Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hit of the week

Spring frolicking. 4:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012. Sunny and bright, yesterday in New York with temperatures in the low 60s.

Yesterday must have been kind of a holiday for a lot of New Yorkers. The city seemed quieter than usual although the schools on my block were open. Traffic was lighter midtown.

Click to order Carole King Tapestry.
Michael’s was busy for a Monday although the decibel-level was far lower than the Wednesdays you read about here. Among the guests, the  “hit of the week” for this people watcher: Carole King. The very same.

I’ve been a Carole King fan since the beginning. Although I’ve never seen her in concert, the image of her in my head remains that on the cover of “Tapestry” her now immortal album (“I Feel the Earth Move,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “So Far Away”).

That was 41 years ago (!). She’s a little blonder now and prettier than her (already pretty) picture. She was at Table 1 in the bay (where we often take pictures of groups of 6 or 8 with the semi-circular window as background), with three others including our friend Joe Pontarelli. I wanted to take her picture, and I wanted to ask Joe how he knew her. Fan stuff. But I knew better: give the lady some room.

I was with Joan Gelman, another Michael’s regular, and a friend I met there. Joan is a long time television producer here in New York, and has worked on many shows over the years, so she always has stories on celebrities, city life and events.

Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman.
Conversation at table turned to the state of insanity in the world these days, and just who does and does not seem to notice (hint: many). None of the discussion included politics or the political scene, which is a favorite for a lot of us who are unhappy with the state of things. Ours was more about how we treat each other and those around us.

After lunch I took a cab that drove through Central Park, entering on Central Park South and meandering up to 72nd and Fifth. The Park is so beautiful right now that I couldn’t help thinking how despite our observations and thoughts of the world we’re living in today, Mother Nature has another message of truth for everyone –joyful and true. These next few days in the Park are a tribute to the precious transformation in life, and beauty abounds. The sight of it can lift you out of those doldrums, even if for a few.

On my way home I stopped by Archivia to pick up another of Liz Smith’s recommendations: “Mrs. Kennedy and Me; An Intimate Memoir,” by Clint Hill, with Lisa McCubbin.
This is one of my favorite trees and especially at this time of the year when it looks like an artist painted it.
Tulips on East 70th Street between Lexington and Third.
And around a tree by the curb.
I finished another Liz recommend over the weekend “Dropped Names” a “memoir” by Frank Langella.  This too is a great read and full of interesting characters, most of whom you know about – but not like Frank Langella knew them.

The book opens with a very short chapter on “meeting” Marilyn Monroe and ends with bidding Bunny Mellon good-bye (figuratively speaking in both cases).

Like the first, the final piece is quietly, gently touching -- personally, for you the reader. As he moves on into his life, you see that he came to know a wide variety of individuals in the theater and film worlds and in society. You will come to know them a bit too. You will laugh, you will ponder, laugh some more and move on (it moves quickly) to explore his experiences.

Next on my reading list: Mrs. Kennedy And Me.
Jackie and Bunny.
At a very young age, when he was first in summer stock on Cape Cod, he came to know Bunny Mellon through her daughter Eliza Lloyd who worked in the stock company with him. He came to know Mr. Mellon also, and through them many other famous and/or otherwise interesting people.

The final chapter in the book is about Mrs. Mellon. Mrs. Mellon is not famous or as famous as many of the other cast of characters, nor is she unknown. But Americans first became aware of her only through her friendship with Jackie Kennedy and the decoration of the White House (and the creation of the Rose Garden). In more recent years we’ve written about her because of other close friendships that she’s had.

Now she is also remarkable for her great age – in August she’ll be 104. She is known for her fabulous lifestyle. I won’t say lavish – although abundance is a big part of it – but also for her highly refined and simply elegant aesthetic, which reaches well into her relationships with those she loves and cares for. Langella describes some of it very effectively in the book.

All of the people who first figured in his life through meeting Bunny Mellon, including her husband, Jackie, JFK, Noel Coward, Adele Astaire and several others, have left us. She is, in fact, the only one portrayed in the book who is still living. Tragically her daughter Eliza was hit by a car in Greenwich Village 12 years ago and remained in a coma for several years before dying. Nevertheless, Mrs. Mellon remains stalwart, perhaps not an “innocent,” but exceptionally kind to others.

One of Frank Langella’s memories of her was a conversation they had when he was much younger and he was anticipating his career as an actor. He asked Mrs. Mellon “what should I do when I meet a famous person?”

Her response: “Oh Frank, don’t think too much about famous people. They already think too much about themselves.”

Closing the book with Bunny Mellon I was once again touched by the portrait he drew of her and its relationship to his first subject, Marilyn, and the odd similarities of the two women. Not unlike the beauty Mother Nature is providing for us in the Park right now.

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