Thursday, February 27, 2014


This used to be it for me, the season of the Academy Awards: I am reluctant to use the word "Oscars," because it has become so... what, exactly? I am not sure.  'Commercialized' is the wrong word to use in a disparaging sense, because that is what it was always meant to be.  
    But once it seemed Glorious, with a deliberate capital.  When I was a little girl, I was already in love with movies.  And as I grew up, there came into my life a plethora of movie stars.   Gregory Peck filming a scene for Gentleman's Agreement in the railroad station at Darien, Conn., where I was in boarding school.' turning up later, at an actual Hollywood party--where everyone was.  Gene Kelly, who had been my dancing teacher in Pittsburgh when I was two optioned my first movie script, What a Way to Go! Cary Grant on my telephone- a whole other saga.  George Segal, with whom I had been crazily infatuated at Bryn Mawr, becoming ALMOST a major movie star, retaining always, if less than his charisma, the ability to hurt my feelings.
    But Great and Glorious in the full sense of both those words did it seem for a moment in time, when the phone rang and a woman named Sandy Burton called me and asked if she could cover my Academy Awards party for Time Magazine.  Oh, how I loved publicity then,--it was in the midst of my success with my novel, THE PRETENDERS, and how we all still loved Time Magazine.  And how I came to love Sandy Burton.
    She had gone for a cut to my hairdresser, Dusty Fleming, who told her he was going to go to this great party.  And a great party it was. Ruth Berle, the wife of Milton, who wasn't as much as she was, toughie though she was, an ex-army sergeant, a woman who tolerated no pretension, really liked me.  So where she went, Hollywood followed, and that year she came to my house.
    The McGiverns(Bill and Maureen)'s son Patrick had on an old ushers' outfit from the Roxy, and he stood in our driveway with a flashlight ushering people in.  A black-tie party to watch on TV, at the time a true, witty innovation.  Everybody came.  Lee Marvin, who had won Best Actor, the year before, his then girl Michelle who was to go on to become the originator of 'palimony,' Shirley Jones, still with Jack Cassidy who was to die in a fire at his apartment, causing Alexis Smith, in my yoga class with Bikram to say, "Well, he always was flamboyant." Glenn Ford who had once been top of the box office food chain, chair tilted back against the wall in my bed room, Shirley MacLaine, stoned out of her head raging against Mike Frankovich and Columbia to Sandy Burton, who I kept telling her was with Time Magazine-- "I thought I was at a private party!" Shirley steamed when the article appeared, though I had told her even as she spewed that Sandy was there for Time, as Sandy, pencil in hand and pad under Shirley's nose told her the same. And being the great gentlewoman she was, all she printed of what Shirley disgorged was "Oh, shut up, Mike Frankovich."
    I had cooked for days.  Don tended bar.  There were hot dog wagons with Sabrett umbrellas in our back yard-- and it really was a back yard-- and Madeleine 5, was in a gown, and Robert, 2, was in a tux.  All of life lay ahead of us, and there we were, celebrated and celebrating.  Zsa Zsa Gabor in our living room, her gown no more spectacular than mine.  How much better could it get?
    Not much of course.  But it was a great night, where everyone had a fabulous time.  The house was divided into three rooms- Orthodox (Just watching, no talk) Conservative(watching and talking) and Reformed(talking the whole time.)  Everybody got presents. (Ruth Berle brought an autographed picture of Ruth Roman.)
     Sandy was to become my favorite friend.  She gave me directions to Carlos Castenada's Power Spot in the Malibu mountains.  After she wrote her piece interviewing him she became the first woman Bureau Chief of Time Magazine.  I visited her in Boston, Paris, and Hong Kong where she was stationed, I want to say, as if she were in the service, which I think she really was.  She became an intimate of the Aquino family in the Phillipines, was on the plane with Aquino when he returned to his home and was assassinated.  She became a backbone of Corey's rise to president.  And was later to be killed, when I was visiting her in Bali, by her boyfriend.
