Sunday, December 21, 2014


So after one of the most difficult evenings since coming back to LaLa, which I will not go into lest it make somewhat indelible the experience, I turned on the TV to try and lull myself into sleep, and, instead, came up with a part of my history that still makes me laugh, be sorrowful, and understand how lucky my life has been.  
There it was, Eyes Wide Shut, the last movie of Stanley Kubrick, who had been my closest friend, mentor, and ultimate disappointment.  But like the movie, if it has to be a letdown, you might as well have the biggest.
    I went to a Hollywood party when I was was at Stanford, and came down for the weekend, and was introduced to Stanley, there with his wife Christiane, very pregnant, in a white dress with sparkles across her belly, and said to him she was the most beautiful pregnant woman I had ever met.  And he said "What did you expect?" as if we had been friends forever, which it then seemed we would become.  He had just announced his acquisition of LOLITA, the book on everyone's lips who read, which in those days was everybody.
     He came shortly afterward to visit me in the Bay Area, having read the novel I had submitted as my Master's Thesis, and we went for a boat ride on the bay.  "I'm in terrible trouble," he said to me.  "I just hired Nabokov to write the screenplay.  Dwight MacDonald (then the reviewer for Esquire, as I remember, maybe faultily) is going to give me a great review because it's Nabokov,  and he can't write a word of dialogue. You're the best writer of dialogue in America.  Will you do it for me?"  
   I was, of course, thrilled and delighted, ready to hole up in the Park Sunset, as he wanted me to do, since part of the offer was I couldn't tell anybody I was in town, because they would all know what I was doing-- paranoia was one of his major suits and our friendship was now well known among my friends, as it was one of the reasons I was glad to be alive, Stanley was so brilliant, albeit crazy.  So I checked in to the motel and started writing.
    There was a scene where Lolita tells Humbert about a friend named Ginny who's "a creep... she has polio," and I said "Stanley, you can't have her put down another kid for having polio... it'll make her despicable.'  And Stanley said, his dark eyes literally lighting up, "No, you don't get it.  Humbert is thinking he's never fucked a twelve year old with polio before."  And I said "Stanley, how do you see this movie?" And he said "It's a love story."  
   "Oh," said I.  "I thought it was a comedy."
   Not long after we agreed that I would not write the screenplay, and I went back to Stanford to get my Master's, which is another story.  The friendship aborted temporarily.
    A while later I met Don, and we went to the four o'clock opening of "Doctor Strangelove" at the Criterion, because I wanted him to meet Stanley, who I told him would be there counting the house.  
"Stop being a writer," Don said.  But, sure enough, after the opening showing, we came down the stairs from the balcony, and I heard 'click, click, click, click.' And there he was, with a bus counter, and he said to me "We just broke the house record for the Criterion."
    So we became friends again, and Stanley and Christiane came to our wedding, and Stanley told Don, who was producing the football games for WOR at the time to "not follow the ball, but keep the camera on the line, because that was where the real drama 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 anywhere you want it to be."  (Christiane complained to me at the wedding that the vase she had bought as a wedding gift, Steuben, pronounce Schtoybun, the German way, had cost $29.95.  By the time I broke it, living in La Jolla after Don had died, and swept it off the shelf doing a yoga posture, it was $495.  Now I think it's close to a thousand.
     A couple of years after the wedding, when we had moved to England temporarily, we had a meal at the country home of Gary and Max Smith, close, good friends-- Don was working for Gary at the time-- and Stanley and Christiane were living in the castle-like domain next door.  So I left the table with my then little children, Madeleine, five, and Robert, two, to show them to Stanley, as evidence that my life had really worked out in spite of all expectations to the contrary.  I rang his bell, a terrifying, cinematic tolling. In a few moments, the door creaked open.  Two huge, snarling Dobermans pulled at the end of a leash.  And I said into the darkness: "Stanley?"
     He recognized my voice.  "Gwen?"
     "Stanley?" I said.
