Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jill Krementz Photo Journal - RFK/Mailers

"Forty years ago, Robert Kennedy observed that one of the results of the devastating poverty that existed in this country was that 'there are children who have never heard conversations in their homes, and never read or even seen a book.'

Unfortunately, that statement is just as true today as it was forty years ago. Nationally, the estimate is that close to 40% of children enter kindergarten unprepared to be in that classroom, they don't recognize the letters of the alphabet, they cannot count to ten, and they have never held a book. They do not know what to do with a puzzle or a crayon, or how to interact with the child sitting next to them or their teachers."

With these words, Sarah Walzer, Executive Director of The Parent-Child Home Program, welcomed friends on Tuesday night at Norwood for a benefit hosted by Norris Mailer and her son, John Buffalo Mailer.
Dotson Rader and Diane Fisher Kitty Fisher
Alexandra Schlesinger and Dotson Rader
Eileen Finletter, Alexandra Schlesinger, and Diane Fisher
Dotson Rader with Sasha Lazard and Peri Lyons
Norris Church Mailer and Sasha Lazard Norris Church Mailer and her son, John Buffalo Mailer
John Buffalo Mailer and Sasha Lazard
Musician Dave Eggar warming up for the evening performance Kitty Fisher and Dorinda Hawkins
Sarah Walzer, executive director of The Parent-Child Home Program, and John Buffalo Mailer opening the evening Sasha Lazard performs Norris Church Mailer reading an excerpt from her memoir
Beautiful cage dolls displayed at Norwood where the event was held.
Julie Campbell and Norris Church Mailer Maggie Mailer
Barbara Mailer and Norris Church Mailer Anabel Kingsley and Ruth Baldwin, Editor, Nation Books
Dotson Rader and Robert Purris Sasha Lazard and Peri Lyons
The curtain call.
The evening included musical arias by Norris's daughter in law, Sasha Lazard and by Norris's future daughter-in-law, Peri Lyons; a staged reading of a play by John Buffalo Mailer called It'll Pass. It Always Does, as well as a reading by Norris of her forthcoming memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, which will be published by Random House. She read us a chapter recounting her meeting Mailer in April 1975.

Norman visited Arkansas where Norris, divorced and the mother of a small child, was teaching at a local school. She had never read a book by him though as a member of the Book-of the-Month Club she had a copy of his book about Marilyn Monroe. He was one year older than her father. She showed up at a reception for him "wearing bell-bottom, hip-hugger jeans and platform shoes called Bare Traps."
Norman with Norris shortly after they met.
John Buffalo taking his first steps in their apartment in Brooklyn Heights.
He invited her to join him for dinner, drove her home. She was 26 and he was 52 ... as she says: "precisely twice my age, the only time that concordance would take place in our lifetimes." They realized they both had the same birthdays, January 31st and were born one minute apart, Norris at 7:04AM and Norman at 7:05AM.

It was a relationship that would endure for 33 years.

As Norris has written: "Rude people used to ask me, 'which wife are you?' and I'd say, 'the only one' ... and without knocking wood, I'd say, 'the last one.' And I was."

It was an evening benefiting a great cause — a cause close to Bobby Kennedy's heart.
Bobby Kennedy visiting children on an Indian reservation. Tulsa, Oklahama. Feb 19, 1968.
All photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.