Patti Smith Just Sang Her Heart Out to Us in Manhattan

February 13, 2012 Posted by admin

She sang these previously unrecorded songs…”Around the World in Eighty Days” and “The Shadow of your Smile”, accompanied only by an older, long-haired man with a guitar. I had been invited to join a very exclusive dinner party in mid-December during the week of the auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s personal effects at Christie’s New York, across the street from Rockefeller Center and the magical Christmas tree. The windows on 50th Street lit up three, 20-foot-tall, black and white, bejeweled photos of our Queen, Elizabeth. It looked like a Broadway show was on the ticket.

My life so far, has been a dream, a big pink and blue rainbow of a dream of, “I Can’t Believe That Just Happened Moments.” I had the pleasure of hearing Patti Smith on a makeshift stage in a posh restaurant singing on a plain wooden stool, telling her audience about her mother growing up and loving Elizabeth Taylor and Patti loving her too. She was dedicating these meaningful songs to Elizabeth’s family — the guests of honor at the dinner. I realized this was another of my “I Can’t Believe It Moments” that I could add to my long list.

The remembrance dinner was called “Celebrating Elizabeth,” and was given by photographer Bruce Weber and his wife, Nan Bush. They were devoted friends of Elizabeth since the departure of Richard. It was held at La Grenouille, the posh New York eatery made famous by Truman Capote, and the ladies who lunch.

Patti Smith was visibly shaken while starting her first song and had to stop — to explain how deep her feelings were and restart; her emotions had overwhelmed her and supreme silence enveloped the room as she held us captive with these words of apology and her guttural style of singing through pain, “I will keep remembering, the shadow of her smile.” How did she know that song was Richard and Elizabeth’s personal love song? I went into shock. It was from the film The Sandpiper — the film where I met Elizabeth and met my husband, Ron Berkeley. It was the film where it all started for me in Paris in 1964. I began my 20 years of living large with the Taylor-Burton family.

Many of the guests were from Hollywood. Joel Schumacher, Sofia Coppola. Some from fashion: Anna Sui, Carolina Herrera. Some from the arts: Most of them did not know Elizabeth, they were Bruce Weber’s guests. Some did not know Patti Smith’s music well, including Liza, her daughter — but they do now!

2012-02-10-sueB.jpgThe auction was a tremendous success, as was the preview to the auction. For days, women had lined up with the hard copy catalog viewing, “The Wandering Peregrini Pearl,” chewed up by Elizabeth’s white Maltese dog, Ofie, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, while Elizabeth filmed “The Only Game in Town.” The pearl, painted by Velasquez, worn by another Queen, was purchased by Richard for $37,000 and sold for $11,700,000, with a new elaborate attached diamond and ruby collar.

I was surprised at the popularity of the magnificent caftans and the beautifully displayed home wear, on white marble mannequins across a great show room without beds, as Elizabeth lived primarily in hotel rooms and brought caftans out of the Arab souk and into the boudoir and into the mainstream. My navy chiffon caftan that I had made for her in 1966 for about $200 (a month’s rent), was today sold for $8700. I had not planned it, but suddenly it came to me.

I decided to produce a line of Elizabeth’s caftans to join the first dress collection that I will produce for Home Shopping Network, with a fabulous production team who will produce them, who had previously worked only with major American stores, such as Macy’s and Lord and Taylor. I will be the first French couturier to sell on American TV a beautiful product from my original French patterns, which we can all wear and celebrate America’s favorite movie star. I know Elizabeth will look down from above, in a gorgeous lavender blue chiffon caftan and smile.