Thursday, April 28, 2016

A DINNER IN MANHATTAN, RIGHT AND WRONG

So my darling friend Pam of Melbourne, in New York by Divine Coincidence-- I can attribute it to nothing less, as I have not seen her for Australian Eons, and she is in the city at the same time as me, with a travel buddy-- and I had dinner with her, twice.  First time in a restaurant I thought I'd discovered happily last night, understood at eating there in an appropriate hour that the only reason I'd delighted in it was it had been the wrong time, so it was empty, second time in the restaurant just behind me on 58th street was the right one.  We had a good time and a good meal when we ate again.  I could leave this city chubby as I was as a girl, though arguably not with as much potential ahead of me.
       The weather here is saddening, overcast and dreary, though most people don't look up as they walk, transfixed or committed to sidewalk-gazing.  Tour buses go by with passengers who do a little routine as they wave by, looking as though they are having a good time so engaged.  I am having a difficult journey as all these years into Jack-study, I still don't know how to live in the moment.  The greatest pleasure for me is still my bird, who seems comfortable now with my presence, more or less gazing up at me sideways as I lean over to look inside her box.  The Angel Carleen said " And you thought you wanted a dog."
     Pretty funny.
     Am going to go this early evening to the Cy Coleman musical at the church I ogled and ear-gled on Sunday.  Cy was the nicest man in the music game after Yip Harburg, or maybe even alongside of him.  He was having a sex Affair(I cannot swear it was love) with Madelyn(maybe spelled line) Gottlieb who enjoyed getting hysterical.  When I was in the middle of writing my musical, ready to make any compromise to get it on, Cy was in an elevator I was standing in front of, and I urged him to step out.  Being more than kind and/or accommodating, he did, and I played him my musical.
"Write bigger endings," he said.  "If I came in on it I would tear the fabric of these numbers apart."  So I listened to him, wrote bigger endings, it still didn't get on, but I truly loved him-- in a creative context-- and he died anyway.  This early evening I will go to hear what became of that idea he had and didn't mind writing with another woman.  A really sweet man, and he did have rhythm.

           Well, I went, and it wasn't there.  That is to say, I went to the place where it was supposed to be put on, and it wasn't.  I'm sad and frustrated, and without a melody.  I walked home, and maybe that was good for me.  But song would have been better.   So I came home, and looked again carefully at the program.  It's next Spring.  Oh,well.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

AN OLD POEM RECOVERED

Understanding, as I have to now, though still unable to learn how to do the right print after all these years, that I may not be able to write/fully record all the memories I have while I still have them, I am trying to empty my desktop of some of the notes on them that may be of some meaning, if not value.  So I found this old pome, as I used to call them, as that sounded less affected; it is on a notepad from the Cipriani, the Great hotel(it deserved capitalization,) at least it was when managed by Natale Rusconi, arguably the greatest hotelier in Europe, if not the world, whom I had the privilege to call friend.
     So here it is.

     Free me of Ego
     Free me of Regret
     Teach me to forgive
     What I struggle to forget
     Raise me above
     Foolish earthly cares
     So I fly on a higher plane
     Than do the billionaires.
     Keep me aloft
     Loving, caring, soft
     Hold up my soul
     And make me whole.

I don't know.  It doesn't look as good as it did on that little pad when I still had my Bryn Mawr print going for me.
   I use to sit behind those girls who'd gone to finishing school and prep places where they'd learned to squarely primp on their pads, and wonder if I could ever seem as elegant as they were, albeit Jewish. That I ended up traveling the world, sometimes repping places in it, seemed, and probably was some kind of miracle, a kiss blown to me by the gods or goddesses of exploration, though they likely understood I was better off not attempting to plan what exactly was happening to me.  Just as right now, the little bird, a dove she apparently is, who is sitting on her eggs(two they are now) in my window box, has obviously become more comfortable with my presence, as she has turned so I can see her face, and her eye is toward me, looking, I would have to guess. I would show you but I don't yet know how to send the picture, though I have taken what are obviously a couple of splendid ones, one as she has stepped aside to show me her eggs-- "Look what I've done!" and the new posture today: "See, I can trust you, so I'm looking at you almost directly, instead of simply showing you my tail."
    Am off now to check out what there is of New York that I can access easily, as ambition, longing, exploration seems to be eluding me.  Maybe this will pass as the weather warms.  Living in California has apparently made me slothful.  Or at least less exploratory than I was.
    Or maybe that is just life itself, since I have been lucky enough to live so much of it.
    But on the simple side, the sneakers I bought yesterday were a weighty mistake.  I miss my Adidas.  Is there a poem in that?
   

