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Molly McGreevy – Part One

   Molly McGreevy, Luanne Armsby    Francis and Tom McGreevy

Both Molly McGreevy and her former husband, Tom, were interviewed for the book Edie, a biography of Edie Sedgwick, the Warhol Superstar, by Jean Stein, which she edited with George Plimpton. The book, which was published in 1982, is a compilation of oral interviews. At the end, participants comment on the changes in their lives. What Molly recalled: “It is so weird to look back on what I now perceive as a trendy life of Caligulian excess. What was I doing in the Sixties? Entertaining. Playing can-you-top-this. Being stoned. Wearing the shortest minis. Owning the Popest Art. Producing tasteful but unsuccessful movies. Acting in tasteless but successful plays in Kansas City. Having a formal sit-down dinner for 12 in Halls store window to promote something or other. And laying the ground for divorce, near-breakdown, conversion. I thought the Vietnamese War was a miniseries on TV! How did I manage to remain 18 for so long? I now think I’m being granted a brief period of adulthood before I lapse into senility. I have gone back to school and am getting my master’s in theology at General Seminary. Some of my friends are waiting for this activity to pass, sending me get well cards in the meantime.”

 (Tom’s contribution was terse, but evocative: “I was a friend of Edie’s brother, Bob. In the Sixties I was  collecting kinetic art in New York. Now I’m eating enchiladas in Santa Fe.” Jean Stein, who died in 2017, was the daughter of former Kansas Citian Doris Babette Jones Oppenheimer Stein and the half-sister of General Harold Laurence “Larry” Oppenheimer and Gerald Oppenheimer.)

Many people, in Our Town and elsewhere, still smile fondly at the memory of Molly McGreevy. Some knew her as an actress, others as an art collector. Later in life, she was a priest who didn’t hesitate to preside at the funerals of AIDS patients – at a time when other members of the clergy were quick to show bigotry rather than compassion. 

             Molly Wheaton Paine

Molly first graced our pages in November 1959, as the fiancée of Thomas James McGreevy, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Milton William McGreevy. Our scribe seemed awed by her parents, listing them as “Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Eustis Paine of No. 1 Beekman Place, New York City and Willsboro, New York.” (Our usual engagement announcements don’t include enough information to encourage readers to just go ring the doorbell and say, “Howdy!”) Of the bride-to-be, it was noted that she was a graduate of the Chapin School and Vassar College, “class of ’58,” as well as a member of The Junior Assemblies and the Colony Club. To answer the reader’s unspoken question, (“Was she a deb?”), there was this statement: “she made her debut at a dinner dance in December ’54, given by her parents.” 

Some might have chortled at the last sentence: “After their wedding in February, the couple will reside in New York for a few months before coming to Kansas City for residence.” After all, Kansas City in 1959 would have seemed pretty tame to a New Yorker whose college classmates knew her as an aspiring actress. The Missouri Repertory Theatre (now the Kansas City Repertory Theatre) wasn’t founded until 1964, many of our streetlights turned to blinking lights soon after rush hour and good luck finding a restaurant that served dinner after 8:30 p.m. If the newlyweds actually set up housekeeping here, how would Molly fit in? She didn’t – she stood out.

By November 1961, the McGreevys and their “enchanting” daughter, Pamela were in residence on Cherokee Circle. Two days after Thanksgiving, Molly was appearing in An Evening of Mime – did we mention that she had studied with Marcel Marceau in Paris? – a Guild of The Friends of Art benefit show, held at the Nelson Gallery (more formally known as The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art). Around that time, they also discovered the Mardi Gras, a bar at 12th and Vine, where musicians and others kept late hours. Molly continued her career in her new home. In October 1963, Molly was a board member of the newly-formed Mark Playhouse, located at 222 West 75th Street, (a former ice house that in recent years has been home to antique shops.) Jean Anouilh’s Becket was scheduled as its premiere, with the promise of lighter fare to come. The summer of 1970 found her starring as Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth at the Missouri Repertory Theatre. She had energy and verve, and these are only a sampling of her activities. 

To be continued…

Also featured in the April 28, 2018 issue of The Independent
By Heather N. Paxton

Heather N. Paxton

Heather N. Paxton’s name first appeared in The Independent in a birth announcement back in — oh, never mind. In the mid-1990s, Heather joined the staff as a replacement for a friend who was expecting a visit from the stork. (Let’s hope Heather sent a baby present. The boy is a college graduate now.) Her 20s, 30s, 40s, and now her 50s: Heather has been a staff member for at least brief periods in all of these decades. She is most at home in the office when she is perusing the archives.


Bailey Pianalto Photography


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