Sunday, December 21, 2014


So after one of the most difficult evenings since coming back to LaLa, which I will not go into lest it make somewhat indelible the experience, I turned on the TV to try and lull myself into sleep, and, instead, came up with a part of my history that still makes me laugh, be sorrowful, and understand how lucky my life has been.  
There it was, Eyes Wide Shut, the last movie of Stanley Kubrick, who had been my closest friend, mentor, and ultimate disappointment.  But like the movie, if it has to be a letdown, you might as well have the biggest.
    I went to a Hollywood party when I was was at Stanford, and came down for the weekend, and was introduced to Stanley, there with his wife Christiane, very pregnant, in a white dress with sparkles across her belly, and said to him she was the most beautiful pregnant woman I had ever met.  And he said "What did you expect?" as if we had been friends forever, which it then seemed we would become.  He had just announced his acquisition of LOLITA, the book on everyone's lips who read, which in those days was everybody.
     He came shortly afterward to visit me in the Bay Area, having read the novel I had submitted as my Master's Thesis, and we went for a boat ride on the bay.  "I'm in terrible trouble," he said to me.  "I just hired Nabokov to write the screenplay.  Dwight MacDonald (then the reviewer for Esquire, as I remember, maybe faultily) is going to give me a great review because it's Nabokov,  and he can't write a word of dialogue. You're the best writer of dialogue in America.  Will you do it for me?"  
   I was, of course, thrilled and delighted, ready to hole up in the Park Sunset, as he wanted me to do, since part of the offer was I couldn't tell anybody I was in town, because they would all know what I was doing-- paranoia was one of his major suits and our friendship was now well known among my friends, as it was one of the reasons I was glad to be alive, Stanley was so brilliant, albeit crazy.  So I checked in to the motel and started writing.
    There was a scene where Lolita tells Humbert about a friend named Ginny who's "a creep... she has polio," and I said "Stanley, you can't have her put down another kid for having polio... it'll make her despicable.'  And Stanley said, his dark eyes literally lighting up, "No, you don't get it.  Humbert is thinking he's never fucked a twelve year old with polio before."  And I said "Stanley, how do you see this movie?" And he said "It's a love story."  
   "Oh," said I.  "I thought it was a comedy."
   Not long after we agreed that I would not write the screenplay, and I went back to Stanford to get my Master's, which is another story.  The friendship aborted temporarily.
    A while later I met Don, and we went to the four o'clock opening of "Doctor Strangelove" at the Criterion, because I wanted him to meet Stanley, who I told him would be there counting the house.  
"Stop being a writer," Don said.  But, sure enough, after the opening showing, we came down the stairs from the balcony, and I heard 'click, click, click, click.' And there he was, with a bus counter, and he said to me "We just broke the house record for the Criterion."
    So we became friends again, and Stanley and Christiane came to our wedding, and Stanley told Don, who was producing the football games for WOR at the time to "not follow the ball, but keep the camera on the line, because that was where the real drama was." And Don said "Stanley, if you'll let me run a credit at the end 'Directed by Stanley Kubrick, I'll keep the camera anywhere you want it to be."  (Christiane complained to me at the wedding that the vase she had bought as a wedding gift, Steuben, pronounce Schtoybun, the German way, had cost $29.95.  By the time I broke it, living in La Jolla after Don had died, and swept it off the shelf doing a yoga posture, it was $495.  Now I think it's close to a thousand.
     A couple of years after the wedding, when we had moved to England temporarily, we had a meal at the country home of Gary and Max Smith, close, good friends-- Don was working for Gary at the time-- and Stanley and Christiane were living in the castle-like domain next door.  So I left the table with my then little children, Madeleine, five, and Robert, two, to show them to Stanley, as evidence that my life had really worked out in spite of all expectations to the contrary.  I rang his bell, a terrifying, cinematic tolling. In a few moments, the door creaked open.  Two huge, snarling Dobermans pulled at the end of a leash.  And I said into the darkness: "Stanley?"
     He recognized my voice.  "Gwen?"
     "Stanley?" I said.
     "I'd let you in," he said.  "But the dogs will go for the children."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


   So I am very much moved into my new apartment, in the best locale in Beverly Hills, minus the bullshit—the wrong side of the tracks (Wilshire), in a block that looks like a real street in America, hard as it is to believe.  I have a front porch, and around the corner a man who fixes glasses, the kind you see through not the kind you drink champagne from.  There’s a French pastry coffee shop I frequent, and a Starbuck’s I don’t, and a few steps in the other direction as good an Italian restaurant as I have eaten in, even in Italy.  As Fate, or Bershert, the Yiddish or maybe it’s Hebrew will have it, I have been re-united by phone at least with my dearest friend from when I was twenty-something low, whose father was the film editor on Ben-Hur, about which no one thought to hear anything ever again, now that Christian Bale has replaced Charlton Heston in the public consciousness of Moses.  Christian, by the way, as I think I may call him, since I knew his beautiful father when he was married to Gloria Steinem, who should be everyone’s heroine and was/is certainly mine, and they were on their honeymoon and I interviewed them for the Wall Street Journal Europe, which then refused to run the article because it was too favorable.  He died not long afterwards, a genuine tragedy, as she had waited all her remarkable life for the right man, interspersing that longing with a lot of memorable mistakes, including the comedy writer Herb Sargent, brother of Alvin the writing maven, most touching man I ever met, and then he, the elder, dazzling Bale, died soon and painfully, which gave me the conviction God is not a Feminist.  Surprising, really, unless the truth of Creation is the part He/She loves best is the Struggle.  Christian, not by the way, is married to Sibi, the daughter of my hairdresser in Beverly Hills, Nada, so even if it isn’t all connected, it is All Connected. 
      My wonderful friend Jamie Lee Curtis, to drop my favorite name since Cary Grant, who really was as charming as they say, and whose own mother didn’t love him if you can believe it, and wanted him to dye his hair as his going gray made her “look older,” which really makes me believe that God wants to make it hard for us so we have to put in greater effort to get it right, came by yesterday and dropped off a straw shopping bag, a mat for my terrace, and a colorful pillow for my dining room which I will now have to use as a sitting room as it has this colorful pillow.  Today the handyman from Pioneer came to fix my bed which collapsed last night and I wasn’t even doing anything interesting. 
     That makes me believe we are just given challenges that can be good/bad jokes if we give them time enough which in this case was only until the next morning.  Now I am off to the phone company to order internet service which I wasn’t going to do as I had figured out the way to outfox them was to breakfast at the French coffee shop next to Starbuck’s which picks up their signal, as I still have strangely dark feelings about Billy Rose, who gave me my most successful novel with The Pretenders, and some really funny times with Sue Mengers who was sort of the Heroine and my best friend until I wasn’t successful enough for her anymore.  The play about her was a great success briefly on Broadway, but then people stopped caring, as people will, even about Cary Grant. 
       But Jamie said I have to connect here just for safety, so I must listen to her as she is smarter than anyone even though her father was Tony Curtis.  He was a sort of great friend of mine for a little while in my extreme youth when I came to him through Stanley Kubrick who was a truly great friend of mine, along with his wife Kristiane, until I got put in the closet by Stanley and when people use you they stop loving you even if you don’t stop loving them, as they are embarrassed if they have any decency, which Stanley had a bit of, though not too much. 
      I was in the closet for him on Lolita, when I was at Stanford getting a Master’s together with Ken Kesey who was also in the graduate Engish department, which is hilarious, and I will tell you about another time.  I really must write a memoir as I have known almost everyone who mattered at a certain time which is now very much Over, and I can’t believe the people who are alleged celebrities.  I can’t even write the big(in size, not import) name which catches attention now, as it makes me sad. That people would even give it any weight in spite of the hugeness of the ass attached.  Cary Grant, himself, said to me when I attached his name to a handsome photo in my book of meditations, HOW TO SURVIVE IN SUBURBIA WHEN YOUR HEART’S IN THE HIMALAYAS, “What hath Cary Granted?, “Why are you putting my name in this book when it could last for a hundred years and people will forget about me in fifteen?” and I said “People will never forget about you,” but he was right.  People will forget about everyone but Walt Whitman and Longfellow because they’re made to learn that in school, and Edison because otherwise they can’t turn on the light.
     I am sitting now in a restaurant looking out on Beverly Drive—I couldn’t have afforded to look out on Rodeo as they have a luggage store from Japan where an overnight case is several thousand dollars and when you ask what it’s made of, they give a fancy name where, when you say “What is that?” they have to say “plastic,” as, apparently even on Rodeo they are sometimes forced to tell the truth.  Apparently it is only in politics where they can lie all the time, regardless of country.  All so sad.  I am now no longer reading the papers even when I pick them up free as I did in a coffee shop on Little Santa Monica, where there was an article about Bernie Madoff collaborators going to jail for forever.  My mother was the only person, ever, to get her money back from Bernie Madoff, because my cousin Rodney Fink, a darling man who overcame his name, went to Madoff and quietly demanded her money back. Madoff told him what a fortune she would be making, and Rodney said quietly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Madoff.  But I am from Pittsburgh.”  So he got it back and saved her and what little was left of the money she had prolifegated.

