Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sabado de Gloria, my ass

It is the day before Easter. When I was in Guaymas, a few decades, one husband and two children ago, so long ago that Liza Minnelli was a movie star, making Lucky Lady, a title as ill-chosen as several of her later decisions, it was called 'Sabado de Gloria.' My troupe and I went to visit a nearby village of Yaqui Indians, that same tribe studied by Carlos Castenada . There we had many colorful and sem-mystical experiences, not the least of which was a deep-speaking Yaqui Indian who said he would meet us the following year, and when we asked him where, said: 'Under the tree.' We understood from that that Yaquis gave very little in the way of real information, except perhaps to Carlos, who is now also under the tree, as is my husband, the woman who introduced me to the works of Carlos, and most probably that Indian.
But I went outside this morning with Mimi in what seemed to be a breakthrough day for Spring, an illusion that was to last only for a few hours. Spring re-surrendered to Winter, and all was bone-chilling cold and cars gridlocked on Central Park South, heading for Fifth Avenue, maybe for what they thought would be the Easter Parade, Irving Berlin having greater power and longevity than the spawn of Judy Garland.
What a city this is. Crossing the street in an attempt to get to the park so Mimi could celebrate her own season, I employed my own well-practiced and nearly perfected version of bullfighting, in which one has to engage the eye of the bull (read taxi/car) turning the corner so it will not charge you. I mean really. You have to make eye contact and challenge them visibly so they don't run you down. This is beyond The City that Never Sleeps. It is the city that doesn't give a Fuck. I am happy, in a sad way, to be able to write that again, since my beloved friend Walter Wells who is editing the Herald Tribune is leaving that post so The New York Times will not be electronically intervening between me and him saying my language is unacceptable. It is New York that seems to me unacceptable, particularly since I have been working today on a story on Bali, and I wonder what I am doing here when I might be there.
The past weeks have been semi-radiant, because of a trip I made to DC to see some friends and enjoy an early St, Patrick's Day celebration at Mark Russell's, the bright songmaster who makes fun of all things political which it is blood-curdlingly easy to do these days, and a trip made here by my friends from Belfast, whom I adore, and could show New York to, as if I belonged here and could afford what makes New York magical: the best restaurants, a bus tour($37.50 a pop), the theatre, ($101 a ticket for a matinee of a not very-good show.) But once they were gone I wonder what I'm doing here, which is mainly waiting, as no one has seen my book yet, and that's hard.
When I first moved back here, a couple of years past, I grieved over a lack of community. Jules Feiffer, a really good soul, cartoonist and political philosopher said "Do your work and your community will find you." The wife of Victor Navasky, publisher of The Nation, brilliant liberal and closet pussycat, said (his wife, not Victor,) "he forgot to add if you are hugely successful." I know that to be the truth. I have never been hugely or even smallly successful in New York, although I have been both in California and know the rewards that follow are vast and bullshitty, so would doubtless be no different here, But I am intimidated by the cars that would just as soon run you down as grant you passage, and the people who seem the same, except for Victor. He is the only one who has expressed willingness to be of any help to me at all, as I try to make my way across the intersection that is fantasy(the gift of having been able to write a book in Bali) and reality(connecting with the 'right people' i n New York.)
Coming back from the park, I saw a young family, anguished at the crossing, confused and trying to figure out what to do. "You have to look them straight in the eye, as if you were a picador," I said to the father. "Because these guys would just as soon kill you as let you pass."
"I see that," he said, and emboldened by my presence, as I waved Mimi in the air, as though she were a cape, passed his family behind whatever it was we made of a veronica, and got across the street.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I Heart New York

So having understood that they left the Christos Gates up for me and Mimi(they are goen today) and having lived through several years of Enid Nemy's insisting NYC was a many splendored thing, I began an active campaign to do what I would do in any other place I was visiting besides this one, ie: explore, take in, take advantage.
