Last August, Jan Amory was relaxing at Bailey’s Beach, the rumpled but exclusive country club overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Newport, R.I., when she received a phone call from her broker at Morgan Stanley. He wanted to know what she wanted to do with the $12,000 left in her account.
Twelve thousand dollars?
“I was like, ‘Hello? Are you joking?’” Ms. Amory told me recently over lunch at Mediterranée on Second Avenue.
I wanted to learn how Ms. Amory had gone from a beautiful young heiress-about-town worth about $10 million in the early 1970′s, to a wealthy woman with four husbands who hosted black-tie balls in Newport in the 1980′s and 1990′s, to a still-striking woman in her late 50′s who recently took a holiday-season job for $10 an hour at Penny Whistle Toys on East 91st Street. The last time she worked for a salary, she was 23.
“Life is interesting,” she said. “Life is serious. I have very little money left. But my values have changed. Not that parties were anything to me, but now it’s, ‘Am I going to be able to feed myself and the dogs?’ Pretty dire. It’s pretty dire.”
She was wearing a shrunken white turtleneck (“The maid washed it by mistake,” she said) under an old cashmere sweater, shooting pants and Wellies. Cheap black sunglasses rested on her thick blond mane.
Ms. Amory is planning to file a suit against Morgan Stanley for what she claims is a loss of $450,000. She’s also threatening to sue her half-brother, William Rose of Fort Lauderdale, for $500,000, saying that she never got her fair share of their mother’s inheritance. The family fight that led to the lawsuit started when Ms. Amory asked Mr. Rose for a $50,000 loan in August 2002. According to her account, he told her that if she would spend four months in rehab at Hazelden in Minnesota, he’d consider providing a $2,000 monthly allowance.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute. This deal is not too good,’” said Ms. Amory.
So she’s threatening to sue him. News of this reached the New York Post ‘s Page Six column in early November. Mr. Rose’s lawyer, Ronald Weiss of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, was quoted saying that Ms. Amory was a “poor little rich girl” who was “maneuvering for money” and had a “chemical problem.”
So Ms. Amory, who said she only takes “headache pills,” is planning to sue Mr. Weiss, too-for defamation of character. To counter his claim that she had a drug problem, she called her friend George Steinbrenner, and he arranged for a Yankees doctor to give her a drug test. On Nov. 14, the Post reported that she passed it.
She told me that although she wants to find husband No. 5, the most important men in her life are her two sons. She takes subways and buses, and is going to sublet her duplex maisonette in Carnegie Hill. She said she’s writing a memoir with the working title Judge Not .
“I’m either loved or hated,” she said. “Because I’m black or white; I’m not in between. I’m a Scorpio. I am what I am. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I never have.”
Edith Piaf was playing in the restaurant. It was pouring rain outside.
“You know what New York is like now?” Ms. Amory said. “New York is a sad city trying very hard to regenerate itself, but the Botox isn’t working. Giuliani was trying to do a face lift, and Bloomberg is trying to do Botox-that’s the problem.”
She said she prefers being in Newport with her society friends, who have names like Auchincloss and Slocum.
“It’s very Old World,” she said. “If they like you-not that you could murder, but you could almost do anything and they’ll stick behind you. It’s kind of like Lord Lucan in England when he killed his nanny, you know, and all his friends stuck by him. Newport’s sort of the same. They won’t see anything bad in you. It’s unbelievable.”
Ms. Amory was finished with her steak and eggs.
A few days later, I escorted her to a publicity party for Maserati, the Italian car maker, at the Four Seasons restaurant. She’d been invited up to Newport for Christmas to stay with Eileen Slocum, the octogenarian grand dame and Republican Party stalwart.
Ms. Amory knew a good number of the mostly aging male power types at the party. She chatted with a Mortimer, a Roosevelt and Charles Evans, the brother of storied Hollywood producer Robert Evans.
