Sunday, February 28, 2016

ACADEMY AWARDS, ALAS

     Many years ago, so many Time Magazine was still THE happening publication, and the people receiving it were in tune with everything that was taking place everywhere, Dusty Fleming was the hot hairdresser in Beverly Hills, and sometimes places out of the country where people flew him to do hair.  Sandra Burton was the brilliant new young reporter in Los Angeles for Time-- she was too shining to be simply bright:  it was the beginning of the Seventies, still extraordinary to do things as a clever woman. She went to Dusty to get her hair done, and asked him what he was doing for the Awards, and he told her he was going to this "great party."  She called me and asked if she could cover it for Time, and I nearly, as the Republican candidates being as inarticulate and tasteless as they are right now would say, peed on myself, I was so happily excited. 
      THE PRETENDERS, my novel about the Beautiful People, whom everyone assumed I knew, though I knew about them only what I was making up, with the exception of what I knew about the great showman, Billy Rose, the myth of his greatness being what he himself believed, little man that he was, dating the foul-mouthed and basically delightful, at least she was then, Sue Mengers, had been high on the bestseller list.  Sue had been my best friend, my agent, and my sister in spirit which we both had, in the beginning of our careers, anyway, and we'd both actually gone out with Billy, who enjoyed dating young, bright women.   The insights in the novel-- there were many-- lifted the book above the sexy, flashy, and highly successful dance it did, perfect for the end of that decade, and I'd connected.
      Ruth Berle, the very smart wife of Milton, former Army sergeant, (Ruth, not Milton,) read my new novel,  Touching, in manuscript, and completely approving my departure from sensationalism, became what Sandy, the reporter, was to call in her article in Time my 'doyenne,' electing to come to my Oscar party, endorsing me.  Everyone came.   I really liked Ruth.  And, as my friendship with Sandy was to be one of the great relationships in my life, I came to love Sandy. 
     My living room above Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills-- our house was divided for the evening into three: Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox-- was pictured in Time Magazine.  Our children, Madeleine and Robert, four and two, were in black tie, and the world, it seemed, was to be ahead of us.  Publicity was ALL, and this was the best of it, the shiniest link to the era's Heaven.  Lee Marvin, who had won the best male performance the year before, was there, along with everyone else who appeared to matter, including Shirley MacLaine, still cute, or seemingly so.  Stoned, she stared fixedly at a TV screen later in the evening that featured Sandor Vanocur, with whom she was bundling at the time.  She got very angry when her name appeared in the article in Time Sandy Burton wrote,  though Sandy had told her repeatedly, under her nose with pen and notebook, that she was there covering the party for Time, charitably ending up putting nothing Shirley said that was offensive, though there had been much, in the article.  Warren Cowan, publicist, told me I had to make it right with Shirley, and I spent several years trying to while I still imagined it mattered.  
       But Sandy Burton and I became true friends, in the deepest sense, even though it was Hollywood.  When she became the first woman bureau chief for Time, we both hoped and thought she would eventually become its editor.  She was posted to many important places, healing great issues, becoming an important witness to history.  She became instrumental in trying to help restore the Aquino family in the Philippines, having been on the plane with Aquino when he returned home from prison and was a witness to his assassination. 
     Eventually she was killed, hit and strangled, in all likelihood by the very self-important man she thought loved her.  I had visited her everywhere she was posted and was in Bali, my favorite place, for her death, though I had gone there for what I had thought would be a holiday.  So I was there for her funeral, having been with her the afternoon of the day she was killed, when she told me how peculiar things were with him. 
      I have not gotten over it to this day.   Bali is a place you can still literally get away with murder.  She probably left him everything,  as her family was mostly dead.  He came to her memorial in New York, where he actually stood on a platform in front of the many gathered there from the news business, trying tried to sell himself as a talent, marketable.  If I sound angry it's because I still am, along with sad.  Today is always a difficult day for me.
     
