NEW YORK — Journalist, author and socialite Isabel Eberstadt died Dec. 30 in her home here after battling a long illness. She was 73.
The daughter of poet Ogden Nash and his wife Frances Leonard, Eberstadt was born in Baltimore on Sept. 30, 1933. She is survived by her husband, fashion photographer and psychotherapist Frederick Eberstadt; their two children, Nicholas and Fernanda, an author, and grandchildren Frederick William, Katherine, Isabel II and Alexandra, as well as Maud and Theodore Bruton.
Eberstadt was part of the New York social world of the Seventies and Eighties, mingling with the likes of Jayne Wrightsman, Evangeline Bruce, Gloria Vanderbilt, Nancy Kissinger and Annette Reed, now Annette de la Renta.
It was an era when stylish women bought, rather than borrowed, their gowns for galas and events and styled themselves. It was a time when, as Eberstadt told Marilyn Bender in Bender’s 1967 book, “The Beautiful People,” “looking pretty was not as important as creating a mood.”
Nonetheless, she was known as a trendsetter among the fashion crowd, sporting feathered headdresses and wearing Courrèges long before many of her contemporaries.
John B. Fairchild, former chairman and editorial director of Fairchild Publications, called Eberstadt “one of the silent leaders of New York society,” having attended school with, among others, Jacqueline Bouvier, de la Renta and Vanderbilt.
But her circle extended beyond the social world. Eberstadt was one of Andy Warhol’s earliest fans and champions among high society, her husband having photographed the artist twice for Life magazine. She even appeared in two of Warhol’s films in the Sixties, playing herself. She also wrote two novels, 25 years apart.
“She was a leader in the days when everybody knew everybody else in New York,” said Fairchild, who recalled how Eberstadt and her husband once entertained Jacqueline Onassis at their apartment, having cleared out every stitch of furniture beforehand to make room for all the guests.
Fernanda, in a 1997 interview with Salon.com, recalled how her mother instilled in her and her brother a rebellious and a reclusive streak. “My mother, who was my big formative influence, is quite antisocial, and she’s quite subversive herself,” recalled Fernanda Eberstadt. “I notice it more now that I have a daughter myself. [My mother] hated my teachers at school. She hated school, she hated authority. She very sneakily taught us to have no respect. It didn’t matter at all what anybody else thought — the broad idea being that you didn’t need outside approval.”