January 1970. Downtown in the East Village the Fillmore East was flourishing with Jimi Hendrix and his band performing shows on New Years Eve and again on New Years Day!
More importantly, President Nixon signed The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which was to assure that every branch of government properly consider the environment when undertaking any significant federal action that would affect the environment. This would mean airports, highways, military complexes, parklands, etc. and any other federal projects that are being considered.
Because of the violent protests and general splitting of the country due to opposing feelings about the Vietnam situation, I don’t recall much popular conversation about it or the environment in general. The anti-war faction continued to bring attention to what the chemical aspects of the war were doing to the embattled regions, but local consciousness was not as strong as it would become later!
The day after New Year’s Day I met with friends for a celebratory meal at The Brasserie in the Seagram Building. The conversation centered around what was going on with the draft and/or the various means of avoiding it.
The next Sunday I was to meet with Danny Lockin who was a client of my brother who handled Danny’s legal dealings. Danny had been Barnaby Tucker in the super production of Hello Dolly with Barbra starring as Dolly!
It was one of the principal roles and Danny received marvelous critical notices! Danny had one major problem though, which my brother hadn’t mentioned and probably didn’t know about. Danny had a problem with alcohol. A big problem with alcohol!
We went to lunch at Daley’s Dandelion and before ordering food I ordered a red wine. Danny ordered a whiskey. And then another. By the time food arrived, he was already showing signs of being tipsy. It didn’t stop him however and as we finished and got ready to leave Danny noticed that the television personality, Alan King, was seated at another table.
I had just drawn King (with Buddy Hackett) for an NBC television special, but as we passed King’s table, Danny, now incoherently drunk, stopped and introducing himself, fell into the table overturning it with most of the contents landing on King!
As waiters rushed over and King attempted to clear away what he could, I rushed Danny out and into a cab giving the driver money and instructions to take Danny to his hotel!
Seven years later I learned that Danny had been stabbed to death by a man he met in a bar! He had so much talent and charisma on screen but Hello Dolly is all that remains! As Connie Bartel used to say, “that’s better than a stick in the eye!” But when I think about how he died that doesn’t seem appropriate.
In my neighborhood, Yorkville, the Upper East Side area around East 86th Street, there was a plain, simple bakery and restaurant that was run and populated by the Germans and Hungarians who still gave the neighborhood its charm and character.
The counter area was ruled by a sturdy, stoic German woman who had a running conversation with several of the regulars.
It was a comfortable place and since it was just a block from my apartment it became a regular hangout for me to take breaks from work.
Close to it was a tiny pizza storefront with Mama Gina making the pizzas while sharing gossip about the neighborhood. 86th Street had German and Hungarian specially shops which I’d have loved to take advantage of but with so many work deadlines and so many small inexpensive restaurant choices it was easier to eat out!
The neighborhood was still neighborly with older women sweeping the sidewalks clean in front of the buildings that had started their existence as tenements but were quickly becoming prime neighborhood properties! Once, while walking home, one of the women who also worked part time at the dry cleaners reminded me that I had a jacket that was ready to be picked up. It was that kind of gemütlich neighborhood; but on 85th Street an old German bar in an inkling became a popular yuppie hangout! It still had a middle European feeling, but how long would that last?
A new restaurant had opened midtown and I went with a friend to see what people were talking about.
It was dark and cosy and appeared to be another restaurant for the neighborhood but it was a different neighborhood; and I was surprised that there could be such a different feeling in a comparatively nearby part of town! This one had the faint scent of trendy so unlike my own plain no-nonsense neighborhood!
Paul Bartel asked me to come to his apartment to meet a young cinematographer. Paul had been shooting some trade films for Celanese, which was a major client of his father but was still trying to develop an idea for a feature film.
He had toyed with the idea of a naively unaware married couple named Klein who get an invitation to a party only to find out on arriving that the “party” is in actuality an orgy! The husband and wife have a furious argument in front of the participants and somehow (Paul hadn’t yet figured out how) the guests think that the couple are a spectacular “humiliation” sex performance! Somehow and for some reason, they become very well known within the orgy community and start calling themselves The Fabulous Kleins!
I wish I could remember more of the plot but there are the beginnings of something that a decade later would become Paul’s masterpiece, Eating Raoul!
It was nice meeting the cinematographer but nothing ever came of it. Just a meeting.
But it made me start remembering the stress but the fun of making a film with Paul! It had been four years since we’d made The Secret Cinema and I was thinking about how enjoyable it was to be working in collaboration with people. I still loved illustration but in a way it could be lonely working alone. It was nice seeing my work in magazines and ads but working alone I never really knew if anyone ever saw any of it! That was silly of course, but I guess I yearned for some feedback.
That same dry cleaner had recognized my name from something and complimented me, but was that enough? He even said, “You’re famous“!
But — was I famous? If you’re famous people are supposed to have heard of you!
Barbra was now famous!
Who cares about illustrators? In those days you were rarely if ever able to sign an ad and magazines’ credits were so small people didn’t realize they were there!
But I nevertheless had deadlines so back to work I went!
Taking a break with a friend at the tiny Hungarian restaurant around the corner on Second Avenue, the Kis Little, which I learned meant the Little Little (since kis in Hungarian translates as Little!)
And my brother was back in New York working out of the CBS Blackrock Building at Columbia Records! He was the West Coast head of Business Affairs for the label and they were wooing him to move east.
In the meantime, I thought he should see Max’s Kansas City restaurant, the center of the current hipness of New York!
By coincidence his friend, Dan Simon, another lawyer was also in New York so it turned out to be a double indoctrination!
Max’s was the ultimate mix of high and low, uptown and downtown, the culmination of what had started in 1960/61 at The Peppermint Lounge, the seedy Times Square bar that popularized the Twist!
Max’s Kansas City had gone far beyond! There was talk of people having sex in the public phone booth and drugs being dealt and used and even more lurid tales! I thought it only fair to give a more rounded out experience of Manhattan!
And Jackie Curtis! How could I explain that when I first moved to New York and lived in a somewhat more innocent Greenwich Village.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t!