Sylvia Miles, an actress and Manhattan socialite whose brief, scene-stealing appearances in the films “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely” earned her two Academy Award nominations, died Wednesday. Miles died in an ambulance in New York on the way to a hospital after complaining to a home health care worker that she wasn’t feeling well, her friend, fashion-industry publicist Mauricio Padilha, told The Associated Press. The cause is not yet clear.
Accounts of Miles’ age vary widely. Padilha and other sources say she was 94. Past reporting from the AP puts her age at 86. Miles was a competitive chess player, according to the New York Times, which twice featured her in its coverage of the game. And she went, it seems, to nearly every party in New York for a time, becoming as beloved for her outgoing personality and flamboyant fashion sense than as for her acting.
“She shows up at premieres, screenings, receptions, teas and charity cocktail parties,” said a 1976 article in People magazine titled, “What would a Manhattan party be without the ubiquitous Sylvia Miles?” “I get invited because I’m fun,” Miles told People at the time. “I have a good sense of humor. I look good. I’m not bad to have at a party.”
Even after the 9/11 attacks, when the city was in a state of fear and mourning for months, she was quick to start socializing again, attending a Broadway opening just over a week later. “Honey, this is a known jungle to me,” she told the AP outside the play. “I am not afraid of anything. The animals in this jungle I can handle.”