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.