Thursday, December 31, 2015

So it is the last day of a very peculiar year.  I have spent it not really wanting to be anywhere else, though Anywhere Else has always been a favorite of mine.  
    The world has exploded in a very unchartable fashion.  My iPad tried to change that to "uncharitable," and that's right, too. I dragged myself through Beverly Hills today trying to find the Amanda Foundation, a charitable place that houses lost or would-be redeemed dogs, in case it was time for a new love in my life.  But by the time I found it-- it is curiously central but tough to find-- I understood with my body how young I no longer am, the one dog that almost fulfilled my sort-of-needs, smart, a girl, not too yippy-- (my Ipad tried to change that to 'hippy,') reality set in and I knew I really don't have the energy or the patience anymore.  More likely than my loving a new companion is there being an afterlife, where I will be reunited with Mimi or Happy.  
      But on the way there I met a really nice couple here for the Bowl game where their team, Iowa,(Ray!) is playing Stanford.  As some intimates who are left know, I graduate-schooled at Stanford,  found it empty of spirit and heart, and certainly low on inspiration, but maybe that was just then, with Wallace Stegner the head of the very sloppy and un-energized program and their not even telling you he was on sabbatical till after you'd paid your tuition which they then wouldn't return. Richard Scowcroft, a sad man, his first lecture a read from his graduate thesis, was the head of it in his absence.  And that first evening,  there we were with the grown-ups, faculty, he said "I have to talk to you about something," and took me aside.  I remember thinking, "Here it comes-- the truth about life and literature."  And he said, "Is Cary Grant truly a homosexual?"
    So that was it for me and Stanford, except for my friendship with Ken Kesey, (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,) our going to the vigil outside San Quentin for Caryl Chessman where Marlon Brando came to halt it, protest, and, just in case the state failed to be moved, (they weren't,) announcing he intended to make a movie about it (he didn't.) Afterwards, I remember our (Ken and I, not Marlon,) following an ice cream truck that passed us on the twistey road,  nearly forcing us off it, Kesey's dropping back, chuckling, saying "I know this road and it's filled with bumps, glorious bumps." Sure enough, a bend or two along the way the tar was polka-dotted with gallons and gallons of ice cream, that we ate.  That became a scene in Kingdom Come, the book that should have changed my life by becoming a classic, but sadly disappeared except for one or two people who read it and changed my life anyway.(Diane Brown.  Is she still alive? Spiritual? Inspired?)
     I watched Cuckoo the other night.  A strangely mystical experience.  Had the TV on to a movie, and the TV changed itself to the channel that Cuckoo was on, without my knowing it was on.  I mean about four hundred odd stations away.  I was trying to figure out if it had been Kesey who changed the channel, or Don.  Making sure I wouldn't miss it.  Really an incredible movie, still, even having to live through all the commercials.  Nicholson young, and with hair.  More than charismatic.  I sat next to him early in his super-stardom, on the bus Jack Haley rented to take all of us to the Renaissance Fair.  I remember Nicholson muttered "Women have less mercy than men," his tone a kind of observation of his whole life being a record of his having been exposed to our lack of mercy.
     But Kesey's life was truly a tragedy.  He was SO talented, but threw it all away, doping, losing the words that might have been. We fought each other in books and through lawyers, and later, decades later ,when I'd matured, which you can also know means grown older, I went to hear him speak at a church on Central Park West.  He was lunatic.  A silly comic high hat, deliberately ludicrous attire, fine face disappeared, the words that came out of the once interesting mouth borderline unintelligible.  I'd gone there with my mother, who, on one of her rare shows of nobility, was willing to stay.  
      But I couldn't.  So sad.  He should have been a monument to creativity.  Instead he was a joke.  And not a witty one.
      The moral of the tale: If you're lucky enough to have a gift that has been consecrated, take care of it.  HAPPY NEW YEAR.


