Friday, July 25, 2008

Hello Barbra

Russian Tea Room, 1964. ©Bob Schulenberg.
The rainstorms came on Wednesday night and left us with a somewhat overcast, somewhat sunny, pleasant and sometimes cool breezy day yesterday in New York.

Schulenberg Party IV.
Readers who’ve been following the commentary and sketches of my friend Schulenberg may recall that when he arrived in New York from his home state of California in 1961, one of the first people he met was the then girlfriend of his UCLA chum Barre Dennen, a kid from Brooklyn named Barbra. Barbra had just won a two week gig singing in a gay club on West 9th Street where she was doubling as a hat check to get her dinner also.

Barbara at Home 6-8-64.
The following year Schulenberg went to Paris for an intended short stay that turned into a two year visit. In this sketchbook that these pictures are taken from, he had just returned on the France (the French Line) on the 4th of August, 1964.

As the ship entered New York harbor it sailed under the brand new Verranzano Bridge, just finishing construction. The foghorns blew and the bridge workers cheered the arrival. He was met at the boat by his friends Treva Silverman, an up and coming comedy writer, and Warren Lyons (son of the Broadway columnist Leonard Lyons).

Two days later he went to visit his friend Barbra who was now a Broadway star, having opened in “Funny Girl” four months before (March 26th) at the Winter Garden Theater. Barbra was now married to actor Elliot Gould and living in a penthouse on Central Park West that once belonged to lyricist Lorenz Hart. The kid he’d first seen three years before coming down 9th Street in her vintage thrift shop clothes was now a very glamorous New York woman whose fashion choices were followed closely by both press and fans.

That night his friend Warren Lyons, who was working in the David Merrick office had got him tickets to see Carol Channing in “Hello Dolly,” another big hit show that had opened the previous January.

The following night, August 7th, he went to see Barbra for the first time in “Funny Girl,” and like so many of us, was blown away by her performance.

After the show in her dressing room, the first thing she said to him was: “Did you recognize the coat?”

The coat was a copy of a thrift shop fur coat that she’d worn to her first audition for the role of Miss Marmelstein in “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” (starring Elliot Gould). She had it re-created in satin and coq feathers for the summer performances and leopard and mink for the winter. He noticed that her dressing room was very much like Barre Dennen’s 9th Street apartment with orange paisley covered walls.
Subway, 8-6-64.
Subway, 8-6-64.
Hicks' Ice Cream Parlour, 8-7-64.
Hicks' Ice Cream Parlour, 8-7-64.
Winter Garden, 8-7-64.
The Coffee Shop, 53rd & Broadway, 8-7-64.
Subway, 8-8-64.
4th Street Gas Station & A Jewish Gypsy Nr Central Park West, 8-9-64.
"Hello Dolly," 8-6-64.
Museum of Modern Art, 8-8-64.

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