Sunday, May 27, 2012

How I Spent My Summer (is it yet?) Vacation

    So as friends know, and many who are not, but I don't care, my heart is an open book, I just had my hip replaced, which came as a great shock as I didn't know I was older. I am recuperating at the Hotel Mosaic, in Beverly Hills, sort of Eloise as a Senior, and am just rejoicing in being alive which I don't think we do often enough.
   Anyway, my day began the best way a day could begin, with a phone call from my 7th grade classmate, great buddy, and Don's favorite woman, Joanne Greenberg, who wrote one of the Great Books of the 20th century, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, still writing ferociously and brilliantly away, and she can't find a real publisher either.  Joanne was a firefighter in the hills of Colorado where she still resides, rescuing children put down wells by perverts, and rescuing me when I feel sorry for myself.  She points out to me that people will always need stories, and look how big Jane Austen is now.  I love her with my soul but have a hard time really listening to her, as she is sane, and like Veronica in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the great version with Gene Wilder, I WANT IT NOW.
   But I did watch the movie of Sense and Sensibility last night, and must admit I wept, and had all my buttons pushed by the master, or mistress if you will, and saw how swiftly and deftly she manipulated the emotions in very few lines, with almost no groundwork.  I also renewed my affection and admiration for Emma Thompson, with whom I had the privilege of being friend-ish when we were both staying at the Hotel Bel-Air, and she fell in love with my then dog, Happy, the Yorkshire terrier who would have lived forever but Oprah didn't show the book. Emma's screenplay(Imagine: they trusted an actress,) is glorious, her performance flawless, and I hope she had a happy marriage with the actor who played Willoughby, who was very pretty which never hurts to be around.  I couldn't stand Kenneth Branagh to whom I believe she had been married before, as gifted as he is, he was a pompous ass.   I has seen his production of some Shakespeare play at a festival in Europe-- he made them all look alike onstage where all the characters were dressed in red and came out of holes in the floor,-- and wrote an autobiography at 29, which the British critics thought was chutzpah, though they didn't know that word.  He came to visit Emma while I was at the hotel and I spoke to him respectfully because I loved her, but he was a bloated egoist.  I did however like his performance in the movie about Marilyn which should have won the Academy Award for Michelle Williams, as she will never have that great a chance again, was brilliant, and Meryl Streep is always Meryl Streep being someone else.
   Anyway, although Joanne was not able to make me feel better about how hard it is for real writers now, she did tap into my 'it could be worse', pointing out that Mozart took 150 years to be discovered, by Mendelssohn who also dug up Bach, and did make me feel loved by the universe or we wouldn't have gone to PS9 together and found each other again when she heard my voice on the Donahue show, when Phil was the best, I was a welcome guest, and she contacted me.
   Someone's hearing my voice and recognizing it brought back my memory of once great and close friend Stanley Kubrick, for whom I wrote the beginning of Lolita in the closet when I was at Stanford, stopped seeing when I asked him how he saw it, and he said "a love story," (I had thought it was a comedy,) found again when Don and I were getting married and I wanted him at the wedding, so went to the opening of Strangelove, where he was clicking off the attendance with a bus counter, then lost when he moved to Elstree.  I spent Thanksgiving one year at the home of Max and Gary Smith and knew that Stanley lived next door, so went through the hedge with Madeleine 4, and Robert 2, to show him how life sometime works out.  He was living in a ruined castle out of Harry Potter, and when I rang the bell, (a hollow clang) the door (huge and wooden) creaked open, revealing two snarling dogs at the end of a chain snapping at the air. I said into the darkness "Stanley?"  And he said "Gwen?"  And I said "Yes," and he said "I'd let you in but the dogs would go for the children."
   We never saw each other again.  But he wrote me a letter in longhand, or rather crippled hand, curlicues and twirling around the edges, apologizing.  Unfortunately I had not yet begun my conquest of the Seven Deadlies, and overcome with Anger, threw it away instead of selling it at auction.
   But I've had a nice day, I am grateful not to be in pain although I am strangling via a stocking on my left thigh which has turned into Jennifer Lopez' hips.  I know I am lucky just to be alive, celebrating that, and losing the other Six, though apparently I still have a small problem with Pride, or I wouldn't be so pissed at not finding a publisher.
  Happy Memorial Day, if we can really celebrate such things, when nobody really learns and people still go to war.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Zuckerberg's New Clothes

