Tuesday, October 24, 2017

To the moon

Fallen leaves along Fifth Avenue. 9:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Mild, mainly overcast here in New York yesterday, with temperatures in the low 70s and feeling a little cooler than that.
A vertical shot of clouds separating, 4 p.m.
I went to lunch at Michael’s with Scott Currie who has collaborated with Melissa Rivers on Joan Rivers Confidential (“the unseen scrapbooks, joke cards, personal files and photos of a very funny woman who kept everything.”). Tonight from 6 to 8:30 Scott and Melissa are co-hosting (by invitation only) “a celebration” of the publication with Cindy Adams, Deborah Norville, and Blaine Trump at Maxwell’s Chophouse on 1184 Broadway at 28th Street.

Scott and I had originally made this date to talk about the book’s pub date (which is tomorrow), but a couple of weeks ago I received a copy of the book and loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to write about it (here).
DPC with Scott Currie at Michael's. Click to order Joan Rivers Confidential.
It’s a coffee table book (published beautifully by Abrams). It’s a scrapbook and it’s the memoir which Joan might have written (she’d written one before) if she had lived a few more years. It was a life in Show Business, full of change, obstacles, challenges and even majestic incidents.

If you were a fan of Joan’s, if you liked her performances, you would have loved her off-stage, off-camera. She was quieter, obviously, a listener; a very intelligent, sensitive woman who was kind and empathic and full of common sense as well as that self-effacing humor that speaks to all of us.

Scott Currie had known her since 1990 when as a kid out of college he was hired as an “Associate Producer” of her morning show.  He’d already been a fan and after working with her on the show for a few months, she liked his work and liked his company. She’d often ask him to escort her to an event — an opening, or a cocktail party. Or even just to have dinner.
In time he spent every Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays at Joan’s. She was also an excellent, sensitive hostess, and gave dinners full of conversation about the world we live in, as well as an occasional passing remark by the lady with the quick wit. Off-stage, off-camera, there was none of that brashness that she used so handily in her delivery. Nor was there that effacement about physical self.

When I arrived at Michael’s yesterday, I told Joana who was working at the reception desk, about the lunch I was about to have with Scott. She reminded me that Joan had lunched at Michael’s fairly often (when she was in town). Joana adored her not only for her performances but for her friendliness. “Every time she came in, she always brought a piece of her jewelry (line) for me and for Loreal. If not jewelry, she might bring us scarves or other little gifts,” Joana told me yesterday.
At lunch I asked Scott how this book came about, what inspired a “scrapbook”?  Easy: after Joan died and her apartment on East 62nd Street was put on the market, he was cleaning it out, organizing the move of her possessions, when one day he came upon two scrapbooks. He’d never seen them before. As well as he knew her, he didn’t know she kept scrapbooks (which is a not unusual habit with performers — keeping a record of their business/career).

He knew there must be more. When he asked Melissa about it, she assured him there were many more. Joan was exacting in keeping all of her personal records, and very organized. She had many in storage in New Jersey, as well as in Los Angeles. Going through some of them, he realized they’d make a wonderful book. Discussing it with Melissa, she agreed, and so it began.
It’s a very effective memoir for a woman so famous that people can conjure up her voice (and her delivery) in their head. It takes you into her personal experience of making a career. Among the material Scott organized is her vast collection of one-liners, all filed under specific subjects such as: Marriage, Pregnancy, New York, even Elizabeth Taylor.

The Liz jokes were built around the time when she had gained a lot of weight. Sample:

“Liz isn’t fat? Who else do you know who carries a toaster around in her purse?”

Or: “Liz isn’t fat? They ask her ‘What would you like on your salad?’ and she screams ‘A meatloaf.’”

And then there’s the Johnny Carson story. A hard one, and a sad one for both parties. This is a very real memoir in that you come away with a sense of a personality but how she lived that life.
Meanwhile, back on Broadway, last Thursday night was notable to me because I went — as I reported on Friday’s Diary — to City Harvest’s annual BID feast and auction. This should be on everyone’s annual calendar. It is fun, and delicious and delivering something for everyone.

However, last Thursday was one of those “traffic days” that now plague every New York traveling in a motorized vehicle with tires. My friend Joy has a car service that has beautiful, new Cadillacs. (Amazingly roomy in the back seat and front.). I’m not the car service type ($$) but am happy to go along when someone else is. This one had a moon roof. I tell you this because the driver in taking us to our destination (West 18th Street off Seventh Avenue) had learned from WAZE that the best way to our destination that night, at that hour — 6 p.m. — from the Upper East Side, was via Seventh Avenue.
Broadway Babies. As it happened Waze was more like No Ways once we were en route. 57th and 42nd Streets on Seventh Avenue was bumper-to-bumper gridlock. The entire 15 block roadway took about  20 minutes to just get out of (after 42nd).  It’s easy to get into a boil over such a situation as New Yorkers are always in a hurry anyway. However, this trip on those blocks is just that: a trip. Not because of the clamoring crowds — which are predictable — but because of the great walls of advertising — what were once called billboards — along the Great White Way.

Spectacular is a feeble adjective for this voyage. I was so fascinated that I got out my trusty Canon and started shooting the trip, sign to sign, to tower, to the moon. That gridlock provided something I never would have seen. One can see it just walking by, or by standing and looking. But traveling, very slowly, right down the middle, you see both sides, and the constant, ongoing changes, as if these walls of messages were live.

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