Friday, June 28, 2013


So first I went shopping, like a regular person-- not that I'm not a regular person, but my life for the past few weeks since moving here has been a different kind of Drama, coming back as a veritable teenager, what with putting my apartment in order and realizing and accepting I could not do that with my life-- aided and more than abetted by my new best friend Ellen, who cannot help herself, she is just a generous soul.  We went to the shop of Diane Merrick, a quietly elegant adjunct to the Material World, Diane being a woman of exquisite taste whose jewelry, antique-y and beautiful, my Donny really much admired, coming home with a piece of it for me whenever he could afford it, and often when he couldn't.  All those rings and things are gone now, lost or stolen over the years-- amazing how long he's been gone-- except for the one I never took off my little finger, where it still sparkles, tasteful and unique, as he was.  
   I went there because I needed a pair of turquoise earrings for my grandson's Bar Mitzvah which is tomorrow, where I am being allowed to come-- it's going to be an interesting day, and as the Indians (ours) know, turquoise offers protection. Also it matches the dress I'm going to wear.
   Then we stopped in to Good Will and bought the missing chair for my bedroom, a cushion to sit in it on, and another for the living room floor, everything for $21.70 which I could have gotten them to make less but you don't hondle over Good Will.  Then we had lunch in an airy and pleasant new(I think it is) restaurant across from La Scala, where everybody used to go on a regular basis where I didn't want to go  because it makes me think of Suzie Pleschette, another gone too soon. A ton of years ago Suzie went to a Hollywood party where everybody had to perform and she got up and sang "P.S.9," the school song I'd written in the 6th grade, that Ellen knows, too, because she also went there.  So did Hal Dresner, the witty and wise writer who now lives in Oregon, I think it is, but I don't know if he sings.  It was a wonderful public school that now houses reprobates, but what doesn't, including Congress.
       It was a joyful day that made me feel very accomplished.  But I still did some rewriting for SYLVIA WHO? and as the air was filled with things getting better, so did it. 
     Ah, but yesterday was even more adorable, if a day could be adorable, especially one where a heat wave hit, which it did.  But I have no weather complaints after a winter in New York.  Then I spoke to my prized pal in New York, the smartest woman who ever went to Bryn Mawr, which is really saying something, and she very much approved the new idea of who should play Sylvia, adding that it would work because this performer is not only vulnerable, but short.  That made me laugh because this friend, besides being brilliant, is really funny, which she doesn't know, which makes it even better.  Short.  I love that.
   THEN CAME LAST EVENING, and the darling (they ARE) Italian couple I picked up in the Thai restaurant where nobody ever goes, but they were there last week speaking Italian which I can fake, and we became friend-ish, and invited them for drinks as it seemed Destino. He, Ignazio, is the assistant conductor of the LA Opera, as handsome as his wife, Debora, is lovely, and we had the best time.  We agreed that Los Angeles is a place that actually enhances the spirit if you're open to it, in spite of its reputation as -- he pronounced it the Italian way-- La La land.
     Interested, they listened to a few songs from SYLVIA(her mother's name-- more coincidenza?) and she grew teary and he was full of praise, pronouncing them joyful and saying very flattering things, being a man who really knows music which I don't, about the harmonies and the fact that with most songs you have to hear them several times to take them in and like them, but these made you happy right away.  That made me happy right away.  
    In spite of this I had a hard time falling asleep because not everything in life enhances, including lawyers and the Supreme Court but of course that is redundant. I am not talking of course of the decisions that make people happy or the bills that seem fair-- as opposed to the ones that are being put forward by our legislature or are in your mailbox.
    So there it is: the Chinese curse-- may you live in Interesting Times.  I wonder if there is a Tea Party in China.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I woke up very frightened this morning, because in spite of my unwillingness to concede it, I am growing older, which, if we are lucky, we all do.  This particular bout of anxiety was due to or because of (I never understood the difference between those two grammatical choices, as I skipped a few grades and missed that day in class) the glaring fact that I had had some minor(I hope) eye surgery and wasn't sure it had been successful.  My very funny husband, and he was, though he failed to have the gift of Time, said I should put down on my Bryn Mawr alumnae questionnaire, next to religion: Quaker-Buddhist-Jew; that that would really confuse them.  But it has never really confused me, as I have benefitted greatly from the first two, and there is no way of evading the last. And, in addition to those three, I have been open to anything that uplifts and is from the heart, of which there is something in all beliefs, with the possible exception of Baptists.  (If you are a Baptist, please don't be offended-- I probably went to the wrong Church.)
   In addition to having gone to almost all kinds of services in my quest, I read the Daily Word, a very Christian publication that offers, except on certain days, a word that cheers and soothes anyone, no matter what their belief.  As friends(I may have four by now)know, I was a little(maybe more than) nervous about this procedure, because I have come back to Beverly Hills to do creative work, and for that you need to see, especially since I never learned to touch type, and wrote all those books hunting and pecking, albeit at a ferocious pace.  So I was afraid I might not be able to write anymore, and dictating just isn't the same.  So as I was going to the ophthamologist this morning to have what seemed to be wrong looked at, I read, as usual, my Daily Word. And, to my horror, the quote from the Bible at the bottom of the page was "Your eye is the lamp of your body.  If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light." That's from Luke. So my first reaction was terror, as I was afraid the universe was being ironic, and it would not go well.
