Thursday, May 31, 2018

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CLXII

by Bob Schulenberg

Spring, 1969:
Levi's starts selling bell bottoms, Jim Morrison is arrested for indecent exposure, Paul McCartney marries Linda Eastman, John and Yoko stage a bed-in protest for peace, and Paul Bartel invites Caterine Milinaire and me to dinner!

Paul was an excellent cook!  He used ingredients generously and lavishly! That night he’d prepared a cold chicken mould garnished with peaches and Caterine asked him for the recipe. I wrote it out for her in my sketchbook as Paul dictated.  I don’t know if she ever made it but she was happy to get the recipe.
My neighborhood was changing.  The old tenement buildings were one by one disappearing. There was still the feeling of a neighborhood with a friendly mix of Hungarians, Germans and some younger career people. Rents were very affordable.
I was beginning to notice the encroachment of luxury buildings with another kind of resident! On 86th Street there were still the German gourmet imports but a few were starting to disappear.  Magazines were still discovering them though and writing glamorous sounding articles about the undiscovered mittel-European shops in Yorkville.

I took a break on Saturday night and went down to Greenwich Village to meet friends for coffee near Sheridan Square.  As I walked down Christopher Street suddenly there were sirens and police and the sounds of breaking glass!  I had gotten a short distance from The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar that was evidently being raided!  There had been a raid the night before;  it turned out that the bar, owned by the Mafia, hadn’t given payoff money and was therefore targeted by the police.  There had been a standoff with some arrests but this night, Saturday, was an out and out violent brawl with fire hoses!  I’d been walking in back of a middle-aged couple, Dutch tourists, and was almost trampled by them as we all rushed back to the safety of Greenwich Avenue!
The woman was wearing yellow colored shoes that looked very sturdy — shoes that if they’d caught up with me would’ve caused more damage than the fire hoses!

I never made it to coffee!  What I learned later was I had wandered into the  middle of the Stonewall Riot, the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement!

There had been the civil rights demonstrations and riots, the riots during the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the riots and takeover of the campus at the University of California Berkeley;  and now gays were battling the police and demanding their rights!

What next?

A few days before this, Annie Rieger and I had gone to George Plimpton’s Paris Review Revel party on Welfare Island in the East River.
It was a kind of free form gathering on a beautiful evening with the river all around us and groups of people just milling around visiting with each other.

Annie and I were talking with a tall young man who introduced himself as Bill Woodward.

I realized that he was the 25-year-old son of Ann Woodward whose killing of her socialite husband, and subsequently being declared innocent, was one of New York’s most controversial society scandals!
The story of his mother and the accidental killing of his father was fictionalized by Truman Capote making it seem that the fictional wife had shot her husband on purpose.  When his mother Ann read an advance version of the story in Esquire she committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. Woodward’s younger brother had also committed suicide. Later, Dominick Dunne wrote another fictionalization, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, which was made into a televised mini-series in a 1987 starring Claudette Colbert and Ann-Margret.

In 1999, William Woodward III killed himself by jumping from the kitchen window of his 14th floor apartment.
We also met a young man named Tommy Sheehy, but all in all the revel wasn’t that interesting. So after one last stroll near the river, we left taking the bus back into town and being dropped off at Elaine’s.
The next day I met Buzz King for lunch at the open air restaurant next to the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.  I’d met him as a regular at Elaine’s a few weeks earlier and he became a good friend of mine.  He always had a good story to tell and knew a lot of interesting people.
I had a lot to tell him about this time;  it had been a pretty interesting week!
Contact Bob here.
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