Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Never Have to Make Anything Up

    Just in case those readers I might have wonder where my material comes from, I admit to being a scavenger, letting life provide me with just as much as, and often more than does my imagination.

     Last night I had sort of a party, to celebrate Life, the finishing of a new book, (PARADISE DARK, writ in Bali,) SCANDAL, the novel written in this hotel, the Mosaic, being available in actual print (on and just being alive in general, gathering a few old friends.
    When what to my wondering eyes should appear, wandering in from the next room, but Herman Cain. As you will know if you have ever tuned in (by mistake, probably, or one can hope) to Entertainment Tonight, a premiere is nothing without a guest celebrity. So it was more than kind of Providence to blow him in, so to speak, as you could not hope for anything more outrageous.  nyone could come up with Brad and Angelina. It took all the Forces of this country's subterranean spirits, with their wry sense of humor and improbablity, to manifest this one.
    Herman Cain, (vilified by the media, he did declare, coming up with all those women who lied) wanted a copy of my novel. I told him I would have very much liked to give him one, but as there has been a sea change in publishing (more accurately, a tsunami) the publisher has given me no free books. He said he would be glad to buy one.
    "How much is it?" he asked.
    "9.99," said I.
    "You're kidding," said Herman Cain. Twas then I remembered that 999 was the center, the signpost of his whole campaign, whatever the hell it meant (I doubt that anyone knows, including Herman Cain.) But it was adorable of the universe to throw me that one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hati-Hati It's My Hati (now on iTunes)

"HATI-HATI it's my HATI" is a delightful ditty that will lift your spirits, and take you on a holiday-- to Bali, where the signs by the roadside read just that, meaning 'Be Careful.' And in their own language, as young and innocent as they are, 'Hati' means heart. So it means BE CAREFUL, IT'S MY HEART. (Matahari means 'Sunshine', and Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge. Mati means drop dead but we won't talk about that.)  Now Available on iTunes

Sunday, June 24, 2012

So Much for Happy Endings

    So when my loved friend Rona Barrett, secretly one of the Great Givers of the World-- her cause is housing for Seniors in Need-- ended up with the Love of her Middle Youth, chastised and repentant, Sherry Lansing, who sometimes comes through, gave her a dinner party. At the dinner party was a terrific woman whose house I had stayed in on Fire Island when Madeleine was not quite a year old-- we're talking history here-- when Don and I were visiting Mel Brooks and Annie Bancroft. The woman remembered me, and we reconnected in a very happy and deep way, she, because she is a gifted artist and a genuine human being, and I, because I love a great story.
    This was the tale: In her girlhood she had loved a sensational man who'd waited till she was eighteen to become her lover, then she'd married a number of interesting and difficult men, roamed the world with a great conductor, music being not an unpleasant way to waltz through life, ended up back here where she reconnected with the love of her youth, and they became one. He had risen to executive heights when there were still a number of studios, and was one of the loved men around town-- there aren't that many-- because he'd never done anyone any harm.
    So my belief in Happy Endings was restored.
    Not so fast. "And they lived Happily Ever After" works only in Fairy Tales, and the top of the mountain if you are a Buddhist and all you want is the process of getting there. In fact, it should read "If People live on, stuff happens." The man got older and sick and his daughter sold his beautiful apartment where he was living sometimes with my friend-- she had a little walk-up a couple of blocks away, riddled with her treasures, art she had fashioned, vintage clothes she had brilliantly selected with her seasoned eye, china and silver and a little Wedgwood pitcher that fresh flowers should grace, and will starting tomorrow. Because the daughter put him in a home, so the woman has to sell everything because she is moving tomorrow to a tiny apartment and has to get rid of everything at Beyond Sacrifice prices. It just makes me so sad.  And angry, too.
    But I am happy to have the little pitcher, and several beautiful plates I bought that she fashioned herself, and a wonderful collage she gave me for my birthday that now hangs on my hotel room wall.  An antique mirror I bought because I saw how good it was and how nobody was buying anything will go up on my other wall tomorrow even though I don't need it and will have the same problem as she does when it's time for me to move out of here a few weeks from now.
    I was told by my old editor, a very smart man, that when Social Security was first instituted, people were lucky if they lived till retirement age, so nobody ever thought there would be a long line of those collecting. The country, our country, as we know, is in terrible trouble, along with everyone else but the friends of Mitt Romney and maybe Abdullah of Dubai, a new acquaintance from Kamalaya, a spa in Thailand I went to in between writing books in Bali, the first one, SCANDAL, fun, now sort of available from, the new one, PARADISE DARK, writ from my soul, in the hands of the gods.
    Abdullah helped me with the scenes of the renegade financier hiding out in and leaving Dubai in SCANDAL, -- he has a very warm and demonstrative mother I loved, the first friend I've had in purdah, who greeted me nightly with "Our Friend!  Before you came, we were so lonely!" So I had vision of healing all breeches between their world and ours, and maybe getting my musical on. But as Fitzgerald would have pointed out, the very rich are different from you and me, especially when they have horses (Abdullah has a polo team, wouldn't you know.) I would have gone to his wedding, but that was divided into different nights for the women and the men, and I was travelled out, so missed it.