    But it did.  So I can take a breath and proceed on my cheerful, uplifting, and only slightly air-headed (except for its sense of values, which is pretty solid) musical.  And ask you all to plan on coming Opening Night, whenever it may be.  Because if the eye is the lamp of the body, the thought is the beacon of light that will bring us all home, no matter how expensive the tickets are, or how unlikely this all seems.
    My friend Ginny Louloudes, who has to raise 9 million dollars for her non-profit Alliance of Resident Theaters which she is also worried about, has come up with the perfect casting for Sylvia, of Sylvia Who? It seemed, on hearing, obvious, albeit something I hadn't thought of or focussed on, because my most brilliant friend, who is also my staunchest supporter on the project had suggested someone else, and I was fixed on that, because I love and admire that friend. But this is good, so I will keep it in mind, and hope that mind is the creator.  In addition to the Creator of course, who I hope will also be at the Opening.  
    The nicest part of the morning, after I had my suture out, was stopping in to see a doctor on the 2nd floor whom I love, because he is so cheerful and darling and such a good advertisement for medicine, because his whole presence signals healing.  He told me that he had just lost his father, and at the service he quoted from The Daughter of God, "Destiny puts you where you are.  Free Will lets you determine what you will make of it."  And his roundly dimpled pink-cheeked face absolutely lit up.
      Something happened to me in that moment that never happened before: I realized that someone smart and touching had actually been touched by me.  It was a radiant moment.  All the lovelier because he is a doctor of radiology.  My friend Charlotte would probably consider that wordplay "smart-assy," but I don't think so.  I think, and probably more strongly, hope that everything in life happens for a reason, that we are all connected, and that sometimes even the words we hear and/or are given have mysterious and indefinable shapes to teach us things.  The Daughter of God itself was a gift to me, something that I wrote a long time ago, effortlessly, that my craziest and probably most intuitive publisher, Don Fine, was going to publish so he could get my next book.  At the time my ego was soaring, as opposed to the humility Charlotte would have me feel, so I didn't want to tie myself to him, as he was truly lunatic, albeit movingly so--- when Don, my husband died, he called me and said "I know YOU feel bad. But how do you think I feel?  I don't like many men."  I truly loved him, but he was dangerous, locked out of his own publishing company by those who financed him, he was that kind of crazy.  So I took back The Daughter of God,  forgot about it, and only came across it last year and decided to publish it myself, with the wondrous amelioration that came from Joel Iskowitz, the artist who did the illustrations, and the biblical print.  
    And all these years later it really moved a man who truly understands and works for healing.  There are real miracles in this life if our hearts and our minds and, in this case, our old files are open.
   Ya just never know.
   Also waiting in the doctor's office was a woman who is the daughter of I.A.L. Diamond, a collaborator of Billy Wilder's who, as you know if you read these, I visited at Westwood Memorial a day or so ago, whose tombstone, quoted in my REPORTFROMTHEFRONT, reads "I'm a writer… but then, nobody's perfect."  That was, she told me, her father's line.  
    I'm telling you, it's all connected. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The World's Oldest College Student


So this is my apartment.  As friends(all three) know, I have just moved back to Beverly Hills, traditionally anathema  to the serious, but one that has always (it's been a long road) nurtured my productivity.  Maybe because there was so little to distract me from the inside of my head, once the kiddies(and they WERE sweet once)went to school and my husband(darling) was out of the house.  They've grown and gone, and he left much too soon, a story too sad to tell right away, and I have lost my dogs and occasionally my way.  But starting over is what I have always done, picking myself up from disaster and moving on, and mostly moving up.
     Now at this very late(I will not say how late) juncture i have come back and am re-beginning yet again.  And I have done it renting an unfurnished apartment that I have just furnished from Ikea and Target and, oh  yes, Office Depot. A Zen Re-beginning.  Zen Gwen.  I like the sound of that, and oddly, I like the look.  It is peaceful here.
     The keyboard I bought from a fellow writer is at the end of the room, and on it, once I can find someone to show me how to use the damned thing, I will write some more songs for my musical, SYLVIA WHO? about a widow whose husband has left her a co-op on Park Avenue and just enough money to pay the maintenance; so in order to live, in order to eat, she crashes parties, looking for love and free hors-d'oeuvres.  Once it was about my mother, a true character, but now I guess people will assume it's about me.  Except I have never crashed anything except swimming pools, have been invited everywhere, been friends with movie stars and royals, great artists, heads of state, and in my most liberal moments, even Republicans.  (I am speaking of course not of political liberalism, but the part of the heart that is so open it can have compassion for the deluded.) 
     The purse above the keyboard is a tote bag with my initials, GD, given me for my last, very recent birthday by one of my most beloved friends, a movie star, the only one who does not consider it a favor to you to be in her company.  I decided to hang it on the wall instead of the Jackson Pollock long gone from my family's proprietorship along with most other things my mother owned before becoming panicky and selling everything including an eight room apartment on Park Avenue, moving into a cramped studio on Central Park South she left to me, where my real books are, and a couple of wonderful paintings that were the covers of some of my published novels.  I am keeping it in the event that SYLVIA WHO? actually comes to life, when I will need to be in New York.
