Tuesday, May 28, 2024

RIP Gail Sheehy, Best Selling Author of “Passages,” Famed Writer Was Also Wife of New York Magazine Founder Clay Felker


Sad news: Reports on Facebook that bestselling author and famed writer Gail Sheehy has died at age 83. Her book, “Passages,” in 1976, was a monster hit that transcended the culture of non fiction writing and reporting. She captured a moment in the zeitgeist for women and for men talking about life’s changes decade by decade in frank detail that had never before been examined so intimately or frankly. For the Baby Boom generation, “Passages” was a revelation. Her interviews were among the first in the world of New Journalism that sprang up with Tom Wolfe and other writers who transformed non fiction writing and reporting in the late 60s.

Gail was also a feminist whose work dovetailed with the times of Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Betty Friedan, and so on. The majority of her writing was in New York magazine, for which she wrote in the 70s. She married New York’s founding editor Clay Felker, and they became a hot society media couple in New York during a halcyon time. In the 80s and 90s Sheehy wrote for Tina Brown at Vanity Fair extensively.

Maybe Gail’s most famous magazine story, at New York, was about Jackie Kennedy’s cousins, the Beale sisters. Her story inspired Albert and David Maysles’ famous documentary, “Grey Gardens,” which later also became a hit Broadway musical.

From what I can tell on Twitter this morning, Gail died suddenly, of pneumonia possibly linked to COVID-19. She leaves two daughters and an extraordinary legacy. Condolences to her family and friends.

Gail’s death is even more of a shock considering it was only 6 days ago that she posted this message to Facebook. She went out with a bang. Bravo!

by Gail Sheehy
COVID-19 has linked in our minds with nuclear fear. The two silent and invisible menaces combine to infect many of us with a rising death anxiety.
COVID-19 creates a universal sense of dislocation. Even the privileged among us feel that dislocation as they flee from areas of high infection, or work from home, or socially distance themselves even from family and friends.
We put distance between our work arrangements, which may collapse or be radically altered. We struggle with excruciating decisions about teaching and learning and the function of schools in preparing our children for the adult world.
What we’ve lost is the relative safety of a pre-COVID world.
We Americans are twice-dislocated from national authority: misguided by a president who has responded to the virus with extraordinary incompetence, cruelty, and corruption. His ignorant and destructive approach to our institutions gravely endangers our political and psychological capacity to function as a democratic society.
We must ignore the pre-existing conditions (Trump’s lies and ignorance of science) and learn how to resist the death anxiety that has infected so many of us.
We can do this — together – by joining scientifically authentic
groups that will keep us informed of the intelligent way to respond to this period of lies and chaos.
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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