October, 1973: Earlier in the month Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign due to income tax evasion! I wondered at his naïveté to believe that his public prominence would keep his tax evasion a secret.
Since my representative’s husband Perry was such an avid admirer of Agnew, I wondered what he was thinking although from that time on Agnew’s name was never again mentioned.
And around the same time, Egypt declared war on Israel and US Secretary of State Kissinger warned the USSR that if they sent troops to the Middle East so would the US!
Would that mean World War III or just a regional war? We were becoming so blunted by war-talk that there wasn’t much of a reaction this time. We were too occupied protesting the continuing outrages of the Vietnam War!
I was going downtown to Little Italy to meet Bill Rilling and Gary Van Kirk for dinner at the Luna Ristorante.
The decor was probably unchanged since the restaurant’s opening in the dim, dark past but with its not-quite-professional mural of the Bay of Naples it had its own picturesque charm.
So much had gone on in the world so we had a lot to talk about over dinner; the war between Egypt and Israel, Iraq and Jordan becoming involved, a change of government in Thailand, an Arab oil embargo leading to an energy crisis, and Nixon wanting Attorney General Elliot Richardson to get rid of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. It turns out Richardson refused and resigned (as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus!). Finally, Robert Bork, Solicitor General and third in line in the Justice Department, becomes Acting Attorney General and fires Cox!
All of this (and more) in just a little under two weeks!
We ordered another bottle of wine.
The next day I met with Sharon Powers at P. J. Clarke’s.
She was going to auditions and continuing to work on her singing but was finding an interesting position working with Paul Simon; she would eventually become Katherine Hepburn’s private secretary. New York was working for her but she hadn’t yet performed on Broadway. She was telling me about her plans for a cabaret act. It had been an opening for so many theatrical careers and instead of an audition was a whole evening showing the audience what that performer is capable of!
I’d been introduced to James Gavin by producer Ben Bagley as Gavin was writing a book on cabaret in Manhattan, and Ben thought I could share some information on the subject. The book was Intimate Nights and I was thrilled to find myself quoted several times.
I guess I was qualified to share ideas about cabaret with Sharon. It turn out that all those evenings downtown weren’t a waste of time!
And speaking of cabaret, the next night Richard Amsel invited me to come see John C. Attle, a friend of his, perform at The Casino Russe on West 56th Street contiguous with and operated by The Russian Tea Room.
The Casino Russe had been a popular spot with emigres and a worldly cosmopolitan group ever since the 1930s.
After the show I asked John about his stage name. I knew he was from Washington State so I asked him if by chance he was from Seattle. He said “NO, but John T. Coma didn’t sound too good!”
I have to mention an amusing story here.
Before going to The Casino Russe, Richard, who lived just a few buildings from me, had come to my apartment bringing a painting of Streisand that he’d just painted and wanted to show me.
When we returned from The Casino Russe he came to pick up his painting and to our horror we saw that the shelf on which it had been placed had collapsed and landed on top of the painting. It hadn’t been damaged but it could easily have been.
Richard told me that he’d borrowed a recently published book dealing with four movie actresses whose style influenced the world and even each other. It was called Four Fabulous Faces and was full of very glamorous photographs of the four: Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich.
Since I’d been shooting 1930s-style glamour photos myself, I asked if I could borrow it.
Richard brought me the book and it was everything I had hoped it might be. He laughingly said “be careful putting it on a shelf that might collapse!”
I’d thought of Barbra (at 18!) as being able to become one of these originals when I first met her in 1960. And here was a validation of what I believed — that a strong visual presentation could launch a talented female performer into a memorably stratospheric level making her an icon for her epoch! After all, my first paying job was designing historic costumes for movies while I was doing graduate work at UCLA!
And Joan Crawford was memorably quoted saying, “Iif you want to see ‘The Girl Next Door’ go next door!”
The first night I stopped everything I was doing to study every single gorgeously printed photo in the beautiful book. I put it carefully away with my other art books and went to bed.
The next day I couldn’t wait to look at the photos some more. The book came encased in a protective box and I took it to my drawing table so that I could study it even more carefully. Reaching to remove it from the enclosing box the book slipped out of the other end and hit my table corner ripping a large gouge in the cover!
“Oh god! I thought. What will I tell Richard? He’d borrowed it from a friend and the friend had received it as a gift! Worse — what would Richard tell the friend? And there was an inscription in a brown ink marker dedicated to the friend!
I couldn’t tell Richard who had just called asking if I’d enjoyed the book and if he could come pick it up to return it.
I told him that — um — I was still studying it and would get back to him.
Then I quickly dressed and ran to Brentano’s Bookstore only to find that they only had one copy left. It had turned out to be very popular even though it had cost fifty dollars which was a lot for a book at that time. I bought it but then realized that the lettering on the spine of the book was a little off center.
I thought of finding another one in another bookstore but they had also sold every copy!
I thought of myself as someone from an I Love Lucy episode buying hundreds of books trying to get one that matched the damaged one.
That seemed impractical and impossible since it seemed that I’d bought the last available one in Manhattan!
I kept thinking and hoping that Richard and his friend wouldn’t notice the discrepancy and I rushed to an art store to buy a brown marker!
When I got home I practiced forging the dedicated writing in the book.
With no signature.
“Well,” I was thinking, “at least I can’t be arrested for forging a name!”
While writing in the book I had the nightmarish Lucy thought again of making a mistake or somehow dropping ink and having to buy yet another fifty dollar book! Finally it looked close enough except for the off-center spine lettering for me to call Richard and tell him I’d leave it with his doorman.
This is the first time I’ve ever mentioned this to anyone, and sad to say Richard died in 1985. Also, I don’t know who “Arthur” is so I think I’m in the clear!
P.S. Don’t tell anyone (just to be safe)!