Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Side Rises

    SO, having been captivated by arguably the world's most adorable baby,(see below), excepting your own and my own when they were little, and grandchildren for whom you do not have to be completely responsible, I once again believed the world was a beautiful place.  I invited Eloise's parents to leave their belongings in my room while they went to see the La Brea Tar Pits, as there was no room at the inn, echoing the sacred story of the same title. Instead, they took everything in their car, which was burgled in broad daylight on 6th and Curzon, the thieves breaking even into the glove compartment, taking the GPS, and from the boot, Eloise's diapers.
    Who can you trust?  Certainly not the NRA, whose response to the horrific shooting in Colorado was that if there had been someone packing in the audience, he could have shot the shooter.  I am sorry that Dennis Hopper is not still with us, in one of his cowboy roles.
   Not having yet heard of the massacre, and grieving over the absence of my latest lost love, Eloise, I went to see Batman yesterday afternoon, only to encounter, as I left the theater, less than estheically fulfilled, a youngish man(20s) handing out passes for a screening next Tuesday, of Sylvester Stallone's new film, BULLET TO THE HEAD.  I was, of course, not within the age perameters(sp. ?) of the desired audience, but I lied so I could see what the invite said, mendicants seeming to me to be the least offensive of the sinners on earth, as by that time word of the slayings had reached the theater, along with a full viewing of the movie itself, which was just as noisy and filled with unrealized writing as could have been imagined, though not nearly as wince-inducing as SAVAGES, Oliver Stone being even more unrelenting than Christopher Nolan, though clearly a better taskmaster when it came to the script.
    So this scruffy young man handing out passes pulled from my line of vision a picture of a man holding a gun, the original bait for moviegoers who might want to rush to BULLET TO THE HEAD, as he said he was not supposed to show it, because of the shooting in Colorado.  And I wondered what our country was coming to, much less Sylvester Stallone, whose own son had died in too recent memory, probably a suicide, or some sad admixture of drugs to ease whatever affliction afflicts the children of movie stars.
   And I hoped that Eloise, gorgeous as she is, and clever (over ten words, plus repetition of any that you say slowly,) will not be tempted by Hollywood.  And I wondered where Preston Sturges was, and Frank Capra, and Joe Mankiewicz, whose spirits should have inspired SOMEONE to be clever and inventive and not just violent, and spendthrift on explosives.
     What a world, what a world! Margaret Hamilton would cackle, as she flew off on her broom, when all there was to fear was wicked witches and a dark future to Judy Garland.  Does anyone remember?

Monday, July 16, 2012


    So my having room at all times on my legal schedule for a new lease on life, I accepted merrily my bright tekkies giving me not only a website,( but the information that there was a Rosemary Clooney museum in Hillard, Ohio, that was very excited to hear about the recordings.  As I have oft told, one Christmas season, dispirited at not being able to 1) get my musical on ("You're a bookwriter," gravelled Jimmy Nederlander.  "What are you doing writing a musical?" ) or 2) find Christmas Carols playing on the PA systems (they were then) of restaurants, I said to Don, "Where are we living that three days before Christmas there are no Christmas Carols? Pull in there..." pointing to a grocery store. I went inside and there were Carols playing, and I heard someone singing.  Turning the corner into a new aisle, I came across Rosemary Clooney, pushing her cart and singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."  I introduced myself, and said "I want to talk to you about something," and she said "Good!"  "I think God sent me in here," I continued. "I believe in that," she said.
   Three days later she came over and listened to my musical, laughed, and cried, and said all the right things; "People are waiting for this," and "usually when you have lyrics this good, you have to make musical sacrifices, but that isn't the case here. This would be a great singing experience."  After Don died, I called her, and she agreed to make the recording... in exchange for sandwiches for the musicians.  An incredible lady.
    But as noted frequently over these years, the struggle continued, just to get people to listen.  I had started out in my teens as a songwriter-- Don had wisely counseled me when we met that "people are only comfortable when they can pigeonhole you, and you write books and plays and movies and songs and poems so they don't know where you are coming from.  Do one thing and one thing only and then you can surprise them." So I wrote novels and after the twelfth one figured I'd made my point, so wrote 'SYLVIA,' I think it was called then.  Now, it is SYLVIA, WHO?, which feels right. (There's a pretty singable new anthem by that title.
    This is a story I have told often before, but as I am getting my life straight in my head and on my computer, it seems correct to tell it now. Especially since this remarkable thing happened.  The Rosemary Clooney museum(there REALLY IS ONE) got very excited because they heard one of the songs, and apparently there are still a cadre of Rosie lovers in this world.  So we have spoken, and I have rescusitated (sp.?) her recordings -- for a moment there it felt like a new beginning, not a moment too soon if you've heard anything that passes for the score of a Broadway musical in recent years.  There was talk of trying to get to Carrie Fisher(she'd be wonderful, of course) and any number of fantasies.
    But as it turns out, it is more probably a sad tale, as the woman who runs the museum (strangely, she is only in her early forties) has a sick mom and a lot of Ohio obligations.  In all likelihood, it was only a bubble in a sea of detritus.  We'll see.  Sea.
    Still, it is a happy diversion from Mitt Romney, about whom the shadows grow darker and more insidious by the day.  I am afraid for my country, although I was in the earthquake in San Francisco with the great Anne Richards, and I asked her what would happen if George Bush, who had defeated her in the Texas election for Governor and so kept her from her presidential bid, won.  And she said "Then this country would find out what the Framers always knew: that it could run without a president."
    Well, I hope not.  That is to say, I hope we don't have to find out.  But Americans are often really stupid, and so vote out of fear.  So if the job situation doesn't get better, I am afraid Romney could actually win.  But then I am thinking out of fear, so I must stop that.  Maybe I could listen to a little Rosemary.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

