Editta Sherman, 'Duchess of Carnegie Hall,' dies

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by Associated Press

Associated Press

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 6 at 7:05 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Photographer Editta Sherman, dubbed the "Duchess of Carnegie Hall" while living in a studio over the famed auditorium for six decades, has died. She was 101.

Known for her photos of celebrities, Sherman died Friday in her sleep, a friend, Billy Lyons, said. Her funeral was held Tuesday, just as Bill de Blasio was elected mayor.

Sherman had met de Blasio in 2007 — a New York City Council member fighting to keep artists from being evicted from century-old studios above Carnegie Hall. The future mayor visited her there and they spoke Italian, learned from their immigrant families, Lyons said.

A muse of Andy Warhol, Sherman was known for her portraits of musicians, actors, sports stars, dancers and writers taken in the cavernous, light-flooded space where she partly raised her five children — in one of two towers 19th century industrialist Andrew Carnegie had built above the hall as an affordable artist enclave.

Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Robert Redford studied acting there, Lucille Ball had voice coaching, and Leonard Bernstein wrote music.

Sherman was "the big Italian mamma who was always making a pot of chicken soup in her darkroom," said Lyons, an actor a third her age.

A native of Philadelphia, she was married to Harold Sherman, who was a sound engineer as well as her business partner. He died at 50, blind and diabetic, leaving her with their young children.

In 2010, she and others were forced out in a landlord-tenant battle. Carnegie officials argued they needed the space for educational purposes and found new apartments for them.

The "Duchess" never quite got over having to leave "the great, brilliant interaction of artists in the studios, hanging out together, inspiring each other," said another resident photographer, Josef Astor.

But she kept in touch from her new, nearby apartment.

"I got to sing 'Some Enchanted Evening' to her the other night," said Lyons.

Astor worked with her recently on a book of her portraits, titled "Studio 1208: Camera Studies by Editta Sherman."

The number of her penthouse studio was 1208, with clients ranging from Elvis Presley and Joe DiMaggio to Tilda Swinton.

"She was the spiritual leader of the Carnegie studios, with an incredible energy and love for life," said Lyons.

Last year, Sherman added another famous name to her roster: President Barack Obama, whom she met at the White House as part of a group of supporters.

Sherman is survived by three of her children and her sister, plus 31 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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