     But not now.  Now I must build yet another new life as Old Gwen.  But I am ready.  At least I think I am.  My thinking at least is still pretty clear.  I have used the tote bag to signal my decor, and have hung all the walls with interesting purses, so I am, officially, a Bag Lady.  A different kind, though.  My hand outstretched for nothing but the occasional surprising gift from the Universe, which does, occasionally, seem to come.  Has, plentifully and often to me, in most joyous and unexpected fashion.  Along with the bad stuff, but that's Life, isn't it?  The secret is to keep breathing, as long as you can.  In and out. 
    I have a wonderful friend, a teacher of meditation, Jack Kornfield, whom I have known since I first started to write this musical on one of his silent retreats, which my husband was sure was a cover for an affair I was having, as he couldn't believe I could go without talking for two weeks.  Jack is off to Hawaii to do Oprah.  I was on Oprah once, with Happy, my Yorkshire terrier, the subject of HAPPY AT THE BEL-AIR.  He would have been immortal, but she didn't show the book.
     I called my cousin Susie, the most religious(different from spiritual) woman I have ever known, adorable, after the show aired, to vent my anguish.  "Susie," I said.  "I prayed and prayed.  God, I said, please let Happy be on Oprah." (I had run into Oprah at the Bel-air, and she said "How old is that dog?" and I said "I can't tell you, because he has a book coming out."  She said "Oh, come on." And I said "I have it in my purse," and gave it to her.  Then I waited to hear from the show, praying every day. "Let Happy be on Oprah.  He's such a good boy.  And he worked so hard." .  They finally called and filmed him. Then the show aired, and she didn't show the book.)   
    "I prayed and prayed," I grieved to Susie.  "Let Happy be on Oprah."
    "Gwen," Susie said, as sternly as Susie could could sound, which wasn't very.  "You should have said: "God, let Happy be on Oprah.  And let her show the book."
    Susie's gone now, as is Happy, and Mimi, the Bichon I had after him, who could spell.  But I am still here ("Thank you God, if You're there, and please let me live long enough to have Sylvia Who? actually open and be a success; and let me use it all for good and make the world a better place.  God?  God?)
     Well, we'll see.  At least if we can.     
     The reason I moved here, besides that it nurtures me, is that I can swim.  Swimming, like breathing, helps you keep going.  I took this apartment because it is walking distance from the hotel where I stayed long, expansively and expensively, and there's a pool that nobody uses.  When I found this place, the day I moved the manager said to me "You may come anytime."  I went back the next day to swim and she said "The rules have changed."
     Another thing I am trying to get over in my quest for personal Growth is the wish for Revenge.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


So my darling friend Steve gave me the name of a musician here who could connect me with someone who knew how to play the Keyboard.  I bought it for a fair price from a darling young man who brought it here and set it up, but didn't know how to use it either.  The musician Steve gave me, a bass player of some Jazz renown, gave me some names and one of them, Herb, whom I shall leave anonymous for the rest of it, called back and said he would come and show me.  
    So happily I took care of all my Girlie things, late in my Girl day though it may be-- had my hair done by Nada, a longtime pal, and my toes done at the nail salon I like and can walk to, part of my self-assigned quest being to stay in shape by walking a lot, since I haven't yet found the pool that loves me, what with the Y being rented out to a swim class(I already know how, so lessons would be redundant and irritating,) and my longtime hotel having changed its rules the day after they told me I was welcome anytime.  (Part of my quest is also getting over wanting to kill people.)
    Back at my apartment, quaffed and nailed (the good kind, not what happened to Jesus) I found Herbie on my front stoop.  One of the charming things about this complex is it has a front stoop, so description-wise you can sound like you're in Brooklyn, even though the stoop doesn't belong to my unit, but that of a woman who leaves a bicycle on it, so it has the comfortable aura of an upscale slum.  Oh well.
    So there was Herbie, who had been described to me by the man who recommended him as a "little crazy," which I wasn't to tell him, so I didn't, but he was.  Wild-haired and wild-eyed, there was also one other thing that might reasonably have put me off: he knew nothing about Keyboards.  I understand he was and is a great jazz musician, but I didn't want a piano lesson, which is what he tried to give me, but not until after I found the button that turned the thing on. I had piano lessons in my long-ago youth, and at one point, in my middle maturity, actually could play a little.  But how I write songs is in my head, and all I wanted was the opportunity to set them to a few chords and some interesting rhythms,-- something I imagined I could do if I turned the thing on.  That finally happened, though both Herbie and I had no awareness of what exactly did it, not could the moment be recaptured.
   Anyway, I gave Herbie a sizable check I couldn't really afford, especially with nothing having been accomplished.  But he is old and sweet and I felt bad for him rather than angry, a step up in my evolution which I hope there is still time for.  And he drove me to Westwood where he had taught piano at UCLA so he must have been good, and I figured that was around $14 I figured I had saved, after blowing what I paid him.
    So there I was in Westwood, looking for some more things I needed at Target now called City, and pulled myself back, and a few things out of my basket, when I understood how overpriced they were. At Target!  What us there left to believe in, now that Obama has let us down with such a jolt?
