A Somewhat Country Bumpkin’s
Intro to New York’s Demi-Monde.
To a Multi-Dimensional Novel
Worm Holes, Stubs & Rat Tails.
“Commissar Cuckoo” Debriefs Himself”
I am wondering- in March 2018 how many of the old ELAINE'S regulars are still with us, Gay Talese I think https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nan_A._Talesehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Talese ; and so I think is Nan
how about Bruce Jay Friedman who has been fading for some years https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Jay_Friedman
Lewis Laphamhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_H._Lapham born the same year as I is also at least allve but i http://www.roloff.mysite.com seem to be the only one who is still writing vigorously Fred Seidel early on was a regular and wrote an Elaines poem upon her death https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Seidel; so seems to be Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_W._Aldrich_Jr. wjo is credited with having discovered the hole in the wall on 2nd Ave opposite Erics back in 1964 or 5. Anthea Sylbert who once was married the new deceased Paul Sylbert was a regular when they lived in New York City and it appears is still alive https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthea_Sylbert - no one else comes to mind, most are gone.
Easing In, First Weave: 5
Wormhole: Frank Conroy 23
Second Weave: 56
Wormhole : Cathy W. 62
Wormhole: Robin W.W. 72
Wormhole : Mary H. 77
Third Weave: 81
Fourth Weave+Woof: 132 [A First Evening]
Assorted Wormholes & Rat Tails: 146
1] “I’ve got it made!” 2] Habermas Evening/
3]Styron+Faulkner  Norbert Elias
 Peter Weiss+Susan Sontag  Chess
 Mastodons/ etc.
1: Names; 2-a: Work, b:Residences/
Year Abroad 171/
Translations 187/ Judith + Laurie 176/
The Slut of Sluts, Jerry Leiber
Continuum + Urizen Books 210/ Howard Linzer/
The Kaliches/ Susan Sontag;
F.S.+G. /Obits 247
Midway through this memorialization - Isn’t it something to write about Elaine’s from a dopey city like Seattle! - I noted that, although my multitudiounisly faceted, brambled ramble spirals the way I want it to, it yet requires, aside its particular focus and carpet backing - in this instance a restaurant - an order other than chronological. Intersecting circles, intersecting worm holes, that lead into labarynths. One way I think I can provide the like, or at least a hint is to indicate the work I was doing, books, authors I was working with - for the period 1965-1985 [FN 1+2] during which I went to “Mama's” - intensely or intermittently, where I lived and the
woman I was with - these factors influenced my going. Had I been in a band from Seattle I might indicate what drugs I was taking, since the states of mind that drugs produce would influence the music I would be playing – however, although I am now in Seattle but not in a band and drugs were infrequent at Elaine’s… and although I occasionally still wake up with a melody in my head, but most of the music comes from my feathered friends, there is some, but little, occasion to account for them in this context.[fn-1+2]
Whereas in 1965 I went frequently to Elaine’s, once married, from 1966 to 1971, perhaps once a week, at most twice, then lots again until I went on my six month trip half way around the world 1972-73, about twice a week when I lived in the Rockaways, Queens by the Atlantic, not often during the first years in TriBeCa [Triangle Below Canal Street], then with some frequency toward the late 70s into the early 1980s where the nearby Odeon, of Brigth Lights Bright City fame or infamy, however, came to take its place because it was just a couple of blocks away from where I lived and worked.
My life did not revolve around Elaine’s,
However, t’would have been a lot less “colorful” - to use an adjectives as the NY Times does to cover a very wide range - but for the time spent and acquaintances and friends made… and the kinds of wormholes these led into at that darlings and monster time.
Elaine’s, for me, once I’d become part of the furniture, was a question of habit, a home away from home, and the only one of that kind in New York during those 25 years, although I had two standby bars in Tribeca - one of them, the one that kept moving with its bartender “Ace” Nowara from Barnabus Rex via Mickey’s to The Raccoon Lodge.