       

Saturday, February 27, 2016

BEGINNING

My mother told me she didn't like children even when she was one of them.  If that isn't a beginning for a Memoir, I don't know what would be, though it may not be the beginning for a Life.
    Because she was not a Bad woman, though she may not have been a very nice one, when she ran away from my father, she took me with her.  Thus it was that I was ripped before dawn one wintry morning when I was five from my bed, a pull-out couch in my Grandma's living room, where I had lived for all the early years I was alive.  That was in an apartment on Melwood Street in Pittsburgh where, to my mother's chagrin and deep disappointment, my father had suggested they move, right after their wedding.  What she had expected as a celebration had taken place in the basement of the building where Mom(never called that, as I remember,) Helen, had lived with her parents and four brothers and sisters most of her life, till she married this supposedly rich man.  At least that was what the word about him was, as well as the reputation of his father, Adolf, a name that could not have seemed more fitting.
       "Why don't we just move in here?" my father, Lew W. Davis, as my Uncle Harry always referred to him, in full, had said. So that was exactly what they had done.
        Because Lew, my father, worked in a drugstore, pharmaceuticals came at cost, which was lucky, as along with his credentials as a pharmacist, came hypochondria.  The medicine cabinet in the one bathroom there was for all of them once his request to move in was assented to, was overfilled with what he needed to fulfill his needs, or the imagined ones.  The rest of the family would wait in the hall to use the toilet while Lew performed his ablutions, as he actually called them. (Helen's most vivid bathroom experience had been, when, as a single woman, attending the University of Pittsburgh-- she was very bright-- a foetus fell out of her when she used the toilet, and she had flushed it down. So bright she wasn't, when it came to sex.) 
       Summers the family could overflow onto the back porch, where I gave performances of the poems I was already writing at the age of two, after my inaugural recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  According to Lew, I had said that in its entirety after hearing it read only once by him, marching into the kitchen and reciting it to my mother.  Helen, however, said she had taught it to me.  It was never clear which of them told the truth, but that had been true about many things in my life.  What was inarguable was the fact that I won The Prettiest Girl Baby in Pittsburgh contest, and had immediately reached out for the Handsomest Boy. 
    That was a pattern I'd kept up for most of my life, at least the Boy part.  Often, instead of Handsomest, it would be the Most Challenging, or the Most Difficult.  That had been true till it came to the man who would be my husband, Don, who had been the Sweetest.  But as life, to be interesting, is rarely easy, so he could not stay very long.  But that is another story. ( Actually a novel: the one I may never write.)
      Helen woke me in the middle of a night when my father wasn't home, and spirited me to the railroad station.  We took a train to D.C. where we were to change for the one to Miami.  There was a layover for some hours, so we went to a movie, The Wizard of Oz.  Not the happiest choice for a child experiencing acute anxiety, with her life coming apart.  For the next several years every night through my dreams I was chased by the witch, played by Margaret Hamilton.  One day very much later in life I chanced on that actress in a train station, and told her: "When I was a little girl..." 
     She interrupted me.  "I know," she said.  "I'm so very sorry."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

BRAIN RE-CONNECTING?

