Tuesday, November 25, 2003

‘Best Dressed’ Memorial

The memorial held in honor of Eleanor Lambert, who passed away in October at the age of 100, was held, fittingly, at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just across the street from where she had long resided. The one-hour tribute was a combination of remembrances, poems, and visuals, and was well attended by many bold- faced names - including those who have made the Best Dressed List founded by Lambert.

Among those who stood at the podium to pay homage to the amazing life and achievements that marked Ms. Lambert’s legacy, were Harold Koda, who observed that Eleanor “didn’t embrace trends” even though she was part of a world (fashion) that thrived on them, AND that she was “one of the first people to get a cell phone” (she was in her 80’s at the time, and until then, cell phones were basically the province of drug dealers, call girls, and other unsavory characters); her son, Bill Berkson, who remembered his mother’s love of the word “amazing”, and her “dazzling curiosity”, and read a poem he wrote that was written this past August to commemorate her 100th birthday ; Oscar de la Renta, who called his mentor - whom he met in 1963- a “super human being” even though he was at times “terrified of her because of her imperialistic manner”, and also spoke of how Eleanor did publicity for him at the beginning, without getting paid; Elsa Klensch and Joe Cicio who took the stage together (Elsa noting that “no one looked better in a turban than Eleanor- especially when she wore her Kenneth Jay Lane emerald jewelry” and Joe fondly remembering that she loved “shopping in Chinatown for spices and bargain priced- pajamas”); Hilary Weston reminded the audience of Eleanor’s “support for English and Irish designers”, which spoke volumes about her “Irish side- her Celtic spirit” also noting that she had “promotion in her blood”; Nadja Swarovkski, who admitted that Eleanor was “sometimes a bit frightening” and that she “taught her how to bring people together”.

But perhaps the biggest laughs came when John Loring related how he first met Eleanor 30 years ago at a Bloomingdale’s luncheon, where they were table mates, and she introduced herself by saying, “I’m Eleanor Lambert and if I were a young man in your position, I’d make friends with me.” He also noted that she loved to play cards and that she was not 100, but rather, “five 20 year olds”.

The most personal and heartfelt moment was at the end, when her grandson, Moses Berkson, took the stage to pay tribute to his beloved grandmother with a 6-minute video presentation, which captured the essence of the “Grand Dame of New York fashion”, who might have aged chronologically, but never in mind or spirit. And he cajoled the audience by observing that his energetic grandmother would have wanted everyone to get up and go back to work immediately following the proceedings.

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

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