Thursday, November 26, 2015


So I have been admonished by Joanna, my smartest friend, not to write so much about Brando, her saying he was "Not that interesting."  Of course he was to me, as I was eighteen, he was the biggest star in the world, and I hadn't get met Cary Grant.  I understand now that even Cary Grant is probably not that interesting anymore, but those who are "stars" have already faded only weeks, sometimes days, after their emergence, and they have only emerged because I was looking for someplace to hide out as the world became scarier, and it still seemed okay to go to the movies.  As it turns out, the truly most elegant of all was Gregory Peck, who had his own very tall personal style, a true education, and the most impressive of wives, who probably knew how to kill people, along with her journalistic graces.
      I have a picture now on my desk of the infant son of my friend Olivia who is in charge of many high end things at the Peninsula in Hong Kong, where I will probably never go again, because the world has become so dicey to step out into, or certainly up onto.  It is saddest, I think, because these people have no real reason to live, the only thing they have to look forward to is the afterlife, where they will finally get laid.  Bill Maher, who seems more brilliant with every passing disaster that he examines on air, speaks of how little sense any of it makes, and that we cannot possibly hope to understand because it is so foreign to our sense of values, or our sense of sense. It is the Upside of Being Old, having gone every place I wanted to go with the exception of Barcelona, but Sondheim has already written that song, as I have already writ probably a couple of times, the Downside of Being Old.  But I don't really care that I did, the Upside of Being Old 2.
     As minor as these ramblings are, they are a relief to me as I know how to find and write them on my computer, still a difficulty if I stop to consider how difficult and all-absorbing technology has become, and how unfulfilling, except probably for those who know how to use it. The world has become ever increasingly and ever more presently a scary place to be.  So I am grateful for having gone everywhere I wanted to be, as I have now written for noticeably the third time as is apparent even to me.
    Since everything is so tenuous, I actually watched the Thanksgiving Parade on TV to make sure it was still there, something I didn't bother to do even when I lived on Central Park West which I think I did for one almost winter.  The day looked glorious, and was a gift probably from God if He/She does exist.  There seems to be a great generosity of Spirit behind the parade, even though it is selling a lot of things, mostly Macy's.  I think I am grateful to be in the world while it is still a moderately great place to be, as long as you are not in a plane over someone else's air space.
    There is, certainly, an unmistakeable American glory to Thanksgiving, though as an American and an English major I know how probably little the Pilgrims really had to be grateful for.  But having lived this long and being now in California where it is not quite as nice a day as it looked to be in New York, there is still no anxiety about terrorism, I hope for good reason.
    May you have the happiest and healthiest of holidays, if you celebrate them.  And if not, why not?  Don't you have any idea how lucky you are to be alive?  For a while, anyway.

