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!