    But you only miss what you don't need, or cannot learn from, although I am sure I would have enjoyed the 100th birthday of the Beverly Hills Hotel which was last Saturday night when my hair looked so good because Dusty had cut it, I sat up all night, sad that I had no place to go. And on Sunday I had a date with a friend I hadn't seen for twenty years, so waited for five hours for her to show up before I remembered she was crazy. On Monday I called my friend who is front office manager at the Beverly Hills, and he said "If only you had called on Friday, I would have invited you to the party."
    Oh well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Permanent Addresses

    There was a paperback book of that title some years ago, that offered a tour of the cemeteries in Hollywood, and I used to see people wandering around Westwood Memorial thumbing through it and checking the gravestones. My being there was less morbid than loving, because that is where my Donnie is, and many of the lustrous names that have passed from the scene, many of them buried on top of each other because space is limited, and it's very expensive real estate around here. I used that locale as the opening of West of Paradise, one of my lesser but still enjoyable books, doing it like a name-dropping tour of what might have been a party, but, as it turned out was a description of that locale. I remember it began "Natalie Wood was there, and..." you will have to get the book for the rest, as I don't remember, but it's very lively for what turns out to be that setting.
    The most important, of course, since nobody can kill her, is Marilyn Monroe, who is  in a wall, around the corner from where Peter Lawford used to be, but his wife couldn't make the payments, so he's been taken out and replaced with Harry Finley, a florist. You would think Harry's people could at least freshen up Marilyn's flowers because they clearly need livening up.
    When DiMaggio was alive there were fresh flowers there all the time, but now he's gone, too, and all the rest of those who might have paid court. But as we know, she is still very much alive, even though coming up is the 50th anniversary of her death, as already commemorated on the cover of Vanity Fair I picked up the other day on my walking tour of Beverly Hills, the terrible TV faux musical SMASH, and a Broadway musical by a producer friend of mine who never gives up even when an idea is terrible.
    Who else is nearby is Billy Wilder("I'm a writer, but Nobody's Perfect") and Jack Lemmon In (that's all it says on the upright gravestone, and then there's the sod,) and my favorite, Rodney Dangerfield: "There goes the neighborhood." But still creeping around are teenage girls checking out Marilyn. They could have at least brought fresh flowers.
    Marilyn's press agent was Arthur Jacobs, a hysterical(not funny, hysterical) man of a certain subterranean sweetness whom I dated before I met Don.  He took me to openings, which impressed me, and then usually drank too much and got angry, so it wasn't a lot of fun. He had been the press agent for Gene Kelly, whom you may remember was my dancing teacher in Pittsburgh, which info I imparted to Mr. Kelly, calling him that respectfully and enthusiastically when I met him at a party, when he brushed me quite literally aside to get to someone who mattered. The following Monday I got a call from Elliott Kastner, my agent at MCA, who said "Gene Kelly loves your script," and I said "REALLY?!!" Elliott said "He was your dancing teacher in Pittsburgh," and I said "He remembers?!!!" Then Elliott said: "He doesn't have any money," so I started to cry, and gave him an eighteen month option for $100 of which MCA took 10. (I still have the check stub: Eugene C. Kelly, it reads.) The property was WHAT A WAY TO GO, which was to earn a great deal of money for 20th Century Fox.   
    But right then, everybody suddenly got interested in it, as they should have been, because it was such a good idea-- a woman who wants to marry for love, and everybody she marries dies, only in comic ways, making her a richer and richer widow. I was twenty two maybe, and now I had to wait for Gene's option to expire. When it did, Arthur who had become a producer, wanted it. By now of course I had become more knowledgable in the ways of the town, so I let him have it for $500. At this point William Morris called me into their offices and said "If we had handled the deal, we would have gotten you x thousands for the story and another  xxxx thousands for the screenplay." The following Monday I went up to their offices, and said "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," holding in my hand the bounced check of Arthur Jacobs.
    They called the Coast, (we were in New York) and sent a wire(we still did in those days) to Arthur: 'Because of your check marked Insufficient Funds, 'blah blah blah the deal is off. "If you wish to re-negotiate the matter you may contact my agent, William Morris."
    So there it was, at too short last: I had the big end of the stick. Joe Schoenfeld, head of the movie dept. flew in from Hollywood, and we had a meeting-- all those who had blustered in my would-have been favor. They were curiously silent. "What do you want?" Joe asked. Nobody spoke. "I'm just asking for what your guys said they would get me," I said. Again, silence. It turned out they had represented Arthur Jacobs, and fired themselves.
