Thursday, May 14, 2009


COMMENTS ON JOSH ALAN'S PIECE ON JEROME [JERRY/ JER] LEIBER- Kiss my big black tokhis - in his collection on Blues and Rock and Roll Folk
mikerol [@]

Josh, You do go easy on Jer, not much "bleeding" there, I'll make up for that here! Watch it pour! The other pieces are far more up my alley, and I learned a lot about musicians I know. For those who want to check out a few pages from the book as the come up at Amazon:

Really glad that you wrote about Leiber for half of the piece as though you were doing the kind of official bio… for which you never got a contract. It’s good to see the moth-eaten lemur in all his best mahogany glory consuming salami that melts on his rotting tongue in his sunset mausoleum. And I will do a bit of filling in there. It’s a kind of Sunset Boulevard grotesque. However, I am also glad that the other pieces in your collection are not anything like it. What the hell, I also bought Leiber for real at one time that he was a lot more real than he is now, well of course he is real, too, but in the sense that a lacquered rotting tree stump is real, and it is an easy mistake to make, it is made all the time, to think the great funky artist of yore still has the same funk when he’s only faking it. I couldn’t be happier to have met him, a big addition to my way of becoming an American, ditto for Elaine’s.
So what IS Leiber's problem... in only having "his" secretary read your essay... ? and "his" Filipino maid who appears to have replaced "his" Mexican Maria... The would-be squire McLeiber makes me puke... if you wrote it warts and polyps all, that is no end of warts he'd of course sue the shit out of you he is so concerned with polishing the self-image... betcha , say it the way Sarah Palin says "betcha", that he reads it secretly at night... and won't ever forgive you...

[1] [2] [3][4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

The piece reads as though you were well into a commissioned adulatory bio and then stopped short, and had a change of heart, jerked off by Leiber once again. His pathetic power ploys. A little too much adulation still for the man who is no longer what he was when he was young… and has turned into a horror story!

Some of those elaborated sections about his mother allegedly driving to get beer from the big town and getting the street robbers drunk and Leiber allegedly beating up a kid in Baltimore... I don't buy... we are in the realm of embellishment and fairy tales.

The scenery of the Baltimore childhood, delivering kerosene and living as a Jewish kid in the ghetto all that is pretty much as I heard it... and it makes sense for his connection with black folk and it infuses his early music and lyrics… however, even the early delta ditch type stuff… even then there the quality of “as if”…. “in the style of” appears… it is a huge difference after all if you are the blues or compose a blues in the style of… questions of identity and authenticity enter in a world of what an audience connects with. Even as listeners we are amalgamaters.

What does Bruce [Josh Allen’s father, the writer Bruce Jay Friedman], the man I remember most favorably, he seemed the most rounded, I made believe that he was a kind of rebbe, from Elaine's, think? Last time I talked to him in 94, he was so disgusted with Leiber all he could do was give a long groan and didn't want to talk about him.

McLeiber has become one of the most grievous examples of the inauthentic life, Irving Berlin's "white Christmas" indeed! All bleached into wonder bread! Perfect and perfectly horrendous to have that desire to be wonder bread so perfectly and after all those years of shrinkage too... by telephone!

As I recall, his woman analyst is consulted several times a day and he does exactly as she... suggests... which he takes literally! The only touching naiveté still left. The way he learned to discuss Pollack to be able to keep up with Barbara Rose and their painter friends. Like the best most faithful literal-minded Yeshiva student! And what he learned literally was "not to feel obligated" because the implication is masochism! Thus he has an ever better excuse to break agreements.

When Leiber had his bi-pass his then wife Barbara Rose allegedly told him, just prior, that she wanted a divorce because she didn't want to be married to someone who was going to die! Well, now, wow, who would stay married to someone like that? I was with Leiber and so were Jed and or/ Oliver when Barbara Rose did leave him a few years later… he was heaving, I have never seen anything like it, and that is when he started to take lithium, this must be around 1982/83, in the Vougeria. I'd see my shrink and either before or after I'd go hold his hand and I was going through something very similar at that time, an aboriginal trauma of age nine months, and thought I was singing the blues, but it seems to help to be able to assist someone who has the blues worse than you... it really was something to behold, totally uncontrollable heaving, near seizures... and what amazed me in the late eighties and particularly the earliesh nineties was that Leiber had entirely forgotten what a horror he had had for a wife... and that he even talked to her, much less seemed to have made up... and then wouldn’t try to get her to give me the 10 K she owed me for getting her financing for her publishing firm, Aquila... when I really needed the bread coming back broke from Mexico - we had all been very family in New York for some years - with my stipend gone... which made for quite a hiatus in my projects... He wouldn't even ask her! he'd turned coward again... and it bothered him that I badmouthed that hustler of an art critic...

I once brought my producer Ken Rosen's girlfriend, Gail Vokelsman [sp???] to Jer's house... instant transformation of my man: she was a fine
zaftige... he seemed to have known her all his life... instantly wanted to take her out... Leiber is mother drugged... as is to be expected if you look at his early fatherless life... but to the degree that he turns into his mother around noon!

I did a what came to a 200 page interview with L + S over the course of weeks months in I think late 72/73 at what then became Barbara Rose's loft / work place on Sullivan Street when they moved first to Patchin Place Mews and then to the Vougeria on 57th Street.

I no longer have the interview, I had a major flood here a couple of years ago. But Stoller the pack rat is bound to have kept a copy. I never could cut it down to size, my problem [and I came to know what pack rats are living in the St. Monica mountains in a Dutch flower growers fabulous workspace loft with pepper corns and Juniper resin dripping when the pack rats decided to transfer all my Trader Joe bought nuts and the nuts and bolts from their separate glass jars into one huge jar, together into a jar that had been empty! heard them night after night... and was so amazed when i finally looked at all the unnecessary work they had made for themselves, but did not call any of them "Stoller"].

What I remember with amazement is that when L. got cracking, during the interview, he would start to speak in quatrains, rev and revise and then it would be perfect... so he could still cook then... he was that deeply the transformer… in the early 70s...but not much longer... I think only one song "I’ve got them feeling too good today blues" I think but may be wrong was written for the aborted venture to turns Handke's Brechtian/ Raimundish semi-farce [with a serious mid-section]
They Are Dying Out into a play with maybe half a dozen plus songs in 77/78... so it might fly from New Haven to New York… quite a few other from that Leftist/ Brechtian show “International Wrestling Match” fit and some that are not even mentioned in his discography but Bill Bolcom and Peggy Lee recorded them in an art song fashion they required not all that much work... Yep, I just looked over the entire discography once more, most of the songs that I and Carl Weber, the director, wanted, are all there... they needed to be fitted in... with some changes.... the great businessman lyric seems not to have been recorded... there were quite a bunch that had never been not even by 94… But it was half a year’s worth of Sunday brunches at the Patchin Place Mews place he and Barbara lived in prior to the Vougeria on 57th Str., but after Sullivan, at 8th and 6th Avenue, other side of that old fashioned library once city hall or church... and then one day, as usual, Leiber pooped out. I was not the only one who was disappointed, Barbara Rose was, too. She had gone through quite a few of these disappointment, it appears Leiber also pulled out of a collaboration with Bernstein on Brecht’s Exception and te Rule; and doing a little reseach on the web I find out that he was actually going around at that time, claiming to be collaborating with Handke on this project: he had never met Handke and didn’t really know the other work; in Paris some years later I introduced them, and Leiber was quite perceptive about the full head of steam that Handke had, and Handke said apropos of other projects “I don’t do singspiel” but does have need of the occasional composer for his poems. - I knew a bunch of other people who lived at Patchin Place: Djuna Barnes; a Dutton editor; Hannah Butter [Wilke] seemed to wander in in out of various mews, dolls houses for smaller 18th century folk; the mews Jer had had been EE Cummings at one point and then Michael Lebeck's who was the publisher of Hillsboro Books and of a magazine I edited with Fred Jameson in the mid-sixties, Metamorphosis. [Lebeck at some point joined some Sufi sect and as I explained to Leiber, started, so he explained to me, to lift an imaginary rock in his mind. “Rocks in his head,” Leiber said so rightly back then. You see so many go mad during a lifetime.] Lots of good lox and bagels indeed! and Stoller was never a or the problem .. after, say one drink, a delight! Bloody Mary best as I recall.

I did the interview for a coffee table size book that was eventually published by HBJ Harvest I think under the title
baby this was rock and roll... because the publisher I worked for at Continuum Books killed it sometime in 74, one of many reasons to leave Werner Linz and start Urizen Books... at Urizen I ended up with the leftover stock from the Harvest paper version, this was not at all what I had envisioned, something down and dirty, as scrap book, like my "pioneering in the urban wilderness" which ex UPI writer Jim Stratton part owner of Puffy's and some other bars, did for Urizen.

No part of the Interview is in the Palmer/ Lahr, nor the interview I did with Wechsler, of which and whom I have the dimmest of recollections as a wonderfully pleasant man, but I sure didn't know enough about the music biz to ask the right questions. Only talked about performers.
I’d heard some of the mob horror stories you recount, but not in such detail. And have a few comments and stories along the same line later on. 


I'd known Jer since about 1966 or very late 65 and we met at Mama's place, more on that
anon... one other highpoint of the interview was when we got talking about Dylan, and I suppose I too had one too many too, and burst out "he's the Mahler of popular music..." totally overwhelming Leiber! He just went "Ahhhh Michael"...

Leiber's dislike of Dylan was not as profoundly set in envy as it was by 94, the last time I spent time, and a lot of time with him, as you know, you gotta live in the lions den with the lion to smell how bad his breath 94 he allowed that Dylan had written one good song. Forgot which one it was. Leiber doesn't seem to appreciate the fact the deference paid by the name, the weird confluence of great surrealist poetry via Dylan Thomas, and unlike me Leiber was not exposed to Folkways records, authentic blue grass, labor songs, talking union, or had Pete Seeger attend and ascend into the rafters singing Wimoweh [sp?] in the combination gym/ meeting hall of our Quaker high school... Lena Horne’s daughter, Gail Jones who I think married Sidney Lumet at some point was one class behind, and it was an entirely integrated school in the mid fifties and our graduation speaker was Eleanor Roosevelt, you got very indoctrinated in new deal values there and got entirely the wrong about what the U.S. of A. was really like!. And however authentic or real or unreal Dylan may be, those things none of the tin pan alley guys connected with: I don't think... Oklahoma ain't it! So Zimmerman, too, I suppose was an assimilado and digester reflector amalgamator but of a very different kind... so we become amalgamators all... and fess up that we are all members of one or the other amalgamated workers unions... and the notions of originality and authenticity start going by the wayside except for collector investors, such as Leiber...
"Kansas City" was intentionally written to sound like.... Stoller knew what he was doing... that is, the writing "in the style of"... started early on...

I heard Dylan best - the sound as a purely imaginary - wafting in from far far away - when he remained unnamed in the second chapter of Handke's title novel to what was just republished by New York Review Books as
A Slow Homecoming... a book from which one can learn about naming and not naming... no names in the title novel... a rush of names in The Lesson of St. Victoire... I realize I am writing like a "ramblin' man"...

