Friday, November 21, 2014
VANITY FAIR. THE NIGHT MIKE NICHOLS TOOK ME TO MEET JACKIE O
At the time I was dating Claude Picasso, Pablo’s son, who had moved into my apartment on our first date. He was going through a divorce and so was I. One day he announced he was going to Paris to do an article on Chagall, and would be staying with his wealthy Grandmother Gilot in Neuilly. “Cherie, I won’t be long. Hold the fort,” he said as he tapped me on the bum.
I was miffed. He did not invite me, and I was not running a hotel. A top model at the time, recently photographed for the covers of Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, New York magazine, I was enjoying life in the fast lane. At a party, I met Buck Henry, who introduced me to Mike Nichols. Claude’s stay in Paris seemed like an eternity, and I had no word from him; meanwhile Mike had invited me to lunch at the Russian Tea Room and to several dinners. Over dinner one night, Mike said, “Would you like to come with me to a party Jackie Onassis is giving for Ari at El Morocco?”
“Of course,” I said. Mike picked me up in his limousine and off we went. I wore a floor-length black gown from Norma Kamali with a Mongolian lamb coat draped over my shoulders. Press lined the entrance and Life magazine snapped our photo. As a cover girl, I was used to being photographed, but not by paparazzi. “They’ll all be here,” Mike said in his slightly edgy tone.
I was nervous. Mike had a calm about him and a presence that reassured me and reassured all who came into his life. He was always most cordial to the waiters, the maître d’, the cab drivers, etc. They all treated him with utmost respect. His wit was his greatest gift, along with his astute observation of life and sense of irony illustrated by his films. My favorite was Charlie Wilson’s War, written by Aaron Sorkin, a 2007 drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan. Mike chose material that was important. Had value. Had a message. Even if sometimes that message was only to laugh, which he accomplished with The Graduate.
When I was with him at dinner, he made me feel special, beautiful, and intelligent, not like an object. Given my line of work, many people looked at me and through me, but did not listen to me. Mike Nichols listened to me and made me feel he cared and that I, indeed, had something to say. Mike was the essence of respect. And he was great fun.
When we met Jackie O in the long receiving line, she curtsied and reminded me of a giant swan. When she shook my hand, she looked into my eyes with a laser-beam-like focus that made me feel she cared, though we had never met, and that I was the only one in the room. It was apparent that she was a woman who knew what she wanted and could confront with a calm and a poise that stopped traffic. You did not mess with Jackie O. Or Mike Nichols for that matter. But why would one want to?
After the dinner, Mike invited me to his apartment in the Beresford, where we met Jack Nicholson for a drink. Laughs were shared and a good time was had by all. When I returned to my apartment at 333 East 69th Street, I was happy Claude had stayed in Paris so long, but when he returned, I was also happy to be with him and we became engaged in 1973. He never left me alone in New York again. So much for how to train a Picasso.
Gallery: Mike Nichols’s Life in Photos