Sunday, March 20, 2016


So as it is Sunday, and I would like to think that my thinking is clearer on an alleged day of rest, I went into the editorial section of The New York Times, and read their opinion section.  There was an article by Katie Roiphe, one of the brighter people around-- about farewell thoughts from smarties who mostly don't get a chance to deliver one.  And probing what is left peaceful in my innards, I recollected the last communication I got from Mom, who, as friends know, was hardly one of those.  A tough, angry woman, she was probably borderline brilliant.  But having been raised to believe that men were better, she subverted herself and what there probably was of gifted intellect, devoting herself to capturing someone exceptional, not understanding that had she maximized her own capacity for excellence, she might not have been so frustrated, and so might have been less angry, less destructive, and so maybe not so crazy.  
     I have written about her, in the days when my writing was really good, something I can say shamelessly as I don't think I am any longer that person, having lived through several incarnations, a lot of loss, hopefully some growth and spiritual transformation-- that is to say: I hope that the dreams we are sold and sell ourselves have some substance, and there is an invisible guidance behind or above it all.  I don't think there was ever a better character than my mother this side of the Brontes, only funny.  
      As I said, I don't feel vain or self-serving anymore because I couldn't do it now, the author of all that is sort of dead, as I have outlived her and have been gifted with a sort of Afterlife.  Only today, reading that editorial in The New York Times, which still seems the smartest of all newspapers, though I read the Wall St. Journal to seem fair at least to myself, I realized that I have probably been blessed, if there is any reality to spiritual hopes and longings, with having been given time and opportunity to create, although not granted the serious attention given to... say, Phillip Roth, a great wordsmith but someone totally lacking a soft underbelly, which I really believe you need to have in order to feel completely.  Had he only come equipped with a heart as great as his brain and penis, he might have been It.
     But for all Helen's cruelty, not invented but observed, the second child driven mad, Jessica, the complex and gifted husband driven away, Puggy, she had an undeniable ability to see and put into words, at least those I can remember.  When she came to the end of her life, she sent me a note through whatever service was available wherever I was.  "Don't be happy," she wrote, "and don't be sad.  Just understand that Life goes on, and we all do the best we can."
       That does, somehow, say it all.  So even as I worry about what will become of our world with the lunatics who have their fingers on not just the triggers, but the hopes and dreams and furies and stupidities, I am grateful for the run I have had, the places I have been, the people I have known, the dances I have done and am still sort of doing.  If that sounds as though I am resigned, it's probably because I am not anywhere I can make a difference.  Or not be concerned about Donald Trump.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


