Saturday, July 22, 2006

Remembrance of Things Passed

So trying to deal with this inferno which of course has not been caused by Global Warming which we know doesn't really exist-- oh God, I hope the AC goes out in the White House-- I went to visit my beloved friend Gena Rowlands high atop Woodrow Wilson Drive. Coming back down Laurel Canyon, where I had the guts to live when I first hit Hollywood at 20, I could not resist turning into Rothdell Trail, my first address here. Tony Perkins, with whom I was besotted, said it was "where Roth first broke through the underbrush." He was clever, and as it was still a time when nice Jewish girls didn't till after, and often not even then, I brushed aside any thoughts of his distance being for any other reason than respect. Next to me lived a director who was soon to murder his gay partner, and across from me lived Nick Adams, the least interesting boy in 'Rebel Without a Cause,' who traded on the fact that he had been best friends with Jimmy Dean, several years dead so unable to deny it. Natalie Wood used to come visit him, and Dennis Hopper, who may/may not have actually been Dean's best friend, used to swing on a rope from my roof onto Nick's little side porch, crying "Fuck Errol Flynn!" These were pre-uttered-out-loud-Fuck days, so it was both funny and impressive, except seeing the width of the street today I realize he could have hiccuped himself across, and question if I might not have made that up rather than simply re-enacting it as I did in my first novel 'Naked in Babylon,' in which Dennis played a hilarious and really interesting a clef role.
I remember standing by the barbecue on my little side porch which you can;t see from the very very narrow and winding street, waiting for a call from Frank Loesser, for whom I had auditioned at MCA, singing him the best of my songs, having him respond," Kid, you're the biggest talent since me." When he left LA, he'd said "Kid, write me a musical!" so I did and sent it to him. The phone finally rang: he was returning my call, and I asked him what had happened with it. He said "Moss and I are working on something in Boston and we've used some of your stuff." Shocked, but I would imagine in retrospect also a little thrilled that I was good enough to be stolen from by men of that caliber, I still managed to say: "Frank-- what about money?" He said: "Write your parents."
Nick Adams committed suicide some years after that, and got a lot of press. Tony said: "If he had known how much publicity he would get, he would have done it a long time ago." Compassion was not Tony's strong suit..
It took me about twenty five minutes to turn the car around in the narrow space between the brick wall and the stairwell that sided the house I lived in, overhanging the street like a box, so I wonder that I ever lived through that period, as I was a worse driver then than I am now, which is saying a great deal. At the top of the steps across from the brick wall (I didn't go up them) I imagine was a little front yard, because for sure in real life (not made-up memory) Dennis stole the bigger than life-sized cut-out of Tony in 'Friendly Persuasion' from the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese where it premiered and put it in my front yard so I would see Tony greeting me when I went out in the morning, not out of just mischief or kindness but because he was really pissed at me for being in love with Tony instead of him. Not that he was that interested in me, but he was very interested in himself, and wondered why Tony was 1) the bigger star 2)the gatekeeper of my longing.
Driving all the way down to the bottom of Laurel I turned at the boulevard, and passed a sign on Sunset saying 'No Cruising;" Anyone passing this spot twice in four hours will be cited." No kidding. If only it had been there all those years ago, my whole life might have been different. Jim Morrison also lived on Rothdell Trail, but not at the same time as me. Just a point of interest.
Then came the place where Sunset splits onto Doheny Road, so I followed the divide onto where Carol Burnett's house used to be, where we lived in the guest house when Madeleine was one, and Don came out to LA to work on Carol's show. We were the best of friends then-- Carol said she would have liked to be me, as she really wanted to be a writer, and so admired me much-- but living in her guest house above the garage till we found a house, I had to make an appointment to talk to her. And the truth was I think I would have rather been a star, but I wouldn't have had myself remade to look like Julie Andrews.
The wonder no longer seems to be that I have lived this long, but that I lived through the early part of my life, as between the smallness of the road(Rothdell Trail) and the smallness of some people's hearts, it is a miracle that neither my car nor my spirit got crushed. The triumph is, quite simply, being alive to tell the tale, and the moral: don't be deflated when people don't read it.

I sing the song
Of the uncharted road
That more often than not
Leads to the greater adventure
For if the mind is open
And the heart is pure
The full breadth of the experience
Is available to everyone among us
So, when the song is over,
We will not only have sung it
It will have sung us.