Tuesday, October 06, 2015


So I went last night to my generous and gifted friend Nick Corley's musical he directed, for young people, which I no longer am.  It was in the what I have to call loft of what is clearly a church, except where we were was simple, comfortable, and made me really happy to be there, especially when I heard the first song-- something that made me believe again in stage musicals.  It was a"young people's musical," about Marco Polo, and I was excited and optimistic, as I rarely am about anything these days.  This is a world where Donald Trump has a significant role, so I am not that unhappy at the prospect of leaving it.  
      Nor am I sad not to be mentioned in today's big piece in The New York Times about contemporary writers who are going to update Shakespeare plays.  Shakespeare was my major, and good friend at Bryn Mawr, and I had what I believe was a fling with him.  When I go into Central Park, as I do whenever I am in New York, something I suspect I will do less and less as the world gets crazier and scarier, I spend time with his statue, around which he probably hovers as his ego was doubtless as big as his talent, and that, I don't think, really completely dies.  Even when it comes in an overrated package as it does with Erica Jong.  Or the other woman writer whose name I will not mention for fear of starting a race war, a woman who was once a close friend, when I didn't know any better.
      There was a magnificent piece on TV last night where Barack Obama spent time talking with prisoners in jail and the wonderful Cory Booker I think his name is, unsure because before last night I wasn't paying enough, if any, attention.  I now like Obama better than I have in a very long time if ever, as I can see his intelligence, which I almost always did, but more clearly his suffering, which I didn't.  Also I could see his pain at not having had a father except for a period of a month when he was ten.  It is a miracle that he is not more shattered.  I am visibly shattered myself having HAD a father, since he was so disappointing, and, when it could do him the most good, became a Republican.
     Anyway, back to the church where Nick held his tryout presentation-- it was on 86th Street, my old neighborhood, West End Avenue.  I went to P.S.9 on 82nd Street, and apparently came no further uptown, as I didn't even know this church was there.  P.S.9 was the great school of its time, and when I was accepted into the Hunter school for gifted children I think we were, at the end of 6th grade, I made the decision to stay where I was, with the wonderful Mrs. Schatteles, a true educator.  I hope there is a Heaven so she gets to read this, or her relatives, who contacted me when I put her in one of my novels are, so they know my esteem was not frail or passing.  Everything I became or wanted to become was because of my education.  It is still the thing that matters most, I believe, and am sorrier at the loosening of my memory grips than the falling of my tits.
     When I lived in that neighborhood, we were in an apartment on West End Avenue, where my mother would lean out of the window to throw up when she got drunk because she was sure my father was cheating.  I am stunned at remembering all this, especially as I didn't put it in what were many closely observed personal moments in my novels, that are very much come to an end now, I'm sure.  Not that it matters that much, but I do want to clear my brain as well as my desk, for what I hope will be a Last Hoorah or Last Alas.
    And what I write, if I do, as I want to, is a memoir, though I hate the word.  It seems to me pretentious, and ugly, something that sticks in the throat.  So I have found a better categorization for it, and that is Thymsies, I think it's spelled, the Greek word for Themes. Everything we are linguistically, I believe, is probably from the Greek.  
    That isn't the title, though.  I'm saving that, it's so good, I don;t want to take the chance of anyone's stealing it.   Talk to you later.