The first vision I have of Kesey, at least in memory, was his blue-jeaned bottom bounding away over my backyard-bricked wall, as the knocks that inspired his flight continued, and a deep voice repeated "Police!"
     As most of my life seems to have arranged itself in storybook sequences, improbable but ultimately entertaining, the occasion was Ken's teaching me how to smoke dope, at Stanford, where we were both in the writing program of their graduate school.  Kesey had come from the University of Oregon, where he had written his first novel, receiving a prize for a work-in-progress that then could not find a publisher.  More than a blow to the heart, I would have found it.  But his energy seemed undiminished, and he couldn't have more appealing unless played by the young Paul Newman.  Although Jack Nicholson, who was to portray the character of Randall MacMurphy, Kesey's fictional self, in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, was not bad casting.
      I had come to Stanford in my twenty-fifth year, to study with Wallace Stegner, in hopes of writing the great novel, or at least a really good one.  I'd been out in the world, the European part of it, and a little bit the New York one, for a couple of years, hoping of course to set it on fire, the musical-comedy sector, having been screwed in the aspiration and sexual part by Frank Loesser, who was, or at least had seemed at the time, the most gifted person in it, writer of Where's Charley, Guys and Dolls, and The Most Happy Fella.  My spirit, which had seemed indefatigable and indominatable  had run out of ins, and the torch I'd held for Broadway and musical comedy appeared to have burned out.  So as the student I'd been, I'd decided to try the academic route.  Wallace Stegner, considered one of the great American writers of his day, was teaching there and they didn't tell you till after you had paid your tuition that he was on sabbatical.
    So there I was, in my living room, with the knocking on the door, the accompanying announcement that who the knocker was 'Police,' Kesey's immediate flight over the backyard fence, my being high for the first time, steadying myself against the doorjamb as I opened the door, and Kesey's bottom disappearing over the back brick wall.  Creatively,  I could not have imagined a better, more comical set-up.  But in real life it was truly distressing.
     "Yes, Officer?" I managed.
     He said he was just wondering if I'd found my driver's license, lost the previous week.  I told him 'No,' and managed to get through what was to come.
     That included the vigil outside San Quentin for Caryl Chessman, a convicted rapist who was to be executed over the protests of several years and several thousand people who found his self-education and struggles to become both his own legal defender and a worthwhile human being touching and important.  They killed him anyway, even though Marlon Brando came to protest the execution and Shirley MacLaine when she was still interested in other people marched to Sacramento to try and dissuade the governor.  
      Afterwords Kesey and I drove through the countryside, a scene I was to use in KINGDOM COME when I was still a devoted writer which I am apparently not this morning, feeling vaguely depressed as I do and specifically disheartened.  I bought Time Magazine yesterday for the first time in a lot of years, my favorite friend having been the first female Time Magazine reporter, Sandra Burton, killed by her boyfriend in Bali and Time didn't even bother to investigate, as by then they had run out of balls and the impetus to be a great magazine.  It was not much of an article, and I was sorry I had bought the rag.  Oh, excuse me.  I meant to say 'mag.'