Thus it was that last night I went to the The-ah-tah, and caught what is arch-angeled as the Huge coming Hit: Spamalot. It is, indeed, a lot of fun, but its ass drags in the 2nd act. Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives, a statement with which I disagree, though there was certainly none in his because he was too drunk and died, but there certainly should be a 2nd one on the stage. Having established a high level of hilarity and invention in Act I, Mike Nichols lets us down in Act 2, and there are moments done better by Mel Brooks whom I no longer love, so it isn';t prejudice. A semi-offensive but highly comic number about not making it on Broadway unless you have Jews, done by the ultimate Gentile, David Hyde Pierce(not a lot of stage substance there, for all his advance publicity), the potentially searingly tastelessness was offset by a brilliant dance right out of Fiddler, But but but this is followed by a takeoff on High Jackman's amazing performance last year as Peter Allen, and a big marimba number, patently and screamingly gay. And an impressive man at Sardi's afterwards who had every reason to ah-dore the show(it was benefiting Friends Indeed, an org, to help those with Aids, an org for which he works, says he is both Jewish and gay, and his Jew was not offended, but his Gay was, as it was too much, one after the other, I agree, ' There is an astounding young Diva, Sara Ramirez, who rips the songs(not bad, by the way, which surprised and pleased me) apart on every possible level, and looks good if a wee bit chunky as the Lady of the Lake, so she should get superlative reviews, nominations for everything, etc. Hank Azaria who was the gay butler in Cage Aux Folles was better in that than in the many roles he plays here, including a gay Lancelot. And poor Tim Curry seems quite forlorn, being the only one who isn;t given anything great to do, and just keeps soldiering on, or knighting on, as King Arthur, a shame as he can actually sing. The songs, as I said, are more than good enough, and I love them because they hate everybody I do, especially Andrew Lloyd Webber. John Cleese cheats as the voice and feet of God, recorded, but Eric Idle said they could not afford his whole body. It will get great notices, I guess, but someone more perspicacious might wish for a little more, in print. We'll see. It will, however. be smash and the musical everyone wants to see except Mel Brooks.
I congratulated Mike Nichols, going up to him and saying, "Mike, Gwen Davis," and he said "You're right." He is quick.
Then this morning I rose at 6, battling a light snow with Mimi for her outing, and went to the First Amendment Breakfast, a regular feature of the Columbia School of Journalism, a panel moderated by Floyd Abrams, esq. who represents the New York Times and now Time Magazine for the two reporters in peril for not reporting their sources, while the putz Novak who blew the whistle on Valerie Plume, outing her as a CIA operative, goes merrily free, continuing to do mischief. Frank Rich was on the panel, sharp as ever about the new FCC definitions (and restrictions on their and the Christian Right;s idea of) Decency. Rich, I am happy to report, has gotten his Op-Ed column back, so Floyd said "Now everything will be all right."
Then I walked along Fifth Avenue and bought myself some green shoes for the St. Patrick's Day party in DC this Sunday that I will be going to at Mark Russell's, the clever and talented songster-satirist whose main targets are political, so I can hardly wait. Then a little bag to go with the shoes, then a little gift to me from Don for finishing my book. Oh, New York is a winter festival, Imagine if I had made any money. Then I walked through 'ART ROCK' three orange boxcars set up in Rockefeller Center, with pictures and weird art inside, I was a regular tourist,
Lunch at Circo's, celebrating my return, giving Marco a tote bag that reads 'Bali Deli', feasting with a new and good journalist friend with whom I share some concerns, then home to Mimi who had waited since 6 AM to go out for a pee. She is really a very good girl.
Tomorrow I will go to a 4 hour workshop on Gender at Hunter given by the former Lt. Gov of Missouri whom I met this morning at the 1st amendment breakfast. So my life is becoming more than a little full and I imagine will stay so as long as I keep an open mind, an open heart, and an open pocketbook.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Is there Life after Dan Rather?

I am a little sad today because Dan Rather stepped down last evening from the CBS News, and it all feel very unfair, like what is happening in other areas of journalism to journalists except for Jon Stewart who is kidding(?) but very popular so they won't touch him(watch this space.) I had drinks with an old friend, a lawyer, who represented the producer who was fired for the same incident, but of course couldn't tell me the terms of the settlement. But I could tell from how he drank his Diet Coke that it hadn't been easy.
I also got sad because my friend Walter Wells will be leaving the Herald Tribune, and no matter how happy he says it makes him, it makes me sad because I love having friends in places where they can do some good, even though they won't let me write about Bali. But that does mean I will be able to write four letter words again free;ly, as the Times machine won't censor the mail, so that made me happy.
