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.