Saw Candace Bushnell Tuesday night at the Café Carlyle. A one woman show which runs through this Saturday, the 29th. I’d never seen her before, nor had I ever read her. I knew about her when she was a columnist in the New York Observer.
She went from there to a best-selling book inspired by her life as a young woman starting out in New York — “Sex and the City” — to the television series which I never saw (if for no other reason than I don’t turn on the television) although I heard about it often. It was such a hit that it made careers for the four principals in the cast.
In other words, I had no opinion about the show, the series, the subject — four young women making their way in New York at the turn of the century. I knew that was the gist of it and I could understand why it would be so popular. It came on the heels of the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960s and ‘70s – which changed the world.
And, as it happened, I actually met Candace a couple of months ago when we were both guests of Gale Hayman at a small dinner at La Goulue. Although we never had a word because we were at the opposite ends of the table in a crowded and very active dining room.
I state the above to remind myself of my non-relationship with Candace Bushnell. So when Peggy Siegal invited me to attend Bushnell’s one-woman show at the Café Carlyle, I could only think, why not? Maybe I’d see why she’s a very successful writer.
In person, she’s a very good looking woman, and very pretty. Although the “pretty” part is just taking care of oneself. Because she’s very funny. I could see from afar that she is an intelligent and hardworking woman. My mother was a hardworking woman. They are always to be admired in my book.
I wondered when I heard about her one woman show — what was it was like? Was it funny? I didn’t know about her personal comedic abilities although I knew that her characters in her stories had comic moments reflecting modern times and habits.
The Café Carlyle is a great room in the great city of New York. Bobby Short played there for years. For most of those years he was the draw, along with a host of famous singers and performers who’ve played there. Even Woody Allen was part of a jazz group that played there on Monday nights for years.
It’s a nightclub in the 20th century sense, because it’s small enough to provide intimacy but large enough to hold fifty so tables. The intimacy brings a special response from the audience. If gives us a chance to look up close. Ms. Bushnell had a show there last year.
Candace, the teenage girl who grew up in Connecticut and dreamed of being a writer in New York, was now playing there.
So in seeing her for the first time, I was looking through the mirrors of the past, her past. Although I’d never been driven to see her work, I thought of this first visit as an opportunity to see what I’ve missed (“or didn’t,” spoken by the skeptic).
The room was mobbed. A number of tables of women, mature but young — 30s, 40s, 50s. This was the audience — young or youthful, smartly but comfortably dressed, bright-eyed and serious, sophisticated but a “natural” group of women enjoying each other’s company with something in common: the star of the night’s show. Not a few of them were the writer’s friends also, because, as I was about to learn (when she got up on the stage), she was and is one of them.
Then at 8:30, dinner finished, a man came on stage to announce Ms. Bushnell’s entrance. Having emerged from the back of the room, tall and slender and blonde, dressed to kill in a white three quarter length sheath/dress, open at the bejeweled midriff, she made her way by the tables up to her living room on the stage. At its center was a comfortable looking, green settee indicating a room/the set. There was a rug on the floor. And over in a corner was a small table (a “desk” with lamp, computer and phone). Her “apartment.”
She’s smartly turned out, a very contemporary American woman type but a force. After a brief bow to the applause, she starts, talking about her background, how she developed from when she was a young girl with an ability and natural inclination to write. By the time she was a teenager she was on the road to what turned out to be a hard-working but very successful and rewarding career. Standing there under the bright lights in her bright white sheath and blonde very slightly streaked hair, she not only looks the part but wears it with real authority.
In other words: She Made It! All by writing about her life as an intelligent but imaginative educated woman in the last half of the American 20th century — when the world was growing smaller and faster, and women’s lives were changing radically.
On Stage: Her “monologue” — life as a TV series — which is acted out as a natural scene(s) with a lot of movement and interruptions by ringing cell phones (part of the script), and Candace playing herself all these years later looking back at the story, the life, the relationships, the marriage, the success and the experience of “getting older.”
The subject is always the story, and life in these modern times is fast and in a hurry. And she keeps delivering the laughs till she takes her bows. She’s got guts, and she’s tough, and she’s smart, and she’s had it handed to her more than a few times but she leaves it out in laughs: our laughs. And hers. A good time had by all!
Thank you Candace!
April 25-29, 8:45 PM
Café Carlyle, New York, NY