SO there I was, having coffee on the corner with my dear, very low-key-smart friend Wayne, husband of Seppy, my once landlady.  He'd brought along a friend he wanted me to meet, a smart lady lawyer who had been a victim of Bikram, my old and obviously (or less than obviously) sexually rapacious yoga teacher. "You are my most honest student," he'd said to me, when I quit class to do yoga on my own, his allowing it because he trusted me.  I really appreciated him, having never before been agile, nor any idea he was a molester, which he apparently later was to become Big Time.
      Then a lot of green went by the bakery and I was informed it was St. Patrick's Day.  My God.  Or maybe their God.  But at any and all rates, actual St. Patrick's Day.  The anniversary of my first date with Don.  The Nicest Man in the World.
      How lucky I was, or maybe there is Destiny, and I had done something in a previous life if there is one to deserve being divinely cared for, if only once and then just while young, that we got married.  I was silly and empty in a gifted way before and after and even sometimes during.  But he was special special special, he loved me with his whole heart, and was big and handsome besides.
     At the time I felt failed as a would-be writer, and was working for my stepfather, a Wall Street investment banker.  He should have been something that engaged his intellect and imagination, as he had much of both, but it was New York, and you had to be tough if you came from poverty, and were to own a Jackson Pollock, which he did, being a friend of the art critic, Clement Greenberg, who had found Pollock and knew Puggy had a soft heart and was the only one of their friends with money, so got him The Blue Unconscious. He and his older brother, Harvey, being struggling Wall Street would-be brokers, had taken an ad in The New York Times, the day Roosevelt closed the banks, saying: "Business will be conducted as usual in the offices of Schwamm and Co." (Nobody had said you couldn't do business-- they just knew Roosevelt had closed the banks.) So all business in America that day was done through Schwamm & Co.  They'd made a fortune, earning the enmity of every investment broker in America, and were never able to get a seat on the Exchange.
       I was trying all those years later, or seeming to try-- being in the investment business, as it seemed I wasn't going to make it as a writer.  So Puggy - that was his name- being generous, having married my mother, was letting me work for him, in my half-hearted, half-assed struggle to be a broker. I couldn't even do math and add anything up much less travel down to the office on the subway.  Also I was fat, which is never an 'also' when you are young, as I still was. That day, when I showed up for work, Puggy took one look at me and said: "You're starting to turn into my Aunt Jenny.  You better go out on a date."  
     I didn't really know anyone who would ask me.  But I was in the middle of talking about writing a possible TV movie with some guy who had probably stolen it and would have and indeed managed to screw me on the writing of it, when Puggy said that.  So I called that number, and Don answered the phone.  We talked for a moment and he asked if I wanted to get together.  I didn't remember him at all, as he had been the nice one at the meeting, and what I usually paid attention to was the smart ass.  But I said okay.  
      I had a cold.  It was audible.  I waited for Don  in the doorway of whatever bar/restaurant it was on 52nd St- East, not even recollecting his being handsome and tall, which he was very much both of.  But apparently he remembered my cold.  He brought as gifts: a box of Kleenex, nose-drops, cough drops, vitamin C.  And a Green Carnation. 
       It was St. Patrick's Day.
      All that has just come back to me, in a Green Flash.  How lucky I was!  There was a TV show hostess, Virginia Graham, whose show I used to do all the time, good talker that I was, who said to me when she met him: "God had his arm around you."  I think that is the truth, if there is a God, which I usually believe except when a man like Donald Trump actually seems like he has a shot at becoming what would clearly be Dictator.
      I did not get a chance to keep Don for very long.  But we did have two children, several small dogs, and as good a life as anyone. For a while, anyway.  I imagine that's as fine as it gets. Nobody lives forever except James Bond and now probably the cast of Hamilton.
      I have, besides this wonderful recollection, the same birthday as Irving Berlin, the great songwriter you will only remember if you are no longer young.  He lived till 100, or maybe 101, which I don't really hope or want to.  But he did write 'God Bless America.' So I certainly hope God is listening, and will save us from the  maniac Trump, who isn't even that smart.  Just fiendish.
      My beautiful friend, the Angel Carleen, who works as a waitress to keep her family afloat, has done a number of his promotional parties in his apartment.  She told me the furniture doesn't even have any backs to it.  It's all a Facade.

Monday, March 14, 2016


     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?

