BootLeg Betty

Liz Smith Revisits “The Harpies” Which Included Nora Ephron ~ Other Members: Bette Midler, Barbara Walters And More

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Liz Smith: More On the Divine Nora Ephron
By Liz Smith
July 2, 2012

The Harpies in 2005 at Osteria del Circo. Standing (l. to r.): Liz Smith, Nora Ephron, Wendy Siegal, Bette Midler, Jeannie Williams, Maurie Perl. Seated (l. to r.): Lisa Caputo, Cynthia McFadden, Barbara Walters, and Peggy Siegal. Photo: JH.


But here is the crux of Nora and the Harpies.

THERE HAS been a lot printed about Nora belonging to the Harpies lunch group, but this nonsensical little gathering of women, who like to gossip at will and not see it in print, was the least thing in Nora’s busy life. Nora joined us late but she relished being a part of it.

The Harpies had come to be by accident in about 2002. We didn’t realize we had formed a group. Soon after, a few of us started trying to gather regularly. We then had the idea of a guest each time. We started by inviting George Clooney and he was a smash, of course, and it gave us a lot of wanted and unwanted attention in Michaels. But after Hugh Jackman turned us down, we decided to let it be just us — with an occasional female guest.

I suggested we call ourselves the Harpies, thinking it meant a group of naughty talky women. Some asked, “What’s a Harpy?” I said, knowingly, “Look it up!” (I was the one who needed to look it up; later, I discovered that a Harpie actually is an avenging/and, or a helpful spirit that likes to work alone. So, because of my mistake, we are misnamed.)

After a meeting in 2010, she sent us “The Minutes (abridged) of the Harpies lunch.”

It goes like this: “Read Norris Church Mailer’s book … See Roman Polanskimovie … Go to Ylang23.com for jewelry … lose five pounds before having plastic surgery … Vanity Fair is a very good magazine … Beth Kseniak needs an assistant … Do not go to Sicily in August … Do not open windows while standing on chairs … Have electrolysis to remove hairs on your body … But you won’t need it after the age of 64 … Eat ginger cookie … Maurie Perl, thank you for a wonderful lunch.”

So that day, as usual, Peggy Siegal told us about where to buy jewelry … Norris Mailer was still alive … We noted our fave, Vanity Fair … I was in a cast from falling backwards off a chair … ABC’s Cynthia McFadden would find Beth a willing helper … Maybe the Roman Polanski ‘movie’ was Sheila Nevins’ HBO documentary … Someone had been to Sicily in August and knew better … And we always talked about plastic surgery at every Harpies get-together and who had had it? (None of us, of course.)

Nora became everyone’s favorite of all the Harpies and, as has been pointed out, she did not vie for attention. When she spoke, everybody else shut up. We knew when we had met our match.

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