Thursday, February 18, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: Los Angeles, Part XLVII

My younger brother, Richard. (Photo by Bob Stone)
Text and illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

1964. My younger brother Richard was getting married in California. I was in Paris. And after learning of Barbra's phenomenal success in Funny Girl, I began to feel that being in France, I was out of the action!

At this time in Paris, a hit musical opened at the Théâtre de Paris; it was called Comment réussir dans les affaires sans vraiment se fatiguer, which translates to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (and which I had seen in New York in 1961!)
I had begun to feel that it was time to go home.

Paris had seemed to me to have become a town of road shows — several steps above "bus & truck."

When the movie of West Side Story opened in Paris, it played forever on the Champs-Élysées. And then, inspired, Jacques Demy shot a musical film, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, where I noticed Michel Legrand's musical orchestration included bongo drums. In Cherbourg.
Because West Side Story dealt with Puerto Rico, Leonard Bernstein had included bongos. But bongos in Cherbourg?

I was becoming disillusioned with French culture and I realized that they'd become fascinated with America and its culture!

The only painter of note at the time was Bernard Buffet whose work I felt was in league with (Margaret) Keene's big-eyed-kids paintings!
Bernard Buffet, Petite tête de femme.
I actually think Keene was a better painter.
Although I didn't know it at the time, before he married Annabelle, an actress, Buffet had been the lover of Pierre Berge, who left him for Yves St. Laurent. But it had been Berge who'd promoted his career and made him famous.

I felt it was New York-style hype! So, regrettably, it was time to leave. And I did.

In California, my brother's wedding and reception took place in our garden. The night before, my brother had been treated (subjected) to a bachelor night where he had been feted with many drinks.

While my family are social drinkers we are by no means fluent drinkers, so the next day, as wedding guests were arriving, my brother was still unable to rise out of bed (although we were grateful that the vomiting seemed to have ceased).

My father was quietly frantic while my mother was downstairs greeting the arriving guests.
I realized that I had to use a trick I'd learned at the ad agency. So in my summer tuxedo as best man I ran out and bought a six-pack of Coca Cola. I had my brother continue drinking Cokes until the nausea subsided.

Meanwhile, Nancy, the bride, had visited the caterer in the kitchen and somehow a large knife had fallen and cut her foot. This required her uncle, a surgeon, to stitch the cut and give her a pain killer.

But upstairs, the Coke-cure had again worked its magic and my brother was getting dressed.

So they got married and none of the guests were aware of the backstage drama!
My brother had just finished law school, passed the bar and was part of Capitol Records' legal department. Part of his work was to visit clubs and check out the Capitol artists. One night he invited me to go with him to the Whisky a Go Go, which had just opened the previous January.
The club inside was small so there was a glass box suspended from the ceiling in which two girls in fringed dresses danced above the crowd.
These young girls danced all the new dances in their hanging glass box all evening as Johnny Rivers' band played. When the band took a break the girls danced as a DJ spun records and the crowd beneath them kept up with them. It was frantic.
While in Los Angeles, I decided to show my portfolio of French samples to the new magazine, LOS ANGELES. They gave me an assignment, my first back in the United States.

As in Paris, it involved restaurants or bars — one of which was the Yamashiro Sky Room, an exact replica of a Japanese palace in Kyoto.
It was used as a location in many films, most notably in Sayonara in which Marlon Brando, demonstrating his versatility, played a Japanese man. After WWII it had been used as a military school and then an apartment building; at one point it was at the point of being torn down until a new owner realized its potential and restored it. In 1964 it was just beginning its reincarnation and still had some long term residents.
This felt very much like Norma Desmond in her neglected mansion and I had many unanswered questions.
Another place I went to draw was Chez Jay in Santa Monica.
This very unpretentious place has an amazing history since 1959 with regulars from Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack to Henry Kissinger; it's the closest thing that LA has to Elaine's or The Palm. Tarantino wrote Jackie Brown here and Michelle Pfeiffer met David Kelley whom she married, here!

I had a beer there with painter Billy Al Bengston.
I'm told that my drawing is hanging on a wall above the peanut shells on the concrete floor.

Another day I went to Tom Bergin's, the oldest Irish Bar in Los Angeles (since 1936) and went with another UCLA friend, photographer Jim Howell.
Afterwards, we went to Venice and walked on the beach waiting for the sunset when Jim took this photo of me.
It was a full day!
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