“She was just this angel that landed on this planet for a short amount of time,” a heartbroken Marisa Berenson told CBS News shortly after she lost her little sister, Berry, on American Flight 11, the first plane to fly into one of the Twin Towers September 11, 2001. (Photoshopped image of Berry Berenson Perkins at her Jamaica getaway based upon an original color photo by Amy Gottlieb).
In Memorium: Republication of our 9/11/06 tribute to Berinthia Berenson Perkins, presented on this eighth anniversary of that awful day as part of "Project 2,996: Remembering the Victims of 9/11." Click here for part one, "The bride wore barefoot":
"People who met her once feel like she was their best friend," photographer Paul Jasmin was quoted in Simon Doonan's New York Observer society-column tribute to 53-year-old Berinthia Berenson Perkins, who was en route from her Wellfleet summer place on Cape Cod to visit her two sons in L.A. as she boarded American Flight 11 out of Logan on the morning of September 11, 2001. As we blogged in our earlier post, "The bride wore barefoot," the "glamorous and tragic Berry was randomly assigned to us as part of D. Challener Roe's '2,996 Project: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11.'" Doonan's Observer piece suggests the free spirit that shines through the many other tributes:
The tomboy photographer and sister of model and actress Marisa Berenson, granddaughter of couturière Elsa Schiaparelli and widow of the late Anthony Perkins . . . Berry had the beauty and provenance to propel her, unwittingly, into Beautiful People-dom. She was, without ever intending to be, something of a founding member.
"She was an extraordinary woman who lived life fully," said Pam Mandel of Provincetown — who was "working with Berenson on her memoirs" that last summer, according to the Cape Cod Times — "She was quite a force, with a smoky voice and an alive, funny, sultry persona," ever the tomboy on into a vibrant middle age:
Friends said she preferred her Wellfleet home over others, choosing to live there year-round, out of the spotlight of Los Angeles.
Her sons attended Wellfleet Elementary School. It was a reflection, said friends, of her very down-to-earth personality, despite being exposed all her life to celebrity.
Time had this to say in the 1973 obituary of her famous maternal grandmother, the "formidable couturière who dominated the high-fashion world of the 1930s with her art deco- and surrealism-inspired collections":
From her salon beside the Ritz, she scored many fashion firsts, among them tailored evening jackets, the use of synthetic fabrics and the color, shocking pink. Schiaparelli closed her couture house — where her designs had been sold for as much as $5,000 — in 1954, and later reappeared in the spotlight as the grandmother of Celebrities Marisa and Berry Berenson.
"It wasn't surprising that in 1972 Berry and her sister, Marisa, were drawn into Andy Warhol and Interview's orbit," noted Interview's breezy tribute, "Interview Salutes Interview":
The Berenson sisters had a creative pedigree that Andy loved: their granduncle was art connoisseur Bernard Berenson, and one grandmother was iconoclastic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. At the time she came to Interview, Berry showed a talent for photography; mentioning she had a longtime crush on actor Tony Perkins, the magazine sent her to interview and photograph him. The encounter went even better than everyone hoped: Interview got a great story, and Berry not only met her idol, she married him.
According to Wikipedia, the 1962 international film Phaedra, starring the seasoned Melina Mercouri opposite a very young Tony Perkins, "was a smash hit in Europe, but a box-office failure in the USA . . . because of Perkins's vulnerability."
Legend had it that 12-year-old Berry had fallen in love with Tony Perkins, 12 years her senior, when she saw him play opposite Melina Mercouri in the steamy Jules Dassin classic, Phaedra:
Thus I was suddenly initiated into a world of foreign emotions and wild fantasies, and began to feel he was my closest companion within this sphere.
After nearly twenty years of marriage, blessed with two sons -- Osgood and Elvis -- tragedy struck in 1990, explains Berenson's Guardian obituary, when "Perkins was tested positive for HIV":
He decided that he wanted the knowledge kept secret even from their intimates, which heaped a tremendous burden on Berenson. When Perkins got AIDS, she finally decided to tell a few of their closest friends — "to share this grief with us." On September 2 1992, Perkins died with Berenson clutching her husband's hand. "We had a very satisfying life together. It was a wonderful love affair."
''She had a joie de vivre like no one else I've known,'' said Susan Hartzler, a friend of 20 years, quoted in the Boston Globe obituary:
She loved animals, especially her dogs. She was my life mentor. Anywhere you went with Berry, even getting a haircut, was an experience you'd never forget.'
A touching anecdote from Hartzler in a personal tribute at Prayers For Peace:
Berry Berenson Perkins was one of my best friends for more than 20 years. I miss her every single day. She was the most generous, gracious and loving person on earth. The last time I saw her was in LA right before July 4th, 2001. I was going to visit children at County USC Hospital where I take my dog for pet therapy. She asked if she could come with me and what the children needed. I told her they needed art supplies and when I picked her up at her hotel that morning, she had bags and bags of everything a child could want in the way of art supplies. She was like that. Always caring and thinking of others and making her statement in a grand manner! I wish she was here so I could tell her how much I love her and miss her.
Writer Eleanor Munro, also quoted by the Globe, taught a memoir-writing seminar Berry took during those last few weeks on the Cape in Truro:
[Berry was] a dynamic presence in the class. [She] was so beautiful, so decorative, so unusual for a scruffy-looking community like this. She also had an incredibly rich story to tell.
Living her "incredibly rich story" was the best revenge.
Update: Continue reading part one, "The bride wore barefoot."