When I was a little girl, I thought that the best thing that could happen to me would be to live in a glamorous apartment in a glamorous place like New York, and wear fabulous clothes, say witty things, and maybe - though not necessarily - have a charming husband. We would have all kinds of fun together, going to plays, concerts, having amazingly entertaining friends, and be able to discuss any topic, shallow or serious. I/we would not necessarily be famous, but we would be well-educated, and drink a lot of martinis. In some ways, like Nick and Nora Charles in "The Thin Man" movies.
Or, Kitty Carlisle Hart.
By the time I first learned who she was, it was through "To Tell the Truth," a game show where she was a regular on the panel. At about 3:00 every afternoon, when the show came on, I would be riveted, not so much by the people and their stories, but by the fact that they would introduce the panel, and the men wore suits, Polly Bergen or Peggy Cass, or whoever was the other female, would have on nice dresses, but then they would introduce Kitty Carlisle, and she would appear, at three in the afternoon, dressed like she was ready for a cocktail party with other society ladies! Such glamour, to dress like that in the middle of the afternoon, for a game show! That, I remember thinking to myself, is the life!
Later, I would see her in old movies, particularly in "A Night at the Opera" with the Marx Brothers, where she sang "Alone" and did so in such an incredibly dramatic, stupid way, that I would walk around the house the next day, trying to recreate it for myself. (I still do sometimes.)
Even later, I would read interviews with her, or see her being interviewed, and well, she was friends with George Gershwin, who even once proposed to her (though she said he was famous for proposing to almost everyone)! I longed to be proposed to by George Gershwin! And she married Moss Hart - of Kaufman and Hart! Would she stop at nothing to make me amazed at her life???
In the article about her appearing in today's New York Times, she is called a "doyenne." Such a mysterious, glamorous word. I daresay that there are no more doyennes a la Kitty Carlisle Hart, she of the glamorous life, good deeds, and sense of humor about herself. It really is the end of an era.
Maybe part of the appeal to me was that she was so far removed from my everyday existence, yet still seemed like a person who would talk to you in a nice, friendly manner if you ran into her at Saks Fifth Avenue. (Like I ever go to Saks Fifth Avenue, but work with me here, people.) Or maybe it was because her life sounded like a lot of the stories my mother used to tell me about when she and my father were young, and used to do exotic, glamorous things, like go to night clubs, or dinner dances, and laugh, drink, and dance the night away. I don't know about you, but the idea of my parents as young was hard enough to imagine, without taking it a step further to think they actually had fun!
I don't think life is like that anymore, even for society people. For all I know, maybe it was fakery. But it seemed to be convincing to me, even once I realized that I was not really cut out for the glamorous life. Today, so many people who appear on society pages, or in magazine profiles, are boring. Or fake. Or so busy letting you know how important they are, you really just wish you'd bought an Archie comic instead.
So God bless you, Kitty Carlisle Hart. Thank you for letting me live the glamorous life vicariously, while also knowing that the one I have is just fine, thank you.
My witty, charming husband and I will drink a martini in your honor (though I have to admit, we might be wearing sweats) ...