Leiber's envy is also for having lost the connection then, in the 70s I suppose...
That Lefty Brechtian show - what is it's name,
International Wrestling Match? -
on which they gave up but had a lot of left over songs...

also for some great favorable extremely detailed recollections by a black artist and writer, Betty Lavette, on Leiber/ Stoller AS PRODUCERS also mentions our Handke project! Leiber name dropping and not coming through! Working with Bernstein on
Exception and the Rule is the first I hear of that, a play that I translated for my senior thesis at Haverford, I'd spent half a year in Berlin during my junior year abroad, chiefly at the Ensemble where I first saw, but did not meet, Carl Weber, as an actor in Becher's Stalinschlacht. ] Handke completed parts of the Brechtian project in Ride Across Lake Constance, Hour we knew nothing of each other + Play About the Film about the War…]

...was more in line with the radical chic that Tom Wolfe derided...I was and still am pretty much of an old left united front fellow and tried my best to run the firm that way, but can't say I was good at picking partners...and for few of the authors did it matter; some of them just wanted a contract on which they never delivered to waive around to help them get laid...

Leiber was known as McNasty on the Boardwalk in Venice in the early 90s in front of his weird house, the Mausoleum... This also had a lot to do with his acid reflux problem which he hated having mentioned! and didn't seem to have the proper meds for, and which popped up every time he resorted to brandy to pump himself up... at say at Elaine's or equivalent in LA.

We went out one night with two floozy types one of whom had a song that she wanted him to listen to... he got so gratuitously ugly to her, it was hard to believe. Especially for a man who, after all, could be the epitome of delicacy! Let’s give him all the credit for what is still valuable!

By the late eighties he needed his rhyming dictionary.

He started to build that mansion on the beach in the mid 80s I think, until then he had an apartment in West Hollywood, where I stayed a few times, and which I got Tom Noonan to rent from him, a lease on which Leiber then welched when he needed the apartment for a family member, and the mansion was completed by the late 80s... and his interior decorator, the fellow who did the woodwork who knew the history of craftsman type building and Pasadena villas was his name Moishe? was the first to alert me that Leiber absolutely hated to pay... except by credit card... cash or a check took major extraction work... Moishe wanted to get to know Sam Kaplan who taught at Caltech ex NY Times writer who had written
The Dream Deferred which I did at Continuum and I managed to arrange for that to happen at Jer's house, Jim Krusoe was there too, Peter Loewenberg a friend and a good shrink who would prescribe extra lithium if Jer needed it... he was always fussing whether the problem was the correctly calibrated dose with all the other things that were flung down his gullet...

It looks as though there has been a change in Mercedes colors... and probably also sizes… at that time it was one of those comparatively discreet two door beige convertibles... 500s

Glad to note the spelling of "Abberbach" ... I had always assumed it was "Auerbach"
as in the great author of
Mimesis. My friend the artist Michael Hafftka had some dealings with the But-a-brook [as which this name translates, sort of, don't really know what to do with the two "bs"] Turns out Gene A. was his dealer and was a nice guy at least to Michael H.

I simply adore the story of one of the Erteguns sneaking his finger into that pretty girl's ass... who probably thought at first... ah another guy feeling me up as I walk upstairs to get laid... an attenuated Turkish gesture indeed. In Europe the Bulgarians are known as the original buggers, ever since the Napoleonoc wars, in Bulgaria they call buggers Turks! who buggered a lot of Bulgarians...I recall a Jules Feiffer cartoon to that effect.

I myself showed up in LA in 86 via a year and a half in the Sacramentoes / Lincoln
National Forest, 50 miles due north of El Paso, 8-9 thousand feet with one major Mt.
Sierra Blanca… at 14 thousand feet where I had reverted to my childhood farming and then Alaska hunting ways…
and Leiber couldn't handle the fact that I'd had goats and milked them and taken them for rides in my Chevy Malibu after I'd taken out the back seat and they were chattering in my ears, Chiquita the Nubian princess and Amy the Mexican wool goat were... and so the forever competitive had to say ... "I used to go for hayrides!" I had learned to ride a horse at age 12 in 1949 on a Lipizzaner from a one-armed Prussian Army Captain…

...and when I got to L.A. quickly repaired into the St. Monica's but not at quite as high an elevation... went into training at the L.A. and did a lot of work at the UCLA med school library... but didn't see Leiber all that often and treated myself to jazz clubs after a hard day's work, and a good dinner at Musso and Franks or in Korea town...and generally worked like the dickens or “comme une bête” as Freud says you must to understand dreams… and how they work…

I myself connected with his and Stoller’s music because I started to hear blues and jazz in 1945 from American Forces Radio in Bremen, at which point, as of May of 1945 I became also something like "the pet of the OSS" in Bremen because our place, since both parents and many other family members had survived KZ and Gestapo prison, some not of course, and some had been Nazis too, you got everything in these very large extended age old families, had been put under their protection, so I was not only exposed to the music, but also first hand as a kid how well Americans can party... a fine bunch, nothing like the successor CIA... and had it not been for the war I imagine someone would have taught me to play our baby grand, but my mother's mother, an accomplished pianist, only wanted to die and lived off toast and tea... and so I just banged angrily at the keys... I did teach myself to read music via the leather bound Beethoven symphonies and sonatas that were part of my father's library, and the one thing my father, Furtwangler’s best ear, liked about me was that I apparently liked Mozart within days of my birth... not much else... but I had been in the blues as of the end of the first year extra-uterine... and once you have the blues crying in you that deep and early you will not only be angry for the rest of your life but hear the consolation that the music offers...

What I connected to and with Leiber first was his wit, that he was so funnee and so quick, that he was so lower class, so ordinary, such a wonderful runt and so REAL, so brilliant, far more than the other guys at the big table at Elaine’s, and I think I realized that he was a poet, an
artiste ... his favorite poet was Frank O'Hara... not mine... I can live without the NY school... and this actually came prior to really listening to his and Stoller's songs... they had become part of the general ambiance, but I was really a hard core jazz aficionado... and because Leiber had been so REAL then he became the biggest of all disappointments because he turned so UNREAL... because Leiber didn’t just cop out on so many people and shows,
but chiefly because Leiber copped out on himself, and all that style is meant to cover that up… Thus Irving Berlin.... perfectly unreal needing to look at all those plaques every morning to remind himself what role to play! He's written the lyrics to go with every moment of that, starting with "ready to begin again" and half a dozen others!

The best and finest wit of them all at Elaine’s, for my money, however, was Paul Desmond, you can hear it in his licks... purely within the music of the words’ wit... and I got to know him quite well also because he lived across the street from me [from me and my first wife, Katarina] at 55th and Sixth Avenue, so we often shared a cab back home... I had listened to a lot of Jazz by then, I got myself every record you could buy by coupon as soon as I got to West Orange in fall of 1950 and also went to Birdland and the clubs on 52nd street whenever I was in New York, especially once I started to go to Oakwood school in Poughkeepsie for my last two years of u.s. high school...
Frank Conroy who became my best friend at Haverford as of the first day was a first rate jazz musician and his finest sides showed at the piano... he too became a regular at the big table and was the one who took me to Mama's place the day I got back to New York in December 1965 after a year in Europe...
Horace Silver we thought was a gas and we got to know him at the Blue Note in Philly... and he chased the Bryn Mawr girls around a big apartment that was handed from one class of graduates to the other at 84th and Columbus....

I listened to nites upon nites of Monk at the Blackhawk in San Francisco.... and Horace at a different place there…kept getting so high on Coltrane at the original
Halfnote at Spring and Hudson, great Italian joint with meatball sandwiches and an oval bar with the band in the middle, that all I could take was one set and then have to go for a walk, ditto for the then screechingly dissonant Herbie Hancock at the Vanguard in the 70s... I am trying to think whether any deference is paid to atonality in any of Leiber/ Stoller’s work... will have to look at that huge discography again...overall it is too melodious... and I noticed that the songs I like best are not the ones that are most famous... except maybe "Kansas City."
[Oh yes, in the interview I of course also asked about Presley, and both Jer and Mike could not have been more complimentary about him as an artist and his approach to music…]

I went whenever Desmond would play, with Jim Hall or whoever... and i was trying to get him to write his autobiography... he was a dreadfully self-conscious writer... you can see that in his liner notes... but then he died of Pall Malls... but I was not much of a pall bearer since I tend to break up at funerals and make a spectacle of myself as of age 10 at my grandfather's funeral... but used to love going to weddings...

I had even lived a fairly black life, in Fairbanks the spring to late fall of 1960 around a place called "The Timberline" where Edna Ferber allegedly had written
Iceberg and which was black owned [the folks who built the Alcan highway during WW II and had staid on] with a still in back and great downunder musicians coming up in the summer [say from Seattle, which has stopped producing them when this philistine burg closed down the after hours clubs on South Jackson] to Alaska where the pay was so much higher... and I had the one black girl friend of my life, a matter that might have made me nervous elsewhere, a singer, while "king pleasure" claimed to be in love with me! bars never closed in the south side of Fairbanks in those days... and this can be really disconcerting around the time of the midnight sun... and would again in Atlanta and Georgia and by an large felt much more at ease than with honkies [except American Jews, because they were so Europeans, a question of sensibility really]... so you can imagine how I feel in Seattle among the philistine Nordics...
my best friends, by and large are feathered friends...


Let me get to Mama's place and the list of people you have at the Big Table... on page: 72
Styron only occasionally because he lived in Connecticut... but he was the one man I could really talk about Faulkner to... I had devoted every course to Faulkner during my Freshman year at Haverford... you could actually manage to do that if you wanted to... and I also spent a fine evening with Sinatra and him there... Bennett Cerf of Random House brought in Styron and since Styron knew me and Conroy he + body guard sat down with us and Frank's friend Sven Lukin and Sinatra couldn't have been better company and when he left he invited us all to join him in his 717 or whatever he was flying to England in about a week, but I and my date the actress Pamela Bellwood a Jezebel for whom I had left my wife, thanked him muchly but we had jobs.... and off they went to Jillys.... and then Conroy and Lukin after a while decided to go there too... and the following week Conroy looked all over town for his passport...the news was being broadcast...

At a Jazz Club in North Hollywood I think it was I got to talking to someone around 1990 who had been a kind of or maybe it was Military for Sinatra, and he mentioned a Sinatra concert, during which Stoller had dashed on stage to hand him a lyric, begging, him to get it to Sinatra... so other attempts seem to have been made than those you mention...

Having met Sinatra came in handy in a very different way in 1991 in of all places in the French-built once copper town Santa Rosalia, opposite Guyamas, in the Baja... I was camping out there, on the way to Mulege [Linda Ronstadt has a really hokey cheesy campy song about Mulege] and there was this huge rainstorm and I went to the bar of a motel a bit south of town... a very empty bar except for a most handsome Spanish senatorial looking silver-haired gentleman in his sixties... and at some point a Sinatra song came on and he said "old blue eyes".... and so we fell to talking, he had been a waiter, at the Stork Club I think, it was in the 40s, a Mexican waiter, and Sinatra had been extremely well behaved and generous to the help... now the Roman senator was the head of the Federales de Caminos in Baja Sur, Senor Fernandez, and knowing him saved me a lot of money with his men who would hold you up for holiday gifts they were so underpaid, and of help also in general since he too lived in Mulege, in a walled in compound.... but he was the black sheep of the family to be stationed there, the Siberia of Mexico...