    But walking down Westwood Boulevard I stopped in to Victoria's Secret and bought some panties on sale, and then, being in Westwood, I went to see Don, who has long, too unbelievably long, been in the cemetery there.  It is a a fabled cemetery, one celebrated in story and pushy-celebrity-seeking.  He is a few feet from Pamela Mason, about whom Joe Mankiewicz, whom she had pronounced the best lover she ever had said: "A lovely woman... until you got to know her."  Don's grave, on which is engraved "Life is short... make haste to be kind," and he was, is well kept, and one of his neighbors had a big floral offering so I felt good about that.
    Then I went to visit a few others of whom I was fond, most especially Billy Wilder, as I had seen Double Indemnity the night before and in this rash of terrible films seen of late in which I couldn't find one true movie, it was an unqualified joy, and the performance he got out of Fred MacMurray was unbelievable.  I mean we always expect Edward G. Robinson to be a master... but Fred MacMurray?  Anyway, Billy's gravestone reads I'M A WRITER... But then NOBODY'S PERFECT.  I told him he was wrong.  
     Then I said Hi to Jack Lemmon, in... his marker reads, and then there's the sod.  Jack came to the audition I gave of the musical I wrote with Phil Springer a lifetime ago, based on my friend Mark Twain's story, The Million Pound Note, and said to his agents who were present: "Get me out of my contract with Columbia; I'm going to do this musical," which would have been nice, but that only happens in the movies.  Kermit Bloomgarden, who was our producer, took all the money he had raised for our show and put it "Nowhere to Go but Up," a Mel Brooks musical with an inappropriate title, bombing immediately, and taking us with it.  Oh well.  I still love Mel, and what would my life have been like if I had had a hit on Broadway in my twenties?  What is Life but a chance to evolve that you wouldn't get if it was easy and the way you wanted. Sure.
    Rodney Dangerfield's gravestone reads "There goes the neighborhood."  Most visited, of course, is Marilyn Monroe, who is in a crypt in the wall, the stone that marks it a different shade from the rest of the marbled wall, which is white-- hers is a kind of faded coffee-beige, covered with lipstick imprints, the outlines of a slew of ambitious and/or reverential mouths, leaving a kiss or a whispered wish.
      Afterwards I went to the Thai restaurant I used to love, -- once very cheesy with great food and low prices.  They've redecorated, upgraded, especially the prices.  It was terrible.  Rodney Dangerfield was right, but I don't blame him.  It's the fact that you can put egg-rolls in the freezer and pretend they're fresh.
     A shame you can't do that with people.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Many years ago, when I was first really questing, after the huge if somewhat sensational success of THE PRETENDERS, as I was trying for my Real Book, and wanted to write (Why Not?) Madame Bovary, the plight(as it was) of the Bright Woman in the Leisure Society, re-set in Southern California, for part of my research one night a week I went to Synanon, set at the time in what is now a semi-chic hotel on the shore in Santa Monica, and played The Game.  The Game was an assaultive if incredibly entertaining (and occasionally very helpful) form of attack therapy, where all these sharp ex-addicts (and the occasional visitor, which I was,) sat in a circle and came down hard on each other.  The Game had been started by Chuck Diedrich, once a fabled name in the cruel art of getting addicts and alcoholics over it, if you could. Chuck later gave up smoking and made all his people do the same, so a lot of them, who had miraculously been able to give up heroin could not give up smoking, and left Synanon, and went back to being dopers and drunks and mostly dead.
   But when I went there and played The Game, I became close to and very much entranced by a great couple, Bill and Jeanie Cohen, both of them ex-heroin addicts, very real, and very smart. I lost them over the years, as you sadly do seem to lose people, unless they went to Bryn Mawr and you get the Alumnae News, or they're Cary Grant so you keep close tabs if you are lucky enough to know him.  I remember talking to Jeannie once a couple of years afterward.  She was living in Brooklyn, and still with Billy.  But apparently not for much longer after that.  Then I got caught up in what you get caught up in like raising your children while they still listen and your husband dying and trying to make a life for yourself and so on and so on as my once and always friend Vonnegut would say and I wish still could.
     But strangely through this Internet stuff which I try not to dislike and am occasionally happily startled by, I received an e-mail from the sister of Billy, who found me accidentally online and has written a book with him, though his part of the collaboration has come from the Afterlife.  Sadly he came to a terrible end, apparently going back to drugs big time, selling cocaine, and getting hit by a car in a crosswalk, while he was loaded. According to the chapter she sent me that seemingly horrific finish spirited him instantly into pure Bliss, giving them a bestseller called The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, which he co-authored from the glorious Beyond.  I am sad, nonetheless, that he came to a bad end, even though it was, according to his sister, the threshold to an illuminating and vibrant Hereafter, which I of course hope is the Reality, or, more aptly, the non-Reality.  As my three faithful readers may know, one of my novels, KINGDOM COME, dealt with that possibility in a very open and heartfelt way, and brought to me one of the best friends I ever had, a beautiful woman named Diane, who believed my novel, and its concept of the Afterlife, and where we all went-- as I remember it was on a bus-- to be the Truth, and said I had been given the Truth because I had the language to make it available.
