NEW YORK —?The things Amy Spindler loved, as recounted by Elizabeth Stewart, her close friend and a stylist at The New York Times Magazine, included a good steak, salty things like her language, Bob Mackie fashion shows and Manolo Blahniks.
Other Spindler favorites: funny people; her dog, named Cliché; her husband, Roberto Benabib; maps to famous people’s homes so that she could peek over their gates and poke fun at their taste; “words written and spoken, the wittier and snarkier the better,” and, as Stewart recalled, the fact that, while watching “Wayne’s World” at a cinema in Paris, “we were the only two people laughing.”
To her friends, Spindler, who died Feb. 27 at the age of 40, showed remarkable courage in her long battle with cancer, but at a memorial on Sunday night at the Rainbow Room, they chose to honor above all else her irreverence, her curiosity, her outspokenness and her tenacity.
It was a fitting tribute that Spindler, whose last post at The New York Times Magazine was critic-at-large for culture and style, would be remembered with more laughter than tears, as Ingrid Sischy, editor in chief of Interview magazine, noted to an audience of about 400. “You are not here because you loved Amy Spindler, but because she loved you.” The space, with its view of Manhattan from the top, and the music, “I Hope You Dance” performed by Deborah Lippman, were symbolic enough of the dreams of a Midwest homecoming queen to someday write about fashion from the front rows of Paris and New York.
The audience — which included Karl Lagerfeld, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Isaac Mizrahi, Helmut Lang, Stella McCartney, Miguel Adrover, Bryan Bradley, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, Rose Marie Bravo and Elton John — proved that from Spindler’s aspirations rose a critical voice that could not be ignored, whether it was about the things she admired or hated.
Tom Ford recalled a conversation in which Spindler railed against one of her pet peeves. When it was pointed out to her that she should let it go, Spindler replied that her illness should not preclude her from such vitriol, using a favorite epithet to describe herself that rhymes with and was, well, blunt.
“Some even thought she had Tourette’s Syndrome,” Ford said. “If you asked her not to say that word, she would taunt you with it.” Taunt, taunt, taunt, taunt, taunt. “It is one of the few words left in our language as potent or as sharp as her opinions.”
Her colleagues described Spindler’s dialogue off the printed page in the terms of a dervish.
Andy Port, deputy editor of the Times Magazine, said when she came to work every morning, “I never knew who we were going to hate today. I was her Ethel. She was my Lucy. I had to hate who she hated.”
Inside of newsrooms, it is this sort of bluntness from which legends are made. That Spindler was revered by her subjects — the designers themselves, even when stung by her critiques — made her a hero. Her lesson, said Diane von Furstenberg, is that “We must be strong, intelligent, glamorous, of course, and successful in each one of our endeavors. Amy was all about courage, and courage she gave us.”
The things she hated, by the way, Stewart said, “were being sick; my ex-boyfriend, who she got rid of by introducing me to my husband; underachievement, especially in taxi drivers and airline personnel, and especially, long speeches.”
— Eric Wilson