Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Khalil Rizk

In Memoriam. April 27, 2001 - New York society was shocked to learn that Khalil Rizk had died suddenly in Austria two days ago after a very brief illness. The forty-six-year-old antiquaire and porcelain dealer, a partner in The Chinese Porcelain Company at Park Avenue and 58th Street, was a popular figure on the New York cultural and philanthropic scene. Son of a Lebanese father and an Italian mother, Khalil loved the New York social life unabashedly. He had a passion for it that evoked (for me anyway) an image of a kind of post-modern Jamesian character, or a gentleman of Whartonesque stature. There was a very literary quality to his presence.

He was a fairly big man, not handsome but attractive in his intense yet gentle bearing. You might have mistaken him for a diplomat or a European banker; very serious. He'd lost a lot of hair early in life, giving him the appearance of being older than he was. He seemed somewhat reserved (to know on a very superficial basis, as I knew him), yet he was unfailingly gracious and polite on meeting. But it seemed to me — and again, I reiterate, I was not a friend and did not know him well — there was a certain reticence. Either that or a sharply focused mind undistracted.

It was a manner one might perceive as "shy." Although his social career was very dynamic and he had an impact on many powerful and influential people, belying shyness. He was a man who liked being at the center of his community — which was worldly and sophisticated. He had a hunger for it. He reveled in knowing people. Since taking up residence in New York a number of years ago, he established himself deftly as a social and cultural persona.

His loyalty and devotion to friends was obvious to the observer. He could always be seen at the opera and the ballet as well as all the significant cultural openings, often accompanying Aileen Mehle, the international society columnist "Suzy." Had he been granted a normal lifespan, Khalil's influence and affect on New York would have grown commensurately, for he loved it all. And it loved him back. Many will miss him.