An All American Girl who Made it in the Big City

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Hope springs eternal. Photo: JH.

Friday, April 3, 2020. A beautiful sunny day in New York yesterday. Temps up to the mid-50s. Very quiet along the avenue.

Anne Bass photographed by Mary Hilliard at the former New York State Theater.

Anne Bass died this past Wednesday. I did not know her and so I don’t know the cause of her death. She would have been 79 in October.  I “knew” her back in the 1980s and living in Los Angeles, through the monthly W. It was the time of what John Fairchild would later dub the “Nouvelle Society” in New York. They were glamour girls. The last of them, except for the Swans and the Empresses who came before. 

Anne Bass was right at the top. I liked looking at her photographs at parties. She was always impeccably dressed, easily chic and a big glorious smile, I still recall one particular shot of her – it looked like she was jumping up (rock’n rolling) on a dance floor with some guy (not in the picture); and she’s in heaven, thrilled! Whether any of that is true or not, that is how most of us look at celebrities. And the ladies of the Nouvelle Society were exactly that. Plus they were socialites. 

Mrs. Bass, or Mrs. Hendricks Bass, was a girl from Indiana, born in 1941, just before the United States entered the War in Europe. Her father was a successful surgeon and her mother, a Vassar grad. They were very upstanding members of the community. A doctor was highly respected in a community. That was the Middle America that we saw in the movies of the era – visually that is. Anne went to a private girls school in her high school years, and then to Vassar, like her mother. At Vassar she majored in Italian Literature. 

As it was for many of her contemporaries, the first  post-War generation, college led to changes. She began a relationship with  a young Yalie named Sid Bass — whom she first met when she was 9 years old (he must have been 10).  Mr. Bass, as the world knows, is a member of a billionaire family in Texas. After graduating from college, the couple married. 

Two or three years into the marriage they acquired an apartment in New York, living between here and Texas. Whatever the motivation, it was definitely, as New York can be, a great opportunity for Anne who loved the ballet all her life, and was a major supporter for as long as she lived here. The couple became highly publicized. And 20 years later, the marriage ended in divorce. The husband was generous and kindly, which is said to be his nature. But the divorce was the stuff of tabloids and magazine fluff. No doubt it was very difficult for the wife, a nice girl from a good family in Indianapolis. 

Nevertheless she continued her personal interests in the ballet and in philanthropy, with the kind of participation that requires the immense self-discipline that she possessed.

You can see it in the photographs Mary Hilliard has kindly lent us of the lady, dressed and attending several galas. She had two daughters whom she loved and a longtime companionship with artist Julian Lethbridge. What I like about these photographs of Anne Bass is you can see the power, but also the vulnerability in the smile.

Anne Bass with Rudolf Nureyev at an New York City Ballet gala at the State (David H. Koch) Theater

With RL and Andre Leon Talley.

Dancing with Jerome Robbins.

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