Thursday, September 22, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LXXVIII

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

New York, 1966.
I visited my new friend, David Columbia and his wife, Sheila/Shelagh who had an apartment on East 81st Street close to where I lived in Yorkville. Shelagh was working as a stylist for among others, Howell Conant, one of President Kennedy's favorite photographers.

She had fantastic taste and had decorated their kitchen with multiple patterns of window pane plaid and hound's tooth black and white contact papers! It was so elegant and harmonious that I've been inspired by the look and trying to duplicate it ever since! I've only gotten as far as covering coffee tins but that's a start!

Their friend, John Frenkel, was entertaining with his guitar.

And David was singing while I drew possibly the most unflattering drawing of him ever!
How ironic, since a few months earlier when I'd just met him, I photographed probably the most Hollywood-glamorous photo of him that had been made! At the time, he was an actor and he needed a photo for an 8 X 10 presentation. The photo that he'd used previously was the look of a bland replaceable person like someone from an insurance layout! That wasn't the persona I saw. This was!
So life continued.

My friend, Janet Coates, had invited me to a party at her family's home in Morristown.
I took the train to New Jersey where Janet and her fiancĂ©, Bernard Bossom, met me. Arriving at Janet's parents' we drove up a long drive toward an imposing Regency style house — but driving past it I learned that was the staff house.

The main house didn't seem as large but did remind me of the house in the movie, "SABRINA" with lawns framing a large, languid terrace leading to a vast room filled with guests.
I was greeted by Janet's parents and almost immediately her mother guided me into the panel'd, brightly lit room. She asked if I liked theater and if I'd seen "HELLO DOLLY"? I said that I'd loved it, saw it the first evening I was back from Paris, loved Carol Channing and that Gower Champion had staged it brilliantly! As we approached a man with his back turned, Mrs. Coates said to him, "David — this young man loves theater!"

He turned and I was surprised to see he was David Merrick!

Mrs. Coates introduced us and immediately left me with him.

The first thing I did was to reassure him that I wasn't an actor or working in the theater so he could relax.

I found him to be very affable and not at all like "The Abominable Showman," the tough monster I'd heard described. As we talked I told him that the night after I'd seen "DOLLY" I saw Barbra in "FUNNY GIRL" and I explained that she was a longtime close friend and that I'd even taken her to her first audition at the Bon Soir!

He went on to praise her and I mentioned that I'd read that he had problems about working with her. He told me that not only would he work with her as a performer but he'd work with her in a production capacity! He felt that her theatrical business instincts were so acute that she wouldn't even have to perform — just produce! And she was only 22!

That was a surprise but how much more committal could he have been? Of course, I didn't work in theater and I wonder if I did, would he have said that? Would he really have worked with her in that capacity?

No matter; I joined Janet's friend, Patsy Annunziata, someone I already knew.
As frequently happens if I'm carrying a sketchbook, which I usually am, people ask about it and I end up drawing them. I might think of myself as compared to a clown hired to amuse by making balloon animals at a party but it never feels like that.

It's a nice, easy way to meet people; you never need to worry about conversational lapses or uncomfortable shyness.
It's good that they don't ask me to rip the drawing out of my book but it's sad that I don't really get to know them — although how frequently do you get to know anyone you've met at a party?

A few days later, I went to dinner at Patsy's apartment in town and since I'd started a new sketchbook I brought with me the one with the party drawings.
Patsy and Janet enjoyed looking at the book and I told them my David Merrick experience!
Eliza was a small fluffy dog!

The next day I met with Paul Bartel at the Cafe Hindenburg on East 86th Street in my neighborhood, Yorkville. Our film, "THE SECRET CINEMA," had been a success when shown at the New York Film Festival.
Paul had made "Secret Cinema Membership" buttons and he wore one with his festival "Friend of Film" button. He certainly knew the value of advertising!

He told me that "THE SECRET CINEMA" had been so noticed and appreciated at the festival that it had been invited to be shown at The London Film Festival.

We were going to London!

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