VINTAGE GOSSIP is alive and well in the elegant hands of Amy Phillips Penn, former society columnist for the New York Post. Every Thursday, Amy pens her posts with that same touch of class, making the legends and lore of a bygone era as relevant today as they were when Jackie O was queen of New York.
“I grew up backstage and on movie sets, and I thought they were the most magical places on Earth.”
– Zosia Mamet
Just when I thought that I’d give Mad Men a proper New York send off, I binge-inhaled the HBO series with the generic title, Girls.
As a cast of neurotically egotistical New York-based college grads interned their way into self-recognition, I was captivated by a face. I knew her from somewhere, but somewhere could be anywhere. Who was she?
Her eyebrows were familiar. It’s a funny place to start, but had I run with the eyebrow epiphany, I might have passed go and landed in Mad Men. Mad Men has quite the eyebrow collection. So in order to avoid sleepless nights, I Googled her: Zosia Mamet, the daughter of David Mamet and Lindsay Crouse. Who knew? (Probably a well versed percentage of TV viewers that didn’t include me.)
In Mad Men, Zosia plays Joyce, an openly gay member of Life magazine’s staff. She licks Peggy’s cheek in a way that no savvy puppy would ever dare.
In Girls, Zosia has morphed into Shoshanna Shapiro, a media major at NYU who personifies “what not to do on a job interview.”
Growing up in New York, we are immersed in fame, whether we recognize it or not. As children, we hear our parents describe a newfound friend of ours as the child of someone that impresses them — this usually does little to effect our friendship with our classmate. We mingle with the offspring of the name-worthy, and take notes on the obvious: their parents aren’t as available as ours might be, but that’s about it.
In my early teens, a friend of mine suggested that I go to an Allen Stevenson dance with a friend of his. His mother called my mother to insure that he was qualified to escort me out into the New York night, then added “he’s going to be an actor.” At that age, I had no interest in what a potential date’s future held, so this gratuitous information was somewhat enigmatic.
Enter Richard, my date for the evening, who presented me with the one and only corsage that would ever garnish my wrist. His parents were dancers with the New York City Ballet. Richard was a polite and attentive escort.
When we met again, it was for dinner in L.A., with his wife and my then boyfriend included. Richard had gained fame as John-Boy in The Waltons.
“I asked you to go steady, and you said that perhaps we should wait until we knew each other better,” he reminisced. Had I ever really been that wise?
Most of my observations of famous parents were accentuated by someone announcing a celebrity parent siting — the image of a famous producer still lingers. His daughter went to school with me. His head was hung so low, that an invisible pillow seemed to be propping him up. In time, I learned that he was suffering from severe depression in an era when treatment was scant and severe.
Fame is not all Tiffany wrapped.
Children of famous parents, who later go toe to toe with the red carpet, often blend in at private or professional schools where success is no stranger. A Spence grad remembers Gwyneth Paltrow as “some little kid who was running around the school.”
Say no more. New Yorkers are a sophisticated audience.
Our gifts and perceptions are what we make of them. Those whose parents have made a serendipitous splash into the big time often follow the leader or go their own way, secure in the knowledge that success is in their DNA and future lineup. Others are overwhelmed by the mere thought of the implicit challenge, and opt for an implicit non-compete clause.
“Picasso’s father never painted again after his infant son picked up a paintbrush,” said the son of a famous New York artist, as if he were doing his father a service by suffocated and surrendering his inherited talent.
It’s a sad way to burst a piñata in the hope of finding love inside.
“Most letters from a parent contain a parent’s own lost dreams disguised as good advice.
What makes this advice especially hollow and pious is that I am not dead yet.
If it were any good, I could easily take it myself.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, to his daughter, Nanette
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