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.