    It is a sad and sorrowful time in the world, as it almost always is, alas, but right now more than most because we have made such a huge mistake with Barack, and nobody still likes him but Joanna Semel Rose, who was the smartest woman who ever went to Bryn Mawr, but still…? It is a tragedy for this country that we actually elected him a second time, but true tragedy is when everybody dies, so if we live through this terrible second term maybe it will be all right.  We’ll see.  Or not.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


So as anyone can see, if they are in LA., I have ended the drought.  There is a sadness that comes along after the elation, because soon hills will be sliding, and people will be losing their homes as well as their patience.  
   This has never been a place where things happen half-way.  If I had gotten a dog Saturday as I thought I would, she would not be able to go out walking, and I would probably be sorry.  As it was, I had to audition and am being considered by the very kind woman in charge of it all, who rescues dogs and afterwards finds out that the females are pregnant and advises you against the puppies that came out for fear they will ruin the floors, which my new landlady would certainly not enjoy.
    I apologize for seeming so small-minded and focussed on the trivial, but with great power comes great responsibility as everybody seems to understand but the people with great power.
I am no longer reading the newspapers, as nothing seems to be getting any better and in spite of my great capacity to change things, apparently I am not able to change them for the better except when I am in Amsterdam, and that is a high price to pay, except for knowing Daniel, his beautiful children, and the boys with whom I dined those lovely evenings when Peter cooked.  Amsterdam is a truly wonderful city except for the wet and the bleak and the fact that they don't know they aren't in charge of the world anymore and that nothing has changed since whatever century it was that they ran things.  The great thing about LA is in spite of its being so spread out you can still walk everywhere as long as you don't want to go to too many places.  
     Also there is still the telephone on which I am able to speak to my beloved Taffy of the once great Starland Vocal Band of Afternoon Delight which unfortunately did not give their follow- up song to the Ages which would have made them immortal as their manager was Jerry Weintraub who was a shit, and cared only about John Denver.  His wife Jane Morgan didn't do that well either.  But it is well I am learning to live in sort-of silence, as Mrs. Lande, my Nazi housemother from Cherry Lawn School in Darien, Connecticut, the capital of anti-Semitism in the US where most of the students were Jews so the townspeople would close their shutters when we walked into town along Brookside Road would have said I couldn't do.  As a matter of fact, what she said was "If you were in a room by yourself you would go crazy," and Ha Ha, I haven't.  Yet.
     The day we all walked into town because it was so exciting was the day they were shooting the railway station scene from Gentleman's Agreement, the great book-into-movie about anti-Semitism in the U.S. and we all wanted to see Gregory Peck in the lean, handsome flesh getting off the train.  But when everybody got there, they learned the scene had already been shot, so they all went back to school.  I, though, sat on a bench in the station and wept, as I loved movies so, and had imagined Gregory Peck would be Gregory Peck.
     But then, God being a movie fan, it turned out the train had pulled in too far, so Mr. Peck had to go back to Stamford and take the train again.  And there I was, at twelve, able to tremblingly get off the bench and ask for his autograph.  Having nothing to lean against, he asked for my shoulder.  I never washed the jacket again.  
     Many years later, at a Hollywood party, during the time I was a hit with The Pretenders so was asked everywhere, people in Hollywood being-- don't be shocked-- un poquito bullshitty, I met him at a party at Allan Carr's house, and we became friends.  "This is where I stood with Ingrid," he actually said to me, Greg, that is, as he told me to call him.  We met again and in a major way when I was living in Paris, writing for the Wall Street Journal Europe-- is there no end of miracles?-- and I was actually his date for a reception.  He had a cane and I had broken my arm so as we limped towards the ambassador, he said "Don't we make a beautiful pair?"  A darling man, who later recorded the poem I wrote when my dog Happy died.  You can hear it online. I have to choke at people who actually idealize Matthew McConnawhatever, imagining that is a hero.
    Well, as we know, nothing in Hollywood, U.S.A. being moderate, the gutters are now filled to more than capacity, and my battery is low, so I must close.  Fortunately I am wearing my serious raincoat, so I will likely make it home if I don't fall into the sewer which I believe they have.  The record being played on the amplifier is "Baby, It's Cold Outside," the huge hit by Frank Loesser, the greatest songwriter of his generation, whom everybody has forgotten, and who listened to me audition me at MCA when I was 20, seduced me, and sat naked at my piano playing Warm All Over, the love song from his soon to be hit The Most Happy Fella, which everyone has forgotten as well.  He was a true shit but then everybody can't be Gregory Peck, or the world could hold its head high. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Apparently I did not know my own power.   After a drought of I don't know how long, I had only to move into my new apartment, put out some furniture on the porch, and VOILA!!! It's raining. In addition I have written a new song that is almost sure to become an instant classic, except my beautiful Taffy from the Starland Vocal Band warns me that I must give it to Adam Sandler in spite of not liking him all that much and loving the beautiful young couple who helped me arrange my apt., one of whom is a greatly gifted performer who hasn't gotten his break yet.  Taffy says if they had given the follow-up song to Afternoon Delight to Cass Elliott to whom I introduced her, they might have lived forever, and Cass herself might not have choked on a ham sandwich.  I really loved her so it pains me to make a joke about how she died, but it really is sort of funny except probably not to Cass.  I went to her funeral in the old, great cemetery in Hollywood where NO ONE goes anymore, or as I once said when I was still glib, they wouldn't be seen dead.  Cass was SO smart, and SO funny, and we had the same doctor who was part of the surgery on Larry Tucker, the incredibly fat partner of Paul Mazursky who was neither as kind nor as funny.  My doctor, who was the one who failed to save my husband, while claiming to be his close friend, though never even x-raying him and not being the least helpful while Don was dying, was in the operating room when the surgeon actually climbed up on the table to open Larry, and reduce his appestat or whatever it is that helps you be less hungry by making your capacity for food smaller.  
     But those were the days, I gotta tell you, when we sat around and were witty almost effortlessly, though sometimes with the help, when we grew a little older, at Jack Haley, Jr.'s house, of grass.  Nothing more serious, though, although he did have a houseman named Clarence who probably would have helped us get something worse.  Their biggest hit, Larry and Paul's, was probably Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice. I always loved Natalie Wood though I never met her as she told people she loved The Pretenders, so I knew she actually read.
    I tried reading Silk Lady which was my allegedly big follow-up book that didn't happen.  It is very well-written, probably too.  I would enjoy writing another big bestseller but don't think I'm capable of not having my heart in something at this point, and I can't imagine how I ever had the attention span to be less than sincere for that long.  
    There's a man at the next table with a Mac who looks like Jesus, about whom I have just written a song.   Hope he doesn't mind, and wonder if I have to capitalize it.  Well, we shall see if the song cometh forth a hit.  I mean to tell you, he(He) really does look like Jesus.  Was that a Jewish name?