In overall retrospect, from a near fifty year perspective of my first setting foot in Elaine’s, in December 1965, at Frank Conroy’s behest, Elaine’s meant, means to me an introduction to the New York or “the” demi-monde, which a translator editor scholar mouse as I would have entirely missed, and have been better off missing from one or the other angle, a hell-hole Donald Barthelme called it, not just the pocket book, but far less experienced, and far more uptight for not having tangled with some of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Crazy little women” [Kansas City Here I come “There are a lot of crazy little women and I am going to get me one” who latched onto me as though I was catnip, but where I would do a rewrite: “And each of the adventuresses found me, who rarely said no, it was mutual I suppose;” and “each of their “secret gardens” harbored Hieronymus Bosch’s bestiary”, from hot pants to wearing underwear as outer wear is a telegraphic way of putting the breakdown of taboos that was upon the city, there stylistically manifest] that drifted in through the cracks at the so male-oriented Elaine’s: but for interesting friends and acquaintances made there, and made only there under those easy circumstances, at Table Four the Big Table, or the way it extended to tables 3 and 5, my indulgent Rebbe of those premises Bruce Jay Friedman, the most rounded of the men there, who passed his too young, problematic girlfriends on to his friends and sons, the richest and Elaine's favorite; Paul Sylbert author and the rarest of rarest forever life-long friends who can cuss each other into the night for their insufficiencies, the problematic Jack Richardson, Tom Buckley, the NY Times reporter, a pleasure to schmooze with I recall, Gay and Nan Talese, pros, sharp and cool, the not as gaseous as in print Lewis Lapham, pleasant company, David Halberstam [“terminally boring” Jerry Leiber called one of these heavy heavy types who will outsit everyone, the sheer weight of certain men, their leaden minds, and nailed him as he did so many, even himself, though not deeply enough in that instance], Maurice Sonnenberg [the politico] ultra square but to the inside dope of the horrors of Democratic Party Politics, however, after a divorce I suppose, had the West Virginia “monkey” of Philip Roth fame, her sister, the “monkey’s sister,” to dispense with, which makes me realize that Elaine’s as no doubt other or all places of that kind in New York at least at that time are like butterfly of monkey nets where quite a few bodies you can always see flying in and around the air in New York, airborne, the ditzheads, the mindless romantics, come to rest, briefly, caught, in the instance of the “monkeys’ sister” instantly advertising her relationship to that famously infamous creature of Philip Roth’s fictional world, at Elaine’s, to be handed on, meanwhile forgot what she told me about her famous West Virginia mound of sexuality, that sexual comic strip version of super woman as I had once spotted her at a party, about her sister’s history prior to coming to New York and finding Philip Roth to wrestle with and enter, be memorialized in his work… Yes: Memory can fly off at just such a tangent… leaving worm holes to be explored. A Polish German reconciliation between myself and Elzbieta Halberstam, rudely interrupted by a neglectful husband: Victor Shklovksy’s rewrite of Sentimental Journey, as commissar during the October Revolution, seemed the most perfect book for my mindset during those 60s years…thus for being the kind of cuckoo editor who fancied himself on laying books as eggs in publishing houses I call myself “Commissar Cuckoo.”
Easing In & Segueing
A week or so prior to Elaine Kaufman, La Muyer de Negocio’s passing, in December 2010 [FN-Obits] I happened to think of her and of the restaurant and what the restaurant meant to me - the kind of synaptic railway junction it represents in my memory bank a wealth of experience that if I were Proust would flower - I was supplementing, criticizing, writing a short book, book-length review of Malte Herwig’s biography of Peter Handke THE MASTER OF TWILIGHT –
yes I will do things like that should the occasion demand it - Handke and his then wife Libgart Schwartz and forever buddy Fredi Kolleritch whom I took to what was then home away from home, again kitchen away from the kitchen Elaine's after the premiere, the first, of two of his plays, MY FOOT MY TUTOR and SELF-ACCUSATION in the United States, at B.A.M. in Spring 1971:
We - Handke entwined with his forever buddy Kolleritch, the marvelous and neglected and insulted actress Libgart and I instantly doing footsie feelies under the table - were seated at Table 3, don’t ask me what we ate although I expect I drank a Bardolo. I would take Handke to Elaine’s a few more times in the late 70s, using Michael Brodsky as foil, protection, divergence - I did not want to be alone with Handke as of the mid-70s, for reason, just as Libart left him in the early 70s, for cause, I admired his genius and supported it to the extent I could, but I felt not just ambivalent about a person who had begun to spook [as he had actually since I first encountered him in 1966]; he had behaved as oaf as guest and as a host in Paris, and was gratuitously cruel and not just to me, reasons and what I hope is understanding of an autistic idiot savant who turned out to be the occasional darling you will find enumerated in my critique of Herwig’s book and in my EASING OUT OF THE 25 YEAR LONG HANDKE PROJECT, etc.
