Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Remembering Barbara Goldsmith

Taking an afternoon break in Central Park. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Sunny and warm, yesterday in New York with temperatures in the low 80s,  followed by a mild steady rain mid-evening and cooling into the low 70s.

Best-selling author Barbara Goldsmith died on Sunday. She was 85 and had been ailing after taking a fall in Palm Beach a few months ago and then, in her hospital recovery catching an infection of some kind. I was surprised at her age only because although I knew she was older than I, she had an energy and an intellect that was not so much youthful but fresh, and mature and dynamic.

We met at someone’s house or some function about twenty-five years ago. I had written something she liked and she sought me out to tell me. After that she made a point of inviting me to join her at certain events and also at her private dinners.
DPC and Barbara Goldsmith at Michael's.
I’d first read her when in 1980 when she published “Little Gloria ... Happy At Last.” I was in awe not only with the immense details that she was able to convey with simplicity and honest sympathy, but also with an emotional quality that made her biography a page-turner. She was very prolific as a journalist, biographer, novelist and television and film script writer.

She was the kind of person that draws many of us to New York to meet, to know, to learn from. She was intelligent, ambitious, curious, enterprising, hardworking, very focused – all those things, and always striving. Like the rest of us she no doubt had her foibles, although I saw none, possibly because she was always looking forward, looking ahead. And she was a worker.
Barbara Goldsmith photographed by Jill Krementz on April 3, 1980 in her Park Avenue apartment with a statue by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who is mentioned in her book, "Little Gloria ... Happy at Last."
Barbara Goldsmith with her editor, Bob Gottlieb on the floor of Bob's office at Knopt. They are going over photographs for "Little Gloria ... Happy at Last."
Barbara Goldsmith working in her office at home on her book "Little Gloria." On her desk: 4 large volumes containing transcripts of Gloria Vanderbilt trial: Matter of Vanderbilt.
Barbara in her bedroom with daughter Alice working on "Little Gloria Happy at Last."
I did conclude as I got to know her that she was one of those girls, those women, who had a strong and effective father whom she held in high regard and adored. I knew very little about him. His name was Joseph Lubin. He was an American born child of immigrant parents at the beginning of the 20th century on the Lower East Side.

Barbara's father, Joseph Lubin, circa 1940.
The Lubins were poor and the youngster Joe did what others boys of his background did; they found jobs to earn whatever they could. The boy was ambitious, he worked day jobs and went to school at night for 8 years, finally becoming an accountant.

His precision as an accountant brought him clients who advanced his career. In short, he became a very successful business man, executive, and entrepreneur; very rich, very philanthropic and a caring father to his two daughters, Barbara and her sister Ann Goldstein.

I recount that brief history of Mr. Lubin because his daughter Barbara (I never knew her sister) exhibited similar qualities in her profession as well as in her philanthropic pursuits which were numerous, often original and far-thinking. She was her father’s daughter, as they say. And I’d bet he was very proud of her ability to work hard and of her achievements.

As a young woman she went to Wellesley. Afterwards she pursued a career in journalism writing some splashy and informative accounts of celebrities for the early New York magazine when it was in its hey-day. She married film director Frank Perry and lived briefly in Hollywood, but returned to New York, her native town.

Aside from the wealth her father left her, she was a financially successful writer as well. She had an important art collection which she began acquiring early and which filled her Park Avenue apartment elegantly. She lived well, also with a house in East Hampton and the place in PB. And she worked.
Barbara at The New York Public Library. Photo: James Salzano.
The scanner in the Barbara Goldsmith Preservation & Conservation Divisions of The New York Public Library.
I always thought of Barbara as in the middle of writing a book, because she was. Books were her life. One important aspect of her philanthropy was a huge project she funded in restoring old books deposited in libraries, especially the New York Public Library. The upshot of this project, besides the value of restoring sometimes centuries-old texts, was discovering ways to prepare paper used in printing books to be more durable against time and temperature.

I had originally intended to write only a few words about Barbara Goldsmith, for as long as I knew her we were mainly social friends, enjoying our lunch and dinner conversations about our thoughts and ideas. I had great respect for her literary achievements and she blessed me with her support and encouragement.
In my brief research about Joe Lubin who also had a remarkable Horatio Alger kind of success in his life, I found this brief recollection of his life written by his daughter, the writer. That was the Barbara I knew and will always miss.

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