Then this morning I got sad again because Glenn Davis died. He was 'Mr. Outside' , a halfback for Army when I was a very very little girl and men always asked me where Mr. Inside was, like I would know what they were talking about. I finally did when someone explained it to me,(he and Blanchard, Mr. Inside, were a dynamic dup at West Point) so I got very interested in his career. Over the years I used it as a yardstick for how old people were, that they still made that tired reference. He lived a long life(he was 80) so I don't feel bad about that, but I do feel bad because he made a movie in which he played himself and hurt his knee, shortening his later career with the Rams and several muscles. But I mostly feel bad because his celebrity made him able to date Elizabeth Taylor and marry Terry Moore for a couple of years, which demonstrates, as I am beginning to see clearly, one of the perils of celebrity. Ever since I got to suck on movie stars in my tranparent Vanity Fair lollipop I have been meditating on those perils.
At the party itself I did have the nice experience of running into James Woods, and thanked him for my cousin Susie, whose toes he sucked on the train to New Haven to see Uta Hagen in a play. I had never met him, but Susie had told me of her adventure, and as written in an earlier e-mail, asked to go with me to the party, so I had an angel on my shoulder if not an escort at my side (Gwen Davis 1, it said firmly on the invitation.) So I told him I wanted to thank him for Susie, that being one of her happiest recollections. He wrinkled his not unintelligent brow and asked to be reminded of the incident, I told him as many details as I could recall Susie's telling me, and gradually he brightened and said "Like 25-30 years ago?" and I said yes, and he said "Cute little redhead. Yeah, I remember. Give her my best." I told him I couldn't do that as she was no longer with us, but didn't say she was on my shoulder, as many people don't know hpw to deal with that. So I just said I was grateful to him for having made one of her best memories. During my magic time in Bali, I had an assignment from Jack to sit in silence every day and invite someone in who was no longer with us. Susie could hardly wait her turn, but before her I was visited by a particularly beloved friend who had died in an untimely and unseemly fashion in Bali the year before, and told me, as I lamented the facts of her exit that she didn't like it either, but I shouldn't cling too hard to the things of this earth for myself or the people I loved. Still, I am back in New York, and it is very much of this earth, so I am having, as those nice folks say, "a challenge."
And still I feel a little grief-ful over Glenn because with him dies all I ever really knew about football.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What Makes Art, or Mimi returns to New York, Baffled

So Mimi is back from her adventure in the country, staying with her Hippie cousins just outside Woodstock, where it is still the Sixties. She had her first lesbian experience, a three-way(a beagle and a Mastiff) and returned to the city with full dreadlocks. I was wise enough as a result of my illumination in Bali to recognize I had my mother's genes, so rather than having to deal with her appearance, she came back to me via the groomer, who took seven hours to untangle her, and trimmed her back so she was once again the full, white, unblemished Mimi, like her owner apparently retaining her innocence no matter how hairy her experiences.
That was Saturday. We had our first full walk in the park, where, in spite of the fact that they were supposed to have come down, Christo's Gates were still standing, probably kept up waiting for her and my return. Carleen, whose foster dog Mimi was in my absence, said it looked like Home Depot. I thought rather miles and miles of goalposts painted saffron, on which flapped in a gentle wind, the laundry of a legion of Buddhist monks. A college girl from Denver with two friends who were jubilant because they were paper-bagging 'Forties', which Carleen explained to me afterwards were beers with 40% alcohol, said she liked it because only rich people and musuems could have Monets, but this was art available to all, which would have been a really good argument except: Is this Art?
The city is most jubilant because Christos spent 24 million of his own on putting the whole thing up, nailing the posts into blocks, etc. My question is, doctor, where did he get the 24 million? The city earned 245 million, according to one of the groomers, who opined that Bloomberg was no doubt a happy man as it had brought so many visitors to New York. To look at that. We live in an age of marketing, and someone has done a hell of a job. I then of course asked him, the groomer, an African American with a missing front tooth, as entitled to be considered an expert as anyone in this city, how he felt then about the new sports stadium over which a debate rages re the wisdom of its being built. He did not think it a good idea, because "if you wear the wrong hat to a game at Yankee Stadium you're going to get into a fight, because this is New York and everybody gets mad about something. A whole new stadium would be a battlefield."