   It is a young word to use: 'boyfriend', and by then we were no longer young.  But I can't call him her 'lover,' because that is too tender and sexy a word to apply to him.  I had lunch with her the day before her 'accidental' death, where she was apparently fatally beaten, though the official report said she fell and hit her head on the toilet.  I was still in shock at her funeral when her body was taken from the police truck, and did not see it before they put it into the oven.  She had said to me at that last luncheon, about her soon-to-be killer, "We have my friends, and his friends; there are no our friends. "  When I got back to LA I saw my doctor and told him what I had been told had happened, he mocked the "accidental" finish, showing how she would have had to bounce back and forth many times on that toilet seat to be fatally injured. 
    I have gone back to Bali several times, where the sly assassin lived comfortably, probably on her money, to try and get justice for her.  But it was Bali, and there is nothing that can't be paid off, including murder.
      I think of all this at Oscar time of year.  It flashes by like coming attractions.



The theatrical program from my play that opened on Broadway would be yellowing with age by now, except that the program itself was yellow, chosen to be that color by whatever designer we had-- all of it so exciting and seemingly inspired at the time.  A play on Broadway!!
     I remember all of it -- I am clear on Oliver Smith, who was our scenic designer, coming in to the first production meeting saying "I think it's a bomb."  I was very young, very pregnant and a newbie to the prospect of Broadway, the land of my then dreams, so it would never have occurred to me to ask that he be fired.  With that kind of support, how could it have been a winner even if it was?
   Hilly Elkins, a Napoleonic narcissist, but who's calling anyone names, was the producer, with Don, my husband, being the associate producer, probably the reason I was so grateful to Hilly. A new overlord had come in to the TV station where Don was executive producer, so he'd been fired.  We were expecting a baby and terrified about the future, which, young as we were, we weren't sure we had.  So the play's being produced seemed Life or Death essential, his being an ingredient essential to his self-esteem: a soon-to-be-new dad without a job.
     Madlyn Rhue, a darling but limited actress had the lead--  she was soon to be fired in Philadelphia, where she was  promised she would be the godmother of my baby, which she was to become,  replaced by Marion Hailey, who wasn't funny enough.  The entire thing was a disaster, except for what went on behind the scenes, which was hilarious and high drama.  It was March1966,-- the comedy (it seemed to be) was about a young woman infatuated with a playwright,  like a straight Tennessee Williams, if one can imagine that much of a stretch-- who only writes about disturbed women; so she pretends to be a suicidal drug-addict, and takes the apartment next door, so she can win him.  Hilly wanted her to smoke a joint onstage, but as noted, it was 1966, and I was still a Naif, so thought that would look almost like she was shooting up, and refused the idea, at which point Hilly became verbally assaultive calling me names, threatening.  Don said "Hilly, you're talking to a woman with a baby in her belly. Watch what you're saying or I'll have to deck you."  Hilly said "You and what army?" and POW, he was down, Don on top of him.  Paul Bogart, the director(also soon to be fired) took Don's glasses off so he wouldn't be hurt by Hilly's flailing.  All very dramatic, nobody intervening, as everybody hated Hilly.  
    Mel Brooks, a close friend, was with us out of town, helping out,  purveyor of the occasional good physical joke-- I had originally written the play for Anne Bancroft, a buddy whom I adored.  She said she couldn't do it because she was doing "The Devils." I asked her why.  "I've never played a hunchbacked nun before," she said. 
    So there we all were, Hilly was down, people dragged Don off him, and we continued out of town, without the heroine smoking a joint.  Then Paul Bogart was fired in Boston.  Arthur Storch, a thick and humorless man, was brought in-- by now I was in the hospital giving birth-- and he killed the play.  Polly Rowles, a most professional and pretty funny actress, who had consistently gotten great laughs playing the mother(mine) was so confused by him she turned into a stutterer, and the reviews said she "stumbled under the weight of last minute rewrites," though not a word of hers had been changed.  Don said it was all he could do not to rip the seats out of the theatre, he was so enraged at what was happening.  I was in the hospital having Madeleine, so there was no one to protect the play, and that was that.  
