Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

It’s a quarter to three and I can’t sleep.  Jazz notes are running through my mind and the unbelievable voice of the eternally young Judy Collins sings an acapella Amazing Grace.

This wasn’t a dream. It really happened.  Last night at the New York Society for Ethical Culture,  New York celebrated the life of the amazing man from Missouri who made New York his own, the man referred to more than once as “now a Celestial Editor”, that icon of magazine editors, Clay Felker.

This outstanding memorial celebration was created by Gail Sheehy and New York Magazine, the magazine begun by Clay Felker.  Gail was Clay’s young cub reporter at New York magazine, who then snagged the plum job of becoming his wife.  She became the writer who is so beloved because she had a knack for making life’s passages personally accessible to millions of readers around the world.

Music was a big part of Clay’s life and he especially loved Jazz.  The Louis Armstrong Centennial Band played throughout the evening, then in true New Orleans style led us out after the service ended.

The room was filled with people from the media of that time and the younger journalists and editors who had been mentored by Clay.  Many of these print media stars remembered Clay because he was The Editor of that time, a time of optimism and change, a time when New York was the only place to be for the latest and the smartest and the next best thing.  These men and women who honored Clay were part of the Clay Felker legacy.  Some were his contemporaries, others had been his young students at the Felker Magazine Center at Berkeley where he spent his last decade inspiring young people to love the world of magazines as he did.

  Adam Moss, current editor of New York Magazine led the charge, followed by Sir David Frost who served as the Master of Ceremonies with all the poise and humor we remembered from his televised self.  The list of speakers was long but included Tom Wolfe (who wrote the great New York Magazine piece about Clay, “The Man Who Invented New York”, in the July 14th issue), Michael Kramer, Richard Reeves and Milton Glaser. 

Gloria Steinem told us that she had been championed by Clay when she was a young journalist.  Clay loved finding and nurturing new talent, those whom he knew would become stars of magazine journalism.  Clay had been instrumental in the launch of Ms. Magazine.  A theme of the night was Clay’s determination that his writers would “write the way you talk, experience the subject, and then write it”.  Gloria sent us out with “Go home and write about Clay, save it, send it out, so that these memories will never be lost”.

I met Clay because Gail and I were friends.  I knew him only after his first illness in 1991.  Gail was working on The Silent Passage and we became best girl friends during this process.  Part of being Gail’s girlfriend included getting to know Clay.  In 1996 my husband was CEO of a company in Chicago and Clay moved to Berkeley to teach there in the Felker Magazine Center.  Gail and Clay had sold their home on 57th street and Gail needed a rental while Clay and she worked out where and how they would live.  My husband and I lived in Connecticut but he was away 3 days every week in Chicago.
Gail thought it would be great for us to share a rental while the boys were away and we were all in transition. 

 So, we became roomies at an age and stage when this was unusual.  It was Mary Tyler Moore re-cast with two divas who both wanted top billing.  Gail entertained and I delivered babies and came and went at odd hours.walking into dinner parties hung over from exhaustion and just hoping to get some sleep before the office hours began.  Sans husbands, we took dance classes, went to the theater,  invited  8 other sexy women to go out with one 50 year old sexy guy to practice our flirting skills, shopped, gossiped, shared dresses and make-up tricks. It was great being a girl with Gail.

When Clay was in town, I often spent the night with Clay since Gail traveled and lectured a lot.  Lounging in PJs in his bed we discussed news events, political and media gossip, and listened to music.  I went to a cocktail party one night and, of course, discussed my current living arrangements.   That night I encountered a listener who claimed I could not be telling the truth about Clay.  My Clay was warm and loving, funny and enthusiastic, and the one who always wanted to know what I had seen, what I had heard and what I thought.   This woman had once worked briefly for Clay as an aspiring journalist.  She remembered him as a tyrant who screamed and demanded re-writes and had nothing nice to say.  I told her that both of these men were likely to be Clay…. I just got him when he was at his best.  When I came home, I told Clay this story and he howled.  He remembered her well and knew that her memories had been accurate.

I learned much about devotion and care-giving from Gail.  Clay’s illness was throat cancer and he should not have survived this long, but Gail was the commander in chief of his illness, his treatment, his bi-coastal health team, all the while writing books, giving speeches, traveling for interviews and more writing projects. She made everyone give him their best.  Clay’s illness progressed in the last 2 years of his life.  In January of this year he came home with support from the palliative care team at Mt. Sinai.

Clay loved life and people, ideas and the next new thing.  He left us with the template for living a rich life in his city, the city that will always have its good times and bad times.  We know how to look for the big ideas and we can work on finding the lead buried somewhere in the stories he would want us to tell.

Judy Collins sang to us at the end and made us part of the singing with Amazing Grace performed acapella  with those Judy Collins notes that were as clear and pure as tears on a perfect fall night. 

Amazing Grace……How sweet the sound.

It was a New York night.

Patricia Yarberry Allen

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  • Skye Richel May 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm

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    • Carla Baranauckas May 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      You make an excellent point. We are always working to increase the number and quality of multimedia we use on our site. Occasionally, we add videos to text posts. Sometimes we post items called “Video Picks” in which embed videos from other sites. Looking ahead, we would certainly love to post our own audio and video content. So please stay tuned and keep those suggestions coming. We love to hear from the people who use our site!