Friday, November 13, 2015


So it is that day I always looked forward to celebrating, being perverse or possibly aware that the universe is upside down, and the days we are most anxious about are maybe the ones that are best, if there is humor in the planning, or, indeed, any plan at all.  The movie that Marlon Brando made about himself is going to be on television tomorrow, so I have a date for Saturday night, as I still love him and remember him thin, or at least spare, fit for a queen, which I wasn't, though I did feel royal to be in his presence.  Janice Mars, my to-be-beloved friend who wanted to sing my song SEX,  as everybody did and a few stole.  She was a close friend of his and a cast-off bed partner, as everybody was, so introduced me to him knowing that my tongue would be hanging out with stunned gratitude.  "I want you to meet someone," she said, having me show up at the Carnegie Towers building, then arguably the most beautiful one on 57th Street, now dwarfed and uglified by what the Greedy and Tasteless have built around, overshadowing.  Then she pressed the button for whatever floor it was.  And when the automatic door opened, from down the hall came the cry "Eeehh, Janice," unmistakeable.  My heart stopped.
     I have written about this before, but I want to make sure I get it just right.  At one point that was probably what Marlon wanted, but eventually set aside, replacing it with covetousness, I think, and eventually boredom.  It had to be hard for him, bright as he was, to see people so filled with longing to be with him.  He did not have that high an opinion of himself.  But he was so much brighter than most imagine, and it showed right away, intensifying my infatuation with him, more than justified.   I was eighteen, and he was, clearly, wonderful.  Besides being physically past perfect, he was funny.  He flung her across his lap, made by flopping himself into a great leather chair, and saying to me,"Tell me about yourself, kid."
     Tongue sticking to both the roof of my mouth and the bottom of it, I gave my name, and the major fact of my life up till then, "and I go to Bryn Mawr."
     "OOOOooooo," he said, Katharine Hepburn.  "Ba...rynnn Mawhrrr."A long wait.  "Sing me the song, kid." 
     I sang him the song that Janice wanted me to give her for her act.  It was called Sex.  Witty and Cole Porterish... I forgive myself ... if there was anybody you should have wanted to be like if you were writing songs those days, it was Cole Porter.
     Marlon beat out an accompaniment on Janice's chest as I sang. When I finished, he said "Not bad.  Not bad."
     I left without knowing how I had really done, but  I must have passed the test.  I was invited to join them that coming summer at the theater in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  He would be directing and starring in ARMS AND THE MAN.  I went with planets in my eyes-- stars would not have been big enough.  And I was invited!!!!
       He directed and starred.  He was terrible. He never could do comedy.
        I loved him no less.  His best friend, Wally Cox, was there for the presentation onstage the week before of another play, Three Men on a Horse, with Maureen Stapleton, who became my roommate while I was there.  She remained a good friend for the rest of her life, but would probably have been too drunk to remember.  A great lady, though seriously tilted.  And Wally became a true buddy for the last twenty-four hours of his life, when I miraculously re-connected with him.
      But back there in Falmouth, at eighteen, I was as fat as Marlon was to become, and seated in the summer camper's dining room having breakfast with him, was unable to eat even that meager portion of fruit and cottage cheese I allotted myself.  "On a diet, kid?" he asked me, and when I sort of choked, added: "It's all right.  I just think most girls are prettier thin."
     Sam, his really good friend who he took with him everywhere, liked me, so I had some genuinely close-up moments and got to see what the young would-be novelist benefitted from, abetted by a friendship with the cast off fiancee, Josette Mariani, who had worked for the Strasbergs, to whom he was tied by the navel.  I went to see her when I was first in Hollywood, and we drove up to his house.  She beat pathetically on the metal-pronged window to his front doors, and closed it when he saw who it was.  Not anyone you wanted to have a love affair ended with. But I got to use the scene in Naked in Babylon, my first novel.  The old Brando tried to option it.

      When last I saw Marlon, he was waiting for a wedding at the Hotel Bel-Air, sitting on a bench.  I was with Don, who was still and always jealous of my ex-romances, no matter how unrealized.  "There's your great love," he said. "He's turned into Sydney Greenstreet."  And he had.  Enormous.
      I still love him and will watch tomorrow night.  I wish I had said Goodbye to Janice.

Monday, November 09, 2015


A day or three later, and I have had adventures I never would have regarded as adventure were I not so easily satisfied just being able to come back home, especially as I never would have regarded it as home, were I not so ready to stop traveling for good.  Or certainly for better.  The downing of the plane in the desert probably by those who had no particular objective other than to wreak havoc is enough to convince me I have been everywhere I needed to go, with the exception of Barcelona.  In the meantime, which there is plenty of in Los Angeles, I seem to have recovered my ear, my tongue, or whatever it is that tunes you in to your inner melody, and I have written my first song in a very long time, or at least part of it.  And it is good enough to convince me my creative life is not over, and that makes it okay that I don't have a baby.  I remember traveling on trains with Don when we were first together and he was always afraid I would get arrested for playing too intensly with other people's babies, I wanted one so badly.  That I was able to have two was a great blessing, if we are still allowed to believe in blessings, that I was not able to keep them babies most likely the downside.  Ah, reality.  My friend Bill McGivern, the fine mystery writer and even finer human being, witty and kind and hospitable and bright, said he wished there was an invention called 'STAY BABY', that you could spray on them.  But he's dead now, so probably he would rather have had an invention called STAY ALIVE.   Or maybe not.  Maybe we are all given the run that best suits us.  Maybe a limited span is the kiss blown our way by a beneficent universe, understanding as it does that everything, in excess, becomes boring. Except love, maybe.  But even that might be yawn-inspiring after a while.  Let's see what happens with Sir Richard Branson's new daughter-in-law, Kate Winslet, on her third try out.  I remember his telling me of his father throwing him into the river, and so his finding out he could swim.  I wonder if it works out that way for romance and sex.  Well, we'll see.  Or maybe she will.       

