I happened to see Monica’s obituary today and it set off a series of memories. She was uncommonly memorable and you just don’t meet people that witty very often.
One time around 1970 Monica worked at Bergdorf-Goodwin and Jacqueline Kennedy decided to visit. In the manner of high level celebrities, Jackie’s people called the store and the manager arranged to open the doors for her the next day after closing time. Monica was chosen to help the Former First Lady.
Monica said she was polite but rather cool, and discussed clothes knowledgably, of course. She spoke so softly, Monica had to lean forward to hear her.
Jackie chose quite a few items Monica showed her, and each one was wrapped to be delivered to her home. Again in the manner of an American aristocrat, Jackie sent most of the purchases back in a day or two, after she could examine them in the light of her apartment and try them with clothes and accessories she already had. Monica saw her on the streets of Midtown a couple more times, but they didn’t speak.
Broadway and Hollywood star Elaine Streech was Monica’s best friend, and our ’66 Lancer friend adored Elaine’s caustic wit and searing gossip. Monica was also a gifted mimic and I especially liked her gruff Manhattan street cop:
“Keep it moving, Mac!”
She was a little reserved, as we said, but had a disarming way of talking to strangers, and met dozens of celebrities over the years: actors, dancers, Broadway singers, writers, intellectuals, playwrights. Even luminaries from the 1930s and 1930s. Not all become her social friends, but most remembered her and they’d stop to talk in the Village, maybe in the big stores or restaurants, in theaters or galleries. I forget most of their names, but her acquaintances included Paul Simon, Robert DeNiro, James Wood, Richard Dreyfuss and many more. Monica was not above approaching an actor or actress she’d always liked, and her sincere enthusiasm would win them over.
A couple of times she even saw the elusive hermit Greta Garbo on the sidewalks but decided not to interrupt the great star’s privacy.
In her early years in Manhattan, Monica was the assistant for the legendary Hollywood glamor photographer Milton Greene, and several others like him. She also co-owned a restaurant for a while. She supported herself with a mail order office supplies company she ran from her apartment.
And she had adventures. Again around 1970, she wore metallic mesh miniskirt to a party at the United Nations. Of course she was tall and had a beautiful figure, so she made heads turn. This was the same gal who used to drive from Sunny Hills to Beverly Hills to have Geno Vescove do her hair.
The people in Monica’s West Village neighborhood made it like a friendly small town for many years. They knew each other, greeted each other, sometimes shared laughter and tears together. Monica loved it. A few years before she died, she decided to live in France, the home of her ancestors. She chose Paris, first, but it was prohibitively expensive. She stayed in Normandie for a few months, but finally decided there was no place like home. She returned to the village.
No one had a bigger heart than Monica, and the way she described the huge wall of smoke and debris that rolled north 22 blocks to her neighborhood on 9/11 would make a marble statue weep. I think that catastrophe spurred her interest in Paris.
Monica had many gifts, and probably the greatest of these was the way she loved life and people.
I know Arnie and her friends from the building will see this page, and I urge them to share memories and photos. Same to her brothers and sisters.
Can’t wait to meet up with Monica on The Other Side!