Tuesday, April 30, 2013


So having gone to sleep last night watching a broadcast of ROCKY, which I am surprised to report really holds up and was a terrific movie, awakening to The New York Times, which, like many other Americans I have read obsessively since the Boston bombing, trying to figure out why...  I am remembering a book by Elizabeth Kubler Ross I read while I was living in Weinheim, Germany, asserting that if Hitler had been admitted to the KunstHalle, the art school, six million Jews would be alive.  In other words, if his rage had been funneled into creativity, the whole horror would have been averted.
    I saw some of his art work when I went to the camp of the Aryan Nations, the American Nazi party for their convention Hayden Lake, Washington, during the time after Don's death when I was fearless, in spite of the fact that if any of the members had known I was a Jew, I would have been dead.  All I cared about at the time, I think, was my next book, and I figured this was it. I had been tracking American Nazis, lunching with them in places like Colorado, keeping both my heritage to myself, struggling to be able to swallow my food while they gently ranted.  "You know," said the head of the Posse Comitatus, "It isn't true that the Jews rape their daughters when they're infants."  "Really?" I managed to say.  "No,"
he said.  "They keep them to have sex with when they're ten."
         So madness dealt with, theirs and my own, thinking I could write a novel about these people, I went to their enclave.  Hitler's art was there on sale as part of the Fun proceedings. It was truly awful, a lot of it cows, as I remember.  But I still wished he had been admitted to the Kunsthalle and maybe they could have turned his attention and fury to a less bovine subject.
    But when I read this morning about Tamerlan, the older brother in Boston, and saw that he had been disqualified from boxing in the Olympics because he was not American born, I sorrowed not only for the victims of the Boston bombing, but for him.  Apparently he also played the piano quite masterfully, so if any of his gifts, either the bulky or the sensitive one had been engaged, all those people might be okay.
    Being one whose thoughts often turn to her own life, I remember my own tentative first forays into show business, which I loved and thought I was writing songs to become a part of, and recall affectionately Bobby Helfer, an agent at MCA in LA, Elmer Bernstein's cousin, who said he would not be able to represent me and hold me out for movie projects because he could get more money for Les Baxter. But when he heard some of my songs, said the hell with it, he was going to represent me anyway.  So he set up an audition with Frank Loesser-- for those of you too young to remember Where's Charley, and Guys and Dolls, and How to Succeed in Business, which my few readers might well be, he was the great one of his era.  
    So I got to sing my songs for Frank, who said "Kid, you're the biggest talent since Me."
    It was, as the two of you can imagine, a thrill beyond a thrill.  I was twenty years old,  inexperienced, and except for my audacity and openness in non-sexual areas, very much an innocent.  This was one of my idols, giving me the greatest possible affirmation.  So my heart and my legs opened, and I had what now in view of how casual sex is, would probably be called an incident.  Afterwards, as books said at the time after three dots, Frank sat naked on my piano bench on Havenhurst in Hollywood, and played and sang "Warm All Over," somewhat ironic in memory, from his soon to be successful musical The Most Happy Fella.  When he left LA, he said "Kid--- write me a musical." So I did, of course, and sent it to him.  A month later I called him, and asked what he thought. "Great, kid, great," he said.  And I said "Well?" And he said, "Moss and I have been working on this musical in Boston, and we're using one of your songs."  I said "What about money?"  And he said "Write your family."  
    Some months later I saw him on a street corner in NY and he was with his new wife, Jo Sullivan.  He muttered "Don't say anything," his eyes shifting, lids lowered, so I understood he was referring to our tryst, when he had actually been cheating on her, though they had not yet been married at the time, as he had still been married to his first wife, Lynn, who was known as "The Evil of Two Loessers."
  All of this in Hitler and Tamerlan retrospect makes me wonder if, if Frank had been decent and above board and made me into a recognized songwriter of the day, who/what would have been changed, spared, elevated?  My love for songwriting and the great writers continued for some years to come, blessing me with Yip Harburg for a daddy figure, still the finest lyricist ever, and Julie Styne, who was adorable and failing, so though we lunched together every Saturday at the Carlyle, he could only be tentative and darling,  though occasionally hitting on me.  We did write a little bit of a musical together, THE BIG APPLE, that which became, without him, over the years that passed, until now, SYLVIA WHO?  Julie's music wasn't too good anymore, though I still adored him, boy pixie that he was.
   But back to the point: if Frank had championed me, I would probably never have turned to writing novels, or Don.  Two children would probably never have been born, like those needless victims in Boston wouldn't have fallen.  That might not have been so bad, but two adorable grandchilden wouldn't have existed either.  It's fascinating, really, the road not travelled.
Horrific and sad, the one that led to Boston.    

