Remembering Kitty Carlisle and the Jewels of a Jewel

By Michael G. Ankerich

Some of the treasures Kitty Carlisle collected over the years were auctioned yesterday through Sothebys.   The auction house reported today that Kitty’s jewels doubled their overall low estimate. Her Art Deco diamond sautoir brought $146,500 (est. $60/80,000).

Some of Kitty’s treasures. No, my bid didn’t come close!

For me, an old fan of Kitty Carlisle, it’s kind of sad to see her favorite pieces being divided and sold to the highest bidder. Oh, the stories those little baubles could tell!

I guess it reminds me that Kitty is no longer with us.  Seems hard to imagine that delightful spirit of hers could have been mortal.

The glamorous Kitty Carlisle

 

 

One of my favorite childhood memories was To Tell The Truth.  Not really the show itself, but I was mesmerized when Kitty made her entrance every evening.  To put it simply, no one could make an entrance like Kitty Carlisle.  She would step from backstage , give Garry Moore a peck on the cheek, then glide across the stage in chiffon, feathers, or furs, not a hair out of place. She flashed that famous smile to the audience and camera as she made her way to the panel.  Of course, I thought Kitty was greeting me — only me.

After the introductions, I would stick around to see the show, or I would go to my room and finish my homework.  I had seen her entrance.  That’s all that mattered.

Kitty Carlisle doing what she did best.

 

To joggle your memory, check out this video compilation of her entrances.  Bring back memories?

When actor William Janney came to Atlanta in the early 1990s to give me a week-long interview for The Sound of Silence, he left with me a 1932 photo of Moss Hart and friends relaxing at the Santa Monica Beach Club.  It was signed to Bill Janney by one Lester Sweyd, who is sprawled in the sand beside Hart. Vivian Gaye is lounging beside Hart, and Richard Hemingway, Randolph Scott, and William Janney are kneeling behind.

Moss Hart and friends at the Santa Monica Beach Club, 1932.

 

Not knowing whether Kitty, Hart’s widow, had the photograph in her collection, I made a copy and mailed it to her Manhattan apartment.  I asked about the others in the photo and complimented her on her autobiography, which I had recently read.

Kitty’s book

 

About a week later, Kitty’s note arrived in the mail.

 

It read, “Dear Mr. Ankerich – Many thanks for your letter and the photograph. You must read Moss’ autobiography, ‘Act I.’ The best autobiography (not by me, but by everyone else!) You will learn all about Lester Sweyd .  I have no idea who Richard Hemingway is — probably an actor. Thank you so much for your kind words about my book.  I’m thrilled you like it. But wait till you read ‘Act I.’ You have a real treat in store. Again all my thanks and warm regards, Kitty Hart.

Almost 15 years passed.

One Sunday morning in 2005, as I was making my way through the New York Times, I came across a recent photograph of Kitty. Still lovely, still smiling, still stunning.  I guess she would have been about 95, and here she was doing her own one-woman show.

Kitty in 2005. What an inspiration!

I wrote Kitty another letter, telling her that it was uplifting to see her active and still enjoying life. Yeah, I told her she hadn’t changed any since those unforgettable entrances on To Tell The Truth.

The next week, this letter appeared in my mailbox.

 

A little over a year later, in 1997, Kitty left us at the age of 96.

Maybe I’m getting old(er), but in this world of instant celebrity–here today, gone tomorrow–they just don’t make them like Kitty Carlisle anymore.  Sad, but true, today’s celebrities aren’t even cheap imitations of my childhood favorites.

Although I’m not keen on getting old, I’m really glad I came along when I did!

Kitty and Moss in Times Square, another favorite photo.