“The more things change, the more they remain the same!”
… even after almost 50 years!
And during our trip down Memory Lane I appear to have missed an offramp. So let’s go back to the end of 1972 and the beginning of 1973!
It was a time with changes. LIFE magazine published its last regular issue; Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show had moved to Burbank; the war was ongoing with bombings of Hanoi; and my old friend Miles Kreuger, as many Manhattanites were doing, moved from Manhattan to Los Angeles and incorporated his Institute for the American Musical!
The Cafe Figaro had also decamped from its corner in the heart of Greenwich Village at Bleecker and McDougall Streets where it had been since 1957 to West Hollywood, just adjacent to Beverly Hills.
I had come home to LA to spend the holidays with my family; and knowing that Diane Crover was living there I invited her to meet for coffee at the Figaro.
She was always fun to be with and also extremely intelligent. Her views about the war coincided with mine — but that wasn’t unusual as the number of people against the war was growing larger every day!
She invited me to come with her a few days later to dinner with friends at their home.
The next day my mother and I went for brunch at Alfie’s on the Sunset Strip.
A lot of the people there appeared to be transplanted New Yorkers and I began to think that my mother and I were the only native born Angelenos there!
My family and I usually spent New Year’s Eve quietly at home or with a small group of friends at someone’s home. But New Year’s Day we went to my aunt and uncle’s house high in the hills above Los Feliz Boulevard in East Hollywood.
The house was perched on the terraced side of a steep hill overlooking the LA basin with Forest Lawn, the famous cemetery far off in the hills to the east. The house itself was situated below the street level with wide stone steps leading down to the entrance. There were no regular windows but instead there were wide clerestory windows just below the roof line, windows that flooded the interior with soft sunlight.
The back of the house was all glass giving an uninterrupted view of the city below. My favorite detail was a large planter next to the windows with an identical one on the inside wall of glass. If you were looking out from the living room the two planters merged looking like one; the glass seeming as if had disappeared! The effect was as if you were in an open air pavilion but snugly comfortable inside! And it was particularly dramatic at night or during a rain storm with spotlights shining down on them and a background of city lights.
The garden had been designed by Garrett Eckbo who has been called “the father of modern landscape architecture.” He innovated the idea of the outside merging with the inside and who, as a teacher at USC’s architecture department taught Frank Gehry — encouraging him to apply to the Harvard Graduate School of Design to study city planning.
Eckbo had graduated USC and gone to Harvard studying with architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, Walter Gropius, and architect and Bauhaus member Marcel Breuer. An early job was working with Rudolf Schindler back in Los Angeles.
He frequently worked in collaboration with the architect Gregory Ain who, I was told, my mother’s father mentored in mechanical drawing when Ain was a teenager.
He was in love with my aunt and tried to persuade her to leave my uncle and run away with him!
For this reason he probably wasn’t the architect chosen by my relatives to design the house, but he may have recommended Eckbo.
Another detail is that the house was furnished by the Beverly Hills Interior design company, Cannell & Chaffin, the “Cannell” of which was the father of television producer, Steven Cannell. The house was featured in The Los Angeles Times’ HOME magazine, photographed by Maynard Parker.
On the 2nd I went with Diane to dinner at the home of her friends, the Careys, who lived high above the Sunset Strip in Nichols Canyon.
I’m always amused when I remember a Manhattan friend’s first visit to LA and his shock discovering that the canyons are in actuality mountain passes! The only one properly called a “pass” is the Sepulveda Pass through which traffic sits on the notorious 405 freeway!
Rachel Waters had stayed with me on a visit to New York and she invited me to come to Marina del Rey to visit on her friend, Greig Trowbridge’s boat, the Albatross.
S.Z. Sakall was a familiar character actor in 1940’s movies.
Rachel shared fascinating stories about being married to an oil executive and living in Arabia. There was also a lot of gossip.
We left the boat to have lunch at a restaurant called Friar’s.
My mother had returned to Fresno and finally I left Los Angeles, too. I knew that my mother wanted to show me off as she’d carried every magazine or newspaper in which I had work to luncheons and club meetings!
She should have been a press agent.
Rather than rent a car and drive the four hours it took I decided to take a bus. Fresno is in the San Joaquin Valley and on the bus were many people I assumed were the farm workers that César Chávez was representing. A lot of his actions were taking place in the small farming town of Delano and many of the passengers were going there.
This man was going to Bakersfield.
This woman was, in fact, going to Delano with her three young children and I couldn’t help but think of Dorothea Lange’s photograph of the young mother and child and all the Grapes of Wrath-type stories that were based on this very part of California.
If I had driven I know I would have stopped, looked around and drawn more, but the bus only stopped for passengers to get on or get off!
And finally, we were in Fresno. It was such a different scene from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
It actually was good to see the friends and I made the rounds.
I had to go to a place that was a favorite: Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor!
My mother and I went to a screening of a French documentary, Un Mur à Jérusalem by Frédérique Rossif and Alfred Knobler with the participation of Richard Burton. The film focuses on the rise of Israel as a nation starting with documents from the 19th century! Fascinating.
And we visited a farmers market which was unique because Fresno is the heart of American Agribusiness and the food on display was literally straight off of the tree/out of the ground!
Then it was time to leave Fresno and fly up to San Francisco where I visited friends I hadn’t seen for a while.
It was interesting to be in San Francisco after being in Los Angeles.
While LA seemed to be welcoming the future with people talking about the changing character of the city — which, thanks to the Tonight Show’s arrival LA had instantly become the center of popular culture — San Francisco appeared to be celebrating its past!
Many bars were decorated in 19th century drag and one club was tricked out as a Prohibition era speakeasy.
It was in a basement of a pretty anonymous building and you knocked on a door to be looked over and usually allowed in!
At still another club, every night was a 1900 New Year’s Eve!
Some were still celebrating the passing of the more recent ’60s!
Henry’s Africa on Van Ness Avenue.
I visited illustrator Larry Duke, who I was introduced to by Craig Simpson. I had persuaded Craig to photograph Streisand in 1960.
It was the first time she had been photographed by a real professional photographer who did editorial and advertising work and not just headshots and graduation photos! She was 18.
Larry did a lot of work with Levi Strauss and invited me to come to his spacious studio where he and an art director were going over the concepts for a new job!
Afterwards we went to dinner at The Hoffman Grill, another very atmospheric place with a warm, big-city ambiance. It was one of Larry’s favorites.
Then I left and went back to Manhattan. I’d been invited to a small gathering of friends at the sleek Park Avenue apartment of Christabel Berry. There was Andrea (Mrs. T. Cheever) Cowden who had the most subtle sense of humor. You never knew if Andrea realized that she was being genteelly hilarious but for the fact that she’d frequently have her cook come into the drawing room of her spacious upper Madison Avenue duplex and juggle kitchen equipment for guests!
That was a tip-off.
She was one of the last of a vanishing Manhattan breed, the one characterized by Ruth Draper in her unforgettable monologue, The Italian Lesson!
Here is Andrea at the Kennedy White House wearing blue (standing behind Jackie).
It was so good to be with her again.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the Mexican family on the bus — the mother with her three young children — going to Delano, California.