Thursday, November 3, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LXXXIV

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

New York, November 1967.
Jim Butler
and I met at the apartment of my UCLA fraternity brother, Gerry Proctor. Jim worked at ABC and through Jim I was able to do a weekly series of illustrations of ABC programs for national publications. It gave me a lot of printed samples for my portfolio.

There was still time for socializing.
Mrs. Hitchcock at Alex Lewyt's.
I received a call from my friend Marisa, who had been a movie star and took the name Marisa Pavan. I met her through my friend Katia Aubry who, with her then husband Daniel, had originally invited me to France. Marisa's family name was actually Pierangeli but her twin sister had become well known as the actress Pier Angeli, so Marisa needed a different name.
Her sister had had a relationship of sorts with James Dean but the family didn't accept it. Years later in Los Angeles I was visiting Marisa and her husband, the French heart throb Jean Pierre Aumont, in Pacific Palisades and Marisa asked if I'd drive her mother home.
Twin sisters Pier Angeli and Marisa Pavan.
She lived near me and while driving, the topic of James Dean came up. I, like everyone else, had found him fascinating and enigmatic and the word around town was that Mrs. Pierangeli had hated him. Of course, I had to ask her if that was true.

We'd arrived at her house, and sitting in the driveway she told me that it was true and that he'd been obnoxious and rude to her and the family. He'd come to visit "Pier" and even though "Pier" would have a very early studio call he'd refuse to leave saying that "the person who was 'The Moneymaker' (Pier) would have to be the one to tell (him) to leave!"

Mrs. Pierangeli told me that she was Pier's manager and the one responsible for her daughter arriving at the studio on time and not being a problem for the production! She said that Dean knew it but didn't care!
James Dean and Pier.
Pier finally married the acceptable and Catholic Vic Damone and I'd read that Dean had stayed outside the church revving his motorcycle during the ceremony. I asked if that was true and she nodded "YES!" She said that it was so loud that nothing inside the church could be heard!

So this day in 1967 Marisa invited Katia and me to dinner to meet a young couple who'd just gotten married.
Marisa lived on the Upper West Side next door to The Dakota in a large apartment with a panoramic view of Central Park. We arrived to find that the "young married couple" was Liza Minnelli and Peter Allen!

There were so many articles about them coming to New York and so much publicity that I'm assuming Marisa didn't want to say too much to preserve whatever privacy they might be able to have. She had gone through all of that with James Dean and her sister who'd much later died, reportedly having committed suicide!
The only thing I really remember about any conversation was that Liza mentioned having met Barbra and that Barbra had not been very friendly toward her. Liza had sung "I'm The Greatest Star" from FUNNY GIRL and Katia asked me why I thought Barbra hadn't been friendlier? Katia and Daniel had spent several evenings with Barbra and me in 1961 and had adored her, finding her to be very warm and accessibly friendly.

All I could think to say diplomatically was that Barbra may have thought Liza's rendition was better. In retrospect, it does seem that rather than it being a tribute to Barbra, it could have been perceived as confrontational and competitive.

Another guest, Chris Allen, was introduced as Peter's "brother"; I'd understood that he performed with Peter in the club act they'd had in Australia.
Soon after, Michel Bernard arrived and ending the evening, we went to The Brasserie.
At that time there was a feeling in the air, a mood of nostalgia sneaking through the disco mini-skirted hallucinogenic atmosphere. It was as if the culture didn't want to say goodbye or forget a beloved grandparent.

I was picking up on that and was suddenly fascinated by ephemera from the 19th century — particularly the graphics.
There were so many new typefaces and wild layout treatments appearing that I started researching forgotten old ones.
So many of them were whimsical and seemed applicable to the '60s! I didn't normally do lettering professionally but the typefaces conjured a whole visual aspect of the period, a light hearted quality not apparent in the sober formality of 19th century photographs.
And there was the ornamentation of the theatrical costumes which were not dissimilar to some of the outfits beginning to appear in clubs and even on the street.
It was quite a leap of imagination but there was something about these images — distantly comforting but somehow giving a subtle message about the possibilities of personal presentation.
In any event, it was creeping into my consciousness and the exuberance of the images was intriguing and seemed more and more relevant to the life I was seeing downtown.
Paraphernalia was Ground Zero for a lot of the newness around. Mara was still working there and I found myself dropping into the store whenever I was in the neighborhood. I got to know everybody and it made me feel that I was observing something more significant than the commerce of fashion. It was Lifestyle!
And there was the Riviera Cafe in Sheridan Square with its perfectly situated people-watching terrace and being February, its warm and cozy interior!
It was at this time we learned that our friend Chris Dritsas had committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway!
There was mention of his seeing a psychiatrist and being troubled by flashback LSD hallucinations, the first I'd heard of what would soon become (if not commonplace at least) a not-incomprehensible occurrence.
And Chris' girlfriend, Betty Anne.
The new Lifestyle, indeed.
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