A Profile of NANCY DAVIS
By Jeffrey Slonim
There is a difference between socials in New York and those on the left coast–even the chichi creatures of society heirs in L.A. often live in extreme comfort. (See Jiggy VanderPump.)
From the towers of New York, the boldface A-list have views of the park and the glimmering lights of the Manhattan. While in Los Angeles, such as Bel Air, where I first visited the author, medical activist, and jewelry designer Nancy Davis at her gracious domicile some years back, even the pool on the sprawling lawn had plane-window views of the grid they call Los Angeles…Tinseltown…sparkle, sparkle.
And in altitudinous Bel Air, with the serpentine drive up the hill, the famously well-heeled neighbors can be world-famous. Liz Taylor lived three houses away from Nancy and her handsome husband Ken Rickel. “We would go there for Easter,” mentioned Davis as casually as if she were asking me to pass the butter. “She loved children. She would have a pretty zoo, and beautifully decorated eggs. At the time, my kids probably didn’t realize who she was, but they have that wonderful memory of being there.”
Davis is the daughter of the late oil tycoon Marvin Davis, who at one time owned 20th Century Fox (with Marc Rich), Pebble Beach, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Denver Broncos NFL team, and the Aspen Skiing Company. Family friend Aaron Spelling based Dynasty on Marvin and his father, Jack, and even filmed an episode at Marvin’s monumental Colorado estate.
Meanwhile, Nancy, a social beauty inside and out, with big, blonde hair, has devoted her life to the fight against MS, creating The Center Without Walls foundation for medical research. “The 19th Annual RACE to Erase MS is on May 18th this year at the Century Plaza Hotel,” she says of the charity event she spearheads. “We’re calling it Glam Rock to Erase MS.” Tommy Hilfiger, whose sister has MS, has been a great patron of the event. And Teri Garr who suffers from the disease will be honored this year. To date, Davis’s organization has raised approximately $35 million for the cause. And in October, she also helps with her mother and sister’s Dana’s Carousel Ball to fight Juvenile diabetes. In 1996 Davis published Lean on Me: 10 Powerful Steps to Moving Beyond Your Diagnosis and Taking Back Your Life (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, Inc.).
“I was diagnosed 21 years ago,” says Davis, “There was a time I was told I would never walk again,” she added. “There was no cure, no drugs on the market, very little hope. I was told to go home and go to bed. But now there are seven drugs, many of which doctors involved with our organization have been involved with championing. For a young person diagnosed today with MS, the world has a much brighter future.”
Davis’s elegant Peace and Love jewelry, peace and heart designs bedazzled with diamonds, which evolved from work she did with her charity, is also now a thriving business.
It is no surprise that Nancy Davis has accomplished much in life. Growing up at the best addresses in Colorado and Palm Springs, she was surrounded by greatness. “We had a vacation house right by Frank Sinatra [Twin Palms]” she admitted when prodded about her youth in Palm Springs. “He lived on Frank Sinatra Drive. He used to have a great train room that he ran as the engineer at Christmas. My kids loved it, and he was so sweet with kids. His house was great. There was lots of spaghetti–he made a great spaghetti sauce. And he sang at a lot of the charity events. He would sing ‘High Hopes’ with the diabetic children. It was an amazing experience for everybody.”
And in Colorado, Davis’s family had a ski condominium two doors from Gerald Ford, the President of the United States. “He was also a very sweet, wonderful man, supportive of my charities,” she said. “He played a lot of golf with my father. They were also in Palm Springs. When [his daughter] Susan Ford had her babies, they would all come over and play and swim.” The cooing grandmas: Betty Ford and Barbara Davis.
Nancy’s mother, Barbara–think conch-shell bouffant–remains an effervescent social force in Los Angeles. This writer dined with her at the Golden Globes two years ago during the HBO fete, and she had more energy than I did at 1:00 a.m.
