Friday, October 14, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LXXXI

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

My friend, Daisy Belk Lange
with her husband Harry had moved to London. I'd known them from the time I'd been drafted and sent to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. Harry, a German, had a civilian job there working with Dr. Oberth, one of the original German inventors of the notorious V2 rockets with which the Nazis bombed London during World War II.
So they had moved and Harry was now working with Stanley Kubrick as an art director on Kubrick's film, "2001: A Space Odyssey." Harry's rocketry experience in Huntsville had proved useful.

I'd notified them that Paul Bartel, Amy Vane, and our Production Manager Burt Bluestein, and I were coming to show our short feature film, "The Secret Cinema," at The London Film Festival to which we'd been invited.
When she replied, Daisy was thrilled and sent me a list of things that she asked me to bring to her, things she was having trouble finding in London.
So on the night of November 24, 1966, we flew from New York City arriving in London early the next morning. It was colder than it had been in New York and we took a bus from the airport into town where we checked into Berner's Hotel. I noticed how plain, bleak and frosty-sad the landscape was surrounding the airport — a striking similarity to Queens near (pre-JFK) Idlewild Airport.
We got to the hotel, checked into our rooms, and Burt quickly got (characteristically) busy checking maps to see where exactly we were and where we had to go.
I'd also sent word to Roman Polanski that we were coming. I hadn't seen much of him since I'd left Paris where we used to spend a lot of time together.
He was now living in London, directing "The Fearless Vampire Killers," and also acting in it opposite the beautiful young actress, Sharon Tate, who'd become his girlfriend and with whom he was now living.
Antoine's Restaurant had been recommended, so after resting and recuperating at the hotel, we went there for dinner. It was very elegantly decorated in a Regency style — quintessentially British, the epitome of genteel refinement.
The clientele was also appropriately genteel and refined and resembled characters in a tired English movie from the early post-World War II years!
I couldn't help feeling that the general atmosphere of restraint had an air somewhat of moral superiority. As if a display of emotion or frivolous dress might be unacceptably vulgar!
I'd noted an impression, "the masculinization of the woman, a feminization of the man — so that they could somehow pass each other in the middle."
Arriving back at the hotel I received a telegram stating my brother and sister-in-law had just become the parents of their first child, a daughter in Los Angeles!
This was my niece 16 years later ...
And as a young adult below! Today, she lives in Maui and is the mother of two teenage sons, the oldest about to graduate from high school and begin university next year!
The next day we connected with Polanski.
And met incandescently beautiful Sharon Tate!
Aside from her astounding beauty, she had a warm playful quality and a friendly personality that was an amazing mix of the best of European sophistication and American innocence. It was easy to see why Polanski had fallen for her and also how much he cared for her!

I'd known his first wife, Polish actress Barbara Lass, and previous French girlfriends of his, but it was obvious that Sharon was The One for him.

