Elinor Guggenheimer Remembered


By Masha Leon

Published October 30, 2008, issue of November 07, 2008.
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“So far I have not broken anything, but have had my knees replaced,” said Jane Brody, health columnist for the New York Times and an honoree at the September 24 National Osteoporosis Foundation luncheon at the Pierre. “The best predictor in mid-life [for osteoporosis] is how much calcium was consumed in childhood… I shudder to think of the future generations who grew up on soda and juice instead of milk. Women in their 20s start losing more bone than is being rebuilt… but it is not too late,” said Brody. NOF trustee Carole Saline said, “They call high blood pressure the silent killer; osteoporosis is equally silent until you get a bone density test — or a fracture. My mother fell, broke her hip and became a statistic. It could have been prevented, had a doctor suggested weight-bearing exercises.” Also honored were Ivana Trump, author of the best-selling book “Queen of Suspense”; writer Mary Higgins Clark and her co-author daughter Carol Higgins Clark, and former ballet dancer Margo Catsimatidis, who said, “If my husband [NYC supermarket mogul John Castimatidis] is elected mayor, he will try to make New York City the research center of the world.”

“The best revenge is looking good,” joshed event chair Sharon Marantz Walsh, as she introduced Ivana Trump, whose executive smarts have resulted in Ivana, Inc. enterprise, books, television and charity appearances. A former ski champion with the Czech ski team in the early 1970’s, the mother of Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka and Eric, Ivana credits her own lifelong regimen of “eating right and hard exercise ” for her current edge as a still top notch skier.

“I could be the poster person for osteoporosis,” said Bronx-born Mary Higgins Clark. “I broke my ankle at 45, broke my shoulder, three years ago slipped in the kitchen and broke a leg, two years ago tried to reach a plate and fell, broke my arm again.” She recalled her mother’s struggle to raise two children after her father died, when she was 10, and going to secretarial school to help with the family finances. After marrying Warren Clark, Mary Higgins began to write short stories. “Forty rejection slips and four years to sell my first story,” she said. Widowed in 1964, she tried her hand at writing books. She wrote between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. before getting her five children to school. Her first book, “Where Are the Children?” published in 1975, became a best-seller. She beamed: “It is now in its 75th printing.” Her daughter Carol joked, “Mother taught me: ‘If someone is mean to you, make them a victim in your next book.” Leo Schargorodski, NOF executive and CEO, informed: “2.8 million New Yorkers are at risk of osteoporosis.” Honorary chair and internationally renowned model Carmen Dell’ Orifice, still stunning and working in her 70’s (!) touted the need for “osteoporosis awareness,” which afflicts men and women.

In keeping with the event’s subtitle — “A Gift from Mothers to Daughters,” Carole Saline, who described her mother’s osteoporosis-based suffering, added the post-script remark: “As daughters we become the caretakers of our mothers.” Apropos she told the following joke: “A man went to heaven and wanted to meet the Virgin Mary. He was told she was sitting three doors away knitting. ‘Holy Mother!’ said he. ‘Whenever I had seen an image of you or icon, you are a new mother holding the baby Jesus. But, why are you so sad?’ Replied the Virgin Mary: ‘I wanted a girl.’”


In keeping with the Weizmann Institute of Science’s new slogan, “Israel’s Gift to the World,” CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield, emcee at the American Friends of WIS September 25 gala at Cipriani 42nd Street, cited some of those gifts: “A control mechanism for metastasis, a process by which cancer spreads; the discovery of a genetic code for organizing DNA within the nucleus; development of a new method for determining whether chemotherapy will be successful [and] how easily the drug can reach the tumor; discovery of properties of the inner ear that could lead to more effective hearing aids.” ACWIS chairman Lawrence Blumberg, whose multi-generational family was honored that evening, lauded the institute’s Rehovot, Israel campus: “Home to 2,600 of the world’s most talented scientists, engineers and technicians.” Among the institute’s new initiatives, Blumberg noted “special programs to assist women scientists in the earliest stages of their careers.”

Further amplifying the institute’s wide arc of research, Blumberg listed research in breaking new ground in clean energy production, waste reduction, Alzheimer’s disease, autism treatments and more. His family was one of three singled out by ACWIS for their multi-generational involvement and commitment. Also honored were the Gurwin family and the Pickman family. Joseph Gurwin was born in Lithuania and immigrated to the United States just prior to the invasion by the Nazis. His parents died in the Holocaust and a brother survived the concentration camps, only to become imprisoned in Lithuania behind the Iron Curtain. Gurwin claimed that his aunt, “who took me in in America, told me I was saved for a purpose.” It took 52 years for Joseph Gurwin and his brother to be reunited in Israel. “Whether it was destiny or pure luck, I was determined to ‘pay it forward.’” The evening also honored Gershon Kekst, former chairman of Weizmann’s International Board of Governors. As the aroma of flowers from Israel filled the air, the crowd noshed on Israeli-style nibbles, sipped Israeli wine and enjoyed a performance by Israeli-born violinist Miri Ben-Ari — a protege of Isaac Stern — whose fusion of classical style, jazz, R&B and hip-hop has placed her in that rarified arena of artists known as “pioneers.”


Elinor Guggenheimer, who died on September 29 at 96, wore many hats: writer, activist, advocate for women and the elderly, the first woman to serve on the New York City Planning Commission in 1961, NYC commissioner for Consumer Affairs in the 1970’s, parks commissioner, Hadassah honoree, founder of the New York Women’s Forum and more. Add to that Bordello madam! In February 1997, she hosted a party to launch friend Jo Foxworth’s “The Bordello Cookbook” (Moyer Bell). Transforming her Park Avenue apartment into a dimly red lit, bordello waiting room, “Madams” Guggenheimer (in brown curly wig) and Foxworth in (flaming red feathered headgear) greeted jaw-dropping guests among whom was sexpert (but of course!) Ruth Westheimer. Foxworth, then Advertising Woman of the Year, said, “Some of the houses had 24-hour kitchens, whose culinary reputations motivated some men to visit particular houses for the food alone.” I asked her if she had come across some Jewish madams of note. “In Brooklyn in the early 20th century, there was one who only catered to Jewish men and insisted on personally examining each patron… Look,” said Foxworth, “these millionaire madams were the first group of successful businesswomen in America until post-World War II.” Then, of course, there was Jewish madam Polly Adler of “A House is not a Home,” her autobiography of post-bordello literary fame, which was a bestseller of the year.

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