- Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm arrived at the news anchor’s Upper Eastside penthouse following the funeral
- Whoopi Goldberg and Gayle King were among first guests to show up
- She ‘it’s hard’ as she hugged weeds star Mary Louise Parker
- He was given a small family funeral at the nearby Frank Campbell home
- He was the visionary behind such classics as The Graduate, The Birdcage, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and Working Girl
- He was one of only 12 people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony
- The 83-year-old was currently in the middle of a new TV project, adapting Terrence McNally’s play about opera legend Maria Callas with Meryl Streep
Annette Witheridge for MailOnline
17:16 EST, 22 November 2014
17:54 EST, 22 November 2014
Hollywood stars Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm led the celebrity mourners visiting Mike Nichols widow Diane Sawyer on Saturday afternoon.
TV presenters Whoopi Goldberg and Gayle King were among the first guests to arrive at the Upper Eastside, New York, penthouse news anchor Diane shared with her director husband.
Oscar-winner Nichols, who died of a heart attack at the age of 83 on Thursday, was given a small family funeral at the nearby Frank Campbell home.
Then on Saturday afternoon a steady stream of friends paid their respects at the couple’s home.
Scroll down for video
Meryl Streep arrives in the Upper East Side, New York to pay her respects at a memorial service for Mike Nichols. He died suddenly of a heart attack on Thursday aged 83
She arrived with her husband Don Grummer for the service on Saturday afternoon
Whoopi Goldberg, who sobbed during an appearance on The View when discussing the director’s death, was one of the first celebrities to arrive at the home Nichols shared with Diane Sawyer
She said ‘it’s hard’ as she hugged Weeds star Mary Louise Parker as she left the service
Jon Hamm arrived in a taxi with his partner Jennifer Westfeldt outside the New York apartment
Four times married Nichols children Max, Daisy and Jenny were also on hand to share their memories.
Actress Emma Stone arrived fashionably late at 5pm as most of the other guests were leaving.
Natalie Portman left 10 minutes later, followed by several TV executives including Lorne Michaels.
Asked about the gathering of 40 family and friends, he said: ‘It was good.’
Celebrity newspaper columnist Liz Smith spent an hour and a quarter inside the apartment.
Asked how Diane was coping, she told Mail Online: ‘She is good.’
Gayle King spent two hours talking to fellow mourners, including Caroline Kennedy and her husband Ed Schlossberg, Candace Bergin, Ellen Barkin and fellow news anchors Lesley Stahl and Cynthia McFadden.
‘It was a beautiful tribute,’ Gayle told Mail Online.
‘People were walking away from conversations elevated.
‘It was a gathering of love.’
Weeds star Mary Louise Parker hugged Whoopi Goldberg as she left.
Natalie Portman was let out of a car by her driver while wearing sunglasses as she arrived at the memorial
The 33-year-old collaborated with Nichols on the 2004 film Closer
Portman, who was a teenager when she starred in Seagull directed by Nichols, paid tribute to him on Twitter earlier this week saying: ‘He saved me again and again’
Journalist and columnist Liz Smith spent more than an hour inside the apartment. Asked how Diane Sawyer was coping, she said: ‘She is good’
Singer-songwriter Paul Simon and Edie Brickell turn up to Mike Nichols memorial service in New York on Saturday to pay their respects. They left an hour later
Max Nichols, the director’s son, arrived at the memorial alongside a female companion
Describing the tribute, Gayle King said it was ‘beautiful’ and a ‘gathering of love’
Looking tearful as she remembered Nichols, Whoopi said: ‘It’s hard.’
TV executive Lorne Michaels and Pulitzer prize winning playwright Tony Kushner were among the last to arrive on Saturday afternoon.
Singer songwriter Paul Simon and his wife Edie Brickall left after an hour but refused to speak.
By 3.30pm there was a line of black SUVS and towncars parked along East 84th Street.
Diane’s assistant and driver spent much of Saturday morning collecting canapés and snacks from nearby delis.
Several boxes were delivered by upmarket deli Otto before guests started arriving at 2pm.
