September 1975. Jane Hawkins was Hank Mantell’s girlfriend. She was from Nairobi, Kenya. She and her friend, Katrina Wood, also from Kenya, were in the early stages of building a fashion line they named Naga. Using unusual and exotic imported fabrics their designs were casual but very elegant.
We knew Katrina by a name from her childhood — “Muffin”; her father, Walter Wood, had formed a group of doctors called The Flying Doctors to help underserved rural African populations.
Jane and Muffin had also taken the Silva Mind Control course that David Columbia had taken and so enthusiastically endorsed. And that’s where I’d also met Carly Billings.
I’d written about Carly previously but as a reminder or for latecomers, let me again tell you something about her. Carly was a close friend of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Simon of Simon and Schuster. And although she was from an earlier generation (than me), she was one of the youngest and most vital people I knew. She was the godmother of the Simons’ singer daughter, Carly, and was her namesake!
She told me that her given name was Caroline but as a child it was difficult to say; and so she’d call herself Carly. The name stuck And was passed on.
Among many of the exciting things in her life she had produced the first Technicolor film, La Cucaracha, which featured The Gumm Sisters — one of whom, “Baby Gumm,” became Judy Garland!
The next day, a friend from Paris came to town. He was a photographer named Philippe Billard. We went to dinner at Edo Japanese Restaurant.
There was a show of Milton Glaser’s work at The Museum of Modern Art and I went to the opening.
I had frequent assignments from Milton as he was the Creative Director of New York Magazine. He had assumed that I’d been influenced by Japanese graphic art but in actuality I’d been influenced by illustrators from the 1920s and they were the ones influenced by Japanese art!
Nevertheless, I received commissions referencing Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints by Hiroshige and others. One job was particularly fun. The text was written by the Japan-born daughter of an immigrant Japanese family and she was the only one who spoke and wrote in her recently acquired english. Milton thought it would be appropriate to illustrate the piece with Japanese-flavored graphics; and presuming that that was my particular area of expertise I got the job!
I had to become instantly acquainted and familiar with Japanese 19th century graphic art! The text was a sort of love letter to New York and perfect for the magazine.
I borrowed all the characters from Hiroshige prints and dressed them in Western clothes.
In the evening I met with Mary Milton for dinner.
I had met Ronnie Welch when he was replacing Robert Morse starring in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He had become a close friend and one afternoon while talking about favorite Disney films we finally agreed that Pinocchio was possibly the greatest of them all! I called Richard Amsel and asked if we could watch his print. Richard had been fascinated by all of the Disney films and had started collecting 35 millimeter prints, which was actually not something legal. 16 millimeter prints didn’t exist so Richard had bought a professional film projector and installed it into his bedroom. He’d had a whole cut in the wall through which he projected movies onto his living room wall.
Since the projectors were designed to be used in large theaters, the films’ images — which were being projected at a comparatively short distance (from the bedroom into the living room) — were extremely sharp. Pinocchio’s print was so sharply detailed that during one sequence we could see the reflection of the camera lense in the glass covering the art.
Richard continued collecting and had a perfect print of Gone With the Wind. As with Pinocchio, GWTW was so extremely sharp that the lace on the glued on sideburns of Thomas Mitchell (Scarlett’s father) was visible.
It didn’t destroy the illusion or the enjoyment of the film but rather heightened it making it feel similar to watching a live action play! We became aware that we were watching masterful performances by actors!
This was particularly meaningful to Ronnie since he was an actor.
A few days later, my fraternity brother Dr. Herb DeLey came to Manhattan from Champlain Urbana, Illinois where he was a professor of French at the university. He and his wife Margot spent half of every year in Paris where they had an apartment on the Left Bank. They were living in Paris when I first arrived there and before I spoke French they were incredibly helpful translating for me! During his Manhattan visit we had lunch at Martell’s near my apartment on Third Avenue.
The following Sunday, Mary invited Paul Bartel, Don Simpson, and me to brunch at her apartment. Don was a writer at that time and Paul had hired him to write a script for a film he was going to direct after the great success of his Death Race 2000, which he’d made for Roger Corman.
Paul had been invited to be a judge at The Berlin Film Festival and took Don with him. While Paul was at the festival, Don remained in the hotel writing the script which would become the film, Cannonball.
Don would go on to become, with Jerry Bruckheimer, one of the most successful and powerful producers in Hollywood. But his métier would flame out in a spectacular scandal that ended his career!
A little known detail about Cannonball is the anonymous appearance of Sylvester Stallone and Martin Scorsese in a scene. Stallone had been featured in Death Race 2000 and Scorsese was a friend from the earliest days of our movie, The Secret Cinema, and underground filmmaking in Manhattan during the early to mid-1960s.
The 27th was Mary’s birthday and we celebrated at Daly’s Dandelion.
I teased her by asking if she’d decided what age she wanted to be. My theory has long been that there are so many changes in the world that if you’re happy with a particular age why change it?
Mary has long agreed!