Schulenberg’s Page: New York, Part CLXIX

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A still from Milton Moses Ginsburg's 1969 film, Coming Apart, starring Rip Torn and Sally Kirkland.

1969 and it was finally December!

So much had happened; Nixon had blamed the media for the lack of unity in the country and Vice President Agnew had called the media “unelected elites” whose investigative journalism had not been impartial!  They were still claiming the Vietnam War was being successfully fought!

Sharon Tate at W. Eaton Place Mews, November 30, 1966.

A great proportion of the informed public disagreed and there were as many anti-war demonstrations as there had been previously! Draft cards were being burned. In July, Ted Kennedy had an accident in Chappaquiddick on Martha’s Vineyard and a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne had drowned!

There were a lot of details that didn’t add up and a secret story being whispered about wondered if there was another woman involved.  People who knew her said that she wasn’t the type to enjoy a party like the one on Martha’s Vineyard and they wondered if she’d excused herself and gone to take a nap in Kennedy’s car. Is it possible that Kennedy left with another unnamed woman and never knew that Kopechne was asleep in the back seat?

He hadn’t immediately reported the accident.

Had he thought that he could claim that the car had been stolen?

So many questions were never adequately answered and Kennedy eventually took the blame.  But people still wondered why, uncharacteristically, he’d made no attempt to save Kopechne or initially to even mention her!

A month after that, in early August, my friend, Sharon Tate and friends had been murdered while she was almost nine months pregnant!  The next night there was another similarly brutal murder and all of Los Angeles was living in terror!

What had been called Rich Hippies —  prominent people who dressed like elegant street people  had come together with the most horrible aspects of the freewheeling drug culture. The “turn on, drop out” philosophy of Tim Learyhad taken on a much more serious and grisly aspect and all over Bel Air, Beverly Hills and the wealthy neighborhoods sturdy protective gates and fences appeared separating the large homes from the public streets!
Just a week later, the music festival at Woodstock happened, another festival of hallucinogenic experiences but the polar opposite of that of the Manson Family!

Towards the end of the year a “West Coast Woodstock” was planned at Altamont and the Hell’s Angels were hired as security.  There was violence and one person was killed!

Things were becoming too real on every front! I began to hear the phrase, “bringing the war back home!”

But life had to go on as close to normally as possible for some of us. Someone asked me why I’d never done LSD and I had to explain that if I did (expand my consciousness for my art) I would not have a career!

But there were still places to go! And friends to see and hang out with.

Even as everything seemed to be changing around us, the masses of people on the subway and busses appeared to look the way they had for decades!

I was invited to the screening room at 20th Century Fox to see Barbrain Hello Dolly! Barbra had told me that from the moment she met Walter Matthau he had actually shown her how much he disliked her!

She told me that she’d given him a gift and upon meeting her he said, “so you’re Barbara Harris!  I see you’ve had a nose job!”  That was the start and from then on it was all downhill!

Watching the movie I could see Barbra working to keep it light and friendly and I actually found myself wishing it had been Carol Channing as Dolly Levi!  I think that Barbra also wished it’d been Carol Channing!  She valiantly did a bit of the old Mae West shtick she used to do with Barre Dennen years before but it sort of came and went!

Nevertheless she was still amazing!

Hello Dolly! screening, Dec 13, 1969.

I met Burt Bluestein and his new girlfriend Christine Mason and we went for pizza afterwards.

Christine also used the name Galante and vaguely hinted that she had connections “in case!”

I never found out what “in case” or even “Galante” but I could never think of a discreet or adequate question!

And we were with Morton Gorowitz whom I’d just met.

A few days later I met Fred Mc Kechnie downtown at the restaurant, the Greenhouse.

I took the bus home and it had suddenly gotten very cold — 20 degrees. I saw this man shaking and hoped it was nothing more serious than the cold.

It stayed cold; we were in full winter with Christmas coming up!

Paul Bartel took me with him to meet Milton Moses Ginsburg, who had just directed an independent film called Coming Apart.

Paul Bartel.

The plot of the film revolved around a psychiatrist using a hidden camera to photograph his patients without their knowledge. Despite being independent it had an impressive cast with Sally Kirkland, Viveca Lindfors and Rip Torn! The idea of the secret camera being used fascinated Paul since that was the focus of our own Secret Cinema film!

I’d seen Ellie Silverman wearing a Coming Apart button.

She was working hard promoting it!

Wendy Bartel, Paul’s sister in a maxi-coat.

And then suddenly, without warning, it was Christmas Eve!

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