Nichol’s original comedy partner Elaine May was amongst the mourners.
Renowned director Mike Nichols, pictured with his wife, news anchor Diane Sawyer, at a party in New York City on November 10. He passed away suddenly on Wednesday night after suffering a heart attack
Film director Mike Nichols, pictured in 1967, while directing his classic movie The Graduate. The film won him an Oscar for Best Director
Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols pictured at a party in New York City in 1991. She said that ‘he was the center of the dance’ and he called her his ‘ultimate happiness’
The director’s death was confirmed by ABC News President James Goldston on Thursday.
He brought fierce wit, caustic social commentary and wicked absurdity to classics such as The Graduate, The Birdcage, Angels in America and for the stage, Monty Python’s Spamalot, in a career that spanned six decades.
His directorial golden touch led him to be one of only 12 people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and numerous Tony Awards.
Nichols was married for more than 25 years to TV news anchor Diane Sawyer whom he described as bringing him ‘ultimate happiness’.
Mr Goldston said the family were to hold a small private service this week with a memorial to be scheduled for a later date.
‘He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer and comic and was one of a tiny few to win the EGOT – an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony in his lifetime,’ Goldston wrote in an email announcing Nichols’ death.
‘No one was more passionate than Mike.’
The visionary director had never stopped working throughout his long career and was in the middle of a new project for HBO, adapting Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play Master Class about opera legend Maria Callas.
Meryl Streep, who was currently working with Nichols on the show, said in a statement: ‘An inspiration and joy to know, a director who cried when he laughed, a friend without whom, well, we can’t imagine our world, an indelible irreplaceable man.’
Nichols had been married three times when he met news anchor Diane Sawyer in the 1980s.
He was 54 and Sawyer, then a 60 Minutes correspondent, was 41. They first met in 1986 in a Concorde lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
Sawyer said of that chance encounter, that she knew instantly ‘that my life was changing’, and that ‘he was the center of the dance’.
Director Mike Nichols pictured behind the camera in 1970 on the set of the movie Catch-22
Mike Nichols directs Emma Thompson in TV mini-series Angels In America in 2003 which had been adapted from a play about people coping with AIDS in 1980s America
On the set of his last movie in 2007, Charlie Wilson’s War, with the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman
The couple married in April 1988 on Martha’s Vineyard at their second home where they spent time when not at their Upper East Side Manhattan apartment.
‘A TRULY GOOD MAN’: STARS PAY TRIBUTE TO MIKE NICHOLS
Meryl Streep: ‘An inspiration and joy to know, a director who cried when he laughed, a friend without whom, well, we can’t imagine our world, an indelible irreplaceable man’
Tom Hanks: ”’Forward. We must always move forward. Otherwise what will become of us?” Said mike Nichols, who changed the lives of those who knew him, who loved him, who will miss him so’
Steven Spielberg: ‘Mike was a friend, a muse, a mentor, one of America’s all time greatest film and stage directors, and one of the most generous people I have ever known. For me, The Graduate was life altering – both as an experience at the movies as well as a master class about how to stage a scene. Mike had a brilliant cinematic eye and uncanny hearing for keeping scenes ironic and real. Actors never gave him less than their personal best – and then Mike would get from them even more. And in a room full of people, Mike was always the center of gravity. This is a seismic loss.’
