MARCH, 1975: Richard Falcon was an attractive gregarious middle aged man who loved to entertain his friends. He owned a small advertising agency that dealt primarily with pharmaceutical products. One of his clients had a product that dealt with constipation, a somewhat delicate product having certain problems for advertising. Richard got the idea of inventing a mythical small city called “CONSTIPOPOLIS” where all of the residents experienced symptoms and complained constantly of their condition!
He commissioned me to do a painting of the place and some of its denizens. As inspiration I thought of it as a middle American rust belt place stuck in the ambiguous 1950s, the last time the town had really prospered. It was pretty successful and some people even framed the artwork!
Richard also was a superb cook with gourmet areas of expertise and for a time gave friends lessons in the finer points of food preparation. Mary Milton was a participant and loved it because the session always ended with a dinner party and everyone enjoying the day’s work!
Mary and I were invited to one of Richard’s Saturday afternoon to evening get togethers in his comfortable apartment.
Buzzy King was there and it was Buzzy who introduced me to Richard.
He was always so much fun to be with — a wonderful conversationalist and a frequent purveyor of the best insider gossip!
I’d met him one night at Elaine’s which before the days of debit cards he used as his bank for cashing checks! After we’d become friends we’d meet frequently for drinks or dinner and start a conversation and before we knew it the place would be closing for the night and we would have to find some 24-hour place to keep going! Sometimes just the sidewalks would be the venue.
Richard’s afternoon parties weren’t just afternoon. They’d stretch on into the night accompanied by lavish buffets and drinks, a perfect way to spend a languid Saturday afternoon to evening in Manhattan!
Richard was a sensational host.
The following Monday I went to the Plaza Hotel to see my french friend Carole Weisweiller visiting from her home in Paris.
I was drawn to Carole because of my intense interest and fascination in the films of Jean Cocteau. Her mother Francine was the patron of Cocteau and backed his film work. He’d stayed at her villa Santa Sospir on the French Riviera at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and decorated almost every wall with paintings.
Picasso also added a few.
The film, Les Enfants Terribles, was adapted from his quirky novel about the vaguely incestuous relationship of a brother and sister and starred Carole’s cousin, the actress Nicole Stephane (de Rothschild — although she never professionally used her family’s last name) playing the sister.
Most of the movie was shot inside the Weisweillers’ Parisian town house!
I loved Carole’s stories about the film and Cocteau!
A few days later I met with another Parisian friend for dinner. It was a good excuse to keep up my french.
The next day there was a small gathering of some of the same friends at the apartment of Sue Turner who was engaged to be married to Steve Warm.
Ki Hackney was married to Carl Hribar, who was an architect.
One day she was driving somewhere, she told me, and in the course of her trip saw a beautiful house that had just recently been built. She stopped to investigate it because she liked it so much. She said she was thinking that she could fall in love with someone sensitive enough to have designed that house!
Not too long after, she met Carl, got to know him and eventually they were married. She would soon learn that in fact, it was Carl who’d designed that same house!
I met my friend Bob Hill for dinner as he wanted to tell me the details of his work. He shared that it was he who sewed the hair onto Burt Reynolds’ bald spot (which was considerable). I’ve wondered all the years after, as Reynolds aged and “his hair” had some gray and then progressively more gray, if Bob Hill had been the person to do the additions. It always looked so believable that I imagine that a great proportion of his fans never knew that Burt Reynolds was quite bald at the beginning of his career!
The next day I was catching up on work and in the afternoon my phone rang. It was my friend Beth Rudin and she was telling me that the premiere of the sequel to Funny Girl, Funny Lady was happening that night. As a matter of fact, in just a few hours!
Her mother Gladyce had divorced Lew Rudin and married the movie producer/Columbia Studios Head, and co-founder of CMA talent management and the producer of Funny Lady, David Begelman.
Beth was calling to invite me to be her escort and go with them to the premiere.
In just a few hours! And we’d be going with the producer of the movie!
My black velvet evening suit was lying crumpled in the basket for the dry cleaners and my formal pleated shirts were in the laundry basket ready for the laundromat! But I couldn’t say no!
As I hung up the phone I dashed to the closet and both baskets, pulling out my suit and shirt just a little hysterical, and filled the kitchen sink with laundry detergent while simultaneously heating the steam iron!
I hung up the black velvet suit and ran back to the sink to agitate the suds and then grabbed the steam iron to steam the wrinkles from the suit!
Finally it was getting late and I had to stop steaming and sudsing and start drying my complicated pleated shirt the only way I could think of — with my hair dryer! Also a quick Vaseline slick on my patent leather shoes!
I’d almost forgotten that I also needed to shower and do everything I could to look presentable enough to be seen with the studio head/producer of the film and his family! And I almost forgot that I would undoubtedly see Barbra and didn’t want to look too shabby! What would she think?
In just a very few hours!
Finally I pulled it together and dressed and almost right on time took a cab down from my apartment on East 83rd Street to Beth’s apartment on East 68th Street! We were picked up by Beth’s mother and Begelman and were dropped off at the theater where (of course) platoons of photographers were waiting.
The ambiguous expression on my face is not a world weary one but one that is aware that I’m wearing a slightly damp velvet suit and that the sleeves of my elegant shirt are actually dripping a bit down my arms! The back of the shirt is of course more than simply damp!
After the screening there was a comparatively small party at El Morocco.
On our arrival upstairs at El Morocco (the Champagne Room) the first person we ran into was Lauren Bacall who greeted us with a warm smile.
When Barbra saw me she was of course surprised! Not only was I a guest at a very private party of much less than a hundred people but I’d come with the producer of her film (and the head of CMA which represented her)! She was with Jon Peters at the time and invited Beth and me to join them at their table — which had only room for four.
I’m sure that David Begelman was breathing a sigh of relief that the way Beth had probably presented me regarding a relationship with Barbra was true.
I could have been a crazy fan and told Beth any number of invented stories about knowing Barbra but he trusted Beth and risked it and I always respected him for that!
Barbra and I didn’t get much time for any one on one conversations but it was a wonderful evening with memorable events. One of them was Mary Lindsay, the wife of John Lindsay who had been the mayor of New York City a few years after Barbra and I were haunting the Brill Building looking for unusual songs for her to use at The Bon Soir or looking for elegant looking but inexpensive shoes for her at Klein’s on Union Square. Mary was stopping to apologize and say that “John was sorry he couldn’t be there” as he was out of town — or something!
The ex-mayor of New York City was sorry he wasn’t there?
After the party I took Beth uptown to Elaine’s (where else?) where we got a table close to Woody Allen. Beth became fascinated by a hat he was wearing and asked if she could draw it in my book.
Life takes strange exciting turns and as Auntie Mame used to say:
“LIFE IS A BANQUET and most poor bastards are starving to death!”