So faithful reader, as you read this while languishing in your locked down quarantine, the turbulent events of almost 50 years ago may appear quaint compared to our current perfect storm of a COVID-19 life-threatening pandemic, economic uncertainty and apprehension about a looming national election!
So enjoy an iced tea, coffee or even a stiff drink and buckle up!
A welcome distraction came in the form of Carly Billings who came to town from her home in Sag Harbor. We went to the Music Box Theatre to see Absurd Person Singular by the British playwright Alan Ayckbourn. It had an all-star cast with, among others, Sandy Dennis, Carole Shelly, Geraldine Page, and my friend Richard Kiley, whose wife, Patricia (Pattie Ferrier) I’d known since the 1950s! Pattie had been the dance captain for Bob Fosse and was a close friend of him and his then wife Gwen Verdon.
We had an early dinner at Sardi’s and it was so nice to see how well Carly was greeted! She had been an early investor in Life With Father which held the record for the longest running play on Broadway! She had also been married to theatrical lawyer John Wharton who took care of Cole Porter’s legal affairs — so she was well known at Sardi’s!
The play was wonderfully funny with marvelous performances and I couldn’t help but discreetly draw during it.
After a quick visit with Richard backstage, we were invited to Carly’s old friends Bill and Betsy Goff‘s apartment for dessert and drinks.
The following day, I went down to the Village. There was always so much street life going on that it was a wonderful relief from the solitary pressures of a week with deadlines! And it was always picturesque.
Afterwards, I took the subway but got off at Times Square — killing time before going back home to work!
A restaurant called Grass had recently opened, playing on the reference to marijuana. I went with Richard Amsel to check it out. There were beginning to be a lot of subtle drug references appearing and I couldn’t help but wonder where the trend was going — and where it would end!
My friend Joanne Beretta was performing at Reno Sweeney and I went down to hear her. JoAnne’s appearances were always special and always uniquely wonderful. She could rip out your heart with a passionately calm tone and immediately follow it with a hilarious reworking of an old cliched standard! She was also multi-talented being a staff designer for the popular magazine The Family Circle.
After the show we went further downtown to Chinatown for a late supper.
Going home I noticed the graffiti in the subway cars. It was becoming more prevalent.
A few nights later, Mary Milton invited me and her old friend John “Tito” Gerassi, a writer, journalist and Political Science professor. Tito was hands down one of the most fascinating people I’d ever known and I was pleased that we hit it off and remained friends until he died!
His background was uniquely amazing: his father was an anarchist general in Spain who resisted Franco during the Spanish Civil War. His mother was a childhood friend of Simone de Beauvoir and in fact, introduced de Beauvoir to Jean-Paul Sartre. They both became Tito’s godparents!
Tito had also even known Che Guevarra and wrote about him!
After dinner we’d been invited to the apartment of my “french sister” Marie Christine and her husband Arnaud d’Usseau.
Arnaud was a playwright and screenwriter and wrote the play Ladies of the Corridor with Dorothy Parker! He had become a friend of Parker when he was living in Hollywood working as a screenwriter and they were both living in The Chateau Marmont.
At that time it was less expensive and less chic than The Garden of Allah just down the street on Sunset Boulevard.
Kermit Bloomgarden was a legendary Broadway producer and had produced Arnaud’s 1945 play, Deep Are the Roots, a play that early on had a theme dealing with racism. He’d had an amazing string of successes — Death of a Salesman, The Most Happy Fella, The Music Man, The View From the Bridge, The Diary of Anne Frank and the more recent The Hot L Baltimore and Peter Shaffer’s Equus.
Arnaud had written a play that Bloomgarden was hoping to produce. But sad to say, it never happened.
Kermit died of a brain tumor the following year in 1976 and was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
A few days later I was visiting my friend Charlie Davis and met Paul Rudd, a young actor. I’ve long been confused because there is a well known comedic actor named Paul Rudd who, apparently, is someone else! I’ve always thought that Actors Equity didn’t allow the same name for different actors. It’s why the actor Michael Keaton had to change his name from his birth name, Michael Douglas.
A break at O’Melia’s on the Upper East Side.
There was another meeting of the newly organizing Illustrators’ Guild.
I was supportive of the idea but frankly thought it was coming too late as already there was less use of illustrations in advertising which is what really paid well!
We signed a paper in support. I was impressed to see my own name between that of legendary Milton Glaser and well respected veteran Bernard “Bernie” Fuchs!
Richard Amsel didn’t sign but I can’t remember why.
The next day I was off to Esquire magazine for a big assignment: a multi-page satirical illustration called “The Worst Party in the World” with the legend “you wanted to go to a party with celebrities? Well — here you are!” and followed with portrayals of the worst or most boring or tiresome or over-hyped currently well known people filling the media with their particular brands of charisma!
Terse short comments accompanied the portrayals.
All in a day’s work!