Friday, April 17, 2015


So I went back to the Hotel Bel Air for the first time in what feels like decades, to have lunch with darling Vicky King, who was, for twenty-five years, that included all the time I lived at and visited there, its beautiful and devoted PR person.  We both of us had a hard time, it being so overbuilt with what does not belong there, that one, or in this case, two, had a hard job calling up visions of what one/two had so loved.  The food was still fine, and Lucinda who had been there long ago when I was was there still, and still adorable, and the swans were still sort of sailing the pond in their indifferent, undedicated way.  But everything else seemed cluttered and/or unstyled, or, at best, unstylish.  And absolutely nothing urged me to return or feel longing.  Lunch was more than enough.
     T.S. Eliot noted that April mixes memory and desire, but even though it's April, I felt absolutely no desire to hang out there, and memory was more saddened than enriched.  A wedding was being prepared for, the gardens tented and draped, and I recalled where one of my children had been married for one of her weddings.  The husband-to-be who'd flown over to talk me back into sponsoring the event is long gone, his name not even remembered, though I could still see him standing by the pool slightly soused in late afternoon as he wistfulled: "Madeleine...Madeleine should have her day." She had it, the event held in esteem and more or less consecrated for a year and a day.  
      That has been the setting for any number of important and not-so-important but still meaningful-at-the-time ceremonies.  It might be interesting to ferret out the histories of the weddings that have taken place there, and add up how many of them had borne real fruit. Mostly I think they were fruitful for parents, to show how much they loved their children, at least at the time. But all of it strikes me as sad now, what with the overbuilding and underwhelming, as Billy Rose might have said, his having once announced to me that he was "underwhelmed," one of the few clever things he ever said, to my disappointment, as I expected at the time that great reputation carried with it intellect and wit. I should not, however, disparage him or any of that experience as it did give me my best, or, at least, my most successful novel, THE PRETENDERS, since it starred the fictional version of him, made infinitely more interesting than I think he really was, as well as a great rendition of the long-ago, it now turns out she was, Sue Mengers.  
     But the thing about the past is that it's over, and so, I think, is the hotel.  Many different languages dance about what remains of what was wondrous, which is mostly the gardens.  Everything else is... well, I have already more or less given out a sigh, which it is not really even.  The Ladies' room looks bigger and  better, but that sort of resounds and, in a way, intensifies the reason to be disappointed, because you should not be most lifted by where you pee.
      Well, as Thomas Wolfe would have said, You Can't Go Home Again.  Except in this case, he might have said: You Can't Hotel. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


So I have, to my shame, gone into the Beverly Hills library for the first time.  And not just since moving back her, but, I think, ever.  It hasn't occurred to me to love a library since I last visited Bryn Mawr, to which I intend to leave my papers, whether or not they want them.
     There is a strange stillness in most libraries, but not this one.  Here there is almost a suspended echo, as if you were not really meant to tell if there is anyone here.  Across from me at a facing table is a not-old-man, and he is looking at a book with pictures.  I am a little sad, because I remember how bright I was when I was in the Bryn Mawr library, where there was a truly unearthly silence, and an enormous echo, so everything almost down to your thoughts resonated, and when you dropped even a pencil, it resounded.
A sneeze shook the place.  So you really built up concentration.     
         That’s over at Bryn Mawr now.  A new, functional library has replaced the old, still revered one, where you can go for tight-assed events and honorings.  They have never corrected or improved the acoustics, which everywhere contain a shattering echo.  They redid Goodhart, the great auditorium, and forgot to fix the sound, so it’s still Awful.  They put on my musical that took place Upstairs from the Symposium, and even after they redid the place, you still couldn’t really hear what they were saying onstage, and in blank verse, yet.   My typewriter, which it still was when I was writing it , had jammed halfway across.  So I figured the gods, whom I assume were at work, it being partly about them, wanted it in blank verse.  I can only imagine Katharine Hepburn in her plays,-- not that hard because the sound is exactly how it must have been then: dreadful.  She came back and met with us  when someone gave a scholarship in her name, while I was still an undergraduate, and those of us who loved the theatre were invited to a small reception, where she spoke, not that happily I don't think.  I took her tea from her and held it-- it was before her hands had started to shake that badly.  And she thanked me-- I believe from the heart.  She seemed truly uncomfortable.    "I suppose I'm supposed to tell me how Bryn Mawr helped me in the thea-ah-tare," she Hepburned.  "But I cah-nt." 
 I saw her recently in a TV special she clearly oversaw and narrated, and there was a clip of her and Spencer Tracy in a convertible and he made some crack about Bryn Mawr.  A put-down it was meant to be, I think, but it seemed genuinely funny.
     I am delighted I still love it as much as I do,  and the friends that I have still, to whom I can speak with the same affection and openness I always did.  And I believe they can, too.  A glorious level of smarts and kindness, and, in Marilyn's case, unfailing organization.  There was a standard of excellence that included nice.  I was a very lucky girl.  Which I was, accurately, not having yet a real concept of what you had to be and know to be categorized as Woman. 


