Thursday, July 27, 2017

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CXX

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

I was at the Weinerwald with friends
who had just learned that Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy had decided to run for the presidency in the 1968 election in a bid to unseat President Johnson who'd become increasingly unpopular due to his continuing escalation of the Vietnam War!
There were demonstrations and protests every day everywhere and they were becoming more violent and dangerous with the police attacking protesters resulting in injuries and in some cases, hospitalization! McCarthy gave many of us a reason to think that things might change for the better!
I was getting work regularly from my rep, Pema Browne. I'd mentioned a large demonstration I'd seen with a lot of aggressive police action and Pema said, "they must be doing something illegal or there wouldn't be police!"

I learned to avoid talking with her about anything that related to any criticism of the government! I also began to understand a little why the Germans didn't question what the Nazis were doing during the mid-thirties!

But she was working for me and it was working out quite successfully.  I was getting a lot of important national advertising commissions that paid very well. I understood the necessity of having representation. And keeping my political thoughts to myself when talking business!
That evening I met my old friend Beverly Ross for dinner at Soerabaja.

Beverly was a songwriter who'd had her first success at 15 when she cowrote Dim Dim the Lights with Julius Dixson.  It was recorded by Bill Hayley and His Comets and Arthur Freed called it "The Grand Daddy Song of Rock and Roll."
Later they wrote Lollipop Lollipop and it was a hit as was Judy's Turn to Cry, which was a major success for Leslie Gore in 1962.
The next day, while walking down Park Avenue I saw a woman dressed very simply but elegantly in the new longer length Midi dress, although it was a coat! The longer mid-calf length caused as big a controversy as the miniskirt had years before.  This time there were protests and a few years later, there was an event the press called the Hemline War!
With protests about everything and all the turmoil, I found myself wondering if the longer hemline was a portent of financial disaster like when women's clothing silhouette started to change from short skirts to long around 1928 and 1929.  The Stock Market crashed in late 1929 and women's hemlines stayed long until the mid-'30s!

Everything around us was in a state of change!
Some things didn't appear to change though.
I met Mary-Robin Redd for dinner at Downey's Steak House in the theater district.  She was telling me about her astrological reading from Harper's Bazaar and even that implied change.  At least for Robin.
Another innovation, a change in a theater presentation was a production of Charles Ludlum's play, Big Hotel, a mishmash of movie references, sexual innuendo and a cavalcade of cross dressing hilarity!
Mario Montez, riffing on the name of 1950s movie star Maria Montez , who died while reportedly taking a hot bath (making her the brunt of a hundred camp references), played a character named Trilby!
Mario Montez had appeared in small outré films previously and would become Warhol's first superstar appearing in his films!
And Charles Ludlum created a character, Norma Desmond, who'd become his alter ego in many productions!
Ludlum was hysterically funny and theatrically brilliant! This was the first time I'd seen him. His productions were unapologetically raunchy and impossible to describe. He'd evidently taken a warped inspiration from the classic MGM film, Grand Hotel, which was populated with the studio's most impressive stars — Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford et al — and filled his Big Hotel with his version of impressive stars — Mario Montez, Trilby, Lupe Velez and his own Norma Desmond!
Change was in the air and it was taking a darker go-for-broke creativity that was right in sync with everything else going on!
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