Monday, February 12, 2007

The Pink Lady

When I was 8 or 9, my parents threw a lot of dinner parties to which were invited many interesting guests. A friend of theirs brought a young artist named Barbara who lived in a house (an actual house!) on Avenue A, which at the time was pretty exotic. She brought her friend, Silvia, who was from England -- a performance artist who had gotten a grant to travel to New York City. She was tall, had pink hair, and was very very smart. My mother didn't like her immediately because she announced that she was a vegetarian after mom had dished up whatever meat and potatoes meal she had prepared.

But as it so happened we were going out of town that weekend and my parents needed a house/cat sitter and thus Silvia was invited to stay the weekend. Upon our return, it was decided that she should stay the week because we were going out of town the following weekend, and thus she could house sit again. And so on. And in this way Silvia became a sort of live in nanny who lived with us for 9 or 10 months.

Silvia dressed all in pink and had shocking pink hair. She ran with the fabulous art crowd of the time -- that whole Andy Warhol downtown set. She did incredible performance pieces at places like the Franklin Furnace. Her pieces were based on wordplay and visual contrasts, often involving the color pink. She could speak many languages, including Arabic. It was like having a bizarro version of Mary Poppins as a babysitter. She would stay out all night but then very cheerfully wake up in the morning and make me breakfast. She took me and my mom to the Pyramid on Avenue A and it I remember seeing transvestite go-go dancers on the bar and thinking it was very fun and glamorous.

Eventually Silvia left us, but we would get amazing letters from her (on pink paper, written in pink ink), from around the world. Once she wrote us from a tent in Kenya right after she had seen a lion. Suffice it to say, she was, and is, a pretty cool role model.

I hadn't seen her for many years when I finally reunited with her in London a few years back. She took me to a zillion fabulous parties including the opening of the Bloomberg Museum (where they handed you your own personal Moet champagne bottle with straw upon entrance) and a book launch party held on a terrace overlooking Green Park (London's version of Central Park, with same cache). Clearly Silvia's life was as interesting as ever.

The last time I saw her was in her house in England, with her two beautiful and (not surprisingly) precocious children. As you can see from the picture below, some things never change:



I count myself lucky to have had such an interesting and amazing woman watching over me during part of my formative years.

3 Comments:

Blogger Will Hines said...

Seriously: why were you waiting to write this stuff down? I love this entry.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Pliny said...

i work at Franklin Furnace and wonder who this Silvia is - what's her last name? Was Barbara, Barbara Lehman? Hmmm. Harley Spiller

9:10 AM  
Blogger Rachael Mason said...

Silvia Ziranek was her name. I don't remember Barbara's last name but she died many years ago at a ridiculously young age.

5:47 PM  

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