Sunday, April 12, 2015


As I search my face for its disintegration, only because I didn't know I was really pretty at the time that I was, I think of Gore Vidal.  When we had dinner with him in Rome in the Sixties, Don and I, he asked if I was wearing contacts.  I told him "No."  At that point he said he thought my eyes were so beautiful I must have something in them.
     I of course was thrilled: to be hit on by the most articulate and literary gay in modern history!  I later wrote a poem that went: 
"He said my eyes were so beautiful, 
I must have something in them."
So you see I didn't even have to improve his words to have them be a poem.
    Don, my sweet and still innocent husband was infuriated at my having been lifted by the experience. "Only you," he said, "would be excited to be hit on by a fag."
     Well, times have certainly changed, and so have my eyes.  I understand at too long last, which it certainly is-- I had no crunch concept of having grown older, that I had, in truth, grown old.  I was aware of a few small surgeries, which I actually thought and so didn't have to pretend were insignificant.  Now I think, if I write this blog, I must deal with "crunch" issues.  Because it all boils down to: you get old if you're lucky, and it isn't easy.
    Especially if you are really lucky, and can still think clearly and a lot, except for the occasional memory lapse, where you can't remember names.  Important ones.  
   I still remember everybody funny, and Cary Grant.  Cary Grant actually asked me once why I had made him into a meditation-- it was in HOW TO SURVIVE IN SUBURBIA WHEN YOUR HEART'S IN THE HIMALAYAS, a book of thoughts.  His was "What hath Cary Granted?"  He called me to ask why I had done that-- he said "This book could go on forever, and in fifteen years nobody will know who I am."  I said "People will always know who you are."  But he was right.  Except about my book going on.
   I suppose I have a hard time accepting how transient it all is. When I think how deep I thought my love went when I was in high school, for Walter Rosenhaft.  I know how deep it was for my husband, and it wasn't deep enough, deep as it was.  It can never be deep enough for anyone, except for God, if He's/She's there.  Then there was the childishness of love for George Segal when I was in Bryn Mawr, the place where I should have been that much smarter. 
My love for Tony Perkins, Anthony more aptly.  Probably the cleverest man I'd ever known, a known homosexual before it was publicly all right to be one, supposedly okay now.  All of it looked back on now as some kind of infatuation.  I guess a part of me was always Little Girl, because the little girl had never been taken care of.  My mother never wanted a baby: it was just what women did.
       It was what I wanted most in life, I thought, children, and was worried might not be mine, because I was a fat girl.  I lost the weight, and had a daughter and a son, just like I thought I'd always dreamed.  My husband died really young, which I'd never dreamed would happen.  Dreams are both the up and the down side.
     So now I have to wait and see what is the final act.  I hope it has music.

