Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Although my friends, all of whom I consider illuminated, and the majority of the American people are appalled at the idea of torture, perhaps an exception should be made in the case of Ann Coulter. I can think of no name to call her that would be vile enough to call her-- not 'bitch', which seems lightweight considering the object, or the c word that so offends, as it would be an insult to all the other c___s. It shames me that she is a woman, if indeed she is.
That she would attack John Edwards as she did, sneeringly alleging that he had a bumper sticker about the death of his son, and actually try to bring down Elizabeth Edwards, one of the most admirable women of my lifetime, whose courage and bravery and genuine intelligence are palpable even in this time of mass idiocy(see Paris Hilton/ George Bush-- has anyone seen them together? could they be the same person?) is a rent in the cloth of decency. Even as Elizabeth struggled to stay the great lady she is on Hardball today, asking Coulter politely to pull back on personal attacks, Coulter continued, attacking. What is the matter with the media, that they give this harridan a forum?
I am especially incensed because I went to a fundraiser for Edwards last night, in a genial setting, the Brentwood home of a real estate developer, Tom Safran, who went all out(sushi and chocolate covered strawberries, no piker he, gracious in the bargain, insisting we stay and eat even after Edwards had gone as he didn't want any leftovers) Of all the potential candidates in '04, Edwards was the one I believed: he seemed to me a consummately honest man. Now that we are faced with candidates who are divisive or unlikely to win, and Bloomberg, whom I like, stands to cost the Democrats if he runs, I continue to be moved by Edwards. I watched him last night through a lens, lightly: the video camera of the man in front of me in the garden, filming him. It seemed a fine portrait, handsome, of course, but also believable and smart. He asked the man to turn off the video while he made the following statement: "Of all the potential candidates, I am the most progressive, and the most electable." i wondered why he wanted the camera off for that one, but a smart friend said it was shorthand for 'I'm not a woman, and I'm not black.' If that's what it was, I'm afraid he's right. But I'm more afraid of Hillary. And more impressed by what he said when the video camera was on: "Bush is an idiot." That seemed to me direct, and fearless. Everybody with a brain knows that Bush is an idiot, but it takes a lot of balls to go on the record with that, in this environment.
On the way home I spoke to a friend who told me the talk in political circles is that big money people have dried up on Edwards, because of Elizabeth's illness-- they're afraid he won't go the distance. I wish I had a pile of money to give him. I wish elections weren't about money. I wonder what would happen to Abraham Lincoln if he were here and wanted to run. With today's vile decision by the Supremes to put corporations back in the catbird seat for picking their man(oh, who could it be? A Republican? Gee!) I wonder what's going to happen to this country. If they win again, I think we are lost forever.
Maybe Ann Coulter can be Queen. Or at least the madam of the whorehouse where they practice Bondage and Domination. I am so sad for my country. Dick Cheney and Paris Hilton. What's happened to us? If it weren't for the wrestler murdering his wife and son and then hanging himself, there might be nothing else on the news.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


So my beloved friend Gena Rowlands, the formidable actress and even more formidable, in a soft way, human being, told me the other night over dinner I had to go see 'La Vie en Rose,' she was so moved and impressed by Marion Cotillard who plays Edith Piaf in the film. Is Edith Piaf, really, once you have seen her. Unbelievable. She occupies her body, and, unmistakably, her spirit. My clever friend Jean Doumanian echoed Gena's sentiments, pointing out to me that the actress is only twenty-eight years old.
My sometimes friend Rex Reed wrote in his review that you would want to see it over and over again, and as I am very suggestible, once was not enough. I went Friday and again Saturday and would have gone again today except I am trying not to be compulsive. The performance is beyond remarkable, and the music is transformational, making you a part of Paris, which I never loved so much when I was living there as I do when I'm longing for it and wishing I had made better use of it. Literary use of it, I suppose, since all my dreams of Paris before the first time I was lucky enough to live there were based on what I had heard and read, Hemingway and Fitzgerald fantasies that never ripened into real.
