From Loss to Love

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Looking towards the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir from the Bridle Path with Cherry Blossoms underfoot.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019. It was a bright, sunny Spring day yesterday in New York with temps touching 70s. With temps dropping ten degrees by late evening.

Terry Allen Kramer died last Thursday after a brief illness and a bout of pneumonia. You may have read about it in the New York Times obits. 

Terry Allen Kramer entertaining in her New York apartment.

I met Terry through our mutual friend Judy Green back in the mid-90s. I’d heard about her from Judy who was full of information and enthusiasm about people she liked or looked up to. I knew a little bit about her family background, that she was the daughter of Charlie Allen who was a major investor on Wall Street for decades in the last century. That meant she was rich.

Wealthy New York ladies are an interesting lot. All kinds of personalities, attitudes, interests with one thing, one major important thing, in common: the money. “Money changes people,” my late friend Dorothy Hirshon used to say when discussing those who have. And “right away,” she’d add. The rich-from-birth girls, however, very often never knew anything else, so there wasn’t much to change — they were always who they are.

And greeting us at La Follia, her estate in Palm Beach.

Terry was a lifelong New York girl. She loved theatre and became a big investor/producer who actually won five Tonys for best-production Broadway shows. If you needed to get good seats, Terry would take care of it if you asked her. 

We first met at a big house she had on the beach in Southampton. I had never seen her up to that point, only “heard” of her. It had a huge living room with lots of comfortable sofas and chairs and ottomans. It reminded me of a house in Malibu. It had some of that show-biz glamour in interior design.

A good looking woman with thick blonde hair with the greys denied entry, she seemed perpetually tanned in my mind’s eye, without really being tanned at all. Kind, bright eyes, red lipstick she was immediately, and casually warm on meeting. There was a matter-of-fact-ness about her. One of those people who likes people and is welcoming. 

I could imagine she was her father’s girl. She had a natural warmth about her. Someone once described her to me as “wearing the pants” in the family. I don’t think she played that role with the men in her life. But she wore slacks a lot. She was a woman in her sixties then, and unlike so many of her contemporaries, she had not had  “work” done. Age was beginning to set in on the attractive face and kind eyes. 

The view, looking south, from Terry’s penthouse on Madison Avenue.
On her terrace in 2011, photographed by Harry Benson.

I saw her from time to time for the next twenty years, either at a restaurant with her and guests, or at a cocktail party on the fabulous terrace of her block-long duplex penthouse on Madison Avenue in the East 70s, with its 360 degree views of the metropolis, and its large and comfortable reception rooms. Everything was the very best and “tasteful” in the old New York way. And comfortable. Elegant, sophisticated but comfortable to be with always. That was how one always felt in her company. There was also within her a need for that company, those friends.

The enormous 13-bedroom house she built on the ocean in Palm Beach was far-flung and grand, again in that Hollywood movieland sense; but again, very comfortable for the guests. She’d invited me many times to spend time there and enjoy the conveniences and luxuries were there for guests. She liked having guests “make themselves at home.”

At La Follia in Palm Beach with her beloved Shih Tzu Bongo in 2007.

I never did visit to stay, although the few times I was down there, I’d let her know I was coming, and she’d invite me to lunch or dinner always with friends. The last time was a few years ago when JH and I were down there along with Steve Millington and Michael McCarty (of Michael’s – where Terry often lunched).

We were at a big round table on the terrace overlooking the beach and ocean, and the fare presented at table was fantastic. Inviting a restaurateur to her table required that she matched his largesse and sophistication. And she did.

Nick Simunek, Christina Floyd, DPC, Michael McCarty, Terry Allen Kramer, Steve Millington, and Jamie Jo Harris at lunch at La Follia.

After her husband of forty-one years, Irwin Kramer died  in 1999, she moved her winter residence from Lyford Cay to the newly built La Follia which is just down the road from the Bath & Tennis and Mar-a-lago. There, she often entertained and took on a new partner – an Englishman named Nick Simunek. It was my impression that Terry liked having a man around the house, someone for her to take care of, and to complete her life. A lot of people thought they were married, although the Times obit reported that according to family members, they were not. Nick died five years ago of cancer.

Terry loved her dog. For years she had a sweet little Shih Tzu named Bongo, who died a few years ago. Terry adopted a new Shih Tzu, who survives her.

Terry is survived by a daughter, Toni Goutal; a son, Nathaniel Kramer; a brother, Bruce Allen; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Angela Kramer, died in 2002.

Terry with Nick.

