Friday, February 3, 2017

Memory Lane

It must have been Christmas time, probably Christmas Eve (because of the red ties), and that’s probably vodka in the glass on the piano. I must have been playing the piano when someone had the idea of taking the picture. Standing: from left, Nick Duthie, son of Michael Duthie next to him, then Channing Chase, Dominique Langlois, Sara Romilly, and seated, Kenyon Kramer and DPC. This might have been in the mid-80s. Michael and Sara had both moved out, replaced by Channing, an actress whom you might have seen as Pete Campbell’s mother in "Mad Men," and Dominique who was an advertising executive and is now the mother of a teen-age son and a twenty year old daughter in college..
Friday, February 4, 2016. A nice early February day in New York. Uneventful weather-wise, in the low 40s and dropping down to brrr after nightfall.

Memory Lane and Cleaning Up the Files. I’m one of those people who saves everything. I save letters, I save cards, sometimes newspapers and magazines, not to mention the copies of the magazines I’m in, not to mention books of course, as well as tchotchkes that cover most surfaces in my apartment. And photos. I have boxes and boxes (not organized enough for albums), as well as nowadays, files of photos, especially of the past seventeen years of Diary.
One of my file boxes fileld with photos.
My mother used to throw everything away when I was a kid. When I went away to college, she cleaned out my room and handily tossed my huge collection of 45 rpm records from Elvis until the Beatles (when LPs really took over). I was very upset, of course, when I learned of her administrative activity, and she heard about it, unfazed. Now all I think about it is how valuable those little round vinyls would be today! Although I probably would still have them in some old carton in a closet.

Last weekend in my occasional efforts to “get organized,” I came upon a group of photos from my early days living in Los Angeles. I had moved out there in 1978 to pursue a career as a professional writer. 

The first year out there I met an Englishwoman named Sara Romilly, who was the exec assistant to a film producer. A very good natured, hardworking, friendly woman in her 30s, Sara, who enjoys a good laugh, was in the thick of the film business, and has remained still working (when she can find time) on many important films. At the time she was sharing a house in the hills on North Doheny Drive with three others, all British, who were also working in the industry.
The original cast of characters on Doheny Drive. This was Christmas 1981, the first year the four of us were housemates: Messrs. Duthie, Kramer and DPC with Ms. Romilly. How lucky we all were to be together.
One day Sara told me they were losing two of their housemates, if I’d like to take a place. It was a large three bedroom three/three bath with a pool in the backyard. Another friend, Kenyon Kramer and I moved in joining Sara and Michael Duthie, a film editor from London.

It was the first time I’d shared a living space with roommates since college but the conveniences, space-wise as well as pool-wise were too good to pass up, not to mention the rent which was initially $1300 a month split four ways.  And it so happened that everyone – all in our 30s – had a lot going on in their own lives both work-wise and socially. I worked at home, in my room.
A shot of the living room before the guests arrived.
I lived there for eleven years. From the original four, Sara eventually moved, Michael who had been joined by a girlfriend (and her dog), moved and were replaced by other friends, and eventually Kenyon departed, leaving me the sole resident. By that time, the extra rooms could be filled with guests from out of town, and there often a lot of those.

The living arrangement was such that the house became a home for everyone. Kenyon and I both had a highly sociable approach and soon there were dinner parties including everyone plus their friends, as well as big open house dinners at Christmas, a big table of friends and family guests on Thanksgiving. Everyone had his or her separate life, but life around the house was included. We were housemates, we were friends but mainly we were a family. A 21st century family perhaps.
The living room had a very high ceiling and one Christmas we put up this twelve-foot tree for our annual Christmas Eve buffet where we invited 75 guests, whoever didn’t have anyplace to go for that special Eve. If you look closely you can see little Rum Rum comfortably ensconced on the sofa. Rum was sweet little Jack Russell who later moved with me to New York.
There were grand pianos in the big living room and many nights after dinners, there was music, and singing. Each of us brought different friends to join us. Many were people in the industry, especially those who worked on the production side, or actors from New York or London who were in LA on a job. We had a good time. It’s been more than 25 years since those days on Doheny but each Christmas I still hear from our original cast of characters, always recalling the pleasure we all had in each other’s company.