   For the second time in a short period I have occasion to love my country.  The first was when I was leaving Bali, and was stopped at the airport because I didn't have "an exit permit," something I didn't know I had to have.  I understood it was an attempt to financially strong-arm me, and realized for the first time what it meant to be an American-- that I had never before been unable to leave where I was.  It all worked out(with all I had of cash) but for that moment, at least, I rejoiced in who we are, and what real Freedom means.
   The second time was today, when Facebook was up for an IPO. As the bartender at the Mosaic where I am staying, a sweet young man who wants to be a fireman, but they are cutting back on such hirings because California is running out of money like everywhere else, for unimportant things, like education, public safety and health, had no knowledge of the Emperor's New Clothes, I will assume there are those of you out there who could use a refresher course in that great tale-- an emperor has a bullshit tailor who garbs him royally in nonexistent regalia.  As he parades the populace oohs and ahhs at its magnificence, till a little boy chirps that the emperor is naked.  So it is with Mark Zuckerberg.
   As those of you know who know me-- it doesn't take much, you have but to ask, and my truths tumble out-- there are few on the planet, here or gone, with the exception of historical figures without compassion or conscience, that I loathe.  But in recent moons my craw(do you have one?) has been stuck with Mark Zuckerberg.  The fact that this empty(I am sure he is)putz became a billionaire by trading on people's loneliness, with nothing really to offer, has enraged me, a rage intensified by the fact that I actually know someone of whom I am genuinely fond, who wastes hours of their otherwise clever and touching life seeking connection on that idiotic -- what is it? a page? a layout? a hype?, well, yeah--to no real advantage.  My latest trip onto the empty turf that can be this burg(Hollywood) has introduced me to a woman who makes many claims of (professional) connection but I can find nothing out about her.  She says she is on Facebook, but under a pseudonym.  Huh?
   Anyway, I have had this loathing for Zuckerberg since Whitney Huston died and they went to him for a statement, as if he were Walt Whitman on the death of Abraham Lincoln.  Just because he'd made billions out of nothing. And it is nothing, and as Walt's favorite, Abe said, "You can fool some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time," at least I think that's what he said.  As with Benjamin Franklin, the other most towering figure in our great history, I am glad he is not here to see what has become of of our country.  The post offices and the libraries he founded (not to mention swim fins) are going out of business.  But Zuckerberg prevails.
   Not as much as he might have, though.  God Bless America.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Embracing Your Age

