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Madame Chiang Kai-shek (b. Soong Mei-Ling)
B. 3.5.1898 Shanghai / D. 9.23.2003 Manhattan
Advanced Age

Old, yes; “she outlived all her contemporary rivals.” Corrupt and venal? Yes; Harry Truman said so. And, of course, she “lived out her final years in New York, with a pack of black-suited bodyguards who cleared the lobby of her Gracie Square apartment building every time she entered or left.” The question is:
Did she smoke?
For who could not have guessed that at that nest of vipers, Wellesley, “she majored in English literature, and was remembered by her classmates as a chubby, vivacious and determined student.” But:
What did she eat for breakfast?
Did she have a favorite Beatle?
Did she ever visit Brooklyn in her life?
Oh in those days, who didn’t shock Eleanor Roosevelt by silently drawing a sharp fingernail across the neck when asked how best to deal with striking coal miners? But what’s the best take-out Chinese on the Upper East Side? That’s what I’d like to know.
And given the choice, did she order white rice or brown?
“She had no children.” But sexual fantasies, she had those. What were they? Let’s pretend we inherited.
And when she cracked open a fortune cookie to find a mini-tome of six or seven fortunes stacked and folded up inside, was she annoyed? Then would she read them all anyway, maybe even save her favorites? Or because it seemed to her that there could be no truth here, would she put them all aside, unread, for the servants?

Quotations from The New York Times (9.25.03)

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