THE NEW YORK TIMES GAVE ELIZABETH SLOANE SIMPSON a brilliant send-off last November, paying her far more mind in her death at eighty than in her life for the past twenty or so years. She was described in the lengthy and laudatory obituary as “the beautiful young fashion model who married New York’s handsome postwar mayor” and as “a Texas beauty and queen of Acapulco society” who had ostensibly enjoyed a life of glamour (she’d been a famous model) interrupted by adventure (bullfighting in Spain) and punctuated by scandal (her predilection for inappropriate romances). Simpson’s life appeared as big as Texas—except that by 1996, no one but a few style-conscious women of a certain age remembered who she was.
The modest Dallas condominium she left behind at 2525 Turtle Creek was more than a little mysterious. Not that the multilevel garden complex is unpleasant; it is helpful to know, given Simpson’s history, that it was constructed to evoke the world renowned Las Brisas resort in Acapulco. But her place was low ceilinged and dim, and her furnishings—the formal dining room table, the upholstery-matching draperies, the Baccarat candelabras, and the very large, very striking portraits of Simpson herself—suggested a big life compressed at the end into a very small space.
What happened? Simpson left few clues. She wasn’t a hoarder and, in the freighted words of the Times, left “no immediate survivors.” The high-society types she had known seemed uninterested in the question or governed by different priorities. (“She was not a great model— I was,” recalled Marshall native