Anne Sassoon

posted Mar 5, 2010, 2:30 PM by Dick Pountain   [ updated Mar 27, 2010, 5:03 AM ]

The first thing I want to say is how pissed off I am to be here!  Nina could be maddening.  How dare she leave us so soon!  She was one of my dearest friends, and I I miss her terribly. These red roses are from 2 women who are far away but who wanted to be present: Donald’s and my daughter Tanya, and 88 year old Betty De Losada in San Francisco. Even those of us who have no faith would still like to imagine Nina somewhere.  In fact she is to be found in our memories.  These are so individual and so personal.  What I’d like to share with you today are a few of mine.

My first sighting of Nina was in the late 60’s across a meeting at the LSE as she stood up defying Trots like me to defend Stalin’s Third Period!  More recently she, in Swansea, and I, in Lambeth, have walked the walk as Labour Party members to shove leaflets through doors.

Nina was profoundly ambivalent about her American origins – not surprising given the effect McCarthyism had on her family.  But I think her wonderful throwing conventions to the wind owed a great deal to her unconventional American background, including not little to her mother Ellie who had been a labour organiser in the militant longshoreman’s union in the San Francisco area during World War II and who continued to agitate in one way or other for the rest of her life.

As Phil reminded me when he asked me to help to start this off,  Nina was a woman!  How many of you know that her parfumerie of choice was Floris in St. James or that she would bring her parents’ friends from the States to the Ritz for tea or that she always got those beautiful black curls of hers cut at Vidal Sassoon?

One of the funniest memories I have of Nina was the time we went to Glyndebourne together.  She arrived at Victoria in her cycling shorts, reflecting strips across her front and back, carrying her panniers.  We ascended the train then the bus along with other opera goers in, how shall I say, more usual attire.  Arriving at our destination, she dipped into the ladies, and out came Nina transformed in flowing skirt, bosomy top, and glam shawl, to share bubbly and a picnic with me.  The return journey reversed the process!

Finally, one of the wonderful things about our friendship was getting to know so many of her friends, one in particular, her partner of 25 years, Phil McManus.  Phil was Nina’s foundation for all of this time, rock solid, plain-speaking, with an easy laugh  – and loving – not only to Nina but to all of us.

A salute to you Phil – and Nina, alongside Paul Robson, our hearts sing to you!

Anne Showstack Sassoon, Saturday 30 January 2010