Monday, October 05, 2015


I have had to turn my Vanity Fair cover down, so I don't have to see who's on it.  Much as I love some people who work on and guide that fine magazine, I cannot bear to see what's on the cover, it offends me so.  Even to write the name of the person on it catches in my craw.  The emptiness of the eyes, the total nothingness of the persona, makes me sad for what's happened to the world, that someone like that could actually capture what is left of the world's attention.  Even to write his name catches in my spiritual craw, it is so repellent.  
    I am reminded of the death of a great and tragic woman singer not that long ago when he actually volunteered comments to the press even though he didn't know her, because he imagined he mattered. It is like watching the marathon of Homeland, a program that actually seemed smart and well cast till you looked at those people over and over and over again and longed for Claire Danes when she was young, being Juliet, and would stop holding her eyes so wide open, and Mandy Patinkin when he was singing. What has the world come to that along with maniacs who shoot people for not even particularly insane reasons,--just to shoot-- we have the talentless, pointless, and mindless making their way into and onto one of the few great publications that seems to be surviving? It was hard to deal with the fact that the great Mike Nichols' farewell from almost everybody that mattered had to be in a publication with a boob on the cover.
      Is it just that I've gotten old?  The most brilliant woman I knew at the inarguably great woman's college I went to, just saw Hamilton and didn't like it, so I am afraid to go.  Not that I have to worry, as I can't get a ticket.  But I saw In the Heights, the writer-composer's last highly lauded show, and thought it over-rated.  So I am afraid that even when I might be able to go, I might be disappointed.  The second smartest woman I know heard from her smartest friends that it wasn't that good, so I am no longer engaged in a struggle to see it, especially as I was offended at the very rich woman who controlled ticket sales making it hard even for those who had stood on long lines and had money, so apparently arrogant that she didn't even bother to list it. 
      When I arrived here, it was the end of summer, and my air conditioner broke.  I was full of fear.  My building is one of the last of the Greaties,  New York being taken over by all these too tall, unlovely, excessive things that Bloomberg let start to happen, probably because he has a hand in the cost of their construction.  The building where Marlon Brando lived when he was beautiful, as it was, has been obscured by cheesy, overbuilt things that you cannot even say have a facade, because that would have the double meaning that they were pretentious, which they don't even bother to be.  I was worried, because of how incredibly expensive I guessed the air conditioner would be to replace.
     Then, overnight, the weather changed! It grew cold and rainy, and air conditioners were over for the year-- outre! And I thought: could it be that God loves me?  First the Pope comes and everybody is nice, with the exception of course of Putin, and then the weather changes!  
     So even if I can't get a ticket to the hot show, I am comfortable in my own skin.  Sadly of course when I look out my terrace window-- I am calling it a terrace though what it really is is a little metal balcony that anyone in their right mind would be afraid to step onto-- what I see are girders and ladders and ropes and metal constructs and everything that dangles and obscures.  But on one of the buildings that is mirrored, I can see a reflection of the sky.
And from one of the girders in the near distance hangs a head that looks like Mickey Mouse's.  Or maybe that's just someone committing suicide.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