    I got to the theatre opening night in an ambulance someone had arranged to take me,  in time for the last laugh, which wasn't there, so I knew.  Mel and Annie drove me back to the hospital after the opening night party at Sardi's which was a wake. Mel said "You had two things happen the week.  If one of them had to be less than perfect, if your daughter was born with six toes and two noses, that would have been okay: what mattered was the show." So he made me laugh and probably saved my life.
 Teddy, Edward Woodward, a darling true gentleman, who had the lead, is dead now,-- he was a dear, and Hilly, who wasn't, is dead, too.  Dead.  It's such a final word.
   I was so excited to have a play on Broadway. So long ago it cost $150,000.  My musical, if it were mounted, would probably cost 15 million.  Of course it has real songs and lyrics you can make sense of, so its day might have passed.  Mine, too.  Can you tell how bleak and gloomy it is outside?

Sunday, February 23, 2014


I awakened this morning with a great sense of purpose.  My life here on the not-so-Great White Way has felt so unconnected that I actually made my way to Quaker Meeting, something that has polka-dotted my questing, where, for many years in LA I would go to Westwood or Santa Monica meeting and was quieted and sometimes even inspired, or at least it seemed so.  Not knowing where I was going today, in the most basic sense, I got into a taxi.  The driver had no idea where Rutherford Place was, so I got out, and into a second cab, this one driven by a woman.  She was no better,--and was in fact, worse, as I always expect more of women.  So I went back upstairs and actually printed out a map from my computer-- there is no arguing the things can be helpful-- and hailed a third cab whose driver said he did not know it either.  "I have a map," I said.   "I can't read a map and drive," he contended. "Then when you get to the corner and there's a light, you can read it," said I.  But he refused all the way down to 15th Street where I had seen on the map myself that I could make my way on foot to the Meeting House.  To my surprise, having attended a number of meetings over the years, it was in a quite beautiful building in a square that looked more or less like it belonged to the Quakers themselves, something that truly surprised me, as their keynote, besides simplicity, seemed to be not having enough to really afford what the regulation Christians seemed to come up with, in the way of a gathering place.
    The meeting house was flawlessly simple, rows upon rows of facing benches painted light gray, with a curled cushion in dark cherry velvet softening their lengths, and an upstairs where the overflow that there wasn't, might be filled with those who could quietly express opinions.  I was not moved to speak, which is the way of Meetings.  But afterwards when we were asked to introduce ourselves if we were new there, and tell something about who we were, I told about the taxis. Later, in Hospitality, something Quakers always have though not to the extent they seemed to today, endless arrays of chompables, including cheeseless pizza, a few of them approached me to tell me they'd enjoyed what I said.  I was genuinely taken aback, as I hadn't said anything I regarded as interesting or, even more important, uplifting.  All I'd done was tell what a hard time I'd had getting there.But a nice woman said to me "It made a good story."
     It did?  Is that what it's all about?  We go through what we do and when it comes out the other end, if we tell it well, does it make a good story?
    Tomorrow then, I'll tell you about Gore Vidal.  After Cary Grant, my favorite name drop.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Like most women of good taste with the exception of Kim Basinger I find Alec Baldwin irresistible.  His obvious wit and intellect shine through the worst of movies and glow in the best of them, and the charm of 3o Rock was more than enhanced by his presence.  I found his being in the Hamptons made that near-unbearable sense of isolation palatable with the occasional viewing. So to see him on the cover of today's New York Magazine saying he has had it with living in this city makes my own malaise seem more than reasonable.
     True, our situations are not the same: a slew of paparazzi are not waiting outside my  building hoping for my next set-to.  Nor have I achieved to the least degree the sense of connection I was sure New York would provide.  And to come home, if I dare to call it such, after the first sunlit walk in weeks through the black-iced park, to the sight of heavily armed police-- submachine guns, no kidding, and a tank-like patrol car in the street alongside the Essex House next door-- did little or nothing to alleviate my suspicion this is less than the haven for art it might have seemed in an earlier(much) era, and not the right move for one who was, until quite recently, sure that much good still lay ahead.
