Monday, April 27, 2015


So I have returned to New York for what I hope will be a happy time, but by my own philosophy, I understand that is up to me.  I went back to Quaker Meeting on Sunday, after a lifetime of moving from Faith to Faith, with Faith only in Faith, having come to what I am sure is some kind of wise conclusion, that what the Quakers believe, i.e.: that That of God is in everyone, especially Jack Kornfield, with whom I have also had the pleasure of studying, is the Truth.  Naturally that does not hold true for murderers or sociopaths, whom I will try to avoid.  But I bussed and ambled through the streets of New York yesterday with a sense almost of Peace, and could actually imagine being happy here, so will give it a shot, though without bullets.
      Most of all I hope I will write something worth reading, bringing to Life, and/or remembering.  I still define myself by what I create, which is probably a little neurotic (a lot?)  But then it might lead to something worth reading and/or remembering, and even though the book business is out of business, to seems to be, (very convincingly,) there was still someone on the plane reading, and I myself am making a stab at Donna Tart, who appears to be struggling valiantly and wordily on.  It has been a long time since a work of words fully captured me, and I feel a tightness in my soul at approaching the theatre, appalled, in a happy way at what has won the award(s?), the adaptation of Kind Hearts, as I didn't consider it that good.  By which I mean good enough: the way things used to be when there was an Abe Burrows, or a Frank Loesser even though in real life (mine) he was a shit.  But then I was twenty, and thought if someone was gifted that had to mean they were a decent human being, ("Moss and I have a show in rehearsal in Connecticut," he said to me.  "And we've used a couple of your songs."  "What about money?" I said, when I was able to get words back.  "Write your family," he said.)
     So it turns out that the ones in my life who have appreciated me are the educators, Mrs. Schatteles at P.S. 9, and Miss McBride at Bryn Mawr, and I am going to end up when I end appreciating them, giving what I have to give to some kind of scholarship commemorating them.  I would have liked to leave a musical, or at least some songs or melodies to lift the spirits.  But I understand having lived this long that the great gift is Life itself, and I have to leave that behind and can't give it to anybody.
     It is very unlike me to be looking at the world with an eye towards leaving it.  But I appear to have slowed down somewhat, though I went back to my old (it isn't really) health club yesterday and actually swam for a half hour, something I haven't done in LA where it is more natural and expected to swim, because the people I expected to be kind and generous aren't.  Thrilled to be still able to move, and ecstatic that the woman who came to meet with me in Beverly Hills was wrong when she said  I couldn't leave anything less than a million to some future Aspirer, I begin again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


So having determined that it was time to check out Olde New York,    realizing I had not properly, or even improperly, perused my current environs, I set off on a small trek around Beverly Hills.  On Canon, where I had spent some happy hours in what I did not then realize was the last of my Youth, I sidled into La Scala for lunch among some vastly unfamiliar faces.  Of course those I loved had no longer been young when I knew them, so they are gone now, including and especially Suzie Pleschette, who had gone to P.S.9 which I had also attended in my grade school years, and for which I had written the school song in 6th or maybe it was 7th grade,  which Suzie had sung as her talent contribution at one of those Friday night parties we had gone to as young adults before anybody started fucking up their lives with grave things like dope or terrible relationships.  The restaurant is more or less unchanged, airy and fair-priced with excellent salads.  But the place is as now full of itself as it had once been full of celebrities, and I was sadly saddened, as there is nothing worse than a restaurant with ego and not that much to recommend it, except what had been its past, that now very much over.
     I eavesdropped on the conversation of the two men next to me and there was nothing worth remembering, in spite of its having been about the music business.  The waiter was pleasant and seemingly caring, but not one of those who was looking for a career in something flashier.  And the hostess, pretty enough to assume someone might ask her if she wanted to be in show business, in spite of having eyes that would probably be photo-friendly, did not see opportunity in just being pleasant.  Can you tell I was disappointed?  You Can't Go Home Again, one of the Greaties told us.  But no one has yet written: You Can't Go Restaurant.
     I am especially fond of my Suzie memory, because she replaced Anne Bancroft, a truly special friend, on Broadway in The Miracle Worker, and although she could not touch the performance, pointed me out to one of her fellow cast members during her curtain call, which I could help but think adorable.  "There's Gwen," she said, as the audience applauded, so I could not help but feel a part of the wonderment.  Puggy, my darling stepfather, had taken the two of us out to dinner once at one of the overpriced restaurants he favored, which of course had enraged my mother when she heard about it, imagining that Suzie could have had a yearning for an old investment banker.  All of these moments are rich in my memory, still working except for some names, and I am sorry these people are so long gone, as except for Puggy, they were not much older than I.  And Suzie was as bright as she was funny, so it is more than sad that probably not many people remember her. 
     Oh, we must all hurry to celebrate everyone we love as long as we can.  That way they will at least continue to exist at least as long as we do.  But none of us needs to go back to La Scala, unless there is someone waiting for us there we really love.
     So I am bound for New York on Friday.  Let it be filled with some happy surprises, or at least no angry members of Isis.  What a world, what a world! as Margaret Hamilton cried in The Wizard of Oz, when the most there was to fear was there being no one who could really sing Over the Rainbow.

