In a Class All Her Own

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Aileen Mehle, the ultimate chronicler of the lives of what used to be international society in the last half of the 20th century, died on November 11 here in New York. She was 98.

I first read her in 1959 when she joined the New York Daily Mirror under the nom de plume “Suzy.” My father, born and bred in Brooklyn, got the Mirror and the News every day. By the time I was eight or ten, I was reading them too. Walter Winchell was in the Mirror, and so was Suzy, who wrote about the magical world of New York (especially to this kid growing up in a little New England town). They were a team: she gave the glitz and the shimmer while he supplied the nitty-gritty.

She was a working girl in a glamorous-looking job, and she wore it to the hilt. She sparkled whenever she was out in public. She was very popular with both the men and women of society. In her own right, she had a very real kind of power in the world of the elite. It was her wit and charm, smartly packaged in a woman who had the common touch.

Social writers and journalists have been popular in America since the early 19th century, when the country and its traditions were still taking shape. By the late 19th century and the days of the Mrs. Astor, the great wealth of this city bred what we called Society. It appeared to be an amusement, a showering of accouterment, an entertainment—fantasy presented as reality. There have been other successful female columnists in her field, but Suzy had the longest run and the winning popularity.

She was very competitive, not surprisingly. It was not unlike her to request of a hostess to not invite certain other media people to affairs. By the time I came along, late in her career, I was one of those other media people. Although I was obviously disappointed not to share in her presence, I understood; business is business, and it was her territory. In reality, she never had competition and never will. She was all those things that her millions of readers loved about her: an original. And she was lovely to look at.