So 'The Blue Unconconscious' by Jackson Pollock that I slept under all through Cherry Lawn (where Mike Nichols went) and Bryn Mawr, is proof, hopefully, for the nice people who are trying to validate an untitled painting they own of Pollock's.  They don't want me to name them, as they fear being annoyed by fraudulent attention seekers, or, maybe worse, real ones who might claim ownership or that they don't.  
     It is hard being here back East (not sure if you capitalize it when it's general, and having written about Bryn Mawr recently, I want to be correct.) Almost everybody I know here is gone or away(in both senses,) and the new people I meet seem unsure about me, except for the brilliant young lady doctor who almost immediately invited me to her coming soon wedding to a Japanese-in-origin financier who looks very handsome in his picture.  I am excited to be going to it, as I of course loved her for being so trusting, since I know she's right: I'm not going to hurt anybody, and I am fun.
     But cities are strange: I have lived for a fairly long time in Beverly Hills, the wrong side of Wilshire and have made very few friends outside of my beauty salon, where labors the gifted, long-time buddy Dusty, and the wonderful sister of my best friend who dropped me, she doesn't remember why.  Life gets stranger as you get older, lucky to be alive, especially when you are used to being the youngest one, as I was on Melwood Street in Pittsburgh, where I said The Gettysburg Address when I was two years and three months old (WHAT?) and Bryn Mawr College where I wrote most of the songs in Junior Show at eighteen, and had the comedy lead.  You get used to having the youngest mindset in your crowd, a diminishing blessing as your crowd gets smaller.  Hardly anyone remembers as much as I do, a gift which, like your gang, gets smaller.
      Marilyn Muir Pfaltz, the one in my class who remembers more, has instructed me to write these things somewhere I don't lose them, and my new dazzlingly kind friend, Mike Brown,  from the Apple store who is also a first-class bass player, has told me to do them in Word, which I am unused to, so if you like them, kindly look for them there, as I will try to remember to do that.  It was hard losing the first one I did, as I can think of no more glittering name to drop even now than Marlon Brando when he was thin.  Well, maybe not thin, but at least spare and muscular.  And God knows he was sexy, though not so much when his joint fell out of his pants when they were making that movie in Paris.  
      I passed an Andy Warhol store either in my dream or on a nearby street where I am now(Manhattan, 57th Street) and saw Elizabeth Taylor at the great height or maybe fairly short of her beauty, and remembered when she wanted to be my friend, so she could do THE MOTHERLAND as a movie, though it was already too late in her game.  Richard Burton was on the phone, borrowing money while schtupping Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, and Henry I think it was What's His Name, that second-hand car salesman, was in the bedroom.  Max Lerner, the great political writer, too liberal to stay employed, was in love with her, as were most men of any or too little sense.  She was not very bright, but read more than anybody, something for which I, certainly, was grateful, as I wrote as much or probably more than possible.  She also ate more than was good for her and her future, and I was tempted to spit on her food as I loved her, in the right way for a woman, and wanted her to have a future, probably including my work, which never happened.  But she did invite me to her parties, where she always came late, was overdressed and over-made-up. And it was at one of those that I saw Liza Minnelli whom I knew only slightly but immediately on entering came straight over to me and invited me to Guaymas in Mexico, where she was about to make Lucky Lady, that everyone thought would be the great hit of its day. Wrong.  George Segal, who'd been at Haverford, with whom I'd been infatuated when I was at  Bryn Mawr, and seemed about to be the great star of his day, was supposed to co-star, but dropped out because of drugs and was replaced by Gene Hackman who didn't intend to become a star but was too talented not to.  Stanley Donen, allegedly a great director, failed completely and was a jerk, but married Elaine Nichols anyway, so nobody loses all the time.
     I see where I have once again written this in the wrong place, will try not to lose it, and next time will do it in Word, in the beginning where there was one of.  Go in Peace.  The Russians are Coming.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


