Friday, July 21, 2017

Remembering Kenny Lane

Hydrangeas peeking through the gates of The Frick Collection on Fifth Avanue. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, July 20, 2017. It was very warm yesterday in New York. The air was heavy with humidity and bad just to look at. Dog owners beware: this heat is not healthy for your pups. Take them out briefly so they can take care of business. Otherwise, let them stay inside where it is cool or cooler. People who run their dogs (while they “exercise”) in this weather are abusing their dogs. The animals are not built for this weather, let alone heating themselves up in a run.

Yesterday, Kenneth Jay Lane died at home in a chair in his bedroom where he was watching a movie, one of his great pleasures in life. He was 85 or 86 and had not been in good health for sometime. His great friend Boaz Mazor, who lived two doors down on Park Avenue South, had spoken to him early Wednesday evening.

Kenny had not been feeling well, experiencing a bad case of Shingles — although he had just returned from a three-week trip to London where he put up at the Ritz and visited old friends. Boaz inquired if there were anything he needed. No, he was staying in, and going to watch a movie on TCM. He was found Thursday morning in the chair. It was a peaceful departure.

He was a fashion tycoon in a very real way, a boy from Detroit (Dee-Twa” he called it) although the image he created was that of a international social figure. You could almost think he was one of those independently wealthy men about town who lived in black tie. But Kenny was a worker. He was in his studio every morning.  His costume jewelry never went out of style because style was what it was. He traveled frequently, to Europe, India, Asia. It was a charmed life and he was the charm. Born and brought up in Detroit, he came to New York with a persona that naturally absorbed its international sophistication, and he felt very at home.

Sian Ballen and Leslie Hauge interviewed him several years ago for our HOUSE section while JH photographed his duplex, which was in a brownstone mansion designed by McKim, Mead & White on Park Avenue and 35th Street.

We’re re-running the interview on today’s HOUSE because it gives you all elements of the man’s personality. He was very outspoken and not-so-easy to get a straight answer. Some people didn’t get it. Kenny did. He had the best time, taking none of it seriously, but in a most serious way.
Blair Sabol is a big fan of Kenny’s, so I asked her if she would write something about him and his work ...

Everyone warned me that he might throw me out within minutes of our visit. I didn’t care. I wanted to meet the costume jeweler icon. After all, he was the last man standing from an era that was so important – and now long gone (and so now is he). 

Kenny met me wearing his red socks from the Pope’s Vatican boutique, a blue blazer and a pack of Marlboros.  For two hours he held forth on a variety of subjects ranging from adorning the Duchess of Windsor to living life to the fullest, “Remember — smoking kills all germs — it is my anti-aging secret.” 
Kenny wearing his red socks and a blue blazer.
That was 6 years ago.  Ever since then, I would appear at his showroom twice a year and douse myself in his notorious baubles, bangles and beads, buying it all and exhausting my KJL account.  Most of the time he was there ... coughing and designing, although lately not as much.  He was “on the road” staying with pals in Europe!

Nobody did costume jewelry better than Kenny Jay and he knew it. In the world of fakes, KJL is the real deal — wearing stacks of KJL bracelets was as powerful as Verdura in the “taste n’ paste” world. I got what all the famous Society Women (Kempner, Vreeland, Pat Buckley, Babe Paley) saw in him — he was the greatest confidante/stylist and most brutally honest friend. He outlived everyone and worked and traveled up to the day he died.
Blair wearing her Kenny Lane jewelry.
Blair's collection of KJL necklaces.
Blair wearing a small selection of her KJL rings and bracelets.
Kenny even designed 2 necklaces for Blair's dog Sunshine.
“There’s no mystery in this enduring bit.  It is simply not about dying — so do things that inspire you and get your juices going.  And don’t be into nostalgia — that’s all about yourself.”

Remember, this is a man who has his own “named” room at the Metropolitan Museum and lived in a magnificent casbah of collected jewels and artifacts.  He died as I believe he would have wished, watching a movie in one of his magnificent lush armchairs, cigarette in hand.  He was the essence of luxe and sparkled elegance.  Thank God he never threw me out!
 

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