    Oh my.  I just remembered.  Today is my Anniversary.  April 26, 1964, I married Don at the Plaza Hotel.  It was a Sunday-- it had to be: my mother was suing my father for child support, for me, and that was the only day he couldn't be served.  I was twenty-nine years old.  
    He owed her for all the years of child support he had been supposed to be paying her, between my twelfth and twenty-first years, which he hadn't done. To let you understand more about my father, he had moved to Arizona because his wife, to whom my mother had introduced him because she'd destroyed her first husband and Helen, Mom, assumed she'd do the same to Lew, my dad. Instead, they moved to Tucson to heal her allergies. 
   Mel Brooks, a good friend in my youth, said "A man moves to Tucson, looks around, says:'Who's the Mayor?  Nobody!  Okay, I'm the Mayor.'" Funny as Mel always was, but not exactly accurate.  But Lew might have looked around and become a Republican, because that was the party that could win.  He was never a Republican in Pittsburgh.  But then, in Pittsburgh he was never much of anything.  It was Helen, Mom, who got him a commission in the army during their separation-- she had worked her way up from a secretary to know everybody and got him officered and sent to Asia, Korea, someplace where he could send her money but didn't. That was usually his shortest suit. 

    There was a process server waiting outside the room we got married in at the Plaza, stationed there until it was midnight, when he would be able to hit my dad(I think I can call him)with the subpoena.
I brought the process server a glass of wine from the wedding.  Harry, my father-in-law, had brought us the wine, which he, as a restaurateur got us wholesale, and which might have been his gift, I can't remember.  But he was generous, albeit with a Bronx accent.
    As I remember, everybody had gone home long before midnight, so the summons was never served.  I don't think my father ever paid my mother back.  But then I don't imagine it ended up meaning that much to either of them, and certainly it couldn't now, as they're both long dead.  Selma, my father's second wife, to whom my mother had introduced him, imagining she'd kill him, I would guess, lived to 99.  As Cary Grant, to drop my favorite name, said: "Hate will keep you alive longer than love will."



