In the early-70s, I had the honor of dating Mike Nichols. In no way is my remembrance meant to take away from the love he had for the fascinating and the cherished Diane Sawyer who also has been kind to me, but I feel sharing a historic moment about him is important and, sadly so, newsworthy. It was also long before he met and fell in love with the beautiful Diane Sawyer.
In the early 1970s I was dating Claude Picasso, Pablo’s son, who had moved into my apartment on our first date. He was going through a divorce and so was I. One day he announced he was going to Paris to do an article on Chagall and would be staying with his wealthy Grandmother Gilot in Neuilly. “Cherie, I won’t be long. Hold the fort,” he said as he tapped me on the bum.
I was miffed. He did not invite me and I was not running a hotel. A top model at the time who just had been photographed for the covers of Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine, I was enjoying life in the fast lane and visited “SNL” frequently. At a party for the show I met Buck Henry who introduced me to Mike Nichols. Mike invited me to lunch at the Russian Tea Room and dinner several times. Claude’s stay in Paris seemed like an eternity and I had no word from him. Over a dinner one night, Mike said, “Would you like to come with me to a party Jackie Onassis is giving for Ari at El Morocco.”
“Of course,” I said. Mike picked me up in his limousine and off we went to a throng of press at the entrance. I wore a floor length black gown from Norma Kamali with a Mongolian lamb coat draped over my shoulders. Press lined the entrance and Life Magazine snapped our photo which was published in its layout covering the event. As a cover girl, I was used to being photographed, but not by paparazzi. “They’ll all be here,” Mike said in his slightly edgy tone. I was nervous. Mike had a calm about him and a presence that reassured me and reassured all who came into his life. When we had dined, he was most cordial to the waiters, the maître d’, the cab drivers, etc. They all treated him with utmost respect.
His wit was his greatest gift along with his astute observation of life and sense of irony which his films illustrated. My favorite was “Charlie Wilson’s War” written by Aaron Sorkin. It was a 2007 drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson’s covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels resulted in victory in their war against the Soviets. Mike chose material that was important. That had value. That had a message. Even if sometimes that message was only to laugh, which he accomplished with “The Graduate.”
When I was with him at dinner, he made me feel special, beautiful, and intelligent, not like an object. As a top model, so many people looked at me and through me, but did not listen to me. Mike Nichols listened to me and made me feel he cared and that I, indeed, had something to say. I feel certain that Diane Sawyer would not object to my writing this, but would, indeed, understand. Mike was the essence of respect. And he was great fun.
When we met Jackie O. in the long receiving line, she curtsied and reminded me of a giant swan. Her soft voice and towering height were an oxymoron. When Mike looked into her eyes, I noticed a flirtation between both of them. And when she shook my hand, she looked into my eyes with a laser beam like focus that made me feel she cared though we had never met and that I was the only one in the room. The silent energy that Jackie exuded was like a wild animal about to spring. It was apparent that she was a woman who knew what she wanted and could confront with a calm and a poise that stopped traffic. You did not mess with Jackie O. Or Mike Nichols for that matter. But why would one want to.
After the dinner, Mike invited me to his apartment in the Beresford where we met Jack Nicholson for a drink. Laughs were shared and a good time was had by all. When I returned to my apartment at 333 East 69th Street, I was happy Claude had stayed in Paris so long, but when he returned, I was also happy to be with him and we became engaged in 1973. He never left me alone in New York again. So much for how to train a Picasso.