“My mom lives in L.A. and is still very lively and social,” said Davis. “She’s amazing. She goes out more than I do. She’s very gracious and elegant, loves to live life. We always had a lot of great parties and fun people around when I was growing up, political figures. I remember Henry Kissinger coming over for dinner.”
But Davis preferred to discuss dynamic medical issues rather than social chitchat. The cold weather in Colorado apparently affects the incidence of MS. In Los Angeles, according to Davis, that figure is 1 in 10,000. But in Colorado, it’s 1 in 800, she says. Sweden, also cold, also has a high incidence.
True Great asked if swimming in cold water helps with MS. “A person who has MS feels better in a cold climate,” she says. “And swimming in any kind of water (cold or warm) is good, just to move,” says Davis. “It is critically important to exercise. The last thing you want to do is lose muscle memory. And if you have a fever, you need to drink cold water to keep your body temperature down. Being hot, falling asleep in the sun, can exacerbate an attack.”
Davis, who already has three grown children, Brandon, Alexander, and Jason, is now the mother of gorgeous 7-year-old twin girls, Mariella and Isabella. While they recently moved from Bel Air, they presently reside in a gated community, that yet again has the sparkling views of Los Angeles.
“It’s a friendly neighborhood,” says Davis. “The kids can ride their bikes.”
Nancy Davis is a social activist, author and jewelry designer.
Nancy Davis interviewed by Jeffrey Slonim
Written by Jeffrey Slonim
Photography by Patrick McMullan, Andreas Branch, Mike Gardner, Clint Spaulding, & Chance Yeh for Patrick McMullan.com
Design by Marie Havens
Nancy Davis, Race To Erase MS Kicks Off May As Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month With A Fundraiser, Kitson Boutique, Kitson, Los Angeles, CA, May 1, 2010, Photography by Mike Gardner for Patrick McMullan.com
Nancy Davis & Barbra Davis, Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Sunset Tower Hotel, Los Angeles, CA, February 27, 2011, Photography by Clint Spaulding for Patrick McMullan.com
Nancy Davis with her twin girls, Isabella & Mariella, PC VALMORBIDA AND JARED NAJJAR IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE RVCA ARTIST NETWORK PROGRAM PRESENT “MINDTHEGAP,” Prism, West Hollywood, CA, November 12, 2009, Photography by Andreas Branch for Patrick McMullan.com
Nancy Davis & Barbara Davis, KATHY FRESTON BOOK PARTY HOSTED BY ARIANNA HUFFINGTON AND WENDI MURDOCH AT HOME OF ARIANNA HUFFINGTON IN LOS ANGELES, Private Residence, Los Angeles, February 25, 2011, Photography by Patrick McMullan for Patrick McMullan.com
Nancy Reagan, Nancy Davis, & Maria Shriver, Saks Fifth Avenue presents the Michael Kors Spring 2005 Fashion Show and Luncheon Honoring the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA, February 23, 2005, Photography by Patrick McMullan.com
Mark Badgley, Nancy Davis, & James Mischka, A party celebrating the preview of the latest collections of Peace and Love Jewelry by Nancy Davis, Badgley Mischka, MAC Cosmetics and Moo-Roo Handbags, Held at Liongate, Bel Air, CA, February 24, 2004, Photography by Patrick McMullan for Patrick McMullan.com
Joan Collins, Tommy Hilfiger, Nancy Davis, & Denise Rich, “Lean On Me” by Nancy Davis Book release party hosted by Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Hilfiger, NYC, March 27, 2006, Photography by Chance Yeh for Patrick McMullan.com
Nancy Davis & Brandon Davis, “Lean On Me” by Nancy Davis Book release party hosted by Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Hilfiger, NYC, March 27, 2006, Photography by Chance Yeh for Patrick McMullan.com
Nancy Davis, MEIER/FERRER: Los Angeles Opening hosted by Rose Tarlow, Leadapron, Los Angeles, CA, February 10, 2010, Photography by Andreas Branch for Patrick McMullan.com