Looking at these pictures, I can see that they were taken at different times. We weren’t so photo-oriented in those pre-digital days. There were computers although not the laptops and cellphones were only in their infancy and few people had more than a carphone with receiver. So I don’t recall the times of these gatherings.
Here’s Bob Schulenberg at the piano being accompanied by Channing Chase, at everyone’s pleasure no doubt. I have known both since the mid-1960s in New York, and “Schulenberg’s Page” is a weekly feature on the NYSD. This must have been taken around the same time.
Nick Klein, Barbara Kuhl and Bob Schulenberg. At this point Schulenberg had moved back to Los Angeles (where he was born and grew up). Nick, who is a screenwriter, and Barbara were a couple, living together. I can't remember how we all met but they were frequent guests at our table. I love this photo because it captures an essence of each. Barbara is a beauty, as you can see, and with a warm, witty, but intense personality. Her presence captures it all in this photo. The couple eventually broke up but I understand they are still close and still see each other at times although they live in different parts of the world.
Elsa Braunstein and Deborah Irmas. Elsa, who was a photographer, and her beautiful dog Pogo, were residents of the house in the mid-'80s also. Elsa now lives in Vancouver. Deborah was our neighbor from across the street. She was an art historian/writer and collector. She later moved to Paris but now I think she lives fulltime in her hometown, Los Angeles.
Here's Dominique with Rum and with Polo. Polo was a Shih Tzu who showed up at the sliding glass door of my room one very rainy day in Los Angeles when I was sitting at my computer working. I took him in. He had a name tag and a number. I called several times over a few days and finally I got a call back from a guy who lived around the corner on one of the bird streets. By that time I had become attached to Polo and he to me. But I took Polo over to his home in my car. When we arrived, he wasn't interested in getting out of the car. The owner, whom I heard was an agent, was standing in his doorway, in his bathrobe (it was about 2:30 in the afternoon), unshaven and haggard. The first thing he said to me was: "you wanna dog?" I'd grown fond of Polo and said: "yes, as a matter of fact I want a Shih Tzu" as I had lost another Shih Tzu only a few months before. "Then we should talk ..." the agent said. "No, you either want him or you don't," I said smartly. Polo came home with me.
Kenyon and I with Hermes Pan, now a Hollywood immortal. Hermes, a very dear, gentle man began working with Fred Astaire as his dance assistant in “Flying Down to Rio” at RKO in 1933. Hermes who been a dancer and singer in the chorus on Broadway in the 1920s, came West when Talkies came in and they were beginning to make musicals. He had been working in a show with Ginger Rogers who was leaving to go to Hollywood. “They’re gonna need dancers out there,” she advised him, and so he went with his mother and his sister driving across the then highway-less America in an old Ford they bought for $75. The first two years were really tough but then he got a call he’d auditioned for by Dave Gould, the dance director at RKO. Hermes went over to the studio and Gould sent him up to a rehearsal stage were Fred Astaire was working on his dances for the film "Flying Down to Rio" with Ginger Rogers -- their first. “Maybe you can help him,” Gould told Pan. “Help Fred Astaire?” Pan thought to himself – “what could I do to help Fred Astaire?” He approached the man tentatively but eager as he needed the job, whatever that would be.  That was in 1933. From that day until the end of Fred's days of performing, Hermes and Fred planned all of his works together.  And their close friendship lasted for the rest of their lives.

Kenyon and I worked on a television project on Hermes' life, and I wrote an autobiography for him which was never published.  I called it “The Man Who Danced With Fred Astaire.” A few years ago another writer took the title and published a book about Pan. Whom he did not know.
Here’s little rum on the sofa in my room.
Here’s our dear boy again.
 

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