Schulenberg’s Page: Theater in its many forms

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February, 1973: At the end of January President Nixon had declared a recession and adopted an austerity policy.  It didn’t change much in my life. I was still running around meeting with art directors and taking coffee breaks to break the isolation that came with deadlines.

I was able to see people for lunch or other activities since I worked mostly at night when I could go nonstop without interruptions. So I met with Sharon Powers as she was shopping for something to wear at auditions. She wanted something that would make a statement, but not too much, and wanted me to be with her as a second pair of eyes.

Paul Bartel and I went to a screening of a movie called High Rise. There was no one in it who was a familiar face and we thought it might be interesting as an example of the kind of guerrilla filmmaking that we were used to (and Paul had learned that it was a kind of sex comedy). He too had been working on ideas for a comedy involving sex and he was curious to see what this one was like. It turned out to be a soft core porn movie totally lacking the kind of wit that interested Paul. I don’t remember if we watched the whole film, but I do remember that we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant soon after.

The next day I packed up my cat Tybalt and we flew to Montreal to visit my cousin June and her husband Milt Hibdon for an extended weekend.

They’d moved from balmy Honolulu to frigid Montreal where Milt had become an executive in a large oil company.

They entertained me with restaurants and I was nostalgically thinking about my life in Paris even though it was very difficult to understand Canadian French! And it was cold! June told me that when they first arrived she was wearing many layers of muumuus since she couldn’t find cold weather clothes in Honolulu!

Arriving back in Manhattan I met Mary Milton and we went to Serendipity III.

While we were there, Andy Warhol arrived with some of his acolytes.

Such a strange person.

A few days later I got a call from Gary Van Kirk. I took a break from working at home and met him at Dorrian’s Red Hand, which was right around the corner from my apartment. He was working with Jansen, the French decorating firm famous for working with Jacqueline Kennedy on the restoration of rooms in The White House. He told me that Jackie, now married to Aristotle Onassis, was still using the firm in her Fifth Avenue apartment. He said that he’d shown her an antique rug when she had said, “It’s so expensive! If I bought that my husband would kill me!”

That comment has remained with me all these years!

Another coffee break was with Lon McCall and I’m embarrassed to say that I have no memory of who he was or how I knew him. He may have simply been with someone I did know and I drew him because he was just there!

I’ve previously told the story about one of the Saturday strolls Mary Milton and I took whereupon seeing a woman with a terrible dyed hair job I remarked that her complexion was brunette but her hair was blonde … and it didn’t work! Mary, whose hair was a rich chestnut brown, said that she agreed but that she could look “natural” as a blonde. I said that that was very hard to believe, but let it go.

We continued down Fifth Avenue to Bonwit Teller. Upon passing the wig counter Mary saw an ash blonde pageboy wig and said, “There! That’s the color blonde!” I found it hard to imagine and she said “Look!” and popped it on her head!


She was instantly transformed into a very hot blonde! The salesperson gasped (as did I) and a passing man — curious as to what we were gasping at … a celebrity perhaps —  stopped to look. Mary, feeling self conscious, quickly removed the wig at which point the man also gasped and said, “Put it back on!”

I agreed and bought the wig!

Moira in The Red Shoes, the most famous ballet-themed film.

Mary, smiling triumphantly said, “See? I could be a redhead too!” I didn’t question it but for Christmas bought her a beautiful long red wig!

Moira Shearer red!

So we were going to the opening night of the musical, IRENE starring Debbie Reynolds and I suggested that we have some fun with her wearing the red wig. Being the good sport that she is, she agreed. So I did a glamour makeup job with false eyelashes and she wore a silver lamé Halston dress with silver sequined jacket and silver strap heels. When we got out of the cab at the theater several people came forward asking for her autograph!

At intermission, there was an unusual problem.

Mary noticed a handsome man talking with a man and woman. She whispered to me that we had to keep away from them! She told me that she used to go out with him — Doug — and she knew the man and woman.

I asked why we had to avoid them and she said, “He’s blind!”

“So?” I said.

She said, “He’ll recognize me by my voice but they won’t and he’s so sensitive about being blind that it’ll be impossibly embarrassing!”


So every time they moved a bit closer we moved a bit farther!

Finally intermission was over and we could relax.

After the show we went downtown to the Riviera on Sheridan Square where Mary got a lot of discreet attention.

The next evening, more theater but this time downtown at The Bouwerie Lane Theater where my friend from Fresno Michael Weil was appearing in a play, Huck Finn.

He did quite a good job in a supporting role and I was impressed that after being in Manhattan for a short time he was being featured in an off-Broadway play!

Michael is on the left.


After the show Michael said that a group was going to Rattner’s Delicatessen. Among the group was the Swedish actress Inger Wegge who had appeared on Hogan’s Heroes and other television shows.

Even with the city changing in many ways there’s still theater — in so many forms and so many places.

And so many players — whether they know it or not!

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