Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crossing That Bridge when I Came to It

I once crossed a bridge that was crossing the Seine, and Orson Welles was on it.  I had ambition then: I was in Paris, and I wanted to save Marlon Brando, Judy Garland or Orson Welles, all of whom were supposed to be there at the time. So I could hardly control the beating of my twenty-year old heart when I saw, just footsteps away, Orson Welles.  But as I came closer, it was clear that he was talking to himself.  Mumbling something.  I should have strained my ears and clung aurally to what it was he had to say, revolutionary, I imagine now I hoped it might have been.  But all I did was keep on walking, heartbroken, I must think in so far distant retrospect.  Crazy he could have been.  In a sweet way, probably.  Another dream shattered,
     I don't know how many of those there were, broken dreams about celebrities I worshipped.   Judy died on her own, on an evening I was holding hands, we can think of them as, with Danny Kaye.  I was in my mother's apartment, in love with, or rather, smitten with a jerk who probably reminded me of my father.  I told the man's daughter later she was wrong to imagine I had been in love with her father, but of course she was right.  She had read my novel TOUCHING, saw the character and said it had to be based on her father.  I said "there are a lot of men like him," and she said "Not that insensitive."  She was brighter than I had ever supposed.
   Marlon Brando I had a lot of time with, if you consider hanging out with his longtime friend and one of his leading ladies, Janice Mars, over several years, a lot of time.  She played Grushenka in Arms and the Man, which he directed, fairly well, though he starred in it badly,  in Falmouth, Massachusetts, rehearsing the Shaw play by day while his best friend from "boyhood," in Libertyville, Illinois-- they actually called it that, their Boyhood-- he and Wally Cox, was playing evenings with Sam Levene in Three Men on a Horse, with Maureen Stapleton, my roommate for that adventure. I had a moment of friendship with Wally that endured, re-surfacing when I went to a party given by the producer of Hollywood Squares on Valentine's Day, 1973.  "There you are," Wally said. "REAL PERSON!  I've been wondering what happened to you."  We spent the evening together.  The next day Wally was dead.  It was like a gift I was given before he left, to encounter him again for the first time since that amazing summer.  1953 it had to have been.        I was still at Bryn Mawr then, and Janice, who had a cabaret act, wanted my song, SEX.  Everybody wanted it-- it was one of those numbers.  So to lure me, she had invited me to come visit her in Arms and The Man at Falmouth, where I got to watch rehearsals, the Great Man combusting as he directed.  "This is Shaw, for Christ's sake," he cried to the set designer.  "It could be Gorki!  It looks like the Lower Depths!"  I was thrilled that he seemed to have intellect, even thought he wasn't very good in the play,-- he never could do comedy.  But he made me incredibly uncomfortable as I worshipped him from across the breakfast table-- "You fin'ly on a diet?" he asked, as I all but choked on my three blueberries.
    I saw him a time or two after that-- in his house, where Sam Gilman,  his longtime good friend the actor, not as talented as he was loyal-- invited me.  By that time I had already been to France to visit Marlon's cast-off fiancee, Josette Mariani, later married to Christian, an actor who played with Brando in The Young Lions.  I suppose now I must have been obsessed with him, an obsession that ended more than abruptly when I saw who/what he had become, almost invisible beneath all the layers.  His son with 
one of his other cast-offs, was also named Christian.  He had Asian eyes, and was enormously fat as Brando was as well by then. I believe he might have been the Brando son who committed suicide.
  I have no idea why I am remembering this now, or am trying to remember it.  It is a very gray day here, and I can see across the rooftops facing my balcony, and everything on the rooftop opposite is really ugly.  Green-painted, peeling metals chimneys, and ropes, strung across to what seems no particular purpose.  I spent a lot of the day foraging, digging through the final work of and memories of Kurt Vonnegut, who said to me "Women are resourceful.  Look at you: you're resourceful."
   It doesn't really seem so today.