Thursday, April 25, 2013


So my once best girlfriend and agent #Sue Mengers has landed in a glow of good reviews for the darling (which it is) performance by #Bette Midler, and everybody worrying about its being too inside can exhale, as the world will always, I think, be fascinated by celebrity, both as portrayed and by who(m?) is portraying, when they are gifted enough, which Miss Bette is more than.
    The touching news encountered on my walk through a finally sunny Central Park yesterday is that somebody had brought my friend Shakespeare flowers for his birthday the day before.  A bunch of white carnations, gently wrapped, lay at the feet of his fulsome statue, so someone else remembered his natal day besides #Craig Ferguson and me.
   As I have resumed my WILL BLOG FOR BROADWAY and the small legion of Faithful who read this may not know about that blog, here is today's.  I doubt I will be seeing much else on Broadway before I wend Westward, so here you are:

Well, it's all right to go back to LA.  Last night I went to the theatre and saw what was rumored and spoken aloud of in alleyways(mostly the Shubert one)as the great show of the season, PIPPIN.  As my friends know, I came back to this unrelentingly gray(as it was for an elongated winter) metropolis because I have lingering (and occasionally passionate) hopes of getting my musical, SYLVIA WHO? on.  Because Pippin was purported to be so wonderful, I thought there might be no selfless exigency in mounting my (it really is) adorable tale, as there would be something already on the disappointing boards that justified the exorbitant price of tickets, to draw in young audiences besides the revival of ANNIE, BOOK OF MORMON, and the dark (and I hear, off-putting) MATILDA.
     And as the curtain rose, or rather, the lights signaled wonder,there burst open upon the stage the most splendiferous of acrobatics, trapeze artistry, and eye-dazzling display of human pyrotechnics that I have seen this side of a circus, where it would be expected, though not to such a beautifully designed effect.  Then the show began, with its tale of Charlemagne and his son, Pippin, the glamorous second wife who hatched shadowy thoughts of her own son taking over, etc. etc.  And as events, or the curious lack of them, unfolded, my hopes rose and fell with the dangling artists, until, more than midway through Act I, an extraordinary performer, Andrea Martin, as Pippin's Grandma, part yenta(or Yentl) stopped the show dead, or more accurately, live in its tracks, bringing the audience into the palms of her very lively hands, and
more importantly, to its feet.  Then, even more remarkably, she stripped away her middle-aged schmata and revealed an impressive body in sequined splendor and started swinging like a regular trapeze artist.  Even my cynical escort who was quick to explain this wasn't "his kind of show," was impressed.
    So I was happy for the spirit of Bob Fosse, whose production originally this was, and who, I imagined, would be hovering in the wings, since he probably now had them.   I had encountered that great gentleman once in the flesh at Baskin-Robbins next to Dusty's beauty parlor in Beverly Hills, and without even thinking, fell to my knees, causing him to wave his hands and shyly say, "Oh, please."  But we had a fine conversation, and some correspondence that followed, and I always revered him.  So I was glad this Pippin was working.
    And then came Act Two.  I have to assume that if there is an Afterlife, which I hope there is for artists, so they can ameliorate what they have failed to make wondrous in Earth time, Fosse would have certainly worked on structure, since he had clearly already perfected movement.  So he would have had to cut this act to shreds, since it did not slow the action, it obliterated it. Unnecessary farm scenes with pig-clad players at the trough and field hands, etc. working the farm, while Pippin's love(?) affair with a young widow unfolded, sort of, under a quilt, were uninteresting to the point of being deadly.  Lost was the plot of the step-Queen, lobbying in the shadows for her son, momentarily redeemed somewhat by her gifted dancing-- not surprising as she is the daughter of Jacques D'Amboise and so of course can kick high.  But Pippin's love interest, though sweet, was not electric enough to justify her time onstage, much less the loss of the plot.  And not electric at all, though also sweet, was Matthew James Thomas as Pippin. Three names do not a transcending talent make.
     Most of all I sorrowed for the dog, a little black puppy Pippin gives the widow's son to compensate for the death of his duck.  As he bounded onto the stage, jumping, but not high enough, he missed the drum he was supposed to land on, and had to make a second try.  AND WITH EVERYONE WATCHING!  I could feel his mortification, so even though Pippin gave him his treat anyway, what humiliation there had to be in his heart as he went back to his trainer and what he has of friends, who, even if they hadn't seen, would have to know. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Connector

