Made for a story

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The NYC skyline from a distance. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, December  28, 2022. It’s cold in New York, but not as cold as it was five days ago when that freezing cold weather moved across the continent with winds that could give you a headache instantly.

It’s also very quiet in New York. Even the business daytime traffic seems cut to a minimum. In my neighborhood, which is almost exclusively residential, most of the windows in the big apartment buildings are dark. Meaning residents are away for the week between the two holidays.

For us here at NYSD, it’s a chance to stop and take a look at the world we’re living in and the world we came from. I’ve used some of the time organizing my vast array of photographs from the first days to the present. As if it matters; but you never know. Keeping them was a happy moment akin to just not throwing them away. Once upon a time, I’d ask myself why I was bothering to keep sundry snaps of so many people, times, and moments in daily life. Mind blank; no explanation.

Beth Rudin DeWoody and me in the late ’90s.

Which takes me to a most recent discovery of a personally important memory. In the late ’70s, I was in business but spending much of my time writing film scripts. I’d written a script based on a murder in a family my father had worked for. A friend of mine, Beth Rudin DeWoody, unbeknownst to me, gave it to her mother who was married to a major studio executive in Los Angeles.

Her mother gave it to a woman friend of hers who was an executive at one of major film studios. I didn’t know about any of this until one early evening about this time of year, I came home from my business with the phone ringing. I picked it up, a pleasantly serious voice of a mature but young woman, telling me that she had just read my script and that I was “so talented you should come out here and write scripts.”

I was so impressed that when I put the phone back on the hook, I said to myself: “I’m going.” And nine months later I sold my business and moved out to L.A. Cold. I knew nobody really although I had a couple of vague connections (“call me if you’re ever in L.A.”  — that sort of thing).

Friend and numerologist Dezia Restivo.

Several months later, having left my business behind and preparing to make the move in the early autumn, some close friends of mine gave me a “Going Away” gift of a reading of my future by a well known local psychic, Dezia Restivo. Dezia who also had a column for years in the monthly Quest magazine, did the numbers (“what’s your birthdate?”) and then read the cards. This was a new experience for me and I was amused by my friends’ gift but expected only maybe to be entertained.

Dezia was a small blonde figure, British by birth and upbringing, a long time US citizen in New York. She was matter-of-fact friendly but very nice. She sat down at a small desk and I in a chair across from her.  She began by telling me to pick out eight cards (without looking at the cards) and hand them to her. She would then spread them out and hold them so close to her face that you couldn’t see her. And I was wondering how she could see anything that close to her eyebrows.

Nevertheless, she began speaking about my presence there and knowing beforehand that I was moving to Los Angeles, she said: “you’re going to meet a royal woman wearing rose colored glasses and has houses overlooking three oceans…!” I thought that was pretty funny. In L.A.? I don’t think so …

Cut to: By that Autumn, I made the big move. And it was big, as I was leaving a whole life behind and going to a place where I really knew no one except for a couple of acquaintances. One of them was a New York fashion designer, Luis Estevez who had fallen in love with the life out there that he moved his business out there. I knew him almost vaguely — a friend of a friend — but enough so that he’d know who was calling him.

Lady Sarah Churchill (back left) at a reception with her second husband Guy Burgos.

Our meeting was congenial but no more than a “connection.” But several weeks later he called and invited me to join him at a cocktail party in Beverly Hills at the home of a British woman named Lady Sarah Churchill. I’d heard of her although I’d never met her. She was the daughter of the duke of Marborough and the granddaughter of Consuelo Vanderbilt. She been married more than once, and at the time of invitation she had been married for sometime to a handsome young Greek named Roubanis. The kind of things you learn from reading Aileen Mehle’s Suzy.

Bob Schulenberg’s portrait of Sarah sketched during conversation about her third divorce in 1980.

The party was at Sarah’s house in the hills overlooking Coldwater Canyon and out to the Pacific. There was a big crowd, and I met Lady Sarah who was greeting the arrivals. She was quite tall, and charmingly naturally self-confident. As it turned out, with a much longer story, I came to know her very well, and even though happenstance and purpose, I came to live with her in the first almost two years living in Los Angeles.

Oh, and she was wearing rose colored glasses when I met her that night at her house on Lloydcrest Drive; and she had houses in Jamaica and Greece, and of course Beverly Hills, all overlooking an ocean.

Sarah and me at a party sitting on the staircase of my house on North Doheny with Rum Rum on her lap. She was leaving California and returning to her life in Florida and Connecticut.

I came to know her very well. She had what I think of as an international personality. Her natural heritage was a world far far removed from that of an ordinary American boy. It made for a story, the kind that fill memoirs, or otherwise goes unsaid.

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