Fall, 1969. My mother and many of her friends, now being widowed, had started going on foreign cruises. It was a chance to distance themselves from sad memories and also to meet new people with whom they could share new and exotically glamorous adventures!
Pauline Rodder, one of my mother’s closest friends from Fresno, was passing through New York on her way to a cruise on the SS Kungsholm.
If you would compare the size of the current leviathan cruise ships to the Kungsholm, the Kungsholm begins to resemble a rich person’s yacht!
This is the Carnival Legend!
It was a lot easier for a lonely woman to meet new people on the cruise ships of fifty years ago!
So Pauline was in New York and invited me to The Essex House where she was staying. Her son Jerry had married a young woman from Long Island named Carole Spector and her father arrived to meet us.
And there were other friends.
Lennie Frankel had lived life part of the time in Fresno when I was in high school and I always thought of her as living life like people did who were constantly being written about in Town & Country! God knows I thought of Fresno as the country part of it! Now she was living full-time the Town part of it with a large apartment on Fifth Avenue in the 70s!
She invited Pauline and me to dinner at the apartment and after dinner, during a conversation about jewelry, she showed us her collection! She brought a shoe box out of her bedroom and opened it to bring out diamond necklaces, diamond and ruby necklaces, tutti frutti bracelets and necklaces and sapphire and diamond brooches! Pauline, no slacker where jewelry was concerned, was speechless.
Lennie showed us a pineapple brooch with the body of the “pineapple” being yellow diamonds; and the top of emeralds that were mounted on tiny gold stems so that they had movement!
I loved the wit of that particular one and Lennie explained matter of factly that it wasn’t as valuable as the stones weren’t the highest quality. I was thinking that it would certainly have amused Marie Antoinette!
Dropping Pauline off back at The Essex House, I saw men who were obviously business men; and it gave me pause.
With the world around us so full of chaos at that moment, these two seemed so uptight and tense that it made me stop and think. So many people were like this — supporting Nixon, the war, calling young people who were protesting unpatriotic or even traitors! Whose world was the real world, a phrase thrown around a lot!
And my new acquaintance-from-Elaine’s, Buzzy (William Sanford) King from Florida, had become a friend. He didn’t appear to work so he could hang out during the day. I always worked at night but my days were pretty free.
And he introduced me to a large bunch of his friends. It was like meeting the subjects of The Preppy Handbook, but it was familiar to me and much more so than the hallucinogenic pill poppers who had so recently become prevalent!
They were all attractive, amusing and politically as radical as the rioters; they just didn’t look it!
It was always fun and interesting to see them; I felt even more like a real New Yorker!
It was different than my first New York “family“ who had all been so consumed with ambition and who were currently achieving success: Treva Silverman was writing for television and would later write The Mary Tyler Moore Show and win Emmys for it; Johnny Meyer had gone on to become the music director for Margaret Whiting and Judy Garland (about whom he’d write the book, Heartbreaker); Barre Dennen was living in London as a successful actor; Bob Goldstein had invented the light show concept; and Streisand was … SINGING!
These new friends were also all ambitious but it was different and it was very comfortable. It would continue …