America, the Beautiful

    In the early 70s, when I was most concerned about where my country was going-- and it WAS my country- my Grandma and Grandpa had a picture of FDR cut from the Sunday magazine cover of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph in the window of the dish closet by Grandpa's easy chair-- I was researching for The Motherland, so spent a lot of time in Washington. At the time, I entertained the notion of reincarnation, so had a theory that the Founding Fathers were all back in new guises, to get the country in shape for the Bicentennial.
    My best friend from Bryn Mawr, Muggy, lived in McLean, Virginia, and graciously hosted me when I was there, and her lawyer husband, Marty, a fierce patriot working in government, taught me the basic tenets of our democracy, and conservative though  he was, in every sense, told me when I brought forth my theory of the Return of the Framers, that once when he was running his fingers over the Constitution, he "got the most peculiar buzz." (I thought he was James Madison.)
    Through the Hoffmanns, I made a series of unlikely friends, Republicans who subsequently invited me to be their houseguest. So I was staying in the home of Gerald Warren, undersecretary of the Press for Richard Nixon, as every morning at 4 AM the phone would ring with new revelations from the Washington Post. It was as if I were getting on-the-job training in Watergate. (I asked him when it was all over, why he'd let me be witness to what was going on, knowing I was a Democrat and fiercely anti-Nixon, and he said "I knew you would be fair.")
    All this culminated when I actually gained entrance (it wasn't easy; every journalist in America would have liked to be there) to the trial of Haldeman, Erlichmann, seated right in front of Judge Sirica. When I returned to LA, my new neighbor, in the house being built just above us on Rembert Lane, rang my doorbell asking to use my telephone, and it was John Dean.
    So lunatic though it might have seemed, there was a certain credibility to my notion.  I considered one of my best friends to be Benjamin Franklin, whose epitaph I had chanced on in the airport of Covington, Kentucky where I'd flown to do the Nick Clooney show (George's dad, Rosemary's brother;) 'Here lies Ben Franklin, printer, food for worms.  But he will return in a new and better edition, created and edited by... (and then signed on the bottom, with a flourish:) The Author." Well, if it was good enough for Ben, it was good enough for me.
    As THE MOTHERLAND, arguably my best novel was published just as Watergate broke, no one had any interest in fiction. So I thought God had a choice between saving the country and my career, and had made the right choice.
    Somewhere in there my sort-of-friend, A.E. Hotchner, invited me for drinks in Coldwater Canyon, where Paul Newman was living. I spoke of my friends "the good Republicans," and Newman fixed me with his hypnotically ice blue gaze, and said "there are no good guys in this bunch." I'd thought that judgment obtained with this administration, and the sad direction the country was headed. Until... until...
    I am so proud of Justice Roberts. There is a reason he was a good student (with the same teacher as Barack.) He chose judiciousness over party. So this is still America. 
    Hip Hip (and I have a new one) Hooray! We are in shape for the 4th of July!