Monday, December 12, 2016

A legend in his own time

Divided we sit on Fifth Avenue. 3 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, December 10, 2016.  First snow of the season. It was colder this past weekend with temps in the mid- to low-30s in New York, with lots of grey skies possibly portending snow until late Sunday afternoon when a strong snow mix moved through on its way out onto the Atlantic.
East 73rd Street between Second and Third Avenues. Every year the entire block is decorated with these lights that remain through the winter.
Last night I went out to the market and saw how many holiday decorations were already up and in the air. Here's the front of 55 East End Avenue.
And right across the avenue, 52 East End Avenue.
603 East 82nd Street at the East River.
This elaborate decoration on the third floor fire escape on East 83rd Street is complex with its own lightworks. Sensational.
Looking east on 83rd Street at 75 East End Avenue where there is a string of holiday lights on the top of the building on someone's penthouse, and then the string of white lights on a terrace a few floors below ...
Here's a close up along with a view of someone's Christmas tree two flooors below.
And here's my lobby. The lightshow is a new addition. I wonder what the little ones in the building think when they see the presents under the tree. Even I wonder who they're for and what's in them?
This is the view when you get off the elevator at the lobby ...
And on the entrance table in the lobby, a Menorah.
The first Christmas tree I spotted in the nabe. These people always have the first tree to light up the season.
Still snowing although can't see it.
Today is the 102nd anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra. There are probably few under age 30 who ever heard Sinatra, or even heard of him. But he was a legend in his own time with a career which started before Elvis and rock-and-roll, and ended long after.

Nine years ago we first published a Diary about an incident in his life that occurred between him and a long time woman friend of his, Edie Goetz, the eldest daughter of Louis B. Mayer and a social icon of filmland society in its glory days mid-20th century. Since then we’ve republished it on Mr. Sinatra’s birth anniversaries because it is very popular.
Frank and Edie Goetz.
It was a story that was told to me by Edie herself, back in the 1980s. I would often visit her on Saturday afternoons and tape interviews of her memories of growing up in the film industry from its dawning.  

Having grown up in the “motion picture industry” as it might be described by a member of her generation, Edie lived her life as if it were being filmed. The look and the content were one, like a good script. Our interviews took place in her boudoir on the second floor of her Regency-style mansion in Holmby Hills, overlooking an acre of manicured lawn running down to the swimming pool.

The room painted in a very soft light green/blue, contained a four poster ruffled canopy bed was large with one wall covered with the original Marie Laurencin watercolors of the Alexandre Dumas’ “Les Dames Aux Camillias” and a spacious seating area that led out to a terrace.  Over the fireplace was a Renoir, the first “important” acquisition of what would become the Goetzes’ great art collection, which Edie received as a Christmas gift from her husband Bill Goetz in 1938. 
Marie Laurencin's watercolors of the Alexandre Dumas’ “Les Dames Aux Camillias," which hung in Edie's boudoir.
The Renoir over the fireplace.
Edie, who was then in her late 70s, was always dressed in a very fancy (to these eyes) white lace peignoir with pink or blue satin bows at collar and wrists. Lodge, the butler who had come to work for Edie from the Royal Household, would deliver a bottle of Pellegrino and Baccarat stemware and sliced lemons set down before us in a sitting area.

I took a seat across from Edie who sat in a chair with her back to the terrace and the sweeping lawns below, delivering lots of soft afternoon light on her. It was a perfect camera setup for the shot. None of it was accidental, but it was also second nature to Edie’s style and sensibility and her education as a child of the movies.

The story she recounted to me was well-known then by those who were part of the older, inner social circles of the industry. And there are probably several versions. Edie told me her version because she wanted it known from a “historic” point of view for a specific reason. Since she wasn’t going to write a memoir — although perhaps some writer (me, for example) might, she wanted her version out there.
Edie Goetz in her Billy Haines library of her Holmby Hills mansion.
Her sister Irene Selznick with whom she shared a lifelong sibling rivalry, had recently published a memoir (“A Private View” — Knopf, 1983) in which she recorded her version of her life, as well as her sister’s. When I told Edie that I had read Irene’s book, she told me she hadn’t. Nor would she, as if to dismiss anything Irene might say about her. Nevertheless Edie was curious about the details, and would occasionally “correct” Irene’s version of a story.
Edie, left, with her sister Irene Mayer Selznick in the 1920s.
The following story which she recounted to me that afternoon was told in a quiet and serious tone, the way a doctor — or a dramatist, depending — might explain a personality condition (Frank’s in this instance). Edie was an actress at that moment performing a role of “clinical understanding.” In other words, tolerance for Irene.

Frank Sinatra by then had long been married to his wife Barbara and was very much a part of the social world that Edie once presided over before she was widowed. She read about him all the time, and heard about him even more. But she never saw him. Everyone she knew not only knew him but saw him frequently. And she never never did. She didn’t express regret about it, but instead explained his absence in her life by couching her story in terms of “understanding” the man. I knew Edie well enough, however, to gather that “regret” would always linger no matter her protests ...

Here's the full story.
Bill and Edie Goetz in their living room with a self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1952.

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