Am still anguishing slightly in Gore Vidal's behalf over the pitiless article in the Sunday NY TIMES. Gore himself was not a pitying man, but he was proud and made some fine contributions to our culture, such as it is, so he did not deserve to be humiliated, even post-mortem. And as I was shown an act of completely unexpected kindness-- a beautiful family of Danes I found a while ago on the streets of New York, when they were seeking direction-- have given me some. I got an e-mail, your most uncaring mode of communication, loaded with caring. They invited me to come and stay with them after my coming surgery. If there were still Victor Herbert songs, my heart would swell.
So I am remembering, as often comes to mind, Aldous Huxley saying, "In the end, what matters is to be kind." I had a beautiful friend a long time ago, a harpist with glorious flaxen hair, as in the Fairy Tales, Indus Arthur, named after that exotic river. I found her on lonely Sundays when I would go to the Four Oaks, a restaurant in one of the canyons-- Beverly Glen I think it was, where she played her harp during brunch. She was truly exquisite, delicate and soft in the very best sense of that word. So when Marge Champion, a good friend, married Boris Sagal, a director I knew and liked, I gave them a wedding dinner-- just the two of them and us-- and had Indus come and play the harp.
Sometime in the course of the evening I told Boris about a folk song I had written at Bryn Mawr, one that had subsequently been recorded by Theo Bikel and Miriam Makeba, and, No Kidding, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. When I'd lived in London after college, I'd stayed briefly with a folk singer named Isla Cameron, and she'd learned the song and sung it to Theo, who found me at the Purple Onion when I was doing my act there in Hollywood, told me he'd recorded it, and published it, and for a while, actually sent me royalties.
In the midst of my telling the story, Indus, flaxen hair flowing beside her harp, suddenly sat up straight and said "YOU wrote WHERE DOES IT LEAD?" and started to play it and sing it. Boris, not surprisingly said: "You set this up."
But I hadn't, and it was genuinely thrilling, in the best sense of that word. Not long enough after that, Don's cancer was discovered. And when he died, I asked Indus if she would play at his funeral. She did so unhesitatingly and beautifully, lending her beauty and grace to that sad occasion. It was only a few short weeks later that I found out she had cancer, too, and had gotten up from her bed to play the harp for Don.
So I visited her as much as I could, for what time she had left, which was not very long. And I remember best how beautiful she still was, her lover, a sweet young man who had been consulting fakirs and phony healers in his desperation-- "It's just that I love her so," he explained, "I don't want to let her go."
But most of all I remember how beautiful she still was, her beauty incredibly intensified by how generous she was, radiant, holding my hand and telling me how beautiful I was-- something I have never really been, except maybe that moment, because of her presence. And I think of Aldous Huxley, meaner, more acerbic in his early works than even Gore Vidal, saying "In the end, what matters is to be kind."
That says it all.