Friday, November 28, 2014


So I am all moved in and almost stable in my new home except I don't know how to unthick this print.  I will not call for online help as I have come to mistrust all services, including and especially A T & T, as warned by my TV installer who told me I would be cheated, and indeed he was right.  So I am blogging now out of the Champagne French Bakery where I can pick up Starbuck's signal without having actually to become a part of that mentality although too old.  I saw my brilliant Doctor Agre this morning and apparently I am still alive although we both knew Mike Nichols.  He was not, says the doctor, the brightest one in their bunch, so I would delight in meeting the others who might still be alive.  But even he might have had trouble understanding why this typeset is suddenly thick.  
      Had the best Thanksgiving of my life culinary-wise yesterday, with my old neighbors from Robbins Drive in Beverly Hills, where I was evicted for singing.  No kidding. Whoever moved in after me has been renting out her place as a B&B and I would report her except I don't want to be like some of the other people here, so am also not reporting whoever is parking in my garage space.  But if you're coming, do let me know so I can make sure there's room for you.  I am stunned at how tight things are around here, but it's nice the sun is out and you can still walk places on a beautiful day, when the rest of the country is suffering and the world is in turmoil.
    But it's lucky I was thrown out as otherwise I would have been paying rent for all the time I wasn't here which is longer than I can remember.  Destiny has its way of taking care of you a lot of the time, except maybe Mike Nichols doesn't feel that way.
    Am going to make my way to Century City where a movie is playing I want to see and am going to ascertain whether I can live in LA without a car, taking the bus places like regular people or ex-New Yorkers who don't want to be overloaded with responsibilities, the excellent possibility of a crash, or having to wait in endless lines of cars therefore becoming a much less adorable person.    I will let you know how the movie was, and if Steve Carell is as extraordinary as they say and if I have spelled his name right.  Maybe it has two rrs.  
    Also I think I have to get a dog.  I still miss Mimi and, before her, Happy, both of whom deserved to be immortal.  In the case of Happy,  he would have lived forever, but Oprah didn't show the book.  I am ready to go toe to toe with anyone who thinks she is a great person.  
     I am seriously planning to adopt, as there are, apparently, too many around with loving, giving, needy natures, who will not have any future unless I take them in.  I wish someone had given me the same counsel with respect to children.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


So I am sitting in the Champagne French bakery which picks up the signal from Starbuck's, where I am too old to look appropriate.  Women walk in with enormous lips, none of which can be come by honestly, and it makes me sad, though all else in the neighborhood makes me happy.  I lack nothing but a couple of throw rugs for the bathroom(s); that's right, I have two.  The only thing I am lacking is my own pool and a literary agent, as it is my understanding I am too old to be interesting to them, which still comes as a surprise, except when I do yoga.   As I have probably oft pointed out, I have always been the youngest one.  You get used to that and it stuns to realize that is completely changed, and you have grandchildren, a blessing, sure, but still a shock as you remember how it was to be being carried out to sea as a five year old, waving for help to shore and having people wave back as they thought you were just being friendly. What adventures those were, and how amazing that you survived all of them, and you better start writing them down while you still can remember/write/make it to the Champagne French Bakery.
     My apartment is perfect for the twentyish writer I no longer am, with a little terrace I share with the twenty-something couple who will get married a year from Christmas, almost conservative in comparison to how it was in Amsterdam, where the people mostly have two teenage children and will marry never.  The world is changed/changed/changing, and I suppose we are simply lucky that it is still here with the mistake we made with Barack, who every day gets us stepping deeper in dreck, to put it almost politely.  I am sad for the people who believed in him.  
     But enough about politics and the probable end of the world.  We have only the present to live in if we're smart, and the day here in Beverly Hills is hot and sunny and improbable.  I spent yesterday at Bed Bath and Beyond like the bride I was a hundred years ago, buying linens for my new apartment, black sheets for the set that go with the comforter that has Paris on it, as if I had had a really great time there, singing in the Mars Club, waiting to be discovered at twenty, just out of Bryn Mawr and fearless, apparently.  The music on the soft/loudpeaker is "Under Paris Skies" so it is as if my whole life is in tune, and orchestrated, and all I have to feel bad about is reality, and then only if I pay attention to it, as almost no one does in Beverly Hills.
     Santa Claus is in the sky driving his sleigh above Wilshire Boulevard as if there were actually winter, the whole of America on super-hype, the season of sale.  Outside, on Beverly Drive little children sit curbside sipping ice water, not knowing how lucky they are to be here, or probably even alive.  My TV installation man was a Hawaiian recently back from the military, imagining he was old, at 30.  He told me not to believe the man from A T & T that the extra charges for connecting me would "probably" be cancelled, and I chose to believe him, the reason why I am now headquartered by the signal from Starbuck's.  There is little you can take to heart and make a part of your life when your own president is a liar.  It was such a great time to be a little girl when there was a Roosevelt.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


