Monday, January 26, 2015

DOG FOR A DAY

Clearly there was nothing to keep me from being happy, in this apartment on a sunny street with trees while all the rest of the planet shivers or cowers, but a doggie.  You who knew Mimi, or Happy, can clearly remember what incredible dogs they were, the terrible loss in Paris where, if you have to go, you might as well go in one of the best hotels, or the shocking and unexpected bereavement in New York, where Mimi had her hair done to look her best for the doctor, and then he killed her.  It was not an easy road, the one of Loss, including a caring, supportive and handsome husband, whipped away young.  But always, or at least usually... there was a dog.
      So having finally settled, I think, in this pleasant apartment on a street that nobody knows is here, so one can be quiet and contained. and there are adorable neighbors sharing the front porch who were ready to put up a wire fence so my new dog would not go through the gaps in the railing, I got one.  Darling she was, with great black eyes that followed me to see if I was going to neglect or abuse her.  And I did neither.   And in the night I stroked her belly to soothe her, and probably myself, as it has been a long time since I was able to really live in the moment, although the moments have been empty enough to dwell in.  But I, strangely, have not been empty enough.  That's a lie. It's my circumstances that have not been empty enough.  But I can't write about them here, or at least not yet.
     Suffice it to say that the little girl, MimiDos I named her, was not Mimi #1.  Of course it would have taken a while to help her become anyone.  But look what happened with my children.  I couldn't take another chance.  Besides which I had the help and support of arguably the planet's best person besides Carleen and Amber, Ellen Feder, who no wonder they made her the head of Share, there's nothing she won't take on.  She of course made me think I should keep this new little dog, and for some moments I did, not counting the minutes I wiped up the doggiepuke on the new rug. But afterwards I understood that it was not the love of an animal that I missed but the love of anything-- it has been a really lonely time.  Beverly Hills, though clearly the most physically comfortable and privileged place on the planet at the present time, is curiously more empty than New York where you can make yourself feel a little better because you know there's one child down the hall who would talk to you if her door were open, or Jeannie in the basement taking care of everything, or Cerene coming to change the sheets and bless you.  Beverly Hills would be a great setting for a murder mystery where no one knew the victim was dead.  
     Ellen drove me back to the pet store where they had all these creatures from the shelter, and it was their decision that I should return MimiDos completely.  And it was the right one.  It was not so much a dog I really loved as the dog I had lost.  Mimi was taken from me while we were still in the throes of our youth.  Or at least one of us thought we were.
    Fortunately I do, I think, love life as much as the life I had lost, though perhaps not so much at the present moment, before it fills with activities and creativity and the things that make life Life.  As for MimiDos, somebody will take her and give her a home, and it will likely be a happy one.
     May the same be the outcome for me.  Wait!  That sounds a little like self-pity.  All I really need is a good bath and a grooming.
    

ENRICO'S WAS NEVER LIKE THIS

So although turned off by the actor Christophe Waltz who won the Academy Award which was apparently given him for over-acting, I went to see Big Eyes, being an admirer of Amy Adams who also managed to disappoint.  But oh, there was San Francisco in the time of Enrico's, where I used to more than hang out, with a man in a beret playing him, and everything except Sue Stanley, my irascible and wonderful friend from Paris, who married him.  I have no idea what happened to her, though of course must assume she is no longer with us, as she was older even when young.
     Sue was in the forefront of performers who wanted to sing my song 'Sex,' written when I was an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr, sung in a shaking voice at the behest of Janice Mars to Marlon Brando when he was thin and beautiful and in an apartment in Carnegie Hall.  That was the summer Marlon starred in and directed Arms and the Man at the Falmouth Playhouse, where he was terrible.  He never could do comedy.
      I visited Janice there, and roomed with Maureen Stapleton, as brilliant offstage as she was on, though already drunk as she was kind.  Janice, like everyone, wanted to sing SEX but I was hanging on to it waiting for its great sale to a major star which would have been Lena Horne except when she was rehearsing it to sing at the Waldorf, a friend came in and said "That's a great number.  I heard Rose Hardaway do it last night at the Apollo."  So that ended that, as Lena didn't know she was black.
     Rose Hardaway was a gorgeous black woman who came every night to the Mars Club in Paris where I was singing my songs, and said about SEX, "Chile, that's a great number.  Everybody in this business going to cheat you and lie to you.  But I'm telling you the truth.  I'm stealing your song."  I of course thought she was kidding.
It was a colorful time in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS AT LAST!!!

