The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.

The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.
One of My Favorite Places on Earth

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Quintessential Class Act

Even though she was 96, I still felt a tug at my heartstrings when I heard that Ms. Kitty Carlisle Hart had passed two nights ago. Here's my tribute to her via one of my old opinion columns (2003) I've dusted off. She was quite remarkable and an inspiration. I'll probably always be in awe of her eternal elegance. In recognition of Kitty Carlisle Hart's zest for life, my goal is to master that thing she did (right up until the end, according to a recent issue of Vanity Fair) to stay in shape: lying prone and placing her feet behind her head on the floor. Oy Vey, my palms are sweating thinking about it. Thanks for the memories Ms. Carlisle-Hart. From your jewels and floor-length gowns on To Tell The Truth to that Enchanted August Evening I saw you perform on stage at The Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester - you were Superlative.

Hart Defeats Nature with Grace

With all the promised elixirs of youth out there, from Botox injections to dropping $1,000 for a jar of Creme de la Mer, there seems to be one tonic that's been overlooked by the masses.

I'm guessing it doesn't get a lot of press because a.) it's intangible and b.) it doesn't cost a cent.
Webster's dictionary defines the graciousness as "having or showing kindness, charm or courtesy," and Kitty Carlisle Hart had it in spades Saturday at The Southern Vermont Arts Center.

Any mention of the legendary performer and arts patron these days is usually prefaced or followed with the incredulity that she's 92 and hardly looks it.

My curiosity about how this borderline centenarian looks, feels and acts a good three decades younger intrigued me to the point where I made the 90-minute journey to Manchester over unlit country roads full of hairpin turns to see Hart in person.

I already knew some of her secrets: yoga, remaining active with things that interested her and refusing to ever get a facial (the excessive pulling on the skin does more harm than good, she said).

But there had to be more to the equation, aside from blessed genes.

Hart was, not surprisingly, incandescent onstage Saturday night.

So much so that I now maintain that you haven't lived until you've seen Kitty Carlisle Hart's sparkling eyes look out at you as she sings the lilting "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." That may not sound like your idea of high-octane living, but witnessing someone about to turn 93 so vibrant and in love with life is, by definition, inspirational.

But here's what I found most admirable about Hart: she made no attempt to conceal her years.
There was no subterfuge of tightly pulled facial features or the one-dimensional inkiness of overly dyed hair.

Seeing her up close as she signed books after her performance, two things were clear: Hart's face was lined handsomely from the thousands of smiles she gave during the past nine decades -- and she wasn't bothered by it.

Otherwise she would have long ago paid a surgeon to pull the offending skin back to her ears.
The moment I realized it was the longest book signing I'd ever stood on line for was when I understood Hart's true beauty secret was graciousness.

She took each person who approached her aside like a close confidant. Whether they bought a book or not, she beckoned them from in front of the table to where she sat, leaning close, listening, laughing with them.

As book signings go, it was truly odd to see no one rushed off the line or treated brusquely.
Throwing her head back to laugh along with a white-haired fan or clutching the hand of a man in his 20s who knelt at her side, Hart was kind as kind could be -- and Honey, did it show.


Howard Gurak said...

Stacey: Great Blog! Some of your pictures of Israel bring back fond memories. Looks like your having a great time seeing the world and letting us know about it. Thanks, we appreciate it. Keep up the good work. Howie and Lois Gurak

L said...

Hey, Stacey! I love your new blog, and the pictures are great. ooooohhh.....I could do with a George Clooney sighting, too (sigh). I'm headed to Lexington with the Geiger group in May. Didn't see you on the list, so we'll miss you. Hope to catch up with you on some future trip!