Victor’s Birthday Dinner Chez Ivon long ago. One of my favorite photos of us. My photo, published for the first time
Sweetheart, Baby, Angel, Dearest, Darling…..(each comma represents a pause!) how I will miss these words on my phone early on so many mornings….followed by “Its Victor”…my answer, always, who else would it be! And always notes for reasons or just a hello….he did those for many of his friends, I treasure mine.
This was our greeting for decades. Was each and every decade stress free, of course not, no relationship no matter how close you are doesn’t have bumps and, yes, we had bumps, but the “bumpless” times were so very special. I wanted to share all the good times…and there were many!
At a Fashion Group International Chicago gala honoring the Ferragamos Photo credit: Robert Carl.
My dear, special friend of so many, many years and so many, many memories, left us this year on April 4th to join his dear family and friends such as Hubert de Givenchy, Estée Lauder, Joan Weinstein, Jovanna Papadakis to name just a few to make Heaven even more glamorous…….you know he is busy organizing the angels into perfect photo shoots…on that you can be sure.
Shown with Estée Lauder, photo credit unknown.
In retrospect, I can’t remember when we first became friends nor why we were comfortable sharing confidences and champagne, but we were and we did!! Over many, many dinners at RL and La Scarola (the last time I saw him was at dinner there) or my home, we talked about anything and everything.
An afternoon benefit at the Chicago Hilton, photo credit unknown.
We often went to events together and he was sure to include me when he was receiving many of his special honors.
Back in the discotheque days….the 1960’s/1970’s we would meet, along with everyone else, on the weekends at the Disc de Maxim’s, I supplied the dresses for the DJ…it was the place to see and be seen. Or the evenings spent listening to Bobby Short or Shelley MacArthur at the Gold Sardine Bar. Great fun times.
Nancy Goldberg’s Maxim’s de Paris at the Astor Towers. Beyond gorgeous…here the staircase from the main floor into the restaurant and the dance floor.
Photos found on Pinterest credit unknown.
I had the honor of planning the special dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center after he received his Honorary Degree from Columbia College Chicago, one of the only times that a degree was bestowed outside of Graduation ceremonies making it even more special.
1995 Columbia College Chicago Honorary Degree evening. Photographer unknown. From my collection.
Lucky me that I became a friend of one of the major artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
When did this friendship begin…I can’t pin point the exact year, Victor was a well known photographer and Major Influencer when I started at Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago. I think the first time I was invited into his Circle of Friends was at the Chicago premier of the 1969 film The Damed. I was invited to a private screening at the screening room at The Chicago Theater and to the reception after. It was a small group at the screening…the movie was eagerly anticipated and I was beyond thrilled to be included. Well, dear friends, I don’t shock easily but I must tell you, I was beyond shocked by the film, so much so I have never seen it again. Since it was such a small group I couldn’t get up and leave. I guess I should like it, I do admire Visconti’s work. Well there is more to this story…the reception was upstairs at Gene & Georgetti’s (I’m so pleased they are back with us after their fire and the “plague” closings). As you got to the top of the stairs you were immersed in the decadent “Cabaret Scene” from the film, I was beside myself. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so undone by the film I might have found it less distasteful and across the room was one of the stars, Helmut Berger who kept staring at me….gave me chills! If you haven’t seen the film do so and you will get what I’m talking about. I wonder if I’ll find it not as shocking now???!!!
Flash forward to 1984 when I received a telegraph (remember those) from Town and Country requesting that I report to the Skrebneski Studio on such and such a date at such and such a time to have my photo taken for an upcoming story in the magazine on The Costume Council of the Chicago Historical Society (as the Museum was called then) . Victor did exquisite editorial spreads for T&C for years, some of my most favorite images are from those issues. Well, of course, I thought this was some kind of a joke. I immediately called Dennis Minkel, Victor’s Assistant and a long time dear friend of mine. I had been working with him on many shoots when they needed clothing and/or accessories. He assured me it wasn’t a joke and to wear a favorite dress, preferably a day garment since the other Executive Committee members would be in cocktail and evening gowns. They would supply the hair and makeup artists and the jewelry. I was stunned, excited, honored and perplexed being the only “non-socialite” in the group. I was, at the time serving as Acquisitions Chair. As I recall I was the last shoot of the day. I arrived as scheduled in my “uniform” a mock turtleneck black chemise by Adolfo. My hair was long at the time and it was fashioned into a classic French Twist. I am photographed in front of period gowns from the Costume Collection in a double page spread. Let’s talk a minute about how Victor worked, the set ups took time but he knew exactly what shot he wanted and where the fold of the magazine would happen, therefore the two pages always were seamless not so with other photographers nor magazine editors. Just one example of his brilliance. And it’s one shot and done. The photo looks quite simple, it was anything but….to get the angle he wanted, and by the way he loved profiles….so that is how you see me, I don’t love my profile but who am I to say…he had positioned my legs in an awkward position, so much so that I pulled a muscle. I don’t think I ever told him that!!!! My hair looks dark due to the dramatic Skrebneski lighting. Lighting was one of his signatures. And here is the finished photo
This framed copy was on my office wall from 1984 until I retired in 2009, it is now part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago. All of us were taken to Les Nomades for an elegant dinner with the T&C editors and a bottle of Kristal was sent to each of us with a lovely note. What an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience…..I, of course, thought this was my one and only Skrebneski photo session…..wrong again…..
Stay tuned for Part 2 and probably Part 3 of this story.