Schulenberg’s Page: When the Planets Aligned

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Watching Dennis Wayne’s Dancers at their studio in Greenwich Village, November, 1976.

November, 1976: The year was winding down and I was involved as an unpaid photographer with Dennis Wayne’s Dancers ballet company, which was backed by Joanne Woodward. I loved hanging out in the studio on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village watching the choreographers working with the dancers on new ballets.

I was only able to draw quick gesture drawings, the art school term for quickly drawn figures and I was gaining a totally revised admiration for the drawings of dancers by Degas! He must have worked from photographs even then as everyone was moving so quickly that it was impossible to linger long enough to add any details!

It’s difficult to imagine being able to technically photograph interiors at that time but I can’t imagine how he could have so accurately captured the scene!

In any case, I couldn’t !

I just used it as practice and as my UCLA teacher in drawing classes used to say, “The end result isn’t important — it’s the exercise that counts!”

Incidentally, he was the painter William Brice, the son of Fanny Brice.

Small world.

Brice in his home garden in the 1970s. Brice, who died in 2008, painted continuously for almost 70 years!
William Brice, Untitled, 1963

I wonder what Degas’ teachers told him! He must’ve had some.

Before we knew it it was Thanksgiving and David Columbia invited some of his friends to come celebrate at his house in Connecticut.

Dick Gero was a friend who’d known David longer than any of us. He was married to Felissa Rose whom I’d met years earlier when my friend Harald “Howdy” Hoeffding invited me to come with him to a boutique in Greenwich Village where his friend Felissa, a professional astrologer, was doing mini-astrological readings!

I met Felissa who did give me a short reading and said, that according to my astrological chart, I brought people together!

I asked her to explain what that meant and she said that I was a kind of matchmaker — even romantically!

I was surprised and thanked her and that was it! Later, I was thinking about what she’d said and realized that a lot of my Fresno High School friends had intensified friendships they’d had at large summer garden parties I’d given!

Some had gotten married and stayed — I presumed — happily married!

The same thing had happened when I was at UCLA as the Social Secretary of my fraternity! Damn! She was right!

I knew that David would be interested in meeting her.

Dick and Felissa, November 25, 1976.

Dick was not a professional astrologer but was brilliant giving amazing readings as a hobby! He was a successful professional painter!

A few years before, David had taken me downtown to meet Dick in his loft and even do an astrological reading for me! He was telling us certain details about creative people and the conversation centered on women performers who were more charismatically memorable than others — Dietrich, Garbo, Garland, Streisand. David interrupted him saying that I’d known Streisand!

Dick told us that he had a copy of her actual birth certificate and since he’d already seen mine he told us that he’d see how well I knew her! He looked at her chart and then at mine and just said, “You knew her well!”

He reminded us that he’d seen something in my chart that was naturally gifted (or something) and not learned and he said that those women had it too! He’d also said that Barbra and my charts were what he called “a family chart” being that we had the same planets relating to each other like a family and that we had that kind of relationship! Or something like that!

He then said that somehow (I don’t remember his technical details) my sun — or some planet — was shining on her planet that made talent visible and he said it was very very strong!

I was getting goosebumps!

He finally said, “You did something that made her creativity visible! Do you know what it might have been?”

I couldn’t speak and David said, “Bob designed her look!”

Dick just quietly smiled and said that it was in the chart!

I’m actually experiencing goosebumps again now as I write it decades later!

I immediately believed in astrology! Who wouldn’t? He knew nothing about me and I might have simply been a super ardent fan who’d gotten an autograph from her!

So David was in Manhattan getting stuff for his Whipsnade’s store in Pound Ridge and I got him together with Felissa. They got along immediately and David invited her to come visit in Connecticut the weekend that Dick was coming! They met, they got along, and they married!

Felissa didn’t remember that she had told me at that first meeting that I was a kind of matchmaker, but here we were — with another reading being true and this time affecting her more than it affected me!

And ending the year with Thanksgiving together!

Felissa and Dick a few years ago. And yes, they are still married!

I met with Steve Roth and David Mosson for lunch at O’Melia’s on a Saturday to talk about the ballet company performing in Palm Beach. They asked if I would be free to go and take photos. I said that I would and just needed to know the details.

I was having a dream that the company might be something like the Diaghilev Ballets Russes and that it might develop to the point that I could design sets for a ballet! It had been a dream of mine ever since I saw Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes, a movie that proved that a commercial film could have a ballet in it and still make money!

In fact, it was known that it was the movie that inspired MGM to make An American in Paris!

Powell & Pressburger had then made an even more amazing movie, The Tales of Hoffman, a total fantasy of a film of the opera with no spoken dialogue and with much dancing!

The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman, were both British films.

Would Hollywood ever dare to make a movie like these?

In the evening I met with Buzzy King and we went to a holiday get together with Ron West and Frances “Francesca” Hershkowitz.

And Surprise! Steve Roth was there, too.

We’d seen each other just a few hours earlier not knowing we would be seeing each other yet again only a few hours later.

Manhattan really was a small town after all!

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