Friday, April 17, 2015


So I went back to the Hotel Bel Air for the first time in what feels like decades, to have lunch with darling Vicky King, who was, for twenty-five years, that included all the time I lived at and visited there, its beautiful and devoted PR person.  We both of us had a hard time, it being so overbuilt with what does not belong there, that one, or in this case, two, had a hard job calling up visions of what one/two had so loved.  The food was still fine, and Lucinda who had been there long ago when I was was there still, and still adorable, and the swans were still sort of sailing the pond in their indifferent, undedicated way.  But everything else seemed cluttered and/or unstyled, or, at best, unstylish.  And absolutely nothing urged me to return or feel longing.  Lunch was more than enough.
     T.S. Eliot noted that April mixes memory and desire, but even though it's April, I felt absolutely no desire to hang out there, and memory was more saddened than enriched.  A wedding was being prepared for, the gardens tented and draped, and I recalled where one of my children had been married for one of her weddings.  The husband-to-be who'd flown over to talk me back into sponsoring the event is long gone, his name not even remembered, though I could still see him standing by the pool slightly soused in late afternoon as he wistfulled: "Madeleine...Madeleine should have her day." She had it, the event held in esteem and more or less consecrated for a year and a day.  
      That has been the setting for any number of important and not-so-important but still meaningful-at-the-time ceremonies.  It might be interesting to ferret out the histories of the weddings that have taken place there, and add up how many of them had borne real fruit. Mostly I think they were fruitful for parents, to show how much they loved their children, at least at the time. But all of it strikes me as sad now, what with the overbuilding and underwhelming, as Billy Rose might have said, his having once announced to me that he was "underwhelmed," one of the few clever things he ever said, to my disappointment, as I expected at the time that great reputation carried with it intellect and wit. I should not, however, disparage him or any of that experience as it did give me my best, or, at least, my most successful novel, THE PRETENDERS, since it starred the fictional version of him, made infinitely more interesting than I think he really was, as well as a great rendition of the long-ago, it now turns out she was, Sue Mengers.  
     But the thing about the past is that it's over, and so, I think, is the hotel.  Many different languages dance about what remains of what was wondrous, which is mostly the gardens.  Everything else is... well, I have already more or less given out a sigh, which it is not really even.  The Ladies' room looks bigger and  better, but that sort of resounds and, in a way, intensifies the reason to be disappointed, because you should not be most lifted by where you pee.
      Well, as Thomas Wolfe would have said, You Can't Go Home Again.  Except in this case, he might have said: You Can't Hotel. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