  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME

So have come home(which I think I can call it, though I don't yet feel like I really live here) from a great lunch with my beautiful friend Pam from Melbourne, who's in town by Divine Coincidence, with her best friend.  We ate and wined and they were ready to take on more world, but I was already ready for uptown.  So I came back to the apartment.  And what should I find in my window box, but a second egg!  What does that mean?  I thought the first egg was the possible production of my comedy.  The second...?  Is it time for the Memoir?(hate the word.) 
        The prideful papa has just come back to the railing of my not-quite terrace, and he is perched there, tweeting.  I tried to come closer to better observe his feathers, to deeper determine the kind of bird he is, but my movement seemed to have frightened him away.   His bride is still resting comfortably in the box, warming the eggs, I guess sort of comfortable with my presence by now. 
         After a wonderful New York dinner, the kind of thing you can be grateful to New York for, trying to get past/over/beyond the endless sites of construction/guard against/repair that make up and mar the streets, realizing of course that what this city is all about is profit, I brought the gifted and generous actor/director Nick Corley back to see my bird.  Nick is that most unusual, unique thing in the theatrical world, or more probably anywhere: selfless.  I came to know him through an unexpected and lovely friendship with the wife of a noted producer who supported me in my creative theatrical efforts, who then turned away from me for reasons I didn't know or understand.  But Nick told me last night that she had been told I said I didn't need her anymore.
     Baffling.  I'd never said or thought any such thing.  Just had been puzzled by the abandonment, and given up trying to reconnect.  Other times in my life I'd actually lost whole communities, quite a feat for a woman more or less on her own, for example when my novel, Touching, had been the basis for the landmark libel suit in fiction, which is a saga I should probably write while I still can.  I'd gone to a nude encounter (Yes, really) at the tail end of the Sixties, and written a tale of a woman in midst of a marital crisis who'd attended.  I'd given the fictional practitioner a beard and a huge head of hair, the real Self-Aggrandizer conducting the thing, being bald and clean-shaven.  The practitioner sued me, claiming I'd looked on his Nude Encounter with a scathing eye (Really?)  The case took nine years to come to court, and by the time it did, Bindrim, the alleged doctor, had grown a gigantic beard, let the fringe of his hair grow long, wound it around his head and gotten a PhD from a mail order college in Westwood.  My lawyer had not prepared for court, as he'd considered the whole thing and the man himself a joke.
    The jury didn't understand what Fiction was, and was madder at me for going to a nude marathon than they were at him for conducting it. I lost.  My publisher, Doubleday, having defended it all the way to the Supreme Court on the basis of the First Amendment, when the Supremes, as I too blithely thought to call them, with the exception of Justices Brennan, Stewart and Marshall declined to hear it, then turned and sued me.  So I was a pariah, terrified, and borderline impoverished.  Not the right costume for a writer of what I hoped was sharp fiction.
    My husband, the nicest man in America, but a son of the Bronx where trouble was the side street, was devastated.  And I, a formerly bestselling author, was without a career.  Don Fine, a maverick publisher took me on a few lists down the road.  But he was more or less over, and so was I.  But that of course was when people still bought books, in stores, that were still open.
     Even writing this I can feel myself growing older, graver, and less joyful about being alive, with eggs underneath a bird on my sort-of sill.  I am going to quit now and get dressed and try and get into the matinee of a musical comedy.
    Good Lord!-- one day long ago that's who I was and what and who I wanted to become.  Today I am just grateful that a Morning Dove-- which is what she is, we looked it up, the advantage of having endured till the world was online-- is on my not-exactly sill.  And the sun is coming out.
      We'll see.


   

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

REMINISCENCE


        I am adding up what there is of my life.
I have never considered doing that before, because I never thought in terms of its ending.  I thought only in terms of failure and success.  Not living or dying.
         But here I am in New York on a truly glorious day, if one can define ‘glorious,’ by a radiant sky, patches of truly warm sun, and a crowd of enthusiasts screaming out their approval for those who could get into ‘Hamilton.’  There were hundreds of them I would venture, screaming out their enthusiasm for the fetching kind-of barker she was, the actress calling out the numbers of those who’d won in the raffle for who went inside to see the show.  It was probably as dramatic as what went on inside, on the stage.  There was no guy in the crowd as cute as she was.
         I hope one still find romance in New York.  I mean romance the way it used to be.  With a guy you were attracted to.  If you were a girl.
     Am I terrible?  I miss romance the way it used to be.  Where some words were exchanged that seemed friendly.  Wrist brushed against strangely electric skin.
      It is my hope that somewhere, maybe not exactly where I was, because to my surprise I am older, I who was, almost always, the youngest one, romance exists.  But except for what I have seen of a sort of passion, New York is still streets freckled with garbage.  Trucks waiting and cranes hauling up.  No place to come for peace.
       And yet that is exactly what I am seeking.  I have come to that point in my life where I no longer think about conquering.  I wanted nothing more once than a show playing on Broadway.  I had one once, and it failed, Opening Night, like in the bad comedies.  The same week I gave birth to my daughter.  My sweet, handsome husband drove with me back from the theatre to the hospital, after the last laugh.  It wasn’t there.
     Mel Brooks and his beautiful wife, the great actress Anne Bancroft, came with us in the cab.  “Well, you had two things happen tonight,” Mel said.  “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.”
          That was my life Ago.  I am trying to live in the present.  It’s hard.
          But I have a pigeon, or a small bird of  some kind—I am not a student of ornithology—is that birds?—on my window sill, in a flower box she nested in, on top of an egg.  We are expecting a chick.
       I can hardly wait.  I take it to mean We Have a Future.

