Wednesday, August 15, 2012


    This morning's USA TODAY, usually a gutless paper, has an article about Kirk Douglas having guts, standing up for Dalton Trumbo when he was blacklisted, making him take credit for SPARTACUS.  The one who really deserves credit for Spartacus was Stanley Kubrick, who was credited as Director, but really was so much more.
    Stanley was my best friend when I was in the graduate program for writers at Stanford. Happily, the movie sneak-previewed in the Bay Area, and I got to go with Stanley.  When, in the film, Kirk Douglas faced off with Tony Curtis, and one of them had to die, Stanley murmured to me: "Isadore Dempsky and Bernie Schwartz: who would not be moved?"
    Afterwards, late into the night, we went over the preview sheets together, and more of them than I can remember had the comment: "Cut the dwarf!" "Get rid of the dwarf!" (one of the rebelling slaves in Spartacus' army was a dwarf, then prominent in the battle footage.) 
    "People are very threatened by dwarfs," Stanley said.  "Because they have enormous genitals."
     I never knew whether or not that was true, but I did come to discover that genitals were very important to Stanley, as he was lining up to do the movie of Lolita, which he believed to be a love story.  That accounted for the first real breech in our friendship, as I thought it was a comedy.  But that is another story.
    Meanwhile in San Francisco, I got to know the lesser of the two slaves, Bernie Schwartz, and found him genuinely bright and funny, his subsequent tragedy, like Stanley's, whose brilliance was unmistakable, but whose gift shone most radiantly when he did satire, was not focussing on his gift for comedy.  But that, too, is another story.
    As for Kirk Douglas, I don't really know him, but I know a lot of people who do and did, and all of them agree that he is and was a genuinely Stand-up guy, maybe less so in the physical sense now that he is 95.  But it is heartening to know that someone who really had a conscience, has had such a long and rewarding life.
    My once dear friend Sue Mengers, whose guiding principle besides representing big names was shagging them, looked up one night in media res, saw looming above her the great cleft in that memorable chin, and cried "Kirk Douglas!"