November, 1969, on the 23rd, a Sunday, Vice President Spiro Agnew was still calling the media biased for reporting the My Lai Massacre and there’d been a huge anti-war moratorium with two million people in Washington. While all this was going on, I distracted myself and took the Subway with a friend to go to see a matinee of Jules Feiffer’s play, Little Murders downtown.
It had originally opened on Broadway in 1967 and closed within a week. But after a successful run in London it was back but in a much more compatible Off Broadway theater — way downtown!
It was later made into a movie with Elliott Gould as the star. Finally Elliott had been recognized for his talent!
I’d gone with Jerry Feder and afterwards we went to Mitera’s for dinner.
And then it was Thanksgiving and I was invited to Paul Bartel’s parents’ house in Montclair, New Jersey.
Connie Bartel was there …
And so was her daughter, Bonnie!
The conversation turned toJohn Lennon having very recently received an OBE from the Queen but having returned it to protest the war in Vietnam! Connie was praising him for doing it, but her brother Paul’s father thought it was a very bad move; he was not as critical of the war as Connie was!
There was another friend there named Mary Meyer and it suddenly had me realizing that I knew more of Paul’s extended family than I did of my own!
After dinner, Paul told me he had an idea for a feature film. The story he told concerned a couple, the Kleins, a middle class New York couple who live a very ordinary married life and who one night accept an invitation to a party. When they get there they realize it’s a Swingers party with hints of an impending orgy!
This angers Mrs. Klein so much that she starts a fight with her husband who, although innocent, is accused by her of infidelity, immorality and worse!
This gathers a crowd of enthusiastic party goers who assume this is a sort of an S&M performance and cheer them on!
Before they know it, Mr. and Mrs. Klein become famous in the World of Libidinous Sex as The Fabulous Kleins!
14 years later, Paul developed this idea and Dick Blackburn fleshed it out to become EATING RAOUL, Paul’s most successful film!
Back in Manhattan I had an urge for chili. In 1969, unlike Los Angeles, there were not a lot of places serving chili. One of them was The Texas Chili Parlor in Greenwich Village hiding near the Hudson River.
This guy looked so appropriately Texan that I had to draw him! It’s hard to imagine now how few New York places featured chili in 1969!
More appropriate to some New Yorkers was Elaine’s, my favorite hangout along with many (many) others! As has already been written, it was actually a private club with the only requirement being that an accepted member be attractive, talented, wittily intelligent or a writer or some kind of journalist! I assume I belonged in the last category — although I did bring attractive friends! I took Rachel Waters there!
It was also important that Elaine liked you — but I could never be sure what she thought of me! (I did always get a good table so that was enough!)
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Hal Frederick appeared to be one of Elaine’s restaurant-friends since she usually sat with him when he was there.
Elaine was a tough cookie!
Friday, Dick Barsam had a small dinner party and early the next day I went out to Connie’s New Jersey farm. I’d just gotten Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and I was excited to try out a recipe for coq au vin that seemed to not be too complicated for a novice like me. I told Connie that I’d like to make a special French dinner Saturday night in her big kitchen! She was pleased by the idea so in the afternoon we went shopping for the necessary supplies.
Gary Van Kirk and Bill Rilling were there too and took me to the store!
Connie insisted that Ralph, a handyman who lived nearby working on plumbing, stay for dinner. He accepted.
I started cooking around 5:00 pm following Julia Child’s instructions very assiduously! Ralph finished the plumbing work and checked the plumbing in the kitchen just as I started flaming the raw chicken parts in explosions of brandy’d fireworks just as Julia had instructed.
Startled, he stood frozen for a moment and left the room.
I continued as the time passed, sautéing each vegetable element separately and putting each aside into small bowls.
Julia wrote that this was important.
After about a very careful two hours of preparatory cooking I noticed Ralph peering discreetly into the kitchen and then disappearing again.
More reading instructions and cooking which included putting the seared chicken into the very large pot. I then added the red wine — much more than Julia had suggested. It was now about 7:30 and I could feel that Ralph was back.
He was — but for just a fraction of a second.
The mix of wine and chicken had to slowly cook; it took about two and a half hours and then I could add the small potatoes to cook and become tender after which I was able to add all of the vegetables I had so carefully sautéed and eventually serve it in an enormous terra cotta casserole!
Garnished with wisps of parsley, of course!
We finally sat down in the candlelit dining room at around 10:30 p.m.
The meal, accompanied by a lot of red wine and lively conversation was declared a triumph!
Ralph probably expected something at 6:00.
He didn’t say much during dinner!