So as only my close friends of whom I have apparently not too many know, this has been the loneliest winter of my life, one which is winter in the truest sense: cold, free of blossoms, or communication.  I came back to this citadel of my youth, where I dreamed harder than I have almost anywhere else, even though I have dreamed everywhere, because New York was the center of dreams as we knew them when we and the world were young.
   But Bob Gutwillig, my very good and smart once editor (THE PRETENDERS) and whatever I wrote after that that I needed guidance for and a hard hand with said once, unless you have a job in New York, you have no identity.  So jobless as I have always been, except for that one time when I was in the Comedy Development program at NBC, where I share office space with #Woody Allen, already much smarter than I was at 19, never coming into the office except on Friday when we got our checks, my identity has always been the work I was doing, the editor or reader who was kind/generous or appreciative enough to read it being my only real connection, except for Don, my one big love, who vanished early.
     This has been then, beyond dreary: the grayest winter imaginable, a comfortable hole in the wall in a New York classic apartment house where everybody averts their eyes except Ava who is three.  And yet dreamer that I continue to be I steadfastly stick to my lack of guns, imagining that maybe the tide would turn, and somebody would make me feel welcome and connected.  I have had the incredible munificence of support from the extraordinary Joanna Semel Rose, the smartest woman to go to Bryn Mawr, which is really saying something, who seems to believe in me and the musical I have been working on for longer than I care to (or probably soon will be able to) remember. Then there is the still glistening memory of walking through the park with my father figure and mentor and arguably the greatest lyricist of the Broadway stage, including Ira, #Yip Harburg, to whom I sang the score of SYLVIA WHO? when I was first writing it, and his saying to me as he praised song after song, finally saying: "I Wish I had written that." No finer encomium in this world, I don't think, and for all the years it's been, kept me going.  Especially as the world, as it falls ever more sharply on its ass, seems to cry out for songs that lift the spirit, and a musical that can make you feel good about being alive, and reinforcing your sense that you are.
   But today, Hallelujah! Something at long long last that justifies my conviction that there is some invisible connection between all of us who aspire, who reach out in the hope that it isn't just random.  Many years ago I took the subway, something I have never been at ease about doing, or done more than was absolutely unavoidable, and bumped into a young Mexican couple, apparently and dazedly on what should have been their honeymoon, who had no place to go.  So I took them from the subway and found them the apartment of a friend.  And as it turned out, she was the grand-daughter of Miguel Covarrubias, one of my heroes, a great artist and writer, ally and friend of some of the great men I admire.  It seemed more than coincidence, so I was joyful to have been of some support and succor and give to this lovely young couple a place to honeymoon.
    And then I lost them.  I have spent years trying to reconnect, checking out all the Covarrubiases in Mexico, who are more than Legion.  BUT THEN TODAY! Through Facebook or Linked In, one of those Internetty things that I, as one who has been writing the old and, in my opinion, real way, all my life, we found each other.
    I am more than happy.  It seems a justification for the Internet.  It isn't just a way of stifling the artistic  inspiration, taking words it has taken writers their whole lives to fashion and polish and squeezing them into 140 characters.  It's a way of connecting, in the truest sense.
    Here: my communique from Rosanna.