Still, something happened to me in the course of watching the movie: I realized that my own life was not unlike Piaf's. True, my mother never sang in the streets. but she was a social director at resorts, which is not all that different, amusing people in passing. And she did abandon me when she had a date. Then again, I was encouraged to sing my songs in Paris not by someone who could later have been played in my movie by Gerard Depardieux, but by Maya Angelou, who said to me on that fateful night in the Mars Club when I was so uncomfortable and intimidated, because all the lights were orange and all the people were black, which you could still call them then, "Hoh-nee, you could get up and be bigger than anyone here." Thus it was that I got up onstage and sang my songs that had been such a hit at the Bryn MAwr Junior Prom; and the boss came over and said "You've got a job!" and I wired my mother "I am singing in a night club in Paris," and she wired me back, "Come home immediately." But I didn't. I stayed and sang my heart out, and part of my soul, too, I think, though there was no way I could be mistaken for Piaf unless a waif could be very overweight.
Nor did I ever have an affair with a boxer, but I did have a big hunky guy in my life who left too soon, though not in a plane crash. And then there's the moment when they ask Piaf what would happen if she could no longer sing, and she says she could no longer live, and I feel that way about writing, though it would be nice if there was a later appearance of some young Yves Montand. Also I have never knit, because I had a Nazi housemother in high school, Mrs. Lande, who said knitting required an IQ of 80, and I was afraid of that, as she also turned me away from bridge, which required 100, but Edith didn't play anything but supper clubs and music halls, so that omission doesn't count.
Still, it would be arrogant and delusional to think I could in any way compare myself to that great chanteuse, except I, too, lived in a whorehouse. Of course I didn't know it was a whorehouse, since my innocence extended not only to thinking I would find love and a career path in Paris, but also to assuming those sailors in the hall knocking on doors were in on leave and those were their girlfriends. I had moved to that hotel out of loneliness and desperation, because the French family I lived with and ate dinner with every night spoke to me only on the day my rent was due, and only after opening at the Mars did I feel secure enough to seek out my own lodgings. Sue Stanley, a peppery little Greek who was singing at the Dinarzade, the really upscale boite in Paris at the time, wanted my song "Sex," and so was very kind to me, and when I got sick, came to visit, saw where I was living, said "Oh, My God," packed me up, and got me out of there. "She's living in the only Left Bank hotel on the Right Bank" she said in her gravelly voice, which was not as good as Edith's, but then, whose was?
Certainly not mine. I would not dare to call my movie 'La Vie en Rose,' even if the title was available. I like peonies best at this point in my life, because they start out very tight and keep on opening and opening and even at full, lavish, almost overripe blossom are still lovely enough to paint, because you can see the heart at the center.

Friday, June 15, 2007


When I first lived in Hollywood, before my move to the infamous Laurel Canyon, consecrated in song and last week's article in The New York Times about the 'Summer of Love,' I stayed at the Park Sunset on that epynonymous(I think it's spelled) boulevard. There was a coffee shop in the front of the hotel/apartment that had in its glass-cased counter Bear Claws, that typical LA pastry with almonds on top, shaped, I would imagine, like some baker's concept of claw, a semi-circle with ridges, glazed. I was a chub, a word that always hurt me as a little girl when it came on the label of a dress size, crazy in love with a wraith, the young and gangly and very beautiful Tony Perkins, whom I didn't know was gay, but considered simply respectful and tasteful, because how could he want a fat girl? His mind was as sharp as his shoulder blades, which were tanned to a creamy coffee brown, and he would tease me with lines from old movies, telling me if I could identify which picture, for example, "Rice pudding... in Egypt you cannot tell if they are flies or raisins" came from, he would take me to dinner. I used that as the springboard for his fictional character, Stephen Ryder, in my first novel Naked in Babylon, which I bowdlerized so Tony would continue to love me, in his fashion, which involved everything but touch, as he was upset that, in the novel at least, his character was a closeted homosexual, which I had faced in writing as I could not in life.