   My lovely friend Amber and I were talking about all the older actresses, Maggie Smith, Meryl Streep, etc, and I noted that out of all of them, the one who remains the most appealing is Judi Dench.  Amber, as wise as she is pretty and kind, said: "That is because she embraces her age."
 Because I have always been the youngest one, the youngest in my class, the youngest to go to Paris and sing my songs in a boite,  kind of an old/young American dream, the youngest to lose my husband, (at which juncture, Jack, my Jewru, said "When you lose a longtime partner, whether through death or divorce, you go back to who you were before," so I became a 17 year-old Chubette, which I had been before Don found and refined me) the oldest/youngest to move back to Paris to try and re-begin, then the oldest/youngest to start a new career, writing travel for the Wall Street Journal Europe.  So this constant process of starting over made me think I was starting over, too.  Which I suppose I really was, but my actual body did not start over with me, to my profound shock, not acknowledged till this weekend.
 Whatever I was going through in my life came to blazing reality on the no longer Silver Screen, as much in my life has done, when I went to see the still radiant Dame Judi in Exotic Magnolia or whatever the hell it is Hotel.  And there among the less radiant Oldies, was the still wonderful Maggie Smith, whose youthful brilliance had been the center of my once great and delicious celebrations.
 At the height of my success with The Pretenders,  we gave the first(and still, I think, the best tongue-in-cheek in-your-face)of the pre-Swifty Lazar/Graydon Carter Oscar parties. black tie to watch on TV.  It was at the height (or depth) of the Vietnam war, all of Hollywood of conscience hated Bob Hope, and John Wayne, and drum-majoretted by the estimable Ruth Berle, the surprisingly sharp wife of Milton, described in the article that emerged as the "doyenne" of the film colony, came to my house instead of attending the awards.
    Sandra Burton, then Time Magazine staffer for Los Angeles went to Dusty Fleming, my gifted and insouciant hairdresser, and while getting her hair cut, asked him what he was doing for the awards; he told her he was coming to a party at my house.  She called and said "This is Sandra Burton, of Time Magazine.  May I come to your party and cover it?" Publicity-mad as I was, and almost everybody in this town/business becomes, especially in the midst of a success enhanced by publicity, I of course breathlessly said "Well, certainly."
    The story she wrote was sharp and brilliant, as Sandy was.  Lee Marvin, who'd won the previous year was there, as was Shirley MacLaine, who engaged in a non-stop battle with Bob Hope on the screen and John Wayne, and let loose with a ream of rage at all the higher-ups in the industry, in spite of my repeated imprecations to her,  that Sandy was covering the event for Time, and Sandy's own warnings as she held her pen and notebook under Shirley's nose.
    There was a kleig-light outside our house, Robert(2) was in a tux, Madeleine (4) in a gown, there was a red carpet in our driveway, and Pat McGivern, son of my old, dear friends from Torremolinos, was in an usher's uniform from the old Roxy, and carrying a flashlight.  I had made hors d'oeuvres, won-tons and empanadas for three days., there was a Sabrett stand in the back yard, many stars of the screen of the day and what now seems a very long-ago yesterday were in attendance.
  We had three rooms for viewing, Reformed(you could talk) Conservative(you could talk and watch) and Orthodox(you could watch and keep quiet.) It was truly a great occasion, as I remember clearly, even as memory sometimes fails, a magnificent occasion.
  And then the young and brilliant Maggie Smith won for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,  which the most surly of today's watchers, if they had the patience to actually sit, shut up, and not text would have to admit was one of the great performances of all time.  I had the privilege of meeting Maggie Smith a few years later, when she had an unrewarding role in the hash that was made of a movie I wrote that was scrambled into chaos by the director Bryan Forbes, who had lost it by then.  This would be authenticated as not just bitterness on my part, by the words of Larry Gelbart, the shiniest wit ever to glow in this town, who told me that Forbes said to him, when he desecrated a script of Larry's, "I know more about the English language than you do."
  But I got the money for the screenplay, and a trip to the south of France with my still young family, and I got to meet Maggie Smith, who was, as one might guess, as estimable as she seemed.  She loaned me twenty or maybe it was fifty francs in Cannes, when they were still coins, and when I went to see her in a play in London, I gave it back to her.  And she said "Twenty francs.  How squalid."  She never disappointed.
  So I tried not to feel sad or put off by how really wizened she looked in the new movie, as she seems to have stepped up to where she is in time, and is probably glad to still be working.  But the one who soars in Judi Dench.  I ran into her once and we had a conversation in an alleyway off Shaftesbury Avenue, where she was being magnificent in a play, and she seemed, like all the real Greaties, to really be Judi Dench.  As Cary Grant was really Cary Grant,(witty and dear and charming) and Gregory Peck was really Gregory Peck,(noble and gallant and articulate) and Judy Holliday was really Judy Holliday,(vulnerable and adorable) and Bette Davis was really Bette Davis(terrifying.)
  Thus it was that I awakened this morning determined to listen to the premature(she is quite young) wisdom of Amber, and embrace my age.  I wish I could get my arms, much less my head around it.  But in spite of the swimming and the yoga, they are a little stiffer than they were.  Oh, well.