     Querida Gwen,
         Let me tell you that you start something like “Pay it forward”, with a lot of happy endings, I have no words to express how you full my life with your fairy powder, you made me feel special, an awsome feeling, now I try to spread that feeling of inner joy to everyone, I learned from the best, from you, an unexpected casacade of love, kindness and generosity.
I have a lot of things to say but the first word is always the same: Thank you, you opened my heart to the path of light, love, peace and good. 

   So it turns out the net is good not only for tracking murderers in the obscene, horrific world that seems to have swallowed and disallowed decency and respect for human life, it can be a source of connection in the very best sense of that abused word.
    So onward and upward, and even sideways, I guess.  You just never know.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Having seen Fiona Shaw, purportedly a great Irish actress, sear and toss the scenery in Testament of Mary, supposedly an illuminating rant by Christ's mother after the crucifixion, which included a pre-curtain cuddle with a vulture that played no part in the hysterical proceedings, and an unnecessary fillip(or lack of one) of her taking a bath, I have finally lost my unconditional love of theater in New York.  Many have been those who disrobed this season, with its overpriced tickets and disappointing productions, none of whose bodies were worth the what-must-have-been exorbitant cost of adding to the set a tub that actually sank enough that the flasher, once settled in the water, was on eye level.  Having celebrated at the beginning of the week the artistry of the great set designer #Tony Walton, it was an insult to the eye to perceive such a flagrant(in the true sense of the word) assault on aesthetics.  My host, a very smart theatre critic, could not wait to rush up the aisle, as the audience, a great number of whom rose to their feet, crying "Bravo!" which has become for me after a score of high-priced disappointments, the Hullaballooed version of Get Me Out of Here!

Alan Cumming took a bath in his MacBeth, but I forgave him as he was such a clever surprise in the cable showing of Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion I think it was called, where mostly I wondered how Hollywood had found him at such a young time, and, happily, I missed Breakfast at Tiffany's, where the young man took a bath.  I was assured by my escort that the young man in The Nance, who is supposedly very beautiful, was a pleasure to see stepping out of his bath. But why, I ask you, or, even more pointedly, them, add gratuitous bathtubs? I saw the gifted daughter of a friend, #Casey Danson, take a bath off Broadway some ten days ago, with two other young women, all in separate tubs.  But they still had their clothes on, and thermapacks to keep them from freezing, and it was part of their dramas, as the real-life tragedies on which the plays were based, had involved the actual women having been drowned in bathtubs.  I found myself wishing that in spite of all Mary and her Son had been through, the same might happen to he.

This has been, arguably, or perhaps not even needing or calling for an argument, as bad a week as my country, Tis, I hope, still of Thee, has seen since 9/11, the horror of the Marathon, exacerbated by the failure of the Senate to come through on a more restrictive gun law showing that we are in the hands of paid politicos whose self-interest and probably bribes are more important than the needs, wants, or deserved protection of the people.  #Maureen Dowd in today's Times blames Obama for not taking a more assertive hand with the Congress, and I would have argued except I could not help thinking what Lyndon Johnson would have done, how artfully he would have played those sons of bitches, most particularly Mitch McConnell, who is a disgrace to his country, and his fat elected seat, who might be more accurately described as sons of Mitches.

I am so very sad.  I wish there was some place to move that might be better for questing human beings, particularly those who want to stay alive. But I am afraid we are still as good as it gets, and that must make the Founders very sad, if there are value judgments and emotions in the Afterlife, if there is an Afterlife, or even if not, as the disgrace of the Senates' behavior resonates into the Heavens. I know they exist, because every once in a while I remember to look up, and see how beautiful the world was meant to be, without madmen in it, or politicians.  Or people who take off their clothes onstage because the words or the sentiments depicted therein do not have enough substance or value to justify the cost of what was supposed to be an evening's uplift.  Which Shakespeare would not have needed to his ball sac, I believe it's called, or his leading lady's tits.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Just One of Those Nights