As my few remaining fans know, my bestseller THE PRETENDERS, (after which the musical group named themselves though I didn't know that till many years later, when one of them told me,) was a fictionalized version of the life of Billy Rose, the great short man who secretaryed to Bernard Baruch, married a number of prominent, taller women, including Eleanor Holm and Fanny Brice, and dated Sue Mengers, my best friend in New York, until she handled people who were too famous, and became one of them herself. Had she known there would be a play about her starring Bette Midler, she probably would have lived longer, and negotiated a better deal with God.
    The sadness is with celebrity, people forget about you the moment they can stop dropping your name, unless of course it can get you money or a better seat in the theatre, which today no longer means that much, the seats are so uncomfortable in New York, it almost makes you give up the wish to be a hit on Broadway.  So it is that I am happily resettled in Southern Cal, where I have set up my office in the French bakery that picks up Starbuck's signal, as the AT&T man on the phone was a fiend in Manila who tried to cheat me out of a few hundred bucks saying he would manage to get the initiation fee cancelled, "probably," which the technician installing my TV told me meant I would get cheated later.  So now I am the oldest person in this venue, where I can have coffee(Decaf) while I write, and remember Billy Rose, who said to Sue Mengers "Put your hand on my cock" which even she found offensive.  I went out with him, too, and he looked in my closet,  saw the negligee my mother had bought for me wholesale, with feathers all up and down the front and said to me "Who are you saving that for, Robert Goulette?"
    He pronounced the final tees as though they were there which probably few if any of you will remember they weren't, as it was French, so he was Goul-ay.  Billy actually had a great naked statue by Rodin it was, in his front hallway on Fifth Avenue, and said to me as I gazed up at it: "I know what you're thinking: you'd like to screw him, right?"  A truly loathsome little man, except for his brilliance which also might have been a lie, as what he knew better even than how to do shorthand speedily was how to steal from people.  But he did give me my big bestseller so I can do nothing but thank him.  And I did manage to give the character in the novel enough depth so people were moved, if they weren't just looking for sexual arousal, as it was a landmark in that category, and you never would have known I went to Bryn Mawr.
    As it turns out, that is the thing in my life that I am proudest of having done, as it strengthened me as nothing else has.  A lovely Japanese woman who is writing a piece on Perry Lane, a little street in Palo Alto where hippies lived in the Sixties, before, I believe, they were actually called hippies, and were, on the whole, more interesting than when they became totally stoned,  and interviewed me on the phone was visibly, audibly impressed with how much color I gave her on Ken Kesey, a great friend of mine when I went to graduate school at Stamford whose writing program was incredibly overrated, Wallace Stegner being a pretentious, self- aggrandizing man.  Kesey said to me "If it weren't for the Honor System, I never would have made it through."  Cheating was outside the law for me, and so I never gave him my soul, which I was usually a little too quick to share, but I did give him my body, once only, and he was not very good.    He gave me my first inhale of grass, and even stoned his lovemaking seemed not all that erotic. In the middle or end which came very quickly, there was a knock on my front door on College Avenue, and when I said "Who is it?" the answer came "Police"" and Kesey was out of there and bolting over my back fence and several adjoining yards. Turned out the cops were there because they had found my driver's license that had been stolen, but Kesey didn't stay to find that out. A remarkable athlete, if not an impressive sexual one.
    But we stayed friends and went to the vigil outside San Quentin for Caryl Chessman. When it was all over we drove down the peninsula and followed a rude truck driver whose rear doors were coming open for several miles, Kesey falling behind because he knew the road was rough, so the road was soon peppered with cartons of ice cream, and that became the ice cream scene in Kingdom Come, my novel that everybody wanted to buy until they saw it was easier to steal, and it was, after all, Hollywood.  
    But back to the vigil,  where Marlon Brando came to protest the coming execution of Caryl Chessman.  Brando's attorney said on the fading loudspeaker that if they failed to change the mind of the governor to stay the execution, Chessman had agreed to let Marlon make the movie of his life, which of course he never did.  I call him Marlon because I actually, truly knew him, my loved friend Janice Mars being one of his cast-offs, introducing me to him one of my vacations from Bryn Mawr, saying "I want you to meet someone," not telling me who it was.  His apartment was on 57th Street, one of those buildings now being obscured by all the construction on West 57th street by all those horrible builders I would like to think are Iranians, but they are, sadly, Jews.
    So as we went up in the elevator, Janice and I, and got to the top floor, I heard someone calling out "Eyyyy, Janice!!" and my heart near stopped beating.  It was of course Himself, still trim and breathtakingly, animalisticly handsome.  She introduced me, and he said "Tell me about yourself, kid."  
   Barely able to breathe, much less speak, I managed as best I could, and when I ended with where I went to school, he warbled affectedly, a la Katharine Hepburn, "OOOOOOooo, Baryn Mahwarr."  One of the most memorable days of my life, naturally, and am glad I can still remember it in full detail.  He was much more adorable than he was outside San Quentin, where, as journalists trailed him walking along the sea-bank, he said, surly, "Do you mind, I want to take a leak."
    He was much more lovable in Summer Stock, where I had been invited along for his production of Shaw's "Arms and the Man," which he directed, badly, and starred in as Sergei.  He was not funny.  He never could do comedy.
     But of course I loved him along with all members of the company, old friends he was giving a break to, as most of them couldn't get work, including his stand-in, the wife of one of his best friends.  He was a generous spirit, as long as you weren't one of his wives.  I am sorry he got fat.
   Myself, I was fighting weight at the time, having the same legs I do now, and 182 pounds, so all that was really visible of my face were my eyes.  I ate breakfast with him in the countrified mess hall, and could barely swallow what little was in my bowl.  He said "Whatsa matter, kid?  Oh, I see.  You're on a diet."  Adding, "It's okay.  I just think most girls are prettier thin."
    One might have said the same about men.  
    He said to Janice the last time he spoke to her, as she recounted to me, not long before he died, that he had decided to live to a hundred and ten.  She asked him why.  "Curiosity," he said.
    Then they both signed off with their usual affectionate Farewell.
"Fuck you," she said.  "Fuck you," he replied, and hung up.
    If he had known he was going to die, I think he would have said "I love you."

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Mike Nichols went to Cherry Lawn, the co-ed progressive boarding school in Darien, Connecticut, full of mad, inspired, troubled teenagers from broken homes or parents who didn’t want to be bothered, of whom I was one.  He wasn’t there when I was, but many years later after he was the great, sought-after success he was, a close friend of mine from Bryn Mawr who had dated him, set up a visit for me so he could hear my musical, Sylvia WHO? that I am working on till this day.
He was married at the time to the woman whose name I have difficulty remembering, along with all names that are starting to elude me.  But as I recall, sort of, it was Anabel, and I do remember clearly that she had had an affair with Morgan Mason when he was eighteen or nineteen, on the set of the movie Tony Perkins, with whom I had been innocently and ignorantly been infatuated, not knowing he was gay, or probably even clearly what “gay” was, wrote with Stephen Sondheim.
    Mike lived in Connecticut with his then wife. Ann Mudge, the beauteous, pale blonde heiress from Pittsburgh which you’d never know from how elegant she was, had dated Mike, after trying to commit suicide over Philip Roth, who had to be the cruelest man ever to be gifted with great talent.  She'd set up the audition for me, being as generous as she was upmarket Gentile.  I remember telling her I had relatives who had gone to Taylor Alderdice high school in Pittsburgh, and her saying “Taylor Alderdice was my grandfather.”  Imagine.  I’d thought he was a building.
   Anyway, we went to Connecticut where Mike and I walked by the lake in the woods of his home, and he’d told me about how agonizing it had been for him at Cherry Lawn, where he’d started, as a refugee, at ten.  I don’t think anybody had ever been at home or comfortable at Cherry Lawn, but he’d said to me “Imagine being there bald,” which he’d been in addition to being a German refugee, as a result of having had scarlet fever.  
    “He must have really liked you to tell you that about himself,” Ann said, as he was never without his very good wig.
    But whether or not he liked me, it was his wife who really helped with my musical, about a widow who has to crash parties to eat.  Anabel, if that was her name, oh yes, I believe it was, said “she needs an assistant,” which led to my creating the Countess.  A really great part for someone gifted and funny if it ever happens.
     Mike was of course a creative genius but he was less than kind, or maybe I just never learned how to deal with someone being less than happy to see me.  Although he may have really liked me or he wouldn’t have told me he’d been bald, once he understood I had a musical comedy I was eager to get on, he less than brightened at the sight of me, knowing I had an agenda.  Everybody in New York has an agenda, and I would guess everybody in theatre had one with Mike.
    But I did manage to say something once that visibly tickled him, so of course I can’t remember now what it was.  But he did take a proprietary stance with me in the forecourt of a theatre, where he introduced me to a producer as though I was a friend of his, which I imagine I might be in the next life if there is one. Meanwhile I am sad he will not be directing my musical if it ever happens.
    I saw him not all that long ago at a wonderful evening my friend Joanna Rose gave for Tony Walton and the Library of Congress, where she introduced me to Tony Walton, saying, all in one breath: “This is Gwen Davis, and she writes books and plays and movies and songs and she went to Bryn Mawr.”  Mike was standing just to the side, and she started to introduce me to him, but he said “Oh, I know Gwen.”  I tried not to seem that excited to see him, because eagerness has usually been greeted with less than rapture on the part of the celebrated.  But had I know his days were to be brief, I think I would have hugged him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


