Thursday, June 1, 2017

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CXII

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

The Secret Cinema, the movie I made with Paul Bartel in 1968, was invited to be in The New York Film Festival. My mother came to New York to be with us.

She'd arrived at JFK and we immediately went off to Central Park for lunch at the Bethesda Fountain Restaurant! It was going to be a busy week and I figured we may as well begin it and get her accustomed to a much crazier pace than she was used to in California! She loved it!
The next day we met Blair Sabol at Joe Allen's. Blair was writing her regular column, "Outside Fashion" for The Village Voice and by way of contrast was living in an apartment in the Carlyle Hotel.

My mother, noticing how small and cramped my apartment was, assumed that most people lived in similarly minimalist situations even like me, with a maximum of possessions. She had lived in California her whole life and our house was one of two to a block — each one sitting on a half acre. She marveled at how many people were living on Second Avenue between 82nd and 83rd while on her block there were only her neighbors, the Borellis and her. Three people! She kept explaining that to Blair as if Blair couldn't imagine such a thing.

I tried to change the subject.

Blair was patiently polite.
I was doing a project for Fortune magazine but was able to organize my time, doing it while my mother, staying at the Croydon Hotel, rested a bit for the activities of the next day! That would be the première for the film festival and the party after.

So the next day we met Paul and Amy for dinner at The Ginger Man across from Lincoln Center and then crossed the street. It was getting exciting. Paul had been very busy promoting our film, and was getting results — although we still had no distributor for it. It was still "too short to be a feature and too long to be a short!"

But we'd been in the London Film Festival with it and now the New York Film Festival and surely that would count for something! People were at least becoming aware of our weird little film about a girl unaware that her life is being secretly filmed!
The party was exciting, the opening film not so much. My mother was in her element as I found myself wondering what her life might have been like had she been born much later and lived in New York! She didn't seem to be sharing that thought — at least not that I could tell.

As a young woman with dreams and growing up in Los Angeles she had gone to a business college and subsequently got hired as my father's private executive secretary. She told me that at 15 she had gotten an after school job as a bookkeeper for Ralphs Market in LA! At 15!

After several years working together, my mother and father left the office, went downtown and got married on their lunch hour! She stopped working and I was born three years later. My brother, Richard, seven years after me.
It was a very happy marriage and I can't recall that they ever had a serious argument. They were married 35 years until my father died of a heart attack just as they were preparing to leave for Honolulu to celebrate their wedding anniversary with my cousin, June Hibdon, and her family who was living there.

This was in 1966 just a year earlier and more than likely, at the festival party, my mother was thinking of my father and wishing he were there.
The following weekend we met with Joyce Burrell-MacDowell, who was in New York on a business trip for I. Magnin in San Francisco. We'd all been invited by Paul's parents to come visit in Montclair, New Jersey.
Joyce was staying at the Berkshire Hotel and after a short visit we set out for Montclair.
It was a pleasant visit with my mother talking with the Bartels about the stock market, something they had in common.
Connie Bartel, Paul's aunt, was also there and as the stock market was being discussed, Joyce and Connie and I talked about the world of magazines and fashion. Connie had been the editor-in-chief of Charm Magazine and was currently the editor of Hair Trends, a magazine currently devoted to hair styles that sometimes rivaled the excesses of the 18th century!

I was working with her and we used the time to plan a feature. Hair styles had started to become boring with a strong influence from some of the young singers like Joan Baez, who wore their hair long with no elaboration or fantasy folk singer-style — and young women were actually ironing their hair to straighten it!

Connie knew that just as a style became commonplace it was the time to talk about what change might be next! She thought that since straight hair had become so popular it would be fun to write about wavy hair. She always said we had nothing to lose, that we were doing it out of whole cloth anyway!
Back in the city we went with Amy to Stern's Department Store on 42nd Street across from the Library. They'd gotten the bright idea to have a Shop-in mimicking the love-ins, be-ins and all the ins that were becoming ubiquitous around the city.
We even saw the artist, Peter Max who was at the height of his popularity making a personal appearance.

He had become a sell-ebrIty! His art was everywhere, on posters, coffee mugs, tee shirts - everything but toilet paper! He had become the apotheosis of psychedelic art!
Peter Max with a mustache wearing a turtle neck
And the next day Amy and I showed up at Room 510 at Channel 5 to be interviewed for The New Yorkers television show to talk about Underground Films! On camera Sonny Fox asked me if I'd ever made a pornographic film and I said that I hadn't. Underground films were still not very well known by the public and there was some confusion about what they were.

He continued asking me why I hadn't ever made a porn film?

He asked - so I looked at him and said "I'd rather do it than film it!"

He laughed and the show was over. He thanked Amy and me and said it was a really good interview - especially my final answer!
And then there was the press screening at Philharmonic Hall the next day. We were getting exposure! Amy had been interviewed on the previous Friday by Joe Franklin on WOR-TV. Mother took us to dinner.
The next night, a Thursday I took her to dinner at The Blue Ribbon German restaurant just off Times Square.
Friday we visited my mother's cousin, Lil and my mother shared her New York experiences and also told her how she was doing at home without my father.
We took the subway downtown which my mother loved. She was treating it like a ride in a theme park!
And we ended up at Daley's Dandelion so my mother could get an idea of a neighborhood pub restaurant.
Then another adventure: the Second Avenue bus! That night we were going to a big party at Twentieth Century Fox!
I'll tell you about that next week!
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