So after and including a lifetime of not being taken seriously by Academe, I have made it into what I have to assume, --perhaps mistakenly, but who's going to call me on it?-- an academic journal, but in Spanish.  I am attaching the article for those of you who are bi-lingual, or bi-anything, hoping that the content, which I think I understand, but how long has it been since I was that fluent? -is not too unflattering to me, and/or is at least fair.
     In my youth, which to my surprise is considerable time ago, after the really supportive educational part (Bryn Mawr) and the glory of Paris where I sang my songs in the Mars Club-- which led Gene Kelly to ask the agent Elliott Kastner: "Is she a white woman?"-- I went for my Master's degree in Creative Writing at Stanford (under Wallace Stegner who they did not tell me till after I had paid my unrefundable tuition was on sabbatical,) where I shared classroom experience and a lot else with Ken Kesey, who was soon to author One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. 
     Kesey and I shared adventures, my first joint, which he introduced me to, --not unlike Gene Kelly showing me how to dance,-- and a grim vigil on the hillside outside San Quentin protesting and hoping to avert the execution of Caryl Chessman, a rapist who had used his imprisonment to become an educated and (it seemed) sensitive soul.  Marlon Brando, still thin, irresistible and the biggest star in the world was there, ("Do you mind if I take a leak?" he asked the reporters who followed him alongside the water, as he announced that if he failed to save Chessman he and his attorney had succeeded in getting an agreement for him to star in a movie about the rapist's life.  He failed to save him-- they executed Chessman at eight the next morning-- and he never made the movie. Intentions were all in the days when movie stars were movie stars.(George Clooney still the Divine Exception.)
    Then Kesey and I drove down the coast behind a truck delivering ice cream, its back doors coming apart, a scene I used in Kingdom Come, a tender love story that everybody wanted to make into a movie and several people stole.  Also we had many laughs, a little bit of tenderness, Stanley Kubrick wanting to make part of what we were doing into a scene in Lolita, and, eventually, a lawsuit.  It was a colorful period, and I am only sad, still, that Kesey fucked himself up so badly, as he was clever and original. When last I saw him it was in a church on Manhattan's Central Park West, where he was supposed to be giving a talk, introduced to the crowd by an obviously worshipful very young man.  When Kesey stepped forward, he was obviously out of his mind, wearing a crumpled top hat, and an idiotic expression.  A powerful argument for not abusing your gifts.  I left without speaking to him, as besides everything else I was there with my mother, who seemed as dazzled as she was when she crashed her parties.  All I had intended was an elaborate Hello, though I imagine my inner Romantic had imagined an affectionate reunion, forgiveness, and reconciliation, the controversy being far far behind us, and both of us having achieved some success, though his of a much more notorious nature than mine.  
      I still miss who he was when I first knew him, as I miss most of the gifted people I met who lost themselves along the way, (Stanley at the head of the brigade) and treasure the ones who kept it together. The greatest part of living long enough to look back is you really DO see your point of view changing as the world does, though in the case of today Paris I can only feel relief that I lived there when I did, and all you had to deal with was the truth that they didn't like Americans, Jews, or often each other.
     Here's the article.  Any of you who are truly fluent in Spanish are invited to call me and tell exactly what it says.  I think I know but it has been a young lifetime since I lived with back wooden doors that led out to the sea in Fuengirola, and Bill McGivern, a mystery writer, generous and funny soul brought several bottles of wine to my dinner party saying "It's all right, I just sold a movie to Harry Belafonte."  I don't think we prized those days as much as we might have had we had any idea what the world would turn into, and what perils would be involved in being adventurous.  Do I sound old?  Maybe it's because I am.  How lucky that I got to be where I was when I was.
     Here's the article.  http://www.jotdown.es/2014/12/a-donde-se-fueron-los-sesenta-perry-lane/