I wonder sometimes, often, really, what I am doing here. But then I have the Grace of not being here so often that I have to wonder that too often.
Outside now a small blizzard rages, so I am just reclusing and enjoying the fact that my work is finished, for the time being, and rejoicing in the fact that those closest to me, and smartest, are jubilant over the new book, which is a breakthrough, unique in its construction, the truth in the guise of a novel, beginning as a novel to sucker the reader in, but all of it truth. When I went to visit Don the last time at Westwood Memorial, where Marilyn is, I went to the office and found several vats of hard candy in the waiting room. I took a few pieces and gave one to Jamie as a gift from Don, and said to her 'Apparently grieving people need to suck.' She said "You have to start your next book with that. Grieving people need to suck," she said, and wrote it down for me to keep. I'm not sure I want to start a book with that, especially having written one with complete and absolute honesty. But the best part of the Vanity Fair party was lollipops handed out, semi-transparent, with movie goddesses in them, and I have three which I am saving for trying occasions. But suckering in a reader is devoutly to be wished for. Now all I need is a publisher who is a really ballsy sucker.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Fullascheissa, Mon Amour

So I have followed my dream, to Bali where my soul and my brain were, I believe , purified. Having returned cleansed, albeit to LA, I prepared for the Vanity Fair gala after the Oscars, feeling that if I were too pure, I would be unable to deal with New York, so it was necessary to dip my toe into a little of what I cannot name as then the Times machine will keep it from getting to Walter Wells at the Tribune. But I am sure you all know what I mean.
Nevertheless I was, as always, of two minds: that clarified mind that understood always how full of it these things were, and the little girl stargazer mind, in love with the movies and movie stars. So I was pleased that Vanity Fair had invited me to their party, though saddened by the caveat that it was only for me, and me alone, Gwen Davis(1) it said very severely on the invitation, so I had to regretfully tell my escort he could not come, though they messed up by sending me a second invitation, again, Gwen Davis(1) and then called me in a panic to ask if they had sent me two invitations by mistake. I told them they had, and that I had already sold the second invitation for 50 thousand, at which point the caller phumphered and said whoever it was would have to show ID and if it wasn'[t me(I) would be removed. I then told them I had been joking and there was hollow laughter on the other end of the line.
As it was so early, and I had no been invited to the sit-down dinner at Morton's(that's only for 150 people said the tight-throat on the other end of the line,) I watched in my hotel room and fell asleep during the telecast, My friend Boyarsky, the fabled journalist, was to later compare Chris Rock's performance to that of the toned-down Hispanic who is running for Mayor of LA and is working on keeping his act more universally acceptable as American. Whatever it was, it was boring, and I missed Jamie Foxx's emotional acceptance but came to for Clint's award, which pleased me as I could hear Jordan screaming with joy from the balcony of the Kodak theatre. Many hours passed during which I donned the leading example of my exquisitely executed new career as designer, since Nadya was gone from Bali, and I had to come up with something, so had gotten fab silk fabrics and had a little something of mine own vision run off by a local seamstress, over a pale peach linen blouse that had been afterwards beaded by the sister of Ketut, my masseuse($6.00 an hour, oh will I ever see such days again.) I looked really good so danced around the very small room for several hours by myself, as the invitation said Gwen Davis(1) 11:30 P.M. At 10:30 the manager of the smallllllllllllll hotel where I was stayingf, who had arranged for my transport to and fro for $50 called to say there were no cars available for such a piddling sum as EVERYBODY was going to a party so I would have to pay more. I said that was it, so he groaned that he would have to come and take me himself, and I said fine. At 11 his Uncle Cesar showed up and said Raymond, the manager, was exhausted from running in the Marathon that day, so I went with Uncle Cesar, who happily had a Mercedes. Lined up all along Robertson were the strings of long black limos, and many security guards who were the same element you encountered in Europe when there were still many borders, and guardians at the gates who had no other opportunity to show their authority, so always gave you a hard time. ('Gwen Davis coming' they said into their little walkie-talkies, like the dwarf guards of the princess in the novel I wrote of half that name(and the Pauper went the rest of it) so all along the street it echoed, 'Gwen Davis approaching.' I would have been impressed with myself but it was such obvious bs I was laughing, I'm afraid. The young women wokring security I must admit were a great deal more charming and nicer, so what does it matter if we can do math. "Oh that's such a beautiful color,: said one pretty young thing in uniform: "orange is so spiritual." That reminded me of Bali, and that I had been on a mission, so I re-entered my purified mind and saw it all clearly. There were many projections and bushes carved into 'VANITY FAIR' s all over the room, a busy bar where I did not go as I didn't want to fall off my high heels, being without an escort and used to being barefoot, nor did I partake of the passed hors d'oeuvres, as I didn't want to have food in my teeth, the teeth ordeal being part of my journey to LA, though clearly not the spiritual part, although who knows?
