You didn't think about being brave in those days. If you were lucky enough to have received and completed a college education, you didn't hesitate to go off into the adventure that was going to be Life, especially if you had a wealthy step-father and a mother who couldn't wait for you to get out of New York, because you weren't pretty enough to be paired with someone prominent, were chubby, and had a tendency to become infatuated with inappropriate but talented men.
George Segal had been a student at Haverford, the men's college, it was then, just down the road. Gifted and funny he was, and smitten was I, the two of us being into performing, putting on an original musical revue till the president of Bryn Mawr told me there was no professional show biz in that part of the world if you wanted to graduate. George thought it was because I wanted to control the whole thing, so we fought-- at least he did; I mainly wept on the phone, fasted for the summer so he would love me, came back thinned only to find out he had transferred to Columbia.
So I gained it all back. I don't know how any of us lived through our late teenage years, they were so fraught. George and I never resolved it, and he never became publicly the great talent he seemed in private, in the beginning, at least.
Anyway, the McGiverns were my strength and guide(mostly Bill) when I had a house on the beach in the south of Spain, so long ago that I was the only American in Fuengirola, first village past Torremolinos, already becoming a shade touristy. Bill came to my first party carrying two bottles of wine, and said "It's all right, I just sold a book to Harry Belafonte." Hot times, gentle in their comedy. Wrote my first novel there. It was really terrible.
But up the road, staying with the McGiverns, was Richard Lester, a true Dick he was, with that name, probably sent from a long-range viewing Universe, who could see what he would become, and not just focus on the user he was, already. Living with the McGiverns, feeding off of them, literally, he bedded me down, saying "It's all right; I'll close my eyes and try to pretend it's someone I like." Not exactly a happy beginning for one's sexual history. Try to remember that when you're looking back on 'A Hard Day's Night,' his launch into motion pictures.
But there in the south of Spain he was simply, or maybe complicatedly, a user, which looking back on from across all these decades seems actually gifted, since none of us really knew what our lives would be, besides Bill, who had already published a number of mysteries, and his wife Maureen, who had written what was known as a Catholic classic, Seventeeth Summer. I would say it was an interesting crowd, except there weren't all that many of us. There was a piano I rented for the Bar Central in Torremolinos, that I sat at to write songs by, songs I sang as we all-- not that many of us-- drank wine. Local and white. The wines, that is, as well as us.
Frank and Eleanor Perry were on the edges of that small crowd, and there were a number of actual foreigners--that is to say they were other than Spaniards: some Germans, probably a couple of war criminals. It was a fascinating time, if you could get away from your own belly-button, which it wasn't easy to do at twenty. The waves gentled up to my back gate, wooden, and it was a brand of adventure I haven't had since, it was all so fresh.
But one day the seemingly struggling and impoverished Dick got into a friend's car to drive up to Paris and begin his professional life. Everybody gave him something for his adventure. The car was a convertible with a soft top that thieves cut into and stole everything out of, including a few thousand dollars that Dick hadn't told anybody he had while he scrounged off everybody and actually solicited cash support. Not exactly a nice guy, but he did do a couple of really good movies, so I am glad that I let myself be violated only physically by someone of talent, since gifts and personal virtues are not mutually exclusive.
Ah, but that was then. So Long Ago, it is hard to imagine everybody's being present and vital. But we all were, none of us thinking in terms of aging or death or there being a panoply of the untalented actually able to take over. For a while, anyway.