Saturday, December 26, 2015


In my youth, which, to my surprise is longer ago than I can believe, I really loved movie stars.  Katharine Hepburn had gone to my college, and a less-than-thoughtful alum had given a new scholarship in her name, so poor Katie as I dare to call her now as it is unlikely she can hear me even in the spheres if they're really there, had to come back to Bryn Mawr for the celebration of it, and those of us who were interested in (obsessed with, as I was) the theatre, got to have tea with her in the Deanery, an antiquated but colorful building that no longer exists, I don't think.  I remember she had trouble pouring her tea-- this was long enough ago that her very bad Parkinson's hadn't yet set in-- so I took over for her and handed her the filled cup.  She looked at me directly, something she did not do to almost anyone there the rest of the time, she was so visibly uncomfortable, and said "Thank you."  Then, when the time came, a few minutes later that she had to address us, she said, "I suppose I ought to tell you how Bryn Mawr inspired me in the thea-tah, but I CAHN't.'  She really said 'CAHNT.' 
     Many years later (hard to believe, though I guess I have to) when Bryn Mawr was setting up their memorial mag or whatever it was called, she was asked to contribute something.  The college assigned one of their accepted contributors to edit the piece, and, as I could have told them, acceptable didn't necessarily mean good.  So they had me get in touch with her.  She was as wonderfully arch as those of us who had always loved her would have wished.  We talked for a few moments, uncomfortably on her side, worshipfully on mine. 
     "But why do they want me to talk to you?" she asked.
     "They thought it would be interesting."
     "Well, we're talking now," she said.  "And I don't find it that interesting."
      She was really Katharine Hepburn.
      I am writing this today because I don't usually dream anymore, or, if I do, I don't remember.  But last night, or, probably closer to this morning, I had a dream of one of my favorite friendships, that was so vivid when I woke up this morning I thought Doris Day was going to be next to me.  And to my surprise, she was just as young as when she had actually been Doris Day.
    'Twas in the south of France we met-- why not?  I was at Cannes with my mother, a bastion of disapproval, who'd come to get me out of all the mischief she imagined I was into, and probably have an adventure of her own, as Leo Jaffe, the vice-chairman of Columbia, had an antiquarian crush on her, so had us VIPed through the Film Festival.  This was SOOOO long ago that Grace Kelly was still just a movie star and not yet a princess, but was necking semi-openly on the beach(no sand, just pebbles) with Jean Pierre Aumont.
     But my head was turned much the other way, as Doris Day, THE biggest movie star in the world at that time, so you know how long ago it was, and somehow, I had made friends with her.  You need to know, and I do, too, that what I wanted to be at the time, more than alive, I think, was a songwriter.  That is to say, I WAS a songwriter, having written the whole score of Junior Show-- it was REALLY good-- and having had the unexpected and truly wondrous (if you didn't care about money or fame) career as a club singer (my own songs) in the Mars Club in Paris, off the Champs-Elysees.  I'd done that while waiting for Art Buchwald, the Herald-Tribune soon-to-be-international superstar columnist to come in and do a piece on me.  But on the day he was finally supposed to do that, he went to Istanbul, I think it was, and wrote about the State Department road company production of Porgy and Bess.
      But when I got to London, I think it was, and re-connected with Doris, I got the unexpected gift(?) of her really having liked me enough to give me the stewardship of her son, Terry Melcher, who was eleven or twelve, and a real little shit, as probably most eleven or twelve year old boys would have seemed to me(I was 20.)  But as it was her son, I swallowed all my discontent, and shepherded him while she was shooting The Man Who Knew Too Much, except for the time she let me go shopping with her.  Besides being 20, I was a fat girl, so to be in the company of the world's at the time #1 movie star, and have her visibly delighting in me, or maybe she was simply relieved to have someone she didn't have to entertain or amuse, I was so thrilled to be with her.
      When that part of the dream(the real one) was over, and I got to Los Angeles, she had me meet her on Sunday at the home of her lawyer,  the most powerful legal money manager in LA, Jerome B. Rosenthal, the biggest, later to go to jail for pilfering her accounts that he was managing, or maybe just stealing from her, as he had from almost all the rest of his top clients, including Ross Hunter who was to weep at the mention of his name, and Kirk Douglas who always threatened to kill him.  When I became friends with Jerry he parlayed it into a friendship with my mother-- his wife was a bitch and a less-than-darling buddy of Mom-- so my mother became the one he was later to  call collect from jail when he was allowed his occasional phone call, and she was the only one who would accept charges.  But that is another story, way down the line.
       It was Jerry-- I was invited to his Bel-Air home that Sunday--who connected me at the tennis court with Yip Harburg, who I believe he also cheated.  Yip became the great show-biz friendship of my life (he wrote the lyrics for Wizard of Oz) never to be surpassed because they don't make 'em like that anymore(the songs, either.) The friendship was diminished somewhat by Yip's wife, Eddie, who was mad at me for not falling in love with her son, and marrying Don.
     I mean to tell you, it hasn't been easy.  But it has been star-studded and musical.

Monday, December 21, 2015


So as if the world had not become stupid and scary enough, not necessarily in that order, we now have a planet where our avowed worst enemy, Putin, has endorsed our most self-aggrandizing egotist, Donald Trump.  I have been told by my smartest friend, Joanna Rose, who knows him, that Trump is not stupid, and I have to believe her or she would not be my smartest friend.  So what is he doing?  I understand that the enormity of his ego makes him care not at all for the consequences of his blustery words, other than making himself even more visible. But be afraid: be very very afraid.  And come sit beside me while we shiver so we're not isolated in this.
    Am sad beyond my ability to express in words --probably for the best-- at the state of the world, with nothing worse except for the theatre, the thing I used to love most when it really was. Wanted to see the revival of Fiddler, but the musician I trust most (Steve) says Tevye is too thin and the critic I trust most (Rex) has seen enough so he isn't even going.   The moment I saw on TV was completely unmoving, and one of the few advantages of being as old as I am is having lived long enough to have actually seen Zero, than whom there could not be anyone better EVER.  And Bea Arthur was beyond wonderful, and it never mattered how drunk she was before or after, she was always on point onstage.
      I am missing friends in other parts of the world but have no intention of traveling unless absolutely unavoidable.  Wish there was something I really needed to do in Seattle, except if they could terrorize San Bernardino,nothing is unimaginable.  What a world. 
        I have several times now tried starting to read Infinite Jest but consider perhaps he committed suicide because he couldn't believe how ready the world was to consider it a masterpiece, when he knew.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