Friday, January 02, 2015

A GODFATHER GLUT

So I began the New Year with the triumvirate Godfather, two of the best movies ever made (I and II) and one of the great friendships of my life, Mario Puzo.  I met him briefly in Beverly Hills, and gave him a copy of The Pretenders, a bestseller at the same time as his, at nowhere near the same velocity.  He called me from the airport, and said "You can't fool me.  You wrote this for the same reason I wrote The Godfather: you wanted a bestseller.  But the good writing is indisguisable."  
     Naturally he became my best friend.  We went everywhere together- he really liked Don-- and I introduced him to the blonde Southern lover of Sue Cameron, who pretended to be a heterosexual and moved by him, changing her name to Nedra, along with her biography.  He bought her a Cadillac convertible and wrote a novel about her, never facing the truth that she was a lesbian, even when she died, which she did very young and still beautiful, giving him a bigger novel in life than he had in a novel.  He was the ugliest man I ever met, frog-like,with gigantic magnifying eyeglasses and big fat wattles.  But I didn't see that because he touched my soul.  Then he got mad at me for writing too many novels.
      "Another Book!" he shouted on the phone when I asked him if he would give me a quote for my new one.  As famous, successful and popular as he was, he was constipated creatively, and my productivity enraged him.  I should have been more sensitive to what he was going through, but I loved him and loved writing and was, at worst and best, an enthusiast. So the friendship ended.  
     But it was joyful while it was going on, with our taking flights to San Francisco for pasta at Enrico's, and floodlights on the path to our door on Rembert Lane, illuminating the cover of the re-issuing of his old book, probably his best, The Fortunate Pilgrim, for a sit-down dinner I created that was all the dishes in the book, which he wrote about more adoringly and in greater detail than sex.  I really loved him.  So it kind of broke my heart, temporarily, that he turned on me for being prolific.  
    The friendship never recovered.    So I didn't love watching last night as much as I might have, as I think I had wounds on my eyes. The Godfather and Godfather 2 were flawless, past brilliant.  But Godfather 3, which I'd never seen in a theatre, seemed arduous and heavy-handed, but that might just have been my lids.  I had to look up on Google when he actually died, because we were no longer in touch, even distantly.  But by then I had really come to understand loss, as Don had died and my children had grown to major disappoint and it was clear that my own life was not a musical


