Theatrical Press Agent & Producer
– as told to The Silver Women
Women who inspired you as a young girl?
My godmother and women in the African-American Church. My sister and I were just remembering the women who not only were the height of fashion but put on Christmas pageants, Easter Shows, Tom Thumb weddings, for the kids that they taught in Sunday school.
As a young girl, I was also inspired by Nancy Drew the character in the detective series. She was confident, bold could drive a car, fish, shoot a gun, and wasn’t afraid to take chances.
Later in life, it would be Evelyn Cunningham, a civil rights activist and special assistant to Nelson Rockefeller. A black Republican who taught me a valuable lesson “never judge a book by its cover”. Meaning she read people.
She took me to HARLEM in 1970 to the original Red Rooster where politicians, number runners, entertainers and Harlem’s elites met.I watched her own personal relationships with each one of them and the respect they showed her. She used her contacts and position to make deals and bring about changes for her community.
I remember thinking at the time That is who I want to be when I grow up!
Women who inspire you now?
Women who speak their truth and are comfortable in their own skin!
My daughter Mira, my sister Inez, my nieces Robin and Jeanette. I have so many different women I heart. They are all ages and races in theater, politics, journalists, women’s shelters and artists. Everyday I am inspired by someone I meet or see for the first time.
Most valuable lesson taught by your mother?
Comprising against your better judgment. She said, “When you come down to people’s level you lower yourself”.
I would like to add that my father taught me 3 very important things in my life.
1. Please yourself first because you’ll never be able to control others thoughts about you.
2. Be able to look at yourself in the mirror
3. Have your own money. If you have champagne tastes and your partner has a beer budget. Don’t wait for him to fill your needs. Take care of them yourself.
(Of course it took 45 years for me learn that one.)
Have you made career changes over the years?
Thank God. I didn’t have to. I started out as a Theatrical Press agent working on Broadway shows in 1968 and in 2017 I am still working on Broadway. I have a Tony Award as a producer for “Porgy and Bess” which starred Audra McDonald and a caricature in “Sardis” Restaurant. At 70 I launched a fur Collection Irene Gandy furs designed by Mr. Pete.
It is an affordable accessory line (hats, gloves, scarfs, purses, wraps, etc.) in my own glamour fashion.One of my pieces was featured in Vogue Magazine in 2015.
Through the Decades!
20s: I thought I had done everything there was to do in NYC. I moved to Greenwich Village in 1961. I still live there.
I was a hippie, a waitress and did African dancing in Tomkins Square Park. On my 21st birthday JFK was assassinated so I didn’t get to celebrate with the happiness the coming of age brought me. So I headed to the Catskills was a GO GO girl at a black owned resort, Utopia Lodge. That is where I met the father of my daughter, Mira. She was the highlight of my 20’s.
30s-70s: Have been amazing. I wouldn’t change a thing. I worked with Lena Horne, Bob Fosse, Davis Mamet, The Jackson Five, Labelle, Patti Lupone, Phylicia Rashad, Jeffrey Richards, Freddie Jackson, Carolyne Jones, Ron Delsener, Lloyd Williams, Voza Rivers, Gerald Schoenfeld, Max at Sardis, Linda Stewart. My life has been the black “Auntie Mame.
”What have been your greatest challenges?
Staying focused and understanding it doesn’t have to be my way all the time. Keeping my mouth shut. Always wanting more and not settling.
What are you most grateful for?
My daughter Mira Gandy. faith, family and friends.
Do you think older women are valued or celebrated enough?
Yes. My circle of friends from 60 to 80 years old are constantly valued, celebrated and respected. They look great and they live in the present. Unlike European and white women (I generalize) we don’t worry about being a size 6 at 60 years old or trying to fix what is not broken.
My feeling is that when you know your self-worth, value and celebration comes hand and hand.
“2013-2016. I was run over by a cab. I had 2 strokes and lost my speech. A dog bit me. I had pneumonia and gout. Asthma at 71. I didn’t let it hinder me.
I fell down and got right back up.”
Thoughts on aging,
These 3 names.
BEN- BEN GAY – joints hurt
But seriously not being able to wear my 3-inch heels and going to the bathroom more frequently (smile).
I like that I can still learn new things such as social media, Instagram, I phones.
Your advice to young women of today?
“Never have the answer before the question. Never have the solution before the problem. In other words just do it and you will figure it out. There is no such thing as failure just another way of doing it until you make it work.”
Images courtesy of Irene Gandy unless credited otherwise.
FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS
The Complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant.
His characters fascinate me because they transcend places, time, class and genders.
Alex Cross Novel Series and the Women’s Murder Club –James Patterson
Film: Go West Young Man (1936)- Mae West, The Letter (1940)- Bette Davis,
Cabin in the Sky (1943)- Lena Horne
City: New York City & Barcelona
Skincare product you can’t live without: Petroleum jelly for face hands and body
Lipstick: Red & Gold lipsticks
Food/Meal/Cuisine: Seafood, my Sisters soup, Monifah’s greens
Artist: Mira Gandy
Song: Precious Lord Take My Hand (spiritual)
Style Icon: Lena Horne, Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Smaltz