Which, speaking of dogs. yesterday, I received an email from an old friend from my Los Angeles days, Courtney Flavin. Courtney wrote a lot for television at the time. She too moved from L.A. several years later, and since then we have barely stayed in touch. However, it turns out that she does read the NYSD, and wrote to congratulate me on my “award” at the Bergh Ball. She also had a dog story to go with her congratulations. And I pass it on to you …

From Courtney:

So nice to see you getting the award and to hear you tell your dog stories.  Congratulations on the honor!  I think I remember Mrs. Fafa.

Here is my dog story. I’d never had a dog.  I used to take care of my friends’ dogs and everybody wondered why I didn’t have one of my own. I would always say that I was never home, and I didn’t feel you should leave a dog alone all day. Plus I lived in apartments without outdoor space. And for a lot of my life I didn’t have a car, so how would I get the dog to the vet. And, I didn’t have much money. All things considered, I didn’t think I was right for a dog.

Here’s Jack sneaking up behind the Incredible Hulk!

Then there came a time when I took care of a friend’s dog when he was in the hospital with a minor stroke.  (Actually, it was Jack Colvin, from “The Incredible Hulk” TV series.)  Jack had a dog and a cat, so I took the night shift at his apartment and fed them both, and so on. Then Jack had a second stroke — this one major — and the cat had died.  So I took his dog Bobbi to my apartment for the weekend.  

It was in my lease that I could not to have a pet. I ran into my landlady when I got home and explained that one of Jack’s friends was bound to take Bobbi in a few days. But nobody stepped forward.  

The following Monday, I needed to go to work. My downstairs neighbor offered to walk Bobbi while I was gone.  So, off I headed, around 10 in the morning. As I got into my car, I heard the most unearthly noise — a howl — but I couldn’t figure out what it was. But then it seemed to be coming from my apartment.  It was Bobbi, who was beside herself.

I called the neighbor and asked what I should do.  She said, “she’ll probably stop after you leave.”  When I got to work, I called and said “What’s happening?” and she said, “Well, she’s not howling, but she’s crying, but she’ll probably stop in a little while.”  

I called again, and it was a whimper.  On my lunch hour, which was around 3:00, I drove home and got her and left her in my car until 5:00 when almost everybody left, and then I brought her up to the office to be with me.

Here is my favorite picture of Bobbi.

But now what to do?  I called my friend Lisa to ask for her dog walker/trainer’s number, to see if she would take Bobbi during the day.  Lisa said, “Well, bring her over here.”  So, for about a month, we had a good arrangement.  I dropped her off at the beginning of my workday and picked her up at the end.  

Lisa started a new job, so now her dog wasn’t alone all day. Sometimes I fed Lisa’s dog when I picked up Bobbi, if Lisa was working late. Lisa answered all my questions, encouraged me to get Bobbi groomed. The groomer did a beautiful job but I was glad Jack wouldn’t be seeing her until her hair got a bit longer (he preferred the puffy Bobbi).  Of course, he called the next day to tell me he had arranged to be brought to the front of the hospital, and if, I could bring Bobbi by, he could see her and say hello. So I had to do some fast talking.

And then Jack suddenly died.  He had made arrangements for Bobbi to live with the mother of one of his students, but she in the end, she couldn’t take Bobbi.  Lisa said she was happy to keep our arrangement going.  I considered that the first sign from the universe that I should keep her.  However, Bobbi had separation anxiety. I couldn’t leave her alone even for a short time because she whined and bothered the neighbors. Also, the hot weather was coming, and I wouldn’t be able to take her everywhere as I had in the evenings and on weekends.  

I asked Lisa if the trainer might be able to train her out of her separation anxiety.  Lisa said “Sure, but it’ll be expensive.”

The dog trainer said she would be happy to train Bobbi — she’d been walking her twice a week with Lisa’s dog — and if I were willing to keep Bobbi, she would train her for free.  

I took that offer as the second sign that I should keep Bobbi. And the third sign was Bobbi herself.  I think she heard me waffling on the phone about whether I could afford to keep her and would the landlady let me. When we went to bed that night, she didn’t go to the foot of the bed where she always slept.  She came up and put her head on the pillow beside my pillow and gave me a look that so clearly said, “Come ON.”  

And I said, “Okay.  You’re my dog.”

I only had her four years. She was thirteen when she died, but they were a great four years. She was so lovely and well behaved except when she saw a small white dog and wanted to play with it like she did the big white cat she grew up with. That required a little vigilance at the dog park.  

After Bobbi died I adopted another dog. She’s the worst behaved dog — territorial, selfish, demanding — except when we’re alone. Then she’s so affectionate, and just so dear.

Here is Maizie, who takes wonderful care of her toys. Seriously. She really appreciates toys.

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