Saturday, April 04, 2015


Today is Tony Perkins' birthday.  If he is remembered at all, as Anthony Perkins more likely, it is for PSYCHO, which I find really unfortunate, as what he was really was clever, musical, and, off-screen at least, quite ingeniously funny.  I was of course very young, fat, and incredibly naive, with no real idea what gay was, and even being enlightened, or more aptly, endarkened, refused to accept that truth about Tony, whom I loved loved loved.  I was just past twenty, he was smart as a whip(why do they make that analogy? What's smart about a whip?) ingenious, original, and, I will have to confess, most touchingly, seemed really to appreciate me.  I wrote him poems, songs, sent him funny telegrams in French, and, eventually, books and plays.  My first novel, NAKED IN BABYLON, an ill-chosen title, -- I had yet to understand that this burg had no grasp of satire--was hung on our not-really-romance.  And I wrote the book to get him to tell me the truth, as the phone rang almost nightly with venomous voices whispering "He's at the beach with Tab," before I slammed it back down into what might have been described when there were still real telephones as the receiver.  
    Few of us at the time understood homosexuality, and the town and the industry kept it a shameful secret-- a mistake, clearly, but one that now seems almost preferable to its having become practically a billboard, "Hi, I'm David Hyde Pierce, and I'm gay."  I think a person's sexuality is pretty much like their underwear: something you need show only to intimates once you know they're that interested in you.
     Oh, but I did love him so-- he was SO smart, and SO funny, and had such a brilliant sense of what was brilliant.  And because I loved him so terribly-- he was truly handsome before his consciousness went creepy and he decided his shoulders, enormous, were too big for his head and so tried to diet them off-- I couldn't do enough to please him, little understanding that nothing short of my turning into a boy would do the trick.  I even wrote a song for Tab, a teen sensation as a movie star, so he made records too.  Wanting to be taken seriously were All of Young Hollywood, as they were known then, the rowdiest of them being Dennis Hopper, who, hard as it is to believe now, seeing how seriously he was to take himself, was actually comic, and borderline endearing, he was such an inept would-be hero.  Venetia Stevenson, the willowy blonde daughter of the impressively serious actress Anna Lee, was Tab's companion, so no one would know, though everyone did.  Except me, because I didn't want to.
     Tony and I flew kites on the hill behind my apartment on Fountain Avenue, and put Sidney Skolsky, the gossip columnist who had dared to insinuate in his column that our romance was less than genuine, into the kites, verbally anyway, before we crashed them to earth.  I followed Tony to New York when he starred, on Broadway no less, like a real actor, in Look Homeward Angel.  He was only okay, but better than he'd been having to pretend he was a match for Sophia Loren onscreen.  When he opened in Angel, I gave him a key ring with a gold card that was inscribed with the ten of diamonds, a card that we'd once seen face down on the street, and Tony had said, "What will that card be when we turn it up? If you can tell me, you'll be my date for the opening of Angel."  And because I loved him SO, and needed SO badly to impress him and to be his date for the opening, I martialed all my forces and actually saw through it.  He'd gone very white, and said "You're a witch."  When he opened in Angel, and I'd given him the keyring, my card to him read: "If I was right about this, I must be right about you."  
    I was sure he would become the biggest actor in motion pictures.  I do know to this day that he was probably the smartest.
    We became close in a different way once he married Berry, and had to compromise his great intelligence and do stupid and weirder and weirder movies to support his family.  I went to her memorial in New York after she died in one of the terrorist plane crashes, something that felt past irony, and met their younger son, who looked strangely like Brad Pitt.
   I am sad for him still that he will be remembered, if he is remembered at all, for that weird portrayal in Psycho,  still, I think the most frightening movie ever.  Marty Balsam, another friend of mine from when I was in love with the Actor's Studio, was the detective in that.  Many of my Studio friends, including Janice Mars, had been in love with Marty.  But I guess he was a touch too manly for me.
    Don, my handsome and gallant husband, tolerant of my love for movie stars, and sweetly forbearing about Tony, met him a couple of times after everybody had come out, when Tony had a diamond in his ear.  "You look really great," Tony said to me, after I'd lost all the weight, had my hair done, and a new dress, fitted to my new body, at the opening of a Carol Burnett musical on Broadway.  Then he turned to Don. "What a shame you didn't meet her ten years ago."
     When I rewrote the scene in my head several times after that, I said: "It wouldn't have made any difference.  I was in love with a fag."  But I am glad I wasn't that quick or nasty.  I still love him, and am glad for any happiness or acceptance he had in his life. And if he'd actually had romances with all the high-end gays it says online he did, including Sondheim and Nuryev, I hope he got more from them than sexual satisfaction.  I certainly got plenty from him: it just wasn't exactly what I thought I wanted at the time.  And now, of course, what it is and was was History.

