— New York City’s oldest style icon and clubgoer, known for her regular presence at fashion galas and late-night partying, died Wednesday in the front row at a fashion show.
Zelda Kaplan, 95, “slumped forward’’ as a model entered the runway at Joanna Mastroianni's Lincoln Center runway show, according to several reports. The socialite was given CPR and taken to nearby St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in an ambulance but could not be revived. Only a few minutes before her death she had posed for photographers in her signature matching hat and dress and oversized glasses.
In a statement, designer Mastroianni said, "We are deeply saddened to lose Zelda, such an icon of the fashion community. Zelda has been someone I have known and respected over the years. I truly admired her for her individuality and incredible spirit. She had such a love of life and believed in living everyday to its fullest. She will be sorely missed and my heartfelt condolences to her family."
“Passing away in the front row was how it was meant to be,’’ designer Richie Rich, a friend of the elderly fashionista, told The New York Post. “Zelda loves fashion, so she died for fashion. She would have wanted to go out in style. Zelda always said, ‘Live, live, live and have fun.’ I hope the angels are holding her right now.”
Despite her advanced age, Kaplan was a regular night owl who stayed out until all hours of the night while partying with people 70 years younger and celebrities like Snoop Dogg. She had been at a club opening just a month ago, according to the New York Post report.
In 2010, she told New York Magazine that she regularly went to bed “anytime between midnight and 7 a.m.’’
“She did have one crazy, fun life, that lady,” Amy Sacco, owner of club Bungalow 8, told The New York Daily News. “She was the most loyal customer ever, and the most fun.”
Kaplan grew up in New Jersey before moving to New York City in the 1960s and becoming a party regular. A former ballroom dance instructor, she was heavily involved in human rights causes. Kaplan frequently traveled to Africa and Southeast Asia, focusing on the prevention of female genital mutilation.
She was the subject of a 2003 documentary, "Her Name is Zelda," that detailed her transformation from a suburban New Jersey housewife into a fashion-world fixture.
“Zelda Kaplan is a true original and a cultural icon, particularly to seniors as persons who are vivacious, unpredictable and great fun to be around,” society photographer Patrick McMullan told the Daily News. “I will truly miss her, but look forward to seeing her again in the great nightclub she will be hosting called after-life.”