In the wake of September 11, the travel business took a deep dive, and Roome couldn’t keep control of his spending. During the week, Philip would go into a black hole, sitting in a dark office and staring at the newspapers. His appearance was uncharacteristically disheveled, his hair uncombed, his normal dapper outfit missing a tie or socks.
In Palm Beach, he kept up appearances. At his birthday party the week before his suicide, the evening ended with Philip and his friends acting like frat boys, pulling out water pistols and spraying each other.
“What was going on in his business must have been a disaster for him, but Philip never portrayed it as such,’’ says Liza. “He had played in a world where jets and a high lifestyle were available to him, and a lot of his self-image was tied into what he could provide. He was supportive emotionally, but I supported my own lifestyle. His financial problems wouldn’t have mattered to me.’’
Philip had been diagnosed as bipolar in 1997, and in the days preceding his death, he was in such a downward spiral that both Anne and his psychiatrist, Andrew Slaby, had been trying to get him into a hospital. He had refused to go, saying that would just increase his anxiety.
On the morning of Roome’s death, Anne had been in the office of Park Avenue Travel, the agency he owned, helping him with a financial problem. Martin Frankel, one of their clients, left the country on a flight arranged through Park Avenue Travel and then was accused of embezzling more than $215 million from insurance companies. When claims started coming in against Frankel, the government froze close to a million dollars of Park Avenue’s cash flow. Anne had offered to help go through the documents in an effort to bargain with the government and get the funds freed. Anne’s younger sister Jennifer, who had known Philip since she was a toddler, worked in his office, and she too was there the morning he jumped.
“Philip had all these big windows in his office, and Jennifer had made him promise not to open them,” says Anne. “But that morning, he walked right past us and into a back room. Someone asked where Philip was, and one man said that he was probably in the bathroom, but as soon as Jen and I saw that back window open, we started hugging each other. We just knew.’’
At a memorial service held in a small Catholic church on East 62nd Street a month after his death, the priest welcomed “Anne and Liza and their families.”
When Liza stood to eulogize him in front of the room, which held clients, employees, and several sculpted blondes, including Marla, she made use of her considerable gifts as a hostess. “Whether you were a friend or one of his wives,” she said, to muted laughter, “you are here because Philip gave love, received love, and, in the end, finally found love.”
The subject of his generosity came up repeatedly that afternoon, and another eulogist, Peter Williams, explained that Philip “compartmentalized his life’’ and asked people to “remember the good, like the man who visited his sick employee in the hospital every day, not the Philip under attack from demons in his mind. The not-so-good, if any, should be scattered with his ashes.’’ After the service, Liza and Anne stood together and spoke with the mourners. Anne referred to them as the “merry wives of Roome."
Both wives are philosophical about their husband's deception. “Philip finally found with Liza what he had found with me—refuge and a family,” Anne says. “She's the only one he was with who wasn't a lightweight. I know the only reason he didn't ask for a divorce and tell me about Liza is that he was afraid it would hurt me.”
“At the beginning, he told me he was divorced from Anne, and I'm guessing he would have considered my finding out about her to be something really big, but of course I’ll never know,” Liza says. “Anne and I went to see his psychiatrist, and he told me that actually I had kept him alive for two and a half years. When he found love, he hung onto it as long as he could. I think he was afraid everything was about to fall apart.
“They say for bipolar people that door to suicide is always an option,” Liza continues. “I look at Philip as being heroic. He probably felt that if he took himself out of the picture, everything would be well again. In the end, he took that door, but I will miss him and love him until the day I die.” A week after the memorial, Liza flew up to New York to stay with Anne and go through some of Philip’s possessions. “We were lying in my bed with my dogs, exchanging stories about him,” recalls Anne. “And we said, ‘If Philip could see us now, do you think he’d have a big smile on his face?” ”