I would have never taken Brodsky to Elaine’s or anywhere but my office, he exuded torture and my intestines picked it up: that might make for a great writer but not for pleasant company. Brodsky had come into my and Urizen’s life via meeting Patricia Highsmith in Paris and being turned over to Handke who sent him to me where he arrived with a maroon satchel with five manuscripts. After we had talked I opened the satchel and took a look at the first page of each of these manuscripts and realized: here is the real thing, a writer on the order of Beckett. However, Brodsky became the one writer whom I edited, page by page, the Hemingway award winning DETOUR, and a novella collection, at my office, over the course of many a Saturday afternoon, and rarely took along unless it be with Handke, in that instance half a dozen times. Editing journalists like Jim Stratton, Sam Hall Kaplan, Wilfred Burchett and the like was an easier and more enjoyable task. Handke, however, by many leagues, is the greatest AUTHOR, in prose and as dramatist, ever to have set foot in Elaine’s, to have crossed that threshold, but I never introduced him to the "Big Table," never even considered it, insufferable as I expect he would have found its mish mash… unless anointed its super-star [?], even then: a super-star who knows he is and indeed whose work shines as no one else’s in the world, thresholder to cross that threshold…
Of the German authors I published and translated I expect that Hans Magnus Enzensberger was/is sufficiently worldly, with his black marketer’s survivor finesse, to get, have gotten the best out of a good evening at the Big Table… Occasion for such an event appears not to have materialized it occurs to me in 1975 when he was researching the narrative poems for his Mausoleum at the NY Public Library which Urizen Books would publish in 1976, Urizen was way downtown, on West Broadway, three blocks north of the WTC. I moved downtown 10 years after I had wanted because my first wife, Ekaterina Denzinger, an artist, found the architecture there too ugly, it reminded her of workers district Wedding in Berlin, I might have taken her down to the exquisite Duane Park, she might have taken to urban pioneering as I then did in 1975. I recall a few other evenings with Enzensberger in New York, one time he gave a reading, at Columbia University, from his Mit Marx und Engels Zungen, on another we hooked up at a Ramsey Clark reading at the P.E.N. Club. Neither occasion seemed suited for drinks at Elaine’s. Now I recall that I also gave a party for Enzensberger at what would become my loft, a very rickety 150 year old hotel & joined addition on West Broadway, crumbling marble and tiles, opposite and at the same fourth floor level of the Urizen offices, but all I recall of that reception is that Richard Serra came, who had been my upstairs neighbor on Duane Park, and that I asked Laurie to come because, even though I had walked out on an impossible relationship [LAURIE-FN], I wanted her to remain part of the group around Urizen - a gesture that she willfully misunderstood as a wanting to get back together and whose ultimate result was just a few more two by fours tossed from the balcony fire escape of our raw forever once fifth floor 4,000 square feet loft if she happened to see me passing below in Duane Park. I had taken one look at that 200 year old architectural smorgasbord that I call “Duane Park" around 1970, even a Dutch gallows on which you could hang a sack, of strangle Laurie! seemed like a very down-to-earth Place de Vosges what with its delivery trucks, 18 wheelers, and a small, fenced-in triangle with some trees, and a statue dedicated to a Dutch name cousin, one Roehlof, who had been the owner of “the last green sward in lower Manhattan," dogs lounging among the detritus of truck deliveries: dry goods, cheese and eggs, and seafood for the basement refrigeration rooms. I also recall a small party, but I don’t think it was for H.M.E. that I gave at my and Ekaterina’s apartment at 55th and Sixth Avenue where Frank Conroy and Enzensberger met and left together just as we were discussing, they are already half-way out the door, our delinquent night time escapades at Haverford [not just of the two of us] and Frank mentioned that this night time cameraderie was just another manifest of ... I will let you guess. Perhaps Frank took Enzensberger to Elaine’s that day [?], we will only know if Enzensberger’s claimed shoddy memory is stirred by this communication, but he and Frank seemed to get along and the last time I saw Frank, in 1986 in D.C., Frank asked me what had happened to HME, I imagine I had sent him the various Enzensberger titles I published: two essay collections at Continuum Book, the aformentioned Mausoleum and perhaps even Enzensberger’s The Trial of Havana which I persuaded B.A.M. to put on. However, given all these efforts of mine, H.M.E. too, would prove to be a disappointment: midway through Urizen, say 1978, he would pretend once I had discovered that he had given a book of poems, TITANIC, translated by himself, to the Atlantic Monthly Pres, without mentioning this at the Frankfurt Book Fair where we re-encountered, I think HME was starting something along the lines of a German New Yorker, that he would subsequently pretend that he didn’t think