Thursday, December 27, 2007

The second day after Christmas

Raining along Fifth Avenue. 8:20 PM. Photo: JH.
The city is still very quiet, especially for a midweek day. Michael’s restaurant is actually closed for the entire week. I went to Swifty’s to have lunch with Erica Jong and her daughter Molly Jong-Fast. I thought I was ten minutes late for a 12:30 lunch but I was twenty minutes early for a one o’clock. Because I am so often late, it is a pleasure to wait for another.

The place was fairly quiet for a Swifty’s weekday. Dominick Dunne came in to have lunch with a friend. He was seated next to his old friend Nancy Biddle. Across the way Joan Jedell of Hamptons Sheet was having lunch with pr exec David Granoff. Michele Gerber-Klein at the next table.

Erica came in without Molly who is expecting twins in a little more than a couple of weeks and was not in the position to go out for a lunch right now. I’m sure she regretted it because like her mother, like this writer, she loves conversation (and to talk). In fact when the three of us lunch together, Molly can often orchestrate and we follow. The mother-daughter team is very effective as well as a pleasure to observe for there is camaraderie there too.

DPC with Molly and Erica Jong
I can’t remember where I met Erica. It might have been at a book party or something like that, at her apartment. Two or three years ago; maybe more since time flies. She was familiar with the NYSD, which naturally caught my ear in a flattering way. After all, Erica Jong, the girl I read when “Fear of Flying” was flying high as a best-seller and a culture tweaking novel. She made a big impression, with her certain but breezy bravado, along with a kind of humble uncertainty; the friendly but curious blonde, the dynamo; the celebrity. And there’s something girlish about her, which is to me, the key.

She made that impression on me then, and probably did the same to millions of others. So, segue to all these years later, now tete-a-tete in Swifty’s with the aforementioned famous writer dynamo, she’s really this nice woman, the thinking girl she was then, who thinks a lot along the same lines as I do. Which means Gemütlichkeit, and a relief.

At table, at lunch, we talked about people’s behavior, politicians and political people; what it was for our mothers and fathers, what it is for ourselves. We talked about how often what we are told officially in the media has little resemblance to what  actually is going on. Yet how so many believe whatever they are told or whatever they read. As if there’s a logical explanation for everything. As if the hand of the spin jockeys never entered the question. She told me about a You Tube series on Henry Kravis that was ... astounding.

So we talked about how the world is changing and in some cases perceptibly. We talked about what people do believe and won’t believe, and why. I told her about Jeanine Basinger’s fascinating “The Star Machine” about the Hollywood studio system and how it developed and marketed talent with a genius and had a profound impact on the culture. She would like to see Hillary Clinton in the White House. She would like to see a woman lead the nation. She has spent time with Mrs. Clinton and she knows that she is a woman who will look after the children. Not all women, she said, are interested and not all men can, but Hillary will. Her record already speaks it. This was all expressed by Erica very quietly and matter of factly. I saw Hillary Clinton somewhat differently.

Later on in the day I was thinking about our conversation. These are very uneasy times for many. So many people talk about the political campaigns with confoundment and no strong feelings in any direction. Disappointment is almost a given. Is it the time, or is it the way life is.

I was thinking about  Frank Capra’s now traditional holiday season film “It’s A Wonderful Life.” A financial columnist I read the other day suggested that Americans loved that movie because of its sense of justice for “the people” rather than for the rich banker. The columnist suggested that America now needed another Jimmy Stewart type to fight for us, to rally us; but that lo, at this moment, there does not appear to be anyone on the horizon who could fill those shoes.

Ironically, in real life “It’s A Wonderful Life” was not a box office success when it was released. I’m not sure what the official explanation was for its very mediocre reception with the public but so it was. Jimmy Stewart was personally very disappointed. He was so troubled by it that he searched for what could have gone wrong. He finally decided that the film had been jinxed by Donna Reed (who played his wife).

Stewart was so convinced of this that almost ten years later when Reed was cast to play his wife in “The Stratton Story,” he refused to work with her (and she was replaced by June Allyson). His response to her imagined jinxing was so great that others believed him (after all, he was as credible off-screen as he was on) and it affected Donna Reed’s film career. Until: she went on television with a very successful series. It was a wonderful life. When it was.
The Postal Service is slower these days than molasses in January but finally today I received some excellent additions to our collection of holiday cards (see NYSD 12.24.07).

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