   Behind me, right behind what I see from my tiny terrace, is the looming tower of the great edifice on 57th, that is purported to contain apartments that are priced at 98 million.  I think it would be fair to assume they will not be occupied by New Yorkers, or even other execrable Americans, like Donald Trump.  There have already been complaints that the shadow cast by a building of that height will have deleterious effects on the trees in Central Park, which remains, even in the bleak, a masterwork.  I am moved to remember when the apartments above Carnegie Hall were a haven for the hot Marlon Brando, who I know Alec Baldwin must have admired, as he has obvious taste and also was at Christie's or maybe it was Sotheby's pre-auction exhibition of Brando's effects, which were fascinating and endless as the man was a pack rat.   A pack rat of distinction of course, but a pack rat nonetheless.  And I wonder what Marlon would have made of his tasteful stomping ground being made into an etcetera, an overpriced by-the-way for Orientals or Middle Easterners who had no intention of actually living here, but only needed someplace to hang their fez while passing through on their way to the next acquisition.
    There was that hazardous incident already caused, with the broken-off tipped-over crane and that  building, tying up traffic and imperiling pedestrians for weeks.  What has to happen for people to learn?
     What a world, what a world the bad witch from the original Oz might have noted.  Or maybe just what a city, what a city.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Mel Brooks and Annie Bancroft drove me back to the hospital after they had ferried me to the opening of my play, The Best Laid Plans, the same week my daughter was born.  It was still the era of they didn't let you out of the hospital that fast, but my Ob-gyn wanted to go to the opening, so he let me out.  I had arrived in time for the last laugh, which wasn't there.  So I knew it had been a disaster.
    "Well, look at it this way," Mel said, from beside me in the taxi.  "You had two things happen this week.  If one of them had to be less than perfect, if your daughter had been born with six toes and two noses,-- that would have been okay. What mattered was the show."
     So he made me laugh and saved my life.  Betsy Osha says that is what I should be writing about, so I am.
     Gregory Peck recorded the poem I wrote when my dog, Happy, died.  You can go online to and hear it.
    Cary Grant was my fan.  He stood beside his mailbox when he lived in the Malibu Colony waiting for the school bus that picked up his daughter Jennifer, reading one of my novels, for all the world, or at least the part of it that was the Malibu Colony which at the time I probably considered all the world, to see.  When I wrote a funny movie-- at least it was funny on the page, but that was before the director Brian Forbes had a heavy hand in it-- Larry Gelbhart, arguably the most brilliant comedy writer in TV history, told me Forbes had rewritten a script of his, telling him he didn't understand comedy.
    Elizabeth Taylor, on the phone with Richard Burton-- that's a memory I still hold sacred, before she had fallen all apart, let herself go, and collapsed into a slew of hangers-on and losers.
Ruth Berle, the Dowager Doyenne of Hollywood when it was still really Hollywood, the tough-talking, no-nonsense wife of Milton, lying on a chaise outside my house at the beach, reading my novel TOUCHING and visibly being touched.  Shirley MacLaine, arguing with Sandra Burton, my brand new journalist friend who was covering my Academy Award party for Time Magazine, before they became events for Graydon Carter to corral for Vanity Fair.  Zsa Zsa Gabor in my living room, on Rembert Lane, and all the rest of the guests in exquisite black tie.  My daughter, five, in a gown.  Robert, two, in a tuxedo.
