Schulenberg’s Page: Only in Manhattan!

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July, 1975: I was invited and persuaded to go to a picnic party at Fire Island Pines, the first time I’d been there since the unhappy summer of 1967 where it had rained every weekend except for Memorial Day (to lure us in) and Labor Day (to gloat over our rained out frustration)!

Without fail every following Monday was a beautiful, clear day! Since I didn’t have any interest in taking drugs it became painful to watch attractive, successfully accomplished people behaving in ways that were unattractive! They apparently found that exhibitionism and sex was the most interesting way to spend the weekend since rain made beach activities impossible!

It seemed to be a replay of the worst aspects of Germany’s hedonistic Weimar Republic! Nevertheless I went, hoping that my experience would be better.

It’s always seemed to me that the frenzied activities were such a strong relief from the week’s urban pressures that observing it only made the return to the city seem even more oppressive and depressing!

The harbor at the Pines, Fire Island.

So I was back in the city.

Margaret Whiting was a friend of mine and called to tell me that her daughter Debby and Debby’s husband Douglas Gervasi were moving to Manhattan. Douglas was an artist/illustrator and Margaret asked if I would meet with him and talk about the professional life of an illustrator. Coincidentally, they had moved close to my apartment so it was convenient to meet.

As time passed we became friends. Like me, he’d graduated from UCLA and we had much in common.

He was very talented and did have a successful career.

The following weekend David Columbia (DPC) invited friends to his house in Connecticut where we celebrated his birthday. I’d introduced him to Beth Rudin and they had formed a strong friendship.

Guest Page: drawing in David’s house by Beth Rudin.

The five-page “The Worst Party in the World” commission from Esquire had been noticed and I’d subsequently gotten a lot of work. For a short while my only outings were my regular bicycle rides down to the Village for my regular workouts. The 80+ block ride down and back was my cardio warmup and coupled with my workout and other bicycle forays put me into the best condition of my life!

It was also a chance for a break from the solitude of my deadline schedule.

I met Paul Bartel for lunch as Paul told me about yet another story idea for a movie. He was becoming more frustrated about his seeming inactivity in being able to direct a movie. His ideas seemed wildly uncommercial for producers to want to risk! He wondered again about raising money himself although that seemed as unreasonable as the idea of anyone investing in a project of his.

All around us things appeared to be changing. Since the scandal of Watergate and Nixon’s unprecedented resignation of the presidency as well as the final end of the Vietnam War, nobody seemed to be sure of anything!

David invited a group of us up to Connecticut again and it was comforting to be with friends — sorting it out. Bill Strawbridge drove up with his three young children, Michael, Geoffrey and Sabrina.

Guest page: Bill Strawbridge at DPC’s house in Connecticut.

I drove back to Manhattan with Bill and his kids. I remember that there was a news report on the radio about a person becoming a millionaire for some reason. Young Michael said, “Gee! I wonder how it’d feel to be a millionaire!”

Since Michael’s grandfather was Nelson Rockefeller, that innocent comment stuck in my mind!

Raymond Taylor, the clerk of the North Carolina Supreme Court who had become my friend after I’d photographed the Court, was in Manhattan and the next day I took him, S.J. Mendelson and Beth to lunch at J.G. Melon.

Beth and S.J. had also known Rick Horton and had heard so much about my North Carolina adventure that I thought it’d be good for them to meet Raymond.

He was flying back to North Carolina later in the afternoon and Beth offered him a ride to the airport. She wasn’t available but would have S.J. Mendelson take her car and do it. She and S.J. had become good friends.

So S.J. and I took Raymond to La Guardia.

So many people had come to Manhattan. Jim DeWoody had a visit from an old girlfriend of his, Beth Sampson. And since he was dating Beth Rudin, Beth R. was obsessing about it. Rick Horton also came to town with Jane something, a friend from North Carolina. One night we all went to 12 West — yet another downtown discotheque!

Beth Rudin had a wonderful silk pants outfit that was the exact sky blue color of her eyes. It acquired the name, “The Blue Death,” and that’s what Beth decided to use as a defensive weapon that night. I remember at one point Beth and I were standing by the table loaded with fresh fruit (Many clubs were providing fruit since drugs were so prevalent. I guess the thought was that anything healthy was a plus!) and Jim and Beth Sampson danced on by. Beth saw that Jim’s arm was around Sampson’s waist and, gasping, muttered: “I think I’m going to throw up!”

Marie-Christine and Arnaud d’Usseau had moved to a pretty apartment on West Eleventh Street in the Village. I stopped by to visit and give Marie-Christine an antique fan that I spotted uptown in a little shop in the East 70s.

She usually had a fan which added to her 18th century allure. She would have looked right at home with the Royals at Versailles! And Craig Caswell was also in town. Mike Jennings was an artist friend of Jim DeWoody and had recently moved to Manhattan and joined our gym.

There were so many people visiting or moving to town that I was busy introducing and mixing everyone! Manhattan, even with all the attendant problems and tribulations that it promised and that were even cautioned about, was still a beacon destination for ambitiously dreaming people!

A few days later Katrina “Muffin” Wood, Jane Hawkins, Hank Mantell and I were invited to Sag Harbor for lunch with Carly Billings in her beautiful Victorian house. We rented a car and drove there, a beautiful ride through the midsummer countryside. Coming from Los Angeles — a town known for its cars, freeways and traffic — I’d more or less forgotten the tangible, almost sensual pleasures of driving through countrysides in a private car!

Carly was always full of interesting conversation and stories of past adventures with fascinating people! Her first husband John Wharton had been a prominent theatrical lawyer representing “Jock” Whitney and Cole Porter, among others.

She was also the godmother and namesake of Carly Simon! She’d also produced the very first Technicolor film, La Cucaracha, which was also the first film appearance of a very young Judy Garland and was designed by her friend, the legendary theatrical designer, Robert Edmond Jones!

The Garland (then Gumm) Sisters in “La Cucaracha.”

She told us again how this was all arranged and decided upon over dinner at Whitney’s! He owned Technicolor and was looking for a way to demonstrate its capabilities!

Voila! Carly to the rescue!

We’d met Carly when we’d all taken the Silva Mind Control class and again I was reminded that only in Manhattan could you so easily meet and become a friend of such interesting people! If you want an interesting life with interesting people it’s easier if you go somewhere interesting — and with interesting people!

Then, after our return, the reality of the rest of the world! It actually does make it an even richer environment and experience!

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