    Have been borderline right-on-target disconnected, so I haven't been writing fresh and new, but have been sifting through old reports trying to keep in tune, as our country appears to be getting crazier and scarier.  Old reports seem more uplifting, as it seems to be the past, filled as it was with the likes of Gregory Peck and Cary Grant and even Dennis Hopper that breathes healthiest.  But having gone to the drugstore and found a pharmacist who seems to be sweet and alive as they were in the old days, which they still appear to be in his pharmacy, I am sort  of re-juiced, so will check with the inside of my head/heart/soul and try and catch up, and be, as Jack my Jewru would have me, present.
     I am, as most sane people would be, in my estimation, terrified by Donald Trump, and even worse, by the number of those who seem to view him seriously.  (If you want to be as trivial as he seems, note his hands, as he flaps them around-- they are very small, and anyone from the era when sexuality counted knows what that means.)  The only Republican who seems borderline alright has very tight lips, and sexually, from the days when I wrote such things, that signified lack of generosity in the sack.  Oh, I would be sorry to even note that, but as there will still be those who would like to have genuine love affairs, instead of all this quickie shit that gets celebrated on that terrible show, in my opinion, with that awful chubby, ill-turned out youngish woman who writes it, not very cleverly.  If it seems I can't remember names or labels, that's right, that's what's been happening, but I am not afraid to admit my short/latecomings-- she is so horribly ill-clad when she is clad at all, which she really should be all the time with that body, because it is television.  It seems to be only the news that is entertaining, albeit sad when the only thing that makes sense is the exit of the Bush that grew on the side of the road.
      I have actually started, for the sake of finding out what's going on everywhere besides what's of interest to the New York Times to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. I used to write travel for the Europe edition, very alive and observant they had to admit, at least my editor who wasn't there too long because he was too tuned in for that paper, and went to work for Bloomberg, where he cared too much about what was really happening in the world, not just the money part.  Probably the best thing about being in Southern California is that one has no sense of Reality, the only bodies being in the headlines instead of the bedroom, at least for right now.
      Even the movies one tries to escape to are less than escape routes, the clever and caring man who makes them on occasion having come up with another good documentary about European countries where you can still live reasonably.  But it is hard to look at him as he has become even fatter and sloppier and in my opinion superficial still counts in movies, and he should have made some effort.  He was supposed to be on Bill Maher the other night but was in the hospital, and though Bill Maher might not be the nicest person in the world, he is smart, and having given him the courtesy of a spot should have been shown up for.  I mean, none of us gets sick voluntarily, but there are ways one could try and stay healthier, and one of them, I know from an earlier existence, is not overeating.
      My soul, if I still really have one, is starting to resuscitate itself as I have found a drugstore in walking distance so I might actually be able to live a bit longer with what I have to apply to the skin that has been here for such a good while.  I cannot help but be a little horrified at what is happening with religion, though I know it has always been a source of trouble, unkindness, and from time to time, not that infrequently, mass murder.  But screwballs, one of the least glorious words in our language, now appear to be very much on the loose in greatly organized numbers.  And though I have had the joy and unexpected privilege of having gone everywhere in the world I wanted to go, except Barcelona, officially, for the Wall Street Journal Europe, so everyone was expecting a Republican Gentile, I am sad at the plane's being downed on the desert that likely had no one on board who expected trouble, and now will never be able to expect anything.  
     I had actually thought about and considered starting a new novel, but I have published enough of them, and the publishers I knew who really liked me are gone in the truest sense.  Besides, one doesn't have to write fiction anymore as to make things seem unlikely.  I mean, consider Donald.  It is not simply his name-- my long-ago very darling husband was a Donald, and still managed to be generous of spirit and genuinely funny.  But this one seems to me potentially lethal, as well as stupid, though in a smart way.  He has raised self-aggrandizement to an art form, and I wouldn't like to hang any of the paintings it might produce, except perhaps by the throat.
      But one mustn't go on giving him too much space, though the psychics, or perhaps it is the serious newsmen,-- one can't be too sure what anyone really is anymore-- say the candidates will be Hillary and Rubio.  I don't know-- doesn't anyone care that he repeated the same thing over and over the day he repeated everything over and over?  Oh well, that just gives all of this credence and import, when the country continued through the worst of our history, and we're still here.  For a while, anyway.



