Schulenberg’s Page: Capturing a cross section of life in the big city

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Sardis, December 27, 1974.

December, 1974. A lot had happened in the world since the last things I posted. But I’ll get back to that later.

Earlier in the year I’d met Rick Horton, an interesting young man who was studying engineering at North Carolina State.

Rick Horton.

He was also an artist and had told me stories about his life in North Carolina as what he termed “a mill child” since his parents worked in a textile mill. The stories were pretty grim and he told me that he’d learned how on the verge of poverty the family was by watching television.

He realized that the homes portrayed on shows and in commercials were depicted as nothing very out of the ordinary but compared to how and where he and his family lived they seemed to him to be luxurious, which made him aware of what was missing in his life.

He was a good student in high school and had been offered the choice of a football scholarship or an academic scholarship. And when he asked his older sister what he should do, she said to take the academic one. Otherwise, she told him, he’d just end up living back in the same place he started.

In Manhattan, he was staying with a person who had a professional position of some sort in the art world and who had periodically invited him to town to broaden his knowledge of what was possible in that world.

He’d come for the holidays and called me. We got together and I invited him to come with me to a Christmas party my friend Ray Smith was giving.

To meet him you’d never think of him as someone from an underprivileged background. He was very good looking with the politeness that people from the South seem to be born with; and he had such an enthusiasm to be in New York that he made a good impression.

Ray was a generous host and for any excuse gave frequent parties.

The following weekend I’d been invited to Connie Bartel’s Christmas Tree farm on the Delaware River — and she suggested I bring him, too.

On the way, Rick asked if he could draw a page or two in my sketchbook. We were going through the wintry countryside of New Jersey and he wanted to record the trip. I could certainly understand that!

He drew two drawings in ink.

On the way to Connie’s house we took a side trip to visit my friends Stu and “Petie” Duncan in Princeton. Comparing lifestyles and ways of living, the Duncan’s beautiful house had just been totally decorated by Mario Buatta. Stu was the heir to Lea & Perrins.

“Petie” Duncan.

At Petie and Stu’s.

My friend Lisa Burns was there, too.  I’d known Lisa since she was 12 years old when her mother Claire would invite me to Princeton for parties and performances at McCarter Theater.  Through Claire I’d gotten to know quite a few people there, such as the Duncan daughters, Cree and Ali.

Cree and Ali Duncan. Cree was Lisa’s age and they’d all grown up together.

The Duncans had had their share of tragedy. They also had two sons, Stuart Jr. (“Tuey”) and Coulter. In the summer they’d go to their camp in the Adirondacks across the lake from the camp of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Mrs. Post would show movies to the young people and Coulter and Tuey were always invited.

One night, sailing back across the lake from Mrs. Post’s camp, the boys ‘ boat was crashed into and Tuey drowned!

Coulter felt guilty for the rest of his life.

Cree Duncan.

The weekend at Connie’s farm was fun and before leaving on Sunday Rick and I even sold some Christmas trees. When I asked her about cutting down the trees (she had such strong environmental sentiments), Connie had explained that they’d been planted close together and were being thinned. But in coming years, the remaining ones would be a forest of mature fir trees!

Back in Manhattan I took Mary Milton to dinner at Elaine’s and told her about the weekend adventure.

Rick Horton was still in town and came to lunch with me, Richard Amsel, and S. J. Mendelson whom he’d met at Ray Smith’s party.

(Those shadowy figures between Amsel and Rick are drawings on the back of the page that bled through.)

Late that night we ended up with Beth Rudin at The Brasserie. Being open 24 hours gave Rick a good idea of who was living in Manhattan!

It was Christmas Eve and we stayed until it was Christmas morning.

Beth did a drawing of Rick and it was quite a good likeness!

The day after Christmas, Paul Bartel had a few of us to his apartment for drinks.  Ellie Silverman was there.

And another woman involved in films.

Rick had gone back to North Carolina but he’d gotten a pretty good cross section of life in the big city!

The very next day, Carly Billings came into town from her home in Sag Harbor and took me to Sardi’s where she was warmly greeted.  She had been one of the earliest investors in Life With Father, the play having the longest run in Broadway history. Her first husband, John Wharton, had been an entertainment lawyer for Cole Porter and other now legendary theatrical celebrities!  In a sense, she was Broadway royalty and somewhat of a legend herself — as well as being godmother and namesake to Carly Simon!

So with Christmas over and just a few days until a new year I went back to my day to day and work!

I couldn’t complain!

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