I’m back — after a hiatus during which everything had to be replaced! Technology!
So: forward into The Past!
1970: The war in Vietnam was continuing in full force — and so was civil unrest!
Young men who were eligible to be drafted were publicly burning their draft registration cards in an act of rejecting any government support of what was being called an illegal war!
I was still escaping on weekends to the small tenant house that I shared with Bill Rilling and Gary Van Kirk on Connie Bartel’s New Jersey farm “Greentrees” on the Delaware River across from Easton, Pennsylvania, where we spent most of the time gardening or reading.
We had planted twelve tomato plants being somewhat naive about how many tomatoes grew on ONE plant. So a lot of the time was spent harvesting and thinking of ways to use the huge quantity of ripe tomatoes! I’d been given a recipe for tomato marmalade and made gallons of it! It was a bit like a tomato chutney and I literally had it for years. Fresh ripe tomatoes were also a great gift for art directors (and I don’t doubt that it might have helped me get a few unexpected commissions).
One weekend we went into Phillipsburg, the“big town,” just to see what the locals did on weekends.
It couldn’t come close to comparing to Manhattan’s night life — no big surprise — but it was a little depressing and sad to see people so desperate to have a good time!
We were happy to get back to the farm with our books and tomatoes. What were we thinking? What were we looking for? Simple country folk? turned out we city slickers were more naive than they were. Manhattan can do that to its people! I guess the word is parochial and not naive! How could someone be naive living in Manhattan’s ultra-reality?
On Sunday evening Bill and Gary went back to the city but I wanted to stay until Monday. The next morning as I was packing ripe tomatoes into (gift) trash bags and putting my companion white Persian cat Tybalt (“Prince of Cats,” thank you Shakespeare) into his carrier, I heard someone jump off of — something — upstairs directly over my head! The house was from the mid-1800s and the ceiling above me was actually the floor upstairs so it was very clearly someone or something that obviously landed on the floor directly above me.
I was alone except for Tyb’ so I knew we were the only living things in the house; I didn’t feel it was worth going upstairs to see. There was no chair or other furniture in that upstairs hallway and what would it prove? Strangely enough, it wasn’t frightening or spooky to me. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful late summer day and I figured somebody was saying g’bye!
The next weekend — with Gary and Bill I checked the upstairs hallway.
Nothing amiss. The house never had a creepy feeling about it and always felt welcoming. I’d even stayed there with Tybalt for weeks by myself while recuperating from my sun-permitting-Trisoralen-drug-caused hepatitis! I could have been totally creeped out — alone and hearing updates about the murder of my dear friend Sharon Tate the previous summer.
But the house always felt comforting so I just had to feel that we were welcome there.
What else was I to think?
Back in the city I went to dinner with my friend, Ed Wilpan. People tend to disbelieve stories like this but at least he didn’t laugh or disbelieve me when I told him about the experience with the unknown!
The next night there was the Film Festival at Lincoln Center and before, I met friends for dinner at The Ginger Man right across from Lincoln Center. Being back in Manhattan’s reality, the conversation was about current events and films, of course, but how everything seemed to be different now than it used to be. How the city neighborhoods were subtly changing with new influences and undefinable feelings in the air. We kept hearing so much about drugs! New drugs, trendy drugs, dangerous drugs, fun drugs!
Drugs, drugs, drugs!
I was beginning to feel that Manhattan was not taking a back seat to Weimar pre-Hitler Germany or pre-Castro Cuba! It didn’t end well for either of those places; what would happen in New York?
But the conversation gradually got calmer and back to film-talk and happy talk.
I didn’t mention my unexplainable farm experience. That would have taken us in a whole other direction!
We had seen Truffaut’s film, L’Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child)
After that, there was a reception for Truffaut at the French Embassy and Catherine Deneuve was there too! I wish I could’ve done better drawings but there was a large crowd!
All in all, it was a glamorous affair — so different from Phillipsburg, New Jersey!
Speaking about the changing feelings about neighborhoods … my neighborhood, Yorkville around East 86th Street, was subtly becoming less European. Where there were many German specialty providers I noticed that very slowly, very gradually, that mood and those shops were just — gone.
The neighborhood had, even more noticeably, Hungarians having emigrated during the 1950s because of political upsets with Russia!
They were still very visible and some of the older women could be seen sweeping the sidewalks in front of their buildings.
One day, while I was walking home, I met one of them who also worked at the dry cleaners. She wore her hair in a style a bit reminiscent of Jean Harlow and the 1930s. She greeted me reminding me that I had a jacket at the cleaners that was ready to be picked up.
It was that kind of neighborhood.
But lately, a bar that had a mittel European feeling had closed and become a yuppie hangout — a sign of things to come.
I was invited to dinner at Bobbie and Dick Waddell’s.
Karen, as an adult moved to Bali and became a restaurateur doing all the catering for the film company shooting Eat Pray Love!
The next evening I met Alan Mie, a Parisian transplanted to Manhattan, for dinner at a French restaurant.
The next day I stopped by Hamburg Heaven where I’d been invited to come and draw whoever and whatever happened to be in the restaurant and the drawings were framed and displayed on the walls; a small sort of gallery show! The owner, Dick Heller, had written a song “I Wanna Take Your Picture!” for The Secret Cinema, the very independent movie Paul Bartel and I had made a few years earlier.
I was excited to get a commission to do all the illustrations for an issue of Look magazine. They were mostly decorative but it was still very much of an honor!
And then came the weekend where we had a full house with Anne Rieger, her friend Tracy, Ray Smith and Guy Elisco. Connie Bartel had an old friend named Eva visiting for the weekend, too. During the course of the weekend it became apparent to all of us (except Connie) that Eva had a big overwhelming crush on Tracy!
I mentioned that to Connie who, in spite of being very sophisticated, savvy and clued in, was absolutely and sincerely shocked! Actually, we thought it was kind of amusing even though Tracy felt uncomfortable.
Connie was even apologetic but we said it really didn’t matter at all. We were all just glad to be together!
It was a memorable weekend in many ways. It was so full of people and situations I don’t think I even thought to mention the unseen visitor and the strange jump-off-the-chair occurrence of the other weekend!
Back in the city, I met Philip Carlson for coffee at Mr. Bellows. We talked about the death of Jimi Hendrix several days before. It had been a year filled with more dramatic events than the usual decade might have! Bombings, secret wars (Cambodia), protests, backing of a coup in Chile, the Zodiac killings in San Francisco, race riots, Kent State students’ killing, huge earthquakes, and a month later, the drug overdose death of Janis Joplin — just 27, like Hendrix!
And I met Channing Chase at Dorrian’s Red Hand to talk about what she might wear to accept an award.
I’m sorry to say that the last time I saw her was early in 2018 when David Columbia (DPC) and she and I were filmed for the upcoming NYSD documentary in the beautiful garden of the Los Feliz home she shared with her husband, Dan Saxon.
She died in her sleep several months later.
Contact Bob here.