     

Sunday, February 21, 2016

YOUNG HOLLYWOOD




                                    DENNIS HOPPER

         The first Hollywood party I ever attended, high in the hills, was at the rented house of an actress who belonged to the Actor’s Studio, a hot ticket at the time, because the young, beautiful, and ragingly sexual Marlon Brando was a member of that exclusive and gifted club, and was supposed to be coming to the party.  He never showed up, but Ben Gazzara was there, as was the attractively gangling Anthony Perkins, slated by studio publicists to be the replacement for the recently vanished James Dean, whose shadow loomed over the industry, dead, almost as imposingly as did Marlon’s alive.  Awkward and very young, as was almost everyone there, longing for connection, I went down the stairs outside the kitchen into the garden. 
            A stocky young man, (big little boy he more accurately seemed to me,) came out of the bushes.  “I crashed this party,” he said.  “Fuck everyone!”
         So it was I first encountered Dennis Hopper.
         You need to understand that this was the late Fifties, when people still apologized even for the sloppily dropped ‘Jesus.’  Language was not yet a weapon to fell an opponent, or paralyze with shock, though it already was for the seventeen year old blond kid, with his short legs and even shorter fuse.
         “Hi,” I said, trying to conceal my Inner Priss.
         “I come from Kansas, which is nowhere,” he said, I would imagine already into the characterization he would assume for somebody’s novel. “And I hate my parents, who are no one.”
         Writer that I already was, and novelist that I was soon to be, I knew I had found what they were to label not long afterwards “a keeper,” though the truth is you can’t keep anyone for more than a limited span, as I was to learn from the news that Dennis died.  But for that moment, and a long number of colorful moments afterwards, we were friends.  But then, with both of us still jauntily into our youths, Dennis' was visibly more jaunty than mine. We went directly from the party to Googie’s, a hamburger joint on Sunset Boulevard, where Dennis, to hear him tell it, had spent numberless hours with Jimmy Dean, who had been his “best friend.”
        Another “best friend” of Dean’s, Nick Adams, lived across from me on Rothdell Trail, a short, winding side road off Laurel Canyon where Jim Morrison was to live a few years later, a street that got its name, according to Tony Perkins,  who was infinitely cleverer than people knew or imagined, from “where Roth first broke through the underbrush.” Dennis and Nick had both been minor players in ‘Rebel Without a Cause,” so both of them claimed to have been Dean’s most prized buddy, which he was no longer alive to validate or deny.  Dennis would come to my house, and taking a long length of rope, attaching it to my porch guard-rail, would swing across the narrow lane and land on Nick’s porch, crying “Fuck Errol Flynn!”
         I found it both comic and endearing, though my father, then about to run for mayor of Tucson, Arizona, as a Republican, yet, on reading my first novel, Naked in Babylon,  in which Dennis was a featured character, fictionally  named Linus Archer, said “Couldn’t he say ‘Screw Errol Flynn?’”  But the answer was no, he couldn’t, and I couldn’t bowdlerize what seemed to me one of the most original, deliberately offensive and unintentionally funny people I’d ever known.  Annoyed by my crush on Tony Perkins, in a world and industry that still kept its sexually ambivalent leading men in the closet, Dennis stole the big cutout of Tony in ‘Friendly Persuasion’ from the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese and put it in my back yard. 
       I awakened that morning to find Dennis sitting on a rock beside that bigger than life-sized depiction that caused my heart to skip several beats (not out of longing, at least not just then,) grinning and saying “You’d still rather have him?”  When the answer was ‘Yes,’ he drove off angrily, for an assignation with the teenaged Natalie Wood, but that is another story.
      After bringing him into the home of my mentor and guide, a kind man who thought I should write a novel, and was, though an esteemed literary critic in the community, himself infatuated with the whole Hollywood scene, I found out, to my very young and inexperienced horror, that Dennis bedded the critic’s wife.  (“Do you think less of me?” she asked.  “Well, yeah,” I didn’t say aloud.)  It was one thing my writing lurid sex scenes; quite another finding out they took place in real life.  My God, I was young, but bear in mind that Dennis was even younger.
      I let him read the finished novel, and he was pleased.  Besides my teacher’s wife and Natalie and an uncounted number of eager women, he was also a deep admirer of Ernest Hemingway, quoting him all the time, or, more accurately, misquoting, though that, too, worked for fine comic effect.  He liked to think of himself as the hero in The Sun Also Rises,  his balls having been cut off by an insensitive society, failing to recognize his genius.
     “This is my friend, Gwen,” he said, introducing me to an older relative. “She’s written the best fuck…. the best damned book about Hollywood, ever.”
      It was, I would venture, most likely the last time he thought to watch his language.
      He was proud of getting into fights with directors, getting fired, and, not too long after, getting high—eventually higher than anyone.  I lost track of him for several years, but met his first ex-wife, Brook Hayward, the beautiful daughter of the producer Leland Hayward and the actress Margaret Sullavan at a party in Beverly Hills.  She told me sighingly and long of their passionate mismatch and divorce, adding “My luck I divorced him before ‘Easy Rider.’”  That movie had, of course, made a fortune, and changed the course of films.
         Still, I regarded him as lucky, since there was nothing about his acting that I considered first-rate, his vocal tone being rather monotonous, and his depictions, except when he played villains, seeming uninspired.  But his photography was fine, his art collection impressive, as was his own art to a number of people, including the French. I was happy for his success, and glad to run into him at a cafĂ© in Taos, New Mexico, where he sported a ten-gallon hat and a five-year old named Henry, spawn of his latest (then fourth) marriage.
         “Say hello to my old friend Gwen,” he said to Henry.
         “Why?” said Henry.
         “Because I asked you to,” said Dennis.
         “Fuck you,” Henry said.