    We ended up making a less than what they had said deal, and told Arthur it was my idea to hold onto the check until it bounced, and Arthur never spoke to me again. Still, being an ex-publicist, he announced it for several of the great women stars of the period: Sophia Loren, blah blah blah, and, last, but certainly not least, Marilyn Monroe. 
    She died the day she was to sign the contract.
    He ended up making the movie with Shirley MacLaine who was adorable and had affairs with several of the co-stars playing her husbands, who were all the handsome and talented men in Hollywood at the time: Paul Newman, Dean Martin, her big love, Robert Mitchum, Dick Van Dyke, and, oh, yes, of course, Gene Kelly. The movie was a lot less funny than the original screenplay, but oh well.
    I should have put some fresh flowers in her vase. But I had brought them for Don. Besides, her dying anniversary is coming up, and there will be picnic chairs all over the lawn at Westwood, as the harpies gather to commemorate the date, some of them in drag, some of in platinum wigs, some of them born after she'd been dead for decades. But you can't keep a good story down, even when it's in a wall.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day on Wall Street

    Trying to understand the Ways of the World, even while struggling to rise above them, I found myself voluntarily and without irony asking for change at the sidewalk restaurant where I was breakfasting, so I could buy the Wall Street Journal out of whatever the name is for that thing that holds newspapers. The headline, which captured me, was 'Insider Push Snags Big Catch,' which was not quite as good as the long ago Variety one: 'Wall Street Lays an Egg,' but did give off a whiff of the same smart-alecky approach to the spiritual and financial devastation that lurks and sometimes manifests these days.
    The story was about Rajat Gupta, who got the American Dream even though he was once a little boy from India, who was found guilty of passing information to a Mr. Rajaratnam about a Goldman Sachs meeting, that apparently resulted in Mr. R's unloading stock and making a great deal of money, or, even worse, failing to lose it like everyone else. That is, everyone else outside of Goldman Sachs and the rest of the high echelon traders and bankers who have been going home with millions in bonuses while everyone else in the country hangs on to whatever they have or hope for by their fingernails. Scratching on a blackboard, as I hear it.
    Mr. Gupta's two daughters wept at the verdict, so I don't know how they are experiencing Father's Day. But mine, sitting curbside in Beverly Hills, was peopled with happy children and their mostly baffled looking fathers, men who might have always wanted the stability of families, but weren't completely sure how to handle these growing tots, one of them playing 'Au Clair de la Lune' on a recorder.  
     I, on the same yet other hand was not sure how exactly to handle the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper the European edition of which I was sort of privileged to write travel for when I was living in Paris, and connected with the very smart Jim Ruane, a crackerjack journalist whose exact title I don't remember, but he answered the phone when I called Brussels, after my lovely friend Vicky King, a PR gentle dynamo, called me in Paris and said "The Wall Street Journal Europe is starting a travel page, and you'd be good at that." So I called and Jim answered, and I said "I have an idea: Swimming through Europe" -- all the great hotels with pools, and he said "I like it. Send me a couple of graphs." And I said, "What is that?" to which he responded; "Paragraphs." Which will tell you how much I understood about the lingo.
    Still, I set off, to do two of my favorite things: Swim and write. And so it was I got to be in some of the great hotels in the world, where they were expecting a Republican in a suit so when I showed up there was a palpable sense of relief, and I made great friends all over the world, when it was still the world, not this scary place teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown about money, all of which could be solved by throwing all the bankers in jail with Mr. Gupta. Shakespeare said "First, kill all the lawyers," but I think if her were here now he would be open to revisions.
    Then, my second cup of coffee having arrived, I made the mistake of reading parts of the rest of the paper, including the editorials, which were, (take a breath to deal with your surprise) virulently anti-Obama. I have my own reservations about some of the thing he promised us, like ending the war not coming to fruition, but to accuse him of anti-Americanism, which is basically what the opinion pieces do, is downright silly. Only in America, though, could such angry advocacy cost $1.50, and Michelle ask you (on the net) to wish Barack a Happy Father's Day and ask for a contribution.
     But back to the WSJ. When my son married the lovely Jenni from Australia, whose father Rufus Davis had been the head of the law school in Melbourne, many great political scientists from all over, who were friends of Rufus', came to the event.  Among them was Nelson Polsby, a near-mythic figure in political science, a professor at Berkeley, a man as wide and fleshy as he was brilliant, taking up most of the couch he sat on at the reception in Malibu, who, when he was introduced to me and told I wrote for the journal, told me "Most of those who write for the editorial page were my students. And they are all insane."   
    Read it yourself, as this is still America, and we should all listen to the arguments of people who hold opposing opinions, because that is what keeps us a democracy. At least until the election, or the next Supreme Court decision that suborns more of our rights. I am not exactly sure of the meaning of 'suborns', but I have heard it used with 'perjury,' so can guess it means quash, which is what that court appears to have been doing with respect to elections, fund-raising for candidates, and, coming up, health. 
