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Daily Telegraph - April 11 1997
Article on Helene's death and revealing the
tantalising information that Helene had a secret love
affair with "a very famous American".
From the Guardian, Friday 11th April, 1997
For the first half of this article, click HERE.
Personal bereavements did not dim her love of New York. Her friend Patsy, with whom she
wrote her first New York guide, died of cancer in her 40s. Four other friends, each 20
years her junior, died in the Big Apple while she sur vived, walking in Central Park,
resenting the intrusion, as she saw it, of new Metropolitan Museum of Art buildings, and
singing the praises of the burgeoning financial district around the World Trade Center.
She also greatly loved London - or her version of it. This included Regents Park,
Bloomsbury, St Paul's, Wim pole Street, Nash terraces, Wren churches and St James's
Square - though, to do her justice, it also included the Pakistani corner shops that she
welcomed as livening up what had once been a rather dead city after office hours.
Strangely, she disliked travel. She said she had always wanted to be "home alone". She
never married and maintained that she had never wanted to. Once in her childhood she
had seen her mother coming through a door and had wondered why the woman simply
didn't go away and leave her in peace. When she first arrived in New York, she had the
choice of sharing a desirable apartment with a friend or taking a dirty furnished room by
herself. To her, it was no contest. Hers was a very self-contained and resilient spirit. She
asked to be buried in Brooklyn in memory of th Dodgers.
Hanif was the daughter of Philadelphia shirt salesman who had been a song-and-dance
man. She won a playwright fellowship from the Theatre Guild and then wrote a series of
plays, none performed, while she was a secretary. She did TV scripts, wrote American
history for children and read novels for Paramount film studios. (She once added $40 to
her invoice for "mental torture" after reading Tolkien's three-volume Lord of the Rings.
Paramount paid.) In 1961 she published Underfoot In Show Business, about her fight to
break into the trade as one of the 999 out of a 1,000 hopefuls who didn't "turn into Noel
Coward". It was re-issued with even greater success in the more downbeat 1980s.
But she was usually upbeat. Her magazine journalism was positive about New York life. Her
guide to New York, Apple Of My Eye, was like no other since she saw richness and colour
even in what others saw as sad and threatening. Her monthly letters from New York for
Woman's Hour on the BBC (1978-1985) were later published in book form. She concerned
herself less with public affairs than with life around her apartment in East 72nd Street, her
home for over 30 years. Walking the dogs, encountering the zany neighbours and dodging
blizzards in April were subjects apt to crop up more than mugging, doping and
loan-sharking. In this, as elsewhere, she had a charmed life.
Helene Hanff, writer, born April 15, 1916; died April 9,1997
Obituary Articles from UK Newspapers
The Definitive Helene Hanff Website
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