Tom Wolfe whom I had met [I had worked for Farrar, Straus, Henry Robbins the one editor there I really liked and got along with had been his editor] I don't recall ever seeing there.

Bob Brown [don't I have the most beautiful profile of any man alive] was there every night. I froze at the sight of him. We tried connecting, it was impossible, particularly because…

so was Paul Sylbert my very good friend and still is, who and Brown had been in the same company in Korea, still a very close friend – because we can keep telling each other that we’re full of it - we're in touch every week [I published his
Final Cut at Continuum; and he has some fine manuscripts he ought to at least self-publish, especially the set of Korea stories] before he went back to LA and his wife Anthea, also once they divorced, and who was the only woman aside Marianne Madden [a crossword or anagram creator for New York Magazine] who could hold her own at the Big Table [if my wife had been able to and hadn’t phoned all the time, I had no problem with her painter friends...]; for a while I dated a girl by the name of Robin Wablonsky fresh out of Barnard, from Belle Harbor, Rockaway Beach, raven hair, long tresses, a great clown, chiefly almost to bring her to the Big Table where she laughed everyone off the table... no deference whatsoever.... I always loved talking to the help and the kitchen maids... ever since I was a kid... and so got along really well with Ellio and Nico who got killed sometime in the 90s by one of his Puerto Rican employees wielding a meat ax... and Donald Ward... whom Elaine eased out or whatever at some point...and whom I saw last when he cooked up a great feast – beef bourguignon for a party at my loft around 1978...

Your father of course and Jack, who used to mosey across the street to Eric's for nosegay... and I sometimes wish that I had stuck to my resolution not become as silly as they were when they returned from across the street. I didn't start going there and really learned to "hang out" and about Fire Island until I hooked up with Cathy Wolfman [Berns-then-Bouchereau-and who know what now if she is alive] whom I met through your father [at Mama's] who had had the hots for her but never got anywhere chasing her around his apartment... and who became a major love... and then a friend for many years during the 7 year existence of Urizen Books during which time she and her then husband Willie Bouchereau [before he fled back to France] ran and tried to save from the clutches of Saul Steinberg and the Pritzker family their firm Bus Stop Shelter Inc, which is how I got these astounding insights into the utter corruption of the city of New York which I was always tempted to convey to Ed Koch as he was dog-paddling at the Jack La Lane's swimming pool in the basement of the Woolworth Tower before he dashed off across the park to City Hall... never lost that chicken fat on his belly...

Leiber, too knew Cathy, she had picked him up and taken him home, while she still lived at home, as a teenager, she lived at I think it was 55 East 86th with her parents, a building I knew well because [1] it was next to Conroy's mother's building the one impoverished apartment building on that block between Madison and Park and [2] I had dated Pamela Wylie who was a Bryn Mawr beauty, the daughter of Max Wylie, nice of Phillip, sister of the to be infamously murdered Janice.

According to Leiber, as they were getting undressed he heard noises through the wall, her parents were on the other side... and so he split and was permanently spooked by Cathy [there must have been more to spook him… perhaps Cathy once lit into him? as she could] who by the time I met her was no longer an Elvis nut but fantasized having aborted Jerry's child... This certainly was the kind of thing that Cathy would do who was an early incarnation of the eventually droves of young women who hooked up with older men because they were so angry that they hadn't been able to sleep with daddy... so they were going to take their anger out on other older men! I recall, the first time Cathy and I actually went to a bed at night she said "make believe that your are my father" I can be very obliging [the toughest resistance in analysis] and so it was a "perfect" night for her, and in the morning as my unconscious was still digesting slowly slowly sorting what had transpired where we were careening Cathy was already onto "what's the next fantasy" from fantasy to fantasy it then was....

It's all a matter of degree of incest and whether it becomes conflictual.

But Leiber was sure afraid of Cathy when she and I and Rachel joined him and Barbara and that Aussie art critic at an Italian restaurant on Sixth Avenue in the Village in late summer 79... but I never probed him... nor Cathy what that was really about.... Perhaps it was that Cathy had been a junkie... but she kicked it... every ten or fifteen years Cathy got addicted to one thing or another... and kept kicking them... big deal compared to Leiber's addictions to
saftige and his handful of pills...

Leiber held it against women who went to bed with a man on a first date or encounter!
  Old time hypocrite in that respect too!

You father kept telling me how interested Cathy was in me... I was licking my wounds from my first two affairs after a very staid 6 year marriage... I had no cool whatsoever... had lost whatever I'd ever had... but then I called her up, damned girl was married,
  and we went to Frankie and Johnny's and Mailer, as he was so often, was with a different girl every time in the other back corner...and then we spent a very long snowy week in Woodstock at a house Cathy had rented for herself...

Jack who looked marvelously decadent and I connected pretty well, chiefly over German literature; he changed personality radically when the poker game came on after hours. Within seconds. Had “card mechanic” for a friend, I loved that term. A very dark side suddenly showed. Seemed to need to get spanked at Times square. Now he has a kid and has become a darling house father married to one of Woody Allen's film editors, he had a very narrow blonde wave band for women. But certainly a waste of talent. But not too dreadfully disappointing. Glad to have known him. But what a totally fish out of water I realized when I invited him to my way downtown Tribeca region...
There is a shot of Jack in a Woody Allen film of the 80s where he has Jack standing, leaning in a doorway; one shot captures Jack!

Woody was most certainly a regular as of some point, with his wife, and used to sit wrapped in his army trench coat at table 5, and as I realized, was casting! I preferred the seat, if I could get it, on table four that was closest to table 5, because that way I had full view of the bar and the doorway and the two telephones, and at a certain point towards the mid-80s I realized that Woody was pinning me like a moth in his always filming always casting sight... I literally felt it!

And turned around toward him, as though there was a laser tickling my neck from behind. That's the kind of visual intensity that you need, and since Woody was spending these years in real shrinkage he kept being very sharp in being able to get to the heart of the moths he captured on film... one of the few things I regret about leaving NY was not to find out how he would have seen me... I knew rather a lot about him because a girl who had picked him up at the place he played clarinet at also picked me up, but elsewhere, not at Mama's...

Your father was the least disappointing, the fullest of the men there, generous in every respect, a yen for pretty girls until he met his second wife and as I said, for nosegay...those aren't bad habits if you can handle them...

Leiber, throwing handfuls of drugs into his gullet is terrified of anything having to do with drugs... like an old scared woman... also because one of his sons got hooked or so Leiber said on something and had to be sent away to detox...

Plimpton perhaps came once a week I would say, I found him to be a wooden Indian... Mailer very occasionally, I once saw big Mama push him out of her place just
using her big belly after he had misbehaved subsequent to some t.v. interview that had not gone well for him... I only kept getting introduced to Mailer and we nodded politely to each other, also at Frankie and Johnny, where he took his dates: I met him at the publication party at Frank's home for "Stop Time" and wanted to talk to him about Alaska, how he, a city boy, had managed to get, in
Why are we in Vietnam, the flora in the Brooks Range so right [I had worked there!] but he blew me off with a true asshole statement: "I am going to tell the world my hunting adventures any day now."

The way I am, usually you don’t get a second chance after that, and I often regret that! I never heard him say anything memorable at the Big Table. But I usually found something interesting in his books, even if I had to read them starting in back; except for the last, that idiocy about Hitler.

Sheed I met through Conroy, in the early sixties already, and we got along really well because he was another European American hybrid, with a weakness for sports figures because with his polioed leg he had never been able to play any, and he got me some work at Commonweal, still a first rate magazine compared to most others, and I was with him and Conroy at Conroy's place on Jerolaman [sp?] Street in Brooklyn Heights when Kennedy was assassinated; and then prevailed on him in 1994 to do the intro to the volume of Leiber lyrics that could stand alone as poems in a book that I put back together then: I had done this once before at Urizen Books and the process had been one of pulling Hamlet's fingernails... Leiber tried even my patience... and eventually I realized that he was taking full advantage of that and of my once politesse...deeply inbred... but once you loosen the binding on the feet... I actually have an evil temper that can be held in check to the end of the marathon... Sheed was very very rarely at Mama's place.
Barthelme called Mama’s a hellhole.

But in 1994 I couldn't find anyone with all the contacts I still had at that time who would see it my way of doing a book of his lyrics, including Dick Seaver, his alleged friend, also among the many dead, whom I also knew, from his days at Grove. I suppose once the compilation that became the show "Smokey Joes Cafe" became this huge hit... but such a book can be sifted out of his lyrics... it is there... and he's really tough on himself... too tough...

For me Big Mama's was an introduction to the demi-monde of New York and I don't regret it at all, big fat good night kisses from Mama, except that she had this undying habit of adding up the check in the house's favor, no matter how many people I brought there, what parties I gave there, etc. going to the greasy spoon across the street for breakfast also happened a few times. I recall a short stringy fellow, Greco, who supposedly gave her a loving occasionally. Susan Sontag told me when I took her there that Elaine had run a lesbian after hours joint prior to opening her bar with Donald Ward, the gay son of a New York Cop.

A lot of cop folks from that famous French Connection caper seemed to hang out at Elaine's in those early days.

Tony Tuttle was one strange hanger-on type who used to show up a lot. From a second tier prep school, guys to watch out for!

Tom Buckley a New York Times writer who had been to Vietnam, and had one lung removed, and became a friend. Also dead.

Halberstam, terminally boring. Leiber and I agreed on that. And overbearing. Also dead now.

That Italian-American Agent, was Miller his name? Or am I thinking of Bob Datilla? who also had a gallery on Fifth near 57th Street and whom I liked talking to.

Gay and his wife Nan whom I both liked and enjoyed talking with were fairly frequently indeed and I went to some of their parties.

James Jones very very rarely.

Never saw Vonnegut there whom I knew through the PEN club.

David Newman and his terrific wife indeed. [David is no longer with us either] Friends of the Sylberts too, and I went to his parties.

Irwin Shaw a few times, I made it a point to talk to him because I had wanted to put on a play of his at Oakwood, a very left anti-war play, this was during the McCarthy era and Oakwood had a lot of kids whose parents were victimized, but he refused to give permission for the play to be performed. Will Google his oeuvre and will help the memory there. His novels were really important to me when I was young in this country. "the young lions." not like Faulkner, my tastes were fairly omnivorous..."Bury the Dead"... there it is and his original name was Shamforoff.
I wish I'd known that, we could have played off each other's Shamroffs!

I never saw Terry Southern there, I certainly would have made it a point to get to know him because I really knew and liked his work, as of 59 via my friend Gus Blaisdell at Kepler's bookshop on the Camino Real in Menlo Park, Gus was a philosophy grad student who worked in the store and later had his own, Living Batch, in Albuquerque. Also expired.

