WWD.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/honoring-betsey-johnson-579973/

NEW YORK — The unconventional Betsey Johnson was awarded the Signature Award for Lifetime Achievement Tuesday night by the National Association of Women Business Owners.

“I like the phrase ‘timeless talent’ better than ‘lifetime achievement,” Johnson said during dinner at Tavern on the Green here. The designer was a bit nervous anticipating her turn at the podium. “To get an award from a business group is really great,” she whispered. “Usually, I get awards for being freaky and funky.”

In addition to Johnson, six successful women business owners, including Anne Maxfield and Leslie Frank, founders of Project Solvers Inc., an outsourcing resource for designers, manufacturers and retailers, were also honored.

Johnson said she hadn’t been to Tavern on the Green since her runway show on Sept. 10, 2001. “We had the girls getting dressed over there and the runway over there,” she said gesturing in the dining room. “Wow, I didn’t notice those chandeliers that day.”

Johnson, who was introduced by her daughter Lulu, approached the stage dressed for the part: She wore a tie over her Marilyn Monroe long-sleeved top and carried her speech in a leather attaché case. 

“I’m so proud to be here tonight,” Betsey said following Lulu’s introduction. “Women can succeed in business and truly be who they are.”

Johnson joked, “I’ve married and divorced a rock star, a Silicon Valley tycoon and two others. Being in love is easy, being in business is hard.”

Johnson said in December she’ll open Betseyville, a four-room hotel in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. “It’s only four rooms, but it’s so cute,” she promised.

This story first appeared in the March 17, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.