Anyway I was too fat to have the bear claw, because I was twenty and still lived in hope. So this morning when I took Mimi to the groomer and went into the bakery next door, there was a bear claw, so I ate it. Fuck it. Too late to worry about such things. I also remembered being closeted myself when Stanley Kubrick, my best friend of that moment, had me come down from Stanford, and secreted me in the Park Sunset to save him from what was, according to him, the unusable dialogue of Nabokov, and work on the screenplay of Lolita, not permitting me to call any of my friends, because he was sure if they knew I was in town, they would know what I was clandestinely(is it an adjective, too?) involved with. His paranoia knew no bounds. There were bear claws, then, too, that I didn't eat.
I am sad that he left as early as he did, but he could not stand a world he did not control, building his own Vietnam for 'Full Metal Jacket' at his compound in Elstree so he wouldn't have to travel to where there were actually palm trees, building a city for the insufferable 'Eyes Wide Shut'. The rest of us left here are suffering from a world, an administration we cannot control or, sadly, have any impact on, so maybe his genius extended beyond movie-making to timely exits.
My stole caught in the door of my car as I got in to come home, having eaten only of the top of the bear claw, just the slivered almonds and what there was of glaze, so I thought for a moment of Isadora Duncan and remembered having read somewhere of the woman who'd given her the fatal scarf. No other information about her, just that she had gifted her with that scarf. Scott Fitzgerald and wife once sat on a hillside in the south of France once near Isadora, and Zelda got even crazier because he was captivated by her, as we all are who know her legend, and remember the great and fatal last line, "Mes Amies, je vais au le gloire!" just before the end of the scarf caught in the wheel of the sports car she took off in and was strangled on her way to Glory. And I wondered how it was to be the woman who had so gifted her, who did nothing in life but be rich and able to give gifts to the gifted, and if she had suffered all the rest of her (what I imagine to be privileged and long) life because that was the only thing she had done of any real consequence, and that consequence so dark. I wish at such moments that I was de Maupassant(sp?) or Colette and had given myself to short stories instead of this bloody blog.
Mimi has lost fifteen ounces so is weighing in okay for her trip to France at summer's end, but she is hungry a lot of the time as it is hard to explain to her about an ideal of Beauty, or the rules at Air France. We had dinner last night with one of the great people left on the planet from when movies were movies, Gena Rowlands, and Mimi whined the whole time because we were eating some kind of beef she could smell from underneath the table. It was probably for her as it had been for me at twenty, sitting in front of that greasy glass case, filled with longing for an avenue for my talents, a great love and a bear claw.
So much for Proust, and his madeleine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Watching the endless thank yous at the Tonys, I noted in passing, as everything seems to, that when Tommy Tune sang against pictures of theater people who had died this year, at the end a theater itself went up into the darkness, the Brooks Atkinson. I took that to mean that the theater had been demolished, to make way for even more unwatchable musicals with unsingable lyrics, and unwitty plays in larger, more Disneyfied quarters. Brooks Atkinson, for those of you young and wise enough never to have been fixated on Broadway, was a long ago theater critic, commemorated with a building, which they now mostly name for those who run them or own them. I am sadly used to friends departing for unknown shores, but this is the first time I ever lost a building. Even 255 W. 84th Street where I lived as a very little girl, that had a plaque on its side saying 'On this site Edgar Allen Poe wrote the Raven,' which electrified me at 8 and charged me with the thought I had to do something important with words, still stands, although the street sign has been upped to Edgar Allen Poe Way, which puts him on a level with Mervyn LeRoy, who has his own semi-street near the Tavern on the Green, a very touristy restaurant he started, which is not as good as The Raven.