I recall Southern's wife Carol who was a children's book editor, however, or rather then ex, and having the hots for her, and Nelson Aldridge, the discoverer of Elaine's insisting on first dibs since he was talking to her already. One of the few times I made a move towards a friends' girl... whom he had just met too... so she must have been really sultry and it was evident that she much preferred it if I put the moves on her or each other it would have been... This was very rare thing for me to do... I was gentlemen Mike who refused to let himself be seduced by his prettiest students who escorted friends exes home or whatever and never made a pass because I did not want to do anything to endanger the friendship... or brushed theirs off... except in one instance, and it involved Leiber, and he never forgave me. His stepdaughter Rachel Stella, he foisted her on me in 79, paid me to give her a job as an intern... and I allowed her to seduce me... he knew that too [more on that anon]... the last person I wanted to have working there, I'd seen her over breakfast at the Vougeria [this was another version of the Beverly Hillbillies], nasty angry little girl in a broken down t-shirt
putting her thumb in her mouth at age 17, but when she waltzed into Urizen
she was dressed to the nine's or whatever and was stunningly beautiful Lolitabrigida .and I was like instantly happy... which shocked Leiber when I told
  him who ought to know better than anyone what drugs women can be.

I always say it was Rachel's dog fault! her Chow "Bear" decided to go downtown instead of up to Sullivan street after we left the Mudd Club and it wasn't supposed to last longer than the summer of 79 [we said it wasn’t going to be like Manhattan!] but it lasted an entire year and we had her mother's blessing and lived together in my loft and retraced Barbara and Frank's wedding trip through Spain... And as we descended from my captain’s bridge perch after our first nite if her father’s maid and coke dealer Paula who was the girl friend of a Lefty editor friend to whom I had rented a room didn’t start shouting, “Rachel and Michael, Michael and Rachel” and I guess, looking back, the news was quickly at least over all of downtown; and I had to make myself entirely impossible for her to leave me because i could never have left her on my own and weirdly still love her more than any of the others... she became this lead ball encumbrance and i was involved in a kind of life and death struggle with one of the partners at Urizen who had convinced me that the silent partner wanted him to run the firm, and me that the outside partner's link to the fellow.. all i have left of the firm are a couple of federal judgments in the millions noncollectable except by the Sicilian mafia, he lives in Palermo!

and Rachel could be a Sicilian wolverine! and a born again hussy! but Leiber, even though for quite a while we were entirely integrated into the family, for a long time he even was going to buy out the evil partner, never forgave me I realized in 94. He kept a good mask, an analyst’s mask but occasionally it slipped, and once you knew the kind of mask he wore, you saw through him far more deeply if he’d not bothered to
  put on a mask. And it sure was an indulgence of mine to fall in love once again! At that time: whom was I protecting by feeling the need to protect her, a true  brat, I eventually asked myself and got the play
Palombe Bleu out of it… Barbara, Jerry and I having dinner at the 21, and the child underneath the table, being fought over, which Leiber really liked, though he didn’t seem to recognize a lot of his great jokes I had worked into it.

To finish up Elaine’s…
Fred Seidel via Nelson Aldridge must have been the second regular, Frank Conroy
was Fred's brother in law [they both married Fergusons and made them equally unhappy]...
Plimpton and the entire tiresome Paris Review crowd followed in Fred and Nelson’s wake…
I eventually took a lot of people to dinner there, because it was the closest thing to a
Stamm I ever had in New York while I lived uptown, and certainly a Tisch but never had a wake...
Mailer had a wake, hangers-on, so did Plimpton…

Although I am sorry not to have been present during the famous Mailer/ Leiber altercation...and although I wouldn't necessarily buy that story as he tells it... nor any of others that involve
fighting – I was there the evening at the end of which Elaine said “What do you know, I got it made”…
and probably called Suzie and whatever gossip columnist to broadcast the nite’s events.
It was a Winter nite in 1966, I don’t know whether it was January or February and it was snowing,
the main reason that the place was so empty. The place was hot, you could feel it, so it must have been a February snowstorm, because Frank had introduce me to Elaine’s, then about a year old, only in late December and then followed me and my shipboard romance home to the shoebox I stayed in at the Chelsea and had to be gently urged, that no, he could not sleep with Christine no matter that he felt she would sleep with him… he was such touchingly friendly love-possessed large Irish wolf hound then. So it must have taken me at least a month to get the feel of Elaine’s that it had the air of something about to happen, except that I hadn’t the faintest what it might be.
I was not social and I certainly lacked any feel for New York bar society at that time.
We were at table 3, Frank and a fellow whose name I think was Tony and who worked for the
Woodshole Oceanographic, and I have no recollection why someone from such an organization might hang out at a place like Elaine’s; which never became known for the food, serviceable and comfy as I found it. I imagine he must have been friends with one or other of the writers. I recall him as a rather large heavy-boned man, I can bring up his shape, a vague outline, and he had rather a full head of dark brown hair and a beard and he was eminently friendly. 
The three of us were having what could only be called a fairly desultory conversation.
Frank had his long legs sticking out toward the corner by the uptown window where the jukebox stood against the wall by the window and I, who was sitting next to table 4, thus had a view of Frank’s profile and of the southern of the two plate glass windows that framed the doorway, commenting on the snowstorm, and looking
out at it every so often, and Tony or whatever his name was sitting with his back to the wall, and Elaine, a bit less hefty than the Hippo she is now  [I occasionally catch a glimpse of her in the NY Times society section on Sundays at parties of where current guests of her restaurant have invited her still bemused face, NY where a restaurateur can become a trophy], was sitting at table 4, with Jack Richardson and maybe one or the other person. Donald Ward might have been tending bar; or one of those French connection types ex-cops;
Nico most certainly was the waiter. Ten people at most witnessed the nite that “Elaine’s was made.”
I noticed Frank’s eyes go on alert as he followed my eyes glimpsing a beige dress or coat in the swirl
of snow by the southern of the two windows that faced 2nd Avenue with what looked like a red-white-and-blue collar or scarf. A face looking in, but not pressed to the window. The window was not fogged over as I recall,
could not have been…
“It’s Jackie Kennedy” Frank said [or maybe she was already known as Jackie O at that point, or simply as “Jackie” the woman who had said “I am not going to be the ‘Kennedy widow,’ and
why should she have been considering what a louse her unfortunate husband had been], and, I, hesitating, then said: “No, it isn’t.” [Thinking, if that is the word, “why would she come to this place?”]
“Yes it is.”
 And I was astonished, then, to see the Conroy go into hunting dog mode alert as the cast came in, one by one – was there a cubicle to keep the warm air or cool air conditioning, as the season might want, inside as there would be at some point, that double door affair? Indeed it was Jackie O, but I forgot who of these some of the most recognizable faces in the world of the arts in New York came in first, one by one. But once the were all inside it certainly was Richard Avedon and Leonard Bernstein and Bill Styron and Sybil Burton, who was not recognizable by her looks, was not as familiar, Susan Sontag was already,
at least to me, though I had not met her, but would see a fair amount of her that year,
I think it was about six of them; was Bernstein’s wife with them?; was Rose Styron? and Elaine keeping her normal cool of not being impressed by anyone seated them at the Big Table, and Jack, it turned out, knew Jackie, and so he didn’t have to move, perhaps Jack had even told Jackie that it was a hot place to go, and they just happened to show up on a snowy nite when nothing was going on.
They all wanted to dance, and so we danced with them, Jack with Jackie, I with Sybil,
I forgot whether Susan danced with anyone, and after maybe 45 minutes they all waltzed out again, and it was nice to see Styron from close up, whose work Frank and I had lit on already in college, one of the few contemporaries whose work penetrated the college idyll,
and Bernstein the first American conductor I had heard live, in Newark in the early 50s,
Avedon was significant to me because I had started to date a woman who did fashion
illustration with him and so I knew the unforgettable face that went with the photographs;
Sontag, even then, was not just prominent for one famous essay, but for her striking looks.
The juke box was up front against the northern window I think and I can’t recall what tunes people danced to. It was the time of “The Jerk”, the inception of disco,
and the first disco was uptown, and I recall dancing with my wife to be [we had our wedding meal at Elaine’s] at this disco, and dancing next to Jackie who was dancing with Nureyev and Bobby Kennedy was dancing with his wife.. - New York was a wide open city then, for a while… in 1966. There was one week I ran into Bobby Kennedy three times,
at the disco, then on 8th Street where he was campaigning for Abe Beam, who was so short
that as Bobby stepped aside I nearly ran over Beame; and the third time at the Carlisle vestibule where I was waiting for my father: by the third time, in the vestibule, Bobby as he moved past with his entourage [he was senator then] seemed to have recognized me, from about 25 feet, and gave me a hard stare. I remembered him from way back from the Army-McCarthy hearings that we had watched avidly at Oakwood… Bobby as a younger lawyer had been very right wing, I had yet to learn the permutations of American politics to the point of compleat disgust; but I had had inklings even then.
I had not met Leiber, and the big table had not established itself as the spot for the
regulars, which, at any event, spilled over to table 5 and 3 and two, and you sat wherever you wanted to, if there was a seat, until one day Elaine actually took me and sat me down at table 4, which was my way of getting “made” at Elaine’s, and I suppose it was around that time that I met Leiber… and started to feel more at home… I took my work, manuscripts, I had no end of reading to do to Elaine’s and often preferred to just sit by myself,

Leiber is an absolutely wonderful story teller... and teller of tall tales... and it is all in the timing and how the story is drawn out .. and that he's best with a large audience, large
dinner table I should say...for example the "stage delicatessen cunt story" takes him about five minutes to tell or maybe ten and by the time he is done the entire dinner table will have
fallen off their chairs and be rolling on the floor because of the way he iterates and
withholds and delivers his punch lines... but stories that feature Leiber as a courageous fighter I tend to disbelieve because at least by the late 80s I found him to be an easily frightened coward, really like the proverbial old woman... weird, around 1994, he looked to be afraid of me at moments, and what did I weigh? 150 pounds and wasn’t at all angry at him, not until he welched once again… Leiber will always fail those closest to him…

Leiber never forgave Conroy for apparently egging him and Mailer on...I can see
Conroy doing that... Frank turned out to have a really ugly streak...but we don't know what the inflection of his voice was when he told them to go on fighting, it might have been sardonic!...But Mailer is dead, Conroy is dead, I think Ellio might be alive, Nico was killed by one of his employees wielding a meat axe, and I think it amazing that Elaine with her heart and other internal organs needing to work overtime with her weight... her memory would be trustworthy...  it is supposed to match her weight… her wanting to keep Leiber from cocking Mailer who had been blinded by Ellio doing that Italian thing to his eyes… of course… if she favored anyone? I doubt it.