   

Thursday, April 14, 2016

STAR DIARY

I am in New York, having issues of memory loss. I can remember 
so many things that were wonderful here, so many things.  I am thinking perhaps what I have forgotten it would be better to forget. My father beat my mother up here, he who became Mayor of Tucson.  My mother threw up down on West End Avenue, getting drunk when he didn't get home, this woman who later conquered almost Kings.  Turning into a bad Fairy Tale.  So much dark stuff. 
      Do you mind if I share the difficult part?  I am hoping it I leave it all here, nothing will be left but the pretty stuff.  The old lady who might have been the adorable girl, the one who had no idea how much was in her, how much she had to offer, if she could only find someone to accept.  This woman who was hiding in her.
      It is easy to see if she leaves herself behind.  She has no way to stay, special as she might have seemed, though difficult.  She had no choice, but to do what she was inspired to.  Because she really seemed inspired, at least to herself.  For a while, anyway.  Till she came in contact with the Greats.  And some of them really Were. Gregory Peck, Cary Grant.  Not quite Marilyn Monroe, but almost. 
Marilyn offed herself just as the picture started being filmed.  Shirley MacLaine did the movie.  Not quite Shirley MacLaine.
       And suddenly she saw what she was supposed to.  At least what she thought what she was supposed to.  Life, passing before her eyes.  The little three year-old-boys in the park kicking soccer balls.  Or at least trying to learn to, nannys with their tissues ready to wipe, the just-out-of-diapers charges, clinging to the nanny's  skirts.
      A spectacular day: the sun shining on blossoming trees.  Black scarves across the faces of hooded Muslim women.  What the world has been on its glorious days, and the shadow on it.
      I miss all of you whom I really know, and those I just think I know, but maybe haven't a clue.  I do know a couple like that: mysterious celebrities.  But best are those with the open hearts.  The couple I met in the park today.  The handsome older pair on the bench, thinking up words for a wedding gift.  They'd lived together a long time in the town where I went to school: Darien, Connecticut.  Don't like Jews, really.  We were mostly Jewish students.  So the residents closed their curtains when we walked into town.
      And we did that often.  Once we did it when we heard they were in the railway station filming a scene from Gentlemen's Agreement, the big bestseller about anti-Semitism in America.  We went there to see. 
      Everybody got there when the train was pulling out but me.  I sat on the bench weeping, having missed my moment in life.  I was eleven.  Then it turned out the train had pulled in too far for the scene so they had to re-shoot it. And I was the only one who got to say hello to Gregory Peck.  He signed his autograph against my shirt.  I never washed it again.
        Then when I became a bestselling author, had a novel called The Pretenders, the popular singing group named themselves after it.  I didn't find that out until many years later, but it made me happy.  When something makes you happy many years later, it's real. 
     As a bestselling author, in an era when people were really reading, I was invited to all the Hollywood parties.  And I got to officially meet Gregory Peck.  He really was Gregory Peck.  A great gentleman, as smart as he was handsome.  We became true friends.  I was his date at a dinner party for him when I was living in Paris, writing travel for the Wall Street Journal Europe, never imagining it would ever end.
        So I think mine might have been a good story.  Even though the most of the stars that were in it aren't here to play themselves: even though I'm having trouble remembering some of the names: Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant.  All of them Great Names in their Day.  I capitalize them because they're important.  At least they were to me.

