Floss, a.k.a. Florence, a.k.a. Flossie, arrived on Planet Earth on October 14, 1921 in Brooklyn, NY to Jacob and Rose Firstenberg, and older sister Caroline.
Both parents had a strong aesthetic sense; Rose owned a dress shop and Jack traveled annually to Europe on shopping trips for his advertising novelties business. Artistic sensibilities came naturally to Floss and would be an ever-evolving passion. Starting at NYU at the age of 16, she studied design and merchandising, and worked at Lord & Taylor, a high-end department store in Manhattan. From early on, Floss showed an equally ardent streak when it came to social justice, attending protests against Southern universities that refused to play NYU’s racially mixed football team.
After college, Floss lived the “high life” in 1940’s Manhattan, working as a secretary to Howard Dietz, a famous songwriter of the day, as a leg model showing hosiery at the Plaza Hotel, and as the beauty editor of Cue Magazine. She saw Frankie Sinatra and Billie Holliday perform live, and attended the original Broadway shows of Death of Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire. She roomed with her friend Felice and they absorbed New Yorker magazine, which Floss read continually for 80 years. She also met her future husband, Max Alper, on a blind date.
Floss and Max married and moved to southern California in 1949. Floss identified fully as a displaced and dissatisfied New Yorker for the first several decades but eventually came to love her adopted home. Max and Floss shared an equal passion for art and politics. They actively supported the civil rights movement, artists, ending the war in Vietnam, a progressive state in Israel and many other causes and individuals.
Over the years, Floss exhibited her various talents as she managed the Watts Jazz Quintet, of which Horace Tapscott, the renowned West Coast pianist, was a member; designed dresses; learned from daughter Laurie to make elaborate batik fabrics; and managed family-owned commercial and residential property.
Floss was an amazing listener, a trusted confidante, the focus of many people’s erotic dreams, an oft-invited dinner guest and irreverent as hell. Max and Floss built a beautiful house and garden, filled it with Max’s and other artists’ work, threw many a wonderful party and/or fundraiser, and welcomed the world into their home. Said a friend, “The world just got a lot less interesting without Floss.”
Floss’ beloved Maxele passed away in 1999, after 50 years of marriage. Floss is survived by son Joshua, daughter Laurie and granddaughter Grace. An unabashed lover of sparkles, from glitter to diamonds, Floss has burst into a million everlasting sparkles herself, watching over us. We love you Flossie. You are sorely missed.
Donations may be made in Floss’ name to Southern Poverty Law Center or Doctors Without Borders.