“She’s such a devil,” Mr. Evans said of Ms. Amory. “One that you’d like to kiss . I’ve known her a long time; she married a few people I knew. Everyone who knows her, they like her-unless they’re jealous women.”
Guests trickled into the restaurant’s Pool Room.
“This would be a terrorist’s dream,” Ms. Amory said. “There could be a bomb any minute.”
Photographer and playboy Johnny Pigozzi slid over to say hello.
“I think Jan’s a great woman,” he said. “But her eyebrows were better 20 years ago. Now they’re too plucked.”
Did he date her?
“No, I was an innocent child,” he said. “She was very, very sexy, and she still is. But she was very hot and sexy 20 years ago, absolutely. Now she’s suing everybody.”
Ms. Amory laughed, but soon said she was feeling “claustrophobic” and experiencing what she called a “post–Sept. 11 chill.”
She wanted to leave. “I always think people remember you more for your exit than your entrance,” she said.
She looked at the hundreds of people in the restaurant.
“This is a death scene waiting to happen,” she said. “I promise you, we should get out of here. If you don’t mind, that would be great, because I feel like a burger.”
At J.G. Melon on Third Avenue, Ms. Amory ordered a bull shot and a cheeseburger and talked about her youth. Her grandfather was a penniless Russian immigrant who made a fortune in Manhattan real estate. Her father died when she was three months old, though she thinks her biological father was actually her WASP godfather. In any case, she was raised as Jan Golding in a secular household.
“All my good friends joke and say, ‘You went through the whole problem of being Jewish when you weren’t even Jewish!’” she said.
She said she didn’t get along with her stepfather, whom she described as “very weak” and “a Seventh Avenue textile whatever.” Her mother, she said, was “very strong” and “handsome,” but barely allowed her out except to roller-skate. “Her card games meant more to her than a lot of other things, but that was fine,” Ms. Amory said.
She graduated from the Hewitt School on East 75th Street. “It was my second home,” she said. “We used to characterize it when we got older as ‘Miss Hewitt’s classes for dumb little asses.’”
Ms. Amory participated in a swirl of debutante parties, lost her virginity when she was 19 and, as 1967 dawned over Manhattan, was a very good-looking 21-year-old heiress. At La Grenouille one day with her mother, she met Del Coleman, a 48-year-old playboy who owned Las Vegas casinos. Nine weeks later, they were married and moved into a penthouse suite in the Carlyle Hotel. On the honeymoon in Miami, she caught Mr. Coleman with another woman. Eight weeks later, she got an annulment.
In the early 1970′s, she spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C. She said the ambassador to Iran would send her caviar and boxes from Tiffany. She and a female friend got to know a lot of Senators.
“We were in between Senators all the time,” Ms. Amory said. She said she also dated The Washington Post ‘s Bob Woodward.
“Bob was the nicest guy,” she said. “He was a great kisser. He was not too romantic; he was pretty practical. I was madly in love with his brain. He was nervous-things were about to happen with Watergate. He was just coming out of a marriage; he was nervous about her calling and showing up. I was kind of a sexy blonde he could be seen with, but I don’t think we did very much. You can ask him, but I don’t think so.” (Mr. Woodward did not return a phone call.)
She said she also had a “really heady and intellectual romance” with Henry Kissinger.
“He was dating Nancy, and he said I could only see him if I came to Washington, because he really respected the idea that she was his girl in New York,” said Ms. Amory. “And I respected that, too.”
(Mr. Kissinger did not return a phone call.)
Soon she met the man who would be husband No. 2, an elegant 38-year-old Lehman Brothers banker named Freddy Cushing. Also around this time, a legendary Beverly Hills attorney Sidney Korshak, who had been best man at her first wedding, called to say he wanted to introduce her to a friend of his-again at Le Grenouille.