So walking down a side street near the veddy upmarket Montage I chanced... a word I do not use recklessly... on a sign, 'apartment for rent,' rejoiced, and continuing along my way, immediately lost the street.  Was several days trying to find it again, the street being untouted and inconspicuous as little is in Beverly Hills. But the gods were with me, I found it again, connected with my very pleasant landlady, and have moved in.
    Then the Angel Amber, the West Coast equivalent of the Angel Carleen, took all the furniture that had been in storage since I was evicted from my apartment for singing-- yes, it's true, I never have to make anything up---unboxed and rearranged it and made my new digs into an absolute Showplace, if you can make a show of Simplicity.  It is all absolutely loving and wonderful, and a miracle if you believe in miracles or even if you don't.
    So I am at home in Beshertville, the land of Meant to Be. There is no doubt of it in my mind. As much as I loved the friends I made in Amsterdam, Daniel especially, whom I have already agreed to return to and marry in my next life, I did not belong there.  Nor do I belong in New York, until and unless my musical is opening, and I can invite all of you to Opening Night. Speaking of which, or, more appropriately, singing, I have been gifted with a song that will enable me to retire us all, she says modestly, and I cannot tell you the title because the miracle is that no one ever thought of it before.  My beautiful Amber has a beau who sings like Frank Sinatra, so not being able to call on Frank to make it the classic it will surely become, I will call happily on Tim, whose last name I cannot spell as it is so complicated, his father having been Japanese, which makes it harder for him to get work, this being a town of limited heart and even more limited opportunity unless you have connections, you will be stunned to hear.  But we will change all that.  Yes we will.  
     I suppose this comes partly from being the only one in Starbucks who is not a late teenager, just starting out and filled with the audacity of youth.  My signal has not yet been connected at my apartment, so I have no choice but to come here to communicate, emboldened by the audacity of late middle age.  But as I am honest as well as oldish, I will confess it's not Starbucks but the Champagne French Bakery Cafe, where they play Edith Piaf, and beautiful young families with babies and toddlers come to show the love and affection you do not expect in Beverly Hills, unless you have chanced on an unexpected street that you then lost, but were lucky enough to find again.
    My loved friend Joanne said I sound happy.  I am.  You should hear the song!  As long as I do not focus on the faces that are on too tight, I may even soar.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


where those who were to be admired were Gregory Peck and Cary Grant.  Outside the elegant Hotel Montage, the paparazzi are waiting to take pictures of... hold your breath... Kim Kardashian.  I really like this hotel so am trying not to be saddened/nauseated.  There is not much left to believe in in what/whom people choose to admire.
    But the village itself remains a treat, fine weather and a slew of tasty/overpriced restaurants.  And today I got the key to my storage locker so I can get my furniture, bought bagels for my freezer at my new apartment, which I move into on Saturday, and if all goes well some great or little or insignificant work will emerge.
    I got an e-mail today from my admirable friend Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress alum, the first serious reviewer to laud me in the Library Journal, suggesting I donate myself in archive to an institution.  Mercy.  She added that I shouldn't throw out or delete anything... very helpful since I spent last early evening on my computer, getting rid of things I thought not worth saving, with the exception of all my material on Mary Miles Minter, a great Hollywood murder case from the Twenties that a very bad book was unfortunately written about already.  I found Mary Miles, a once a child star very very late in her life, and knew King Vidor, a great director who was fascinated with her case, the murder of William Desmond Taylor, with whom she had been very much in love, in a pushy, adolescent fashion.  He was probably gay in those wondrous days before everybody started coming out, which I personally find very boring.  Who cares what those people do in bed.  Let them just be talented.
   King... even as I write of him, it is hard to use that name, as it seems so unlikely, and is even harder to call someone... was always being invited to parties as he was such a great remnant, besides being a still very witty man at the end of his very long day.  Once they gifted him for going to an event with a gold fountain pen, and he showed it to me and said "I'd give it to you, but I'm crazy about it."  A charming gent.
   So I am getting ready to vacate this elegant-even-if-they-do-wait-for-Kardashian-outside-hotel... I mean it is a different world, and everything has come down a peg or twelve including the world... and move into my new apartment, found while strolling aimlessly or maybe unconsciously purposefully directed by hidden forces.  It is truly beautiful, new floors and one of those young women sharing the bricked front porch who apparently earns enough in her early twenties that she can afford what it took me a lifetime of creativity and the death of an evil stepmother to be able to negotiate.  I am told that these woods are full of those creatures, people in their twenties who work for banks and various trust companies earning incredible salaries, and wonder, as they used to say, when it meant something other than the explosion of the planet, what the world is coming to.  Or better still, where it's gone.
    But the good news is I am half a block away from a place that features Japanese foot massage from young Asian men who also do some great shoulder and arm and back work for an hour, and it costs only $35.00.  Just across the street is another place, newly opened, with a fountain, a room with music, a book full of homes you could have bought for a few million, hot tea and an imported chocolate where the  massages, from women, start at $250 but if you get a series they reduce it to $200.  Beverly Hills.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Cary Grant, whose name it is a privilege to be able to drop, said "Hate will keep you alive longer than love will."  (His mother wanted him to dye his hair because his being gray made HER look old. Imagine.) His wisdom went as deep as he was handsome.  
     So it is that my wicked stepmother-- I am not using words that do not apply-- she let my wonderful cousin Ruth who had attended to my father die cold and alone and pain-wracked without offering any assistance or succor-- finally let go, reluctantly, I am sure, at 98.  Thus it is that not that early in my own day, I am able to return to Beverly Hills in what I assume and hope will be the prospect of some comfort, not to mention ease, at least until the next earthquake.  (My father's will did not allow for me until she was no more, and being as spiteful as she was cruel, she of course lived for Almost Forever.-- There may be a song title in that.)
    Now I course, slowly, naturally, through Beverly Hills, looking for a place to live, as this is where I want to be, I am finally clear enough to know for sure, having been and actually lived everywhere in the world I wanted with the exception of some parts of Spain, and several places I never even thought about before I landed in them-- Weinheim, and Amsterdam, for example.  The first I went to because I was trying to overcome everything I feared-- the German language, and the Germans themselves-- the second because the only one way air ticket I could get out of Glasgow was to Amsterdam, and Providence put me in a seat beside the charmingest man in the world, Daniel, whom I will come back and marry in my next life... we already made a I felt safe and cosseted to live in Amsterdam as long as I did.
     Now I have experienced what almost anyone else in this town would make into a TV series: trying to get a Beverly Hills realtor to call me back, so I can give her money.  I believe I have found what I am hoping is the perfect place, a half block's saunter from this magnificent hotel, the Montage.  I thought the name of it affected, but that was before I stayed here.  It is the current domain of my old friend, Frank Bowling, the world's best hotelier with the possible exception of Natale Rusconi, my great love who was at the Cipriani in Venice, where I lived for a while pretending it wasn't cold and wet and sinking, and writing a book as I seem to do almost everywhere but New York.  That should tell me something.
      Last night I went through my computer, half-way at least, trying to eliminate old writings that didn't seem important to me even if the world were to discover who I had been and care. Probably this was triggered by a nightmare visit to the Apple store, with a line outside and my having to wait for an appointment once I was able to ask for one until sometime weeks from now by which time I will have forgotten what it was I needed to learn.  So I asked for the manager, another ordeal, and actually managed to get back the money I had paid to be able to make appointments, simply by being obnoxious, something that comes easily to me even after all these years.  But I did connect with someone who works there who has another career as a musician, as did all my friends who were Apple technicians in Amsterdam, where at least you could get an appointment.  I wonder how these bright people manage to maintain their souls, and if Steve Jobs is in Hell.  I hope not, as he was inarguably brilliant and probably meant no harm but just had bad parenting, when he could get hold of them.
    But going through all the old stuff I found several books/movies/plays I had started and even some I'd completed, that I had no memory of, so was able to discover myself as a lost writer.  One was a book into movie, I thought it was clearly, that must have been the one that captured the attention of my beloved Annie Bancroft, a woman who had been a close friend early in my game, disappearing for a long while into the arms of Mel Brooks, another pal, who showed up once when I was visiting Mel.  I remember so thoroughly the glint in her eye, and how lovely she was, though older.  And I understood only last night reading it why she had opted to re-connect, and that was because there was a really good role for her in that never-surfacing work. If only she had spoken up, been direct, as actors apparently have a hard time doing, unless they are Jamie Curtis.  I would have broken the ass that Don said it was a shame I didn't have, to make it right for her.  And maybe she would have lived longer.  Who knows.
     Who knows if it is satisfaction in our work that makes some of us who are worker bees buzz longer, more happily.  It is my hope now to do something fresh and fine if I get the apartment.  If I can remember where I stored my furniture, and have a desk. If the realtor calls me back.  If there is a God.  And it isn't just climate that fogs up the hill I can see from my hotel window that suggests you place not too much faith in the Hollywood sign.