   ...Cole Porter might have sung, for those who remember Cole Porter, and who ran in his circles: Hal Prince and #MikeNichols exchanging anecdotes in the Rose's entryway, as elegant, just this side of liveried butlers passed hors d'oeuevres, and good-looking women with deep-pocketed men gathered to dine with and honor #Tony Walton, and his long-ago ex but still close friend and mother of their daughter, Emma, Julie Andrews.  Tony's amazing-- a word the young use all the time about everything, but in this case it obtains-- stage designs on careful exhibition in the side rooms, while representatives of the Library of Congress which hopes to raise the 3.1 million to make them part of a permanent collection, hovered proudly, pointing out original leadsheets from Frederic Loewe and, oh yes, a student of Bach's.
    Quietly dazzling, but basically breath-stopping, the kind of evening that people dream constitutes a high evening in New York.  I, myself, imagined such things existed, but never before experienced on such a charmed and charming level.  Our hostess, Joanna Semel Rose, is the smartest woman to have gone to Bryn Mawr, where I knew and was awed by her from a distance.  That was an appraisal seconded by Joe Mankiewicz, in my only slightly prejudiced opinion, the best film director of his era, which lasted a good long while.  Joanna had worked for Joe after graduate forays into the best English universities, and he, like me, was surprised that she had not kept up her writing, but turned instead to interesting collections and various causes, besides raising a remarkable family with Daniel Rose, who hosted and toasted the evening, raising an eloquent glass to welcome the distinguished company.  
     Julie Andrews came with the dessert, as lovely as ever, exactly as one always hoped Julie Andrews would be, giving a delightful speech which did not for a moment betray the nervousness our hostess said Julie, if I may call her that, was feeling. All in all, the dreamed of evening that makes you move back to New York, which I did in September. Having had it makes it even harder to go back to California, as I am doing in May, though a wise friend says I should not think of it as a move so much as becoming bi-coastal, since I am keeping my studio here that overlooks the ever-ascending garbage-y building on 57th Street the crane fell off in the Sandy storms.  It is my intention to do a creative retreat within walking distance (I will not get a car) of Neiman-Marcus where I will never go, as I am not yet rich enough to help the Library of Congress make the Tony Walton collection permanent.  Taking time there to work quietly(the only way you can, in California, in between earthquakes) on a couple of projects, most especially my musical comedy, SYLVIA WHO?, while I try to make it more perfect(a wrong joining of words, even when Jefferson, the best of American eloquenters, a word I just invented, incorrectly, said "in order to make a more perfect union," as you can't make perfection more perfect, but who is there to argue that, now that Gore Vidal is gone?)
    I had a rare bout of patriotism the other day coming back to my building when one of the cleaning men was lowering the American flag, which for some reason was strung on the pole outside, which I had never noticed, as people in New York, always on their way to something, rarely see what is in front of them.  Whimsically, I was moved to stand at attention and sing "The Star Spangled Banner," not the best song ever, but Francis Scott Keyes was an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald, so matters.  A car pulled up just as I was finishing, and two sharp young guys got out, and as I sang "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the..." both put their feet on the sidewalk and joined in on "brave."  A nice moment, as funny as it was unexpectedly enchanting.
   All the more so as the Boston bombing was taking place at that very time.
   What a world! What a World! Margaret Hamilton would have said, her Wicked Witch now more lovable than scary in view of what the world has become.  God help us all, if She's there.

