A Second Version of Her Life Story

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

NEW YORK — “Oh gosh, the first dress I ever bought with my own money was a wrap dress,” Chelsea Clinton said. “About 10 years ago — at the Stanford shopping mall, probably. I still have it.”

Toto, we were not in Stanford anymore, but standing in a happy little clump with Ivanka Trump and Lynn Wyatt on the second floor of the former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s glass-walled foundation on East 78th Street on Monday night, near one of several bars that had been set up to celebrate Diane von Furstenberg’s new memoir, “The Woman I Wanted to Be,” published by Simon & Schuster, and priced at $26.

“Actually, on Amazon I think it’s cheaper,” von Furstenberg said.

The walls were decorated with blown-up family photographs from the book, which unflinchingly describes her mother Lily’s survival of the Holocaust, her own “miracle” birth and the long arc of a career encompassing both Vogue and QVC, along with many romantic ups and downs.

And the stairs had been affixed with a black-and-white chain-link pattern: the first to adorn von Furstenberg’s famous dresses, and also neatly symbolizing the countless social connections she has forged during four-odd decades in New York, where she first arrived as the wife of Egon von Furstenberg, the father of her two children, Alexandre (as she spells it) and Tatiana.

“Egon was house-guesting with us,” Wyatt remembered, as a tray of stemless wineglasses sailed past, “and he said, ‘Lynn, I’m in love with this girl, I’m in love with this girl and I don’t know what to do,’ and they were so young, you know? And I just said go for it.”

The room was filled with people who have “gone for it” in one way or another, from business (Diane von Furstenberg’s second husband, Barry Diller; Peter Peterson; Shelby Bryan) to media (Charlie Rose, Gayle King, Barbara Walters) to politics (Clinton’s mother, Hillary, who a staff member said was not giving interviews since “she just wants to enjoy the party”), and in the case of the host, all three.

“It’s always bugged me that, unlike her, I’ve never been considered a style icon,” Bloomberg said from a podium as a parody version of von Furstenberg’s famous 1976 Newsweek cover appeared on a slide projector, picturing him in the white-twigged green ensemble. “Diane invented the wrap dress — well, get ready for the wrap suit. Now, it may not get on the cover of Newsweek, but it will get on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek, I can promise you. That’s if the editor wants to keep his job.”

Chortles from the crowd, which included Bloomberg’s equestrian daughter, Georgina, wearing a black-and-blue DVF cocktail frock; Gloria Steinem (who wrote a blurb for the book); André Leon Talley (who said reports of his disassociation from Zappos were premature); Natalia Vodianova; and Ralph and Ricky Lauren. Then von Furstenberg, sinuous in sequins, took the floor.

“I wrote it with my blood,” she said of the memoir, her second with Steinem’s friend and former New York magazine colleague Linda Bird Francke, author of the article “The Couple That Has Everything — Is Everything Enough?” which helped prompt the von Furstenbergs’ divorce. “I was so honest that I felt like I was at the gynecologist, but my religion happens to be truth and I practice truth, so if you like truth, you like the book.”

Collared briefly afterward, Walters suggested that von Furstenberg’s second iteration of having everything is now, indeed, enough.

“She does what she wants to do, she does it well and she doesn’t give a damn,” she said, “and I think that’s what Barry’s attracted to.”