May, 1972. I had been introduced to Mary Milton by Buzzy King, whom I’d met when he was a familiar face at Elaine’s and who subsequently would become a close friend of mine. He was the most interesting conversationalist and we would soon be having regular long talky get-togethers over dinner at Elaine’s or other places all over town. He also had a group of very interesting friends, his New York family, and he began to include me in this group.
I was immediately attracted to Mary Milton who was quietly elegant but with a direct intellectual intelligence that I found stimulating! She seemed to me to be the apotheosis of the new independent woman! She reminded me of women I had known in Paris — self sufficiently sure of herself — which gave her a very appealing femininity that was different from most American women I knew.
I’d learned that the Indian spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti would be speaking in Manhattan.
Listener supported WBAI-FM had been broadcasting talks by Krishnamurti and as I worked on my commission deadlines I listened to them with fascination. His teaching was somewhat dense and vague but throughout was the clear detailed message that nature and mankind must live in harmony in order for civilization to survive!
Even though he was a spiritual teacher who many thought of as a guru, he emphasized that people should not follow a leader or cult of any kind! This was his belief from the beginning of his public life but it fit in so well with the zeitgeist of the freewheeling ’60s — the spiritual aspect before drugs lost their mystic quality and became party accessories.
I determined that I would attend his Manhattan talk and I invited Mary Milton to come with me.
Mary and I began to see a lot of each other and I was becoming more fond of her as the time passed.
We met at P. J. Clarke’s, while at the next table a spirited loud conversation between two men was impossible to ignore:
They finally left. The next day, after another appointment with an art director I stopped in at Daly’s Dandelion to wait and kill time until after rush hour when the Third Avenue bus was less crowded.
On the following Friday I was invited to a recording studio to meet and hear a group that needed a cover illustration for the session they were recording.
After all of that, for some reason their LP never happened with an illustration by me but it was interesting to visit while they recorded. I had enough on my calendar anyway.
An old friend from Paris arrived in town. Jeanne Molli was the Paris fashion reporter for The New York Times and we’d had many adventures together. I was a friend of the couturier Gerard Pipart who was becoming the designer for the label, Nina Ricci. I’d introduced him to Jeanne and they became friends, too.
When the time came for Gerard to actually make the move to Ricci he told Jeanne before any other journalist knew and so Jeanne gave the scoop to The Times! That was prestigious for Jeanne and the paper! She was grateful to me and that felt good — to be a part of something just by introducing two friends!
When she was living in Rome, Jeanne had also been the helper/assistant/whatever to Sophia Loren and she ghost wrote The Beautiful People’s Beauty Book by Princess Luciana Pignatelli.
In spite of all of this worldliness and exposure Jeanne had retained a teenager’s sense of mischievous fun! One of our escapades involved discreetly dropping detergent into one of the fountains in the Place de la Concorde.
We had researched it and learned that the water was recirculated and so it was planned that the suds would grow and grow!
Jeanne persuaded her very prominent public relations friend to join us. And at the time I was seeing Sophie Rochas, daughter of ‘la belle Hélène‘ or ‘la belle Madame Rochas‘, and Sophie became my co-conspirator!
Jeanne, Sophie and I figured that if we got into trouble it didn’t hurt in very snobbish Paris to do the deed with people who weren’t anonymous!
The time came and Sophie and I strolled by as Jeanne and her friend Percy strolled slowly to the opposite side of our targeted fountain. Then very carefully we each slid our boxes of concentrated detergent into the fountain while maintaining our pose as visiting tourists!
There were bubbles, then billows and more billows until a sudden breeze joined the fun ruining our fun by virtually blowing out the billowing suds.
We joked that all-powerful President de Gaulle in his Élysée Palace had sent the wind to sabotage our experiment!
So now Jeanne was back in the US and just as ready for mischievous adventure as ever!
I still found some of my most interesting subjects on the subway.
Having been with Jeanne recently, who was so aware of style as well as fashion, I couldn’t help but look at subway passenger subjects and people on the street in general with an even more critical eye. And while there were many who proudly presented themselves to the world, there were many who didn’t appear to own a mirror! To be honest, those were the more interesting people to draw. Somewhere I read that clothes are a message about your identity that you send to the world.
Food for thought.
Leaving Elaine’s one night I noticed the building directly across the street on Second Avenue. Strange that I hadn’t noticed it before. It had an odd placement of decorative tiles on the front. It resembled a building in Little Italy downtown. It had such a jaunty, happy quality to it which made it stand out against old brick ex-tenements from a much earlier, more sober Time. Again I wondered why I had never noticed it before.
And then it was the weekend and time to go to New Jersey and the farm.
That weekend, Debbie Gervasi and her husband Doug, along with their friend Sherry Cassin, were the guests. Debbie was the daughter of the singer Margaret Whiting and Doug was a very talented illustrator. They had moved to Manhattan from California and Margaret had asked me to talk with Doug about how he might deal with New York professionally. I was impressed with his ability and we became friends. In a short time he was receiving important commissions.
We spent the time the way we usually did; I worked in the new garden and Debbie, Doug and Sherry amused themselves — Doug drawing while Debbie and Sherry read the books they’d brought. Later we went across the Delaware River to New Hope, Pennsylvania. Just a lazy, late Spring day with no work deadlines and nobody expecting us to be somewhere!
The farm had worked its relaxing charm on everyone again.