Friday, November 13, 2015

FRIDAY THE !3th

So it is that day I always looked forward to celebrating, being perverse or possibly aware that the universe is upside down, and the days we are most anxious about are maybe the ones that are best, if there is humor in the planning, or, indeed, any plan at all.  The movie that Marlon Brando made about himself is going to be on television tomorrow, so I have a date for Saturday night, as I still love him and remember him thin, or at least spare, fit for a queen, which I wasn't, though I did feel royal to be in his presence.  Janice Mars, my to-be-beloved friend who wanted to sing my song SEX,  as everybody did and a few stole.  She was a close friend of his and a cast-off bed partner, as everybody was, so introduced me to him knowing that my tongue would be hanging out with stunned gratitude.  "I want you to meet someone," she said, having me show up at the Carnegie Towers building, then arguably the most beautiful one on 57th Street, now dwarfed and uglified by what the Greedy and Tasteless have built around, overshadowing.  Then she pressed the button for whatever floor it was.  And when the automatic door opened, from down the hall came the cry "Eeehh, Janice," unmistakeable.  My heart stopped.
     I have written about this before, but I want to make sure I get it just right.  At one point that was probably what Marlon wanted, but eventually set aside, replacing it with covetousness, I think, and eventually boredom.  It had to be hard for him, bright as he was, to see people so filled with longing to be with him.  He did not have that high an opinion of himself.  But he was so much brighter than most imagine, and it showed right away, intensifying my infatuation with him, more than justified.   I was eighteen, and he was, clearly, wonderful.  Besides being physically past perfect, he was funny.  He flung her across his lap, made by flopping himself into a great leather chair, and saying to me,"Tell me about yourself, kid."
     Tongue sticking to both the roof of my mouth and the bottom of it, I gave my name, and the major fact of my life up till then, "and I go to Bryn Mawr."
     "OOOOooooo," he said, Katharine Hepburn.  "Ba...rynnn Mawhrrr."A long wait.  "Sing me the song, kid." 
     I sang him the song that Janice wanted me to give her for her act.  It was called Sex.  Witty and Cole Porterish... I forgive myself ... if there was anybody you should have wanted to be like if you were writing songs those days, it was Cole Porter.
     Marlon beat out an accompaniment on Janice's chest as I sang. When I finished, he said "Not bad.  Not bad."
     I left without knowing how I had really done, but  I must have passed the test.  I was invited to join them that coming summer at the theater in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  He would be directing and starring in ARMS AND THE MAN.  I went with planets in my eyes-- stars would not have been big enough.  And I was invited!!!!
       He directed and starred.  He was terrible. He never could do comedy.
        I loved him no less.  His best friend, Wally Cox, was there for the presentation onstage the week before of another play, Three Men on a Horse, with Maureen Stapleton, who became my roommate while I was there.  She remained a good friend for the rest of her life, but would probably have been too drunk to remember.  A great lady, though seriously tilted.  And Wally became a true buddy for the last twenty-four hours of his life, when I miraculously re-connected with him.
      But back there in Falmouth, at eighteen, I was as fat as Marlon was to become, and seated in the summer camper's dining room having breakfast with him, was unable to eat even that meager portion of fruit and cottage cheese I allotted myself.  "On a diet, kid?" he asked me, and when I sort of choked, added: "It's all right.  I just think most girls are prettier thin."
     Sam, his really good friend who he took with him everywhere, liked me, so I had some genuinely close-up moments and got to see what the young would-be novelist benefitted from, abetted by a friendship with the cast off fiancee, Josette Mariani, who had worked for the Strasbergs, to whom he was tied by the navel.  I went to see her when I was first in Hollywood, and we drove up to his house.  She beat pathetically on the metal-pronged window to his front doors, and closed it when he saw who it was.  Not anyone you wanted to have a love affair ended with. But I got to use the scene in Naked in Babylon, my first novel.  The old Brando tried to option it.

      When last I saw Marlon, he was waiting for a wedding at the Hotel Bel-Air, sitting on a bench.  I was with Don, who was still and always jealous of my ex-romances, no matter how unrealized.  "There's your great love," he said. "He's turned into Sydney Greenstreet."  And he had.  Enormous.
      I still love him and will watch tomorrow night.  I wish I had said Goodbye to Janice.