Sunday, December 21, 2014

KUBRICK RECALLED

So after one of the most difficult evenings since coming back to LaLa, which I will not go into lest it make somewhat indelible the experience, I turned on the TV to try and lull myself into sleep, and, instead, came up with a part of my history that still makes me laugh, be sorrowful, and understand how lucky my life has been.  
There it was, Eyes Wide Shut, the last movie of Stanley Kubrick, who had been my closest friend, mentor, and ultimate disappointment.  But like the movie, if it has to be a letdown, you might as well have the biggest.
    I went to a Hollywood party when I was was at Stanford, and came down for the weekend, and was introduced to Stanley, there with his wife Christiane, very pregnant, in a white dress with sparkles across her belly, and said to him she was the most beautiful pregnant woman I had ever met.  And he said "What did you expect?" as if we had been friends forever, which it then seemed we would become.  He had just announced his acquisition of LOLITA, the book on everyone's lips who read, which in those days was everybody.
     He came shortly afterward to visit me in the Bay Area, having read the novel I had submitted as my Master's Thesis, and we went for a boat ride on the bay.  "I'm in terrible trouble," he said to me.  "I just hired Nabokov to write the screenplay.  Dwight MacDonald (then the reviewer for Esquire, as I remember, maybe faultily) is going to give me a great review because it's Nabokov,  and he can't write a word of dialogue. You're the best writer of dialogue in America.  Will you do it for me?"  
   I was, of course, thrilled and delighted, ready to hole up in the Park Sunset, as he wanted me to do, since part of the offer was I couldn't tell anybody I was in town, because they would all know what I was doing-- paranoia was one of his major suits and our friendship was now well known among my friends, as it was one of the reasons I was glad to be alive, Stanley was so brilliant, albeit crazy.  So I checked in to the motel and started writing.
    There was a scene where Lolita tells Humbert about a friend named Ginny who's "a creep... she has polio," and I said "Stanley, you can't have her put down another kid for having polio... it'll make her despicable.'  And Stanley said, his dark eyes literally lighting up, "No, you don't get it.  Humbert is thinking he's never fucked a twelve year old with polio before."  And I said "Stanley, how do you see this movie?" And he said "It's a love story."  
   "Oh," said I.  "I thought it was a comedy."
   Not long after we agreed that I would not write the screenplay, and I went back to Stanford to get my Master's, which is another story.  The friendship aborted temporarily.
    A while later I met Don, and we went to the four o'clock opening of "Doctor Strangelove" at the Criterion, because I wanted him to meet Stanley, who I told him would be there counting the house.  
"Stop being a writer," Don said.  But, sure enough, after the opening showing, we came down the stairs from the balcony, and I heard 'click, click, click, click.' And there he was, with a bus counter, and he said to me "We just broke the house record for the Criterion."
    So we became friends again, and Stanley and Christiane came to our wedding, and Stanley told Don, who was producing the football games for WOR at the time to "not follow the ball, but keep the camera on the line, because that was where the real drama was." And Don said "Stanley, if you'll let me run a credit at the end 'Directed by Stanley Kubrick, I'll keep the camera anywhere you want it to be."  (Christiane complained to me at the wedding that the vase she had bought as a wedding gift, Steuben, pronounce Schtoybun, the German way, had cost $29.95.  By the time I broke it, living in La Jolla after Don had died, and swept it off the shelf doing a yoga posture, it was $495.  Now I think it's close to a thousand.
     A couple of years after the wedding, when we had moved to England temporarily, we had a meal at the country home of Gary and Max Smith, close, good friends-- Don was working for Gary at the time-- and Stanley and Christiane were living in the castle-like domain next door.  So I left the table with my then little children, Madeleine, five, and Robert, two, to show them to Stanley, as evidence that my life had really worked out in spite of all expectations to the contrary.  I rang his bell, a terrifying, cinematic tolling. In a few moments, the door creaked open.  Two huge, snarling Dobermans pulled at the end of a leash.  And I said into the darkness: "Stanley?"
     He recognized my voice.  "Gwen?"
     "Stanley?" I said.
     "I'd let you in," he said.  "But the dogs will go for the children."
     

