Obituary: Sybil Christopher / Actress, club founder, famous ex-wife
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Sybil Williams Christopher, a former actress, famous ex-wife and founder of Arthur, one of Manhattan's most popular celebrity nightclubs in the 1960s, died March 7 in New York City. She was 83.
Her death was confirmed by a spokesman for the theater she helped found in Sag Harbor on Long Island, the Bay Street Theater, a showcase for writers and artists who summer there.
Ms. Christopher, the first wife of the actor Richard Burton -- both were Welsh-born -- first became widely known in the United States in 1963 as the injured party in the first of Burton's several divorces. He left her to marry Elizabeth Taylor after months of intense gossip about their affair, which at the time was considered a scandal.
Ms. Christopher apparently inherited most of the friends from their marriage, at least those in New York, where she settled with her two young daughters, Kate and Jessica.
When she decided to open a discotheque in 1965 on the site of the old El Morocco on East 54th Street in midtown, she raised money from hundreds of people, most of them New York friends, including Roddy McDowall, Julie Andrews, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
They called it Arthur, she said, in honor of a George Harrison quip in the Beatles' 1964 film, "A Hard Day's Night." After someone asked him the name of his hairstyle, he replied, "Arthur."
The club became a celebrity hangout, attracting artists like Rudolph Nureyev, Lee Remick and Tennessee Williams as well as aristocrats like Princess Margaret of Britain. Ms. Christopher, once famous mainly for having lost her husband to another woman, had been transformed into a kind of accidental avatar of new womanhood.
In 1966 she married Jordan Christopher, the lead singer of Arthur's house band, the Wild Ones. He died in 1996.
First Published March 19, 2013 12:00 am