Whoopi Goldberg: ‘He was my mentor’ – the actress was unable to say anything more during The View on Thursday as she broke down over the death of the man who discovered her
Julia Roberts: ‘There are so few heroes in our world. So few impeccable craftsmen, so few people who personify unconditional love and friendship. Mike Nichols was like no other. In every way he was remarkable and amazing… His musings were like pearls, his jokes were timeless and perfectly placed, his stories – detailed and wholly entertaining, his warm embrace was where you wanted to live forever’
Ron Howard: ‘RIP the Great Mike Nichols – elite member of the pantheon of directors whether stage screen or tv. Any conversation was rich w/wit & wisdom’
Kevin Spacey: ‘Mike Nichols gave me my start. A mentor, friend, colleague. One of the best observers of life. My thoughts are with Diane & his children’
Julianne Moore: ‘So very sad to hear of Mike Nichols death. A great talent, a wonderful, bright, charming human being’
Steve Carrell: ‘So sad to hear about the death of Mike Nichols. He was a creative giant’
Ben Stiller: ‘Mike Nichols leaves behind a staggering body of work. He’s one of the best filmmakers and stage directors ever. Influenced everyone. #GENIUS’
Matthew Morrison: ‘Mike Nichols..A legend never dies. When I was struggling young actor, Mike gave me the advice to help me continue on my path. 4ever Grateful’
Christiane Amanpour: ‘We mourn the loss of a great, great artist, and a good man. Condolences to Diane Sawyer and his family’
Katie Couric: ‘So sad to learn of the death of Mike Nichols. My heart goes out to Diane, their families & everyone who marveled in his brilliance’
Mia Farrow: ‘Funniest, smartest, most generous, wisest, kindest of all. Mike Nichols, a truly good man’
Jeremy Piven: ‘The great Mike Nichols is gone, he gave us so much brilliant work it’s staggering. We were so lucky to have him, his legacy will live on’
Al Roker: ‘Thoughts and prayers to @DianeSawyer on the passing of her husband, legendary actor/producer/director Mike Nichols.’
George Stephanopoulos: ‘Celebrating Mike Nichols-extraordinary funny & wise man- Tom Stoppard said it:’the best of America’ Our thoughts w/ @dianesawyer &his family
Josh Elliott: ‘RIP Mike Nichols. ‘Thoughts and prayers are with you, @DianeSawyer, in memory of your beloved’
Actor Ralph Macchio: ‘Mike Nichols – legendary storyteller, iconic director, RIP. So many brilliant pieces of his stage and screen legacy. Too many to list’
Nichols said: ‘My ultimate happiness began in 1988 when I married Diane. She is the perfect wife’.
Before meeting Sawyer, Nichols was first married to Patricia Scott from 1957 to 1960.
He went on to wed Margo Callas from 1963 to 1974 and had one daughter, Daisy Nichols. He then married Annabel Davis-Goff and had two children, Max Nichols and Jenny Nichols.
He is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.
The director was born in Berlin but came to the U.S. as a child to escape the Nazi Germany. His father set up a successful medical practice in New York and the family settled near Central Park.
Nichols began a pre-med program at the University of Chicago but began skipping classes to become more deeply involved with the theater.
At the University, he made his debut as a director with a theatrical performance of W.B. Yeats’ Purgatory.
In 1954, he left the University of Chicago for New York City where he was accepted into the Actors Studio to study under Lee Strasberg.
He won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Director for his 1967 movie The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman.
The director was also nominated for Oscars for Working Girl, The Remains of the Day, Silkwood and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
His last film was 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War which starred Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
His golden touch also extended to the stage where he put on Tony-Award winning productions of plays Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, The Real Thing, Death of a Salesman along with musicals Spamalot and Annie.
He began his showbusiness career as a stand-up performer who started out in a groundbreaking comedy duo with Elaine May.
His 1966 film directing debut, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, unforgettably captured the vicious yet sparkling and sly dialogue of Edward Albee’s play, as a couple (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) torment each other over deep-seated guilt and resentment.
Angels in America, the 2003 TV miniseries adapted from the stage sensation, blended rich pathos and whimsy in its portrait of people coping with AIDS and looking to the heavens for compassion that they found lacking in Ronald Reagan’s 1980s America.
Similarly, Nichols’ 2001 TV adaptation of the play Wit packed biting levity within the stark story of a college professor dying of ovarian cancer.
Nichols, who won directing Emmys for both Angels in America and Wit, said he liked stories about the real lives of real people and that humor inevitably pervades even the bleakest of such tales.
I have never understood people dividing things into dramas and comedies,’ Nichols said in a 2004 interview.
‘There are more laughs in ‘Hamlet’ than many Broadway comedies.’
He was a wealthy, educated man who often mocked those just like him, never more memorably than in The Graduate, which shot Dustin Hoffman to fame in the 1967 story of an earnest young man rebelling against his elders’ expectations.