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, JIGGETY JIG

   So I am very much moved into my new apartment, in the best locale in Beverly Hills, minus the bullshit—the wrong side of the tracks (Wilshire), in a block that looks like a real street in America, hard as it is to believe.  I have a front porch, and around the corner a man who fixes glasses, the kind you see through not the kind you drink champagne from.  There’s a French pastry coffee shop I frequent, and a Starbuck’s I don’t, and a few steps in the other direction as good an Italian restaurant as I have eaten in, even in Italy.  As Fate, or Bershert, the Yiddish or maybe it’s Hebrew will have it, I have been re-united by phone at least with my dearest friend from when I was twenty-something low, whose father was the film editor on Ben-Hur, about which no one thought to hear anything ever again, now that Christian Bale has replaced Charlton Heston in the public consciousness of Moses.  Christian, by the way, as I think I may call him, since I knew his beautiful father when he was married to Gloria Steinem, who should be everyone’s heroine and was/is certainly mine, and they were on their honeymoon and I interviewed them for the Wall Street Journal Europe, which then refused to run the article because it was too favorable.  He died not long afterwards, a genuine tragedy, as she had waited all her remarkable life for the right man, interspersing that longing with a lot of memorable mistakes, including the comedy writer Herb Sargent, brother of Alvin the writing maven, most touching man I ever met, and then he, the elder, dazzling Bale, died soon and painfully, which gave me the conviction God is not a Feminist.  Surprising, really, unless the truth of Creation is the part He/She loves best is the Struggle.  Christian, not by the way, is married to Sibi, the daughter of my hairdresser in Beverly Hills, Nada, so even if it isn’t all connected, it is All Connected. 
      My wonderful friend Jamie Lee Curtis, to drop my favorite name since Cary Grant, who really was as charming as they say, and whose own mother didn’t love him if you can believe it, and wanted him to dye his hair as his going gray made her “look older,” which really makes me believe that God wants to make it hard for us so we have to put in greater effort to get it right, came by yesterday and dropped off a straw shopping bag, a mat for my terrace, and a colorful pillow for my dining room which I will now have to use as a sitting room as it has this colorful pillow.  Today the handyman from Pioneer came to fix my bed which collapsed last night and I wasn’t even doing anything interesting. 
     That makes me believe we are just given challenges that can be good/bad jokes if we give them time enough which in this case was only until the next morning.  Now I am off to the phone company to order internet service which I wasn’t going to do as I had figured out the way to outfox them was to breakfast at the French coffee shop next to Starbuck’s which picks up their signal, as I still have strangely dark feelings about Billy Rose, who gave me my most successful novel with The Pretenders, and some really funny times with Sue Mengers who was sort of the Heroine and my best friend until I wasn’t successful enough for her anymore.  The play about her was a great success briefly on Broadway, but then people stopped caring, as people will, even about Cary Grant. 
       But Jamie said I have to connect here just for safety, so I must listen to her as she is smarter than anyone even though her father was Tony Curtis.  He was a sort of great friend of mine for a little while in my extreme youth when I came to him through Stanley Kubrick who was a truly great friend of mine, along with his wife Kristiane, until I got put in the closet by Stanley and when people use you they stop loving you even if you don’t stop loving them, as they are embarrassed if they have any decency, which Stanley had a bit of, though not too much. 
      I was in the closet for him on Lolita, when I was at Stanford getting a Master’s together with Ken Kesey who was also in the graduate Engish department, which is hilarious, and I will tell you about another time.  I really must write a memoir as I have known almost everyone who mattered at a certain time which is now very much Over, and I can’t believe the people who are alleged celebrities.  I can’t even write the big(in size, not import) name which catches attention now, as it makes me sad. That people would even give it any weight in spite of the hugeness of the ass attached.  Cary Grant, himself, said to me when I attached his name to a handsome photo in my book of meditations, HOW TO SURVIVE IN SUBURBIA WHEN YOUR HEART’S IN THE HIMALAYAS, “What hath Cary Granted?, “Why are you putting my name in this book when it could last for a hundred years and people will forget about me in fifteen?” and I said “People will never forget about you,” but he was right.  People will forget about everyone but Walt Whitman and Longfellow because they’re made to learn that in school, and Edison because otherwise they can’t turn on the light.
     I am sitting now in a restaurant looking out on Beverly Drive—I couldn’t have afforded to look out on Rodeo as they have a luggage store from Japan where an overnight case is several thousand dollars and when you ask what it’s made of, they give a fancy name where, when you say “What is that?” they have to say “plastic,” as, apparently even on Rodeo they are sometimes forced to tell the truth.  Apparently it is only in politics where they can lie all the time, regardless of country.  All so sad.  I am now no longer reading the papers even when I pick them up free as I did in a coffee shop on Little Santa Monica, where there was an article about Bernie Madoff collaborators going to jail for forever.  My mother was the only person, ever, to get her money back from Bernie Madoff, because my cousin Rodney Fink, a darling man who overcame his name, went to Madoff and quietly demanded her money back. Madoff told him what a fortune she would be making, and Rodney said quietly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Madoff.  But I am from Pittsburgh.”  So he got it back and saved her and what little was left of the money she had prolifegated.

