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