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.