Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Soggy Day in Sag Harbor

I wonder why it is we try to belong in places we don't belong. One of the sanctuaries(I tried to make it, and failed) I sought out after Don died was The Hamptons, where I rented a house in Springs, the woodsy probably downmarket part of that sooooooooooo cherished weekend and summer escape of wealthy and would-be wealthy New Yorkers. My house was a kind of loft set on the ground, belonging to a woman whose path, I think, was more self-inflicted stumblier than mine: she had a boyfriend who was an architect, so she let him build it, I am sure to increase his self-esteem, which he might have done but he forgot insulation. There were 60 foot ceilings, and it was Fall going into winter, and cold cold cold and damp. I had to keep the house at 55 degrees to keep the pipes from freezing, and that cost so much money I was afraid to turn the heat up lest my son not be able to finish graduate school. So Happy, my yorkie, very little, and a laptop, very little, and a little heater and a little TV lived in a little room upstairs where I tried to finish a novel and pretend this was a life. i had one faux friend, very rich, who let me swim in her pool even though she was too fashionable to be in the Hamptons that time of year, but I swam there in bracing winds every day just out of spite so she would be forced to pretend to be gracious which she had never been, and it would cost her money. Then, I would try to find friends.
Let me tell you about the Hamptons. The reason why Jackson Pollock and Rothko were productive, insane and drunk was there is nothing else todo off-season but be those things. You have either got to become a drunk, or join AA. I dabbled in both, not becoming an alcoholic but going with some frequency to the sushi bar in Sag Harbor and downing a great deal of Sake, as at least I could talk to the sushi master, and I went to the AA meeting in Wilton or Weston or someplace like that, because it was as close as I could come to finding friends. There was an actor in the meeting whose name I shall not tell as it's part of the covenant, but he was funny and bright and in the throes of a great love which has come to no good end and in public, so at least there were people, before I returned to my personal chill. Happy was always a sport, anywhere on the planet I took him, so made no complaint, but I think he had a better time in Germany, which should give you some idea.
So yesterday I went on the Hampton Jitney to Sag Harbor to see a friend in a play, and the rain it raineth all the time, and the sushi bar which was just six people long is now a huge, very successful and slightly overpriced restaurant, where I went first for lunch before the play, and then afterwards with my friend who had been very fine in his role indeed, and in between sushi and play ate ice cream, all the flavors I wanted in two different places because when I lived there I had restrained myself, still imagining love would come along. During the play the rains had been so torrential that the audience thought the air conditioning was turned up too high, but it was really the roof working against collapsing in the downpour. After the second sushi I stood in a doorway waiting for the bus back to town.and observed Main Street, all festooned with American flags over storefronts, and quaint architecture that whistles Americana, but finds it hard to toot in the rain.
And I came to the conclusion that there is nothing sadder than a melancholy day in a place people have pushed their way into, money having been the bulldozer, thinking one could not be both chic and cool without spending summer in the Hamptons. Even the storefronts looked down on this rainy, joyless day, flags sodden and twisted around each other outside the flower store.
The secret, I think, is to always have a resort in your heart, but see a place on its worst day before considering moving there.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Marilyn's 80th Birthday

A Tale of Two Shitties: It was the worst of theater and the best of theater. As intimates know, and some who are not even intimates, I have had a bad time in New York theater over the past several years because I had written a musical, and fine it was, too, that I couldn't get anybody to listen to, because I have no track record here, and what I saw on the stage did nothing to make me feel better. So when I came back to this city where I must admit I now feel a major disconnect, I had no great appetite for Broadway. Still, I enjoyed 'The Drowsy Chaperone,' and looked forward to 'The History Boys,' because I'd heard it was intelligent. I have also made a friend, a very nice woman producer, Chase Mishkin, who goes to fucking everything, and as I enjoy her company, especially as she picks me up in a London taxi lined in Burberry, I often go with her.
So it was that to my sadnesse(I use the Chaucerian spelling) I went last week to 'Hot Feet,' the black musical version of 'The Red Shoes,' which film buffs will remember as one of the great tasteful movies of all time, starring the very gifted dancer daughter of Debbie Allen. To the music of Earth, Wind and Fire. Oy.