Friday, March 27, 2015


So as my close friends know, and often those who aren't really interested, my brain has rarely stopped working.  But today I had to have it tested, to make sure everything is still in place, and I haven't been invaded by any uninvited visitors.  It was painless and quite colorful, the offices of the doctors being actually peacefulizing, still and featuring a travelogue about monuments narrated by a handsome white-haired Brit, I think he was, (the sound wasn't on) taking me through ancient tombs and places I've never been and some I have but nowhere I really want to go to anymore as the world has become too angry and unpredictable a place.
    I had lunch afterwards at what used to be Lawry's, where I went in my long ago youth when Don was working on Carol Burnett's show.  It is now something with Garlic in the title, most pleasant especially as I was with Shan Cretin, whose official title I forget as I forget a number of things these days, but she is high up in the Society of Friends, the Quakers I have loved since high school and 
join from time to time when I covet peace.  She is what you hope to find when you are looking for an inspirational human being, and assures me the violence that is going on now is actually less than when we were in caves, though today's weapons make it easier to make it fatal.  Shan, as peaceful a person as has walked on the planet, I would be happy to wager, has been to jail for protesting war, arrested as Quakers are from time to time because this is a crazy world, as most of you know.  Hopefully most of you have not been in trouble for your convictions, though I don't know many in this town who have them about a lot things besides success. 
      I do not leave myself out of that dispiriting number, but I  almost believe I am getting better and hope I have shucked it off by the time I leave the planet.  The other day I almost tracked Mel Brooks, once a very close friend, when I realized mid-search that I was no longer a teenager when I used to do such things, almost always with positive results, so quit.  I still hope to catch up with him before one or the other of us exits, and I will never forget his and Annie (Bancroft, his wife,) driving me and Don back to the hospital (I had just given birth to Madeleine) opening night of my comedy on Broadway, The Best Laid Plans, an ill-chosen title if ever there was one, and Mel's saying "Well, you had two things happen this week.  If one of them had to be less than perfect, if your daughter had been born with six toes or two noses, that would have been okay.  What mattered was the show."  I do believe he saved my life with that laugh.
      This has been an uplifting period for me, possible brain problem notwithstanding, as I have entered more new realms than I realized existed, including becoming a comic strip.  Now what I'd like to do is become a song.  I have new baby friends, one of whom has a birthday this weekend so I am looking forward to being younger.  So if I make it okay through all this, anything is possible, which I have always insisted anything is.  But then, what do I know?  Maybe they'll see in my brain.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cary Grant, whom I don't think anyone who is a true friend of mine doesn't know was a true friend of mine-- how could you not want people to know?-- told me "Hate will keep you alive longer than love will."  As I may have written, his own mother didn't love him. How is it possible?  She wanted him to dye his hair because his going gray made her look old.
     Anyway, he told me that about hate as I waited-- not idly,-- I contributed to my own living, and my children's, and kept it all afloat-- but hopefully, for what would come to me when my inheritance from my father, the Mayor of Tucson, (a Republican no less) came through.  But for that, my stepmother, Selma, the hardest thing since cement, had to go.
      It finally happened this autumn.  She was 98. My mother met Selma when Mom, Helen, was having her career as a social director, and Selma and her first husband were staying in the hotel where Helen worked.  At one point in her marriage Selma had cut all her husband's ties into hundreds of pieces, and Helen knew about that. So she was sure Selma would kill Lew, my father, whom  Helen was divorcing, and introduced them.  Instead, when they married, which they did, Selma took this fairly failed man to Arizona to deal with her allergies.  There, Lew found a new career as a realtor, subdivided the desert and made it bloom, became a Republican, and then Mayor.
     Mel Brooks, whom I had the joy of calling friend, said "A man goes to Tucson in the desert, and says "Who's the Mayor?" They tell him:"Nobody."  He says: "I'm the Mayor."
     I don't hold Selma in non-eseteem for no reason.  My cousin Ruth-Anne, a Gandhi among women, a music teacher who gave scholarship lessons to all the gifted blacks in Pittsburgh, was ill and destitute at the end of her life and called on the Davises, by now of Tucson, for help, which they did not give.  Selma called me and said, in clipped Brooklynese: "I have bad news. Ruth died. I believe she took her own life." End.
    So I less than grieved when Selma left, at very long last.  But writing of this in what is likely the ass end of my days is a waste of mental energy. Still, as Cary was likely wise about many things, it is probably good I hold some bad feelings.


As anyone knows who's known me long, a girls best friend may not always be her mother.  But mine was certainly the source of some of my best material (See:THE MOTHERLAND) unfortunately  published just at the moment Watergate happened, so no one had time for fiction.  She lives forever in Liz Smith's THE MOTHER BOOK, where, when Liz, New York's most popular and literate columnist wrote her congratulating her on my then new novel, responded that the book upset her so much she regretted "not committing infanticide."  That's who she was, crazy, original, funny, beautiful, with great legs, and no idea that a woman might be able to make it on her own at a time when that probably wouldn't have been possible anyway.  So she pretended to be less for a number of men, one of whom, Puggy,(so called because of his jaw) was smarter than anybody but she still beat him down.
     When they divorced she moved into a spacious apartment on E. 60th St., and when she panicked, being a child of the Depression (why do they capitalize it?) she sold everything for spit and moved into a one room on Central Park South, the wrong side-- the one without the view, in which she woke from a coma saying to me, eyes still closed: "You're not getting the apartment," but left it to me anyway.  I still celebrate her, and woke being glad it is her birthday, and sorry she isn't here.  
     I am particularly juiced because on this day at this late turn in my road I begin a new career.  A brilliant young artist and scholar of things I would never have known about, Tana Oshima, is making me a cartoon.  She is taking some of my tales, and moving them into a medium embraced by the young, who don't really read. A shame, probably, but how thrilling that I will be making my way into their eyes and possibly their brains, via such clever, contemporary fingers. 
    So Happy Birthday Mama.  May you live forever in some form or another as the original you were. Ballsy in the bargain.
     HERE IS THE STORY, carried into 2015, Mother's Birthday.