So as madness is spreading even to places we weren't sure were there or knew how to spell (San Bernardino?) you have to reconnect with the smartest spiritual teachings, live in the moment and try to be exactly where you are, if you can focus on where that is.  Traveling between my eyebrows, I try to find Amsterdam, where I wish I was right now, though it is probably even wetter and colder than it is, surprisingly, here, though doubtless still friendlier, the unexpected bonanza that comes from having an open heart and an empty seat next to you on an airplane.
    On my desk I have several books I have long intended to read, Infinite Jest, one of the great recommendations of Ever, and The March by Ed Doctorow, a really smart and kind man who did not seem to take seriously the fact that he was held in higher esteem than almost anybody else.  I have tried several times to read Infinite Jest but have found it laborious, as with all the languages I can speak, especially after some wine, I found it tough going and not really worth the effort.  And that was only close to the beginning, knowing he had committed suicide, something I'm sorry about even though I never knew David Foster Wallace, an impressive name, although I was sorry for him that when they made the movie which I believe failed with an impressive rapidity, he was played by one who couldn't score outside of a sitcom.
       I am sad for a world that can be dominated by a manipulative jerk like Donald Trump, endorsed by Putin, which should tell us more about Trump than even he wants to know, though smart as he thinks he is, he isn't smart enough to feel uneasy with that endorsement.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


I mean, get to know the meaning of a phrase.
You who live on the East Coast know how much I love and miss you, and except for the registered buddies, that is to say those who sign in with regular inquiries and assurances that it matters to you even peripherally that I am still alive, something it is not always easy to see even when present in Beverly Hills, my computer vanished.  Talk about isolation and fear.  Not hard enough getting through what's happening in the rest of the world, now oddly including San Bernardino, I lost what turned out to be my other best friend beside my dog.
     The good thing was I had walked home from Apple that afternoon, so knew I could not have left it in the cab or the Uber, the latest entrance into which I had espoused to try and keep myself late-middle-aged.  The borderline tragedy(for Beverly Hills) was that I was missing Ellen's evening for Share, an organization that I am old enough to remember from when Jamie's mother didn't need any work, on her face, anyway.  I had the wonderful dress, at least, though sorrow and borderline panic at not having had the time to have my hair done, so having to wear a hat that was sort-of coordinated, lacked the confidence or posture to stay long enough to face the jeweled ladies, especially since the event was walking distance from my home, although like it we were both on the wrong side of the tracks that aren't there anymore. Ellen was the loveliest lady there of course but had the selflessness not to flaunt, her husband the most gallant, telling me I look young, the most elevating word you can say to any woman in the burg, which I guess it still is.
     Grieving, having eaten in passing only one of the excellent and probably pricey hors-doeuvres, I returned home long before the real festivities I assume began, so will never know if I would have won the raffle.  Oh, the things that give you anxiety in Southern Cal.  But depression, fear and aging rise up heavy and tall when you've moved someplace you never belonged except when it's turned out to be not that wonderful everyplace else but Amsterdam and the weather there sucks as does the language.  So to get home safely and not suicidal is a plus.
      Somehow I managed to get to sleep without overdosing, and woke this morning only vaguely depressed, not quite sure what all had I missed, but sure it had been some excellent jewelry besides Ellen's. Then I went to the bank to stop all my new checks, arrived in yesterday's mail, but as I didn't have my bank card with me, the man in charge, even though I have made myself extremely present and obnoxious for the past few days as I have seemingly syncopatedly managed to misplace and mismanage everything
except the dog I wasn't sure if I ought to get, wouldn't give me the new checks without my ID which was still at home where I had just been getting the rest of the shit.  So rather than miss my appointment at the Apple store to get my new computer on which I would have to reinstall every bit of information accrued over the past many I couldn't believe how many years I'd filled in, and what books I'd written that nobody even wanted besides the ones that they had bothered to look at, when there were still publishers that cared about words and aspiration, I decided I'd return later after I got my new-- sigh-- computer.  So I taxied (no Ubers) back to the Apple store in Westwood, where are working a couple of friends I've made who teach, though I don't really seem to learn anything. And there I proceeded to take instruction on the new Apple, preferred computer of choice being the one most like the one I'd lost, even though it was no cuter than the other and less expensive.  My instructor, an amiable young fellow sent for the manager to okay me for the purchase.  He came and okayed me, and on hearing my name said: "Oh, you're Gwen Davis.  We have your computer."
     Now you need to understand that we'd been telling people my name as though it should have been famous for other than stupidity since the afternoon of the afternoon before, and had no reaction.  So it isn't just me, God, if You're there.  It's the world.  
    But it's nice to have you back, in case you're in there, whoever you are.  And the moral of the story?  I'm not sure.  Send in your suggestions.  Maybe in a world where Bin Laden is dead and it still doesn't make that much difference, things are still confusing and crappy, you better call Ellen and ask her what exactly to wear.