     I wish I could discuss it with Nelson Polsby. But he didn't take good enough care of himself, as indicated by his size, and so is with us no more. As the country of our youth doesn't appear to be, either.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Walk on the Tame Side

    Celebrating a return of my energy, as well as my hairdresser, Dusty, who carries in his scissors as well as his enthusiasms, Eternal Youth, I set forth on foot today to see what had become of my old neighborhood, Beverly Hills. My appointment with him was not until three, so I light breakfasted (fruit and a bagel, scooped) at the Nosh, then had my color done by the adorable Serbian-long-lived-here Nada, whose daughter is married to Christian Bale, but Nada is not impressed, she has a husband she considers even more handsome, Ogie, and they are not bothered by the paparazzi.  
    One of my few regrets being here is that my Vanity Fairs are all in my New York apartment, and much as I love the creative editor, David Friend, who is a friend indeed, and enjoy the magazine, my one burst of thrift has been refusing to buy a copy when I know it is mouldering in New York. So when I saw one lying inside the glass window of a makeup store, I went inside to see if they wanted to make me a better person, on the outside, anyway, but they were all booked up, so I left, but with the magazine, the issue I most wanted to read, with Marilyn Monroe, of course, on the cover. Moving along the pavement, smoother than those in New York, or certainly the non-existent sidewalks of Bali, I peeked into stores to see who was doing business, and discovered, no, really, right in arguably one of the best blocks, a pawn shop. A pawn shop. Jewels in the window, fur coats hanging luxuriously inside, an antique piano, guitars,-- oh, it was a veritable Depression wonderland.  
   I asked the young clerk how they were doing, and he said 'Okay,' which I think is about how it is for everybody except Neiman Marcus where the Very Rich are Different from you and Me, as Fitzgerald said to Hemingway, whereupon that muscular wise-ass for whom I have lost all affection after what he did to Clive Owen on HBO, the Last Man Standing reduced to idiocy and imitation, said "Yes they have more money." But I don't think that obtains anymore. The response could be, "Yes, they spend." Especially the friends of Romney but we won't go there because it upsets my beloved friend Evelyn when I wax political.
   Anyway, the young man was Thai, so I advised him to go to SILK, the very fine restaurant I discovered behind this little hotel, just across from the Peninsula, as delectable an Asian meal as you can find in these provinces, especially for the price. So I hope I was of some help to him, even though I wasn't sure I was going to buy the little ring for my lonely pinky, the one that Don isn't here to decorate as he always did when I wrote a new book, even though he really didn't have any money. Such a nice man. The one piece of jewelry I still have from him, everything else having been lost or stolen, is on my left hand and I never take it off, as I don't the one earring of my mother's that I didn't lose and so put on a necklace that I only take off when Dusty cuts my hair.
   I stopped in or rather out to a little sushi place on Bedford, and did not eavesdrop on the chatting trio at the next table, but did greet them as they were finishing. They work at Saks where business is good they said, because there are sales. Then I walked past empty stores on Santa Monica Blvd, and came to one crated-up, white-painted place that looked like a particularly ugly building in Seminyak where they were trying to look like they were too smart for Bali. This one was Missoni, and peering in through the emptiness, I saw a sign that read it was closed due to a dispute with the landlord. So I guess he raised the rent or wanted them to pay it. Sigh.
   Across the street there was a line of at least ten people waiting outside Sprinkles, the cupcake place, so when I saw another cupcake place a few blocks down that was not doing any business at all, I had to cross the street to inquire why. Passers-by opined that Sprinkles was peopled with tourists, as apparently it has been getting a lot of publicity, and it IS Father's Day tomorrow (Don't forget to call Dad if he's still on this side of the Divide.) But right next to the sluggish cupcake place was a newly opened Gelato place, which I had no choice but to try as GUSTO, my beloved gelato place in Bali had just been reviewed on TripAdvisor (look for my review under thegwen), bringing back all sorts of joyful memories, as that was where I had my book party for SCANDAL, and it is the setting for 'Hati-Hati, it's my Hati,' the song I wrote in Bali (Be Careful, it's my Heart) that the beautiful princess Farah recorded my singing. Watch me performing it LIVE on YouTube. (I was advised by the publisher of SCANDAL that I must be like the estimable Larry Block and miss no opportunity to plug my wares, though Larry, almost in person, advised that you have to be subtle. Is this soft enough?)  
   This gelato store, I found out from a mother in line, was started by her children's tennis coach, who decided he wanted to do something more than coach tennis. There is no question in my mind that gelato makes the world a better place, and eating it makes you a better person, so I was happy to consult with her children about flavors. I myself ended up with chocolate (always), Nutella, and ciliegie it would have been in Italy, but here it was cherry, and the scooper, Jennifer, gave me an extra one on top.