Nichols himself would say that he identified with Hoffman’s awkward, perpetually flustered Benjamin Braddock.
Mixing farce and Oedipal drama, Nichols managed to capture a generation’s discontent without ever mentioning Vietnam, civil rights or any other issues of the time.
But young people laughed hard when a family friend advised Benjamin that the road to success was paved with ‘plastics’ or at Benjamin’s lament that he felt like life was ‘some kind of game, but the rules don’t make any sense to me.
‘They’re being made up by all the wrong people. I mean no one makes them up. They seem to make themselves up.’
At the time, Nichols was ‘just trying to make a nice little movie,’ he recalled in 2005 at a retrospective screening of The Graduate.
Whoopi Goldberg wept on talkshow The View on Thursday as she remembered her close friend Mike Nichols. The director launched her career, when he presented a then unknown Whoopi in her own one-woman show on Broadway
Meryl Streep with Angels in America director Mike Nichols and fellow cast member Al Pacino backstage at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles in 2004. Today, Streep called Nichols an ‘indelible, irreplaceable man’
Nichols in 1968 receiving his Academy Award for Best Director for The Graduate alongside Sidney Poitier
Mike Nichols and Tom Hanks at the premiere of Charlie Wilson’s War in which Hanks starred at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2007
Famous friends: Throughout his long career, Nichols has made generations of Hollywood friends. Pictured left in 2003 at the premiere of Angels In America with Emma Thompson and right, with Hugh Jackman at an event in 2012
Cher congratulates Mike Nichols during a tribute to him at the American Film Institute (pictured left) in 2010. Right, with Anjelica Huston at the Inventing David Geffen film premiere in New York in 2012
‘It wasn’t until when I saw it all put together that I realized this was something remarkable,’ he said.
Nichols won the best-director Oscar for The Graduate, which co-starred Anne Bancroft as an aging temptress pursuing Hoffman, whose character responds with the celebrated line: ‘Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.’
Mike Nichols and daughter Jenny attend the Broadway Opening Night performance of Indian Ink on Broadway on September 30, 2014
He admitted in 2013 that many of his film and stage projects explored a familiar, naughty theme.
‘I keep coming back to it, over and over — adultery and cheating,’ he says. ‘It’s the most interesting problem in the theater. How else do you get Oedipus? That’s the first cheating in the theater.’
Not just actors, but great actors, clamored to work with Nichols, who studied acting with Lee Strasberg and had an empathy that helped bring out the best from the talent he put in front of the camera.
Nichols often collaborated with Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson.
Other stars who worked with Nichols included Al Pacino (Angels in America), Gene Hackman and Robin Williams (The Birdcage), Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver (Working Girl) and Julia Roberts (Closer).
In 2007, Nichols brought out Charlie Wilson’s War, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
Just as he moved easily among stage, screen and television, Nichols fearlessly switched from genre to genre.
Onstage, he tackled comedy (The Odd Couple), classics (Uncle Vanya) and musicals (The Apple Tree, Spamalot, the latter winning him his sixth Tony for directing).
Mike Nichols with Diane Sawyer, and his daughter Daisy at the 1998 premiere of his film Primary Colors in Los Angeles. The film starred John Travolta and Emma Thompson
Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols with his children Max Nichols and Jenny Nichols in 1990 at an awards ceremony
On Broadway, he won nine Tonys, for directing the plays Barefoot in the Park (1964), Luv and The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1972), The Real Thing (1984), and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (2012).
He has also won in other categories, for directing the musical Monty Python’s Spamalot (2005), and for producing Annie (1977) and The Real Thing (1984).
‘I think a director can make a play happen before your eyes so that you are part of it and it is part of you,’ he said.
‘If you can get it right, there’s no mystery. It’s not about mystery. It’s not even mysterious. It’s about our lives.