     "I'd let you in," he said.  "But the dogs will go for the children."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


   So I am very much moved into my new apartment, in the best locale in Beverly Hills, minus the bullshit—the wrong side of the tracks (Wilshire), in a block that looks like a real street in America, hard as it is to believe.  I have a front porch, and around the corner a man who fixes glasses, the kind you see through not the kind you drink champagne from.  There’s a French pastry coffee shop I frequent, and a Starbuck’s I don’t, and a few steps in the other direction as good an Italian restaurant as I have eaten in, even in Italy.  As Fate, or Bershert, the Yiddish or maybe it’s Hebrew will have it, I have been re-united by phone at least with my dearest friend from when I was twenty-something low, whose father was the film editor on Ben-Hur, about which no one thought to hear anything ever again, now that Christian Bale has replaced Charlton Heston in the public consciousness of Moses.  Christian, by the way, as I think I may call him, since I knew his beautiful father when he was married to Gloria Steinem, who should be everyone’s heroine and was/is certainly mine, and they were on their honeymoon and I interviewed them for the Wall Street Journal Europe, which then refused to run the article because it was too favorable.  He died not long afterwards, a genuine tragedy, as she had waited all her remarkable life for the right man, interspersing that longing with a lot of memorable mistakes, including the comedy writer Herb Sargent, brother of Alvin the writing maven, most touching man I ever met, and then he, the elder, dazzling Bale, died soon and painfully, which gave me the conviction God is not a Feminist.  Surprising, really, unless the truth of Creation is the part He/She loves best is the Struggle.  Christian, not by the way, is married to Sibi, the daughter of my hairdresser in Beverly Hills, Nada, so even if it isn’t all connected, it is All Connected. 
      My wonderful friend Jamie Lee Curtis, to drop my favorite name since Cary Grant, who really was as charming as they say, and whose own mother didn’t love him if you can believe it, and wanted him to dye his hair as his going gray made her “look older,” which really makes me believe that God wants to make it hard for us so we have to put in greater effort to get it right, came by yesterday and dropped off a straw shopping bag, a mat for my terrace, and a colorful pillow for my dining room which I will now have to use as a sitting room as it has this colorful pillow.  Today the handyman from Pioneer came to fix my bed which collapsed last night and I wasn’t even doing anything interesting. 
     That makes me believe we are just given challenges that can be good/bad jokes if we give them time enough which in this case was only until the next morning.  Now I am off to the phone company to order internet service which I wasn’t going to do as I had figured out the way to outfox them was to breakfast at the French coffee shop next to Starbuck’s which picks up their signal, as I still have strangely dark feelings about Billy Rose, who gave me my most successful novel with The Pretenders, and some really funny times with Sue Mengers who was sort of the Heroine and my best friend until I wasn’t successful enough for her anymore.  The play about her was a great success briefly on Broadway, but then people stopped caring, as people will, even about Cary Grant. 
       But Jamie said I have to connect here just for safety, so I must listen to her as she is smarter than anyone even though her father was Tony Curtis.  He was a sort of great friend of mine for a little while in my extreme youth when I came to him through Stanley Kubrick who was a truly great friend of mine, along with his wife Kristiane, until I got put in the closet by Stanley and when people use you they stop loving you even if you don’t stop loving them, as they are embarrassed if they have any decency, which Stanley had a bit of, though not too much. 
      I was in the closet for him on Lolita, when I was at Stanford getting a Master’s together with Ken Kesey who was also in the graduate Engish department, which is hilarious, and I will tell you about another time.  I really must write a memoir as I have known almost everyone who mattered at a certain time which is now very much Over, and I can’t believe the people who are alleged celebrities.  I can’t even write the big(in size, not import) name which catches attention now, as it makes me sad. That people would even give it any weight in spite of the hugeness of the ass attached.  Cary Grant, himself, said to me when I attached his name to a handsome photo in my book of meditations, HOW TO SURVIVE IN SUBURBIA WHEN YOUR HEART’S IN THE HIMALAYAS, “What hath Cary Granted?, “Why are you putting my name in this book when it could last for a hundred years and people will forget about me in fifteen?” and I said “People will never forget about you,” but he was right.  People will forget about everyone but Walt Whitman and Longfellow because they’re made to learn that in school, and Edison because otherwise they can’t turn on the light.
     I am sitting now in a restaurant looking out on Beverly Drive—I couldn’t have afforded to look out on Rodeo as they have a luggage store from Japan where an overnight case is several thousand dollars and when you ask what it’s made of, they give a fancy name where, when you say “What is that?” they have to say “plastic,” as, apparently even on Rodeo they are sometimes forced to tell the truth.  Apparently it is only in politics where they can lie all the time, regardless of country.  All so sad.  I am now no longer reading the papers even when I pick them up free as I did in a coffee shop on Little Santa Monica, where there was an article about Bernie Madoff collaborators going to jail for forever.  My mother was the only person, ever, to get her money back from Bernie Madoff, because my cousin Rodney Fink, a darling man who overcame his name, went to Madoff and quietly demanded her money back. Madoff told him what a fortune she would be making, and Rodney said quietly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Madoff.  But I am from Pittsburgh.”  So he got it back and saved her and what little was left of the money she had prolifegated.