Friday, April 12, 2013


    So #SueMengers has finally achieved her great unspoken ambition: to be the biggest name in the room.  The room is the Booth Theatre on 45th St., habited to the gills by those eager to see Bette Midler back in the still adorable flesh, swathed in a sequined sky-blue caftan, with lank, pale blonde locks draping her animated face, curiously affectionate even as her attitude disses.  Sue was nothing if not attitude, and the Divine Miss M has captured it to an S-- that is, a little bit short of a T.  But only because she knows she is playing at hard-heart, and so does the audience.
    As my small circle of friends (I have not friended them on Facebook) knows, Sue was my closest friend when we were both starting out in New York.  Two plump, young not-exactly-ingenues, both uncertain of their future, but patently ambitious, we were a great support to each other-- I introduced her to my most butch buddy, ("Hamburger," he said to me the day after their... what can I call it? Assignation? "She made me into hamburger.")  But she was loving about my Don, encouraging me to marry him ("You can't fake a hard-on" she said, romantically,) and stood up for me at my Plaza wedding, saying "We must do this every Sunday." 
   When my play opened (very briefly) on Broadway, Sue was my agent, and as I was in the hospital at the time giving birth to my daughter, Sue got all the congratulatory calls.("I feel like the Mother of the Bride," she said.)  Then she moved to Hollywood as my little family was shortly to do, where I wrote THE PRETENDERS, with its central character, Louise Felder, unmistakably Sue. ("I heard that it's supposed to be about Sue Mengers,"  Barbra Streisand said to me at a small party in New York, and I don't think I said No.)  That did not have quite the resonance at the time of Maureen Stapleton's call to me, about George Abbott's saying "I understand this is about Billy Rose."
    Both assertions were true. Billy, the fabled producer and stock market scion-- he'd bought A T & T and sort of cornered it while it was still a monopoly, having been secretary to Bernard Baruch and not been shy about picking his financial brain,-- by the time Sue and I met him was sad and old, and we both seemed very alive.  So he hit on us both, one at a time, and, from my recollection, I fared better, as the extent of his crudity-- which it was-- was a bit less offensive in my case than it was in Sue's, whom he took to the 6th Avenue deli in his limo and said "Put your hand on my cock," which gave rise, so to speak, to her complaint about "What did he offer me that would justify putting my hand on an old man's shriveled thing?"  In my case, he invited me to his manse and as we stood in his entry stairwell looking up at what seemed to be (had to be a copy) the white marble Michelangelo of David, said "I know what you're thinking: You'd like to ball him, right?" That had, understandably, rendered me speechless, as did his looking into my closet when he took me home in his limo, and seeing the peach chiffon, maribou trimmed robe which my mother had picked up in one of her wholesale forays, said "Who you saving that for, Robert Goulette?"  I mean, he really pronounced it like that, with the final ette.  
   All of this gave rise to the plot of THE PRETENDERS, in which I wrote about Sue with, I think, great affection as well as insight, because I did love her, as Don did, too.  But I think her distancing me as she was to do later when we both lived in LA was less out of chagrin that I had written about her (insightfully, I must say) than that I became a successful writer, which she hadn't thought would happen, or maybe disliked because she hadn't been in charge ofy it.  I would see her at parties where she hadn't thought I would be invited, when I still grieved that she ran through them shouting "BEAU... Sue wants to fuck!"  
    Then, when Don died, I got a call from her.  She had just read my novel SILK LADY, in which Louise was again a central character, and was stunned. "But how did you know all that about me?' she said. "It was like you were inside me."  I explained that that was because I really loved her, and even though we hadn't seen each other for a while, had imagined her exploits, and how she felt.
"The only reason I could stop reading was my eyes grew too heavy from looking at the page," she said, ending with a salute to Don, her final sentence being "And I remember how much he loved you. "  Then she slammed down the phone, leaving me doubly bereft. That was her way, having always to control the conversation, as well as her function in your life. 
    Liz Smith, the columnist, called me right after that, and I was crying I think, because Don's young death was still fresh, and I was raw, and I hadn't been given the chance to respond.  I told Liz how moved I was because Sue had called.  Soon after that was the memorial for Gladys Begelman, David's appropriated (from his best friend)'s wife, and Sue was there.  "I was so moved by your call," I told Sue, and she said "And I was so moved by Liz Smith's column," she said, the item about her call having appeared in it, and piled her plate with a few more hors d'oeuvres from the mourner's feast before she turned away.
     She never spoke to me again, but did try to run me over outside Phil Scully's restaurant.  I remember her plump, pretty face, big sunglasses fixed on me as she looked through the windshield of her Mercedes.  I put out my hand to touch the hood ornament and waved at her, actually glad to see her, imagining I could talk to her, and make it all right.  But she stepped on the gas.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