Buzz Farber committed suicide after getting out of jail, he covered for Mailer...and so
 he can’t tell his side of the story. I knew Buzz pretty well and liked him, also because I
worked as an agent at Lantz-Donadio from late 69 to 71 representing various German publishers, chiefly Suhrkamp, and Buzz and Candida were extremely tight...I called Candida once from the Baja in the 90s, and she asked me what the Americans there were like, I mentioned a range called "Los Animas" - the lost souls - and she said that's what Buzz was. Buzz looked like one of the most frightened persons I ever met...and he was really strong... I will never forget that permanent look of anxiety on his face and eyes, of a well built handsome guy. I imagine photos of his bullfighting exploits might even be on line...[they aren’t!] The way Leiber tells the story of Buzz going to cover bullfighting for CBS and coming back with nothing but photos of himself and the bulls...
again it takes at least ten minutes... but it is magnificent... he told it to me in a bar/ restaurant in Venice, and I recall exclaiming before he had even finished… he has a way of detailing
these stories too – “What a great story”, and he wasn’t finished and wanted to go on.

Conroy did not seem to have cared for Leiber the last time I saw him, in DC in 86..."high heeled sneakers" he said looking very derisive, "Can't trust the guy." Conroy
said that about everyone
and was the one no-one could trust! If you read
Stop-Time closely you can see how a minor fault can grow to take over,
another late stylizer of his self, but at least he went out with a really fine
Of Time and Tide whereas Body and Soul must be one of the worst... except for the magical figure of one Catherine and the last 75 pages or so where he suddenly starts to boogie... and you can see the, as Sheed observed so acutely that "Frank chiefly loves himself."

A surprise that Conroy didn’t know Leiber/ Stoller’s music.

I did not pursue the matter of the Leiber/ Mailer fight with Frank and actually
did not know about the fight until Leiber told it to me pretty much the way you have it, but the prelude with all that arm wrestling with Buzz… this is the first I hear of that… I had heard rumors of the fight whenever it occurred, but that was all…
Actually it is a story of Leiber
not wanting to fight and I recall his saying around 1990
that he was too old to fight and offered folks who did want to buy them a drink….
Nothing wrong with that at all. I got so angry at one of the partners at Urizen in the late 70s
whom I ought to have shot that I took pops at people a foot taller than myself at my local bars as soon as they gave me or a friend grief… and kept nursing a sore right fist… but it was they who got tossed out… because those people, it turned out, had given a lot of people grief before I took a pop at their chins..

I was involved in two incidents with violence at Elaine’s.
At the first I was sitting I think by myself at table 5, reading a manuscript and Buckley
and Madden were sitting at table
six when Willie Morris, the Harper’s editor, hit Buckley from behind in the neck.
Instantly I rose to cock the hateful fat drunken redneck face of Morris as Nico did one of those spectacular soccer goalie flights – a flying tackle - during a penalty kick and tackled me saying "You're supposed to stop a fight not make it worse."

I forget what had riled Morris who wasn't there often...Both men are dead, don't know
about Marianne Madden who was a gas, as Paul Sylbert who has read these ramblings just confirmed…

The other time involved my author Wilfred Burchett whose
Grasshoppers and Elephants I had published in 1977 and who had been the chief source for information for all the great U.S. Nam reporters[from the Vietcong side], Wilfred was an old United Front commie, one of the great war correspondents when he was reporting and not proselytizing, the US had dropped battalions on the Vietcong trail to intercept him because they figured where Wilfred is there has to be the Cong HQ... which was always on the move! Halberstam, Buckley, the names will come to me etc. and everyone was having a great time reminiscing when Steve Donleavy of the Post showed up and ruined everything with his red baiting. The Post had already run a headline with full front page cover of Wilfred's pudgy face under the headline
of "Torturer of GI's in New York". I recall going to my candy store at the north-east
  corner of West Broadway and Chambers for my 4 pm pick-up of a Mars Bar and being shocked..."no Wilfred, no...please not that..." and had called the White House foreign relations person, Hodding
Carter the III it was, to check, not as far as they were concerned, Wilfred had been a go-between
Ho Chi Min and Johnson, relieved me, but with Wifred being an Australian commie and Murdoch there was a lot of bad blood there and Dunleavy, a Kiwi, was there on an assignment.

I made the mistake of taking Elaine's well intentioned advice to leave with Wilfred through
the kitchen, which ran parallel to the main room at that point, the railcar length that had not yet been turned into the other part of Elaine's, before yet another railcar further north became the kitchen, expanding like the owner’s girth, instead of just heading out the front door with him and his darling Bulgarian wife.

I was in my element, I could defend...I was a really good defensive fighter, and once I got hurt I turned wolverine, and if I was afraid of anything it was of my own violence.

As we entered the kitchen and headed for the kitchen exit to 2nd Avenue, Donleavy burst
in with his photographer and shoved me aside against the wall for the Post photographer to get a shot of Wilfred ignominiously leaving through the kitchen… and someone I don’t think it was me called the cops, so there was no real fight; but I had cause for action; and I took it, and the police report to court; and the day that Donleavy and his Post lawyer showed up in the Leonard Street Court Part I, we were called first from among the hundreds; and I was well prepared, through Wilfred I had gotten the lowdown on Donleavy, he was a brawler, gouged eyes, bitten off ears, a rugby player; I had fought a little bit amateur at 145 pounds! The judge gave me a simple choice: Since the facts were not in dispute, I could bring everyone who had been at Elaine’s that night to court, threetimes!!!, and he’d give Donleavy the kind of penalty that you get “for leaving your garbage can uncovered” were his priceless NY Judge’s words, or you can just read Mr. Donleavy’s record into the court record. There in Part I resides Dunleavy’s record, which, to my surprise, he did not dispute. As he and his lawyer and I left and walked out through the hall, Donleavy said: “So aren’t you glad that I didn’t get to bite off your ears and gouge out your eyes.” And I have to admit that the guy had a sense of humor certainly made the episode easier; and there are no hard feelings except toward Ruppert, who I gather is getting softer too!
Jane Perlez who was then the editor of the Soho Weekly News, and an Aussie, too,wrote it all up there. She is now with Auntie and covers the Af-Pak war.
One more brief note on Elaine’s: perhaps the most invariable of regulars were DeeDee + Johnny whose last name escapes right now, Paul Sylbert will know because he wrote me of Johnny’s death a while back and what a sweetheart that man was.[A fair night's sleep brings up the ordinary last name of Ryan! No wonder with the exotic DeeDee in mind I was fishing in the memory bank for something far different] They were a kind of amazing couple: he had the looks of a starved eager smiling ferret[Paul just wrote that he derived from immense wealth, that John Houston had been his godfather], and she was right out of Orphé, the Cocteau film: always in black tight dresses, immaculately made up, like a mummy, highly stylized. No wonder: she was a friend of Diana Vreeland, maybe if I’d known that then my wife might have liked the place and not be so thin skinned at all that American brash talk…
Johnny worked I think it was for Schlesinger financial on Wall Street and once introduced me to the head honcho there. I wanted half a million to put Urizen Books on a sound financial basis: he said they never lent less than a million, and I didn’t think I could justify such a large loan or investment. It probably would have come to naught anyway, because every time a potential investor – and I came up with a number of fairly formidable interested parties – met the other working partner… they would pass. It took me years to catch on, allow what darknesses I had entered with him. Anyhow, both faces, so very different, are distinctly imprinted in the memory bank.

Back to Jer now.
The story about how Jerry met Lester Sills and all the early L.A. stuff sounds pretty much the way I heard it. What's missing is in your account, Josh, is the first actual meeting between Leiber and Stoller who apparently was goggle-eyed and speechless on beholding Leiber at the Stiller doorstep... someone who has one blue and one brown eye!!! It kept disconcerting me forever... as you must have noticed unless you are color blind!.. until Mike's mother hollered: "Mike, let your friend in." Stoller had an ulcer at that time! At age 17! or younger! One repressed psychosomatic boy!
Also, missing is mention of the white guy who hired them to write a song - I think –it’s either “Bazoom” or "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots" they [The Cheers] used - so that his kid would fail as a singer and not get into the music racket....
but the song became a hit!!! and he lost his boy to success! Jerry was still friends with this fellow, the singer not his dad, who was in LA and I think I had dinner with him and Jer once at Wolfgang Pucks...and this must have been that rarity --

-- Barbara Rose once said to me in New York: "He has no friends, he needs you."
And, at that time it was a puzzling statement, since I still thought Leiber was not only a friend, but, more importantly, could not conceive of someone who was so up having no friends. At this point I am, unfortunately, not in the least surprised. --

someone Jer did not badmouth at that time...
[I don’t know if this singer was Bert Convy or not. He’s on Wikipedia, too. Face does not look familiar.] Jer badmouthed everyone, including Stoller and Corky...and also Nadja, the mother of his illegitimate kid, Jake... until Nadja entered his life, but also afterwards, especially while still in New York after Barbara Rose had left and divorced him [chief reason being, according
to her that he didn't let her work, which i can sort of see his preventing her from doing with being a kind of house mother cook and always antsy] Leiber had had a series of what can only be called affairs with granddaughters who subsequently were sent off to grad or law school! College age girls with whom he spent a few years.
When I lived with him for a month, and usually went to bed later, and invariably going for a walk as I had for years, but also got up early with the first birds ever after leaving NY and passed his bedroom I often heard something truly eery: Leiber to one of these now-gone young lovers on the phone going "Boobie Boobie"... it was so so sad to know that this fellow who strutted around, was so hung up....

but I let it dawn on me that someone who badmouths his lifelong partner and the mother of his child [who was a big advance on Barbara Rose in character, except her possibly entrapping Jer!] is also going to badmouth you.... and I suppose also and chiefly himself...He felt Nadja had entrapped him... and seemed not to be able to stand her from what he said about her... I rather liked her... She was close friends
with Puck's wife, Charlotte Lazaroff, who I think was the engine that drove Puck to great success...  
I once spent a thanksgiving dinner at Jer's mausoleum, as I think of it, and sat next to someone who was Austrian, I don't know if we were even introduced but we talked all dinner about Austrian things and the fellow was completely delightful, not a word about cooking or restaurant biz, which must have been a huge relief to him....
only afterwards I found out who he was... I can’t imagine NOT asking him a few questions of how he liked that racket… So Wolfgang and I got lucky with each other for one evening… and utterly ignored the rest of the table..

