Jerry Zipkin was born in Manhattan, the son of Annette and David Zipkin. He graduated from the Hun School of Princeton, N.J., and studied art and archeology for two years at Princeton University.
Although he was known principally as a social moth, he worked for years as his father's assistant, and after his father's death he looked after the family real-estate interests, which were later sold.
Mr. Zipkin, an heir to a Manhattan real-estate fortune who until his death lived in a Park Avenue building that was built by his father, was often referred to as "a man about everywhere."
He was a colorful presence at glamorous balls, parties and private dinners in this country and in Europe. He also was a favorite escort of fashionable women whose husbands were too busy or too bored to accompany them to social events. It is believed that the term "walker," first used by Women's Wear Daily, was coined to describe him.
He traveled widely with many female friends, and lunched with one or more on most days of the week, usually at Le Cirque or Mortimer's.
He was a longtime friend, escort and confidant of Nancy Reagan and a member of the Reagans' intimate coterie during their years in the White House, when he commuted to Washington about once a week. He was with the Reagans the night Ronald Reagan was elected President, and he was on the phone almost daily with Mrs. Reagan, exchanging news and gossip.
Mr. Zipkin, known for his sharp wit, was a confidant to many women, listening to their concerns and offering advice. He had no hesitation in criticizing their clothes or hairdos; his comments, often barbed, whether taken seriously or ignored, were rarely resented.
Mr. Zipkin's eccentricities were usually excused with, "That's Jerry." He made his displeasure more than clear if his seat at a fashion show or a gala wasn't to his liking. He frequently plucked two flowers from centerpieces at restaurants, one for his companion and the other for his lapel. He was known, too, for taking an extra gift when party favors were given at charity events and public-relations functions. But his own gifts to friends were frequent and often lavish.
In the weeks before his death, he organized items in his apartment that he wished to leave to friends. He had each gift wrapped and labeled and wrote a message to accompany it. Some gifts were sent before his death: a small Rodin sculpture of a hand to a friend whose hands he admired, a set of wine glasses to a woman who had admired them.
Jerry Zipkin died of a lung cancer at his home in Manhattan. He was 80.