So I have, to my shame, gone into the Beverly Hills library for the first time.  And not just since moving back her, but, I think, ever.  It hasn't occurred to me to love a library since I last visited Bryn Mawr, to which I intend to leave my papers, whether or not they want them.
     There is a strange stillness in most libraries, but not this one.  Here there is almost a suspended echo, as if you were not really meant to tell if there is anyone here.  Across from me at a facing table is a not-old-man, and he is looking at a book with pictures.  I am a little sad, because I remember how bright I was when I was in the Bryn Mawr library, where there was a truly unearthly silence, and an enormous echo, so everything almost down to your thoughts resonated, and when you dropped even a pencil, it resounded.
A sneeze shook the place.  So you really built up concentration.     
         That’s over at Bryn Mawr now.  A new, functional library has replaced the old, still revered one, where you can go for tight-assed events and honorings.  They have never corrected or improved the acoustics, which everywhere contain a shattering echo.  They redid Goodhart, the great auditorium, and forgot to fix the sound, so it’s still Awful.  They put on my musical that took place Upstairs from the Symposium, and even after they redid the place, you still couldn’t really hear what they were saying onstage, and in blank verse, yet.   My typewriter, which it still was when I was writing it , had jammed halfway across.  So I figured the gods, whom I assume were at work, it being partly about them, wanted it in blank verse.  I can only imagine Katharine Hepburn in her plays,-- not that hard because the sound is exactly how it must have been then: dreadful.  She came back and met with us  when someone gave a scholarship in her name, while I was still an undergraduate, and those of us who loved the theatre were invited to a small reception, where she spoke, not that happily I don't think.  I took her tea from her and held it-- it was before her hands had started to shake that badly.  And she thanked me-- I believe from the heart.  She seemed truly uncomfortable.    "I suppose I'm supposed to tell me how Bryn Mawr helped me in the thea-ah-tare," she Hepburned.  "But I cah-nt." 
 I saw her recently in a TV special she clearly oversaw and narrated, and there was a clip of her and Spencer Tracy in a convertible and he made some crack about Bryn Mawr.  A put-down it was meant to be, I think, but it seemed genuinely funny.
     I am delighted I still love it as much as I do,  and the friends that I have still, to whom I can speak with the same affection and openness I always did.  And I believe they can, too.  A glorious level of smarts and kindness, and, in Marilyn's case, unfailing organization.  There was a standard of excellence that included nice.  I was a very lucky girl.  Which I was, accurately, not having yet a real concept of what you had to be and know to be categorized as Woman. 


Sunday, April 12, 2015


As I search my face for its disintegration, only because I didn't know I was really pretty at the time that I was, I think of Gore Vidal.  When we had dinner with him in Rome in the Sixties, Don and I, he asked if I was wearing contacts.  I told him "No."  At that point he said he thought my eyes were so beautiful I must have something in them.
     I of course was thrilled: to be hit on by the most articulate and literary gay in modern history!  I later wrote a poem that went: 
"He said my eyes were so beautiful, 
I must have something in them."
So you see I didn't even have to improve his words to have them be a poem.
    Don, my sweet and still innocent husband was infuriated at my having been lifted by the experience. "Only you," he said, "would be excited to be hit on by a fag."
     Well, times have certainly changed, and so have my eyes.  I understand at too long last, which it certainly is-- I had no crunch concept of having grown older, that I had, in truth, grown old.  I was aware of a few small surgeries, which I actually thought and so didn't have to pretend were insignificant.  Now I think, if I write this blog, I must deal with "crunch" issues.  Because it all boils down to: you get old if you're lucky, and it isn't easy.
    Especially if you are really lucky, and can still think clearly and a lot, except for the occasional memory lapse, where you can't remember names.  Important ones.  
   I still remember everybody funny, and Cary Grant.  Cary Grant actually asked me once why I had made him into a meditation-- it was in HOW TO SURVIVE IN SUBURBIA WHEN YOUR HEART'S IN THE HIMALAYAS, a book of thoughts.  His was "What hath Cary Granted?"  He called me to ask why I had done that-- he said "This book could go on forever, and in fifteen years nobody will know who I am."  I said "People will always know who you are."  But he was right.  Except about my book going on.
   I suppose I have a hard time accepting how transient it all is. When I think how deep I thought my love went when I was in high school, for Walter Rosenhaft.  I know how deep it was for my husband, and it wasn't deep enough, deep as it was.  It can never be deep enough for anyone, except for God, if He's/She's there.  Then there was the childishness of love for George Segal when I was in Bryn Mawr, the place where I should have been that much smarter. 
My love for Tony Perkins, Anthony more aptly.  Probably the cleverest man I'd ever known, a known homosexual before it was publicly all right to be one, supposedly okay now.  All of it looked back on now as some kind of infatuation.  I guess a part of me was always Little Girl, because the little girl had never been taken care of.  My mother never wanted a baby: it was just what women did.
       It was what I wanted most in life, I thought, children, and was worried might not be mine, because I was a fat girl.  I lost the weight, and had a daughter and a son, just like I thought I'd always dreamed.  My husband died really young, which I'd never dreamed would happen.  Dreams are both the up and the down side.
     So now I have to wait and see what is the final act.  I hope it has music.

