Thursday, September 13, 2018

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CLXXVI

by Bob Schulenberg

A 1970 attempt at humorous social criticism
from The American Legion Magazine.  The split between generations was widening.

Dennis Abby (or Abbé) had been an illustrator and became fascinated with the decorative possibilities of working with glass.  In a short time he became sought after for Art Deco inspired glass architectural and decorative objects.  I’d first met him during the depressing wet summer of 1967 while spending weekends on Fire Island.  There were so many parties that summer and I remember one particularly.  It was an Aubrey Beardsley-themed party.
Aubrey Beardsley, The Peacock Skirt, 1893 The Stomach Dance, 1893
Dennis, using acrylic paint, had decorated a person to look like a black and white Beardsley illustration!

He painted Gary Van Kirk with a brightly colored paisley pattern.  It was the Sixties!
Dennis Abby (or Abbé).
A friend in Dennis’ studio.
My brother Richard was back in New York working at Columbia Records in their headquarters.  This time he brought his wife Nancy and I became a surrogate tour guide for her while he spent his days at Columbia.  He’d become the head of west coast business and there were offers for him to relocate to the east coast.

It was an intriguing thought but he turned it down thinking realistically that it would mean probably living in the suburbs and commuting to the city.  And with a four-year-old daughter (who stayed in Los Angeles with Nancy’s mother) there would be the necessity of finding a good school — probably a private one whereas their home in the foothills of Studio City was three blocks from one of the best public schools in the Los Angeles area!  And they had four Scottie dogs.  It all seemed too complicated to consider.

Any increased salary compensation would be totally eaten by a move east!
We started by a walk around Gramercy Park where I showed them where I’d lived ar number 31 before moving to Paris.  They were impressed by the 13-foot windows of my ex-apartment that faced the park and without being able to go inside could only imagine the interior of where I’d lived — which probably worked to my advantage.  It was a wonderful interior with 16-foot ceilings decorated with elaborate plaster crown moldings but still, imagination enhances reality!

After our little tour, we went to dinner at Luchow’s, which still had all the allure of the early 20th Century and further enhanced the early history of the neighborhood.
Along with the demolition of the magnificent Penn Station, the closing and disappearance of Luchow’s was a sign of how New York was changing and losing much of its sentimental history.
I was still working on my daily NBC Fall Television campaign but took time out for a neighborhood coffee break with my friend Ray Smith who’d started as a page at NBC and ended by being a writer on the Today Show!

Since I hadn’t seen the shows I was illustrating I took the opportunity to ask him about some of them.
I had another coffee break with “Howdy” Harald Hoeffding whom I'd originally met when he was just out of UCLA living with his family in Paris.

Seeing him in Paris it was somehow obvious to me that he was from LA!

He was very blond with a very sunny blond personality that was an obvious contrast to the Parisian’s characteristic world weary appearance!
When I’d met him years later in New York he’d matured enough that I didn’t recognize him — but he still hadn’t lost the appealingly enthusiastic character that he’d had in Paris!  And in New York that was even more of a contrast to the reality-based, sometimes grim attitude of so many New Yorkers.

I’d always thought that what bound New Yorkers together as a group was that they all had to deal with an uncompromising common foe — the city itself!
I had to go to Columbia Records myself to talk about doing another record cover.  After meeting with the art director, Jon Berg, he said that I should go up to the executive floor. My brother was up there and so was John McClure, the producer of Columbia Masterworks’ Leonard Bernstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Glen Gould and others.  He was married to my cousin, Adrienne.

Jon Berg leaned closer and said, “is this a family takeover?”

David Columbia (DPC) and his wife Shelagh invited Nancy, Richard and me for drinks and then we went to dinner at the Cafe Nicholson after which we ended the evening at Elaine’s.  We wanted to show Nancy what made New York such a very special and unique place!
Steve Harrison was also at David and Shelagh’s.  Steve was an executive on Seventh Avenue working in fashion.  He was helpful to David in the transition of David and Shelagh’s head shop in Pound Ridge to later becoming the successful discount fashion outlet.

I did some Illustrated ads for the store.  We were going for a classy look!
Later that night we went to Elaine's. Elaine was sitting with Hal Frederick, one of the Regulars.
The next day I took Nancy to meet Annie Rieger and a friend of Annie’s, Noel Keets. We had lunch at Barney Google’s.  
Valorie Aubry, the daughter of my friends Dan and Katia, came to town and all together we went to the Museum of Modern Art where we also saw a silent movie starring George O’Brien.

When Valorie was born, Dan and I were involved making a movie in an old hotel in downtown Los Angeles.  Just about the time that Valorie was about to enter the world, our star actor experienced chest pains and was rushed to a different hospital than the one where Katia was giving birth!

Dan had to accompany him so I rushed to Katia’s hospital and got to see Valorie before Dan was able to.  And now she was 11!

That evening I took Nancy to a performance of “Bluebeard” by Charles Ludlum and The Playhouse of the Ridiculous, which later became known as The Ridiculous Theater Company.
This would be a totally different experience than what Nancy had previously experienced in New York but I thought she should see it.  She’d be going back home to California the next day and it would surely give her a lot to remember!

It was being produced at The Performing Garage in Greenwich Village and the audience sat in a half circle on grandstand seating — like a sporting event but more outrageous than any sporting event since the Romans!
I don’t recall what the plot was;  it hardly mattered but the cast went through the piece with absolute seriousness while performing the absurd hilarious bits with drag queens, sex toys as props, and even more unlikely elements and situations!
As usual, Charles Ludlum was brilliant, totally believing the outrageous world he was inhabiting.
The world downtown was still fascinated by items of 1940s and '50s clothing that had become camp and used them over and over to make a point.  Whatever it was the audience got it!

Afterwards we went for a late dinner at Lin’s Garden in Chinatown.

And the next day Nancy flew home to Los Angeles.
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