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Many many years ago this was a most important day for me, as it undoubtedly was for Liza. She came at midnight to my hotel room in Mexico, where I was visiting her as she made 'LUCKY LADY', seemingly certain to be the biggest hit of the coming season, as she was the biggest coming star.  Actually, she was a major star already, as Elizabeth Taylor's star was fading, faded, really, and it was at Elizabeth's Beverly Hills party, to which I had been invited, being, for the moment one of Elizabeth's truest, seemingly best friends, that Liza had blown in, borderline anxious as she always was, and headed straight for me.
     Don was still very much alive, young and handsome, and as always ready and available to help me with my writing, which we both assumed was going to make me into a true figure for our time, as nobody had a better eye or a crisper tongue.  He had just come back from the library downtown where he'd found the article about the man killed in Arizona, I think it was, probably by Burt Reynolds, who was good at protecting ladies, especially after hours.  I was in the midst of trying to make a career as a serious writer in Filmville, and this was a real story that had not been seriously focussed on except maybe in one of the magazines that was trying to present itself as serious even when it published pieces about Hollywood murders. Everybody involved in this one had doubtless been paid off, the story had mostly disappeared, and Don was such a Good Guy-- I give it caps because that was what he deserved, probably in lights--that he had gone to the library to get all the information available. When he came back we went to Elizabeth's party, where Liza, not really someone I was at all close to, made a beeline for me as though I were her truest and best friend, and said to me that she was going to Mexico to make this movie Lucky Lady with Burt Reynolds and she didn't know anyone working on it, and would I go with her.
     I was, at the time, very much into the mysterious, and this seemed divinely choreographed. So it was that I went and got into a dark and shallowly deep adventure that I will probably remember and recount in detail on my deathbed,-- I believe the village was Fuengirola.  Places have begun to vague up, or down.  But I do remember that the venal jerk producing it was excited that I was along, and said maybe I could write about it for the New York Times, as I still had some prestige as a writer.  But when everything started going wrong with the movie, camera boats and spirits sinking, he was afraid I was going to write about it, and tried to have me arrested or killed or run out of town, whatever he could manage, except that my father was the mayor of Tucson and his bank was helping finance the movie.  Oh, what a life I have had, if only I had amounted to something.
     Also the movie was to have co-starred George Segal, the crush of my college years, at Haverford while I was at Bryn Mawr, our having been talented together in shows and my having kissed him once Junior Year as we looked down at the hockey field, thinking that was great love. I had been fat, and fasted all that following summer to win his heart or maybe more accurately his penis, only to come back to find out he had transferred to Columbia, when I'd gone upstairs and gained back all forty pounds.  
      Now, in Mexico, George had dropped out of Lucky Lady, so it was another ten or twelve or maybe twenty years until I ran into him again and he had really become a shit, though maybe that's what he really was all along.  But I saw him last night in Virginia Woolf and he really had been good-looking as well as gifted, so maybe I wasn't as crazy as it seemed. It must be hard on him having become as old man unappealing as he has, though maybe he's grateful just to be still alive.
     Anyway, it's Liza's birthday, and I am remembering her coming to my room that midnight counseling me not to be foolish about my family, and her sounding absolutely wise for the only time I can remember her sounding so, as I was tilted over movies and movie stars.  I hope she is all right, though I understand that she herself is genuinely on a slant.
    Life.  It isn't the way it seemed in the magazines.

P.S.  To be accurate, her birthday is the 12th, if she is still around next year and you want to send her a card.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


As my husband lay dying, he opened his eyes, saw me, and said “You’re still here.”
“Where else would I be?” I asked.
“You could have gone to the south of France,” he said.  "You could have gone to a Bryn Mawr Reunion.”

That was the last place we had gone happily together, the May before he was diagnosed, too late for it to be any good, by the doctor who was his best friend but the worst doctor, and had missed it completely, treating him only for a backache.  By the time a competent man took an x-ray, Don came home to me, white-skinned and terror-wide- eyed, and said “my right lung is completely gone.”
    Our son was sixteen at the time, and is now forty-seven.  It is still almost impossible for me to write about.
    I read the book about losing her husband by Joan Didion, the much admired writer, for whom that piece of work added more powerfully and publicly to her bruited-about esteem.  Honey, she didn’t go through anything.

     I made a friend through a circle of Loss I joined at the time, whose name now I cannot even remember, as I cannot remember much of what my life was when it seemed and was celebrated as meaningful, by friends and family while they were still around.  The widowed friend was young, beautiful and extremely wealthy, and had come directly home from the yachting outing where her young husband had gone down in a dive and come up with a heart attack, whose best friend/yacht owner never spoke to her again once they had taken the fallen man to the hospital, where he died.  
    All Don’s friends, and many were noted, as it was in Hollywood, the Beverly Hills branch, sadly celebrated his departure.  But most of them dropped me almost directly after the funeral.  He had been only forty-four. 
    I am now actually old, older than I ever considered I might become, as the brightness of youth had always been my most salient characteristic.  I said the Gettysburg Address when I was two, and was the neighborhood star, which meant a great deal even though it was Pittsburgh. The places I have lived in my extended journey have been infinitely more colorful, but I feel connected to none of them, especially Beverly Hills where I am now, though on the wrong side of Wilshire, the elder equivalent of “the tracks.”
     I go today to a celebration of Mike Nichols, the great director, but not that great human being, in my estimation, which doesn’t really count as I never became as important as Mike Nichols, and this is a community, which I am generous to call it since few are those who really pull together unless they can do each other some public good, where they mostly only care about each other if they can do that.  Some good, that is.
     But he was brilliant, and there was a moment when we almost became buddies.  But I blew it, so I am going to his memorial in case there is an afterlife and his spirit is floating around above the important heads, as I’d like him to know I care. After all, Shakespeare was smarter than anybody, and certainly more gifted, and he seemed to believe in ghosts.  Or maybe that was just because he thought they made for good poetry.  
     I wouldn’t really mind being hit with a little of that.

