by Michael John Garces, previews September 6th at the Kirk Theater on Theatre Row. (for tickets, Call Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or visit www.intartheatre.org).
Lou Moreno, Carmelita Tropicana, and Sylvia Bofill

Ana de Soler

Leslie Powell and Helena Martinez

L. to r.: Barbara Liberman; Debbie Black and Eduardo Machado; Nilaja Sun.

L. to r.: Beth DeWoody; Lucie Arnaz and Emilia Fanjul; Jill Krementz.

Liz Smith and Chris Meigher
Thursday night, Chris Meigher, Quest magazine and Montblanc USA hosted a dinner for the magazine’s “New Yorkers Who Make A Difference” program which is in its fourth year. This year they honored John Rosenwald (Met Museum), Laurie Carson (Memorial Sloan-Kettering), Pauline Pitt (Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach), Muffie Potter Aston (Alzheimers Association), and Karen LeFrak. Also in attendance were prior honorees Liz Smith, Susan Fales Hill, Dominick Dunne, and Pat Buckley.
Cynthia Lufkin and Pat Buckley

Andrew Roosevelt, Michael Rockefeller, and Boykin Currie
Laurie Carson and Alberto Mejia

Annette Tapert and Liz Smith
Susan Fales-Hill and Muffie Potter Aston

Mark Gilbertson and Tara Rockefeller

Nathalie and Jan Patrick Schmitz
Evelyn Lauder

Tom Madden and Nathalie Schmitz

Barbara Bancroft and Grace Meigher
Lorna Graev and Jim Mitchell

Peggy Mejia and Karen LeFrak

Pauline Pitt and Cece Cord
Pepe Fanjul

Larry Graev and Richard LeFrak

Emilia Fanjul and Dominick Dunne
Jonathan Farkas and Tara Rockefeller

Tara and Michael Rockefeller

Pat Buckley and DPC
Muffie Potter Aston

Michael Rockefeller and Somers White

Susan Clarke and Dan Frigolette
Emilia Fanjul and William Buckley

Susan Fales-Hill and John Rosenwald
NYSD's Jeff Hirsch who has sold his apartment, which he needs to vacate by October 1, is looking for a light and spacious Manhattan rental (a loft would be ideal) for himself and his faithful, perfectly trained and well-behaved four-legged companion Oliver Dog, open to convenient (to transportation) locations.  Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Contact him: jeff@newyorksocialdiary.com.



September 26, 2005, Volume V, Number 164
Photographs by DPC/NYSD.com

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