     By now I had almost arrived at my hairdresser, thrilled that I was still able to walk, and that a few of the stores of my while-ago youth were still there. I got a great haircut, which is always the story with Dusty, and afterwards went to Whole Foods which will never go out of business, as it is so overpriced. I remember my old friend Ed, who opened the first big Health Food store in this province, Aunt Tillie's, for which I baked Banana Nirvana, and Apple Zucchini Delight, and people waited on line like it was Sprinkles for it to arrive. But those were simpler days, and he was a very kind man, and kept his prices low, and so went out of business.
     It isn't easy trying to make the world a better place.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Girl Singers

    So as my clever tekkies set up my website ( --hope Stefani doesn't get mad--) a youngish friend said of Rosemary Clooney, "You really want to call her a girl singer? Wouldn't she be a female singer?" So I called her handsome and quick-thinking and brilliantly hosting a talk show when he did which is how I knew him in Cincinnatti brother Nick Clooney, George's dad, to clarify. And Nick assured me Rosie would have wanted 'Girl Singer,' which is, not incidentally, the title of one of her books.
    All of this 21st century organization around my past called up, as you will see if you check out the website, a stunning (it seemed then) chapter of my past, guest starring the young Tony Perkins who was major adorable, and with whom, as I have already confessed without bitterness, I was crazily in love, not getting it. They have dug up my song I wrote for him that he recorded, First Romance, which lifts Naiveté to an Art Form.  
    But in spite of how soppy I was, it is a sweet song, so my tekkies, who are putting Hati-Hati, the song I wrote in Bali, on iTunes (wouldn't it be funny if I had a hit song in Indonesia?) asked if I was ASCAP or BMI. Which brought up yet another memory of another Girl Singer.
     Doris Day was at the Cannes Festival of whatever year it was when she was making 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' with Alfred Hitchcock, and as a 20 year old aspiring songwriter I of course adored her. My mother took me to the Festival, which she was attending courtesy of Leo Jaffe who had a crush on her, and was the Vice President of Columbia in the days when such titles meant something.  And on the beach I met Doris Day.
     We became Friend-ish, and when I went back to London where I was living at the time, she was there, and kindly let me worship around her, going shopping with her while she tried on cashmere sweaters-- Jimmy Stewart tried on some, too-- I didn't, I was too chubby to be in the same dressing room as Doris. And as my great reward I was allowed to baby-sit her son Terry Melcher, who was twelve, and gave new resonance to the word 'obnoxious.'  I took him to all the great landmarks-- "The Tower of London!" he nasaled.  "Who Needs it!"  "Buckingham Palace, who needs it! Let's go to Wimpy's an have a Wimpyburger."
    Needless to say I did whatever he wanted, and never reported to Doris what a spoiled little pain he was, waiting for my chance to slip her a song. (I wrote one called 'Who Needs It?', I wonder why.) This hoped for opportunity never occurred in Europe, but when I came to Los Angeles, she kindly invited me to the home of her lawyer, Jerry Rosenthal, who was partners with Marty Melcher, her song publisher husband, on Sunset Boulevard with a pool around which we all had lunch and a tennis court yet. On that court was playing my songwriting idol, the great lyricist and even greater human being Yip Harburg, who wrote all the fine words to The Wizard of Oz songs, and an album sadly never published of classics compendiumed by John Lahr, the genius critic at the New Yorker , son of Bert, aka The Cowardly Lion. Yip became my close friend and mentor, his wife Eddie my second mother(should have been my first, but that is another story.  Novel, really.)
    Anyway, my gratitude cup overflowed.  Marty listened to my songs, said they were Double A Ascap, never bought any of them but I became friends with Jerry Rosenthal, who was brilliant, representing everybody from Kirk Douglas to Ross Hunter and Doris, and cheated all of them with the help of Marty who screwed his own lovely and talented wife but not in the manner she might have enjoyed, but did not live to go to jail as Jerry did. But Jerry did not cheat me. I may be the only one who can make that claim. He made me into a publisher for First Romance, the Tony song(the company was called Pan Publishing, Guess Why?) and never charged me or cheated me but then I don't think I ever made more than $1.14, the same price for which you can buy most of my old novels in their original editions on, though there are newer editions of all of them, (all very readable and often major entertaining, a few even profound.)
     Jerry did, however, make friends with my mother, so when he went to jail and could make one phone call on Saturday night, it was to my mother, collect, and she always accepted. He did not go to jail for cheating Doris, which he did, with the collusion of her husband, very sad, because she was as teary-voiced and lovely as you might have hoped and must have been more than heartbroken besides financially bereft. What he went to jail for was mouthing off to the judge during his trial, covered I think in the book about Dodo by my once good friend A.E. Hotchner. Jerry was smarter than anybody, and could not resist letting them know it even when he was on trial and the judge warned him to shut up.  Being smarter than the judge, he could not, and so was sent to the slammer for Contempt. I always thought when I saw Mel Brooks' wonderful Get Smart, when Don Adams as Smart talked about Mr. Big, played by a dwarf, and said "If only he could have turned him badness to goodness, he really could have been... MR. BIG," that he was talking about Jerry. When last heard of on the outside, before he was sentenced, he was starting his own country in Central America, where you didn't have to pay taxes.
