Parker Ladd, 89, whose name had been linked to Arnold Scaasi for 53 years, died Tuesday at his Beekman Place apartment.
The Vermonter attended the University of Vermont and then served in the U.S. Army. After returning to civilian life, he moved to Sweden to work as a bookseller, then relocated to Los Angeles before eventually settling in New York. New to the city in the summer of 1962, Ladd was living in the New York Athletic Club when he encountered Scaasi. Walking home from what he always called “a dinner party that was not very much fun,” Ladd was strolling along Central Park South window-shopping when a Lincoln Continental pulled up and out stepped Scaasi carrying goat-skin gloves — on a July night. Ladd said he thought, “Oh my God, he’s carrying gloves getting out of that big Lincoln. Who is this guy?’” said Michael Selleck, a longtime friend. “Arnold invited him for a drink and the rest was history. They were truly together from that moment on.”
After Scaasi’s death in 2015, Ladd recalled, “I was a real country boy from Island Post, Vermont, where my grandfather had a farm and was an inventor. Arnold was a pretty sophisticated New Yorker who was pretty busy in the fashion world.”
Ladd moved into a penthouse studio in Scaasi’s building on the same elevator line. In 1991, the pair moved to what was nicknamed the “Scladd household” at Beekman Place, with sculpture by Louise Nevelson (also a Scaasi customer) and Boris Fedushin. There were paintings by Vasarely, Picasso, Leger and Monet, a David Hockney screen, a society woman portrait by James Montgomery Flagg and a more colorful one of Ladd and Scaasi by Norris Church Mailer. Selleck said, “It was a real partnership. They were loyal and loving companions.” The couple’s longtime assistant, Glendina Weste, put it another way: “It’s the end of an era.”
The Scribner’s Sons executive also served as director of the Association of American Publishers at one time. Following his retirement in the early Nineties, he started a second career as a television producer for A&E’s “Open Book” program, which featured authors talking about their work. When that wound down, Ladd launched his own series of Q&As in Palm Beach, where he and Scaasi wintered for years. They were held at the Brazilian Court Hotel and were called Parker Ladd’s Author Breakfast series and were quite popular, due to Ladd’s lively exchanges with the likes of Conrad Black, Wall Streeter Alexandra Lebenthal, Arthur Vanderbilt and other writers. Ladd also created a book-author program to benefit the Quogue Public Library.
The inseparable pair befriended Liz Smith and in 1969, together they helped start the nonprofit Literacy Partners Inc. To foster adult literacy, they started an Evening of Readings gala that has helped more than 25,000 people and has raised millions of dollars. The foursome of Ladd, Scaasi, Smith and Iris Love often vacationed together in Capri, Mexico and other locales. When Ladd and Scaasi celebrated their union in 2011 at Le Cirque, Smith and Black were in the crowd along with Tory Burch, Mica Ertegun, Michael Bloomberg and Barbara Walters. The occasion was in honor of their wedding, but they actually made their bond official the following year in Southampton, N.Y.
Ladd is survived by niece Karen Ladd Baker and two nephews Matthew and Adam Ladd. A private graveside service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Literacy Partners’ Scaasi-Ladd Book Fund. “He just wanted people to enjoy the books as much as he did,” Baker said.