Monday, August 01, 2016
The World of Jerry Zipkin
Walker of walkers. Social moth. Humpty Dumpty. If you read W back in the Eighties, you will likely remember these now-classic zingers that the magazine's editor and publisher, John Fairchild, frequently hurled at Jerome "Jerry" Zipkin, one of Nouvelle Society's more memorable figures. Perhaps best known for his friendships with Nancy Reagan and Betsy Bloomingdale, the often acid-tongued Zipkin seemed to frequent all of the Eighties' most fashionable spots, including Le Cirque, Mortimer's, and the Reagan White House. It seems like only yesterday that I, a young teenager in Atlanta, anxiously awaited the latest issues of W in hopes of finding out what Zipkin, Nan Kempner, Pat Buckley, Georgette Mosbacher, and Manhattan's other leading socialites had been up to, where they had been, and which ones had made W's infamous "In and Out" list.
Although Zipkin died in 1995, his name continues to crop up in articles about Eighties' society. For years now, I've been searching for photos of Zipkin's Park Avenue apartment, where he resided his entire life. (His real-estate-developer father built the building.) And thanks to my good friend from Macon, Carey, I now have the 1987 issue of House & Garden that features two rooms of his apartment: his sitting room and bedroom. To say that he packed a lot of stuff into these two rooms is putting it lightly. But instead of finding the dizzying array of objects and art a turn-off, I'm taken with these rooms because of their personality. Zipkin was an enthusiastic collector, and his myriad collections and interests- Meissen leopards, shells, snakes, and needlepoint- were on full-display.
So what explained his popularity as a walker? According to everything I've read, he was cultured and attentive, though quick to give his lady friends unsolicited advice on their clothes and their appearances. But he was supposedly discreet, too, something which gained him his friends' trust. According to his New York Times obituary, written by the great Enid Nemy, Zipkin chalked up his popularity among females to the simple fact that he was a man. "A woman cannot have a best woman friend. A best woman friend will do her in."
All photos from House & Garden, October 1987, Eric Boman photographer.