     Meanwhile, back at the Manson ranch, where young Terry Melcher was friends with Charlie, which he was, because Charles Manson genuinely aspired to being a songwriter, and Terry assured him he would help, Charlie introduced Terry to some of the girls in residence, including Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten, whom Terry had little flings. Charlie found out to his soon-to-be-expressed rage that Terry was not as good as his word. So in fantasied fact it is very likely that who the Family was after that terrible night at Jay Sebring's house,  rented from Terry Melcher, that who Charlie was really after was Terry, and poor Sharon Tate and the rest were just coincidental victims.  An aspect of the tale that was never told, and I don't know if anyone knew besides Jerry who you couldn't always believe anyway.
    He was let out of prison a few years ago, and I called information and got a number for him in Beverly Hills, not a very nice address. I hesitated to call him, as he was already probably ninety-something, and I felt sad, because I had really loved him, as, I am sure, did everyone towards whom he directed his undeniable charisma. But I did see Mike Shore, a close friend of his whom he also cheated, and Mike, old, would tear up about it, and then he died. So Jerry is, in all likelihood, dead by now, as Terry is, sadly, with no one left to tell the tale except Doris, whom no one could blame for turning her affection to dogs. I just checked it out on Google, and yes, Jerry died, in 2007, at 96. My beloved friend, Cary Grant, (but that is another story) said "Hate will keep you alive longer than love will."  No kidding.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The South of Spain, When It Was

    So as I unofficially enter the realm of 'Fogey,' those people who remember better times with a combination of happiness and rue, I read about the (almost) collapse of Spain, rescued, we hope, by its neighbors.  And I remember how it was when it was an adventure, rather than an anxious headline in the Financial Times.
    I had been in Paris after graduating from Bryn Mawr, --studying music had been the intention, but ending up singing my songs in the Mars Club on the rue Henri Etienne being the reality, which is a whole other saga.  Realizing that Art Buchwald was never going to come and discover me(for which he was decades later to apologize, sweet, gentle man) I set off to discover Spain.  I was on a rickety train, as they all were, and there was a dashing-- and I use the word advisedly-- man with luminous light eyes wandering the aisles in very tight pants that he could get away with, as he was fashioned for them, and very long pinky fingernails.  He caught the eye of everybody on the train, even those who were not 20 years old and hoping for adventure, causing whispers of "Si, es verdad," as people recognized him.  He was Calerito, El Leon de Cordoba, that city's leading bullfighter, the long fingernails on his little fingers used for sighting the bull, but on this occasion, me.
   Still more than wet behind the ears, and not having yet become disillusioned with Hemingway, I was enchanted when he was, and got off the train as he invited me to see his native city.  We did all the movie things, dinner, wine, watching and maybe dancing the flamenco-- I cannot remember, but I was very bold in those days and I assume I had had a lot of wine.  I stopped short of letting him into my room at the end of the evening, playing it like the good girl I was, deaf to his entreaties even though I understood them because Spanish had been the Romance language of my Oral Exams, which, it being Bryn Mawr, were, of course, written, shutting my door to his "Porque sufrir?" figuring I would deal with it in more hot-blooded fashion the next day, by which time he had disappeared.
    So disappointed and abandoned-- he obviously did not understand the ways of good American girls-- I stayed in Cordoba for a while, talking to everybody and carrying my little Olivetti typewriter, wondering if I was indeed going to be the writer I wanted to be, or continue on as the songwriter I was and I thought was meant to be my creative destiny.  After a few weeks, hot, and tired of white-walled refracted sun and cobblestones, I got on the train and went further South, getting off, I think, at Malaga, finding my way somehow to the then unheralded and mostly unsettled very little town of Torremolinos, that sided a mountain and the sea.  There was nothing there on the main road except one shacky place called the Bar Central, that was owned by Ferdinand Zogbaum, the Third, (really) and his friend from Connecticut, Albert whose last name I can't remember.  But it doesn't matter, because Bill McGivern, a great, charming bull of an American writer, rechristened him 'Friendly Al,' and that was the name that stayed.
    Bill was a big guy, pink, fleshy Irish on his face, and funny wonderful in his soul,  He was very successful, having written detective classics that became movies like "The Big Heat", starring Glenn Ford.  Already looking to be not one of the crowd, even though the crowd might have numbered only six or eight, I moved down into the next little village, Fuengirola, where I had an eight room house, the back doors of the patio opening onto the Meditteranean, for $20 a month, which included a low slung maid in black who walked almost on her knees, whom Bill christened 'Groucho.'
    Bill and his wife, Maureen, who'd written a Catholic classic called 'Seventeenth Summer' had two darling little children, Megan and Patrick, after whom I was later to fashion my own dynamic duo.  The McGiverns were elegant and stylish, both were hard-working writers with committed devotional schedules during the day.  But we all played at night, mostly at the Bar Central, where there were tapas and a blond sherry I can't remember the name of, maybe it was amontillado, though I might be confusing it with a story by Edgar Allen Poe.  Wait, it was Jerez.  There it is.  
