Obituary: Barbara Cloud / Fashion editor exuded beauty inside, out
Barbara Cloud, longtime fashion editor for The Pittsburgh Press and columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, had a timeless beauty and sense of style. But Ms. Cloud, who died Friday at age 82, leaves family and friends who testify that her inner beauty was even more striking.
Over years of monthly lunches with her closest friends, "I never heard her talk nasty about anyone. I don't ever remember her gossiping," said Barbara Russell, a local performer and member of that group.
Her crisp, vibrant writing matched her fashion sense, said John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Post-Gazette.
"She was one of the most gifted newspaper writers that I think I've known over many years. She was of the older school of journalism, characterized by the clarity of how they wrote," he said.
In recent years, said Post-Gazette executive editor David Shribman, "her column was a tour guide to a Pittsburgh fast disappearing and yet she understood, appreciated and had a sense of wonder about the new technology and the new Pittsburgh."
The daughter of a Uniontown obstetrician, Ms. Cloud took to the stage in high school musicals and majored in drama at Westminster College. She performed in regional summer stock and made a brief, unsuccessful foray to New York after her 1951 graduation. She intended an editing job she took at the Uniontown paper in 1952 to be temporary.
She left five years later to cover fashion for The Press, a post she held from 1957 until the paper's demise in 1992. She kept her hand in theater with performances at The Little Lake Theater in Canonsburg, and did some modeling. But more often, she wrote about performers.
She interviewed a teenage Jane Fonda, and fashion upstarts Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. She covered one of Judy Garland's final concerts, which took place in Pittsburgh, and then her funeral in New York.
"Sharing a hamburger with Lauren Bacall or rubbing shoulders with Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Nancy Reagan, Bill Blass, Vidal Sassoon ... was that me?" she wrote in her retirement column in 2008.
Her classic aesthetic sense left her unimpressed by the pop art of Andy Warhol, whom she had met during the 1960s in New York. Her periodic jabs ("In death as in life, Warhol still rides the coattails of the rich and famous") led to a polite running feud with the North Side museum that bears his name.
Yet she had equally fond memories of profiling Miss Ann, the maintenance woman at Westinghouse High School, and a trolley car operator named Ralph in her writings on life in Pittsburgh.
Her stories were good because everyone she met liked her, said Sylvia Sachs, a close friend, neighbor in Squirrel Hill and co-worker at The Press.
"I was always amazed that when some big star would come to town at a big nightclub. She would do the interview and the next thing you know, they would be friends. People just took to her," she said.
Tom Julian was a recent college graduate, just breaking into fashion writing in 1984, when she met him at a New York event and began to mentor him.
"I realized that she was more than a writer," said Mr. Julian, who now runs the New York marketing firm Tom Julian Group. "She was a keen observer of men's fashion. She was a mother. She was a friend to many in the room."
In a newsroom where her colleague's fashions were often a decade out of style, if they had ever been in style at all, the perfectly coifed and tailored Ms. Cloud stood out for more than her riveting good looks.
"Barbara was my definition of gentility: a lady in the old-fashioned sense, smart and stately, appreciative of talent and beauty, an enemy of people who littered the city she loved," said Sharon Eberson, an editor and theater writer for the Post-Gazette.
Her greatest gift as a writer was to articulate emotions, said her son, Drew Cloud of Summit, N.J.
"She was able to express things in words that other people were feeling, and I think that's the connection she had with so many people," he said.
The story of his birth, which she chronicled in 1996 when he was 25, had been the great crisis and then the great joy of her life. She was divorced and single when she became pregnant at 40. Single parenting was considered scandalous and friends warned her that a late-life pregnancy could kill her and produce a handicapped child. She went to New York, which had just legalized abortion, intending to have one. But the doctor sensed her ambivalence and encouraged her to have the baby.
"I fairly sailed from his office, the wind beneath my wings," she wrote.
"She was my mom and my dad," Mr. Cloud said. She was in "the fashion world, but she became a Steelers fan, too. Or she'd ask, 'How did the Pirates do tonight?' That was because of my interest. And also because of the city. She took pride in being part of the fabric of Pittsburgh."
Even after becoming a single mother, she looked as if she had stepped from a magazine.
"She didn't have to be wearing the newest thing down the pike. She wasn't a slave to fashion. But she was always beautifully, classically turned out," Ms. Russell said.
She never tweaked her looks with surgery, said her hair stylist and close friend Arnold Zegarelli of Izzazu Salon.
"She was just a natural beauty, but she never thought of herself that way. She was the type of person where, if you said, 'You're a really beautiful lady,' she'd say, 'I'm glad you think so. Are you having trouble with your eyes lately?' " he said.
One of her biggest challenges was dressing up to the standards of her fashion identity on a journalist's salary. "She was always very clever. She would take inexpensive things and make them look like a million dollars," he said.
Her favorite spot on the planet was Stone Harbor, N.J., where her extended family had vacationed since she was 18.
"She loved the sun. She would read, she would walk on the beach, she would collect shells," Mr. Cloud said. "She would pull a beach chair down to the edge of the water and sit with her feet in it, moving it forward and backward as the tide went in and out."
In early 2000, a routine mammogram found breast cancer. She had planned to spend that afternoon comforting a cancer-stricken friend and did so, remaining silent about her own diagnosis. She had a lumpectomy, and had been cancer-free for about eight years when her first grandchild was born.
The births of Grace and Sophie eased the loss of retirement. She wrote a memoir, "By-Line," because she was an older grandmother and "she wanted the grandchildren to know her," Ms. Russell said.
The cancer returned in late 2010, metastasizing into her lungs. She threw every chemical weapon available at it. Mr. Zegarelli went to her home to shave her hair off with style.
She continued lunch with her girlfriends, "And it astounded me that she still arrived well-dressed, with earrings. She had a whole bunch of different head wraps and she always looked beautiful," Ms. Russell said.
Her son and daughter-in-law Maggie took her on a last trip to Stone Harbor, then to their home for hospice care.
Mr. Cloud was holding her hand when she died.
"The things that she said to me in the last couple of weeks were about being passionate about what you do, filling your home with love and caring for each other. She has passed that along to me and my wife," he said. "She lived life with passion."
She is survived by her son; three stepsons, Guy and Kerry Guerriero of Dallas, Texas, and Don Guerriero of Ridgewood, N.J.; a stepdaughter, Manuela Guerriero of Dallas, Texas; and two grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have not been set, but a service will be held in Pittsburgh.
First Published September 16, 2012 12:08 am