Comedy duo: Elaine May, Mike Nichols in 1958. Their Broadway show, An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, earned them a Grammy for best comedy recording in 1961
Director Mike Nichols, actor George Segal, Elizabeth Taylor, and her husband, Richard Burton, smiling on the set of Nichols’ film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross in 1967 movie The Graduate which won director Mike Nichols an Oscar
Though known for films with a comic edge, Nichols branched into thrillers with Day of the Dolphin, horror with Wolf, and real-life drama with Silkwood.
Along with directing for television, he was an executive producer for the 1970s TV series Family.
Nichols’ golden touch failed him on occasion with such duds as the anti-war satire Catch-22, with Alan Arkin in an adaptation of Joseph Heller’s bestseller, and ‘What Planet Are You From?’, an unusually tame comedy for Nichols that starred Garry Shandling and Annette Bening.
Born Michael Igor Peschkowsky on November 6, 1931, in Berlin, Nichols fled Nazi Germany for America at age seven with his family.
He recalled in 1996 that at the time, he could say only two things in English: ‘I don’t speak English’ and ‘Please don’t kiss me.’
Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy dated Mike Nichols herself. ‘She was possessive. She didn’t like him dating Diane,’ according to a friend
Nichols directing the thriller Wolf in 1994 with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer
He said he fell in love with the power of the stage at age 15 when the mother of his then-girlfriend gave them theater tickets to the second night of the debut of A Streetcar Named Desire starring Marlon Brando in 1947.
HERE’S TO YOU, MR NICHOLS…
On how many lists of people’s most beloved films does The Graduate appear?
It’s certainly on mine, and its brilliant director Mike Nichols — who has died, aged 83 — deservedly won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Director. Which took some doing, because his fellow nominees that year included Arthur Penn for Bonnie And Clyde and Norman Jewison for In The Heat Of The Night, another pair of classic films.
Nichols had an extraordinary life. He was born as Mikhail Peschkowsky in Berlin, into a Jewish family related to Albert Einstein, two years before the Nazis came to power.
He was just seven when he and his little brother were sent alone to the United States. There, they were reunited with their parents, and Nichols could hardly have embraced more tightly the notion of America as the Land of Opportunity.
With Elaine May he formed a popular comedy double-act, though he forged ahead in showbusiness more as a writer and director, on stage, screen and even television.
For his stage productions, which included the Monty Python comedy Spamalot, he won no fewer than seven prestigious Tony awards. Just last year he directed Daniel Craig and his wife Rachel Weisz in Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal, on Broadway.
But I will always think of him primarily as a film director, one of the greatest of his generation, who gave us not only The Graduate, but also the multiple Oscar-winner Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?.
He had a rare talent for tapping into the spirit of the times, as with Working Girl in 1988, but there is no example finer than The Graduate, with its glorious Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack and exquisite portrayal of an awkward young man’s sexual awakening. I still think it’s a work of genius.
BY BRIAN VINER FOR THE DAILY MAIL
‘We were poleaxed, stunned. We didn’t speak to each other. We just sat like two half-unconscious people. It was so shocking. It was so alive. It was so real,’ he said. ‘I’m amazed about our bladders because we never went to the bathroom and it was about 3 1/2 or 4 hours long.’
Nichols attended the University of Chicago but left to study acting in New York. He returned to Chicago, where he began working with May in the Compass Players, a comedy troupe that later became the Second City.
May and Nichols developed their great improvisational rapport into a saucy, sophisticated stage show that took on sex, marriage, family and other subjects in a frank manner that titillated and startled audiences of the late 1950s and early ’60s.
‘People always thought we were making fun of other people when we were in fact making fun of ourselves,’ Nichols said in 1997.
‘We did teenagers in the back seat of the car and people committing adultery. Of course, you’re making fun of yourself. You’re making jokes about yourself. Who can you better observe?’
Their Broadway show, An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, earned them a Grammy for best comedy recording in 1961.
The two split up soon after, though they reunited in the 1990s, with May writing screenplays for Nichols’ ‘Primary Colors’ and ‘The Birdcage,’ adapted from the French farce ‘La Cage aux Folles.’
After the break with May, Nichols found his true calling as a director, his early stage work highlighted by ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ ”The Odd Couple,’ ”Plaza Suite’ and ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue,’ each of which earned him Tonys.