So I have come to believe, as you know if you know me, and now, even if you don't, in the presence of signs.  As I had returned to New York after a surprisingly long lifetime that seems quite short, at the same time as the city was opening what there is of its heart to the Pope, it seemed a strong indication it might be a good idea to give a shot to living here.  That very night, the presence of a large waterbug in my apartment, more graphically on my cheek, seemed a stronger sign it wouldn't.
    But having made it through a night or two in another apartment the very kind manager of the building put me in, probably more practically avoiding a lawsuit from my heirs at my death from a heart attack, I have experienced a most pleasant day with a sweet family from Long Island who believe themselves to be the owner of a Jackson Pollock discovered in a garage, and came to me for further authentication.  My mother, as you may remember if you knew her or read my would-have-been-bestseller, THE MOTHERLAND, was married to a wonderful man, Saul Schwamm, nicknamed "Puggy" for the thrust of his underbite, and a certain contentiousness, a man she didn't appreciate enough, whose close friend was Clement Greenberg, who got him to help out the artist Jackson Pollock by buying THE BLUE UNCONSCIOUS, which I slept under all through vacations from Bryn Mawr when I came home to their Park Avenue apartment.  Puggy was the only one of their crowd who had a great heart and a bank account to match, as he and his brother, being two young men on Wall Street that no established firm would hire as they were Jews, had taken an ad in The New York Times on the day Roosevelt closed the banks, saying "Business will be conducted as usual in the offices of Schwamm & Co." So all the trading that took place that day had to be done through them, they made a fortune and were even more despised. 
      The painting, 8x12 feet, was turned on its side so it could hang above where I slept, my mother saying when critiqued for hanging it on its side, "What difference does it make?"  My mother was probably not as colorful as Jackson Pollock, and certainly did not turn out to be as valuable, or maybe that was just a question of timing, as my editor at Simon and Schuster, Michael Korda, had said of my novel,"As far as I am concerned, this is the only book we are publishing this Spring," but obviously forgot about ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, so nobody gave a rap about Fiction.  Timing of course is everything.
      Anyway this darling family whose name I will not mention because they are afraid of being sought out by the wrong people before their exciting discovery can be auctioned off and sold for the fortune it will obviously bring if authentic, invited me to lunch with them.  The father, a really sweet man who has no business being as knowledgable as he is about art except that he has researched his heart out, and his heart is infinitely bigger than his vocabulary,  has discovered more than most humans have a right to know, but the ways of the world are mysterious, and the ways of the Internet are beyond anything we can imagine except electronically.  So it was that he found me, and, even more astoundingly, found out so much about me including pictures from my youth and my once bestsellerdom that were so pretty I had great difficulty though a lot of pleasure recognizing myself.  Amazing.  I must quickly write another book so I can exploit me while I am still alive.
   At the same time I have made a connection with an incredibly pretty and brilliant dermatologist on East 57th Street who saved me from what felt like might-have-been-fatal allergy attack suffered in the apartment the manager moved me out of where I thought I would tear my finger off.  I don't know if you've ever had an itchy finger that wasn't in a Humphrey Bogart movie where he wanted to shoot someone and it was just an expression, but I did really think I was going to die.  The doctor's office, fortuitously, is right next to a temporary store raised for the temps into a Halloween shop, so when I went in there during the time I had to wait for my follow-up appointment, had no choice but to buy the Dorothy outfit from Wizard-of-Oz, as my best friend in the creative world was Yip Harburg, the lyricist who wrote SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW and all the rest of the wonderful songs in that movie and many many others not so well commemorated because nobody listens to words anymore as if you could hear them the way the music is now.  Yip and I walked through Central Park one day when I still hoped to get a musical on, and I sang him some of my songs, and he said of the lyrics, "As good as any that have ever been written," but of course he is long gone, as is that hope.  Still, I had no choice today but to buy the Dorothy costume, and now I have to find someplace to go on Halloween.  Oh, and P.S., they didn't have the Dorothy wig so I had to order that, as costly with the postage as it would be to fly to Kansas, as I wasn't sure where I would be when, doing what for Halloween.  Any ideas?