Monday, November 03, 2014


...if not with The Sound of Music, a sigh of relief to be back here.  In the distance, from the little balcony in my room at this beautiful hotel where my old friend Frank Bowling is the elegant as always manager, I can see the Hollywood sign.   Having been afloat in a world that pretends it loathes the trivial, but compensates for thinking itself serious (New York,) by dismissing compassion and the needs of other human beings, except on fund-raiding occasions or the celebration of that rare citizen who really cares about civilization(Dan Greenberg,) I awoke to a beautiful day, water shortage notwithstanding.  If I knew how to work my iPhone after all these years or an Apple store that was not so overcrowded because it was named the #1 tourist attraction in New York,  I would take a picture of how beautiful it is from a distance, while in my mental heart, holding it close. 
    There is something curiously peaceful about Beverly Hills, phony as it is supposed to be, and maybe is if you buy into it.  But after my most recent attempt to love New York, and failing, especially as far as the theatre I have always loved and yearned to be a part of, it is beyond a relief to be simply comfortable.  Age cannot wither nor custom stale Southern California, especially with all its plastic surgeons. 
     So now begins my quest for the right apartment, something that sounds so trivial and maybe is.  But being able to sleep at night does count, and being able to look out the window if you are lucky enough to wake up in the morning factors in, much less being able to walk comfortably to the Rite-Aid on Canon Drive where if you couldn't find the right apartment you could actually live.  I confess to loving my pharmacist at the Duane Reade on Sixth Avenue, sharp, kindly, father-of-many-Frank, who actually seemed to care who you were over the counter. But except for him and the staff at the Hampshire House, darling doormen, Indefatigable Jeannie in the basement, and adorable Ava, five, down the hall with her lovely mom, human contact seemed below a minimum.  I have never felt more alone in my life, except for The Angel Carleen, a direct representative of God, no matter how cynical you might have become.  
     Even the rooftop I thought I was lucky enough to be able to look out on and over at what used to be Marlon Brando's building on 57th Street, now obscured by the endless construction by what you would hope would be Arabs you could have contempt for, except they are Jews, is strung with ropes and ladders and barrels and workmen who show up when you're trying to do your yoga naked, on the little balcony it became suddenly too cold to stand on even for a breath of air that isn't that good anyway.  If at least the theatre I so aspired to be a part of is uncomfortable was uplifting, or even really entertaining.  Glenn Close was wonderful in her play, along with John Lithgow, but it was revived Edward Albee, and it would have been more fun to see her in a musical, so I could tender to my hope of finding someone unexpected to play Sylvia WHO? the musical based on my mother, the party crasher.  I just didn't have the fortitude to make it to one more theatre where allegedly there was an enjoyable experience.  I did like Jersey Boys, but that was a while ago, as was youth and the energy to put up with the
insensitivity.  Both onstage and in the audience.
      I see where I sound old and crabby only one of which I am, but that surfaces more clearly because I am SO relieved to be here.  So lucky with all that is happening in the world, and in our poor country, politically,.. the prospect of yet another Bush, probably the one that Should Have Been instead of the moron, Jr., that I am able to take a real breath, even of fetid air.  Thematically, it would seem that I am critical of the air everywhere, which I didn't have to be in Amsterdam, bathed as it was by ocean winds they built a city on the water just to show how clever they were and think the world a place they are still in charge of, where I truly loved Daniel and his bairn and a small cluster of friends all from other places, except for Peter who lost charge of his illegitimate children which most of the children there seem to be, because the courts are less than fair.  Oh, it is a world that would confuse even the most judicious of beings, which I am still trying, lamely, to become one of. 
     Mostly I am grateful to be still alive, looking over at the distant mountains, having survived the plane trip where the moronic or maybe just spiteful man was sneezing into the air, or when reprimanded, his sleeve, --but we'll see how I am in 21 days.
Life, it seems to me, is simply something to celebrate daily if you are up to it, having been here so long I can't understand or negotiate all the new e-things, including why Tim Cook, the head of Apple had to come out, because who cares who those guys go to bed with?  
     All I would like to have in what is left of my life is a heated pool  , some people I can really trust, and the right apartment.  Love is something I was lucky enough to have at its most elusive and earnest: a man who cherished me no matter what, supported my dreams and made them his own, and didn't mind my being a woman.  As a matter of fortunate fact, seemed to rejoice in it. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014