   As beautiful and terrible and challenging, which they say these days instead of 'difficult' as Bali was, the food, which I ate mostly with chopsticks taking the vegetables out of the Nasi Goreng, leaving the rice, so I am actually slender, was mostly delicious.  When I got back my two great hungers were for bread and TV, because as bad as television is, you cannot imagine what a comfort you realize it is when you are in Bali and it's beyond terrible, so you never turn it on, the only news you receive, besides the Jakarta Post which is mostly about which corrupt person got caught, which can only be because they did not steal enough to pay someone off, is the headline from the NYTimes digital, usually depressing because I thought our politics were, and did not enjoy our country's descent into the trivial.  Must admit I am saddened by the Justice Dept's action against Steve Jobs, as he was the only one of all these guys I really admired, but don't imagine it bothers him.  
   But turning on the tube I watched Anthony Bourdain doing the great job he does and which I fantasied for a while I should be doing, as I was still loving traveling, with that much joy and bright observations and thought I'd be good at that.  Anyway Jon Stewart, who it was a delight coming back to, asked him what New York was best at, and he said 'deli," and I had to agree, as I missed nothing so much as bagels.  Yoni, my gorgeous and put-upon driver, as women count as dust in the Bali culture(even your ancestors go over to his family when you marry, and although he is a brute and a fiend, he gets to keep the children) loved nothing so much as bread.  When we would go out to lunch, one of the great pleasures of my sojourn being going out with her at the end of my work-morning to research or restaurant, she would order whatever there was that had bread-- sandwiches or wraps, it made her so happy.  So I am eating now for two, having freely bageled in New York, and living now very close to the Bagel Nosh, which isn't the real thing, but is close enough.  
    I am about to go to lunch with Gabi and Fernando, an adorable couple who worked at the Apple store in New York, who became friends of the heart when I worked with them in my One on One sessions, so when I was in Bali and my Mac had a breakdown, Gabi called me from the States on her dime, and worked with me for almost two hours to fix it, which she did.  They have moved to LA now, so we are about to reunite for brunch(she is now a film editor and she and Fernando are setting up a website company called NetWorkFolio which I know will be the BEST, as they are. As they have not lived long enough in LA to become bullshitters, I am taking them to the Bagel Nosh instead of Kate Mantelini's, because they are probably still real enough to be interested in the food and each other and friend and not who is in the next booth.  I don't really care anymore because Anne Bancroft won't be there with Mel Brooks.
     I am happily ensconsed(sp?) in the Hotel Mosaic, where I started writing SCANDAL, and where the story is actually set (now available on with a great cover that should be in the window of a bookstore but there aren't any.  Ah, how happily I recall Hunter's and Pickwick and all the dead.  And here it is.

   I remember Larry Todd from Hunter's, who, at the time of The Pretenders, called me "the Jane Austen of the jet set."  I understand that the hot new book, that Gray thing, is filled with erotica, so it must be back, but I have no appetite for writing it, or, I think reading it, as having gone back a few months ago to look at my once bestseller, I was embarrassed.  I remember how Donnie would come home at the end of the day when I was pregnant with Robert, and reading what I had done, would say "It's terrific; now go back downstairs and make it worse."  So I would waddle down to the basement, one of the only ones in LA, and with my big belly close to the typewriter, (it still was then, albeit electric) and make it even steamier.  I was exhausted.  Robert claims he heard the noise of the keys from inside.  I don't disbelieve him, as I think I became a writer partly because Gene Kelly was my dancing teacher in Pittsburgh when I was two, and he told my mother I would never be a dancer.  So the tapping of the keys was like the metal on my sole/soul.
   Here's Gabi and Fernando. Aren't they wonderful?  

Love to you all.