Monday, September 21, 2015


So I have been having problems with Memory, that which was strongest in my history, since I could say the Gettysburg Address when I was two years old and three months.  That made me a source of entertainment in Pittsburgh, as even those who did not like children enjoyed a little-over-theinfantstage who could rant the words of Abraham Lincoln, still a hero in this country then and maybe even after it has gone into the garbage can with those it admires, among whom, horrifically, has come Donald Trump.  I am as frightened as I am appalled, as even though I am sure(almost, PLEASE!) that will not amount to anything really serious, it is more serious than it ought to be, that it is still a source of news.
     I had thought to be moving back to New York for the Fall, which is definitely the season outside, for which I have had to don a serious sweater.  But my apartment in the chic and well-placed Hampshire House, on Central Park South, left me by my mother, has been invaded by water-bugs, and I don't care that they're not dangerous, they creep me out. I want to go home.
     The problem is, I am not sure where home is.  For a short while I thought it was Amsterdam.  But then the lovely Fiona came for a visit to me there from Belfast, and after two days and a swish through most of the canals, she said "Well,  I believe we've seen Amsterdam." As suggestible as I am fun to be with, I think, I accepted that as a judgement, and came back to the United States which it still seemed to be then, and tried to re-begin my life in California, which, as you know if you follow the weather reports, is burning up and getting ready to break off.  But there are still a few people I love there, and a wonderful Russian I think he is, who fixes my sunglasses, which also break with some regularity.  Also I have a son and a couple of grandsons, still somewhat surprising to me, as I was always the youngest, making my ability to say the Gettysburg Address phenomenal, as was my graduating from Bryn Mawr, a college I still revere and actually love, the view from the top of Senior Row still unchanged, even though the institution may have altered drastically, though it is still for only women, though they, too, may have altered drastically.  As I am Hungarian on my mother's side, Grandma Gussie being the most heroic and loving of my forebears, the Gypsy in my soul and heel still in charge, my wanderlust is genetic, and strong.  Every time I get on a plane I think my destination may be permanent.  Thus far it never has been, though the plot in Westwood next to or on top of my loving Donnie likely will be, unless of course Westwood breaks off in the next quake. 
    I was genuinely excited to be moving back to New York, until, alas, the invasion of the bugs, as a part of me is a committed mystic, believing in signs.  And waterbugss, though allegedly not poisonous or dangerous, could not be more repellent.  And having had one of them crawl up onto my big toe as I tried to start writing something at my desk could not have been a clearer indication that this is not the place for me.
     Once, not all that long ago, I thought Bali was, but that, of course was more than a little romantic, except for the hard-edged fact that my favorite friend, Sandra Burton, had been murdered there, her head bashed in by her lover, hardly the word I would have used to describe him, the shit, who got away with it by paying off everybody you need to pay off in Bali, and then having the gall to speak at her memorial in New York, given by Time Magazine, for which she had been the first woman international reporter.  I still love and miss her and hope he has not gotten a job, which he all but asked for aloud from the podium, if that's what it was, that place at the head of the room. "Things were so great between Sandy and I" he had the balls to say, not even knowing correct grammar.  Unresolved killings of wonderful friends are something I find hard to deal with, especially as I had had lunch with her the day before and she had rejoiced in our time together having resolved some creative issues about the book she was writing, sending me a long letter with the information included that I still have, and would like to put on the headstone of her killer.
   So here I am, on a cool day in the temperature sense that exemplifies Autumn in New York, a great song by Vernon Duke, who chased me around my parents' bedroom when I was twenty, not minding that I was fat, only caring that I was young.  I had so much privilege of the creative kind as that kid, Yip Harburg being a beloved friend who believed in me and my lyrics, the gift I had that I thought would be central to my future, songs I sang to him as we walked through Central Park on a day that was almost as clear and lovely as this one.  "As good a lyric as any I've heard," he said, after about seven songs, all of which he praised.  "I wish I'd written that," he said of the last.  And then there was Frank Loesser, who listened to my songs, said, "Kid, you're the biggest talent since me," then seduced me, and naked on my piano bench sang songs from his as yet unproduced musical, The Most Happy Fella.
     Well, clearly I've had an interesting life.  Hope it continues for a good while longer, though I still have to figure out where.  Any ideas?

Thursday, September 10, 2015


So I have returned to New York, making my first true, concerted attempt to actually live here, if only for several months.  I will confess to having had an actual sense of dread, as in a Poe story.  Considering that I lived at 255 West 84th St. in my childhood, and on that building is mounted a plaque now (and was only whispered of then) reading that on that site, when he wrote The Raven, lived Edgar Allen Poe, it seems fitting, if slightly re-located.
     I always imagined that I had been consigned there by a capricious Destiny, though I probably didn't yet know the word 'capricious.'   I am sure I knew 'Destiny,' as it was probably all that sustained me, believing I would be inspired by Poe's spirit, (coming from the same word base as inspiration.)  That conviction oozed over the edges of memory, as I imagined, while my parents were beating each other up in the next room, and I tried writing songs as a balance, that I had been consigned there as part of my artistic heritage.
      Today I actually wrote what could be the beginning of a novel, if novels still have a place in the world as it seems still to exist, in spite of your not being able to call up the musicals on/off Broadway or find them in the theatre listings if they are a hit, and don't give a shit, in which the word 'hit' is contained.  Trying to go see 'HAMILTON', the enormous hip-hop-hit that is now on Broadway, I could not even call up its listing or find it in the listings of shows, which Isobel, my girlfriend from youth and the wife of my beloved lost lawyer  Ron who supported and made my deals for me in beginninghood, explains to me they do not even bother to list because they are making so much money they do not care to or have to spend what it would cost to list them. Sigh.  And it is the same world in which Donald Trump is actually being considered a serious(WHAT?) candidate for president.  I am not sure what I am doing here, having gone to Bryn Mawr, growing up to believe the world was an actual place.