Thursday, September 8, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LXXVI

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

It was 1964.
I was invited to spend my first Christmas back from Paris with Paul Bartel's family in New Jersey.
Paul's mother, Jessie Bartel.
The Bartels lived in a large three-story house on a street in Montclair that was shaded by century-old trees. Before I'd gone to Paris, Barre Dennen, Barbra and I had spent a weekend there with the Bartels and the family had been a bit shocked that Barre and Barbra, during their ill-fated relationship, had shared one of the guest rooms.
It was during this visit that Paul had played the LP of the show, "Aladdin " (by Cole Porter) and Barbra heard the star Cyril Ritchard sing "Come to the Super Market in Old Peking."
Barbra loved it and she and Barre decided to include it in her act at the Bon Soir. It was also featured on Barbra's first LP record album.
Paul's parents were originally from Nutley, New Jersey and that Christmas we visited his paternal grandparents there. Mrs. Bartel's widowed mother, Mrs. Phelan, lived in a large brick house, the oldest in town. She had a beautiful large garden which during the 1920s had been featured in BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS.

She was a meticulous woman with infallible taste; among other things, she ordered all of her children's clothes from London. My theory: Martha Stewart grew up in Nutley and I'm certain that she knew of Mrs. Phelan, the grandmother, who was not an unknown presence in that otherwise working class town.
Lucy Bartel and her husband, Ron Kizirian.
As a child, Martha Stewart may have even known her.

In any event, she couldn't help but know of the elegantly fastidious woman who lived behind the garden walls in the beautiful old house. I've wondered if Mrs. Phelan could've been a role model for the young Martha.

When she died I inherited a cache of early style magazines from the 1920s that had been carefully and precisely stored in her attic. Sad to say, the beautiful house was torn down, the garden destroyed and all were replaced by an unexceptional looking housing development!
Paul's younger sister, Wendy.
Paul's younger brother, Peter.
Lucy and cousin Bonnie Bartel.
Yetty Foster was a relative and I realized that I knew as many if not more members of Paul's family as I did my own!
Alma Bartel, whose drawing I wasn't able to complete, was married to Paul's uncle, Paul Bartel, for whom he was named. Alma and (uncle) Paul had a son, Bill, who was named for Paul's father, Bill! It was a close family (and somewhat confusing to explain).
Lucy had been in Paris the summer of 1963 with her friend Kathy and me. They had had a taste of Parisian life!
Back to Montclair, 1964 and Christmas:

Wendy's personality and sense of humor resembled Paul's the most; and they were particularly close.
Christmas Day some of us piled into a car and drove up to Hyde Park, New York to visit Patty Sauers who was staying at a health farm.

Paul was driving.
Ron was sleeping.
Patty had lost quite a lot of weight during her stay.
It was a time before gastric bypass and other newer weight loss techniques and therefore Patty had to lose the weight by dieting alone. On her return to Manhattan she used to comment sarcastically about the people who told her how attractive she was but suggested she "only lose just a few pounds ..."

She'd shed about 100 pounds at the health farm!
Patty had been cast in a featured role in HELLO DOLLY and even had her name listed in the advertising; she wanted to be ready!
New Year's Day I was invited to the home of the famed painter, John Koch, and his wife, Dora, a respected well known pianist and coach at the El Dorado on Central Park West.
Dora being a piano coach, there were pianos in every room.
Dora in another painting by John.
John was an extraordinary painter and their apartment was just as extraordinary!
They had combined two large apartments into one which ultimately occupied a whole floor of the El Dorado!

The building had been completed just before the stock market crash of 1929 and the lavish edifice, the pinnacle and symbolic apotheosis of the booming 1920s had remained almost unoccupied until the economic recovery years later. John used the apartment as a setting for many of his paintings.
A painting of a typical gathering at the Kochs' in which John depicted himself mixing drinks while Dora, standing in the center, chats with seated friends. He'd said there were masterpieces he couldn't in reality afford so he simply painted them into the paintings!
John and Dora were friends of many well known people. I was thrilled to know that he'd been a friend of one of my favorite painters, Reginald Marsh.
The new year, 1965, was beginning well!
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