Other honors included Oscar nominations for directing ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, ‘Silkwood’ and ‘Working Girl,’ a best-picture nomination for producing ‘The Remains of the Day,’ and a lifetime-achievement award from the Directors Guild of America in 2004.
Never one to analyze his career and look for common themes, Nichols would shrug off questions that sought to link his far-flung body of work.
‘What I sort of think about is what Orson Welles told me, which is: Leave it to the other guys, the people whose whole job it is to do that, to make patterns and say what the thread is through your work and where you stand,’ Nichols said in 1996. ‘Let somebody else worry about what it means.’
When Diane Sawyer met Mike Nichols he was hairless, hallucinating and addicted to sleeping pills. But she knew right away he was her ‘center of the dance’
When Diane Sawyer met Mike Nichols, the Oscar, Grammy and five-time Tony winning director was a drug addict, hooked on the sleeping pill Halcion, and floating in a black depression.
He was having a nervous breakdown and lost in ‘Halcion madness’ with thoughts of going crazy, losing all his money and dying.
For that brief moment in time in 1986, when they first met in a Concorde lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, they professed to be each other’s hero and it was profound love at first sight for both the Ice Princess and the Golden boy.
He was fifty-four and Sawyer, then a 60 Minutes correspondent, was forty-one. They were swept up into each other’s universe within moments, made a lunch date that confirmed their affection.
Always asked why she didn’t have children, Diane responded that she would have had them under different circumstances ‘but I chose Mike and Mike already had three children with two other women, and he was fifty-eight when we married’
But then Nichols disappeared.
Diane was in disbelief and hurt. She had achieved so many of her ambitious dreams but now it seemed like the most desired dream of all had evaporated and she had no control, reveals a sensational new book, The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller, published by Penguin Press.
Mike Nichols didn’t want Diane to see his madness. ‘I didn’t want her to see me as I was. I went totally crazy. As soon as I was okay, I called her up’, the author quotes Nichols.
The director had been introduced to the medication that is used to treat insomnia while in the hospital for a minor heart procedure. He was quickly addicted and then his world began to fall apart.
Hallucinating that he was losing all his money, he began selling his prize collection of Polish Arabian horses he kept on a farm in Bridgewater, Connecticut.
Diane was the impetus for Nichols getting help.
He had another bombshell secret to confess. He was left permanently hairless after a botched whooping cough vaccination at age four. He’s always worn a wig, fake eyebrows almost his entire life. There is not a hair on his body.
Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols pictured in 1995
One of the first things Nichols did was break up with an unnamed media professional he had been involved with for two years after his third divorce.
At the time, Diane was living with Richard Holbrooke, a former assistant Secretary of State for Asia who was an investment banker with Lehman Brothers.
With an impressive Foreign Service career, Holbrooke was a ‘superbly connected high achiever’ as well as being Diane’s ‘primary guidance counselor’, writes Weller.
He was shocked and devastated by his sweetheart’s sudden decision to move into her own unfurnished apartment. She owned no furniture, bought no furniture.
‘I have no taste’, Sawyer admitted. ‘When I’ve had the option of going to a movie or looking at [furniture fabric] swatches, that wasn’t even close. I’d rather send out for pizza and sit on my floor pillows’.
Nichols, the director of such iconic films as The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge and Working Girl, was shocked by her style of living at the height of her glamour and success.
But that all changed when the couple moved into a Park Avenue hotel penthouse apartment. Nichols took care of furnishing it with an exquisite collection of art and furniture while ‘Diane stayed proudly un-domestic for years, leaving niceties to Mike.
She learned how to cook — in a way. She cut out multiple versions of a recipe and they sometimes cooked together but it wasn’t something she had a desire to master. Twenty-eight years later, she is now the vegetable police making sure Nichols eats well.
The couple married in April 1988 on Martha’s Vineyard where they have a second home when not in residence at their Upper East Side Manhattan apartment.
‘My ultimate happiness began in 1988 when I married Diane. She is the perfect wife’.
