Monday, July 26, 2010

Aquarius Moon

Full moon. 9:00 PM. Photo: JH.
July 26, 2010. Another oppressively hot weekend in New York and environs with much wished for relief late yesterday afternoon in the form of a cooling, steady rainstorm from the north taking the temperatures down to the mid-70s for the first time in several days.

On these hottest of days, the popular Promenade in Carl Schurz Park along the East River is sparsely populated, although there are still joggers and cyclists out pushing it. There are some people (on bikes and jogging) who also take their dogs on the run with them. This is a particularly stupid as well as dangerous thing to do. If you see someone doing it, warn them for the sake of the animals health.
Saturday night's full moon seen from the terrace on 83rd and East End overlooking the Promenade and the East River Channel (with cruiser passing by) toward Roosevelt Island and Queens. The buildings framing, left: 10 Gracie Square, and right, the Brearley School. 8:05 on a very warm July evening. Photo: DPC.
Our furry friends are built for running but not at the steady pace of some humanoid’s personal (and occasional) regimen. In the very hot weather the canines have no way of perspiring.

There are many stories of dogs who get home from their runs and lie down and die. Many of us tend to think of our canines (and our felines, for that matter) as being like ourselves. It’s a cute thought, but they are different. (They often have more common sense.) Unlike us, for example, they will go wherever you wish them to even if they don’t want to. And also unlike us, they do not need the exercise we think we need. They can remain home in the cool apartment while master or mistress goes out and pushes the limits of his or her own respiratory systems on these dog days. Please be kind to these creatures who fill our hours with unconditional love otherwise unknown to most humans. Be kind.
Minutes before the rain on the Upper West Side. Sunday, 4:00 PM. Photos: JH.
And soon after ...
Sailing southbound along the Hudson. 8 PM.
Judy Peabody died early yesterday (Sunday) morning here in New York. She was 81 and had been battling stroke for the last two years.

She was a contemporary and a peer in the world of women like Jackie Onassis, with comparable preps and beginnings. When she was a small child, her mother and father divorced, and her mother married a New York white shoe lawyer named Walter Dunnington. The child would take his name and thereafter refer to him as her father.

She attended Miss Hewitt’s Classes, graduated from Ethel Walker, went to Bryn Mawr and “was presented to society” at a coming out at Piping Rock in 1947.

Judith Anne Dunnington and Samuel Parkman Peabody on their wedding day, March 31, 1951 at St. Bartholomew's Protestant Episcopal Church on Park Avenue.
Four years later she married Samuel Parkman Peabody, a scion of the old Massachusetts family, son of the Episcopalian Bishop of Central New York, the Right Reverend Malcolm Endicott Peabody, and a grandson of Endicott Peabody, founder of the Groton School, who was immortalized in Louis Auchincloss’ The Rector of Justin. Sam’s sister was Marietta Tree and a brother Endicott “Chub” Peabody later became governor of Massachusetts.

Although it was never a word in their vernacular, the young Peabodys were about as “WASPy” as you could ever get, and this was no small matter in the society in which they lived and traveled in their youth.

Throughout the 1950s through the 1970s, Judy and Sam Peabody were very much part of the glittering “smart set” of New York when it was still dominated by grande dames and (younger) society hostesses like Kitty Miller, Elsie Woodward, Babe Paley, her sister Betsey Whitney, and CZ Guest, to name only a few.

They were the off-spring of the Old Guard and its Café Society. As they came into their own, the fashion press referred to their generation as the Beautiful People and the Jet Set. A member of the Best Dressed List, she and her husband were part of the last generation -- the last hurrah, as it were -- of old Society (the Social Register, etc.) of the city.

They also had the liberal consciousness of their generation, growing up privileged during the Great Depression and throughout the FDR years. (FDR regarded Grandfather Peabody as his mentor in life.)

The turbulence of Viet Nam, however, along with the liberation and civil rights movements of the 1960s brought about a radical change in attitudes and perceptions in this country. New York led the way. Judy and Sam Peabody were there; their lives were changing, it was their time.

Judy and Sam Peabody at the American Ball Theatre fall gala in 2005.
In the late 1960s, when everything was happening and worlds were turning upside down, the couple were involved in the formation of Reality House, a drug rehab center in Harlem. Judy served as a group therapy leader. She also attended the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health for two years and was certified for psychological counseling. She became a counselor to the Renegades Housing Movement, a Hispanic youth gang that was rebuilding a run-down building in Manhattan. Her mother was particularly shocked to learn that her daughter was spending mornings in courtrooms and afternoon visiting convicts in prison.