       So having lost/sold/misplaced what there were in my life of diamonds-- my husband, Don, being a poor boy from the Bronx, frightened down to his very brave toes of my family, its pseudo-riches and snobbery, bought me nothing but, and as Diane Merrick who sold them to him told me, "he chose them with so much love it was as if he were putting into the stones how he felt-- and I could see how much he loved you"-- I found a pair of fakes when I was in LA that looked good enough, so decided to keep them so I wouldn't be anxious about their inevitable loss.  Have come to the conclusion that Life is about Loss-- if you live long enough you lose everything and everybody, including yourself.    Still, when I couldn't find one of my fakes this morning, I felt as disrupted as if it were a diamond, and as I searched for it, singing little riffs from DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND, I could not get my spirit back.
  All of this, I would suppose, dovetailing with my general feelings of malaise, having made the decision to move back to LA, which, considering how much I have moved and traveled in my life, picking up my unrooted roots, starting new friendships in new languages, loving other people's dogs as well as my own, is strange and bizarre, and, I would have to assume, is about being older, which, as I have discussed with myself and possibly with you, comes as a strange surprise.  We all know from a very early age (when?) that we are going to die.  But nobody tells us about getting older.  I thought of writing a funny book about it, but funny as it might be, I know in advance that nobody would buy it, because that would be an admission that they were older.
       It was my intention to go to Elaine Stritch's farewell at the Carlyle, at 88, but came back from LA and this decision-making time with so much on my fantasy plate to take care of that her engagement eluded me.  Stritch was a friend-- not a close one, though I had spied on her from the get-go of my infatuation with show business in my very young life, eavesdropping on Ben Gazzara's sexually loaded voice as he pitched her in the next booth at Downey's-- then later on cozying up to her when I was first trying to get my musical on-- and thought she would make a good Sylvia.  She was kinder than her public persona, nothing that harsh around the edges, as, like most women with the possible exception of Bette Davis, she wanted friends.  When, in later years, I myself actually had a little blip of what I thought would be a romance with Benny, which is how I can think of him more affectionately, because it is what he was called by Gena Rowlands, one of the great people on this earth, that turned out to be shocking letdown in every sense of the word, including the explicit one, I could not help but think of her.  
       Still I am a little sorry I missed her cabaret finale, but not too, having read the review, and hearing what it said only around the edges: that is that she is tired and it is time. Memory fails her, as it eventually fails everybody, even those who have(had?) great recall, which I do(did?) so must hurry to write everything I can almost remember.
      Also I would imagine my malaise is, in part, exacerbated by the opening of the show about Sue Mengers, who was, as I have already writ, probably several times, my best friend when I was first in New York after coming back from Paris, filled with energy and a plethora of really good songs, I believe they were, certainly for their time.  Sue, having left the William Morris agency of which I was first a client, having stolen her boss Charlie Baker's client list, and going into partnership with Tom Korman, was my rep as well.  She agented my show on Broadway, The Best Laid Plans, an ill-chosen title, as was the producer, Hilly Elkins, with whom she had had what she believed was a love affair.  When I gave birth to Madeleine and her birth announcement was on the theatre page of The New York Times ("Mother's play's debut upstaged by Baby's") Sue got all the congratulatory calls. "I feel like the Mother of the Bride," she said. 
      Both of us had dated Billy Rose at the end of his life, though I was more tolerant of his limited, aged and diminishing coterie than she was, enjoying the company and anecdotes of Alexander Ince,  the brother of the man shot by Hearst on the yacht when he made a play for Marion Davies, the reason Louella Parsons got her column, as she was present and apparently saw the whole thing.   Sue and I were having dinner at Sardi's when Billy came in with Monique Van Vooren, who, the scrofulous rumor was, gave great head, with us, as Sue said, "sitting there like the Dolly Sisters." 
      All of this is mortalized in THE PRETENDERS, which I was thinking of selling in the lobby of the theatre where will open later this month the play about Sue, starring Bette Midler, who would have made a great Sylvia, and whom Joe Layton had me fly up to Woods Hole to see when he first put her act together, and wanted to direct my show, which gives you some idea how long I  have been working on it.  If I live, and it happens, I will have outdone, perhaps doubled, the waiting time Meredith Wilson put in for The Music Man.
  Anyway, Bette was very anxious at the time about her future, and if she had the goods to come back and perform live.  I reassured her,  told her there was no one more talented.  We became for that moment, buddies, a sense of connection that I am sure has faded from her recollection and seems fairly unlikely in mine.  So although I wish her well in this one woman show, I could not help wishing I had written it, having done Sue up fine in three novels, the last one, SCANDAL, in which I completely redeemed the character of Louise Felder, her fictional name, that she did not live, sadly, to read, which she would have done with a gusto and intelligence that was almost unmatched, especially for a refugee for whom English was a second language.
       All of this I suppose I have written in some form in these Reports before, but better put the thoughts down again when I still have them.  Anyway, you can see how discomfited I am at the thought of losing history, so imagine how bereft I was when I mislaid the earring that was not the real one but looked good enough to accompany me into what future I have.
       The good news is I found it. And of course, the even better news is, we are all still alive.  Except for Sue, of course, who maybe will be speeding around the Afterlife, if there is one, looking for the reviews in The New York Times, if there is still to be paper in Eternity.