    These are the memories I have to try and get down while I can still remember.  Harry Nillsson and Tommy Smothers singing and playing guitar at Bill Danoff's house outside Washington, when Bill and Taffy were starting off as The Starland Vocal Band.  Tommy Smothers' opening night as a single in Hollywood, with John Lennon drunk in the balcony, his spirit devastated by spirits, and the temporary split with Yoko, being passed hand over hand down through the angry crowd because he was razzing Tommy, and everybody there was there for Tommy, much as they loved John Lennon.  John Lennon at Jack Haley Junior's house, playing pool and leaning against a wall as I told him how much he meant to music, meant to people, meant to me, till he said "Gwen, if you really love me, you'll stop talking."
           Still my son's favorite story.  Have to get them all down while I can.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Shakespeare and Me (I?)

So as I have alluded from time to time, (as I have alluded to?) I was an English Major at Bryn Mawr.  As was commemorated in the New York Times, which we can still believe, I think, with the great article on Marianne Moore, one of our poets, Bryn Mawr was from its inception a great refuge and training ground for bright women.  I felt myself blessed to have found it, loved everything about it from its Gothic architecture to the fact that Haverford was just down the road and full of bright, neurotic men on whom it was seemly to get crushes, to the warming truth that there were brilliant and adorable women on the other side of the roof you could sneak over late at night, climbing in their window, who would listen to your songs as you wrote them.
     So imagine my chagrin, I, who thought, as a Special Minor in Shakespeare, under the wobble-chinned Arthur Colby Sprague who had studied at Harvard with Kittredge himself, that I knew Shakespeare well.  Maybe even intimately, having spent optional, older summers at Stratford-on-Avon, listening to the whispers of ripples on that not-quite body of water, imagining I could hear the Master's voice, looking for my next great Romance after the early death of my husband, in poetry itself.  Imagine, she says again, that she went to see Twelfth Night because of the extraordinary gifts of Mark Rylance, and didn't realize that much of Shakespeare that she still regarded as Mystery, was well-known.  Maybe even authenticated.
   I had assumed that Shakespeare, like my early friend, Chaucer, had been unearthed. So, not to repeat myself though I must, imagine my chagrin on opening a volume of Shakespeare I owned but had never looked in before, relying as heavily as I relied on scholarship which I will confess has not been that heavy, on my Kittredge edition, that there were poems and encomiums and various collections of praise from Shakespeare's contemporaries on his death.  None of them was, of course, as gifted, but all of them were undeniably contemporaries, and knew very well he had been there.  And I thought he had been obscure and uncovered through scholarship, maybe even by Arthur Colby Sprague, and so, us.
   I am truly mortified.  That this comes on a day when I am also snowed in by this amazingly horrific winter, the first I have been a part of since my youth, when I returned voluntarily to this place of Real Weather, when I had an actual dog who needed to be walked, and asked, in words I think I could hear, to move back to L.A., a Yorkshire terrier who could genuinely express himself and was on Oprah and would have lived forever but she didn't show the book.  It all makes me wonder if I have done the right thing with my life.
   Clouds of snow, great swirls of white, dance unhappily in the space between my tiny metal balcony and the cluttered, ugly rooftop opposite, roped unanaesthetically and to no perceptible purpose.  To cite the snow as having an emotion is what we learned was "pathetic fallacy," attributing feelings to things which couldn't have them.  But I no longer trust anything I have learned, since I really believed I had learned a lot and now realize I understood almost nothing. 
    The good news, though, is I have nothing to fear from getting older, and possibly senile, since when I was really smart, I was actually stupid.  Sic transit Gloria, even when you weren't actually friends with her.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Shirley Temple is dead, on the front page of The New York Times.  I guess my childhood is officially over.
     When I was two years old and three months, I said the Gettysburg Address.  So my mother, urged on, I would guess, passionately by my father, who loved things poetic and/or arch, often both, thought I would be the new Shirley Temple.  Gene Kelly, having a temporary hard time in his career, came back to Pittsburgh to help his brother at the Fred Kelly Dance Studio.  My  mother bought me a pair of pink satin tap shoes.  I still remember tying the ribbon, how smooth it felt on my fingers, how pretty it looked tied, which wasn't easy.  A few would-have been steps into the tap,-- I had barely learned to walk, my legs were so chubby-- he threw me the mirror-length of the room in disgust, hurling me along the bar, telling me, and then my mother, that I would never be a dancer.