So I have given up my conquest of New York, never really having started it, except in mine own imagination.  I have made more inroads in Amsterdam over my chilled, wet stay there, and Paris in one weekend than I have made over the years in all these intermittent stays in New York, where all my buddies are those I made at Bryn Mawr. The great songwriters I was privileged to know, Frank Loesser, (a shit, but he thought me gifted at twenty and flattered me, I guess, by stealing a couple of my songs for an out-of-town tryout in Boston that never made it onto the Great-Not-so-White-Way) and the truly wonderful Yip Harburg, who was the father I'd never really had, and with white hair, yet, so long vanished that nobody knows who they are anymore.  I have a hard time believing how old I am, as I was always the youngest one, and that was my handicap.  Had I but known! 
     At any rate(what does that phrase mean exactly?) I have just made my reservations to go to LA for the winter, maybe more, as if I were an old Jewish woman, which I guess (how is it possible?) I am, though spiritually I am Buddhist, which means Jack wouldn't get mad at me if I wasn't devoted.  Don used to(SOOOOOO long ago) tell me to tell them that at Bryn Mawr reunions, that I am a Quaker-Buddhist-Jew, and see what they made of that.  It's the truth, but only if you don't have to observe any of the above.  The Quakers that I loved, and I did, were observant only in their silence, which amazingly I could honor, the Buddhists in their retreats, to which I stopped going but still admired, as Jack is a great teacher and became a truly trusted and helpful friend, and the Jew you can't stop being no matter how little attention you paid to your religion, because when the Nazis came-- as sadly, they still do-- denying your Judaism would not keep you from being rounded up.  
   In the meanwhile, another one of those phrases, I have made treasured new friends in a place I don't have the strength to live (Amsterdam) and am returning(if all goes wells) to LA so can get my things out of storage, including a keyboard I bought but rarely tried to play (will do better this time) above which I will hang the gorgeous bag Jamie gave me with my initials on it, as part of the decor.  I no longer hope for or even more plan for a conquest of Broadway, as I am the wrong sex, and the world, as some poet said, is out of time, meaning, I would hope, not over, but not allowing for something from another period to happen in this one.  It is enough, I hope, as I am no longer that crazy, that there is a welcomed and cheered revival of ON THE TOWN, where my once great(I thought) dancing teacher Gene Kelly became a star, the first to screw me, in the spiritual sense, taking my young inspiration, WHAT A WAY TO GO, and bringing it to the screen via Arthur Jacobs who thought it was me who screwed him (in the show business sense) as MCA threw the blame my way, a lie, but that was MCA.  All these things were terrible surprises, as I really loved show business and other people, and apparently was sufficiently wounded that I never forgot any of this, but now I can, along with everything else that vanishes into some kind of elder fog.
  The weather here is enough to drive me away, along with the bad theatre and the lack of compassion.  I spoke last night to Shan Cretin, the soft and loving high-posted officer in the Quaker not-exactly-hierarchy, who is in Philadelphia, and admitted, gentle and brilliant as she is (also speaks Chinese) that when she comes to New York she feels a certain harshness-- didn't use that word-- in the attitudes of the people.  This, a woman who doesn't judge.  But almost all the friends I have made are either leftover and treasured ones from Bryn Mawr, or strangers from other countries I have picked up on street corners or at the opera.  There will be a song in ON THE TOWN which I will hurry to see, called LONELY TOWN, and it IS, it IS!  I was born out of time-- that is to say I should have been here to emerge in the period when it was still all right and exciting to have been a gifted lyricist, and nobody noticed you were a woman.
    But I am just about finished lamenting what I have missed, and will set out to try and realize, in the realization sense, what it is I can still make happen, if anything.  So I will leave the town to Comden and Green, whose place it really was, and apparently still is.  Better them than Lady GaGa.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


My old agent, Owen Laster, head of Literary, such as it was, at the William Morris Agency, said what he loved most about me was that I never gave up.  But he is dead now, so that no longer seems a vital evaluation.
   What I loved most about me, if I really loved about me at all, was my conviction that if you were indefatigable in the pursuit of some worthy purpose, you would never grow tired.  But I am afraid I was wrong.  A few weeks in New York, darkening skies, and a darkening world have borderline sapped me of my energy, and very much robbed me of my childlike vitality and optimism, which really are hardly applicable to one of my years, which I have always discounted, but my bones begin to be aware of.
     Battles rage on the literary front, of which I am hardly conscious, except that Philip Roth, great writer and heartless narcissist, is on the front page of the Business section of the Times, decrying the battle for writers to get what is due them, via Amazon and Hachette.  I remember with something more than a mind's eye the wonderful recently visited bookshop in Amsterdam, savored only briefly, that had real books in it, stacks of shelves, a checkout counter, as in days of yore, and, even more yore-ly, my vanished youth, so much of it passed in bookstores.  I can conjure like the wounded child I was, shelves low to the ground I sat on, turning pages that made me smile or raise a tear or two.  As it is now, I do not even really connect with the vanishing book world, since the last thing I wrote was not even given serious attention by an agent who had no idea who I was, if indeed I was ever anybody.  So interesting, really, as the last few years of my life were spent trying to learn to live fully in the moment, as the moments vanished, struggling to give up attachment to wanting to be Somebody.  And now I no longer am.  I wonder at that not making me happier.
         Had lunch at the Metropolitan with Betty Srere and Suzie Habachy, friends from Bryn Mawr, and lifelong friends as it happily turns out, two excellent women who remind me how lucky I was to go to that great college, with its values that never desist.  Would that the world could hold to that level.

Sunday, September 07, 2014


Struck by a pram
In Amsterdam
Where no one pays any attention
She flew quite high
Towards a sapphire sky
And entered another dimension
Where the air seemed clearer
And God seemed nearer
And there were both nabobs and slobs
There was kindness, charity
Perfect parity
Everything run by Steve Jobs.
But behind the illusion
Of little confusion
And fellows that wore yellow ties
There was need to return to
The land where you yearn to
Have no mayonnaise on your fries.
And the hunger for square ways
So Icelandic Airways
It carried her over the pole
To the country of drama
And poor, lost Obama
Where she once again felt almost whole.
But we'll see...


So having begun clearing off my desk in an attempt to sort out this last adventure, I find the history of a madness I must have been madder than usual to take on. Looking up the synonyms for 'adventure', as having described too many that actually were as simply that, not wanting to be repetitious as well as seeming foolhardy, which I really don't mind as long as I live through it, I come across  escapadelarkployactactiondeeddoing,featepisodeoccasionbaptismordealtesttrial,tribulationenterpriseriskventureexpeditionexploration,missionperformancequeststunt.
Of all these, I would have to choose 'escapade,' though it was closer to 'ordeal' as it turned out, and only turned out as I got out in time. And that was my Nazi summer, I think was the season.
    I find pictures of the trees, tall pines rising high, a dangling Swastika hanging between their trunks, barely perceptible, as I was, of course, photographing in secret, frightened of being discovered, though not frightened enough not to go to the Aryan Nations Congress.  No kidding.  In Hayden Park, Idaho, where they had their colony.  Encampment, more accurately.  This was particularly resonant for me, an extremely non-observant Jew, because I had gone to Cherry Lawn School in Darien, Connecticut, the signature anti-Semitic colony in the USA, where most of the students were Jews, and the townspeople closed their blinds when we walked in to the village on Brookside Road to see a movie.
      Icing on the tasteless cake, 'Gentlemen's Agreement,' was filmed there while I was a student, eleven or twelve years old.  And as Gregory Peck was reportedly filming a scene in town, a lot of the students went into town to watch.   But by the time they get there, the train had pulled in, the scene been shot, and they all went back to school except me, so avid a movie fan that I sat on the bench sobbing at having missed it.   As it turned out, the train had pulled in too far, the star had gone back to Stanford to get on it and come in again, and I was the only one left in the station.  He signed my paper, leaning it against my front left-almost breast, and I never washed that flannel shirt again.  Many years later, the universe being orchestrated, I met him in Hollywood and became friendish, and when he came to Paris, where I was freelancing for the Wall Street Journal Europe at the time, he invited me to be his date for a dinner at the American Embassy in his honor.  Live long enough and everything works out in some literary way,  God being a compulsive storyteller.  
    Then when Mr. Peck, which I still think of him as, 'Gregory' seeming too intimate with Veronique, his wife, very eagle-eyed,  recorded the memorial poem I wrote for my Yorkie, Happy's, memory, my dog had greater honor than most people.  The book would have sold millions, except that Oprah didn't show it, still another semi-disappointing saga.  You are always lucky when you have a saga at all, even one that semi-disappoints, because that at least means you have lived through it.
    Such was the case with the Nazis of Idaho.  I tried to write a novel about it and them.  But for those who still are unbelievers in a beneficent universe, it rained through my roof on the (still then) typewriter I was writing the book on, and the manuscript was destroyed.  A journalist who had attended the same conference and planned to write a book about it was found hanging from his office window in Chicago.
    I don't believe I will live long enough to describe in indescribable detail that dark adventure, except to relate that Joe Wershba of Sixty Minutes was tracking me in case they found out that I was a Jew, and for what I was doing, a man was strung up from the burning cross there when a microphone fell out of his sleeve, raised in the Nazi salute that was called for from the assemblage I skipped because I had developed hives, and Tommie, the masseuse who had joined me because she lived near, said "I don't know how you can stand it, and I'm not even Jewish."  I'm sorry I never wrote the book but it would not have been uplifting anyway, and I'm glad to be alive.  And the Aryan Nations conference in Hayden Lake has been dissolved as its crackpot leader is dead, but you would be sadly surprised to find out how many colonies there are in America.  Maybe not.  I still have the pictures though, and they are very glossy and pretty except for the swastikas perceptible through the tree trunks.
     And maybe not if you watch this morning's Sixty Minutes, or look at the front of The New York Times.  There were certain advantages to living in Holland and not being able to, or have any wish to understand Dutch.