“So I go in looking O.K., but not great,” she said. “I was wearing suede pants, boots and a very good-looking Chanel jacket. Sidney’s waving; he’s got the best table. I’m all of 26, maybe. I was nervous because I didn’t know who this person was. Sidney says: ‘Jan Golding, Warren Beatty.’ Beatty looked really messy, unshaved, just totally disheveled. He was dating Julie Christie. He was attractive, and he looks at me mid-lunch and says, ‘Do you want to fuck?’ And I said, ‘Excuse me?’ And Sidney starts laughing. I said, ‘No. Thank you very much, but no.’ So then he started to call me.”
They had a weekend together out of town, but she said the Lothario struck out.
“We were next to each other on a sofa, and I was crying,” said Ms. Amory. “He was kissing me, and I said, ‘Warren, I’m in love with Freddy Cushing and you’re in love with Julie Christie.’ And there was this absolutely frozen human being next to me, and he said, ‘Mrs. Cushing, I think it’s time to go to bed now.’ And I said, ‘Mr. Christie, I don’t.’ He said, ‘You know, I’m right and you’re wrong.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean? That I should go to bed with you?’ He said, ‘No-you’re going to be Mrs. Cushing, but I will never be Mr. Christie.’ He didn’t want to be castrated.”
Ms. Amory married Freddy Cushing, and in 1974 they moved to Paris. In 1979, Lehman Brothers transferred him back to New York, and she asked for a divorce.
“It was probably my fault,” she said. “I could stay up late; he was an early riser. I was having a good time and wasn’t concentrating on being a good wife.”
Newly divorced, and not yet acquainted with husband No. 3, Ms. Amory started hanging out with Truman Capote: long lunches at Quo Vadis, late nights at Studio 54. The celebrated writer would sometimes overdo it.
“I’d say, ‘Truman, you’re coming home and you’re spending the night with me,’” she said. “And I would have my housekeeper bring him Coca-Cola in the morning, hide the booze, and I would nurture him until he was well enough to get out. Because I didn’t want him to do himself in.”
Mr. Capote’s infamous decision to publish a chapter in Esquire of his roman à clef , Answered Prayers , had estranged him from his “swans,” Babe Paley and Slim Keith.
“I became friends with him when he didn’t have that many friends,” Ms. Amory said. “There was a time when I would confide in him about every man that I was considering, anybody I liked, and he was so good about it.”
In 1981, she married Manoli Olympitis, a man she said Mr. Capote couldn’t even look at because he was so handsome. She said it was the happiest time in her life. She had her first child, a son. But the marriage-and the happiness-didn’t last.
“I think he really missed gambling in London,” Ms. Amory said. “He couldn’t gamble here, and I think Manoli was a Greek who really wasn’t happy in New York. Where was he going to go, Atlantic City?”
Things fell apart at a dinner dance in Newport that the couple gave for the former English prime minister, Edward Heath.
“We’re in the receiving line, and everyone was coming in black tie,” she said. “And Manoli says, in this perfectly polite way, ‘I hope you don’t mind that I’m filing for divorce.’ It didn’t really break my heart-I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that our son was only 5 and he was leaving.”
She said they’re friends now.
“I have every husband as a friend, except for Minot Amory,” she said.
She’d known Charles Minot Amory III from the time they were 5, when their mothers put them in the playpen together at Lord & Taylor.
“He would sort of stick his tongue out at me, and we were stuck together while our mothers went shopping,” she said.
Four decades later, they got married.
“He was impossible, difficult,” she said. “I think I probably jumped into it too soon. I think my interests were intellectual- interesting subjects-and his interests were golf clubs and keeping certain people out of golf clubs.”
They had a son and named him Minot.
They divorced in 1995 and went through a nasty custody battle; the upshot, said Ms. Amory, was that she “spent all my money” and did not win custody.
Did she really want husband No. 5?
“Of course I do,” she said. “I need a stepfather for both boys. And I need someone to finally take care of me. I’ve taken care of quite a few husbands.”
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