Sunday, November 01, 2015


I used to know those things.  I used to be tuned in, or think I was, to all things Spiritual.  Or at least some of them.  Now it is a triumph to remember how to work things out on my computer.  
     They promised me at the AT&T store that it is the same for them, but clearly they just told me that to make me feel better.  Not the Spiritual part-- we don't get into that at AT&T.
     I got dressed up last night as Dorothy, and went to find someplace festive, though it doesn't seem to exist in Southern Cal. Two cars did beep me as I crossed the boulevard, smiled, maybe even laughed.  I had a basket and Toto in my left hand and was glad there were still people alive who remembered, had seen the movie, maybe even thought Judy Garland was wonderful. Went to a bar and was so disheartened by one who was sitting there, grieving that he could no longer place in golf tournaments, that I left one sip into an overpriced drink, and moved on to Spaghettini.  Did not stay late enough for the alleged show that was to be put on behind the spider webs woven across the stage and in front of the restrooms, a nice touch.  Had the braids and red shoes and all.  Put it in the closet this morning and will save for next year if I am still alive and in a place where people give a fuck.
     I wonder why it is I so love Halloween.
    Just came across this sentence in an old work I chanced on, never completed or fulfilled, and probably never would have been anything, but it's a fine sentence. 

“Life was the gift that would eventually be taken back, so you had an obligation to pay attention to it while it was still there. “

Mon Dieu!  What might she have not become!

     I am borderline sad but not as much as I was the other evening when I had lost my cell phone, I thought, and was in a state of complete disarray.  Memory, that thing which always characterized what I should feel proudest of, having been able to recite the Gettysburg Address at two years and three months, something that made me a show piece in Pittsburgh that made even my mother proud, she who didn’t  like children even when she was one of them—has beyond “started” to fail.
     My cell fell out of my pocket onto my son’s car floor when the evening was just starting Friday, and by the time he brought me home I had forgotten about hearing it fall,  and later, on foot, had gone back to the hotel where we’d had dinner to search for it.   Spent the whole night borderline suffering, emotions salvaged at daytime when Jenni brought it back after which I re-found e-mail she had sent night before saying she would do that the next morning.  I am not so much scared as distant-saddened by this softly harsh reality.  Memory goes, even when it is not the Gettysburg Address.
            So I am at the Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. wondering if it would be any better in the South of France.  Clearly I have lost it, that I can even ask myself such a question.  Can I look at the striped awning and think it can in any way compare to a boat splashing across the water?
            It is not so much that I have given up a love of places as taken on a dislike for getting to them.  Maybe if I could travel always as I did coming back from Amsterdam on that tiny airline that stopped at some pole, it would be okay.        

Thursday, October 29, 2015


So I have come back to my very disconnected abode on Reeves Drive, the wrong side of Wilshire in Beverly Hills, hoping to connect with memory before it goes.  I have lost all taste for travel, having maxed out in Brugge, whose cobblestones hurt my feet even through sneakers, and whose citizenry failed to touch my spirit.  I had stopped having close contact with the people there, even as they seemed to have no idea of where they were, either.  The charming little boats that moved through the charming little canals ran out of charm before they reached the charming little docks, and I realized that mostly it was built on tourism that had no charming little reality.  That was enhanced by my having received a call from my bank while on the village tour, so small that there were not that many corners to turn before coming on yet another cathedral, all of them so close to one another that it had to be hard to feel anything even for God, if He/She happened to be there.  More treaties than souls, it seemed to me, but then I was really low energy, exacerbated by my having received the call from my bank telling me someone had raided my account without even knowing me, which felt not unlike being raped by a dildo, I think, having happily never having been raped by a dildo.  Just truly impersonal, I believe I mean to say.  The edge of the insult softened by a genuinely handsome, kind and genteel gentleman (I tried to make that genteelman but the computer corrected me) leaving the tour to come after me as I had dropped out to take the call to ask if I had taken out the great amount, which I hadn’t, and if my bank hadn’t been so assiduous, I would have been close to wiped out.  I think I loved him, the handsome man who came after me to inquire if I was all right, as I dreamed about him that night and am sorry I don’t have a contact for him even though he lived in Cornwall or someplace like that where I have never been but would have liked to go visit in spite of being maxed out on travel and not a woman who likes to break up marriages though I am curious to know if I still could.  Nor do i want to go to India, one of whose prettiest citizens, if citizens they actually consider themselves, was a member of the just graduated group from Columbia I picked up in Brugge who invited me to come visit..
     I understand from this really how sort of elderly I have become, because once I would have been on the next plane.
     It is already clear that the Gwen who was is the Gwen who is No More, as I don’t want to do anything anymore but write the memoir, a word I dislike as it sounds pretentious and throw-up nauseous,  But I have found the right title for it, after a long struggle.  Also I have begun to feel sad at having lost Don all those years ago, as details of his death have visioned up in my memory that I had previously managed to suppress and displace, covering with adventure and visits to Gore Vidal and the like, when my primary interest was living my life, instead of remembering it.
     I guess this is intensified by my having had a really wondrous lunch with Robert yesterday, filled with charm and anecdotes about his playing tennis with the son of my once greatest and closest friend Suzanne Turman, who also went too soon.  Robert is gigantic— tall, muscular, with a great head of still dark hair, and enormous everything. It again made me miss Don, and realize how handsome he must have been, and how lucky I was to have him, what an interesting duo we must have been, the ambitious, productive and prolific writer, and the fine looking, caring and gently funny fellow from the Bronx, who managed to survive and surmount his history, and would have probably become King of the Village if he had had more ruthless and self-serving bones, with the matching postures.  Interesting that I had managed to emerge seemingly unscathed from all these early wounds until now.  Maybe that is why I have been allowed to live this long.
   Well, off to lunch with my doctor who I really love, as he is surprisingly funny on the q.t., having gone to a funeral a couple of weeks ago that he told me about and said he had to go up onstage after the service and look in the coffin to make sure they had been talking about the right person. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015