   Some years later, at twenty, I went to a Hollywood party, and he was there.  "Gee, Mr. Kelly," I said, "you were my dancing teacher in Pittsburgh."
   "Really, kid?" he said, and brushed me aside with the same gesture he had ended my dancing career.  I sometimes imagined that the reason I wrote as much and as quickly as I did, never knowing exactly the correct way to touch-type, or the right fingering, but always enjoying the speed with which I moved along the keyboard, was because it sounded like I was tap-dancing.
    A few days after Kelly's dismissal at the party, Elliott Kastner, my agent at MCA, (I had gotten him the job) called me into his office.  "Gene Kelly loves your script," he said, alluding to the story that was to become What a Way to Go.
   "Really?"I said.
   "He doesn't have any money."
   Compassion, I have to imagine, was one of my strongest suits.  Especially when it came to movie stars.  So I let him have an eighteen month option for $100 of which MCA took $10.  I still have the stub: Eugene C. Kelly to Gwen Davis: $100 -$10 Agency commission.
    He never actually produced the movie, but was in it when it was made, with six or seven heavyweight male stars including himself playing Shirley MacLaine's many husbands, all of whom get rich and die(-- funny, --it wasn't easy) leaving her a richer and richer widow(the original title was Mrs. Midas.)
    So the whole of my Hollywood life passes before my eyes with the death of Shirley Temple.  I remember my father carrying me down the winding metal staircase that ran down to the back yard between the back porches of the apartments at 325 Melwood Street in Pittsburgh.  I must have been three.  I can still see the shadow cast on the wall as he whisked me away from his latest fight with my mother.  I could see the curly outline of my head, and I actually remember thinking "Maybe I could be the new Shirley Temple."
   Then he locked me in the car-- it was a white DeSoto-- the NERVE, getting a white car in Pittsburgh. One of the children in the neighborhood came over and asked him "Was Gwen a bad girl?" And he said "No, she has a bad mother."
    All of this informs my emotions at Shirley's leaving us-- the list of her achievements turning out to be very impressive. I never met her, but I did enjoy a great friendship with (for me) her most luminous co-star, Cary Grant.  I put him in one of my books, How to Survive in Suburbia When Your Heart's in the Himalayas, as one of the whimsical meditations: "What Hath Cary Granted?"
    "Why are you putting me in this book?" he asked me.  "In a few years people will forget who I am."
    "No one will ever forget you,"  I said, meaning it with my whole heart.  There was no bigger star in my firmament, and it was an indescribable privilege to have the benediction of his friendship.
     But according to my friend Joanna, the other day someone didn't know who he was.  Sic transit Gloria.  And apparently also Shirley.

Monday, February 03, 2014


The first, and as it turned out, only regular job I ever had, was as a writer with the Comedy Development Program at NBC, where I shared office space with Woody Allen.  I was twenty.  He was already smarter than I was: he came into the office only on the day we got our checks; the rest of the time he was off selling material to other comedians.  I, on the other, doltish hand, was writing a musical comedy a week, a few songs a day, and handing all the material in, slavishly, to Tad Danielevski, I think it was spelled, the man who had taken over the program when Les Colodny, the very funny man who had hired me when Elliott Kastner had me fly in from London to audition, was transferred to the Coast, as we called it, infatuated with the idea of Hollywood, imagining we could be successful comedy writers, the brighter ones among us, to at least those who were closest to Les, going with him to Hollywood, to save the Colgate Comedy Hour.  They didn't.  It was my first and as it was to turn out, my only regular job, memorable now only in terms of my having shared office space with Woody.