    It is a sad and sorrowful time in the world, as it almost always is, alas, but right now more than most because we have made such a huge mistake with Barack, and nobody still likes him but Joanna Semel Rose, who was the smartest woman who ever went to Bryn Mawr, but still…? It is a tragedy for this country that we actually elected him a second time, but true tragedy is when everybody dies, so if we live through this terrible second term maybe it will be all right.  We’ll see.  Or not.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

IF ONLY I COULD DO THINGS IN MODERATION

So as anyone can see, if they are in LA., I have ended the drought.  There is a sadness that comes along after the elation, because soon hills will be sliding, and people will be losing their homes as well as their patience.  
   This has never been a place where things happen half-way.  If I had gotten a dog Saturday as I thought I would, she would not be able to go out walking, and I would probably be sorry.  As it was, I had to audition and am being considered by the very kind woman in charge of it all, who rescues dogs and afterwards finds out that the females are pregnant and advises you against the puppies that came out for fear they will ruin the floors, which my new landlady would certainly not enjoy.
    I apologize for seeming so small-minded and focussed on the trivial, but with great power comes great responsibility as everybody seems to understand but the people with great power.
I am no longer reading the newspapers, as nothing seems to be getting any better and in spite of my great capacity to change things, apparently I am not able to change them for the better except when I am in Amsterdam, and that is a high price to pay, except for knowing Daniel, his beautiful children, and the boys with whom I dined those lovely evenings when Peter cooked.  Amsterdam is a truly wonderful city except for the wet and the bleak and the fact that they don't know they aren't in charge of the world anymore and that nothing has changed since whatever century it was that they ran things.  The great thing about LA is in spite of its being so spread out you can still walk everywhere as long as you don't want to go to too many places.  
     Also there is still the telephone on which I am able to speak to my beloved Taffy of the once great Starland Vocal Band of Afternoon Delight which unfortunately did not give their follow- up song to the Ages which would have made them immortal as their manager was Jerry Weintraub who was a shit, and cared only about John Denver.  His wife Jane Morgan didn't do that well either.  But it is well I am learning to live in sort-of silence, as Mrs. Lande, my Nazi housemother from Cherry Lawn School in Darien, Connecticut, the capital of anti-Semitism in the US where most of the students were Jews so the townspeople would close their shutters when we walked into town along Brookside Road would have said I couldn't do.  As a matter of fact, what she said was "If you were in a room by yourself you would go crazy," and Ha Ha, I haven't.  Yet.
     The day we all walked into town because it was so exciting was the day they were shooting the railway station scene from Gentleman's Agreement, the great book-into-movie about anti-Semitism in the U.S. and we all wanted to see Gregory Peck in the lean, handsome flesh getting off the train.  But when everybody got there, they learned the scene had already been shot, so they all went back to school.  I, though, sat on a bench in the station and wept, as I loved movies so, and had imagined Gregory Peck would be Gregory Peck.
     But then, God being a movie fan, it turned out the train had pulled in too far, so Mr. Peck had to go back to Stamford and take the train again.  And there I was, at twelve, able to tremblingly get off the bench and ask for his autograph.  Having nothing to lean against, he asked for my shoulder.  I never washed the jacket again.  
     Many years later, at a Hollywood party, during the time I was a hit with The Pretenders so was asked everywhere, people in Hollywood being-- don't be shocked-- un poquito bullshitty, I met him at a party at Allan Carr's house, and we became friends.  "This is where I stood with Ingrid," he actually said to me, Greg, that is, as he told me to call him.  We met again and in a major way when I was living in Paris, writing for the Wall Street Journal Europe-- is there no end of miracles?-- and I was actually his date for a reception.  He had a cane and I had broken my arm so as we limped towards the ambassador, he said "Don't we make a beautiful pair?"  A darling man, who later recorded the poem I wrote when my dog Happy died.  You can hear it online. I have to choke at people who actually idealize Matthew McConnawhatever, imagining that is a hero.
    Well, as we know, nothing in Hollywood, U.S.A. being moderate, the gutters are now filled to more than capacity, and my battery is low, so I must close.  Fortunately I am wearing my serious raincoat, so I will likely make it home if I don't fall into the sewer which I believe they have.  The record being played on the amplifier is "Baby, It's Cold Outside," the huge hit by Frank Loesser, the greatest songwriter of his generation, whom everybody has forgotten, and who listened to me audition me at MCA when I was 20, seduced me, and sat naked at my piano playing Warm All Over, the love song from his soon to be hit The Most Happy Fella, which everyone has forgotten as well.  He was a true shit but then everybody can't be Gregory Peck, or the world could hold its head high.