Schulenberg’s Page: The Daze of Disco

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The Limelight, June 1975.

June, 1975 Jim DeWoody had moved into Frank Faulkner’s loft as Frank moved to a place in the country.  Frank’s paintings were becoming collectible after he’d been invited to participate in the Whitney Biennial.

I’d been spending a lot of time with Jim as we had long conversations over coffee. He was much more aware of the world of serious current painters and the accompanying art market about which I knew next to nothing! He was exhibiting his own paintings but I don’t remember if he had a gallery representative yet. I liked his work, large abstract patterns, and I found the way he used acrylics was fascinating in a way I hadn’t previously seen.

At the time I had a lot of mirrored furniture from the 1930s and he was fascinated by it. Unfortunately, with the steam heat in my apartment the mirrors were continually coming loose, falling off and frequently breaking!

At the time he was also working as a trainer at my gym where a lot of the members were painters (Frank Faulkner) and designers. It was a bright convivial group and reminded me of my days in my UCLA fraternity. A group of us would meet for coffee immediately after working out but Jim and I seemed to have the most in common. It made for a lot of conversation!

The next day, I was downtown shopping and I stopped for something to eat. I again overheard something I had to record.

It was Spring. Love was in the air.

I stopped by to see Ray Smith at his apartment where he was collaborating with Don Chase on a project they were writing together.

Ray worked all night at NBC writing for the Today Show and Don was a freelance writer having published several biographies.

Many (very) late nights while both of us worked, Ray (at NBC) and I would talk on the phone — sometimes for hours! Ray was always doing something amazing.

Like the time he saw a sweater he loved at Bergdorf Goodman but it cost over $1000.00 so he simply taught himself to knit! He also took lessons in cooking and soon became a gourmet chef. One night he invited me to his apartment for dinner and while carrying on a very lively conversation created a very complicated and delicious chicken dish!

Ray also admired Flamenco and managed a troupe — even touring with them during his vacation from NBC! Later, he even joined a dance troupe and performed with them! He learned French and started frequently visiting Paris where he became a friend of people I’d recommended he meet. There’s much more: he’s a poster person for adult education and exploring Paris and the world’s less-visited destinations!

John Alonzo was a movie cinematographer having shot Chinatown for Roman Polanski, my friend from my time living in Paris. We had arrived at the same time, 1962, he from Poland and me from Manhattan! My close friend Lola Mouloudji had represented his first wife, actress Barbara Kwiatkowska-Lass, and invited them to move to Paris and he and I became friends.

Polanski and Alonzo discuss an upcoming shot on the set of Chinatown.

Barbara and Roman divorced and Barbara married Karl-Heinz Böhm, the son of the Austrian orchestra conductor Carl Boehm. Lola represented Karl too.

So John Alonzo was in Manhattan to shoot the film, I Will, I Will. My brother was his lawyer and suggested he call me. When he and his wife Jan arrived he called and invited me to dinner where we shared Polanski anecdotes. He also invited me to come the next day where they were on location at the Met.

Watching them all work made me a little envious since I’d always been more than a little movie-mad; and having produced The Secret Cinema with Paul Bartel in 1967 it made me a bit nostalgic.

Wendy Bartel, Paul’s younger sister, had come into Manhattan from Montclair, New Jersey with a friend. Leaving the film location, I met them in Greenwich Village with Jim DeWoody (again) and we sat on the terrace at the Riviera on Sheridan Square.

That night a group of us went dancing at the Limelight, a recently opened club that had quickly become very popular.

The ’70s have been remembered as The Disco Decade and it seemed as if a new discotheque opened every week! Whether it was an escape from the Vietnam War, which actually was finally ending — or political scandals and protests in general is anyone’s guess — but discos were packed every night. People would come home from work and immediately go to bed only to get up around midnight and hit the clubs! Many were assisted by Mother’s Little Helper «pep pills» amphetamines! Manhattanites didn’t wait long to discover new drugs!

I’d notice familiar acquaintances losing weight and then they’d just disappear! One young acquaintance of mine wrote me from a rehab residence so I assumed he wasn’t the only one who’d disappeared!

Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come, although to me the drug use was bad enough!

Wendy Bartel’s cousin Bonnie joined us as did Charley Davis, Jack Godby and his friend, Marsha. I started the way I always did at discotheques and began drawing …

Jack and Marsha doing their thing!

Someone asked if I’d ever drawn while dancing and I hadn’t so I thought I’d give it a try!

Actually it wasn’t a great idea. The drawings weren’t particularly interesting and it was much more fun to watch the mix of dancers.

Wendy, Bonnie and Marsha.

I’d noticed this couple recently at Bloomingdale’s. Small world.

Charley Davis (into the breech!)
Bonnie and Wendy.

Another mis-matched couple, although who’s to judge?

We ended the evening at Pennyfeather’s in the Village where someone drew me! (I’d grown a beard.)

I guess it’s only fair.

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