    Well to my surprise I have gotten older, and don't know if I'm wiser, but I no longer have the audacity to believe that might be true.  Not about my vision of an Afterlife, as I do, of course, like everyone with an open heart, which I do have, hope for the Better Possibilities.  I'm talking about the gift of the Truth being given to me because I had the language to make it available.  As much as I believe in and long for great things, at this point in my re-settling, I am just hoping someone will make a good movie, or a move towards Peace, or a non-fattening hot fudge sundae.  Or that there comes a day on which nothing horrible happens, or a Republican who cares about the Rights of Women.
      Still sad, though, about Billy.  Jeannie, too, had a painful exit.  That novel became TOUCHING, which Kurt said was "very well written," which seemed to me the highest compliment I ever received, considering the source, and the fact that he came to my defense when the book became the landmark libel case in Fiction and my publisher who defended me all the way to the Supreme Court on the basis of the First Amendment turned and sued me when the court declined to hear the case except for Justices Brennan, Stewart and Marshall.  Could it have been because that was just the moment when Woodward and Bernstein published THE BRETHREN, exposing the secret lives of those on the court?
   Well, that's okay because not too long after that I wrote THE MOTHERLAND, of which the great Michael Korda of Simon & Shuster said "This will show people the great writer you really are, As far as I am concerned, it's the only book we're publishing this Spring."  He must have forgotten ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, which came out at exactly the same time, so nobody cared about Fiction.
     Except Cary Grant, who really liked it, and told me his mother didn't like him either.  Can you believe it?  She wanted him to dye his hair, because his letting it go gray, made her look older.  And of course there was also my big fan at that moment, Elizabeth Taylor, who wanted to play the part.  To which Sue Mengers said "Tell her to get the napkin off her lap."
     Oh, well.  I look at it all this way, with my good eye.  At least I didn't get hit in the crosswalk.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Doggie on the Grass

There is a three-legged dog in my new apartment complex, who jogs up and down the street with her fellow canines, apparently loved by them as much as by her owner, a woman who faithfully and without much ado puts a towel out on the grass as soon as the sun comes out, which it does very erratically on June mornings in Beverly Hills; but when it does, the dog, having waited patiently, lies down in the warm rays.  A noted 'marine layer' cloaks the coast at this time of year, but anyone who complains, considering what the rest of the country is going through, is crazier than you have to be to come here with the hope of Success.  This is not a place for dreams to be realized, as much as the region to hatch them.
     But there is, besides the marine layer, the metaphysical layer.  That is to say, the illuminated lunacy that first surfaced here, at least in my life, when my loved friend Sandy Burton interviewed Carlos Castenada and put him on the cover of Time Magazine.  She was the sanest, most-addicted-to-the-facts and Reality of any person I knew, and he convinced her that something invisible and magical was going on, taking her to his Power Spot in the Malibu mountains, the map to which she left me when she was transferred to Boston, becoming Time's first woman Bureau Chief.  
    She is long gone, as is the Power Spot, washed away by the disasters that from time to time overtake California, and vanished is Castenada and almost Time Magazine.  But the chance that life is more magical than we dare to think in our hard-headed moments is more than present here.  And I am glad to be back and open to it, with fingers of Fate, the Good Kind, pointing out to me that I am right to believe.  Or at least be ready to believe.
     I have come back, as friends and the wonderful woman who believes in me and has offered to be a sponsor know, to work on my musical comedy, SYLVIA WHO?, making it as good as I can before we move forward.  Last night, giving in to the hunger that only occasionally overtakes me, as I make every effort to live an inconspicuous life-- which means eating simply and mainly out of the fridge, which comes with the apartment, I went to my favorite restaurant, a little Thai place across from The Peninsula, where almost nobody, and I mean NOBODY, ever goes.  Last night, though, there was a handsome couple, speaking Italian, one of the languages I can fake to a certain knowledgeable degree, having lived in Rome in my youth, and in Venice in my recent late middle-age.  So I started talking to them about the remarkable Pope scandal currently sweeping Rome and headlines here, that the Pope has decried the "Gay Lobby."  All the more wondrous because everything he has done thus far is brave and current, which the church has not seemingly tried to be.
    I was living in Rome when one Pope died, and I went to the funeral parade with my buddy George d'Almeida, an artist, incredible mind, and fallen-away Catholic, than which no one falls harder.  And as they passed, George murmured, "an army of eunuchs."  Well, apparently not all, or at least not entirely in the service or lack of it, to heterosexuality.  New factors most engaging, if Truth is something that captures your attention.
    But next to Truth, my favorite thing is Hope, and the Hope that the Dreams we cherish and imagine can materialize.  And in the restaurant where no one ever goes but me, this handsome couple was, their twin sons having just been through 8th grade graduation.  We talked some more: it was his work that kept him in LA, though they're from Palermo.  And what was it he did?  He is the music director and conductor of the LA Grand Ensemble.
   What are the chances?  What are the odds?
   Needless to say I was quick to get his card, and resume work on Sylvia Who?  His close friend is Patti LuPone, and she wouldn't be bad in the part.  Although I imagine the actual casting will depend on where I chance to eat lunch when I finish rewriting the book. 