After meeting everyone he immediately set about drawing in my sketchbook. He had a humorous pornographic outlook and style and always drew variations of his louche pompier/fireman!
He'd also drawn a self portrait and this time he added a Christmas greeting. I always insisted that he sign them so if people saw them they'd know I hadn't drawn them!
We spent the afternoon together and Sharon took me on a quick visit to Chelsea. I was surprised to see how many people recognized her! She wasn't as well known in the US but that didn't appear to be the case in London. It was exciting to be with her!
We ran through several of the new shops that catered to the young crowd that Diana Vreeland had named "the Youthquake" while the others stayed with Roman whom I'd known from his first days in Paris as "Romek," a Polish nickname. More recently, he's told me that he no longer uses that — he's now just "Roman"!
In the evening we went to the Phoenix Theater where we saw a beautiful production of Oscar Wilde's "Lady Windermere's Fan" with gorgeous late Victorian period sets and costumes by Cecil Beaton — visually and theatrically stunning!
I was too fascinated to draw anything from the production once the curtain went up!
After the theater we joined Roman and Sharon for a late supper.
Paul was wearing his "Secret Cinema" button and gave one to Roman who wore it all evening.
Amy, below, is admiring the pastry cart!
Finally, the night of the festival.
Amy and Sharon at the Festival Theater.
Our movie was well received at the screening and this evening Amy was a movie star!
To celebrate, Sharon and Roman took us to a Polish restaurant where Roman ordered for us ... in Polish!
Back in the suite at the hotel, we were reliving the week's adventures when suddenly a sound from the bathroom reminded us that someone had started preparing for a bath — and neglected to turn off the water. All of our towels and several hair driers were quickly put to work!
The next day I visited the Condé Nast offices and went to lunch in a pub on Fleet Street with the art director of Vogue. At the pub I noticed what people were eating and everything appeared to be boiled or looked as if it had been. One plate had what looked like a flat pasta something with a small boiled potato and some white beans next to it and looked completely unappetizing!
I compared this to memories of simple but glorious snacks and lunches in the simplest Parisian cafes and realized again how different were the two cultures!
I have not habitually been much of a shopper but in London the rate of exchange was so favorable for the dollar that I couldn't resist. I'd admired so many photographs of men's clothing in Queen magazine that I decided it was now or never.
Some of my research from Queen magazine.
So I went to Jaeger and saw a double-breasted suit with a jacket that was tailored a bit like a hacking jacket — my favorite style. It was the rich deep color of wet sand or brown sugar and I tried it on. The salesman told me that I had "Jaeger proportions" and the suit looked like it was tailor-made for me and he appeared to believe it! Looking in the mirror I rather believed it myself!

Heaven knows in my native beach-dweller Los Angeles no salesperson had ever even hinted at that comparison. So I bought the suit and what the hell — I also bought a Shetland tweed plaid hacking jacket!

Like a shark-feeding frenzy, I then went to Church's and bought a pair of monk-strap shoes and then to Harry Hall where I bought an equestrian rubber/cotton raincoat that I'd also admired in the pages of Queen! With the rate of exchange and the dollar's strength it was like the greatest sale ever with everything at least 50% off.

As an accessory, I'd found a Christian Dior silk pocket square with shades of olive green and "wet sand/brown sugar-tan." Finally sated, I stopped for a coffee and returned to the hotel to get dressed for the evening.
We had tickets for the theater to see Margaret Rutherford and John Mills in Sheridan's comedy, "The Rivals."
As wonderful as Rutherford was in films, it was as nothing compared to seeing her skills onstage!
Her timing was a miracle of perfection. There was a climactic moment in the play when her reaction was so subtle and a gesture so minimal that it elicited probably the longest laugh I've ever experienced from an audience!
And just as the laughter was slowing, she gave a tiny expressive sigh which again ignited the audience — a palpable and memorable double header!
A benefit of London being the center of both movie making and theater is that actors have ready access to both which certainly gives them tremendous professional experience and credibility, to say the least!
The next day we set out for the MGM studios at Boreham Wood to visit Harry Lange working on "2001." Walking into an enormous sound stage, we saw that most of it was blocked off with "No Admittance Without Permission" signs posted.

Harry met us and explained that Kubrick had insisted that it be a high security set because of the nature of the project! We did see a huge circular contraption consisting of multiple layers of fine translucent scrims stained in subtle pale colors which Harry explained was a simulacrum of a planet and would be photographed against a black background — the scrims photographing as atmosphère.
These were the days before Computer Generated Imaging, the CGI of today.
And Harry showed us the model-making studio where miniature spacecrafts were being made using common hobby store plastic vehicle kits, but utilizing only the less recognizable parts of the undercarriage structures. He said that they'd bought almost all of the model car kits in England!

And from there we went to the Associated British Dubbing Stage where Polanski was finishing "The Fearless Vampire Killers" adding and tweaking the sound elements!

To be continued (There's much more to tell so come back next week!) ...
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