I saw no one I knew or cared about, until I came across Dennis Hopper, whom I met when he was 17, raging over not becoming a star, his greatest identity being at the time the friend of the recently dead James Dean. He looked really good--actually distinguished, and rather handsome, with his very young most recent bride, He introduced me to her as a friend who had written about him in her first novel(you'll never find it, Naked in Babylon ,) and introduced her to me as the mother of his twenty-three year old daughter, and then said "I mean twenty-three months." I asked him how his son Henry was. I had met Henry for a moment in Taos when he was six, one of the few times I have bumped into Dennis, and Henry was as ornery and tough andfeisty as Dennis had been at 17, so it made me believe in Karma, as he had truly reproduced himself at his most difficult. Henry has apparently reformed at 14. I asked Dennis how he was, and he kind of side-angled his head in actorly grief, and said 'Well- I'm not working enough.' At that point I brought him up short, said that was the same thing he had said when he was seventeen, that he was on an effing magic carpet ride, had been part of a motion picture that revolutionized the industry, was an icon in France, and had fallen into his true role as villain so had hardly ever stopped working and he should stop grousing and just say 'Thank you' every day of his life. At that point he seemed to come into full consciousness, and kissed me on either cheek, murmuring 'Thank you, Thank you,' as he did so. And I said "Don't thank me. You know Who to thank," And he said, really sweetly, "Yes, I do." It took only fifty years,
But the party was truly something to flee. I exchanged a few sad words with Domininck Dunne about a real friend I had lost who admired him(Judy Green) and he agreed she had had a terrible and unfair ending and her children had been awful but many of us are in no position to discuss that. Then I told Cate Blanchett after congratulating her, that I had been to the same college as Katharine Hepburine, and we were all proud of her depiction, she said some intelligent things, and I moved on and out, passing on the way Warren Beatty who I am sad is not making movies as he made some of the best and I fear is not doing any now because he doesn't look as good as he'd like to, and I wish he'd just make them and stay out of them, as he is a truly fine filmmaker(tell him I said so, Pat,) and congratulated Annette Benning, who probably should have won, but she will have other chances a ccording to an unnamed source(you again.) I hope so.
Then I tried to contact Cesar, who was waiting for me on Robertson, but the fascists who were having their big chance at Security wouldn't let me walk that way, and said I had t meet my driver on San Vicente which meant tip-toeing through the TV cables as though they were tulips, terrified of trippng, until a gallant lad ffrom thje BBC truck escorted me to the corner where I would have to meet Cesar, He asked me how it had been, and I said "A zoo." "At least you got to go inside," he said forlornly. There is no way to tell The Little Match Girl that the bakeries inside the window will give her diabetes.
Then, there was a God, and my friend Mary invited me to move to her apartment while she and her husband went to Palm Springs, so I had three+ days of space and a country kitchen, plus a really warm pool so I could recapture at least the body movement of Bali. Then Michael Crichton returned my phone call while I was in the dentists chair, and my dentist actually turned passionate, he was such a fan of Crichton's. So all in all, considering I got to see a few people I really cared for, the Boyarskys, Rob, my protege the chateau at Rochefort-en-Terre I had to disinvite, Nyle, Joie, and my dentist, not to mention Betty Garrett in Nunsense(she is 85 and still going strong,-- I went there with Betsy) it was a sort of fine time, as I found out where I stood, even in too high heels. But as with Bali, it was time to go.
So I now wing Eastward, to New York, where who knows What awaits me. I hope it will be a few human beings, some of whom can read.