It was the director’s fourth marriage.
‘In the first ninety seconds’ of meeting the iconic director in the airport lounge, she knew ‘that my life was changing’, and that ‘he was the center of the dance’.
But she wasn’t considered the perfect wife for Nichols by his erudite theatre friends. ‘The arts circle thought that Diane was not up to Mike and they still feel that way’, Weller quotes a long-time friend of Nichols.
Add Jackie Onassis to that list of disapprovers. ‘Mike was a love of her life. Jackie was very covetous of Mike. She was possessive. She didn’t like him dating Diane,’ according to a friend.
Lila Diane Sawyer was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, in December 1945 but the family soon moved to Louisville, where the little girl was enrolled in talent classes at an early age to prep for future beauty pageants staked out for her by her mother.
She captured the crown for America’s Junior Miss in her senior year at Seneca High as well as ‘most likely to succeed’, which she viewed as embarrassing. But the Junior Miss title won her a cash prize that allowed her to pay tuition at Wellesley College, an elite, liberal women’s college in Massachusetts.
It was a major transition into a sophisticated arena for the 5’9′ southern blonde. In the 1970s, she worked for the Nixon Administration and after the president’s disgraced resignation in 1974 following the Watergate scandal, she headed out to his hometown in San Clemente, California, to help him research and write his memoirs.
Media liberals in New York had a hard time coming to terms with her loyalty to Nixon in the early years.
Diane’s work ethic and successful lifestyle infuriated Barbara Walters who referred to Sawyer as ‘That Girl’. Diane was always one step ahead in booking wars for the big-get interviews. Barbara put in her request only to find out that Diane had already requested that person.
Barbara talked about Mike Nichols. ‘I don’t have a husband who’s a Hollywood director! I don’t have what she has! That Girl can book everybody! I don’t have these dinner parties. I don’t go to Martha’s Vineyard. I don’t even have a house’.
But it was an exaggeration because Barbara had her own ‘axis of connections’ and at one time had been married to Merv Adelson, one of Hollywood’s most successful network television show producers.
‘There was a New York media elite, and Barbara always felt like an outsider, and that feeling is what drove her’. Diane was in the media elite with a style so different from Walters. She was part of the team and willing to go to the edit room and work with the producer on a script.
Diane learned how to juggle her two worlds – ‘the sweatpants and Nellie Bly stories in the office, the sophisticated evenings with Mike and his friends, sometimes with campy repartee’.
This was Diane’s element.
She could be working up until midnight in the editing room, eating plastic-bagged okra, collard greens and salty potato chips – Southern comfort snack food. A quick trip to the bathroom, she’d emerge in fresh makeup and high heels to go home to her husband.
They became a media power couple. If a high profile friend of Diane’s was being pursued by Katie Couric for an interview, Mike Nichols picked up the phone and told their friend ‘that he and Diane would essentially cut off all social contact if they appeared on Today’ with Couric, the author claims.
Always asked why she didn’t have children, Diane responded that she would have had them under different circumstances ‘but I chose Mike and Mike already had three children with two other women, and he was fifty-eight when we married. And I chose him’. ‘He is my only marriage’.
The spark in their love affair has not diminished. She admits he is more romantic that she is. ‘He puts little notes in my sock drawer or in my suitcase before I leave for a work trip.
‘I think one of the most romantic things is simply the way he reaches for my hand all the time’.
‘We rarely fight and I remember once when we were arguing he stopped in the middle of it and said, ‘Well, this is sort of fun, too’. And it was!
‘It was good to know that we could get out our strong feelings but that we were indestructible at the same time’.
‘Falling in love really does have a sort of going-over-to-the other-side feeling to it. Giving something up. Dying. Giving up balance, equilibrium, some kind of safety, and just sliding through this unknown and slightly terrifying country, where you become unnervingly like the enemy’, Weller quotes Nichols. ‘The other side. Just belonging to somebody: the end of all games’.
‘I had loved other women before but not like this’.
The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller, published by Penguin Press is available on Amazon September 30
By CAROLINE HOWE FOR MAILONLINE