I received a gift in the very costly mail-- the stamp a printed receipt, sadly there were no actual stamps I would have been able to give to my grandsons, as they would probably be worth a fortune one day as there will doubtless be only delivery services that cost too much, was 11pounds.25, --probably about thirty-five or forty dollars. I am as touched as I am subliminally pissed-off, as I would have been glad and proud to offer those to my grandsons, who might finally have been impressed by something I did. Not that they don't care about me, but we see each other rarely, and I am from that generation that is clearly older, so not to be taken to heart.
But I am truly moved that a friend I made in Amsterdam, when I was living there and going for comfort and instruction to the Apple store, would have gone to the trouble and thought of sending me a gift. The present itself is quietly glorious, a book of black and white photographs she took that are, in themselves, true art. But as much as by the art, I am moved by the gesture.
A Gift! Almost no one has done that who was not family since my play, The Best Laid Plans, opened on Broadway. And almost immediately closed. The most memorable thing about it was my giving birth to Madeleine so that I was unable to attend the premiere which was almost the dernier. Mel Brooks was, at the time, a close friend, and I had written the comedy in hopes of its starring my favorite actress, and wife of Mel, Anne Bancroft. I loved her truly, and we had walked one night long and talking alongside the West Side Highway, at the end of which Mel lay sleeping, when she told me sometimes she leaned over and listened to him breathing to make sure he was really alive, because she couldn't believe how happy she was.
Nothing lasts forever but that's not something you understand when you are young, especially when you have a play opening on Broadway.
The wonderful leading man, was Edward Woodward, whose name, spoken too rapidly a number of times in succession makes you take him less than seriously, though he did become a great star, but not in my play. Besides being gifted and truly a gent, he was effortlessly elegant, being British. He is now dead, as is almost everyone noted I knew, which was almost everyone. He was uncomfortable in the role, that was more or less a straight Edward Albee, so if you know anything about theater you'd know how little I actually understood about sex. The leading lady was Madlyn Rhue, whom we made our newborn daughter's godmother when she was fired, shortly before opening night, while I was in the hospital giving birth. Oh, it was an amazing time, with all the young heads of all the major studios coming to my hospital room with expensive bouquets before the performance, unreachable once the reviews came out.
Don came to take me to theatre from the hospital, in time for the closing line and the applause, but it wasn't there. Mel and Annie drove us back to the theatre, and Mel said: "Well, you had two things happen this week. If one of them had to be less than perfect, if your daughter had been born with six toes, and two noses... that would have been okay: what mattered was the show." So we laughed really hard and that made everything all right. Sort of.
Mel and Annie remained our true close friends through the difficult, empty days that followed, that vacant, joyless time, when we couldn't get anybody on the phone. After that, we moved to California, where he'd been offered a job on the Carol Burnett show, because I'd asked her, secretly. She was a friend, and Gentile though she was, had a generous heart.
By that time Mel and Annie had both become superstars, so the friendship pretty much ended. But Mel did send a lot of movies for Don to watch on TV when he was dying, not very late in his game: he was forty-four. We had started our life in California living in Carol's guest house: she was really generous. But having been through a number of imperiling disappointments and disasters herself, involving love and children, she can be more than forgiven for pretty much having been unable to recognize me when we ran into each other a number of decades later. Oh, Life, it really does spin out some sagas, especially if you live long enough.
Annie, whom I loved probably more than any other friend I later lost, came to M-G-M as a surprise drop-in, where I'd gone to have lunch with Mel as the super-hero he had become, for help in bringing to life a comedy for which she would have been glorious as the mother, (mine,) which she desperately wanted to play. But by that time she had lost her glow, and then she died, which always dims your light.
So as I look back at the life I have had, surprising myself, as what I always did was look ahead, I realize I have known fairly intimately, most of the people I admired, many of whom seemed to admire me back. It's a really strange thing, retrospect. When you drive on Pico Boulevard now and see the billboards on the side of the studio, and who is in what, you sort of understand why movies only play in theatres for a couple of weeks. If that. Nothing lasts forever, except idiocy, as you can tell from the newspapers.
Where are we going to move?