The Brooks Atkinson was the theater where my play, 'The Best Laid Plans' opened the same week as my daughter. Her birth announcement was in The New York Times, 'Mother's Play's Opening Upstaged by Baby's," read the headline, and tout New York phoned me in the hospital because it seemed like I was going to be a hit, so i was inundated with friends none of whom called again once the reviews came in. They wished long life to my baby and instant death to my play. There's a backstory which is probably funnier than the play: Hilly Elkins was the producer with Don, my husband, co-producing, and my baby in my belly, the reason we rushed everything as we had to literally beat the stork. The stork does bring babies, doesn't he? And how come it's a male?
The comedy, (it really was) is about a young woman in love from a distance with a difficult playwright, like a straight Tennessee Williams, if you can imagine, so she goes to his psychiatrist, a very talkative man who failed in show business, and learns all about him, then moves into the apartment next door and pretends to be a drug-addicted, suicidal young woman so he will fall in love with her, which he does. It was really funny, no kidding. But then, out of town in Philadelphia, Hilly got hysterical, the leading lady was fired, the whole things started collapsing, and the law of the theater, "if it can go wrong it will," went into effect. Hilly wanted me to have the heroine do drugs on stage, and I refused. 'Bitch," he said, "you'll change it," "Hilly," said Don, "I remind you you're talking to a woman with a baby in her belly." The invectives continued to fly out of Hilly's mouth, increasingly offensive. Finally Don said "One more word and I'll have to kill you." Hilly said "You and what army?" So BOOM, he was down.
And Don was trying to kill him. The director(Paul Bogart, later to be fired in Boston) came over and took off Don's glasses so he wouldn't be hurt by Hilly's flailing. Nobody in the room made a move to stop Don from killing him, including Mel Brooks who was a friend and had been called down to assuage Hilly's panic, as everybody there despised Hilly. It was a darkly comedic moment. The only thing darker was everybody getting fired, my being in the hospital having Madeleine, unable to protect the play, and Hilly's bringing in Arthur Storch, a moron, to direct, so the play went down the tubes, although mine stayed healthy.
My obstetrician wanted to go to the opening, so he let me go to the party-- in those days we stayed in the hospital for a while-- I got to the theater in time for the last laugh which wasn't there, so I knew it was a disaster. Mel and Annie drove me back to the hospital. Annie was Anne Bancroft, my favorite friend at the time, still radiantly funny in my eyes from 'Two for the Seesaw' so I had told her at the start of writing it, that I was going to write a play for her, and did, anxious for her to keep doing comedy, especially mine.
She called me after reading it and liking it, but said "I can't do it. I'm doing 'The Devils.' I asked "Why?" She said, "I've never played a hunchbacked nun before."
"Besides," she said. "Who knew you would write it in two weeks?"
So in the car going back to the hospital, as I bled metaphorically, spiritually and really, Mel said "Look: You had two things happen this week: if one of them had to be less than perfect, if your daughter had been born with six toes and two noses, ... that would have been okay: what mattered was the show." So I guess, in a way he saved me, though he hadn't been much help to the play.
I got a telegram from the president of Bryn Mawr saying 'Congratulations and love to the only friend I have who had a baby and a play the same week,' Love, Kathy, (which I didn't know anyone called her, so that sort of lifted my spirit.)
Don and I hid out for several weeks, I ducking behind lampposts when I saw someone I knew, the excoriation in the papers had been so, well, excoriating. We finally moved to California, with his saying "We must never try Broadway again unless we have a million dollars." Now of course a million dollars isn't that much security, the play which cost a hundred and fifty thousand to produce, would cost ten million today, and my theater has been demolished, along with most of my girlish dreams. Also if I were to revive it today the playwright in the play would have to pretend to be gay so he could get something produced and lisp endless thank-yous at the Tonys.
Ah, but I did love the the-a-ter. Katharine Hepburn came back to college once when I was an undergraduate, and those of us who were enamored got to have tea with her. "I suppose I should tell you how Bryn Mawr helped me in the Thee- ahh- terr,"she arched. "But I cahhnnnn't."
Neither cahnnn I.


So the wish to travel has kicked in again, after an amazingly complacent period of just sitting. I remember Jack's meditational dictum: 'Just sit. Spring will happen.Grass will grow.'
