By Catherine Revland

Joan Davidson at Tenth Anniversary of Westbeth, 1980.  Photo credit: Shelley Seccombe.

In the early 1970s I was a secretary to the J.M. Kaplan Family Fund, and like most people who work for families of great wealth, their children often entertain us with stories about their formidable Dad. Which brings to mind just about everything you need to know about the humanity and grace of Joan, the eldest child. In the early days of Westbeth her father had heard rumors that the lights in the complex were on all night, and he sent his accountant out on an investigation. Sure enough, the accountant reported. Lights were burning all night long at Westbeth, a tremendous waste of electricity.

In a fury, Mr. Kaplan summoned Joan into his office to hear the accountant’s dreadful report, to which she put on her stern voice. “Daddy, listen to me,” she said, “They’re artists. They make a living during the day and they work at night.” 

During the kerfuffle Richard Kaplan, her brother, had been eavesdropping. “What did Dad say?” “Nothing,” she said. “What did the money nanny say?” (His favorite word for the grim accountant.)

“He said “Humph.” Mission accomplished. 

The lights are still on all night at Westbeth, now the largest and the only subsidized artists’ housing in the country. May all the people of great wealth on this earth learn to be like Joan. 

Leave a Reply