     There is a review in this week’s New Yorker, to which I have after so long away started to subscribe as it is so cheap, and I can feel their desperation—so literate in a world where so few people anymore turn to the actual page—of a Gore Vidal biography.  And I feel how lucky I am to have had in one lifetime a man who loved me like Don, and a friend—as much as he could be one—like Gore Vidal.
         We were living in London as a young couple, going for our first visit to Rome, and it was early enough in our lives so we were still friends with Sue Mengers, who told us to call Gore.  Invited for tea, or more probably it was a drink, to Gore’s rooftop apartment in Rome, apparently we passed the audition, as he said we should go on with him to dinner, and we did.  His companion, and as he was to seem from time to time, clever and funny friend Howard Austen was along, as was one of the Andy Warhol girls, Ultra Violet, I think. 
         The dinner was obviously Italian, and the words, though I can’t remember what all of them actually were, dazzling.  I do remember precisely Gore’s looking at me intensely at one point and asking if I was wearing contacts.  I told him no.
     “It’s just that your eyes are so beautiful I thought you must have something in them.”
    Well, let me tell you, reader, if you are there: there is nothing more dizzying than being hit on by one of the world’s most notorious homosexuals.  As I remember, I was stunned into silence.
     Don, who’d been captivated but less than comfortable for most of the evening, was furious.  “It just shows what a pervert you are,” he said in the taxi back to the hotel,” that you enjoy the company of a pervert like Gore Vidal.”
      And I did, and continued to, whenever I was in the same city he was.  When he came to Los Angeles I would meet him at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he stayed with appropriate panache, squeakily saying “Really?” when I relayed something flattering that had been said about him, and going to visit him at his home in Ravello, when Don had died too early, and I was questing for the upside of being alone.
        “This…” Gore said, arms outspread, standing on the side of the mountain his villa was perched on, overlooking the ocean, “is our view.”
         I was still so overcome at having an actual relationship, such as it was, with Gore Vidal himself, that I didn’t really log how pretentious it sounded.  Even now, all these years later, I prize having had the contact, and sorrow over the deterioration that was to come, the inevitability of decay if you are lucky enough to have a long run.  At the time, though, he was still superior, contemptuous even while appearing the sort-of gracious host.   Howard, though, was patently pissed, not enjoying Gore’s being interested in a woman, though it was
Nothing really Personal.
         I told tales of having gone to the nude encounter marathon, that wet adventure that was to be the center of  most of my career difficulties.  Both Gore and Howard were unenchanted, and understanding now how foolish the whole thing was, I am sorry to have wasted both their attentions, as much of it as I had, on that.  Gore became contemptuous, and when I gave him a novel of mine that I had brought as a gift, dismissive.  I doubt that he ever even bothered to read a work of mine.
         But after Howard died, and he was lonely, I was with him on a number of occasions.  He waited for me at the gate to the path that led down to his villa, and I realized he was actually anxious for my company.  But he became more arch, and less appealing with every visit.  Sort of happily, I had had one phone conversation with Howard before he died that was amicable and even borderline hearty, and that made me happy.  I do like to make friends, especially when they don’t like me.
         Reading now about him in The New Yorker, once my—and everybody’s as I remember—favorite magazine, it is easy to see how far or maybe near we have actually come.  The cartoons are no longer so funny or so well drawn, but the prose is still read over the nose as if it were a transom, and everybody should be standing on tiptoe.
         And Gore, from a distance, seems actually closer than he could get, because I realize how glad he was for my company, even though he less than prized it, how desperately he longed for literary acknowledgement.    “The very rich are different from you and me,” Fitzgerald said to Hemingway, and Ernest replied, “Yes, they have more money.”
         “The very literate are different from you and me,” I say.  “Yes,” I answer back, being fork-tongued, “they pretend to read The New York Review of Books.”

