A few final words on the death of N.Y. socialite Brooke Astor

The Baltimore Sun

MY MOTHER used to caution me - 'never get beyond yourself and start thinking you are really great.' I've tried to live by that," said Brooke Astor during her social reign as New York's No. 1 lady.

Nothing would have pleased Mrs. Astor more than to have had a Marine Honor Guard at her funeral last week. And she did! (Her father had been an exemplary Marine and she never forgot it. In fact, during the Reagan-Bush years at the time of the Iran-contra scandal, I remember Mrs. Astor was up in arms over the public testimony of Lt. Col. Oliver North. She dismissed him as "an upstart; nothing like what a Marine should be!")

I was personally comforted and interested in the Charlie Rose TV special over last weekend, which offered up an excerpt from Mrs. Astor with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes and an interview with close friend David Rockefeller. Also, a talk Charlie had with Brooke when she was only 92 that showed her at her best. I was struck again with her down-to-earth philosophies, her total lack of snobbism and her view that it's better to be nice to people and "get along" than to make waves and enemies.

This program reminded me of the night Mrs. Astor celebrated her 90th birthday. I'll never forget her all-in-white dazzling entrance into the 66th Street Armory and the way she danced all night. This was a typical Brooke gesture - she knew she had to let that special birthday be marked by a party. But instead of letting someone give one for her, she selected a pet charity - the Citizens Committee for New York City "to be the beneficiary of my great age" - as she put it.

Then, last Sunday, New York's finest fashion photographer Bill Cunningham offered up a Times retrospective of Brooke through the years, plus his own personal remembrance.

So, saying goodbye to this fabulous woman had its own meaningful coda and closing.

Too close to home

"If I were her, I'd leave the city; I'd leave the country!" so goes the comment from one knowledgeable woman after a screening of The Nanny Diaries. This is a movie about a monster mom based on the best-selling book.

The authors, Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus, insist the whole thing is "Just fiction, darlings!" And it is a wild, wicked fantasy about a privileged control-freak who hands her child over to a succession of nannies. She isn't very nice and her husband is even worse.

Half of the Upper East Side seems to know the name of "Mrs. X." The other half wants to know. So, they're guessing. Many perfectly pleasant, married, career women are being tarred by the Nanny Diaries brush. It all reminds me of Holly Peterson's book The Manny, which will be a movie later.

I personally don't think "Mrs. X." has a thing to fear. If Anna Wintour could sail through The Devil Wears Prada and come out more on top of the world than ever, well, "Mrs. X" can go right on proceeding from Swifty's to Le Cirque to La Goulue.

In the movie, the glorious Laura Linney plays "Mrs. X." Well, if you're going to be immortalized as a witch, you couldn't do better than to be immortal in the person of Miss Linney.

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