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.