         I could not help thinking that the evil that men speak lives after them, the good language is oft interred with their bones.  Still, as many mistakes as he might have made, as many confused children as he might have fathered, I could not help but be sad, that this youngest rebel without a cause (he certainly tried to be)came to a painful end of a very troubled, but surprisingly accomplished road.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

DODO DAY

       ‘DODO’ DAY, ‘YIP’ HARBURG, TERRY MELCHER, & JERRY ROSENTHAL

When I was just out of college, my parents sent me to Europe, as parents in that era with a bit of cash and hopes for their progeny did.  I ended up singing the songs I  wrotein a nightclub in Paris, on the Right Bank even though it was a Left Bank activity.
My mother came to whisk me away from the “wicked life” she was convinced I was living in Paris. Leo Jaffe, the treasurer of Columbia Pictures, friendly with my parents, with a crush on my mother, sent a detective to check out my Paris activities.  He reported back I was performing for and probably sleeping with schwartzes, Yiddish for ‘blacks,’ mainly those populating the night life of Paris.  When I was hospitalized briefly for what seemed to be appendicitis-- but turned out to be an allergy to Beaujolais-- my mother was convinced I had had an abortion.  This was particularly ironic, since the self-administered title ‘The Last Innocent in Paris’ label was, in spite of my efforts to be otherwise, adhering all too well.  I was twenty, longing to be undone.  One night as I strolled in the moonlight by the river Seine I offered myself to the man I adored, Gene Moskowitz, the Paris Variety critic. His response was simple. “Gwen, I could never violate you: you’re the last pure thing in Show Business.”    
            So virginal still, and embarrassed about it, I went to meet Mama at the Cannes Film Festival, where Leo had gotten us V.I.P.ed.  (I must here put in an aside: my mother, darkly petite and beautiful, was, for the whole of her life, a magnet to men. Leo carried an ever-illuminated torch for her, and was furious when, when he introduced her to Jack Valenti, the longtime president of the Motion Picture Association, and Jack succeeded in taking her to bed in Rome.  She told me it was the first time in her life she had an orgasm without foreplay.  So much for that stiff little man who appeared so colorless at the Academy Awards, as he always had.)           
            It was the year Grace Kelly was Hollywood’s princess, before becoming Monaco’s.  She’d spent long and languid hours on the beach with Jean-Pierre Aumont, smooching in full view of those on the tiny, uncomfortable pebbles they consider sand in that part of the world.  Observers included me.  Shortly after that season Aristotle Onassis, who held markers on the Casino at Monte Carlo, and indeed, many claimed, owned the whole principality of Monaco, reportedly negotiated her engagement to Prince Rainier, thus assuring the advent of profitable tourism.
            But lovely as Grace Kelly was, and amazing as the very public lovemaking seemed on the part of such a legendarily well-bred woman, from the Main Line, yet, I was less interested in her than the blonde next door.  Doris Day was the #1 Box Office attraction in movies, possessed of a rich, smiling voice with a tear in it, and I was a starting-gate songwriter, not to mention an incipient groupie.   So I talked to her and we became friends, Doris, her husband Marty Melcher, and her son Terry, whom Marty had adopted and given his name.
            They were in Europe at the time because Doris was on her way to Morocco to make ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ with James Stewart, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  They were to stop in London, where I would also be.  She told me how I could reach her.  I couldn’t wait to.  I was given the privilege of baby-sitting her son, Terry, who was then an ornery, freckle-faced twelve.
