Pat Buckley, New York City's greatest and most forceful Canadian-born Merit smoker, died yesterday. She was 80.
The daughter of a self-made Vancouver millionaire, she came to Park Avenue largely under her own steam. While attending Vassar, she met a Yale Skull & Bones man named William Buckley, Jr., who was the son of a lawyer, real estate speculator and fantastic exploiter of oil fields in Venezuela and around the world. They married in 1950.
In 1955, Mr. Buckley founded the National Review; in the 60's, he would begin a years-long feud with Gore Vidal, memorable for its back-and-forth lawsuits and insane cattiness.
Mrs. Buckley, along with good friends like Nan Kempner, ruled the benefit circuit in New York for decades. In recent years, she viewed with some distaste the youngsters on the scene with no devotion to charitable causes.
Inordinately tall, an avid gardener, and of complicated politics both national and domestic, Mrs. Buckley was described by her son Christopher as "right out of Noel Coward." She may have attended more parties than anyone in history. She raised untold tens of millions for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. For many, many years, she handled the Met's Costume Institute Ball, before Anna Wintour took it over and started inviting Jennifer Lopez.
In 2005, she said to the New York Observer:
"We live in a strange world in New York," she said. "There are so many triers. Maybe that's not the right word—I don't care. They can do whatever they want—does that sound really revolting? On that circuit, our job is to raise the money which does the hospitals, does the museums, and I don't give a shit how I raise it. That's an awful thing to say. I mean, I'm a raiser of money. No, I'm not a social arbiter at all. I am, to put it in really vulgar language, a money-raiser. I'm a money-raiser for things that I believe in. My attitude is, all the wrong people are in this business. It's for the name up front. Well, I shouldn't say that—there are exceptions. I probably shouldn't have said that. It's true."