September 25, 2017

Murray Moss Reflects on the Moments That Shaped His New York Life

Now that my life as a “New Yorker” has a Beginning, a Middle, and, as of our December move to Hamden, Connecticut, an End, I have been thinking about which moments over the 50 years I lived in New York will emerge as the chapter headings, the turning points, the poster children of the film Murray Lived in New York. Which moments will become the charms on the bracelet?

Perhaps these, listed in chronological order:

In the summer of 1972, I visited the exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape,” presented by the Museum of Modern Art. First, I purchased the catalog, which I still have. There were little cutout illustrations of furniture and accessories floating around inside the dust jacket and, for some reason, I remember being perplexed by the subtitle, in very small print: Achievements and Problems of Italian Design. Looking at the exhibition, I experienced the unusual sensation of furniture turning me on sexually. (Of course at age 23, what didn’t?) I also registered a sense of confusion at seeing the Castiglioni brothers’ Mezzadro tractor-seat stool, which clearly was—could it be?—Art, and a reaction to the disturbing images of an installation by an artist named Gaetano Pesce in the section called “Design as Commentary,” making me think that maybe these effusive objects were about something, not just there to provide us with a necessary function. However, I couldn’t find anything that would make me imagine there were “problems” in Italian Design.

Mezzadro, a 1957 stool by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Zanotta. Photography courtesy of DDC.

Why this was a benchmark: I still can’t.
Around 1985, my partner, Franklin, and I, flying high in our careers—he as an Executive Television
Producer and me as an Executive Fashion Entrepreneur, both of us dressed in Armani with 48-inch shoulder spans and expensive, loud ties—celebrated New Year’s Eve in the City, having been invited by Vincent Sardi to join him for dinner at his special table at his namesake restaurant, along with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Why this was a benchmark: For the first time, I felt that I could become a Star. I thanked God I was in New York.

In 2003, my young niece called me from her home in Chicago to tell me that her mother, my older sister, who had been ill for some time, had died. I had been making frequent trips to Chicago during her illness, and now I would be going back to attend her funeral. I understood that my decision to live in New York, which I had celebrated and bragged about for all of those decades, meant I had forfeited 36 years of proximity to my sister, whom I adored. We had shared so much as kids, and we had so many adventures. What adult adventures did I miss out on? What did I think would or could ever replace what I had lost by moving to the Apple?

Why this was a benchmark: For the first time, ever, I hated New York. It had been like a mythological Siren to me, and now my boat had crashed upon the rocks. I will never forgive New York.

One day, about six years ago, I decided to leave the Moss store and never come back. (A day in advance of the official “announced” closing.) I didn’t say good-bye to anyone. I didn’t announce to anyone, even to Franklin, “This is it!” I left because I was ready to leave, yes, but, more important, I had someplace new I wanted to go.

Why this was a benchmark: I had trained for that moment—it was a part of my acting technique, and I had practiced it many times on the stage. I had told everyone that Moss was built on a theatrical metaphor, and this was my final gesture. I had learned as an actor NEVER to LEAVE a stage. I would NEVER, EVER Exit. I would always Enter. I went to the front door of Moss to make an entrance onto a new stage. I was about to begin.

In my new office in our old house in Hamden, there is a section of the wood paneling on a floor-to-ceiling bookcase that has been written on with blue ink. It is very faint, but it turns out to be a series of horizontal lines with dates by the side of each ink slash—evidently a chart showing the height and hence growth of the original owners’ child. I made sure it was not disturbed by the workmen. Marking those dates, those moments that prove we are taller than before, is important. After all, each of us has a story to be told. Each of our stories may not become a movie, but each of us will always be the Star.

Follow Murray Moss on Instagram @murray_moss.

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