Friday, September 05, 2014


My son Robert, who continues to be very clever and has all his hair, a profusion of it, always the source of admiration but now envy in the eyes of his balding peers, called me on the occasion of Joan Rivers' exit, to tell me it was time for another entry to DEAD BEFORE ME, a book I once considered writing.  Many years ago, as it now turns out, when the first of my famous, really close(in terms of my experience with them) buddies, Stanley Kubrick died, or as they say now as if it will make it less lethal, passed, I thought of writing about him which I have somewhere I hope because he really was an experience, as was my connection with him, since he came to visit me in the Bay Area when I was in graduate school at Stanford, took me to the screening of SPARTACUS, let me read the preview comments, and got me to secretly begin to write the first draft of Lolita, as he had discovered to his horror that Nabokov couldn't write dialogue.  But to my horror I discovered he thought it was a love story, so I stepped away.  But I always loved him, crazy as he was, and dedicated one of my novels, not a very good one, to him and Christiane.  They were at my wedding, a most colorful addition, as Don at the time was producing the just launched football coverage of the Jets at the TV station where he was executive producer, and Stanley said he should keep the camera on the line, where the most dramatic action was, and Don said "Stanley, if you'll let me run a credit at the end "Directed by Stanley Kubrick," I'll keep the camera wherever you say." 
    I saw him last when I Thanksgivinged with Gary and Maxine Smith in Elstree and Stanley lived next door, so I went to show him my then little children, to illustrate the unexpected happiness of my life working out.  He opened the great wooden door (it actually creaked and groaned) in the darkness, and when I called out to him above the gnarling of his chained German Shepherds, he recognized my voice, and said "Gwen?  Gwen?"  When I answered 'Yes', said "I'd let you in, but the dogs would go for the children."
    So now Joan Rivers is gone, a sort of friend when I was first starting out in New York, and Lenny Gersh was producing an album called 'The Other First Family', on the tail of the Kennedys at home with Vaughn Meader doing JFK.  We were the Khruschevs.  George Segal was Nikita, I played Mrs., and Joan was my maid.  When she wrote one of her autobiographies she reversed that, and I was her maid, but she invited me into a big party where I had a good time, so I forgave her.  I forgive her even more now that she has passed, died, whatever you want to describe it as, sure she would be so over-whelmed by the front pages everywhere that she wouldn't really mind. 
   I on not quite the other hand am strangely lifted by her death because it got my son to call me, as great an event in my life as inspiration.  As it turns out, the best part of this last journey was connecting with the dashing and funny Brit, Daniel, who was the exact age of Robert now, and Don, my darling husband when he died much too soon, so it was as though I was being given the experience of having both of them, in a contemporaneous not-quite scoundrel.  Thus was it fine, even grand to have a call from my actual off-sprung, whom I really do love, and news of my grand-boys, whom I do really miss.  That was enough to make me think of soon moving back to LA.
     But my best not-actual-child, Jamie Lee Curtis, who is as smart as she is winning, called right after that and said I cannot leave New York till I get my musical on.  She says the reason I have lived this long, (even, I suppose, with Joan Rivers' dying,) is that I am supposed to get my musical on.  For those of you who have been kind enough to follow these ramblings, that IS my best work, the gift I was most grateful for and thought would be my career, (Frank Loesser and Yip Harburg thought so, too.)  I was diverted by the novel writing, doing it to pay the bills, and when I finally got an audition with Jimmy Nederlander, so long ago he was late-middle-aged, he said (with not much of an ear for music) "But you're a book writer!  What are you doing writing a musical?"
    So I have trudged and sludged into late middle age, if I'm lucky, with this joyful, funny musical comedy that might prove a woman could actually fulfill herself, and lift others at the same time.  We shall see.  And I hope hear.
    Meanwhile, thank all of you for hanging in, if you do.  And visualize Sylvia WHO?  opening if not quite on Broadway, at least in a room several stories above it, as gifted people read the delightful parts, and actual musicians play the (YOU'D BE SURPRISED!) at how fresh and funny, and just in time to lift the sagging spirit of our world, they are,  songs.
    I love you all, whoever you are.  Those who have held my hand, and my spirits.  Have an inspired weekend. 

Monday, September 01, 2014


Lovely and welcoming.  Am glad to be Home, which I think it is, at least until the Republicans take over.
    Cleaning out my desk for what I believe will be the Final Encampment, I came across the following pome, which, helas, is still apt.
    I grieve for lost connection
    The friendships of my youth
    When we sought Love and Fame and Joy
     And some of us the Truth
     But not that dedicatedly
     We had a world of time
     And days shone trouble-free 
     And endless, now and then sublime
     Then we lost touch, the constant calls
      Shared hopes, rehearsal dinners
      Condolences when parents passed
      Auguri to the winners.
      But then came loss and grief and age
      So called on to mature
      We moved onto a different page
       That headlined: just endure.
       And so we have, and so we do
       Except for the deceased
       There's more of them of late, 'tis true
       We should have phoned at least
        Or asked an old friend out to lunch
        Because you just don't know
        When someone that you greatly prized
        Might be the next to go.
       So call the friend who might be lonely
       Melancholy, sick
       For no one lives forever
       Except for Cheney, that Dick.

     Tweet me no Whatsapp
      Rhyme me a rhyme
      Write me a letter
      While there's still time
      'Ere closes the post office
      Falters Fedex
      And nothing but Google
      Is left that connects
       Send me some roses
       Encloses a brief note
       Nothing excessive
       Just proof that you wrote
       You don't have to love me
        Or be too considerate
        Only show someone
        Is still somewhat literate.

ALL FOR NOW.  Will continue cleaning out my desk, my mind, and my heart.  Love, Gwen