            “Buckingham Palace, who needs it?!” Terry complained as I took him on a tour of the city.  “The Tower of London, who needs it?! Let’s go to Wimpy’s and have a Wimpyburger.”  So that’s what we did. (They were not very good, but they were burgers.)  I was later to write a song called ‘Who Needs It?’ and present it to Marty, a powerful song publisher, due in no small part to his wife’s importance, when I met them again in Los Angeles.  But meanwhile I endured the obnoxious plaints of little Terry, because I had an agenda.
            Besides being a songwriter, I did love Doris.  How could you not?  She was as sweet as she was apple-pie pretty, and seemingly guileless.  She was uncomfortable around Jimmy Stewart: he was as shy as she was.  While Doris, Stewart and his new wife, Gloria, shopped for cashmere sweaters, I came along and was allowed to watch.  Among Doris’ other enviable traits was the perfect figure for sweater sets, which she bought in a variety of colors, as many as she wanted, the only evidence of her super-stardom, one I considered hardly extravagant.  I could see with my yearning eyes, peering out of my very chubby face, where it paid to be a movie star, especially with the body she had.
            Che sera sera, as she’d sung in the song.   When I arrived in Hollywood a while later, I called her, and she invited me to come meet her at her attorney’s house, where they were going to play tennis on Sunday.  Her attorney was Jerome B. Rosenthal,  Marty’s partner in a company Jerry had created to catch every drop of money from Doris’ films and records.  Jerry was a genius—an evil genius many were to say—the first lawyer to incorporate movie stars, so they could own the profits from their pictures, swinging better deals with the studios they made movies for, for example, Universal.  Kirk Douglas was a client.  Supposedly to this day, With Douglas one hundred years old, the mere mention of Jerry’s name calls up wrath in that actor’s eyes.  Another he represented, Ross Hunter, the most successful producer of the over-lush movies of his era, would be known to weep if anyone spoke of Jerry, who Ross said had wiped him out.  Jerry handled just about everyone of major importance in the industry. And, as it later came to light when Doris sued him after Marty’s death, charging the two of them had colluded to cheat her out of what should have been a fortune, apparently screwed them all.
But he was kind to me.  He liked my songs and incorporated me and made me my own publishing company at no cost, never taking any share of my royalties, probably because there weren’t many.   At one point when I visited Jerry’s office he had a papier-mache layout of an entire region he was planning to incorporate and make into a kind of country in South America.  I think it was in Ecuador.  Years later, when Mel Brooks and Buck Henry did ‘Get Smart’ on television, there was a character called ‘Mr. Big,’ played by Michael Donne, a dwarf, and Maxwell Smart lamented “If only he had turned his badness to goodness, he might have really been MR. BIG.”  That was the way I ultimately came to feel about Jerry, who could have run and owned Hollywood without having to start his own country, had he only learned to enjoy being straightforward.
Still, that day on the tennis court at his home, he seemed and was as affable a man as I had ever encountered.  Gracious and funny, with a sour-faced wife whose bags were already probably packed against the day she would leave him, he went out of his way to be welcoming to me, introducing me to the great lyricist who was to become my mentor, E.Y. Harburg. Better known as ‘Yip,’ Harburg was the gentle, genial wordsmith who gave us the lyrics of some of the world’s greatest songs, from the score of ‘Wizard of Oz’ to ‘Finian’s Rainbow,’ and had made the Depression woefully easier to bear with ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.’