In the early 1980s when her mother was very ill, she began to give up her work with Renegades. However, in the 25 years since, Judy Peabody became an angel who personally assisted the lives of many people with AIDS on a daily basis.

I got to know her slightly in the late 1990s when I was editor of Avenue magazine. Once a year we ran a double page spread of several women who were prominent in New York charities. I got the idea from an old LIFE magazine cover of CZ Guest and several of her socialite friends in front of a fireplace in the Guest penthouse at One Sutton Place South. As it happened when the idea came to me, the very same penthouse was on the market, and so I contacted the broker about using it for a space to shoot. The broker liked the idea and got approval from the building’s board. It had been owned for years by one of the Annenberg sisters who bought it from the Guests.

Vladimir Malakhov, Judy Peabody, and Kevin McKenzie at the American Ballet Theatre luncheon in June 2003.
One night when I was seated next to Judy Peabody at a dinner gala at Lincoln Center if she would join the group to be photographed. We had been having a mutually interesting conversation when I sprang the question. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask.

She was an infinitely polite woman and possibly shy. I had the feeling instantly that she wasn’t interested. However, I added that it was an opportunity to publicize the organizations she worked for and it would also be a “record” of a moment in New York. So she thought it over for a few days and agreed, although I had the feeling it was more out of kindness for my cause (job).

That day arrived. Our fashion editor Cricket Burns had gathered and organized the gowns from several of the top designers in the city. Mrs. Peabody arrived and was directed into a large room where the women were changing and being made-up. It was a “backstage fashion” scene with the women moving around half dressed, un-made up, etc. Mary Hilliard the photographer covered it for us, and there was a moment when she caught Judy Peabody (as I happened to walk into the room) not quite dressed and a little flummoxed to be “out there” in such a state.

I was especially pleased to have her in the photograph because she represented that generation of New York that made the transition socio-cultural. She represented history to me.

When it was over, I thanked her for participating and she of course thanked me for the invitation (an invitation I still felt she probably would have preferred never getting). And she was off to another one of her appointments to help others.
The photograph taken in the former Guest penthouse at One Sutton Place with the charitable ladies, a double page spread in Judy Price's Avenue Magazine. This was not the actual photo for the spread but one featuring the editor amidst his idea. Seated, left to right: Cornelia Bregman, Alexia Hamm, Patricia Patterson, Simone Mailman, DPC, Nicole Limbocker, Rachel Hovnanian, Cynthia Lufkin, Judy Peabody. Standing: Topsy Taylor, Kimberly Rockefeller, Somers Farkas, Nancy Whitney, Brooke Neidich, Connie Spahn, Courtney Arnot, and Joan Hardy Clarke. Avenue, circa 1999.
I saw her occasionally after that. We once talked about her work with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. By then a great deal of her time was taken up with her care partnering. That required assisting people in the hospital and those at home. Bedside visits were often long and frequent. She watched many people’s lives disintegrate and disappear. She talked about it as a serious matter of fact; that there were things that needed to be done, these were people who needed to be cared for. Florence Nightingale, I often thought of.

It was when she told me how earlier, years before, she’d upset (or worried) her mother by going to visit convicts in prison, that I got to look at the core of the woman. I could see then that there was the passion, the serving, the giving. And the pain. It was curious to me, this very proper woman, always a lady, soft-spoken, almost diffident with big bright eyes; always fashionably and fastidiously turned out. It was curious to me that behind that delicate shell was a fierce heart and a will of steel. This was no do-gooder; this was a volunteer in life.

She was, to my eyes, a complex personality, impassioned, energetic, restrained by habit and upbringing, sensible, contemplative, possibly stubborn, or at least tenacious. And always a lady. This was a woman explaining herself.

Judy and Elizabeth Peabody at the Fete de Swifty, 2005.
She is survived by her husband and her daughter Elizabeth who also possesses her mother’s grace and compassion for her fellows. Like the rest of us Judy Peabody was also another person at home with family. What that side was, I do not know except to know that it was clearly defined.

She is also survived by a host of friends from all walks of life who were graced by her hand and her heart which they only knew as steadfast.

In the late 80s at the hey-day of the “Nouvelle Society,” Judy Peabody was interviewed by the New York Times about her work with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. This crisis was a turning point for her own consciousness.

“Her tolerance for the misunderstanding and prejudice that surround AIDS has lessened,” wrote her interviewer, Nadine Brozan.

She was surprised that anyone would be surprised by her commitment to people with AIDS just because she was a woman of privilege.

“But just because people live in nice apartments and go to good schools does not cancel out interest in the rest of the world,” she told Brozan. “If you lead this kind of life, it seems as if caring is something peculiar, and I see nothing peculiar about it at all.”

To Judy Peabody it was everything.
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