I Loved Lucie: The Unforgettable Mrs. Goldberg
What a blow to hear that the great Lucianne Goldberg has died. My strongest condolences to Jonah Goldberg, and to all who loved her. Good Lord, was she ever great. John Podhoretz remembers:
Lucianne Goldberg was—she owned the term proudly—a broad. A grand broad—big, blowsy, sexy, and up for a good time from morning till night. She was the first and the last person I ever knew to spend her days inserting cigarettes into a cigarette holder and smoking them with relish like she was attending the blowout party in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Lucianne was maybe the most sheerly fun person I’ve ever known, full of high good humor and gossip and tales about everyone we ever knew in common, and plenty she only knew, and plenty everybody knew.
What a storyteller she was, cynical and world-weary and finding the humor in just about everything. And she had an essentially comic view of the world, in which, in one way or another, we were either all fools or tummlers. She started an anti-women’s-lib group in the 1970s she called the Pussycat League, as a joke, and it provoked outrage that absolutely delighted her.
There's so much more in that remembrance, so do read the whole thing.
You might remember Luci from the Linda Tripp affair. She was the literary agent who was part of the exposé. I met her not long after I moved to New York City in 1998, through John Podhoretz, our mutual friend. I was instantly and utterly charmed. She was indeed a broad, and a dame, and every other word that you would have affixed to a gal like her in the old movies. She was like a character in them: full of zip and moxie and always, always ready with a story that would make you gasp and then fall off your seat laughing.
I remember the time, during the heyday of the Catholic priest scandals, I went with my dear priest friend (whom I want name, to protect him) to have drinks with Luci at an Upper West Side watering hole. We had martinis, and boy, did we gossip. Luci told a story about how when she first arrived in New York as a young woman, she befriended the guy who lived next door in her building. He was a young gay man who sang in Broadway choruses. One night he invited her to go to a party at his friend Bubbles's house -- which, as it happened, was Cardinal Spellman's mansion on Fifth Avenue!
"I was the only woman there," she said, cattily. "Bubbles" was the nom de low-down of the fearsome conservative prelate, according to Luci. His Eminence gave her a tour of the mansion. When they reached his bathroom, she marveled at the floor-to-ceiling smoked-glass mirrors, and a vast collection of perfume bottles. The cardinal noticed her staring at the bottles with surprise, and asked what her problem was. She quoted him saying, "What do you expect a cardinal to collect? Rosaries?"
She guffawed throatily. Believe me, there was nobody in the world better to drink martinis with than Lucianne Goldberg.
(And lest you think I'm smearing the late cardinal, his homosexuality was fairly common knowledge among insiders. I ended up talking later to two police sources who told me things about his double life that were consonant with Luci's experience, but far less amusing.)
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Once I had a meeting with a prominent literary editor that went off the rails. I met Lucie and told her about it. She said that's not surprising, then recalled the time she went with a client to see that editor. She (the editor) ended up pulling a giant dildo from her top desk drawer and banging her desk with it to make a point.
Luci didn't have to work hard to cultivate that larger-than-life personality. It's who she really was. The thing is, she was also a woman of deep tenderness. She loved children, and doted on my son Matthew, who was a toddler when we lived in the city. She called him "Masshew," and gave him Peanuts toys from the stash her late husband Sid, who had been Charles Schulz's editor, kept in the back. I'm sitting here in Budapest with tears in my eyes, remembering how tough old Luci would turn into caramel around babies and little children. God, what a woman. She's the kind of lady you move to the big city to meet. And as Pod notes in his remembrance, she was a believing Christian. I don't suppose heaven has much tolerance for the scandalous tales Luci liked to tell, nor for her cigarette holder, but if there's a bar up there, she's sipping martinis, holding court, and making them all laugh.