Death and Sex and the New York Times

The headline on the New York Times’ Aug. 24 obituary of Kay Halle, age 93, summarizes her as “an Intimate of Century’s Giants.” The obit itself describes her as “a tall, slender blond beauty” who “was at her best in private settings,” whose “list of 64 men who had proposed to her” included Averill Harriman and Randolph Churchill (is there anybody’s list those two weren’t on?), and whose many “paramours” included “those who had not been free to propose marriage.” Unnamed “intimates” are “certain … that she had been Joseph Kennedy’s favorite mistress” but are unsure about George Gershwin.

Well, we get the idea. How, then, to explain this mysterious paragraph tucked between parentheses:

“(For all her reputation as a femme fatale, the ‘Mata Halle’ nickname that William J. Donovan pinned on her … was more pun than analogy to the World War I seductress.)”

What is this about? It is either a heated denial of some charge the obit fails to bring up or, more likely, an editor’s crazed outbreak of scruples over everything implied in the rest of this entertaining recounting of what seems like a thoroughly enjoyable life.