Nadja called me once, I think I was meant to bring some Quail from the hills to Venice .... and she complained about Jer, and so I thought I'd do them both a favor and suggested: “Why don't you get yourself a different boyfriend"... big big mistake! Never heard the end of it! you have never heard the end of that, because Nadja mentioning my suggestion to Leiber...Leiber refused to understand that it had been
his badmouthing that had led to my suggestion ... and he remembered  it and held it against me even after I came back from three years in Mexico... He felt it a terrible intrusion into his privacy, by which time Jake all of five or six years old and she and Jer and Jake went to family counseling... apparently Jake was being uppity!... this unfailing recourse to the therapeutic! I believe Oliver and Jed went early in their lives too, to whatever good or no effect. Leiber believes in this kind of therapy… while copping out on it himself… at that time he had actually given up on the analytic… because he was lazy… he didn’t seem to realize that it was a life long process… that it required work on the patient’s part… and Leiber’s chief problem is that he is lazy!... he used to be a three to five minute genius…. and that was easy!... it was “natural”…

I failed to bag any quail on the dusty paths of the chaparral in the St. Monica Mountains where they usually trundled about en masse [I loved their babies, their fledglings that seemed to roll out of their eggs and go right on rolling], most animals
did a disappearing act for me except grouse and rabbits in Alaska, but I will spare you some quite amusing stories of my failed hunting expeditions in the Sacramentoes.
I never met Goldner and the other mobster, but met Bienstock, an amply girthed
Hungarian as I recall, at the Brill Building penthouse around the time I discussed with Jer and Mike
their buying out Herder and Herder from McGraw-Hill [which had just been acquired by them but was going to be killed off, or not to much of anything because the Trade division had got itself into deep shit with Harold McGraw and Beverly Loo, the subsidiary rights person, often the tail that wagged the dog in publishing, had been suckered big time by Jules [??] David Irving’sfake authorized biography of Howard Hughes. I myself had joined Herder/ McGraw with the promise of doing a very particular kind of paper back line, the American version of the famous Edition Suhrkamp]. From what you write, it does not appear that L+S actually had the bread to do something of that kind at that time. Later in the 70s when Jer was back in the money he and I dickered for about half a year about his buying out the evil partner; as usual, he bailed out [and that was at a time that I was setting up Barbara with a publishing firm, for specialized art books, of her own, Aquila], but one day suddenly in the late 80s he called me in my fastness in the St. Monicas where only the fewest friends from LA ever ventured, and said he was sorry that he hadn't... so much would have been different. Indeed they would have, and I might still be in new York slaving away in the publishing trade with Jerry Leiber bugging me! Driving me crazy! I must say, I am happier with what I am doing now. whether is more useful? I doubt it. Herder then came under the umbrella of Seabury Press and was divided into two division, Crossroads for the religious arm; and Continuum Books, where I became a senior editor after a nice half year freighter trip around the world from which I brought Leiber a great set of Tabla drums from India! that I think devolved to either Jed or Oliver...

As to getting to know comedians like Goldner and Co. while editing Bob Kalich’s
The Handicapper the entire top echelon of the Jewish mob in New York walked into my life off its pages! One of them, a fellow by the name of Robbie Margolies, who had been Costello’s best Jewish friend, one look and the flesh fell off your bones. Otherwise, it was difficult to tell the legit from the illegitimate, and I loved the color they introduced into my editing labors, which were of the Stygian kind of cleaning the Augean stables, six months work for 40 K for the firm it earned. The mob figures subscribed to the book, financing Kalich and me, according to the degree they were featured. One check was for 10 K, one day a brown paper bag appeared with 1 k worth of cash in it from a fellow who had a shop at the corner of canal and the bridge there. And we didn’t even have to publish it, Crown then did it. But I appreciate what hit Leiber Stoller at an early stage
in their career as producers. It is certainly some kind of fair ironic fate that though they lost the rights to their own work, buying song libraries and exploiting them they became even wealthier. The mob did not intrude into the book business except that someone there printed covers of mass paperbacks and tried to get paid for returns; there was a bit of pilfering on the loading docks, and then first shipments of hot books ended up at used book stores on Broadway. In the case of Urizen books, it turned out that the one working partner had not made his money making little documentaries for West German television, but dubbing US porno fare for the German market… and the partner’s mob partner was driven as crazy as I then allowed my denying self to be… until I stopped the denial.