Friday, March 11, 2016


       But it's true.  That's who I have known.  
       Having set my computer aside as I have been alive long enough to have to go to the skin doctor to make sure I will have things taken care of so I can live even longer, I went over what I have written recently and discovered that it is not so much that THEY are dead, the people worth knowing, as the people who seem to get the attention of Today.  I cannot even write the name(I think I finally did, once) of the horror who grabs TV attention and now even a small crowd or so outside the Montage Hotel where she stays(and I mention the name only because my beloved Mr. Bowling, Frank, once and for all the years that it still counted, manager of the Hotel Bel-Air, is an executive there.)   Undoubtedly he will be going to the funeral of Nancy Reagan, as she lunch-quartered there, (a substitute for headquartered) when there were women who could still walk, wear designer clothes and eat at the same time. Though not very much.
     I have been going over all of my recently sent REPORTS to try and determine what it is I should be writing, and have come to the conclusion that it is what I have been, since everybody worth knowing is probably dead, with the exception of Ellen the head of Share, sister of Maxine the artist and wife of Gary Smith, the last selfless man in show business, who still does it because it is a good idea and not because he is seeking a reward.  The very word "memoir" is repellent to me, as it seems so pretentious and self-important, and I have such a good title for my not-to-be-referred-to as "memoir" it is a shame to refer to it as anything other than its title, which I am afraid of giving away, as everybody is so less than honest and real they are elevating Kardashians. There, I couldn't help it.
      When I think of the sands of Bali, washing up the murdered, and all the places I have been lucky enough to go and be and be almost realized fully, except for the love affairs I might have had if I had been less choosy, I become almost wistful.  There are still some things that eat at my soul, mostly that Sandy, my favorite friend, the flawless journalist and totally un-self-involved human being, was killed by the man who elevated himself with their relationship and tried to elevate himself even further after her homicide which I can't quite call murder, as maybe it was just something that happened because he was drunk and he didn't intend.  Isn't it funny how you can't ever let that go, just because she was such an amazing human being who always got the facts straight except about the man she was living with.  Or maybe that was just insight, and journalists don't come equipped with that: all they can see is the facts, and the fact that she would be killed by him was not there for her to see in advance.
    Just as the facts of Donald Trump, whose true ancestral name was Drump, which is really more like telling it how it is, seem to be invisible to those who actually admire him.  They are sadly and apparently, though not to them, unaware of how scary he is.  The real upside of being Old, is the fact that one won't have to be around.  What is most sad about it, in my opinion, clearly opinionated, is that Bernie's program of getting everybody educated could not be realized in retrospect, so people could see how awful Drump is.  When you strike that not quite exactly on the MacBook Air, you get Trump, Dump, Drum, Rump, Grump, Crump and Frump.
     Maybe it knows better than we do.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


