Remembering Claudia Cohen: Gossip’s Most Generous Hostess Was Also Just Genuinely Good

Senator Chuck Schumer was one of the many people who stopped by to sit shiva for the gossip columnist and television reporter Claudia Cohen at Ron Perelman’s townhouse on East 63rd Street on Monday, June 18.

“He said, ‘The amazing thing about Claudia was she was who she was,’” recalled Mr. Perelman, speaking with The Transom over the phone the next day. “She could be at a very social event and she was still a little Jewish girl from New Jersey.”

Mr. Perelman said he was disappointed that his ex-wife, who died on June 15 at the age of 56 after a seven-year battle with ovarian cancer, had been represented as a socialite in many obituaries. The Revlon chairman said that while Ms. Cohen did indeed love to entertain, “parties were not the focus of her life.”

“She just loved people, and she loved to help people,” he said. (The Transom can attest to this, as years ago Ms. Cohen, one of the founding writers of the New York Post’s Page Six, gave it a thorough tutorial on the gossip business over lunch.)

Among the 1,000 mourners attending Ms. Cohen’s funeral at the Central Synagogue on East 55th Street were developer Donald Trump and his model wife, Melania, actress Lorraine Bracco, Today anchor Matt Lauer, pop star Jon Bon Jovi, television personality Kathie Lee Gifford and her husband Frank, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Ms. Cohen’s former paramour, ex-Senator Alfonse D’Amato.

She was eulogized by designer Calvin Klein, who told of how when the late Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell went to prison for a year, Ms. Cohen was the only one who sent Mr. Rubell a letter each day.

Vanity Fair writer Bob Colacello spoke of how intensely Ms. Cohen was planning a Fourth of July party at her beachfront manse in East Hampton. She would labor for months over the seating arrangements, he told The Transom on the phone: “It was like a mix of governors, mayors, artists, writers and journalists. She always liked to have at least one guest who was controversial. One year she had Victoria Gotti, another year it was Paris Hilton, another it was Martha Stewart, last year the guest was Star Jones.”

Other speakers at the ceremony included designer Carolina Herrera and ABC morning host Regis Philbin. “One thing that everyone talked about was her incredible values,” said publicist Peggy Siegal, Ms. Cohen’s friend of 30 years. “For six years she battled this disease in secret because she didn’t want to burden people to worry about her. She had incredible dignity.” Ms. Siegal added that proof of Ms. Cohen’s great values could be found in her daughter Samantha’s speech.

“It was very touching, humorous, adorable, smart, positive,” agreed Mr. Colacello. “You could see Claudia in her daughter. She had her positive energy and in an extremely sad situation.”

Young Ms. Perelman, 16, who plans to go through with the Fourth of July fête—perhaps inviting a Presidential contender like Barack Obama—told The Transom that her mother would not have liked her to “get up and sing a sad song ….” But, she said, Ms. Cohen “told me right before she died that even though that life would always be there for me, you don’t want to define yourself by going to parties. You want to have a job. You want to have humbleness. You don’t want to define yourself by just parading around.”

Remembering Claudia Cohen: Gossip’s Most Generous Hostess Was Also Just Genuinely Good