Monday, December 07, 2015


So I sit here in Self-Absorbed LA trying to care less about Self, but afraid to think too much about or pay too much attention to what appears to be happening.  Having been many things in Life, or having tried to be many things, most important of which, I still think and hope was Human Being, I am covered with a sense of not-quite-yet-but-could-soon-be Terror, actually turning on the TV which I've never done of a morning, to check if there had been any new atrocity in the night that wasn't reported yet in The New York Times, pulled in from my not-quite stoop.  I find myself particularly sad/puzzled about what might have been in the mind, if she had one, of this female terrorist, when it came to what might become of her baby.  Where did she leave it?  What did she plan, if she planned anything so well as her arsenal? What is this all about, and it can't have anything to do with a shared humanity, since that is a word that appears not to factor into what is going on.
      So scary, and yet I am lucky enough to be in a place where no one seems tuned in enough to be scared, except of not receiving the next invitation.  As you may know if you are generous of spirit enough to read this thing, I actually dressed to the eights(one short of the nines) for the party the other evening that wasn't there yet.  In fact, the lovely and caring woman who has an unexpected core of Giving and Focus-on-Others, including ones who are actual dogs, was ready herself to attend the Event that wasn't there the next night that I saved her from, having attended it the night before when it wasn't there yet either.  Understand that I understand how empty and superficial all this is, grateful to the core of my soul which I believe I still have, that I am in a position to be superficial.  Those poor victims in San Bernardino weren't even on their way to anything.
     What's worst about all this, in my estimation, is that we will never really know what was in the mind of the couple who perpetrated the violent obscenity.  I am sad for Obama even as I want to punch him that he hasn't got the balls to be angrier, even as I know that anger is no solution.  I suppose my fury is because I'd believed him at one point to be so eloquent, and I now hear how empty his words are.
     Still I shall be off soon to the Beverly Hills Hotel for the Hanukkah Celebration which I never usually celebrate myself but passed a first installment of yesterday afternoon in Century City on my way to my Apple lesson which I still observe in case there should be a future I should comment on in some reasonable-trying-to-be-dispassionate way.  I mean, I did go to Quaker Meeting on Sunday just in case there is a God, who must be so disappointed. December 7th, after all.  Remember when wars seemed to be for a reason, even one that made so little sense?

Saturday, December 05, 2015


So it is no longer a question of when you will travel, but whether.  I am happy that I have been everyplace I really wanted to go, except Barcelona, and for that there is always the song.  There is something way past heartbreak in what has occurred with the plane being hijacked and downed, the massacre in Paris, and now the one in San Bernardino-- huh? How did anyone even know it was there?-- because there is almost no human emotion-- wait a second, not 'almost.'  There is NO human emotion in what has taken place.  Humanity is not a factor in what these people do.  They have nothing really to live for, no aspiration.  Only a wish to destroy.  So sad, and meaningless.
     Very late in what is left of my game I am glad not to regret having been everywhere I wanted to go except Barcelona. That all of this comes on the not-yet-tail of what would have been holidays underlines the sad/and empti/ness of it all.  Worst is to read about it in the Wall Street Journal, attitude adding to the sadness. They of course do not address the underlying tragedy of the USA, that all but one Republican in Congressnwon't do anything about the availability of guns.  But not just guns.  Weapons of mass murder.
     And of course Obama is far from blameless, not tightening the availability belt until after it had become more obviously disastrous, the reining in to any extent almost useless and ineffective.  I am sad that I ever pulled for the man, and no longer believe in what he says, eloquent though it may have seemed once. Especially to him.
    But politics ain't my game.  Especially now.  The front page article on d'Amato in the Times is as close as anything comes to comedy.  So I am looking forward to shows at the Beacon by Jerry Seinfeld, since it is our comedians who have become our commentators.  But I will not be attending them as I won't be hurrying back to New York.  I'm scared as well as old, though that seems no protection against Al Quaeda who are killing women of advanced years anyway, even though they may not be hoping to get raped.
  What a world, what a world.  Bill Maher begins to seem benign as well as on target.