Culture

Lost in the Mehle: Suzy’s Souvenirs Show Up for Sale

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
img
img
Follow by Email
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

Aileen Mehle was the queen of the society beat for over half a century. Through the columns she wrote as “Suzy,” Mehle let readers in on a world of fabulous fortunes and fantastic fetes. She covered the Black and White Ball, dated Frank Sinatra and counted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Kennedys and the Reagans as her close friends. Mehle lived an iconic life, and when she died last November, at 98, it came as a shock. Some people seem like they just might live forever.


But nobody does. And now that Suzy’s dead, there’s a teetering mountain of kitsch that suddenly has no owner. As this week’s auction of Mehle’s estate at Doyle shows, while the venerable writer may have been a grand dame in life, in death, she seems more like a well-heeled hoarder. Disassembled, her 68th Street apartment is old lady camp of the highest order, as Chinoiserie and ceramic monkeys jockey for space with more rococo frou-frou than you can shake a gold-crusted stick at.


Mehle had a uniquely individual decorating sense, and there’s no way that anybody else could have owned any of this. I don’t mean that in some touching, metaphorical sense—there are literally no less than eighteen different paintings of Mehle, and even more photographs. It might be difficult to imagine anybody else wanting to own, much less wearing a gold-link pendant emblazoned with “Suzy Says,” but, well, here it is.


Nearly everything on view bears Mehle’s stamp. All the books are personally inscribed memoirs, and there are even fan letters from power players like Richard Nixon, Joan Crawford and Donald Trump.


“Dear Aileen,” reads a letter from the 45th President. “Although I’m going to miss you on the pages of the New York Post, I’m delighted to learn of your new association with Women’s Wear Daily, and you can bet that I will continue to follow you there.”


Mehle’s wardrobe is on sale, too, for prices so low they’re Crazy-Suzy insane. Four fox fur capes are estimated at only $500-700, two Judith Leiber bags are appraised at $600-800 and a piece of costume jewelry from Chanel is expected to go for a whopping $10-20. It’s hard to understand how expensive clothing and accessories like these could possibly go for sub-consignment sums. Does Suzy’s imprimatur really count for so little these days? What gives?


Maybe Mehle’s style just doesn’t excite the way that it once did. “It was very nice, but no one was looking at any of Suzy’s things,” said Susannah Bianchi about the auction’s opening night reception. “I ached for her . . . really.  A real lesson in holding on to things that ultimately don’t matter, not if there’s lox and Champagne available.”


Or maybe it’s that hard-to-forget fact that these are a dead woman’s effects, and that her body is fresh in the ground. Ultimately, this ghoulish auction is a reminder that what seems glamorous now will one day be hopelessly out of style, and that what seems like marvelous eccentricity today will come off as sad, dusty and pack-rattish tomorrow. “Suzy Says” that even beautiful people will one day wither and die. They say you can’t take it with you? Well, thank God!


 


The Estate of Aileen Mehle will go on sale on Wednesday, May 24, at 10AM. For more information, visit doyle.com.




MORE FROM CULTURE
img

The Week Ahead: August 21-25 on the AVENUE

What's going on this week in New York and the Hamptons.

Lists
img

More Sun, Please

Summer liberates, whether you’re 6 or 60.

In The Magazine
img
In The Magazine

Prince Charming Holds Court

Transatlantic goings on

by R. Couri HayPhotographed by Billy Farrall