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Brooke Astor, 1902-2007

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: , , , ,

Ariella Budick writes in Newsday:
Brooke Astor, who died at 105 Monday of pneumonia at Holly Hill, her Westchester County estate, was perhaps New York City’s last grande dame, an all-but-extinct breed. Socialite, philanthropist, self-confessed flirt and expert charmer, she enriched the city she lived in with wit, style, and unstinting largesse.

She was the only child of Gen. John Henry Russell Jr., a Marine Corps officer whose work took him around the globe. Brooke passed her childhood in a range of foreign locales: China, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Hawaii. She briefly attended the Madeira School in McLean, Va., before dropping out to pursue her social life full-time. “My mother was afraid I would learn too much and become a bluestocking,” she told her friend, the late New Yorker writer Brendan Gill. Cont’d.
In a 1999 Talk, John Cassidy described an awards-gala appearance in which Astor, “a sprightly flyweight going on ninety-seven,” appeared alongside Hillary Clinton:
In truth, though, Mrs. Clinton was no match for Mrs. Astor, a hardy dowager who has honed her technique at thousands of such occasions. Clambering onto the stage, she held the audience rapt as she told of her thirty-nine years as head of the Astor Foundation—a period during which the foundation distributed two hundred million dollars to causes that ranged from the public-library system and the Metropolitan Museum to low-income housing in Queens. “I’ve given it all to New York, and I’ve never given anything to anything I haven’t seen,” she declared, in her plummy English accent, the likes of which is rarely heard outside Buckingham Palace these days.
Gill wrote in his 1997 piece: “She always speaks at ease, without preparation, phrases springing to her lips with the unguardedness of someone who has long known exactly who she is.”


Our culture has changed so gradually, it appears so base and shrill to me now. Especially from across the pond. I don’t mean that in a condescending way, but in a manner to mean that I actually care, so much I’m writing about it.

I only come back once a year at this point, but still have a small company I manage long distance and many friends and family that I love.

We used to argue our way towards the middle, towards normalcy.

Their are certain obituaries that simply hit hard and help illustrate and define the changes in our cultural environs and social climes. This is one of those, in a way.

When Gore Vidal dies I will curl up in a fetal position in some corner and become very sad. I am terrified of that day….

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