So I have come back to the wrong side of Wilshire in Beverly Hills, not quite the upmarket zip code, this place which is, apparently, the closest thing I have to a feeling of belonging, besides Bryn Mawr. If irrationality and sentiment prevailed, I could imagine myself for the remainder of my life, in the tower high above Rock,--that's Rockefeller Hall-- writing if I could write, singing if I could sing, and laughing, if there was anything to laugh about. The aura of Peace that enfolded me when I stood on that campus was palpable, probably a contradiction in terms and/or feelings. But there it was, and there it will probably stay. I am safely tucked, for the moment, into my Bryn Mawr sweatshirt, which I don't believe they actually had in the days I was a student, or maybe even when I went back to write The Women Upstairs, my comedy of ancient Greece-- what the women were doing upstairs while downstairs Plato and the boys were having their Symposium. That was a magic, unexpected moment under the aegis of Mabel Lang, the great scholar of antiquity in letters, who managed to infuse me with everything I didn't really know and even now am puzzled I grasped, it was all so fretted with knowledge and wisdom in spite of its being funny. I remember best the moment after the great success of the onstage presentation in Goodhart Hall, when I brought Mabel flowers to thank her, in her lined-to-the-ceiling-with-books office, and her saying: "But I should be giving flowers to you!!! I've never done anything creative before." And with that word she danced, literally spun around her office, that withered, (to the eye at least,) old scholar. I understand now people who go back to their universities and tower out what is left of their days.
I am genuinely scared, a feeling I do not easily put into words, at the prospect, or lack of it, of what lies ahead for me. The world, if one allows it to come in, seems more insane even than usual. I was having a great time writing the screenplay for what I was sure would be a charming, funny romantic comedy, based a bit on my adventure in Amsterdam, using that as a jumping-off point. Then I took a break for my New York visit, which I imagined would strengthen me, my originality, and my capacity to create. Instead, the harshness of that city was palpable. There is little to lift the spirit, besides the flouted happiness of George Clooney and the retirement of Letterman who I never found really funny. Of course, if you're lucky and you let it in, there is always God with Whom I had a momentary encounter at Quaker Meeting in New York.
I met some beautiful people there whose names I unfortunately did not put safely away, primary among them a lovely woman who actually said to me after I had announced myself as a newcomer:"Are you the Gwen Davis?"
And it turned out she was a true reader, someone who had actually enjoyed my writings. So between that and the wondrous Barbara Conaty, a reviewer for the Library Journal who some years ago lauded me and so lifted my life along with my spirit, I understood that I had not gone un-read, and so unappreciated. Once in my career I had the support of my most successful writer friend, Mario Puzo, during his glorious reign with The Godfather. But he got mad at me for writing too much.
It seems and is less than lovely to need approbation. But it has been very hard through some of these years since Bryn Mawr where I really knew people read and responded and even cared, to reach out to a world mostly empty of embracing minds. And then of course there is the stunning surprise of realizing one has grown unmistakably older, something you never anticipate and, if you're smart, certainly never focus on. All the same it happens, if you are lucky.
So I am back now in my overpriced little floor-through, hoping the muses will know where to find me. The weather, to which I have never paid much attention, is unaccustomedly cool, not promising to stay that way. I met a lovely woman on the way home from the post office which they blithely think will stay in business-- I'm not so sure, and I think Ben, who started it and believed in after-life consciousness, if he's around, is probably appalled, communication, like everything else, having become overpriced, with all the options meaning an end to reasonable service. At any rate, this lovely actress tells me that equity is trying to force a minimum on even the 99 seat houses, which means they will go out of business. If any of you care about the survival of theatre in the US, please do something. The worst experience I had in New York was in theatre, where everything on Broadway seemed overpriced, less than wonderful (except for Chita) and several stories less than uplifting.
I realize and know that I am old, but I still remember falling to my knees at the ice cream parlor in front of Bob Fosse, to thank him for all he had done, his actually engaging with me, and writing me from wherever he was to go for not nearly long enough, before leaving the planet. Where are the Greaties? Or even the Good-Enoughs?
Where is Frank Loesser when you need him, even if he was a shit?