I was the only one at courtside that Sunday without credits, much less fame or a portfolio.  So the fact that Jerry seemed to take me into his circle was more than heartwarming.  I believe I might have sung a song or five during the lunch they served on the patio, still shamelessly a performer, as I’d been in the Mars Club in Paris, doing my own songs.  But I was also looking for some recognition from Marty, who could have published them.  And, of course, from Doris.
 “That’s Double A Ascap stuff,” Marty declared with a mix of admiration and disinterest, as Bobby Darin had just come out with  ‘Splish-splash’ and changed the face and the ears of the music business.  Rock and roll had come in; sentimental and witty ballads were out.
But at least I had made some inroads into the songwriting business, rutted though those inroads were.  Jerry became my protector, and Yip became my songwriting guru, cheering me on. 
         As for Doris, I didn’t see her much after that.  But several years later, I met Terry again.   Marty had been long dead and well in the past was the famous lawsuit Doris brought against Jerry.  It had landed him in jail—not because he had cheated her, that was a civil, money penalty, but because he thought he was smarter than anybody, (and really was) but couldn’t keep his mouth shut, so kept arguing with the judge.  He was sentenced to two years for contempt.
      My friend A. E. Hotchner, who’d written Doris’ bio, after a more famous and exemplary earlier stint as the author of Papa Hemingway, gave a party at a house in Coldwater Canyon, with his friend and partner in the food business, Paul Newman.   It was right in the middle of Watergate, and I had been spending considerable time in Washington, researching a novel, staying in the homes of Republicans, trying to find the good guys, even while deploring Nixon and hoping he would be brought down. 
       “There are no good guys in this bunch,” Paul Newman said, his fabled blue eyes steely.
       Terry was present at the party.  He wanted to know how much I knew about what Jerry was up to, what the fallen lawyer had told me, what leftover threads there were.
        My mother and my stepfather, an investment banker in New York, himself a bit of a scalawag, but always above the law, had become friends with Jerry through me, so I knew a lot more about what had happened to him than Terry did.  When Jerry went to jail, the one who would accept his collect calls from prison was my mother.  Having served his term, Jerry was now living on the wrong side of the tracks where the streetcars used to run through Beverly Hills.  He was gaunt, apparently impoverished, wearing threadbare clothes, this man who had been so dashing, so on top of the world, so smart.  I told him I had seen Terry, who wanted to know what Jerry was up to.  “Be careful,” Jerry warned me.  “It’s become a war of attrition.”
He had told me of Terry’s visits to the Spahn ranch, where Charles Manson welcomed him, as Charley, too, was a would-be songwriter, and thought Terry would help him through Marty’s publishing company.  It was Jerry’s contention that Linette ‘Squeeky’ Frome, who’d gone on to make an assassination attempt at President Gerald Ford, had been romantically involved with Terry.  It was Jerry’s further assertion that it was actually Terry who was the target of the Manson Family’s murderous rampage, ending with the infamous deaths, including Sharon Tate’s, of those who were living in the house Roman Polanski had rented.  From Terry Melcher.  Hell hath no fury like a songwriter scorned.
I look at all this now, decades later, and wonder how I could have known all these people without really knowing them, and how it was I could have had access to all the information that I had when nobody else really knew anything.  And why it was I did not become an investigative journalist, instead of all the other things I did become—Writer, songwriter, mother, widow, travel writer, and quester.  Is there such a category?  Is that what I still am now, and what I will be for whatever time is left me?