Thursday, November 30, 2017

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CXXXVI

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

January 1968.
Just before I left Honolulu there was a cold snap that Hawaii was not expecting. I guess I’d left just in time.

I returned to Los Angeles and with my brother Richard and sister-in-law Nancy visited Phillip Carlson and Patty Sauers who were now married and living in LA.  Phillip was a working actor now.
Richard and Nancy.
Phillip Carlson.
Patty Sauers.
At that time Patty and Philip were living in Peyton Hall, an apartment complex which a decade and a half later we would use as a location for Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov’s Paul & Mary Bland characters’ home for our movie, EATING RAOUL!
The next day I visited Rolf Nelson and Doreen Gehry where they were living in Santa Monica.
After their marriage, Rolf had opened an art gallery in Los Angeles.
The following day I went with Phillip to Universal Studios where we visited the set of the television show, IRONSIDE.  I had bought a fur coat in New York a short time before I went to Hawaii and I was wearing it at the studio.  It was such a dramatic look that on the set I was looked as if  I were the celebrity! “Makes the Man” they say.
Previously we had gone into Hollywood where we met my brother for lunch in the studio commissary.  I had a very full Hollywood day!
The whole time I was in Los Angeles one song was playing wherever there was recorded music.  It would be Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough hit!
Back in New York I went to the Museum of Modern Art for lunch and a transition to the dynamism of being back in the city.  Being with my cousin June and her family in Honolulu was wonderful, but during a conversation while we were enjoying the perfumes in her garden after a brief refreshing rain she mentioned that perfect climate and perfect day after perfect day can become predictable and a bit boring!

New York has many things;  one thing it doesn’t have is much that might be boring!
The following Saturday Paul Bartel and I went downtown to the Bouwerie Lane Theatre for a production by The Theater of the Ridiculous to see another play by Charles Ludlum,  Conquest of the Universe, a spectacle too difficult to try to describe!

John Vaccaro had formed the company and populated it with characters that could only loosely be called actors. They were performers however with stage presences that tsunami’d off the stage!  
Interestingly, the role of “Tamerlaine” was played by a tall, imposing young woman who a short time before had been in Andy Warhol’s movie, Chelsea Girls — Mary Woronov!
A little more than a decade later, she would star with Paul in our movie ...
At the time of Conquest we had no idea of this, of course.
With Ultra Violet, Taylor Mead and Mary there was some overlapping with the group of Warholites acting out around lower Manhattan!  For Rene Ricard as a character named Magnavox, Betsey Johnson had made costumes.  She was beginning to get noticed by the press for her WOWEE clothes at Paraphernalia and her timing and instincts were perfect!  She was so much of the moment as was Paraphernalia!
Betsey Johnson (center) at Paraphernalia.
In an unpredictable way so were Charles Ludlum and John Vaccaro!

I’d seen Ludlum’s play, BIG HOTEL, and wondered at its hilarious mish mash of corny commercial movie cliches and themes and even characters!  Ludlum adopted a weary persona, Norma Desmond, a very low rent variation on Gloria Swanson’s iconic masterpiece of Hollywood kitsch!

It was a character that he’d have reappear in later plays.

But tonight’s play was inter-galactic!
I remember one of the characters, presumably a young man wearing a glorious flowing wig made of copper scouring pads.  It was that kind of show!  The costumes were as ambiguously unsettling as were the characters. 

And the actors!
Taylor Mead was one of the most undefinable of the downtown denizens!  He seemed to be constantly making a scene downtown only going above 14th Street when he was doing something  at Max’s Kansas City! Usually scandalous!
Tonight he was in his element — a guest star!

I was certainly back in NYC, right in the thick of it.

Actually, the thickest of it!

And the element that made New York such a difficult place to describe or explain to people who had never lived there but only visited.

What they could never know is what they’d seen and experienced during their visit was the PG version; everything that might shock or make them reevaluate everything they held dear had been hidden under a collective urban bed or in some enormous urban closet!

I wonder only now if Honolulu had anything remotely similar.
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