Yesterday was 'Boys' day. I went to the matinee of 'The History Boys' where the real life happening was more electrifying than the play, Before rise of curtain, came the usual announcement to please turn off cell-phones and no taking pictures, with the added caveat that"Using cell-phones in theaters is now against the law," which met with applause from the audience. The came the play, with some admirable performances by several of the lads(used advisedly, as with sadnesse), but most especially by the teacher, a Tweedledum&Tweedledee (combined) spinning top of eloquence named Richard Griffiths. Came the key scene of the play, after much jollity in the classroom and some actual singing of a Rodgers & Heart ballad, wherein the fat round teacher is called into the office of the headmaster, to be admonished for feeling the genitals of his students while they ride with him on his motorcycyle, and being told he will have to retire. Just at that moment Griffiths, sitting there in mortified silence, heard a cell phone go off in the audience. He stared up at the offender, so much in character that He seemed still the teacher, and said in controlled tones that he could not compete with the electronics, stopped dead, and then told us that we had been asked quite politely to turn off our cellphones, that it was quite disrespectful and was in fact now against the law, that he was stopping the scene, would start over, and if it happened again, he would leave. Tumultuous applause.
So he started the scene again and when the dour headmaster asked him why he locked his doors while teaching, he said "Because I don't like to be interrupted." Laughter and more applause. Nothing in the rest of the play could measure up to that, and I found the second act just okay. I think we always give extra high marks to the Brits because we are so intimidated by their diction which makes us believe they're intelligent. And of course critics are afraid of Alan Bennett because he has such disdain for the US. I sort of love it myself, though I'm still not sure about New York.
Ah, but last night was a New York evening if there ever was one, one where most of the treasures of the city revealed themselves, and it was a joy to be here, collecting. First a dinner at Gallagher's, a steak house, can your mind get around that one in this otherwhere land of vegetarians and fish eaters?. Then 'The Jersey Boys,' the musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, using that sensational music, and it was fantastic. I absolutely loved every minute. I have a friend who's been five times, and I understand why. There is some technical magic with comic strips, but what it is mostly is a joyful piece of theater, and I was happy the whole time, uplifted, the way God and the Greeks meant it to be. Catharsis does not always have to be depressing.
Then today to Le Cirque to celebrate Marilyn Monroe's 80th birthday, which is today. The restaurant is glamorous but not yet quite buzzing: Beverly Sills was there and there was but one empty table by the window, and I worried that the place wasn't full(the official re-opening was yesterday) Then the couple came in and headed for it, and it was Michael Bolton and a woman in shorts. Khaki. Bermudas. It's the end of the civilized world as we knew it, forget about global warming. I think she was trying to make the bottom of her look as light as the top of him(he's losing his hair, and, apparently, his taste in companions.)
Then they brought us Marilyn's cake, with a spun candy cloche, and we made a wish and blew out the candle. I am sure our wishes were about the same subject, as Chase is doing a musical and I am with novel.
Then we went to this perfectly execrable reading of an alleged comedy, where a woman from Sunday Styles, very hot part of the New York Times for those who wish they were really reading 'Us,' comes to the Hamptons to cover the wedding of a son of a Martha Stewart-like character, to a young unlikeable woman. I thought it was going to get darkly comic about a bright woman who gardens and has been in jail because juries don't like bright women, but instead it tipped over into The Philadelphia Story, only not clever or witty, combined with a prison movie. Awful. I left at the half lest it completely undo all the joy that had built up with Jersey Boys(loved it loved it!) and Le Cirque.
Saturday I go to Sag Harbor just for the matinee at the Bay Theater because my nice neighbor Simon Jones is in a play or a cabaret I don't know what exactly, with Kaye Ballard, who is very funny and talented, and Sian Phillips who is the ex-wife of Peter O'Toole and author of a book Gena Rowlands, whom i love, gave me, and the whole thing is supposed to be wonderful. Kaye is a terrific comedienne, and is the first person I ever sold Special Material to, when I was 20. It was a song whose title I can';t remember, but she actually paid me $500. Nobody could get over it. Especially everybody else who wrote material for Kaye.
Mimi is white with a new grooming, the air is heavy with humidity so it's hard to walk with her in Central Park, and you're lucky not to be here except on occasion. Love