     I saw him again, on occasion,  when he would be having dinner at his regular table with Jean Doumanian, the partner he would later screw, though not in the same sense he must have with Dylan, the Mia Farrow little girl adoptee who has just come out, very painfully, in Nicholas Kristof's stunning editorial in The New York Times, accusing him directly of abusing her when she was seven. Full disclosure, as Kristof himself put it: I have of course been put off and jealous of, by turns, Woody's work.  There is no doubt that much of it is clever, some of it is very funny, and the last of it, when he finally stopped appearing in the movies so who they were picturing were not creepily aging, genuinely charming.  But I never liked him, probably because I envied his success, and he was less than gracious to me even as he sort of remembered me, and finally as I came to genuinely loathe him when he turned on Jean, having been up to that moment financed by her and her partner, Jacquie Safra.
    They had dinner together every evening at a restaurant I can not remember the name of now.  It was a friendship, an association I envied.  When he first got into his brouhaha with Mia, and the pictures turned up with Soon-Yi, and he probably needed money if only for his lawyer bills, instead of asking Jean and Jacqui for the money, he sued them, claiming they had never fairly paid him the royalties he alleged they accrued.  A friend of mine was in the courtroom, where Woody, testifying, couldn't remember some of the names of the movies he claimed to have been cheated on, and the judge supplied the titles, apparently a Woody Allen fan.  When Woody said how much money he believed himself to be entitled to, whatever number millions, Jacqui, according to my friend, merely shrugged-- no big deal, he seemed to be saying-- he just should have asked me.
    It is all very sad and stupid, except I, like Dylan, though not for the same reason, nor so deeply gut/soul engaged, resent and sorrow over why and how deeply we revere success and celebrity.  These are strange and difficult days for me, as I try to figure out what really matters in this life, in this country, in this world.  Having moved back to New York, in large part to pursue a dream that may or may not be foolish-- though I don't think so-- I would probably be well-advised to face the realities.  And the realities are that of all those in the offices of NBC that year, gifted and committed, the only one who triumphed in a very public way, was Woody.  So what is in your heart, or your pants, doesn't really matter so much. I'm disappointed.  Obviously I am still as naive as I was ALLLLLLL those years ago.

Sunday, February 02, 2014


A white owl was struck by a bus in Washington yesterday, near its perch at the Washington Post.  It was apparently set off its course by a shortage of Lemmings, its principal food.  Why didn't it just go inside Congress?
   I used to think lemmings a mythic, literary creature, invented for poets, or, in the unlikely event of an appearance of another Herman Melville, a new White Whale.  So symbolic, so uplifting, in a doomed, self-destructive way.  Something that lived determined to die.  I look at my country today with a heart filled with sadness, probably because I don't care about Football.
    But yesterday my International Forever Heart was lifted higher than it has been in eons.  I had the great good fortune to see, from the front row no less, the magnificent Shakespeare's Globe production of Richard the Third, with the astonishing Mark Rylance as the king.  
    To begin with, the stage was open and pre-performance bare, the actors dressing for the most part onstage, so we may well have been (I'm sure it was brilliantly researched) in exactly the climate and circumstance of Shakespeare's own age.  Rylance's interpretation of the horrific king is likely more scabrous and certainly more fluid, in the bodily fluid sense-- he spits and wet-kisses a great repulsive deal-- than any performance one is likely to see in this lifetime.  And a Lifetime is what this presentation offers.  One got the feeling not only was he in the original Globe audience, but that Shakespeare himself had been renewed and well represented.  It was overwhelmingly wonderful.  When Richard died, his crown fell first into the lap of my friend, the Angel Carleen, then bounced into mine.  I hoped, of course, that was symbolic.  Of what, I am not exactly sure.  But symbolic in general is good enough for me. Uneasy lies the lap that catches the crown?  
     I had seen Mark Rylance a few years ago in the comedy Boeing Boeing, and so knew he was good and worth seeing.  I had NO idea.  I would urge everyone to rush to the Belasco except I am sure they are all sold out for the rest of their limited, exquisite run, alternating with Twelfe Night. It made me proud to have been a Shakespeare major at Bryn Mawr, but sorry I am not still living in London, so I could swim swim swim in this kind of theater.