So the young and still very beautiful Marlon Brando is on the front of the theatre section of the New York Times today, holding his baby Christian. Taking all things personally, which I do, I gently seize this as a sign that my life, too, may re-begin.
It was all these many years ago, when as a Junior at Bryn Mawr, and an aspiring songwriter, I met a woman named Janice Mars, who wanted to sing a song of mine called 'SEX.' Everybody wanted to sing it, (it was clever and funny, road company-young- girl-Cole Porter) and Janice invited me to come into New York to meet 'Somebody.' We rendezvoused at the Carnegie Hall apartments, getting off the elevator at a high floor, to the resonating cry of 'Eeeeeh, Janice!" in that unmistakeable voice. There was at the time no greater star in the world than Marlon Brando, and, I really believe, in spite of all the damage he did to himself in the following years, there never would be a greater star. Not with the impact he had, the way he was then, when I had the teenager-y ecstasy of hanging out with him as he did his later-that-summer- summer stock "Arms and the Man," in Falmouth Massachussetts, so all his friends could work, including Janice.
"Sing it to me, kid," he said that day at the Carnegie Towers, as he whopped Janice back down across his lap, and picked imaginary(I think they were) hairs from her chest, and beat on it the rhythm of the song I was singing.
"Not bad, not bad," he said, when I was finished, still shaking. "Tell me about yourself, kid." So I did, voice quavering, ending with "And I go to Bryn Mawr."
"Oooooooo, Ba-rynnnnn Mahwahrrrrrrr," he Katharine Hepburned, perfectly.
So apparently meeting with his approval, I was invited up to the Falmouth Playhouse, where I got to room with Maureen Stapleton, another good friend of theirs. She was there doing "Three Men on a Horse" with Wally Cox, Marlon's best buddy.
It was, as you might imagine, an enchanted time, in spite of my being unhappily overweight, ("You on a diet, kid?" Marlon said to me at dining hall breakfast, as I set aside three blueberries. "It's okay, I just think most girls are prettier thin." Considering what was to happen to him, it seems beyond ironic. I last saw him at a wedding at the Hotel Bel-Air, where he was so huge as to be unrecognizable, except for the "V" at the base of the back of his hair. )
"There's your great love," my husband, always solicitous and always jealous of my infatuations said as we saw him sitting on a bench in the garden. "He's turned into Sydney Greenstreet."
And so he had.
So it was great, seeing Marlon yesterday, digitalized on the screen in the film they've made from his own obsessive collecting of his own career record, remembering how brilliant he was, sorrowing that his life brought him so little happiness, so few moments of real laughter, the comedy he was so inept at playing, but so enjoyed.
Then I took a break for some Japanese food, and went back to see another of my attachments, Gore Vidal, in his miffed debates with William F. Buckley. I never much liked Buckley, but never felt compassion for him like I did yesterday.
We had been in Rome, my husband Don and I, when the feared, ferocious, and very funny when she wasn't being mean agent Sue Mengers, still my great friend at the time, told me to call Gore. He was at the time as big a name as there was in the literary and theatrical world, and I was more than thrilled when he invited us to come for a drink, to his rooftop(I believe it was) overlooking everything, except other people's failings.
Apparently we passed the cocktail audition. We were asked to continue on to dinner, in some good (everything is) Italian restaurant, along with one of Andy Warhol's flower-named pseudo-celebs, or maybe it was a sort-of color: Ultra-Violet.
"Are you wearing contact lenses?" Gore asked me during dinner.
"No," I said.
"It's just that your eyes are so beautiful I thought you must have something in them."
Dazzled is too mild a word for what I felt. To be hit on by one of the world's most celebrated and certainly most articulate homosexuals! I could hardly speak for the rest of the evening.
Don was infuriated. "It just shows what a pervert you are," he said when we got back to our hotel, "that you enjoy the company of Gore Vidal."
Well, I did. And he, apparently, liked mine. When Don died-- much too soon-- Gore invited me to come visit him in Ravello. He waited for me like an eager schoolboy at the trellised entryway to the path along the cliff to the home he shared with his longtime companion Howard Austen, who was not very happy I'd come. "Gore didn't tell me you were coming," Howard miffed, as I joined them for dinner, after a swim in their pool. They had everything, or so it seemed,
The dinner was less than joyful. For the rest of my time there, Gore met me at restaurants in town, so Howard wouldn't be angry.
Gore e was at the time trying to stop drinking. When I saw the debates last night I fully understood the level of his malice. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, the best of our poets said. But he was wrong. Hell hath no fury like a brilliant gay man, nettled.
For all his brilliance, Gore wasn't in the least bit funny. And he was mean.
I felt actual pity for Buckley.
Then I came home, as I am trying to think of it, and maybe even make it be a little bit, and tried to catch up with my rest, Also what might be inside my skull, besides memory. And Desire? Maybe a bit late in my game, unless it is for Marlon, before he morphed into a Grotesque, digitalized.