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The Lost World of Kup

When Irv Kupcinet, the legendary gossip columnist of the Chicago Sun-Times, died last year, it marked the end of a remarkable era of glamour and intrigue.

(page 11 of 11)

Kup represents the rare person who really was a hero to his valet. Patrick Smith says that his boss was “brilliant to the end,” though Kup grew frustrated and angry that he couldn’t do anything for himself. Still, whatever Smith did for him, Kup would say, “Very good, Patrick, perfect.” Friends say that Smith gave Kup two extra years of life, opening the blinds to let the sun in, bathing and shaving the old columnist, dressing him in his Pucci suits and coordinated ties and shirts. Kup would plead with him, “Pat, don’t ever leave me.”

For years, Kup had enjoyed a Saturday lunch with old friends, most recently at the Drake hotel. At the lunch on November 8th, “he was extremely tired,” recalls his friend Audri Adams. “He ate some, but he was quiet, and two ladies from Indiana wanted their pictures taken with him. Usually he would immediately rise to the occasion and be alert, but he wasn’t.” Kup told Smith he was tired and wanted to go home. Once there, Kup asked Smith to call Adams. “He had to make sure that she got home OK,” Smith says.

Early the next morning, when Kup was having trouble breathing, his night caregiver took him to the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. His friends figured he would rally as he had so many times before. But he died the following day, Monday, November 10th, surrounded by his family.

Kup left almost everything, including his condominium, to his son. (In April, the Tribune reported that a buyer was under contract for the apartment, which had been listed for $1.8 million.) Kup also made three $50,000 bequests-to his grandchildren, Kari and David, and to his daughter-in-law, Sue. Friends say that Kup was never motivated by the accumulation of wealth. “As long as he could have the lifestyle he wanted,” says Marshall Field V, the one-time owner of the Sun-Times, “money was secondary. He had that big cigar in his mouth and was always upfront shaking hands- ‘Hi, Angie,’ to Angie Dickinson, or ‘Hi, Groucho’-and he just loved it.”

* * *

Richard Christiansen recalls Essee once saying that “both she and Kup were perfectly aware, if he should stop writing the column, they would lose half their contacts and friends.” So the sparse turnout at the funeral might not have come as much of a surprise to the veteran newsman. Still, it is startling to note the finality with which Kup and his world were left behind. On the day of the funeral, the Publicity Club of Chicago has a luncheon scheduled. One PR person called the club to ask if the gathering would be delayed because of Kup’s funeral, and she was told that she had been the only person to ask. The luncheon would be held as scheduled.

At the funeral, Stanley Paul played “Chicago.” In mid-song he inserted Essee’s “More.” Kup was buried in a Pucci suit, a navy-blue pinstripe selected by Patrick Smith, who says the tailor insisted that he made clothes only for “living legends.” Kup undoubtedly would have enjoyed the incongruity of the remark.

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