          And I hope also to you.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

A REASON TO BE IN BEVERLY HILLS

So in spite of an uncommemorated (spelling wrong but at my bend of the road, who cares) ordeal, I am still alive, and ready to do what I have to do, a privilege really.  I would mark what it is, but have to maintain confidentiality as there are some crazy people in the world besides Donald Trump, though he does know how to attract attention and seem nuttier than most.
   But I have come across some old REPORTS and am planning on collecting them, as they seem truly lively, when the people in them were also still here.  On the current scene, however, I have just had coffee (and part of a croissant) with arguably the most great-hearted person in Beverly Hills, Ellen Feder, the current head of Share who is pulling it all together, with no thought of Self, in the capital of Self Itself.
    So in her honor, I am including this old Report.
     Here 'tis.

"LAURUSCHKA, LAURUSCHKA!" John Ireland called out at Laurence Harvey's funeral, as he spoke his very loving memorial speech.  Larry, which you were allowed to and probably supposed to call him if you were friends, which we were, and close, had not lived that long, especially if you were as lively and bright as he had been, causing everyone around to have imagined it was closer to his beginning than his end.  His funeral was star-studded, when such events were truly that, since there had still been so many stars.  
The church was in Westwood, Episcopal as I remember, which likely would have made Larry laugh, or at least snicker, --what he was was a Lithuanian Jew.
      We had become real friends, even though it was Hollywood, starting with everyone's going to Las Vegas for Liza Minnelli's opening, --at the Riviera, as I remember.  And Larry was the wittiest one, handsome and articulate and dashing, and we had become true friends, no kidding, even though it was Hollywood.  Also in the close crowd was Cass Elliott, as bright as she could sing great, and not so secretly hoping for love underneath the enormity.  Though she was not part of the excursion on the plane, private as I remember.  Or at least totally booked to carry invitees, who included Peter Bogdonavich and his then seemingly great love, Cybill Shepherd. It was truly a star-studded adventure, or at least star-speckled.  And when it was all over, the Vegas part, we, Larry and Don and I had remained true... as I remember,  Glorious friends.
         Larry had a home atop a beautiful  street off Coldwater Canyon-- the computer just tried to change that to Goldwater, so either it is Jewish or from Arizona-- where we would go and wine and cheese, and where we first met Cass.  She was not so close to Larry as we became, and I cannot remember if she was at his funeral.  But I do remember John Ireland, crying out from the Episcopal altar: "Lauruschka, Lauruschka."
      Most of all I remember Elizabeth Taylor, who stood at the back of the church handing out tiny memorial bouquets to the women as they left, violets the color of her eyes.  It was the first time I had seen her up close in person, the only other time in Las Vegas when she had whisked by me, shorter than I had imagined, on her way back to Richard Burton, who was, apparently, more than tall enough for her, in addition to whatever else he had been.
Now she was alone, and violet-eyed, at the back of the church, colorful albeit inappropriate for what and who Larry really was. 
      Elizabeth and I became really good friends, or at least how 'really' you could be in Hollywood when someone wants to work with you, which, to my great joy she did, having fallen in love with my then new novel THE MOTHERLAND, about my mother, apparently a greater character on the page than Elizabeth was in person.  Elizabeth wanted very much to play her, which almost made my mother forgive my having written it.  But Elizabeth's enthusiasm no longer coincided with her fundability, so it never materialized.  But our friendship did, or seemed to, and much of my time was spent in her house, rented from another actor who couldn't decorate either.
     She told me many tales of her visions, dreams she had starring other major players, ghostly summonses from dead other stars.  Apparently she trusted me, or maybe she was just lonely, and disappointed that even though she'd read and loved my novel, there was no getting it going as a movie.  I think my mother sorrowed over that non-happening as well, although she'd told the columnist Liz Smith that its publication had made her regret not having committed infanticide.
      So the months went by with my spending a lot of my time in that house, with its aluminum-foiled walls in the bedroom, where Elizabeth spent much of her time reflecting on herself, being in one of her bedridden periods.  She was loved by Max Lerner, the very smart New York Post columnist, who she said was in love with her, but then, as she also said "Who wasn't?"  Well, certainly who wasn't was Richard Burton, with whom she was often on the phone, and to whom she was apparently sending money so he could court Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia.  No relation.
       A sad woman.  Empty.  But then of course she had never had to be full of anything, the outside was so impressive.  That she is still so beauteous and bejeweled in some of the windows of Beverly Hills makes me less than sorrowful that she is dead, as the reality was no longer dazzling enough for her, and as we know she was taking on apprentice-lovers, and Michael Jackson event attendees.
      But I am grateful for having known her, and fond of her including me in those evenings, one of which resulted in my having gone to Mexico, the wrong side, for the making of Lucky Lady.  That's a real story. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