Monday, June 10, 2013



This is The Blue Unconscious by Jackson Pollock.  Or at least it would be if you can open it.  I slept under it my entire high school and college career while on vacation in New York with my parents.  My stepfather, Saul Schwamm, affectionately known as Puggy because of the thrust of his lower jaw, uncorrected by orthodontia (he had been a poor boy) in tandem with a pugnacious nature, had gone to Brooklyn College with Clement Greenberg, later to become the austere and combative art critic.  He had found Pollock, and as Puggy was the only one with any money-- he had become an investment banker, and together with his brother, Harvey, made a killing as the country was dying and became one of the hated men on the Street, un-softened by the fact that they were Jews-- and Greenberg took him to see Jackson, as I imagine he was able to call him, being Clement Greenberg, and told Puggy he needed money, so Puggy bought the painting for, I believe, two or maybe five thousand dollars. (I think it just sold for a hundred and twenty million, or something like that.)
    Anyway, my mother later put it in the library of their then Park Avenue apartment, and as it was 8x12, turned it on its side, saying "What difference does it make?"  If you can open it, which I hope you can, you will see what a miracle it is and was that I am only as scattered and (occasionally only, as of late) nutty as I am.  Imagine sleeping under that during your whole protracted adolescence.
    Seeing it now, in the detail that is miraculously if annoying available about everything on the Internet, I am not only surprised at my seeming tranquility, long sought for and preternaturally achieved in these past tumultuous days, many of their hours spent in the Apple store or on the phone trying to correct what is magically not my error but theirs without hating or trying to kill anybody, including myself, I am joyful that everything can survive, including the human spirit and the Art, as such it has turned out to be, of Jackson Pollock.
    When I had my triumph in Junior Show at Bryn Mawr, having written the songs and had the comedy lead and my then much admired Haverford crush, George Segal leap onto the stage with the finale and kiss both my hands, and the president of the college come up to my mother and say "This is most exciting theatrical event at Bryn Mawr since Katherine Hepburn was an undergraduate here," swelling my soul to its max, even though it was followed by my mother gazing after her saying "Who was that?" and to my answer, "the president," respond: "I thought it was the washerwoman." 
     Freddie Sadoff, then a very active member of the Actor's Studio, which at the time was ALL, told me I had to come to NY and work at the studio.  So I passed Miss McBride in the Cloisters(we had them, of course, at Bryn Mawr," and said "MIss McBride: Shakespeare and Chaucer have given me all they can, and the theater needs me, so I'm leaving Bryn Mawr," to which she responded in her High Academic drawl, "Well, Gwen... try to be back for exams."
    When I got home I told my mother I was quitting college.  She shrieked; "They told me this would happen in the Beauty Parlor!" and locked me in my room.  I lay there sobbing and reading Tennyson.  When Puggy, with whom I was not yet really allied, came home I said "It's all right.  I was quitting because I had no reason to stay.  Now I do. You won't let me quit."  And he very quietly said, "No, Gwennie-- that's not your reason; there's your reason."  And he pointed to the painting on the wall.
"All art will show itself in its time.  Don't rush the calendar."
    So I certainly haven't.  But I'm still alive.  We'll see. 

Sunday, June 09, 2013


So having risen very early, 4:30 AM to be exact, I decided that as that was the spiritual hour I rose when I did retreats(not too many) with my beloved and wonderful Jack, that I should resume my quest for The Truth, and check out the churches.  I began with the Good Shepherd, the Catholic experience, interesting but unmoving, then made my way towards All Saints which would be the Episcopal experience, only to be diverted by a call from a friend who said she would save me from that experience by ushering me into a breakfast from the Bagel Nosh, which is the Jewish experience.  We had a nice breakfast, and she dropped me off at the Apple store in Beverly Hills, so I could have the Techie experience.
   Now understand I am trying to develop Patience, which those who know me understand is my shortest suit.  So I spent three hours prior to my actual appointment working out little issues I have been having, remaining calm and steadfast till my one to one.  Then I had my one to one with Gina, a very amiable your woman, an hour in which we reset all my passwords on Twitter and Facebook and Google itself, so there would be a uniformity with all this crap I can't stand but have to try and be a part of if I am to continue in this no-eye-contact-little-real-personal-communication universe.  Then I walked back from Century City, stopping to not adopt a Shitzu in the pet adoption center, because if you knew Mimi you would understand how hard it is to get a replacement, as if she could be replaced.
   Then I got home,  My Mac would not open because it didn't like the password.  AND STILL I DIDN"T KILL ANYONE OR MYSELF.
   I spent the next three hours with various emergency contacts I had to make on other people's phones and computers, and now it is seven hours since all this began, and I have just managed to settled all the issues.  So this is my message: I AM A DIVINE MESSENGER.  No, wait a second before you call 911.  This is the DIVINE MESSAGE:  If I can have gotten through all this without going completely mad, everyone has God in them.  And obviously God has now incorporated Steve Jobs into Her Being.
   I WILL BE SORRY TOMORROW I POSTED THIS, but God is forgiving.  At least I hope so.

