If you are somewhere where it’s extremely cold, let me take your mind off of it for a bit and take you to some of the hotter days in Manhattan during the summer of 1970 — starting in August.
For some reason I never really liked air conditioning in my apartment. Fortunately for me, there was no air conditioning in my 19th-century East Side building. But I was on the ground floor with two apartments next to each other, apartments that I was hoping that the owner, Joseph Koppelman, would allow me to connect and thereby have them become what in any other city would be a normal very small apartment. So far it wasn’t happening, but Mr. Koppelman had made so many adjustments to me and the way I lived that I didn’t push it. Both of my apartments were rent controlled and I don’t know how legal that might have been. He never said anything but I know that when he saw my work in newspapers and magazines he was happy to have me there.
I was a regular contributor to NEW YORK magazine particularly with occasional feature illustrations but almost weekly small spot illustrations. And the magazine, having Milton Glaser as Art/Creative Director, was such a beautiful graphic showcase that it gave me a lot of exposure and therefore a lot of work!
Mr. Koppelman used to say to me that he never imagined I’d be living there for such a long time. I thought the same thing, but I was comfortable there. And even though the only character the place had was me, my steel-paned windows looked out into a potentially bucolic small garden that backed up against the walls of the grammar school on East 82nd Street!
During the weekdays it was quiet with the regular sounds of laughing, playing children during recess. It was quiet after after school hours; and at night it was the best. The garden was surrounded by walls so it was safe and since nobody was at school and it was closed I didn’t need curtains. And during warm weather I could leave the windows wide open and with my avoidance of damp air conditioning I could work all night long without wearing any clothes! I didn’t have to worry about neighbors complaining about loud symphonic and new protest music or strident political programming from Pacifica Network’s WBAI-fm!
And there was more than enough strident political programming to go around!
Weathermen, Weather underground, bombings and demonstrations — I was grateful for the haven of that small, too small workspace apartment and the comparatively spacious tiny apartment across the hall! I didn’t really spend much time across the hall as I’d usually work until the project was completed and just lie down and sleep on the twin bed that pretended it was a daybed!
And then there was the neighborhood with such a richness of possibilities! Yorkville with its foreign mittel European shops, cafes and Irish bars. It wasn’t Paris by a long shot and I missed my buddies, the waiters and managers at the Café de Flore along with the crowded tables pushing passing pedestrians into the street. I missed the juicy gossip as it floated over the Boulevard St. Germain and the occasional sighting of a legendary personage from a previous time.
Once leaving the Flore with Lola Mouloudji she and a friend greeted each other. When I asked who her friend was, she nonchalantly said Tristan Tzara, the person best known as one of the founders of the Dada Movement!
He died shortly after that at the now-early age of 67! I’d frequently see Françoise Sagan at the peak of her celebrity! But in New York, sitting alone except for a young man reading a book at a sidewalk table at Willie’s on Second Avenue it was different. Not bad, just different!
And my Parisian friend Bernard Sabatier had come to Manhattan and was staying in the other apartment! He’d been such a good and generous friend when I was living in Paris that I was thrilled that I could reciprocate!
On a previous visit he had told me that he had absolutely no interest in going to a French Restaurant, which made a lot of sense to me! When I lived in Paris the last thing I might have wanted was a hamburger! As contrasted with California hamburgers, New York’s had been disappointing enough!
I knew of a new restaurant in the Village that felt like some Left Bank places with bare, aged brick walls and seemingly lit only by candles; a clever trick. It was called The Winecellar, so of course it had a long and choice wine menu! We met my friend Ed Wilpan, who was fascinated to meet Bernard whose accent and manner was so Parisian that there was no question about where he comes from!
Afterwards, Ed told me that meeting Bernard was like spending time with a character from an Audrey Hepburn-in-Paris movie!
The following day, I met Annie at a place called the Abbey.
I don’t remember anything much about this meeting, it was just a coffee date to catch up on whatever we’d been spending time doing, but seeing this almost 50 years later makes me smile.
In West Hollywood, California there is a popular, very large restaurant/bar/discotheque called The Abbey in a neighborhood full of decorators’ shops, pricy boutiques (Chanel, et al.) and other chic restaurants. The famous celebrity-heavy restaurant, The Ivy, is not far.
There is nothing much pleasanter than a lunch or dinner on the front terrace here. And since it started as a small specialty bakery called LA Desserts, the pastries are extraordinary!
The Abbey is remarkable in a different way. While it is officially a gay bar, it’s so much more. With a very large front patio dotted with classical fountains and statuary, having lunch there is not unlike having lunch on the Via Veneto!
It’s a different scene at night when the discotheque wakes up with a mega-decibel bang!
In an article in Vanity Fair, Elizabeth Taylor was quoted as saying it was her favorite place in LA. She loved gossiping with the guys guarding the entryway and one Halloween called to say that she would love to come brave the crowd.
The manager suggested she not risk it and said there were a lot of “Liz Taylors” there already!
That’s another reminiscence and another time.
Back in 1970 again I then met with Harold Burns — this time for a quick dinner at Friday’s.
The next weekend Bernard Sabatier and I took the bus from the West Side Port Authority Bus Terminal to my little tenant house on Connie Bartel’s 68-acre Greentrees Farm on the Delaware River in Alpha, New Jersey.
The bus stopped just across the river in Easton, Pennsylvania where we ate a quick dinner at a diner while waiting for the taxi to take us across the river to the farm.
The following day, Connie invited us down to her big stone house for lunch. She was fascinated by Bernard’s french charm and he was fascinated to be in a part of America with so much 18th-century colonial history!
Connie invited us to dinner that evening at The Golden Pheasant Inn, a historic inn and restaurant on the Delaware River.
Conversation was lively and Connie described to Bernard our adventures in Paris when she’d come for a visit while I was living there. She told him how inexpensive the things were she’d purchased at the Clignancourt Marché aux Puces and how surprised the purveyors were that she wanted to buy such ordinary old kitchen objects which were of course being sold for a fortune in New York!
They had no idea.
Bernard was a sculptor/designer and could grasp both sides of the story. As we were happily finishing dessert, smiling fetchingly, he announced to Connie that the next day back at the farm he wanted“to do the cook!”
There was a pause as I looked at Connie and saw nanoseconds of a thousand questioning thoughts flicker through her eyes.
Bernard smiled proudly and I laughed!
“Connie,” I said, “He means that tomorrow he wants to do the cooking! Faire la cuisine!”
Bernard looked a bit confused and Connie roared with laughter as I explained to him that some things don’t actually translate the way they might seem to.
A punchline to a wonderful evening!