Thursday, December 22, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part XCI

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

Another week in Spring of '67;
work deadlines but still made time for coffee breaks or just getting out to make sure that the world was still there!

Being an illustrator is as isolating an activity as being a writer! I spent most of my time by myself with only an art director's layout with the client's wishes as company.
But I couldn't complain — I was doing something I loved doing and the samples in my portfolio were an indication of where my interests lay so I never got a job that differed from what my samples showed.
I got a call from Paul to meet with him and Burt Bluestein. He had an idea for our distributing THE SECRET CINEMA ourselves since nobody seemed interested in distributing a movie that wasn't a feature length 90 minutes!
He said he'd be looking for a companion independent film that might coincide in some way with our movie. It wasn't likely that there'd be one that had a similar subject but just possibly some independent young filmmaker had something that might be a good fit with ours.
He was going to check with the Underground Filmmakers' Collective to see what there might be.

Burt had a very practical way of looking at things but he also had a healthy regard for the mystic and irrational side of life!
Before I'd met Burt, Paul asked me what person he was describing as he read from a list of characteristics he'd been given by someone.

Obviously it was a detailed description of me. It even included subtle details of which even Paul had no knowledge! I asked Paul who gave him all those details and he said "Burt Bluestein!"

"Who? Who's Burt Bluestein?" I asked.

Paul told me he'd met Burt, and Burt, using numerology, gave Paul a "reading" (an analysis of Paul's personality). Burt was so exact in his description that Paul gave him my name to see what Burt would come up with.

Numerology! I was astounded and curious to meet Burt — and that's how Burt became part of our moviemaking adventure!
The week wore on; I worked, Paul had his regular job with the Rose-Magwood Film Company and I assumed he'd be checking with the filmmakers' group hoping to find a companion film to pair up with our SECRET CINEMA.
I met Carl Esser for lunch. I'd heard his name for a long time — even associated in a vague way with Barbra before I'd met her. He was another UCLA graduate whom everyone but me seemed to have known. But even after having lunch with him I still didn't find out any details.
And Burt, waiting for his new apartment to be available, was staying in my apartment which was across the hall from my other "work" apartment. I used it for entertaining or as in Burt's case, guests.
"Joan Crawford" peeking over Burt's left shoulder was used as a table top in THE SECRET CINEMA and was a window display prop from Stern's Department Store on 42nd Street! My friend, Gary Van Kirk, working at the store, had given it to me for the film.
And Yorkville, as I've mentioned previously, was still largely European with a large Hungarian population. One day I was startled but fascinated to see a heavily made-up young woman wearing black net stockings with bright, almost fluorescent spike heels! It wasn't quite a gypsy reference but I assumed she may have been a recent arrival and was wearing something that might've been fashionable in Budapest! Or somewhere.

There was also a Hungarian tailor on Second Avenue and I had a jacket that needed a slight alteration. I didn't know what he'd charge or if he were a good tailor but I went in wearing my jacket to tell him what I wanted.

Before I could ask him anything, he'd taken scissors and cut the back of the jacket open while explaining what he'd do to make it perfect!

Needless to say, I had no choice but to leave the jacket with him and hope for the best.
As long as he hadn't been the style consultant for the woman in the pink spike heels!
On the weekend I'd been invited to a party in Princeton and at the party met Abdul Faisal, who was going to the Hun School in Princeton. His grandfather was King Faisal and Abdul invited me to lunch the following Monday at the Biltmore Hotel, a favorite spot of the Saudis.
At lunch, Abdul told me what life was like in Saudi Arabia and it was hard not to be reminded of Rudolph Valentino in "Son of the Sheik."
He described picnic caravans in the desert and I imagined a few Rolls Royces carrying guests to a palm-shaded oasis with oriental carpets laid out on the sand while discreet servants served exotic and elaborate foods to the partygoers for whom this was nothing special or out of the ordinary. He said there were even picnics in the desert at night by moonlight.

Abdul invited me to visit saying that one could call at any time of the day or night and order whatever one wished! Being American I couldn't help but think of what life was like for the servants!

I also remembered a story told to me by a friend who'd been hired as a tutor for the children of a Sheik and flown in the family jet to Saudi Arabia. Whenever he'd mentioned returning to New York, even for a visit, they'd discouraged him from leaving; the children needed him, it wasn't a good time to leave — anything! He said he'd wondered if he'd ever be able to leave and actually felt like a prisoner in a gilded environment!

So, I told Abdul I'd think about it.
He wrote some beautiful phrases in Arabic script.

I've lost contact with Abdul and frequently wonder after all these years what his life has been like.
The next day, by way of contrast, I met Philip Carlson for lunch at L&H, the neighborhood German bakery/restaurant on Second Avenue around the corner from my apartment.
Philip was "Dick" in THE SECRET CINEMA and he asked if there was any new information about distribution of the movie so I told him that Paul had a new idea: he was going to find another film to go with it.

"And then?" Philip asked.

"Well — then we'd have a chance to publicly show it."

"Where?"

"Somewhere" was the only answer I could think of.
Later, I met with Mara and as we drove through Central Park until the car stopped and we were stuck!
That evening I'd been invited to a concert at Philharmonic Hall where Karen Roberts' cousin Gary Towlen was the soloist playing the Grieg A Minor Concerto. So I had to abandon Mara and run home to get ready!
After the concert, we went to Elaine's for dinner.
And after, to the Brasserie for dessert!
Just another typical New York week!
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