A photo essay on Palm Beach society was to be the lead story in the very first issue of People magazine, to debut on the newsstands on March 4, 1974, the concept for People being the expansion of the popular “People” page in Time magazine.
Off I went to Palm Beach in February to meet up with famed columnist Sheila Graham, who would do the reporting. At the time, Sheila rivaled Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper for the title of Queen of the Hollywood Gossip Columnists, and she seemed like the perfect choice for this assignment.
I was prepped before we left to make certain I photographed Estée Lauder, already a legend, and Mary Sanford, whom some had dubbed the Queen of Palm Beach. Lucky for me, they both danced by at the same time in front of my camera at a charity gala—the elegant Estée, escorted by her equally elegant husband, Joseph, and the flamboyant Mary, escorted by the equally flamboyant designer, Arnold Scaasi. One snap, and they floated by.
Mary Sanford, who had previously been the actress Mary Duncan, arrived in Palm Beach in 1933 with her polo-playing husband, Laddie, and subsequently chaired every charity ball you could think of. Estée Lauder is the only woman to be named to Time magazine’s 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century—very impressive indeed. She established the Cancer Ball, and chaired all of the other ones, too.
Both of these extraordinary women lived very long and productive lives and left their mark on Palm Beach, and I am pleased to have caught them having a good time for a good cause. It does seem like just yesterday…