Friday, June 07, 2013


So I have spent several hours in the Apple store trying to recover what is left of my sanity that can re-collect in a world dominated by technology, heartened by the presence of one of the truly fine hotel managers of the world, Frank Bowling, who was for many years Himself for the Hotel Bel-Air, when it was one of the Greaties.  Ah, those were the days.  
   Anyway Frank was in my I-phone class at 10 AM this morning, impeccable as always, unbelievably elegant tie and coordinated pocket kerchief, serene as always in spite of life's unrelenting complexities, intensified by all this electronic madness.  The tutorial from the very pleasant teacher was infinite, as are the possibilities of the iPhone but you have to have that kind of brain and I don't.  To make things worse, I had to renew this blog, when I am not in New York to Blog for Broadway, and it costs plenty, and I have no idea if anyone reads it, and everything I saw on Broadway when in New York was disappointing to say the least.  Have returned to LA to work on my musical, SYLVIA WHO? which may or may not be realized in my lifetime, or indeed anyone else's.
    And if all that were not disturbing enough, I received a bulletin that they are bringing The Bridges of Madison County, one of the arch arches of our time, to Broadway as a musical.  Is there no mercy from the universe?
   Yesterday I had the unexpected fun of running into Sylvester Stallone-- it is Hollywood, after all-- and being able to comment on the musical of ROCKY which is coming to Broadway via Germany, where everybody was ecstatic about it Or Else!!!  But in all good faith, which I have to have, because the book is by Tom Meehan, one of the darling souls on the planet, a man of infinite generosity with a wife who has my same birthday and is beautiful besides, so I have to root for him, which it is impossible not to do (he also wrote the musical of The Producers with Mel Brooks who remains the funniest man alive but still needs help with structure.) Anyway I was able to tell M. Stallone that I understood they went wild for Rocky in Munich, and Sly, which I did not have the temerity to call him and wouldn't even if he asked me to, said he understood not a word of the musical besides 'YO' but wept anyway.  I have to say with all due respect that I saw the movie of Rocky a few weeks ago while still in New York, and it really holds up remarkably, seeming even better now than it did when I first saw it, maybe because I have become less cynical except perhaps about The Bridges of Madison County.  
    Anyway, I am sad and frustrated because nothing was accomplished today except I did connect with my darling friend Olivia-- the name alone lends some indication of her elegance-- PR for the Peninsula in Hong Kong, and just to hear that accent makes me feel more intelligent and accomplished, so the day has not been wasted.  Her little doggie, Tuki, went missing and never returned (she has had as many as 9,) but Tuki sounded the most beloved.  The hills around Olivia's place in Hong Kong are filled with enormous wild pigs, which of course the hills here are, too, except here they often run agencies.  (Only kidding, anyone who wants to represent a new old author.)  It is Olivia's hope that Tuki, about whom she "fears the worst," a phrase that is most moving and Bronte-ish in that accent, met with a serpent, because that would have been quickest.  The parallel does go on, doesn't it?  I mean, there is Shakespeare and all, how sharper than a serpent's tooth, etc. but I will not go on about my children.
    Oh, I hope it was worth $178.00 to do this damned blog.  I hope there is something worth blogging about on Broadway.  I hope, if there is a Heaven, and Tuki is there, remembering what a loved life she had in exotic Hong Kong, with exotic Olivia, she will speak in her doggie tongue to the Powers to give me the strength and the skill to carry this through to a joyful finale, or, even better, a joyful continuance.  Or at least put some dynamite under the bridges of You Know Where.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Am returned to the citadel of my youth-- yes, it's true, I came here as a twenty-year old, embarrassed at having lost my first(and,as it would turn out, only) job as a writer for the NBC Comedy Development program, as Les Colodny, who had hired me-- Les was an agent at William Morris who often gave the jobs offered for writers to himself-- left for LA with a couple of my compatriots, leaving me very much behind.  So I came and became embroiled in what was then 'Young Hollywood,' Tab and Dennis and the very handsome young (this was before he dieted himself into scary scrawny) Tony Perkins, with whom I was infatuated not knowing he was involved with Tab, all of which will be shortly available on your TVs in the Tab Hunter documentary just filmed in NY in which I am a featured dopey player.  Tab said in his memoir that he didn't understand how someone so bright(me, I guess) could have been so-- I don't think he said dumb, though I was, because he is very kind.  And, by the way, still really handsome, and still really sweet.  He was there at the hotel where we filmed with his longtime partner, and told me he didn't believe in gay marriage, that he thought marriage was for a man and a woman, with the intent of having children, which I, personally, think is very illuminated of him, although i hope that opinion doesn't get him in trouble.  But I am pretty sick of everybody coming out, as I couldn't care less what most people do in bed as long as I am not in love with them.  Which I was with Tony, but who knew?  Anyway he was a creative gift to me, as I couldn't write, sing, poem enough to please him, and he was REALLY smart, so a fine early sounding board for my creative self. Tab, too, recorded a song or maybe two of mine, when no one cared how anybody sounded except Elvis.  I also knew him when he was staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt, bedding one of two young Mormons from Salt Lake City named Nan and Marianne, the other sacrificing herself with his cousin Gene, as Elvis liked to take care of relatives.  An innocent time, actually, hard as it seems to believe now, with everyone going to the Hollywood Ranch Market at midnight for ribs.
