Schulenberg’s Page: So many people, so many places

Featured image

JULY 1, 1975:  I’d known Katia Perret-Aubry since UCLA where we had “adopted”each other and who, with her then husband Daniel Aubry, had inspired and invited me to take a vacation and visit them in France —  a vacation that lasted two years! When I arrived in Paris I couldn’t speak French beyond being able to say merci but eventually returning to New York I could barely speak english — and that with a bit of a French accent! While visiting Katia in her apartment near Central Park, we were reminiscing about all of that and the history of our long friendship.

Barbra photographed by Craig Simpson and styled by Schulenberg in 1961.

For example, in 1961 when Daniel and Katia were visiting family in Manhattan (where Dan had grown up), I introduced them to my friend Barbra Streisand over dinner in Chinatown. Barbra was just beginning her career and was singing at The Bon Soir, a popular and chic uptown-style nightclub in wild and woolly Greenwich Village! Dan and Katia were immediately crazy about her without even hearing her sing! She was so different from anyone they’d ever known and so funny and intelligently curious about them and their life in France and Spain where Dan was working as a screenwriter.

Barbra was beginning to be publicly noticed and a well dressed couple stopped at our table to ask her for an autograph!

After dinner, Barbra invited us to the office of PR guy Don Softness on Third Avenue where she was spending her nights so she wouldn’t have to go home to her mother’s apartment in Brooklyn. She was showing Dan and Katia her collection of vintage clothing that she kept carefully wrapped in tissue paper. She had to put everything away and be out of the office before their business hours!

At that time she had a job as a telephone operator at the Ben Sackheim advertising agency where her brother Sheldon was an art director.

Katia told us that they were giving a cocktail party to see Dan’s friends from his high school days (Riverdale Day School). She invited us to come after work and suggested we could go to The Peppermint Lounge after where Barbra could teach them the Twist!

The Peppermint Lounge, 1961.

The day arrived and I picked Barbra up at the ad agency in The Plaza Hotel and we took a cab to Dan’s parents’ townhouse on 70th Street just off Park Avenue. The weather was bad with sleet but I was wearing a tweed suit and overcoat and Barbra was wearing her 1920s caracul coat with fox trim. She was also wearing a monkey fur hat!

Katia Perret-Aubry.

We arrived, rang the bell, and the Aubry’s houseman Martin welcomed us in and said that they were already at table. He led us up a marble stairway to the parlor floor where there were two tables of eight people, except for one of the tables which had two empty spots!

Everyone was wearing something appropriately dark for an elegant dinner party. Everyone but us!

Barbra gave me a look and we endured dinner while our fellow tablemates shared anecdotes about shared school years and their children. Barbra made periodic truncated conversation with Martin as he served us and shelled and ate a walnut that was part of the centerpiece.

Finally dinner was over and Daniel made an announcement thanking everyone for coming. And then he suggested that Barbra teach everyone how to do the Twist!

They thanked him and said they had a long drive ahead of them and what with the weather …

Clearly, there was no interest in learning the Twist!

Reliving the experience and hearing my version of the evening, Katia laughed and as she’d done a hundred times before apologized for not telling us that at the last minute she’d been persuaded to change the cocktail party to a dinner party! She also said how relieved she was that we were there as she had as little in common with the guests as we did! The one good result for Barbra was dessert, a sensational mousse au chocolat that remained a favorite dessert!

The next day I went for dinner at Bobby Waddell’s apartment on Riverside Drive. Around midnight, the bell rang and Bobby explained that it was James McLernon who was coming to cut her hair!

That was my cue to leave so off I went  …

Starting with the crosstown bus …
And then onto the subway.

The mother of my friend “Howdy” Hoeffding, Diane Crover, was a psychologist and in town to give a talk on diaries and journals. I attended her talk and after I met her explained that I’d been keeping sketchbook journals for (at that time) 15 years. She was very interested and we immediately became friends!

In fact, in a very short time she was a better friend than Howdy was! I told her that I’d initially met Howdy when I was living in Paris and he was there living with her and her then husband, Howdy’s father. I’d taken Howdy to a dance club and being underage (for California where we were both from) he’d freaked out and left when he saw a French cop at the club! I told Diane the story and she said she wished she’d been with us. Dancing!

She said she was living in a very nice apartment in a very nice neighborhood and was completely miserable and no longer in love with her husband who was in Paris working with an international company. She also told me that she spent evenings looking out of the window envying the people on the boulevards seemingly enjoying their lives.

On the subway to go hear Diane’s talk.

Something that added to her appeal was that she was born in England in a prosperous but conservative family. She said that every time she complained to her family about servants not having proper facilities she was told that they didn’t know how to take care of things and they’d just ruin things if they had them! She was beautiful too and a genuine humanitarian.

On July 8th, I had an appointment to see someone named Dane Bath at The New York Times.

And then lunch in Greenwich Village at David’s Pot Belly.

I had an appointment to meet with people at the television show, Jackpot, but in the morning my accountant Jack Koritzer was coming to my apartment with someone from the IRS to give me a quick audit.

Jack was a seasoned pro and had been in business for well over 40 years. He advised me to put some original illustration art somewhere it’d be noticed and to have my Prince of Cats, Tybalt, conspicuously around.

They arrived and I invited them into the crowded studio apartment with all my art equipment and work lying around.


Tybalt, fast asleep.

Tybalt was lying decoratively on the couch.

Sitting down, the agent was fascinated and distracted from his questions when Tybalt jumped into his lap and purring loudly, fell asleep! Tybalt had the loudest purr of any cat I’d known and he purred almost continually! He also loved people! The agent asked if he was okay and started asking more questions about him.

I told him that Tybalt’s mother had won a first place in a cat show and that he was a pure bred pedigreed Persian. His hair in places was 10 inches long!

Then the agent noticed the artwork and seeing the original of the work that had just appeared in Esquire, he asked questions about that and if the characters I’d painted had come here to the apartment to pose?!

I laughed and said that I’d had to work from photographs — and then our meeting was over and he had to run to his next appointment! Leaving, he said he’d fill in the questions and not to worry! My accountant Jack knew that would work!

So I went to the Jackpot interview!

I actually have no memory of it as I was so relieved about my IRS morning!

Gail Kaye at JACKPOT.

The next day, Beth Rudin and I went visiting.

And the day after, a Saturday, I had dinner with Mary Milton at the Cafe du Soir.

I’d had a busy work week with a quick deadline for a cover for Time magazine which commissioned several artists to do a cover featuring different stories and then, depending on events in the news, picked the one that’s the most relevant! Mine did not get picked — I think it was about a recording group —  but I was well paid nevertheless!

I rode my bicycle downtown to my gym in the Village and after a workout enjoyed watching the action on the street while sitting on the terrace of the Riviera in Sheridan Square.

The next day I had a meeting with an art director at J. Walter Thompson agency. Soon after, I stopped at Yellowfinger — my favorite spot uptown to people watch.

I often wondered what was going on in people’s lives and now, almost fifty years later, I’m still wondering. How many of these people are even still living?!

How have their lives worked out? And their relationships?

So many people.

And so many places!

I’m reminded of an old weekly radio drama from my childhood, Grand Central Station, as the program announcer continues: “Crossroads of a million private lives, gigantic stage on which are played a thousand dramas daily!“ It then goes on to dramatize one of these “private lives.”

I can’t do that but it would be interesting if I or anyone could!

Don’t you think?

Recent Posts