WHO IS THERE TO LOVE?

Wrote three blogs today, trying to remember and commemorate things in my life that seemed to matter, good and bad. Struggling to feel joyful.  'Tis a hard time, between what is happening to the world, our country and our souls, and still thinking I could use language like 'tis'.   A really hard time, exacerbated by having gone where it was I went yesterday, Catalina for the day, imagining I could not have lived here without ever having visited an island I wasn't even that aware was there.  
    It really isn't.  Not since the Thirties.  Pictures of Humphrey Bogart young.  If you can imagine.
   So I found this old piece I wrote that I am incorporating into my current feelings to give you some idea how low I am.  Here 'tis.
That's twice now.
    Had at once a good and bad experience today, reading a bit of my old novel, SILK LADY, which they expected at Warner Books would be a big hit, and wasn’t.  They dropped support of it immediately when it didn’t get the action they thought it would, all except for a couple of TV hostesses who had me on and were sassy.  I was stunned today at how good it was, and don’t imagine I could write anything like that again. Know I couldn’t.  Haven’t the tenacity.

      Real instances of sharp experiences were in it, transformed and with changed names, where Tandy Dickerson, a name I couldn't make up and wouldn't dare use, it sounds so improbable, the mistress of  Tongsun Park, a Korean who owned a private club in D.C. where all the big, overpaid parties I attended, jumped over a table and seized another woman by the throat. I fictionalized his name in my novel as Hiro Takeda.  He was a Superstar in D.C.  A Korean, I believe.  A thief, I am sure. Nobody was afraid to accept favors then, and everybody, or almost everybody, was ready to have a good time no matter what the cost was, as long as it wasn’t to them.   I was friendly with Republicans.  Living in their homes.  Close friends: the husband of one from Bryn Mawr in government office, an honest man who loved his country.  It was hard for me to believe such a fine fellow could run with those he did, actually admiring and hanging out with Donald Rumsfeld.  Power corrupts goes the saying.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Yet he never did anything that seemed other than American.  He loved his country visibly.
      The sister of Dear Abby, a darling woman, was at that party, and as I remember, accepted an actual carved wooden table to be sent to her home from Tongsun.  It’s strange and interesting, in a sad way, that SILK LADY didn’t happen, as it was really sharp and on the nose of all the bullshit that was happening in D.C. and NYC at that time.  Another novel was written a couple of years later on the same subject by the very successful but shallow writer whose name I can’t remember .  I am having a hard time with names at the moment except for Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, and Don.
I am not sure that I have in me anymore the tenacity to write a novel, the sticktuitiveness to endure, or the energy to prevail.  All of that, I suppose, is contained in 'tenacity.'  It is curious how, at this juncture, the construct of words, which I never worried about, is interesting to me.
I am grateful to be quietly interested in something at this time that requires my full attention and some action, as a part of me in my spirit is lying down.  There is a terrible sadness about our country right now.  That a man like Trump could seem a serious candidate—that is to say, that people could actually be serious about him, besides people who are neither uneducated, desperate nor crazy—I don’t know if you can have more than two options with ‘neither’—frightens me.  When I believed in reincarnation—you have to understand, I thought I had been friends with Benjamin Franklin and it felt really good,  I am afraid if he were around now he would be grieving for our country.  Our planet.  Our souls.