Jer showed me some stabs at screenwriting that he had done by around 93/4 which O guess must have been what he tried to interest Scorcese in... that gets into that holdup at the Brill Building deli. I don't know whether it is in your piece, but the Brill building was designed to be taller than the Empire State building, but the developer ran out of bread at the start of "the depression" and so it was capped at what is now the penthouse, whatever floor I forgot.. 15? 20? Jer’s effort at screenwriting were not prepossing, but if he told the story in the same detail as which he told it to you, I can see Scorcesee in being definitely interested… One would have to ask him why he decided to take a powder on Leiber.
Section 8 will get into some nitty gritty stuff on Jer and the analytic.
Gonna finish this trip down memory lane up now, Josh. Really glad that you wrote about Leiber for half of the piece as though you were doing the kind of official bio… for which you never got a contract. It’s good to see the moth-eaten lemur in all his best mahogany glory consuming salami that melts on his rotting tongue in his sunset mausoleum. And I will do a bit of filling in there. It’s a kind of Sunset Boulevard grotesque. However, I am also glad that the other pieces in your collection are not anything like it. What the hell, I also bought Leiber for real at one time that he was a lot more real than he is now, well of course he is real, too, but in the sense that a lacquered rotting tree stump is real, and it is an easy mistake to make, it is made all the time, to think the great funky artist of yore still has the same funk when he’s only faking it. I couldn’t be happier to have met him, a big addition to my way of becoming an American, ditto for Elaine’s. If in New York I would take a peek to see what it was like now, whereas Leiber: if he were my sick cat I’d put it out of its misery. Paul Sylbert who saw him in Venice a few years back was wondering whether Leiber had a face lift, Paul a production designer of note, his devilish eye for detail, notes some scars behind the left and right ears, its either a face lift, or a rota-roota job of clogged veins I suppose. I recall a moment of near mind-blowing uncontrolled jealousy of Leiber on my return from the Baja as he noted the shape I was in, and I said, that aside from continuing to smoke, Ovalidos at that point, pure Virginia tobacco, I’d lived a healthy life ever since leaving New York, and unhealthy there by no means out of happiness. But Leiber also fakes it in that respect, and only fakes out himself. “I can outsmart anyone,” he boasted around the same time. Not the kind of thought that would even enter your mind if psycho-analysis has taken! 40 some years of it, and by telephone! Which can work, I was on a panel on that once with some of the wonders in that field. I sent Paul the book, and he may have a few comments.
First an estimate of the best and worst that Leiber wrote, prior to another brief flashback to Mama’s place and “the mob” and then an account of some important moments while I lived in the lions den for about a month, February through March of 1994.
Let’s start with the very worst as is befitting right now:
Longing for a simpler time” would seem  to be it… The cop that always tossed a smile your way. I don’t know whether it is even to Irving Berlin standard to which Leiber claims to adhere of being ultra spare but we are certainly in Irving Berlin White X-mas regions, of the great lie which fetches the best price, and it is not just a great lie, after all there are lies with style and lies that lack style, that are too hokey for words. And “Longing for a simpler time” falls into the latter category. However, I pretty much agree with Leiber’s list of his kind of great songs, except that kind is just one tranche.
“Is that all there is” certainly is the best of that kind that he wrote, though the motive for it, as best as I recall, from the interview, when “International Wrestling Match came to naught” [I really don’t have the complete story of that, so don’t know whether it didn’t come off because Leiber pulled the plug.] as a motive doesn’t quite suffice, but works are not judged by their motives, interesting as these moments always are.
Here’s a link to the wonderful Peggy Lee album where it appeared which has a lot of Leiber songs on it that don’t appear on the discography:
“The Case of M.J.” which was perfect for “Dying Out” as I recall, for the mad wife,  “Is that all there is” would have been perfect for the end of Dying [occurs to me  30 years too late] where the super-successful monopolist Herr Quitt, now that he’s beaten them all, beats his head to smithereens on a rock full of slithering snakes, if done Herbie Hancock and Witches Brew atonal shriek style. However, Handke who was king of the road at an early age, in 1973, went on to greater conquests, the all European Laurel Crown, and did not buy into style, though he’s stylized himself a bit on occasion; however Scorcese too, another once potential collaborator of Leiber’s, also went into style: the fate of great success, a now ancient American success story… nothing fails like that kind of success. There are many reasons for this, chief being one’s own terms for it, and in a by and large puerile culture.
Also Bill Bolcom Leiber/ Stoller sings, which dupe the Peggy Lee in most instances
but are done in an “art song” mode.
The Peggy Lee I suppose is one of their great achievements during their “style” period; and not to take anything away from Peggy… 1975… and it was pretty much the end altogether.
Here’s a link to their discography, which, as indicated, does not list a fair number of non-recorded or Peggy Lee or Bolcom recordings.
Leiber-Stoller discography:
I’ve cut duplicate version… Some of these I’ve never heard though I looked at most of the lyrics when putting together the selected lyrics that can stand as poems. Indeed, Stoller seems to have been right in 1973 in the interview when he said that they’d also written a lot of crap. Some of the titles of the eminently forgettable ones indicate as much: A song not just for every moment in life but for every vogue. The cudgel of capitalism in an industrialized medium is always swinging; and that perhaps is yet one other reason, not only for judging and appreciating them at their best, but for the vain attempt to “long for a simpler” time that never was.
I mark with “?” songs that fail to ring a bell or that I never heard. “A” equals “A”, not just as a song, Leiber-Stoller were the first to produce “records”… I understand that they never bothered to see their artists live, say the Coasters, after having worked with them in the studio ad infinitum… there comes a point of no return. However, I would have gone to note the reaction of the audience. Audience shopping in the theaters in Seattle has by and large been a grim and depressing experience these growing years. When I got here in the mid-90s the music scene was livelier, nothing comparable to NY or LA, but still. It was not like the NY punk scene that I made some acquaintance with in the late 70s, but it was not as depressing as the gigglers who applaud the sets!
America (see ONLY IN AMERICA)
Baby, That’s Rock N’ Roll (see THAT IS ROCK AND ROLL)
L.A, L.A. [?]
LIPS [?]
ON BROADWAY [A- a rewrite]
SHOPPIN’ FOR CLOTHES [Another rewrite – well Leiber certainly got them “herring bone” – one of my favorites]
YES [?]
It occurs to me that during the interview both Leiber and Stoller, asked about working with Elvis, had nothing but praise for him. Unless I’ve already forgotten what I read, you didn’t get into his work with The Drifters with him, which is certainly far smoother stuff than they did with The Coasters, on the way to “style” and smooth jazz…
Lots of the old Coasters stuff holds up,
they produced records, three minute shows, and took a lot of pride in that. And deserve all the accolades they want. But let’s face it: that was nearly fifty years ago and the cats haven’t done anything but administer their wealth for the past 30 + years! The irony of their becoming wealthy as businessman after having the rights stolen is peculiarly peculiar.
Now those additions to Elaine’s and “the mob” before I conclude with evocations of Life and Death inside the Mausoleum.
Here’s a link to a review of the Hotchner book I just heard about: a dreadful piece this review by someone I don’t recall at all. However, it does bring up a few names like Bobby Zarem, a nothing to whom I never more than nodded. And I find out the name of the head bartender whose face does not look familiar.
First, Mama’s place…
I haven’t addressed the “action” at the Big Table at all. It varied of course, and exists on a continuum… when the place was dead and the table might be empty or just Bob Brown by himself …to so crowded that extra chairs had to be pulled up and fitted in as best as… Dwelling on that obvious phenomenon, a few other figures emerge from the memory dungeon, for example Arthur Kopit who was in the Halberstam league, big overbearing but with a better smile. I remember his pretty blonde bright wife at least as well as him, because she was one of many pretty bright wives who were utterly ignored by their boyfriends or husbands once they were at the big table, and who all had roving eyes, so you could smell the trouble of an eventual break-up. The highly intelligent Yale Professor of French literature, Peter Brooke too, had a wife like that. Thus all kinds of footsies were being played underneath while the big men held forth. Or people would disappear into the powder room and make arrangements… I could fill several pages with incidents along that line, also the way people wanted to seize on the flaxen haired professor I brought there who could hold herself very nicely and blushed at all these underground advances paid to her, and I was anything but neglectful, as a matter of fact, I was fiendishly jealous… that is fundamentally insecure… to my own surprise… hated jealousy, had even married my first wife to allay her infinite jealousy of my forever roving and spotting other beauties blocks off, didn’t do the trick… and it ruined the relationship with the flaxen haired…
Leiber I recall as being smart and dukey and always very very funnee… which endeared him not only to me, Elaine was very much a Mama figure… he’d order steaks or whatever from his place from her I recall, and then dash uptown to get it… or have the meal delivered…. That’s why I find that detail of his feeling that E. gave an advantage to Mailer during his and Mailer’s Mailer-started fight… I find it dubious… not a big point… but if I were to do a book about Leiber where I tried to verify incidents, I’d certainly talk to Elaine after having her read the manuscript… she is not getting any younger and has seen droves upon droves of people and has had a gazillion incidents meanwhile… But Paul just reminded me that she has an elephantine memory… surprising that she never learned to add is all I can say! Also that Hotchner wrote a book about the book in the late 70s which I will take a peek at.
Now that the memory bank has been tapped it is beginning to flood… There is no authoritative book on Elaine’s!!! I recall that Elizabeth Sifton at Farrar, Straus agreed with me on that subject a few years back… but this cannot be an adulatory book…
but a big scrap book… It comes about ten years too late, at the very least with the ghosts that abound. Another live person comes to mine who struck me to be made of champagne: Nora Ephron; her sister Amy too hung out while she live with Jack Richardson. She would have an interesting take. It could still be done such a book, sort of.
I have nothing untoward to say about Mama, aside her inability to learn to add and the hassle that that involved at the end of the evenings at the bar where she did the additions. I have no idea what led to the split with the other founder, Donald Ward… it may have been that he had some unfortunate habits… but I don’t know any details except that Donald felt that he got screwed. Possiblemente he is among the living. Ellio would be a good source. Some of the bar tenders whom I do not recall since I never was at the bar there. Otherwise… so many of the regulars are off to different haunting grounds; and by your description I expect Leiber will join them soon.
2] The “mob”… I will skip this.. And only say that while I was staying with Leiber he showed me some drafts of what evidently was meant to be a screenplay about his being held up by the mob in the Brill building deli… it was pretty awful and stilted… I think one of his ideas on returning to L.A. was to be a screenwriter… However, he was still sharp as an editor. I had written one first rate screenplay Graduation Party Boogie that a lot of people then told me I should have dropped everything and got it made; one thing that held it together – aside it having just one locale and taking place in a 24 hour period, was that it needed a kind of basic blue – say, like Green Onion – that had 8 variations on it; and I think I gave it to Stoller to see what he might have for it along those lines. But during my years I had noodled over another screenplay for so long that all life had gone out of it: an Leiber very perceptively pointed this out.
Now back to Jer.
When I came back from Mexico around around Christmas 93/94 I seem to have house sat a place of a friend’s of Jim Krusoe, my editor at the St. Monica Review, then stayed with my producer, Ken Rosen, who was living with his girlfriend Gail Vokelsman [sp?], then when Ken wanted me to pay his rent, rented a room from girl called Lisa who had a house in the northern part of Venice, about a mile north of Leiber’s, which only has walkways, lacks streets,  but has alleys in back where you can park, and which is how I met Ilja Katz who had a cottage across the walkway, an interesting writer who had written Stoned no it’s  Armed Love, a book about the 60s communes, and had then gone on assignment to Tangiers or Algiers to smoke out the Black Panthers, and then become a Sat nite writer and then on a variety of the better t.v. series such as Hillstreet Blues… and was living off residuals… and still writing then, though progressively seriously more overawed by his famous father, the Gertrude Stein expert Leon Katz… a very unusual phenomenon I felt, this kind of reversal of the usual… Ilja had just finished a novel and self-published it and was starting a small firm at that point; I much liked this novel about a sinister manipulated presidential campaign. When Elja claimed or felt that McInnerny had stolen the idea for Bright Lights Bright City from him, I did not see that at all in an unpublished manuscript of his. Elja was intelligent company until he lit up, and since he lit up a lot, there were long stretches when he was just as stupefied as everyone else I had ever seen lit up, I indulged rarely since I either fell asleep or it brought out the rapist in me.
It was from Lisa’s that I moved to Jer’s Mausoleum the nite after the Northridge earth quake, February 19th since Lisa double-locked her doors, that is also from the inside, and took the inside keys out, so that you couldn’t get out without having the keys; and hid them; and security strips on all the windows, a film editor. I was in her house during the Northridge quake, which entirely blindsided me, and I listed like a torpedoed freighter for about two weeks. Inner ear gyro injured. I was spooked as much by the thought of being trapped in her house. I was so shaken because the quake brought back the trauma of having been bombed at age 4, which had become one of two major screen memories of my earliest life...the quake occurred at around 4 a.m… Leiber was shaken because a huge TV set that one of his sons had given him for x-mas in front of the royal double bed on the second floor had collapsed and might have killed him it had been closer... and so I lived in the Lion's Den for some months... I’d of course seen quite a bit of him already since my return from Mexico in December… which however was not definite, I still had my house in Mulege and most of my stuff was there… Leiber fled to New York... and Nadja and Jake fled somewhere else...and I house-sat her house which needed sitting during her flight… it was right by one of the real canals… opposite lived a friend of her, Iranian I think, married to an Austrian architect in whom she was disappointed so it was said… I was meant to have an affair with her who indicated her availability from across the Canal, last thing I wanted to become a part of yet another triangle… Leiber had a side of the match maker in him, I had actually taken him up on a suggestion some years before that a Dutch museum person at one of his frequent dinners that he cooked up was interested in me, and that was the last time that matters had seemed interesting indeed, but the girl was a two-timer, and as she was a case of hospitalism, both very Dutch stubborn and touchingly incompetent at two-timing, I was still in the USSR of the Keating five and not in Amsterdam which I would have far preferred… Leiber and Nadja’s flight upon the happening of the Northridge earthquake reminded me of Leiber and Rose fleeing New York when that Atomic Power Plant up the Hudson or was it in Pennsylvania went on the blink in the 70s… Nine Mile Island? Indian Point??? I suddenly did a lot of translating again… some of it quite interesting, Erich Skwara, Joseph Winkler, Robert Schindel, Werner Schwab all for Ariadne Press… but for a pittance. Later some Adorno and Habermas which forced me to read or reread most of the work. It took a while to get back in a position where I could resume the projects I had set for myself.
And then Leiber came back and we lived quite amicably together for a while, and Leiber continued to give dinner parties, a couple of which were memorable. Leiber was engaged in trying to find someone to write his biography… and a fellow who had done a biography of Elvis… was it Richard  Goldstein? was under consideration? What a devastating bio I recall, and I knew two people who lived in this biographer’s building 240 CPS, Bob Kalich, and Susan Braudy, but I believe that was also the time the biographer died of a heart attack in an airplane on his way back from London…  so it could not have been Richard Goldstein who is alive… I forget whether I even talked to him… Then the project of finding a biographer was handed to an agent; and I sifted through the lyrics to re-assemble the once Urizen project of Leiber lyrics as poetry… and Wilfred Sheed was willing to write a preface… Wilfred was already working on his big book about American lyricists. When you, Josh, write that Sheed, too, dropped out, I can only assume that after I split with Leiber when he wouldn’t pay, that the project was carried forward… and Sheed remained part of it until he, too, bowed out. For reasons I suppose I could find out. I haven’t been in touch with Wilfred since those days, though we have friends in common, and haven’t got around to reading his book either. If you haven’t, you might want to take a look at a book I did at Continuum which has longer legs than any of the others, Adorno’s Introduction to the Sociology of Music; that needs to be supplemented with something equally authoritative on the psychology; and one on the phenomenology, both may exist for all I know. The ABA [American Booksellers Association] Convention was in L.A. that spring and I didn’t manage to find any takers for the proposed book of lyrics. Leiber was also involved in planning what would become the Smokey Joe’s Café show. It was obvious to me that with the selection of songs for it that it would be a success, but it was not a musical, it was sheer self-exploitation. And that seemed to be both Leiber and Stoller’s object in life at that time. Some girl was hired to get their songs tied up with commercial products. Or made part of T.V. shows. I brought over Gail Vokelsman, my ex-producers still girlfriend then, and Leiber went apeshit, as I figured he would, took her out to dinner, one time he forgot his wallet with his twenty credit cards and I and the German shepherd walked to the place where he was having dinner, the one owned by that Brit ex-“Beyond the Fringe” fellow and we had a nice joke about how he might have had to wash the dishes… and of course Gail, who was a lot brighter than her about to be ex-boyfriend, was impressed by being so well treated, courted I suppose. It was all that Leiber could do was think of the nice Jewish saftige!
   Amicable as it may have been, yet the day was rife with moments I found odd; and Leiber found me odd too. In Mexico, because the beds were so short, I who did not like sleeping on a diagonal [I incurred a near case of carpal tunnel syndrome on my left hand scrunched under my head, which had only been good for some great nightmare image of the nerves cut off like the finest of telephone wires cum frizz] had made it a habit to sleep on the ground! This was also far more agreeable to my back. Leiber would have not of it when I said that the hardwood of his third floor work-room gym was far preferable to either of the two far too soft single beds in his ultra square guestroom. Not only that: this preference elicited the remark that one day I’d die in a ditch like that, a remark seemingly coming out of the blue; as did lots of other oddments. Leiber was under some odd apprehension that I had tunnel vision; whatever that might be; perhaps I ought to have inquired what he might have meant by tunnel vision, and in reference to me. One day he suddenly wanted to disabuse me of being a complete expert on things Mexican, I had even made it a point to tell him that in three years in my small Mulege nook of the world I, in my usual fashion, had explored it and its fairly immediate surround quite thoroughly I pretty much knew where the various skeletons were buried, but that was all. So I said, I never claimed I was. At another, he said it was grandiose of me to think of myself as a genius – where had he gotten the idea that I had any such notion of myself, I scratched the inside of my head, if anything the opposite, I usually regarded myself as a retard, out of it, late-born, a permanent half-stranger who didn’t get it… because he was not socialized as an American. These peculiar irruptions of fantasies of things I had said puzzled me. In this instance my reply was - I did not want to be excessively modest - that I had my moments [and I did not elaborate to explain what effort of engagement it took to elicit those few moments, it was during translating certain texts, in particular states of mind], and he said, “so do we all.” However, Leiber really had been a three to five minute genius, I had experienced them, but at that point it was about 20 years ago that I had! Now it was just fleeting moments and a fair amount of sheer flow of dreck. I tried to redeem his opinion of Conroy and got him a copy of the story collection “Midair”. He didn’t read far, this after all is beautifully constructed novella – he came on a passage about kids that contained some naturalistic dialogue. He was reading to find something critical, and he found it in no time at all. He found “Edward Scissorhands” to be far too commercial for his taste. When I went to read Handke’s Walk about the Villages, in my translation, at Beyond Baroque, he wouldn’t come, sort of like the Coasters, gave him a copy too, but cooked up a heavy load of Chili, which I who loved good Chili had to decline knowing how a full stomach can weight on the/ my mind, especially since it takes three hours to read this text. I happen to be a good reader, by the fortuity of my stepfather having been a Shakespeare nut, out loud too, trained very early on. Paul writes that he saw a photo of Walter Benjamin in Leiber’s bedroom, or maybe the Louis XIV desk and upon being asked Leiber said that nobody read. I think it was I who gave Leiber Illuminations, the first U.S. collection of Benjamin essays, way back in the 60s. No idea if he ever read it. I gave him the two volumes of Enzensberger essays I had translated and edited after Leiber mentioned, perhaps he was still with Rose then, of sitting next to E. somewhere in Europe and finding him to be dreadfully arrogant and haughty. Handke detests E. too, but that was not my experience of the man at all. Not that I had not some real reservations, but I had never seen those sides. During that approximately four month period of December 93 to April 94 during which I saw quite a bit of Leiber, translated two plays, a big novel, finished a screenplay, sifted through his lyrics, edited someone else’s translation and typed onto a computer disk a Skwara novel, I do not recall Leiber reading except part of the title story of Conroy’s Mid-Air and the opening of my hokey shaggy dog – hybrid of bird and flying machine – screenplay. Called your dad for a lead on an agent, to whom I ought to have given Graduation Boogie too. One more moment on reading: at a dinner party the subject became the beat writers and I expressed the opinion that the only one I cared for was Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I have no idea what set Leiber off, but he turned nasty, and in a stentorian voice demanded the “just the title” of a book, and of course I mentioned “The Coney Island of the Mind”… I had nosted the really nasty tone of voice, as I had to other folks of course; and my date, a friend of Elja’s, subsequently mentioned how nasty Leiber had been. I wondered what the occasion for it might be. Certainly nothing of the moment, was he having another acid reflux event?
Then I went back to Mulege for a month after attending the Austrian Symposium at U.C. Riverside for the last time, stored half of my things in Elja’s garage and took my time driving up all the way along the coast to Seattle, also stopping off at Miller’s Landing for a long weekend at the foot of the northern end of the Los Padres in Carmel Valley Road that had become a special place of mine.
-----------------------------------------Leiber had put small Louis Quartorze type desk in the left front corner of the living room downstairs, but I never let on how it amused me to see the darling runt take on a royal position there, sometimes still in his bathrobe, among the curved legs and gold leaf, writing checks or making calls; it seemed so much more normal for him, by about noon he was out of patience, to say: “Let’s roll;” which meant to go shopping or out for lunch, usually shopping, and then Mrs. Leiber would prepare for the evening meal. I loved his cooking! I would hire Mrs. Leiber at once, or give her a restaurant to run, Central Europe. Home cooking for me who loved peasant food. However, my best laid plans had been thrown topsy turvy and I had work to do and I could see why Barbara Rose was right that you couldn’t work with Leiber around, who was not working, antsy as hell. However, Rose had had a lovely loft in Sullivan to work in. Perhaps he ruined too many of her mornings.
I got up with the birds ever since leaving New York [and near entirely had lived in truly idyllic surroundings], so by the time Leiber got up – and “his maid” Maria was about and he had his coffee or whatever around 7:30-8:00, and the flower man had delivered the daily bouquet, in honor of his deceased mother I believe, I had already had my walk or run on the beach, and coffee at, from some place by the board walk, and a Danish, and frequently seen Arnold drive up to Muscle Beach in his Hummer [looking a lot like General Rommel in the Sahara, anyhow Afrika Corps]. I once talked to him briefly in German and he seemed like a perfectly normal person, and his Schatzi’s at the in-between of Venice and St. Monica made a good schnitzel.
The reason Leiber went into analysis was because one of the two black girls he had in his car was killed when he crashed it in the hills... but this is the first I hear of their having been hookers... he liked having threesomes with black chicks [thus "colored girls"] he told me, nothing about their putting their feet on the brakes or gas pedal... this is a fabrication to extinguish his blame... it may be one reason for his melancholy... it was not necessarily a good reason to go see a shrink unless that helped to keep him out of jail for the involuntary manslaughter charge which he could have beaten by saying that the girls had put their feet on the gas... he said/ she said, crazy black chick / crazy Jew who you gonna believe: hung jury!