There is to be a celebration of Mike Nichols this weekend at the probably wonderful theatre built recently in Beverly Hills, and I am hoping everyone will go who really loved comedy.   I say probably wonderful because I went to one or two evenings there and didn't have my chops up, my spirit being more or less decimated as it seems to have been most of the time I am in Los Angeles, where the weather is kind to my body, what's left of it, but the ambiance-- and I am generous to call it by an upmarket word-- is less than uplifting.
     I knew Mike because a really favorite friend of mine, a woman in my class at Bryn Mawr(she dropped out though later became much more than she planned) was one of his lovers, and took me upstate to meet him.  I was just starting out my feverish plan to be a success in theatre, with huge piles of talent and energy and pushiness, a wonderful history of having written really wondrous musicals-- I can say that with great immodesty, since nothing became of any of them, in spite of my having been loved and umbrellaed by Yip Harburg, the best American lyricist ever, and Rosemary Clooney, whom I picked up in a grocery store-- as smart as she was gifted, who recorded my musical comedy in exchange for sandwiches for the musicians.  Oh, I do have so much terrific history, it's a shame nothing ever became of me.
    Ann Mudge, my beauteous dropped out classmate, her features so perfect she could wear her white blonde hair pulled tight back against her skull took me to meet Mike.  He was then married to one of his early wives who was to become something once they parted, and we talked of Cherry Lawn, the nutty boarding school in Darien, Connecticut, where he had gone as a bald refugee of ten-- "He really must have liked you," Ann said, "or he wouldn't have told you he was bald." He had had measles or one of those childhood diseases where you lose all your hair. Imagine that happening when you are also having to flee the Nazis.
     Anyway, we really enjoyed each other, but I got too aggressive about trying to get him involved in my musical, and he fired me as a potential friend, while he was helping his son who might not really have been a result of his sperm, but that is another story, one that I would no longer write, since I do not want to be remembered as the author of The Pretenders.  I saved his very cold and mean note on really nice stationary in his own hand thinking I might sell it one day, but now just intend to give it to my son who will probably have a good time showing it around once I am gone, as we speak in these waning years of death.  It is an awful word.
       My friend Joanna the Brilliant gave an evening where Mike was present, where he apparently forgave me, saying "Oh, I know Gwen," and actually smiled at me, and then I saw him in the forecourt of a play where we had a witty and lively exchange, so what bad blood there might have been seemed to have washed away.  But it is a shame I had been pushy in my then still youth, and antagonized him, because there were all those years I was being so productive and clever with nothing coming of any of it when, had I had him in my corner, I could have been all that Frank Loesser saw in me that he pillaged.  Oh, when we think of the life we might have had.  Then, there was the wonderful MCA agent Bobby Helfer, cousin of Elmer Bernstein, who said, when I was twenty-one, that he was going to override agency policy of not helping those for whom you could not ask a lot of money just because he believed in me and my songs, who then committed suicide the night of his forty-second birthday by taking forty-two sleeping pills.  I guess there are worse things than not being able to get people to support your talents.
      I think I will dress up for this evening of Mike Nichols just in case one of my more whimsical notions should be a reality and there is an invisible life after death and Mike should be there, unseen, wondering who really cares about him.  I really do want him to know I do,  even though he can no longer do me all the good he could have.

Friday, March 04, 2016


So even as you imagine, hope, pray if you're a religious person or even if you're not, that the worst is behind us(Richard Nixon, little Bush) there comes Donald Trump.  Now anybody who thinks or pretends or tries to, finds out there's true madness on the horizon, and not very bright madness at that.  The worst of it is he thinks he's smart.  Or maybe that's not the worst of it.  I am afraid we will find out what is.
    That he actually imagined he was educated, and was prideful in the bargain, tells you probably more than we need to know about what's happening with this country.  I have a very brilliant friend who was actually friendish with him, -- that is not quite "friendly," but as I don't know the exact level of their connection I don't want to give it a word I can't attest to the level of caring of, and she  didn't despise him, so he must have a different face from the horrible one he is showing right now.   Or maybe not.  Maybe she is simply more generous of spirit than I could ever have dreamed.  Either that or she has an incredible imagination.
       It is all past super-sad, and my son whose most intense focus is the Rams' coming to Los Angeles feels I am wasting my energy even caring.  My doctor, whom I love, hates Obama as much as Republicans do, for what he has done to doctors.  I am trying, as a reformed/occasional believer in some mystical Force behind this All, and an old friend/admirer of Benjamin Franklin, attached to the concept of an indomitable and indestructible spirit, and who gave our once great country a lot of great ideas as well as kites, wondering where he could be hiding if he was right.  How could this be happening?  Oh, if only I still wrote incredible sex.  There would be orifices where I could secrete myself.
     And the worst of it: he does have little hands.  Or maybe that's not the worst of it.  That would be if he actually won.