DORIS BERGMAN, R.I.P
This is one tribute I never envisioned writing. And I sincerely wish the occasion would never have presented itself.
It’s taken me over a week to write because I couldn’t gather myself long enough to even finish a sentence every time I began it. I didn’t want losing Doris to be real.
To get the hard part out of the way, fabulous PR woman, Doris Bergman, and her husband, attorney Albert Sassoe, tragically passed away in a house fire last week. I’m still having trouble processing the horror of it.
The first thing I saw when I awoke on February 9th was the dreadful news in a Facebook post from one of Doris’ best friends. I had to read it about twenty times until my brain could even begin to compute what it said. And then I jumped out of bed to run someplace; I didn’t know where, but I just felt the need to run around the house, screaming and crying. And all I wanted to do was call Doris! Which, of course, I could not do. I have a feeling all of Doris Bergman’s friends felt the same way. (And, very sadly, we still do.)
I met Doris a baker’s dozen years ago. I knew her first as a PR person who invited me to her events. And then, exactly twelve years ago, I received my first invitation to one of her famed Valentine’s Sneak Peek Gifting Suites. And I was overwhelmed, both by her event and even more by Doris herself. I could tell right away that she was quite the powerhouse!
And then she did something shortly after that no one else had ever done—she called me when she read my write-up of the event to tell me that mine was the absolute best write-up of any gifting suite that she had ever seen! And she continued to do that for the ensuing dozen years, without fail, no matter how busy she was.
Doris was actually the only event organizer who always called to laud my writing! And she did it just about the second my articles were published. You know how much I appreciated that immediate feedback.
And from there, Doris Bergman and I formed a lovely friendship. She’s one of the few people I talked to on the phone often. And she never hung-up without saying, “I love you,” which I could tell she meant.
I learned pretty quickly that Doris was smart, and cultured, as well. She took me out to lunch occasionally, her favorite haunt being Neiman-Marcus. They knew her there so well that nobody flinched when she asked for several extra of their famous popovers! What a treat!
And she emailed me so often that she’s my only friend of whose missives I have a full folder!
After knowing Doris a few years, she asked me to partner with her on her gifting suites. And when I told her I could not because of all my relationships with others in the same field, she totally understood. She still called to pick my brain about potential sponsors of hers all the time, while totally respecting that I would never divulge any info, or recommend sponsors, from the other gifting events. She just wanted to talk out her ideas.
And speaking of her events, she was the only one who fed us royally. Some of the other gifting suites and lounges have snacks, which I always appreciate, but Doris always provided a full-on luncheon, complete with early passed hors d’oeuvres, and several desserts later on. Hers were all-day affairs—no one wanted to leave! When I asked her how she could provide such sumptuousness, she answered, “Because I pay for it!” She was the only organizer spending her own money to feed her guests like that! (That may be why she always got so many A-listers.)
When condolences came pouring into me last week, Mr. X asked me how so many of my friends knew Doris. That’s because everyone wanted to go to her events, so I gave a lot of my pals a turn. And I introduced some of the famous ones to her, since celebrities were always comfortable at a Doris Bergman luncheon. I brought Elliott Gould one time, who didn’t really understand what I was bringing him to; he was really there just to have lunch with me. And, as we sat down to eat, he looked around the room, and noticed many other actors with whom he had worked. He was pretty amazed at it all, and asked me incredulously, “What is this event?” And then he realized it really was exactly the big deal I had portrayed it to be.
Along with taking great care of her guests, Doris always looked-out for her suite sponsors. One time, in the early days of attending her events, I, by accident, had departed without talking to a jewelry sponsor, and she didn’t want that company to be left-out of my article, which I had already just published. So she got us together by email so I could learn all about the company, and I was able to add them right away. How’s that for looking out for your clients?!
As kind and thoughtful as Doris was, she was also one tough cookie, which she was very proud of! She spoke her mind and didn’t take any nonsense, from anybody! I’ve seen her kick people out of her events if they weren’t invited, even if she knew them! One time, a creepy woman showed-up, whom she had specifically not invited, and she was stopped at the check-in. As I looked on in wonder that someone thought it was okay to crash such a quality event, she brazenly demanded to speak to Doris, who came out and just told the woman to leave! The woman protested, “But Doris–you know me!,” to which Doris brilliantly answered, “Yes—that’s why I didn’t invite you!” I’m always tickled that I witnessed that moment.
One of the best parts of Doris Bergman’s events was that it benefitted Wednesday’s Child, an organization that helps teen-agers in foster care. And she didn’t just give a percentage of the proceeds of the event to the charity—she went so many steps further than that! She asked, (in some cases, begged,) her guests to bring unwrapped gifts for the teens, something my co-writers and I were more than happy to do. (As a matter of fact, I was busy gathering gifts for her upcoming Oscars suite the week that the terrible news came in.) On top of that, Doris invited some of those teens to her events! Over the years, I actually sat with some of them at the luncheon, and I cannot express how thrilled they were to be included. Doris made life so much brighter for so many.
I always told her she was “stellar,” which she loved. It was one of her favorite words. And now I’m letting you all know she was, indeed, just that.
I have so many private memories of Doris, way too many to continue sharing here. But one of my favorite things was when Doris would choose to sit with me at her luncheons. It made me feel like I was at the “popular kids” table. And she often had a famous friend join us, like Bruce Dern, of whom she was particularly fond. It’s just hard to realize that those fun times are now behind us.
I actually still can’t believe I’m writing this. I have to keep stopping when the words hit me.
I must end with the most serious of notes. The house fire that took Doris and Albert’s lives could possibly have been stopped in time if they had had functioning smoke detectors. So I’m begging everyone to learn from my friend’s tragedy, and either check your existing ones to make sure they’re in working order, or drop everything this second and go buy some new ones right now. Doris would want all of you to stay safe.
R.I.P., Doris Bergman.