December, 1971: Another war! This time between Pakistan and India. At least we weren’t (officially) involved but who knows?
We still had Vietnam and Nixon as President and that was more than enough!
Meanwhile, in Manhattan I was invited to a Bar Mitzvah on Long Island for the son of someone I’d known since we were both infants —Renee Silverstein née Pritsker. Our mothers were very close friends and Renee and her family lived near us in Los Angeles. Her family owned a chain of shoe stores and her father had once been a partner in business with Harry Karl, a once-husband of Debbie Reynolds.
Renee met and fell in love with Mike Silverstein. He, with his brother Stanley, was the founder of Nina — a shoe company that eventually expanded into handbags and jewelry.
Mike had grown up in Havana, Cuba where his father owned a shoe factory.
At 18, he and his family moved to New York and soon after Mike conceived of and started Nina, which he named after his brother’s daughter.
His personality and sales abilities were so impressive that the company was very quickly extremely successful!
So Mike and Renee got married and being her longest, oldest friend, I was invited to be in the wedding party as a groomsman.
The wedding was in Beverly Hills in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel and it was over-the-top lavish with a spectacular dinner with orchestra immediately after! The individual flower arrangements on the tables were like Rose Parade floats!
Being Cuban, and with many of the guests also Cuban, there were many praiseworthy toasts to Fidel Castro who’d only recently celebrated his victory in Cuba!
As the years have passed I now wonder if their perceptions changed. And if so, how much?
So now in 1971, almost 15 years later, here we were, both on the East Coast where Mike and Renee had immediately moved and where Nina was headquartered and where they’d settled into a large house at Sands Point, Long Island.
I was told later that the house was used as the location for the home of Jerry Lewis’ character in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 film, The King of Comedy.
I took the train out to Port Washington for the ceremony after which we were bussed to the house at Sands Point for a beautiful lunch under trees!
Not knowing anyone but the hosts, I was grateful to see Renee’s mother who’d flown in from California. She introduced me to people but since they all seemed to know each other and I had nothing in common with them I could do nothing more than sit, eat, drink, draw and politely listen!
I became like a dress extra in a high budget movie — but for the house, a movie would come a decade + later!
Soon, I was back to the grit, grime and glamour of Manhattan.
Carole Inouye was a talented art director/designer at Ballentine Books and almost the only one who was a friend of artists and illustrators.
She invited some of us to an evening at her apartment on Riverside Drive.
It was a rare chance for us to get together and even meet each other.
Treva Silverman was one of my first friends in Manhattan. At that time she was successful and, being professionally noticed, writing special cabaret and industrial show material. Many performers and writers made a good living with these industrial shows. Cabaret served as a sort of professional portfolio of samples showing what a performer and/or writer or composer could do!
Many who later became household names started like that: Bock & Harnick, Ruth Buzzi, Dom DeLuise, and Rodney Dangerfield whose name was borrowed from old radio, The Jack Benny radio show! Benny’s favorite movie hero actor (fictitiously created for the show) was a mix of Tom Cruise and Douglas Fairbanks doing glamorously heroic deeds! The joke was that egotistical Benny identified with him! He was named Rodney Dangerfield, a name so ridiculously romantic and heroic that it was itself a joke.
So Jack Benny identified with him, but evidently so did an aluminum siding salesman named Jacob Rodney Cohen … who actually decided to become him!
Nobody seems to have gotten that joke but it didn’t matter! Cohen evidently was like me, a big Benny radio fan!
Even bigger because he committed himself!
Treva Silverman became pretty legendary after writing for The Mary Tyler Moore Show! She earned two Emmys and was named The Writer of the Year!
According to Michael Douglas, who’d produced and starred in it with Kathleen Turner, Treva had saved the movie Romancing the Stone. Turner’s character was thought to not be likable enough and the company thought the film was unreleasable because of it.
Treva gave the character an adored, pampered pet cat and the Turner film character was instantly likable!
Treva, like me (I have four), adores and knows a lot about cats usually having one or several!
A few days later I left for California to visit some family.
I was staying with my brother and his family in the hills above Studio City.
My niece Katie had just turned 6 years old. She’s now the mother of two sons, one of whom recently became an adult. Amy, now the mother of three teenage daughters, is three years younger.
Being an executive attorney for Columbia Records, my brother thought it was important to keep abreast of the burgeoning music scene in Los Angeles by making the rounds of the clubs checking to see if there were any promising groups that were underexposed to the public.
He invited me to accompany him to the Whiskey A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip!
The next day we went to visit the close-knit Ash family. As you can see from the illustrations that follow, my brother and I were outnumbered!
It was great to be reminded that I had a growing family in California.