    All of this radiant in recollection after my visit to the Max Factor Movie Star Museum, failing only to go into Mel's Diner which I managed to do a day or so later, with Armando, the bartender from the Hotel Mosaic, where I stayed all the time and found this apartment a few blocks from since I was so loved and comfortable there and so wanted to be close so I could see old friends, and, not incidentally, swim, the main reason I wanted to be back in LA so I could stay alive for the Good Part.  Only to have the rules change the day I went back, which Armando was Hispanically Cavalier enough to try and make up to me for by taking me to a bunch of Goodwills on Saturday to furnish my apartment.  (Wish I had gone to them before Target, as it's a lot of the same stuff but infinitely cheaper.)  Anyway, we ended up at Mel's and he bought me lunch.  A gesture GRANDE. A true Caballero.
     I am settled, more or less-- less if you see my apartment, spare as everything is, much to my liking.  Zen Gwen it is to be, the decor stylishly dictated by the birthday gift from Jamie, an incredibly smart big tote in beige with a black circle encapsulating a big GD, which I guess is me. Have hung it on the main wall, and done the other walls accordingly, with interesting purses where most would hang paintings.  So I am officially a bag lady.  The walls are white, the floors cherry wood and newly finished so it's really clean, with one painting over the black Futon from Target, ten deep- throated yellow lilies that I had in the vase I brought from Rochefort-en-Terre when I led a writing workshop there one summer, and didn't want to lose the look of, so painted them.
       Trudy quotes somebody great who says "an artist is always beginning."  That couldn't have been United Artists, of which her longtime love David Chasman was the head, a he is now in Assisted Living at the mercy of those who have none.  Life.  She am a puzzle.  

Saturday, June 01, 2013


So my wondrously selfless friend Ellen, having just finished spearheading the Share show, Hollywood's annual display of caring while in fabulous gowns, generously came to pick me up at the dentist, which had been a truly surprising show of generosity(NO BILL!!! Can you imagine? it's almost worth losing a tooth to find out such a thing could happen, and on 2 COASTS!) and took me to a Hollywood tradition so old I recognized almost everybody: the Movie Star Museum on Highland Boulevard, in the old Max Factor building.   That there are not daily tour buses from Minnesota and other places currently being ravaged by tornados is a wonder to me, as there is contained therein the parade of memories that made little children like I was once fans of the movies: all the effects, cosmetics, jewels (Marilyn's) cars(The Rat Pack's, Sinatra, Martin, Sammy in pure, or probably impure gold) Oz (little Judy) and youth that would blossom into unbelievable beauty and no higher consciousness(Elizabeth.) Greatness, or at least what seemed greatness, from an era so long vanished that nothing remains of it including movies that have a plot that makes sense or characters you care about, is herein encapsulated in breathtaking form, such as an elevator so huge that it was able to transport what seemed whole battlefields onto another floor.  Dazzling.
    And in its way, joyful, because you can truly imagine what it was like when there was mystery around this crap, and the paparazzi weren't waiting outside everywhere to tell the world what was going on with Brad and Angelina, so she had to share her mortification and sorrow before they eked it out of some employee and exposed it.  (Before I moved into my new apartment, i was staying in a hotel opposite her doctor's office, and the cannibals were already there at eight in the morning after her brave revelation.)Yes, it was a world of whispers then, calibrated on a machine that looks like a torture instrument, measuring with needles all the vicissitudes of the human face and skull so the camera, and Max, could make it look perfect.  Many stars with their original noses, the best of them Lucille Ball's.  A room for Blondes, with all their photos, Brunettes, and Brownettes(who knew?) and downstairs Hannibal Lechter's cell probably constructed so well that we didn't have the courage to chance it for fear we would be eaten. (And next door, if you're weak, Mel's Diner.  I can't understand why everyone from Cincinnati isn't coming.)
     This transition, NY to LA(AGAIN?) has been more difficult than i would have considered likely or probable, considering how much I have moved and how often traveled. But change becomes more challenging, as the Quakers say, as you grow and grow older(Me?!!) and the belly blows thrown at you by a universe that apparently can't get enough of waiting to see how you will handle disappointment are   
relentless in their velocity.  But there are people I love who, even in their diminishing number, seem to expect me to prevail, so I will as long as I can.  And the happy surprise that comes from an unexpected source, the dentist(and twice, on either coast) sort of balances the betrayal that comes from those you would assume were in your biblical corner-(Never Assume.)  Plus the good news that the tornados are someplace else, and there hasn't been an earthquake here recently, yet.  To be alive, as the heroine of my musical which may one day open, might say, is to have the possibility of winning.  So we'll see. 
        Ah, but after the museum we lunched on the roof of the Peninsula, as elegant an outpost as my former hideout has proved tacky, filled with honeymooning sheiks from Dubai whose wedding feasts hosted a thousand, and waiters whose family history may have included royals.  And the sun is shining but the air is not too hot, as I understand it is now in New York, so I was right to leave.  And as long as I don't have The New York Times on my doorstep, I can be happy with the world and proud of my country. Ignorance may not be bliss, but to look out the window beside my desk at bougainvillea is certainly a balm for the soul.  And we do have one, you know, though it may not be featured as the destination of a tour bus.