In the first real post of 2014, we’re looking at the brief memoir of Cynthia Rathbone given to us by David Leddick her friend and colleague at Hockaday Associates. Answering some of our questions, though also adding several more, David tells us Cynthia died of “drink and drugs.”
I think more investigation is needed to explain how this poor girl’s life could have imploded like this, aged just 30!
Much thanks to David for letting us use this…
I worked with Cynthia Rathbone at Hockaday Associates in the early 1960s. Perhaps 1962 and 1963. Hockaday was then one of the new small front-edge advertising agencies in New York. We had perhaps 30 to 40 small clients, all of them selling expensive top-of-the-line products. Crane Papers, Elizabeth Arden, Grant’s Scotch.
Miss Hockaday, the President, wanted her staff to be young, smart, fashionable. Clients liked the agency as much as they liked the advertising. Cynthia Rathbone was part of this young but adult world. Rock and Roll, The Beatles, and Mick Jagger hadn’t come on the scene yet.
Cynthia was a big girl. Not fat, but tall, sturdy, dark-haired, good-looking in an upper-class, healthy way. She had an unabashed personality. She had no problem in presenting herself in a self-confident, amusing way to clients. She worked as an associate account person but was very much one of the inner circle of creative types among the writers and art directors. We lunched a lot. We laughed a lot. No one was pretending to be someone he or she was not. Cynthia wore bright green a lot as I remember, which went well with her bold, dark look.
You were supposed to be witty in New York then. Grown up and witty. Vast dance halls with ear-splitting music didn’t exist. You went out to supper clubs where everyone smoked and talked right through the entertainment. Billie Holiday? Yes, but as I was saying, this was a kind of sophisticated world that was . . . [rest of sentence is missing].
Cynthia was the daughter of the famous Hollywood actor Basil Rathbone, known for his role as Sherlock Holmes in a number of films. His wife was Ouida. Cynthia had been adopted. We all knew that her small, forbidding mother didn’t have the kind of daughter she wanted. I think we all made an effort to reassure Cynthia that she was one of us, one of the self-assured and socially unquestionables. In our own way we were a team of six or seven and Cynthia was one of us. I don’t think any of us anticipated that Cynthia would be dead within the next decade of drink and drugs.
I think Cynthia was lost because our world disappeared. She didn’t move into a future of a husband, children and a house in the suburbs. Really, none of the other women in the group did either, though some married and had children. Being a little younger than the rest of us, I think the nightlife that descended on New York swept her away. The large, lifeless apartment she shared with her parents wasn’t really a home. They weren’t really parents, distant as they were to her and each other. They moved in cafe society. Their names appeared in the papers. Cynthia wasn’t for that world. Her energy, force, enthusiasm didn’t find a place where she could like herself. I think her new friends were impressed with her, but they couldn’t reach out and save her. That wouldn’t have been the New York way.