    It is a sad and sorrowful time in the world, as it almost always is, alas, but right now more than most because we have made such a huge mistake with Barack, and nobody still likes him but Joanna Semel Rose, who was the smartest woman who ever went to Bryn Mawr, but still…? It is a tragedy for this country that we actually elected him a second time, but true tragedy is when everybody dies, so if we live through this terrible second term maybe it will be all right.  We’ll see.  Or not.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


So as anyone can see, if they are in LA., I have ended the drought.  There is a sadness that comes along after the elation, because soon hills will be sliding, and people will be losing their homes as well as their patience.  
   This has never been a place where things happen half-way.  If I had gotten a dog Saturday as I thought I would, she would not be able to go out walking, and I would probably be sorry.  As it was, I had to audition and am being considered by the very kind woman in charge of it all, who rescues dogs and afterwards finds out that the females are pregnant and advises you against the puppies that came out for fear they will ruin the floors, which my new landlady would certainly not enjoy.
    I apologize for seeming so small-minded and focussed on the trivial, but with great power comes great responsibility as everybody seems to understand but the people with great power.
I am no longer reading the newspapers, as nothing seems to be getting any better and in spite of my great capacity to change things, apparently I am not able to change them for the better except when I am in Amsterdam, and that is a high price to pay, except for knowing Daniel, his beautiful children, and the boys with whom I dined those lovely evenings when Peter cooked.  Amsterdam is a truly wonderful city except for the wet and the bleak and the fact that they don't know they aren't in charge of the world anymore and that nothing has changed since whatever century it was that they ran things.  The great thing about LA is in spite of its being so spread out you can still walk everywhere as long as you don't want to go to too many places.  
     Also there is still the telephone on which I am able to speak to my beloved Taffy of the once great Starland Vocal Band of Afternoon Delight which unfortunately did not give their follow- up song to the Ages which would have made them immortal as their manager was Jerry Weintraub who was a shit, and cared only about John Denver.  His wife Jane Morgan didn't do that well either.  But it is well I am learning to live in sort-of silence, as Mrs. Lande, my Nazi housemother from Cherry Lawn School in Darien, Connecticut, the capital of anti-Semitism in the US where most of the students were Jews so the townspeople would close their shutters when we walked into town along Brookside Road would have said I couldn't do.  As a matter of fact, what she said was "If you were in a room by yourself you would go crazy," and Ha Ha, I haven't.  Yet.
     The day we all walked into town because it was so exciting was the day they were shooting the railway station scene from Gentleman's Agreement, the great book-into-movie about anti-Semitism in the U.S. and we all wanted to see Gregory Peck in the lean, handsome flesh getting off the train.  But when everybody got there, they learned the scene had already been shot, so they all went back to school.  I, though, sat on a bench in the station and wept, as I loved movies so, and had imagined Gregory Peck would be Gregory Peck.
     But then, God being a movie fan, it turned out the train had pulled in too far, so Mr. Peck had to go back to Stamford and take the train again.  And there I was, at twelve, able to tremblingly get off the bench and ask for his autograph.  Having nothing to lean against, he asked for my shoulder.  I never washed the jacket again.  
     Many years later, at a Hollywood party, during the time I was a hit with The Pretenders so was asked everywhere, people in Hollywood being-- don't be shocked-- un poquito bullshitty, I met him at a party at Allan Carr's house, and we became friends.  "This is where I stood with Ingrid," he actually said to me, Greg, that is, as he told me to call him.  We met again and in a major way when I was living in Paris, writing for the Wall Street Journal Europe-- is there no end of miracles?-- and I was actually his date for a reception.  He had a cane and I had broken my arm so as we limped towards the ambassador, he said "Don't we make a beautiful pair?"  A darling man, who later recorded the poem I wrote when my dog Happy died.  You can hear it online. I have to choke at people who actually idealize Matthew McConnawhatever, imagining that is a hero.
    Well, as we know, nothing in Hollywood, U.S.A. being moderate, the gutters are now filled to more than capacity, and my battery is low, so I must close.  Fortunately I am wearing my serious raincoat, so I will likely make it home if I don't fall into the sewer which I believe they have.  The record being played on the amplifier is "Baby, It's Cold Outside," the huge hit by Frank Loesser, the greatest songwriter of his generation, whom everybody has forgotten, and who listened to me audition me at MCA when I was 20, seduced me, and sat naked at my piano playing Warm All Over, the love song from his soon to be hit The Most Happy Fella, which everyone has forgotten as well.  He was a true shit but then everybody can't be Gregory Peck, or the world could hold its head high.