Schulenberg’s Page: Bette, Barbra, and Buzzy

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June, 1972: We were later to learn that President Nixon was recorded in The Oval Office talking with H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, about using the CIA to obstruct the FBI’s investigation of the break-in at the Watergate Complex, but on that same day I was meeting Buzzy King for dinner at Paparazzi on Second Avenue not far from Buzzy’s apartment.  We were, of course, unaware of what was going on in The White House. But so was everyone else.

We had enough world events to talk about: Nixon was arranging to stop sending draftees to fight in Vietnam, in Germany the Red Army Faction Baader-Meinhof Gang had been caught, and in Ireland, two dozen bombs planted by the Irish Republican Army exploded in Belfast killing nine people and wounding scores more!  There’s no way we could have known that events happening right then in Washington would eventually take over the news!

The next night I went with Richard Amsel to Carnegie Hall where Bette Midler was performing her super legitimate show.  Richard had designed the cover of her LP record which had been a huge success for both Bette and Richard!

I describe Bette’s Carnegie Hall appearance as “super legitimate” as not too long before this she had been appearing on the Upper West Side regularly at a gay bathhouse called The Continental Baths accompanied by her pianist/music director, a young man named Barry Manilow!

As unlikely as this might seem, it was a very appropriate part of New York night life at the time, and before long Bette and the venue had become the talk of Manhattan and a very hot ticket!  Soon Upper East Side proper ladies and gentlemen found themselves seated row upon row facing a smallish stage while opposite them on separate but equal folding chairs row upon row, young men wrapped only in towels took time off from their … bathing … to assemble and enjoy the show on the stage!

The place was enormous and there was a full (probably) Olympic-size swimming pool near the stage.  I went to see Bette there before she became famous and found myself seated between Helen Gurley Brown and Arlene Frances!  We can justifiably call this crossover entertainment and I marveled at the thought that this was even happening!  If you wanted to get a reaction from your Mid-Western relations this would certainly have been the place to do it!

Bette‘s performance did have its PC-21 moments like during the second act when she appeared carefully draped only in a towel (like the regular customers) and threw them amyl nitrite poppers!

More surprising was the exuberance of the crowd after the show as many men and women whipped off their clothes to jump into the pool!  I didn’t join them and neither did Helen Gurley Brown and Arlene Frances!

Bette’s Carnegie Hall appearance was more subdued and there was no pool!  After, we went backstage and Richard introduced me to Miss M!

The next day I was out and about again. After making a quick stop at Bloomingdale’s and another even quicker stop at Yellowfingers, I headed downtown to the Lower East Side to look at fabric on Orchard Street.

I’d been told that there were amazing bargains on fine English woolens and I still had the dream of having a hacking jacket made — one that resembled one I’d bought in London while shopping with Sharon Tate.

When I first wore it I’d added a posh silk pocket square and Sharon had said “no”!  She removed it saying “it looks so perfect; don’t f**k it up!”

Sharon Tate in London, in 1966.

I kept thinking of that from six years before as I looked at tweeds but since it was late June they were telling me to come back when there’d be new shipments with even more choices!

I stopped in at Rattner’s Delicatessen, a place I’d heard and read about but never visited.  I found a table and had a late lunch; even though I hadn’t found any fabric I’d found Rattner’s and considered the trip a success!

My friends, Ed and Susan Rush, were in town from the Bay Area where they lived high on a hill in a wonderful pre-1906 earthquake house with a beautiful view of the Bay. We were going downtown to The Circle In the Square to see a play, JOAN, written, directed and acted in (he also composed the music) by Al Carmines, the assistant minister at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park.  He was a key figure in the expansion of Off-Off Broadway Theater during the 1960s.

Ed Rush was a close childhood friend of my brother and I always thought Ed was brilliant.  When just out of college he and another friend, George Cromarty, had written a song that has become one of those gems that at a certain time, the 1960s, almost everyone knew of but nobody knew who’d written it!

Ed and George had written it.  Here’s some of it:

I don’t care if it rains or freezes
As long as I’ve got my plastic Jesus 
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car.”

With many more stanzas. Paul Newman sang it in the movie Cool Hand Luke and many people have recorded it! As I say, few people know who wrote it!

So we went downtown to see JOAN.

After the play we went uptown to Elaine’s! I wanted them to have the whole rarified Manhattan experience!

On arriving the first person I saw was an old friend from my earliest days at the advertising agency, photographer Artie Goldstein.  Artie wasn’t famous like Avedon or Penn but he was reliable, a young Old Faithful who did the job when the art director couldn’t decide whom to use!

In the early days while she was totally unknown I took Barbra Streisand to Artie’s 1960 Christmas party in his large photo studio.  It was one of the first times Barbra had appeared in public with her new makeover.  False eyelashes hand-cut (by me — how I learned to finally cut my own hair) and the new extended eye makeup.  To draw attention to her face I had her all in black.  She made quite a picture and at the bar I overheard one woman telling another, “Did you see how beautiful her eyes are?”

Barbra felt very good about everything and at one point asked if she could play the drums with the band?

She could and she did!

So I introduced Ed and Susan to Artie.

On Sunday, Susan, Ed and I went downtown to the Judson Church where Al Carmines was having a sing-in.

“Give me that old time religion” in the Judson Church Garden Room.

After the singing we took Al Carmines to O’Henry’s.  Martin Herzer was a friend of Ed Rush and he’d been the Production Manager on JOAN.  He was the person who got us all together.

I can’t remember the details but Susan became ill and Ed called to tell me he’d taken her to St. Vincent’s Hospital!  I hurried downtown to see if I could be helpful.

As it turned out, it was not serious.  As they ran some tests to be sure I took Ed uptown to the Autopub in the GM Building.  We had lunch in the Drive-In section seated in a booth designed as a convertible sports car!

New York had attempted to out-kitsch Hollywood on a grand scale.

It’s always fun to give visitors a tour of the town in which you live and they don’t! But when you live in Manhattan and give visitors a tour, it’s a truly sensational experience for everyone.

I always found myself looking at the amazing city with fresh eyes! It’s like when you explain something complex to someone and possibly they understand or possibly they don’t but I always feel that I, myself have a much clearer idea of what I was explaining than I did before I started! I don’t know — that’s just me!

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