One night we went through all of analysis step by step. I knew my stuff. Leiber was impressed. Then I wanted to go through the other part: defenses, step by step by permutation, but he was still exhausted from the prior night... But he knew I was pretty well trained but still mulling over
whether I wanted to take all the extra steps that were required to practice, but after thinking about all the people whom I knew who had been in analysis I decided no, for one I had quite enough of a job with myself, and I didn't want a one of them as patients, least of all Leiber, perhaps Richard Serra... who also went because someone got killed because of him... some of his heavy pieces dropped... but he was not driving too fast with two colored girls in the car on a dangerous mountain route! It was a genuine accident that had left him distraught. Richard had some weaknesses left, such as caring even what second rate critics might say… but not much else. But since I hadn’t known him until afterwards, there really was no telling.
What I am leading up to is the strangest of many strange moments with Leiber during that time:
One evening, Leiber was preparing a meal in his kitchen, I think just for the two of us. I knew that my affair with Rachel kept preying on his mind, it would come up now and then, as did my having suggested to Nadja that she get herself a different boyfriend when he had been badmouthing her – what actually was nearly tragic to behold was when Leiber would point to himself: look what’s become of me. The Rachel subject must have been in the air, I was standing at the far end of the comparatively, to the size of the mansion, small kitchen, Leiber was cutting onions or scallions or whatever greenery, and he “suggested” – in the analytic sense – the way you can only “suggest” , that is surreptitiously, as though this was part of a year long conversation between you the analyst and your patient, something for which it felt the time it was right to suggest, to drop into an open mind pool where it might possibly connect: “So when your governess seduced you…” and in precisely the kind of quiet matter of fact voice, but faux in this instance, where an analyst would stitch, help you stitch the fabric of your mind and memory together… “When your governess seduced you…” And I could have strangled the little bugger at that moment, felt like saying: “You know Leiber, you ought to ask for your money back… forty years of shrinkage and all you can do is use the current vogue explanation…” But I neither put Leiber out of the misery of his fauxness, of his inauthentic life, but said: “If only, the woman who threatened to cut of my penis, you know kids masturbate, don’t you.” What was worse that since he had been a dear old friend and knew the subject I had confided my traumas in him, had even showed him a trove of childhood photos, including of the dried up spinsterish governess… Seduction theory ad absurdum. Sometimes it was much easier to let a woman seduce you then having to seduce them, who actually still went through the trouble. You looked at each other and wanted to fuck, and maybe it became love and something interesting. Perhaps I ought to have said as much. I knew I ought to have taken the seductress home… it was an indulgence… but one if not the most interesting of my life. If anyone was hurt it was me, evidently Leiber’s pride, mother and daughter were in cahoots and grinning! It cured me of ever getting involved with anyone that young again.
What Leiber had learned from analysis instead of learning how to understand was to put on an analyst's mask - one of those dreadful habits that you are taught as the way to become a projection screen and not muddle the analysand’s projection onto the analyst... and then muddle science with neutrality.... the way to insinuate sly suggestions as though you were in cahoots... everything a good authentic analyst will not do. 
I had never had all the lyrics to look over, and wanted to also achieve a semblance of chronology. Among the earliest, I found one that was a perfectly nice set of quatrains, but Leiber hated it and found it square and wouldn’t have any of it; and said he preferred even something as simple as Houndog to it, and rather nicely demonstrate to me which singers he was paying deference to, in writing like that, for Big Mama Thornton as we all know, and mucho pronto, and I recall from the interview with what little money they got at that time for the song, he bought himself a pair of green alligator leather shoes! This brings to mind Leiber saying during the interview that their cool black jazz musician friends couldn’t comprehend what Leiber Stoller were doing writing Delta ditch type songs. But perhaps his later ostentation which looks so ridiculous, at least to me, might be regarded also from his having seen “black showboating” and not just in the Baltimore slums, early on. Anyhow, it’s a thought and I throw it out.
At any event, I assembled the stacks of lyrics on the third floor which at that time also had Leiber’s treadmill… which he used assiduously, and while he was walked by his mill we talked or he was watching the ceiling mounted T.V. He also had had some kind of blocked artery in his leg, and the thinking was he could walk the fat out of another! He’d even got himself a really fancy bike and never used it, and I think it was stolen out of the garage in back that faced one of those speedway alleys. At night in that area you/ I felt you were in Vietnam, Helicopters overhead, gun shot, gang warfare in the Oakwood section, immigrant Latinos encroaching on a black neighborhood, bit spotlights
At some Leiber point tossed out the notion that the only reason I was doing this re-assemblage was because this was one way of getting some bread to me; after all, there was Leiber Stoller Music, who could do this just as easily. Which I doubt, but he himself certainly could have, except that he kept needing to be convinced that my selection really could live alone, that a lot of the lyrics were good enough to stand on their own, without music and production values, all by their little words on a page alone. This had been my idea way back in the mid-seventies and much endorsed by Barbara Rose. Nor was this the first instance of a lyricist poet having lyrics published as poetry. For me, part of the selection difficulty at times, was to try to look at these lyrics coldly, without the resonance of knowing the music. My rejoinder a the time of the confession that he was doing me this favor was to say if that is what he wanted to do he could get Barbara Rose to pay me the 10 K she owed me for raising the funds for her publishing firm Acquila. She had been paid the money, I had even, during my last Frankfurt Book Fair, in 1980, introduced her there to potential European co-publishers. There had even been a New York Magazine piece detailing some of these arrangement a few years earlier, Taylor I think was the writer, who had located the books at a used book store in New York. But to that Leiber said no, and I kept being amazed that he would forgive someone who had gone out of her way to administer a coup de grace just prior to his bi-pass operation at the Mayo clinic and who had then left him, causing such havoc. But that seems to be Leiber, the mother figures are forgiven endlessly, he is endlessly attached. Booby booby booby. The story of thinking that my doing an even closer selection of his lyrics as a way of funding me, then of course did not wash when he did not want to pay the second part of the monies. However, at that point having been jerked around by him and having him cop out on me and having observed his doing so, also to friends of mine, and I was no longer quite the same pussy: not on me, and that’s when I wrote the little book that Elja Katz who had thought of publishing it called “Love Letter to Jerry Leiber” then produced the remaining sum of 1 K $, and signed sealed and delivered an agreement with his counsel that I would not publish it! Samizdat Leiber!
finito bandito

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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website


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