Friday, February 7, 2020

Debbi Kempton-Smith (1950-2018)

My wife Debbi Kempton-Smith, who died at the age of 67 on 7 February 2018, brought wit and clarity to the otherwise often eye-glazing canon of astrology commentary.  She probably was best known for her Tatler "Horoscope" column (which ran for 11 years) and her book, Secrets From a Stargazer’s Notebook (in print from 1982-present). She was an Aries.
Even nearly four decades after its original publication as what Kempton-Smith called "a sleazy Bantam paperback," her book is regularly cited as a must-have for the basic astrology bookshelf.
Said Robert Currey (founder of and the Equinox Bookshop), ‘Debbi Kempton-Smith was a highly original and talented astrologer. Her book Secrets…  ranks as one of the best astrology primers of the era and perhaps the most entertaining of all time.…’
When Jonathan Cainer went on one of his rare holidays, he tapped Debbi Kempton-Smith as a guest columnist, explaining, "she writes in a deceptively light, zany style but don’t be fooled. Her astrological judgment is impeccable."
Wall Street Journal reporter dubbed her "The swaggering Annie Oakley of the celestial circuit."
Debbi Kempton-Smith told that reporter, ‘People use the horoscopes as they would a doughnut or shot of bourbon, to read something really deep inside of them, I heard somewhere.. . . I’m going to do what I can to help them., And I’m going to steer them clear of ersatz New Age platitudinous crap.’
Her parents were George and B. Cecile Kempton-Smith. Her father was an economist/engineer who specialized in efficiency and worked on a contract basis for governmental organizations and private companies alike. Her mother was first a court reporter and then a high school French teacher in New York City.
Debbi grew up in New York, Tel Aviv, Rome, Florence, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Geneva, London, Nuremberg, Oxford, and Los Angeles. She brought an international perspective to her practice.
DKS began her writing career at age 16, when Robin Leach hired her to be the only interviewer/columnist on his new New York-based rock'n'roll newspaper, GO Magazine. Eight months later, she opened GO's London office in 1967, filing interviews each week with The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Laura Nyro, The Lovin' Spoonful, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, Leonard Nimoy, and all the leading characters of the psychedelic era.
It was a great time to be a 17-year-old American girl in London, reporting on the pop culture.
In the 1970s, she immersed herself in Yoga and astrology. In the same period, she was the roving reporter on trends in consciousness for a series of British magazines, including Yoga And Health and Yoga Today. Her exposés of the shenanigans of many popular gurus earned her a bit of a reputation as a  guru-buster. In later years, she regarded shaking up gurus an ‘occasional but relaxing hobby.’ Those articles form the basis of an as yet unpublished manuscript, ‘Late Night Guru Guide.’
She studied astrology with Roy Alexander, Ronald Davison, Carolyn Dodson, Charles and Vivia Jayne, Jim Lewis, Jeff Mayo, Al H. Morrison, Bob Pike, Zane Stein, David Williams and the astronomer George Lovi (Hayden Planetarium). She made it a point to seek out older astrologers and learn from them. She found an additional way to learn about reading other people’s horoscope charts. She and a group of friends, calling themselves the Cosmic Conspiracy, gave readings for a nominal fee at a stand they set up on Portobello Road.
Her book Secrets From A Stargazer’s Notebook was released in 1982 and immediately captured the astrology world’s attention.
‘To describe “Secrets…” as a cookbook,’ said Currey, ‘is an understatement to its brilliance. The 500 pages are packed with charts of rock stars, actors, gurus, test tube babies, nations, plus tables listing the moon void of course ephemera and all calculated by computer. In 1982 this approach was pioneering the frontiers of astrology.’
She devoted most of her energy to her practice. She said that her clientele included, “psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, corporations, financial analysts, celebrities, politicians and just plain folks.
In her will, she left a note for all whose life, one way or another, she touched.
She said, ‘Cheer up! For I love you all very much! I’ll be waiting for you all in the next world… But please don’t rush… It is a more imaginative galaxy here, but they don’t have nachos.’
As Debbi Kempton-Smith said of Linda Goodman in the New York Times Magazine, “she was an Aries — they’re pioneers.”

Photo by Robert Rattner