    I rented an old upright piano from someplace nearby, as music was still the center of my questing, and noodled on the piano, writing melancholy songs, as I was, still being 20 and having made it through Paris unscathed to my embarrassment, hoping for love.  The McGiverns were housing a dark young American named Dick Lester, who said he had no money, and was supported by everybody as he was bright and likable. He was finally the author of my longed-for deflowering, as I walked into the night with him, and my friend Frederic Jameson from Haverford, later to become an eminent scholar at Duke, so bright he was almost unintelligible, murmured to me "Don't let yourself be used lightly."  But I did and was, and just before, Dick turned off the light and said "I'll try to pretend it's someone I like."  A real prince.
    And, as it turns out, because no one in my life seems to be without an interesting story of their own, he directed "A Hard Day's Night" with the Beatles, and became a prominent director in London where he lost all his hair, which news made me happy. I never saw him again, which made me happy, too, but I was pleased he became somebody, and hoped he pretended he was someone he liked.
    But while he was in Torremolinos everybody fed him and loaned(gave) him money, because he was always saying he didn't have any.  When he left, he drove north to Madrid with another temp resident who had one of those soft canvas tops on her convertible. Somebody cut into it in Seville and stole his suitcase, and he cried "But I had four thousand dollars in there!"  He was not loved in the folklore of ex-pats in the south of Spain.
   Also there was Frank Perry, who was later to direct 'David and Lisa.'  {Years later When my stepbrother, Mickey was institutionalized, after Kathy, the debutante he loved, parents' wouldn't let him marry a Jew, Mickey tried to commit suicide, by cutting his wrists, only on the wrong side.  He fell in love with a woman in the mental hospital he was sent to, and my mother said "Why do they call it David and Lisa.  Why don't they call it Mickey and Shirley?}
    {"They're Puggy's genes," my mother was later to cry when my half-sister Jessica was pronounced a schizophrenic.  Puggy was my step-father, a wonderful man I still think, and you can judge for yourself, by reading The Motherland.  He later left my mother for Kathy, the young woman who had caused his son to cut his wrists.  I used to say I would never have to make anything up, but my beloved friend Joanne Greenberg said I must make it clear when something is a novel, because of all the people who have lied about their memoira.  Shut Up, Memory!  I could call the book, if I were Nabokov.
    But meanwhile, back to the south of Spain, where I was the only one in Fuengirola who could afford to buy a 14 kilo lobster that was caught by the fishermen that morning.  So Groucho commandeered a giant caldron, we put wood underneath it and boiled the water on the beach, cooked the lobster, and everyone came.  Bill brought three bottles of good white wine.  "It's nothing," he said, as he gifted us. "I  just sold a movie to Harry Belafonte." (It was 'Odds Against Tomorrow.')
    I really loved him the best of everyone there.  A really funny, dear man, who drove an old low black Mercedes that they had one of in the fairly dreadful telemovie of Hemingway the other night, that made me remember and miss Bill.  One night the lights went out in the Bar Central,-- this was the late '50s, and Bill said in his cavernous voice, "Eisenhower is dead!"  One of the best laughs of my young life.
    Bill gave a suckling pig party at a restaurant in Toluca Lake where he and Maureen were later to live.  Present were Dick and Betty Dorso, a very fashionable couple in that eras' Hollywood.  Dick was the hero of 'Only You Dick Daring!' a noted book about the TV industry where he had been a heavyweight.  He was later to be the grandfather of Robert Downey, Jr., though I don't know if he lived to have that experience.  It was colorful enough to be the father of Robert Downey and have that intriguing history at CBS.
    The pig was indeed suckling, and it was, like all McGivern occasions, a memorable evening.  They don't make people like that anymore.  Pity.  The south of Spain will never be like that again, either.  I guess there's a reason it's called nostalgia.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Road Not Taken

     Those of you who know me long and well and those of you who think you know me but have no idea where I am going with all this, which I sometimes don't either, are certainly aware of my loathing for technology, at least the part of it that keeps us from having eye contact (eye contact? What's that?) and real conversation.  But as I am not genuinely intractable, I let myself be dragged, mutedly screaming and sort of kicking into the 21st century because of what may be Serendipity, or part of Divine Design, because if God didn't mean us to move on, He/She wouldn't have given us Steve Jobs.
     So it was that I found myself at Apple on Fifth Avenue just before I went to Bali the second time to write my (I hope) chef d'oeuvre, my first book I had finished there, SCANDAL, (available at hustled out into the e-world because I thought/hoped there was something more important to come to which I wanted to devote my full energies.  At Apple, having signed up for One on One so I would understand a little what the fuck I was doing, I had the joy of connecting with Fernando, a gentle, smart man in a swirling pool of the often insensitive, and he guided me through a little of the morass.  We had such a good time he touted me to Gabi, who had, besides verve and patience, the best name I had ever heard that wasn't made up: Gabi Chanel.  One can almost see the store window.