Saturday, April 04, 2015


Today is Tony Perkins' birthday.  If he is remembered at all, as Anthony Perkins more likely, it is for PSYCHO, which I find really unfortunate, as what he was really was clever, musical, and, off-screen at least, quite ingeniously funny.  I was of course very young, fat, and incredibly naive, with no real idea what gay was, and even being enlightened, or more aptly, endarkened, refused to accept that truth about Tony, whom I loved loved loved.  I was just past twenty, he was smart as a whip(why do they make that analogy? What's smart about a whip?) ingenious, original, and, I will have to confess, most touchingly, seemed really to appreciate me.  I wrote him poems, songs, sent him funny telegrams in French, and, eventually, books and plays.  My first novel, NAKED IN BABYLON, an ill-chosen title, -- I had yet to understand that this burg had no grasp of satire--was hung on our not-really-romance.  And I wrote the book to get him to tell me the truth, as the phone rang almost nightly with venomous voices whispering "He's at the beach with Tab," before I slammed it back down into what might have been described when there were still real telephones as the receiver.  
    Few of us at the time understood homosexuality, and the town and the industry kept it a shameful secret-- a mistake, clearly, but one that now seems almost preferable to its having become practically a billboard, "Hi, I'm David Hyde Pierce, and I'm gay."  I think a person's sexuality is pretty much like their underwear: something you need show only to intimates once you know they're that interested in you.
     Oh, but I did love him so-- he was SO smart, and SO funny, and had such a brilliant sense of what was brilliant.  And because I loved him so terribly-- he was truly handsome before his consciousness went creepy and he decided his shoulders, enormous, were too big for his head and so tried to diet them off-- I couldn't do enough to please him, little understanding that nothing short of my turning into a boy would do the trick.  I even wrote a song for Tab, a teen sensation as a movie star, so he made records too.  Wanting to be taken seriously were All of Young Hollywood, as they were known then, the rowdiest of them being Dennis Hopper, who, hard as it is to believe now, seeing how seriously he was to take himself, was actually comic, and borderline endearing, he was such an inept would-be hero.  Venetia Stevenson, the willowy blonde daughter of the impressively serious actress Anna Lee, was Tab's companion, so no one would know, though everyone did.  Except me, because I didn't want to.
     Tony and I flew kites on the hill behind my apartment on Fountain Avenue, and put Sidney Skolsky, the gossip columnist who had dared to insinuate in his column that our romance was less than genuine, into the kites, verbally anyway, before we crashed them to earth.  I followed Tony to New York when he starred, on Broadway no less, like a real actor, in Look Homeward Angel.  He was only okay, but better than he'd been having to pretend he was a match for Sophia Loren onscreen.  When he opened in Angel, I gave him a key ring with a gold card that was inscribed with the ten of diamonds, a card that we'd once seen face down on the street, and Tony had said, "What will that card be when we turn it up? If you can tell me, you'll be my date for the opening of Angel."  And because I loved him SO, and needed SO badly to impress him and to be his date for the opening, I martialed all my forces and actually saw through it.  He'd gone very white, and said "You're a witch."  When he opened in Angel, and I'd given him the keyring, my card to him read: "If I was right about this, I must be right about you."  
    I was sure he would become the biggest actor in motion pictures.  I do know to this day that he was probably the smartest.
    We became close in a different way once he married Berry, and had to compromise his great intelligence and do stupid and weirder and weirder movies to support his family.  I went to her memorial in New York after she died in one of the terrorist plane crashes, something that felt past irony, and met their younger son, who looked strangely like Brad Pitt.
   I am sad for him still that he will be remembered, if he is remembered at all, for that weird portrayal in Psycho,  still, I think the most frightening movie ever.  Marty Balsam, another friend of mine from when I was in love with the Actor's Studio, was the detective in that.  Many of my Studio friends, including Janice Mars, had been in love with Marty.  But I guess he was a touch too manly for me.
    Don, my handsome and gallant husband, tolerant of my love for movie stars, and sweetly forbearing about Tony, met him a couple of times after everybody had come out, when Tony had a diamond in his ear.  "You look really great," Tony said to me, after I'd lost all the weight, had my hair done, and a new dress, fitted to my new body, at the opening of a Carol Burnett musical on Broadway.  Then he turned to Don. "What a shame you didn't meet her ten years ago."
     When I rewrote the scene in my head several times after that, I said: "It wouldn't have made any difference.  I was in love with a fag."  But I am glad I wasn't that quick or nasty.  I still love him, and am glad for any happiness or acceptance he had in his life. And if he'd actually had romances with all the high-end gays it says online he did, including Sondheim and Nuryev, I hope he got more from them than sexual satisfaction.  I certainly got plenty from him: it just wasn't exactly what I thought I wanted at the time.  And now, of course, what it is and was was History.