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.