    Anyway, we all became friends, and when I went to Bali and my Mac died, Gabi actually spent an hour and a half plus her own nickel on the phone, healing my computer, and my general hysteria over the inhumanity of technology.  While I was there they married, and moved to the West Coast where we have all re-connected, both on and offline.  They have started their own smart tekkie business, NetWorkFolio, and have, through their smarts and ineffable(an old editor, Don Fine's favorite word, meaning unspeakable, or even more, doesn't even have to be spoken) compassion, made me accept and even enjoy aspects of the net.
      One of those is my own website, which, starting tomorrow, will be available online, at  Check it out.  They showed me what they had done in the way of preparation, and I have to say, inhuman and sometimes anti-human as I always thought that whole avenue was, my heart swelled.  First of all, having heard me lament the loss of bookstore windows, from which SCANDAL with its fabulous cover by my artist pal Joel Iskowitz, would have flown, they have created what looks like an online bookstore window, with all Joel's terrific covers, for nine of my novels. Not stopping there, they have come up with all the books that were, I thought, out of print, with their original covers, and ways to get them, including Happy at the Bel-Air which would have made me a jillionaire but Oprah didn't show the book.
   Then, they have tracked all the careers I didn't have, and put on YouTube the song I wrote for Tony Perkins when he was a teen-age sensation, playing the son of Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire in Friendly Persuasion,  a touching tale of a Quaker family, the guiding principle of that religion, one I espoused for a long time in my spiritual questing, (Don't turn away,) unwillingness to go to war, something the whole planet could have benefited from embracing.  Anyway, I was twenty, and crazily smitten with Tony, who was really bright, funny, creative, and something I couldn't imagine at the time, being twenty, and a Bryn Mawr grad, gay.  I lost him to Tab Hunter, who was also to record a song of mine, 'Don't Let it Get Around,' the lead sheet for which was actually printed in Photoplay, when movie magazines were alive.   I am not blowing any whistles on beloved friends even dead, because Tab in his autobiography wrote something like "for a really smart girl she was incredibly naive," which is putting it mildly.  Anyway I loved Tony in my chubby girlish fashion and it was not until Don, a real man, came into my life, that I got the strength to pull away.  Still, it's wondrous to have gone online and heard him singing my song (those were the days I thought I was meant to write musicals) which, as Life sometimes sends us dovetailing sidebars, turned out to be the song that kept the BeeGees from being found guilty of plagiarism with How Deep is Your Love, as Harold Barlow, a great musicologist, showed in court that the musical transition cited by the suer as having been stolen from him by the BeeGees, was first used by me in First Romance.  Seemingly convoluted a tale, but basically charming, as I know that because Harold was the father of Pam Barlow, who I believe I have already told you if you're still listening was the dance double for Liza Minnelli in LUCKY LADY, the movie I went to spy on at Liza's invitation when I was writing a murder mystery about a movie company on location.  Pam and I became friends which we are still.  Title of that book, THE ARISTOCRATS, not one of my best, but enjoyable-- the cover of which I didn't even remember till Gabi and Fernando dug it up.
     Then, most miraculously, they found the tape of my appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which I hadn't even remembered I'd done. Those were the days when talk shows were actually talk shows, and as you can tell from these Reports, I can talk almost endlessly, so was welcome and needed all over the country, including Cleveland when Phil Donahue was top of his line, and Cincinnati where Nick Clooney, George's dad (just as handsome and charming and smart) was holding sway.  I'd done the TonightShow a number of times but Johnny had always been away so there was a substitute host.  This show was one he was hosting himself, and we got along like a... what's the expression?  a house afire?  is that right? and if so, why? He clearly liked me, I cannot believe how cute I was, and slender, taking on the guest who'd preceded me, Bobby Blake, later to be a murderer, or maybe he was already and nobody knew, calling him a weirdo which really pleased Johnny.  So I was pretty and witty and bright, and it would be a puzzle why I hadn't become a TV sensation, except that part I remembered: they were so excited about me they had me come back almost immediately, but with a substitute host who was a dud.
      So you wonder why these thing happen as they do, or don't, like Oprah's not showing the book and so not allowing me to be the thinking woman's Mitt Romney. The answer is: I don't know, but I do suspect that had that happened, and had I become a TV Darling, I would never have written the number of books I have, or struggled to know the Truth, which is still part of my Quest (don't don't turn away.)
   Anyway, all of this will be available online starting Sunday, at (Don't tell Gwen Stefani.)  I love you all, whether or not you love me back.  That is the true nature of love even after you are too innocent to know someone is gay, and what does it matter in the long run, anyway, I wrote so many songs to please him and had joy in the process, which may be what the whole journey is about. Kisses. xxxxx