Friday, October 09, 2015


So after a lifetime of feeling mostly disconnected, I finally got a sense of being a privileged New Yorker, with the rare and wonderful treats this city has to offer,  not counting my personal wave from the Pope.
    On the 8th of this very month, as I strolled on Broadway on my way to visit Nadya of Bali, my girlfriend (a word that actually applies, since we both have the spirit of teenagers) I saw that Steely Dan was to appear that very night, at the Beacon theatre, next to her hotel.  
     Understand that loving music though I do, and having had wonderful relationships with gifted and generous musicians throughout my life, including Rosemary Clooney at her peak and Leonard Bernstein at his Tanglewood teaching handsomest, I have not been to a rock concert since my husband was alive, and I was really young.  I mean, really young, with my husband's then good friend Alan Sachs a TV executive, married to the darling young Vicky, the daughter of Faye Wray, once carried off by King Kong.  It was a glorious night, as we stood in the aisles of whatever California theatre it was when they had rock concerts wherever they were-- I'd rather be unsure than inaccurate-- and cheered and, as we still did then, swayed.   Everyone was so joyful, and Vicky and Alan were going to be in love forever, and Don and I were without fears.
     Vicky became a psychotherapist, long divorced from Alan who I lost complete track of, Don is long gone, dead, a word I still have trouble writing, very young.  But Steely Dan is still (and for the last time, they are saying at the Beacon where he's doing a number of nights) past cool and a balm to the ears and (I do believe) the soul. I felt I had not missed all the years I haven't listened to enough music having been personally betrayed by Frank Loesser, a dark privilege, lifted by Yip Harburg, a radiant one, coming within inches of having Frank Sinatra record one of my songs, then deciding to record no more, and my generally not liking what has happened to alleged music in recent years.
    Ah, but Steely Dan!  A theatre filled with people on their feet, lifting arms, moving in ways I will not attempt to describe, except to say how alive they were, many of them in their eighties.  One woman there with either her very young lover or a grandson.  It made me really happy, and thinking I ought to go back to writing songs.  Music stays music, no matter what is happening on Broadway.
     Then yesterday my darling retrieved friend Acacia, having resuscitated herself at AOL, invited me to-- what would you call it? a gathering? A promotional interview as part of a promotional series they are doing online to further undermine print? Whatever it was, I was really THERE, as it featured, live, Dan Rather, the subject of the film, as he fell from glory, having told TRUTH, the name of the film, Robert Redford, playing him, and Cate Blanchett who can play anything, and probably will before she is done, or as my mother would be the first to correct me, "finished," since "done" Mom would say, is "cooked," something I suspect Cate Blanchett will never be.  It was so Present, so dazzling, that I was unable to ask questions, even though I had one that burns in me still, and that is WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN?  By that I don't mean simply or complicatedly this strange, corrupted, confused time, where the probably least horrible of the Bushes still looks to maybe have a weak and distant shot at what appeared to be almost a throne, passed on to the idiot-- I was there for that, having sat out the-after-earthquake in San Francisco with Ann Richards, just before they destroyed her in Texas- but what's going to happen to this used-to-be-great country?
     Well, the good news anyway is that the movie is probably going to be wonderful. Robert Redford, who takes time to collect himself before answering a question, then is as thoughtful and smart as he is talented and still powerfully handsome, although smaller, I have to say, surprised, than I would have imagined, Cate Blanchett as wryly witty as she is gifted, and even more beautiful, and Dan Rather, thoughtful and all these years later amazingly not pissed, which I am for him, -- as he always was, selflessly informative.  It was a true charge.  Beyond uplifting.  Fine also were the moderator, a journalist,  and the writer of the movie whose names I can't remember as I have gotten to the place in life when names elude me.  And probably I'm jealous I didn't write it.

Dame Maggie Smith too ill to meet the Duchess of Cambridge › Showbiz & TV › Celebrity News

Daily Express
Mar 12, 2015 - Dame Maggie Smith, one of the biggest stars of the show, had to pull out from the meet and greet with the 33-year-old royal due to illness.

Dame Maggie Smith too ill to meet the Duchess of Cambridge › Showbiz & TV › Celebrity News

Daily Express
Mar 12, 2015 - Dame Maggie Smith, one of the biggest stars of the show, had to pull out from the meet and greet with the 33-year-old royal due to illness.