Well, he's right about the grass, but Spring has been elusive: gray mornings, jacaranda late in blooming, just like me. Finally caught up with my old, wonderful editor from the Wall Street Journal Europe, now with Bloomberg in Belgium, so that sort of reconnected me with how it was when I was spinning and swimming through Europe, and stirred up a visceral longing for different places, wonderful friends I made on those journeys, or even, sometimes, sitting still in exotic locales.
One of those was Suzie Coul I shall call her for short, or better, Suzie Cool, who is married to a French diplomat. We met when we were both crashing the swimming pool at the Bristol in Paris, and became friends. Pierre(wouldn't you know that would be his name) is a most unusual Frenchman-- extremely tall, which not many of them are, and terribly funny, which none of them are, humor being the Frenchman's shortest suit (think of their national love for Jerry Lewis.) I guess that isn't really fair, since we had a national love for W. None of my friends of course, but he did get elected-- the second time, anyway.
So there is Lucky Pierre, married to the delightful, blazingly red-haired Suzie, waiting for news of his next posting. Their last post was Botswana, where I was only once tempted to go visit them, and that because they were going to have a celebration of Bastille Day. Didn't go, though, cause one swing through Botswana is enough, and I had done that as part of my Africa saga. Suzie has an apartment in Paris where she goes to renew in-between postings, and also has a con which is better than any my mother could have conceived,-- she represents a film distributor in S. Africa, so she goes to film festivals. (She was originally in Zimbabwe, married to someone else-- she's a Brit-- when she met Pierre who was next in line to be the French representative when the one who was first in line was standing by an open window and was shot dead, an expression I learned in Belfast.) You could always spot her on the Champs-Elysees from behind, by this great, high, curly mat of bright orange hair, and the careless, dancer's swagger.
Having re-lit my traveler's candle, I am going to join Suzie for the Deauville Film Festival, as she is an example for us all, traveling with just one suitcase that contains a long skirt so she will always be appropriate, and the British accent also works. After that we hope to go to Honfleur where we were once and she taught me Pierre's dictum that if they're not nice to you, go someplace else immediately, which could really keep you moving in France. We ordered moules, the serveur was scornful as it was three minutes past the hour when they were on special, so she took my hand and we went across the street and had lovely and specially priced moules. A good lesson learned.
But now, oh helas! Pierre has received his new post. I had begged him to let it be someplace I would want to visit. But Suzie has just informed me it is Eritrea. Good God, I didn't even know there was an Eritrea. It is, apparently, right on the coast of some sea I will have to check out what it is, between that sea and Ethiopia, which got a lot of coverage in today's New York Times because it has children you can adopt with a lot of problems(the adoption, not the children.) But Ethiopia is mad at Eritrea because they'd like to have a coast. I just Googled it to assuage my ignorance, and found that Eritrea is impoverished, the gross national income is $291 a year and they need food. I wonder what Pierre has done to deserve such a post.
Suzie is very gay about it, though, looking forward as she manages always to do. She says the whole place is quite Fellini-ish, as it was built by the Italians during Mussolini times, and says perhaps they can even induce me to come. I don't think so. Though I worry about how I will spend Christmas. I was lucky last year, invited by friends in New York to a number of festive dinners, but I don't know how Sirrio is doing (Jean? How's it look?) and Carleen dropped her mobile phone in the toilet, so there's no way to tune in. It might be interesting to spend Christmas in a place where nobody has been and would never want to go again.
Well, we'll see. I know you think it's a long time away, but they're already sending me gift offers on the e-mail for Christmas, along with many chances at Romance from all of which I am deleting without opening as I saw 'Away from Her' and understand the best it will be for me is not getting Altzheimer's.
Some thoughts I got while seeing that remarkable movie:

How do we know a clam is happy?
That a bug in a rug feels snug?
Or a doornail is dead?
Or the punch is pleased?
Or the whip is smart?
And how can the snow be pure
Once it's been driven?