Monday, April 01, 2013


        So it was Easter, and I had the glowing privilege of spending it with the daughter of Muggy, my dearest friend from Bryn Mawr, and her beautiful (mostly handsome) family, Heidi, or as she is known in more serious circles, Cecil.  We went to her church in Santa Monica, St. Augustin by the Sea, where all was Love and Light and sweetly dressed babies whose socks matched the bows in what there is of their hair, the sight of which inspires a reaffirmation of Life, the things you reach for when there is a need for connection and a hope for what is higher.  I really think it doesn't matter where you go to believe in something-- the important thing is to have an aim and make sure the aim is true.   So to be with people you love on an occasion meant to be uplifting is probably as good as it gets.
         The day before had been spent looking for an apartment here. It becomes clear, in a smoggy way, once back in LA, that pointless suffering is, indeed, pointless, and there is no downside in being comfortable.  The sun here has been less than radiant and hot.  But it is sun, and that distinguishes it from what has passed this winter, extended, in New York: a sky that would have given pause even to registered Depressives. 
         So I checked out a few places for rent in Beverly Hills, the walking part-- that is to say there are a number of sidestreets within actual footsteps of restaurants and stores that have places to live on them that might work for one who has decided not to engage in the traffic that deadens minds and aborts patience-- in other words I have decided not to have a car, to be the only one in Los Angeles who walks. And I saw some not bad places to live, one of which came with its own homeless man, who had found the door open, and apparently took a shower, as his chest, exposed, was wet, and it wasn't hot enough to be sweat.  I don't think he was included in the rent.
         This is a strange journey, as I believe it's true that You Can't Go HomeAgain, but as I have never really known to my core where home was, I guess it's okay for me to flop around the universe, at least this side of it, while I still can.  +Frank Bowling, who was once and shiningly the manager of the Bel-Air when it really was the Bel-Air, used to say 'Welcome Home,' the mark of a brilliant hotelier who imbued you with a sense of obligation to love the place as much as he did.  But those days are past, as are most things to which we were attached before this Age of Not-Really-Communication, the loss of eye contact, as people fixate on the little device in their hand, which only the very high-minded and conscious seem to turn off even in the presence of friends with whom they are having a meal, so afraid they might miss something they miss the present moment, which, as Jack could tell us, is All there really Is.  "The past is memory, the Future is Fantasy," he said, obviously correctly.
        But as I still buy into Fantasy, since that is what largely sustains dreamers, which I admit I am, I have to play this one out.  I told Heidi yesterday I had been thinking of giving up my dream, but reflecting on that, I realized you can't give up your dream, or it wasn't really a dream.  Something elusive, like Faith, like Love, which, even when lost or evanescent, is still shining, moving you ahead.  Making you look up.  Or at least, not at your I-phone.