that I would be interested. It was this pretense that was so revelatory, this act of cowardice, this his lack of interest in me and what I had done. Not that I or Urizen ever exercised or asked for a hold on an author, of his futures, and all we needed was another loss leader like Mausoleum which none of the sheeples understood, its wonderful way of making so much history available, but it was the “pretense" that it would not matter, after all I had done to put him, failed to put him across in this bloody country with its heathen innelectuals but for Susan Sontag, that put the nail into the H.M. Enzensberger coffin. I had also translated two of his most beautiful essays, and used the one on Nelly Sachs as the introduction for my OH THE CHIMNEYS at Farrar, Straus + Giroux in 1966, and his to the German edition of Barthelomew De LaCasas “A Short History of the Decimation of the Indians” at Continuum in 1974, had translated two books of his essays during my trip on the Hellenic Splendor in 1972/3 half way and back around the world, and he had proved intelligent company and one of the many teaches of this haphazardly educated person, among the fine crew and the five other idiot passengers, was one of this poor education’s major teachers in the directions to which he called my attention. Thus, that, he too, was someone you would not want to have in the Sierra Maestre with you, or as a friend, proved a major disappointment. Once a black marketeer always a black marketeer I suppose. Slick somehow; too slick, you need some Serif. In the 1990s, hearing that the physician who had saved both my lives from the Gestapo was destitute in Munich I swallowed my pride and sought to enlist HME, who lived in that city, to try to locate her, who had been turned away by my mother’s once closest friend whom we had given refuge during WW II, from a fate worse than the Gestapo, and Enzensberger claimed that he did all he could, but Dr. Charlotte Pommer was in Munich and died there a few years ago in an old age home, but when the editor, who is readying a Pommer memoir for publication, sought to enlist HME’s backing, he once again claimed to have forgotten all about this manuscript, which I had sent him back then. A first rate editor, publisher forgetting such an amazing document? Not likely.
One nicely decadent German author and friend whom I might have taken to Elaine’s, but did not, is Juergen Becker of truly Arabic hospitality, I merely introduced him to Donald Barthelme, and they seemed to get along. One marvelous writer whom I would have never taken to Elaine’s was the puritanical Uwe Johnson, who made a point of staying in the “Iroquois", the poor man’s Algonquin right next to it. If he had been around in New York when Max Frisch was he might have come with his friend and father figure Max. I took Frisch there several times. Max had substance and I don’t think was fazed by the action there.
For all I know, Handke, knowing where Elaine’s was, stopped by there while writing, way up in the Hotel Adams at 86th and Fifth, the 18th or was it the 23rd floor, with unusual difficulty, the title novel of the triptych that is published as A SLOW HOMECOMING in English; the Alaskan opening section of the book would become one of the more intense reading experiences of my life in a few years and many times afterwards, a matter I have described elsewhere.
The Hotel Adams occupies the half avenue length from Madison at 86th to Fifth Avenue, and half the length of an avenues block between 85th and 86th, a hulk, but is but three Avenue and two street blocks distant from Elaine’s – familiar territory to me since the mid-50s, as is its lobby where, in the novel, its narrator, Sorger, tries to befriend the night clerk he is so lonely, but at the end blesses all below, Handke’s priestliness suddenly popping forth. Frank Conroy’s mother’s place was on 86th between Madison and Park, in the one poor building in the entire block, a couple of girlfiends had spent their adolescences on that block, too - not that there isn’t many a watering hole and pick-up joint within equally easy distance for a great walker… Had Handke and I been friends, I might have taken him to my Tribeca haunts, Puffy’s and Mickey’s [I had taken him to the by 1978 over-run Barnabus Rex - Barneys - around 1976], to the punk clubs, CBGBs and the MUDD, perhaps scenes set in such clubs in Wings of Desire would have turned out a bit more convincing. I think I was unaffiliated for a stretch late in 1978, I worked late in the late 70s, and ate late, perhaps the Odeon of Bright Lights Bright City notoriety existed by then in its former ex-Horn & Hardardts venue on West Broadway, a few blocks north of Chambers Street, uptown was coming downtown... with a vengeance… especially its real estate moguls. Chinatown was but a ten minute walk; but rarely ended up in a bed just by myself; some interesting places in SoHo, too; Raoul’s. Perhaps the apparently quite distraught Adams-Hotel-Handke, who found NY to be so very hard - he had to recover from the experience for some months with Hermann Lenz in Stuttgart - even stuck his head into Eric’s, Elaine’s vis-à-vis, what a different crowd, hetero-Fire-Islanders, and what cross traffic and fertilization of all kind there would be between these two so very different venues… ruminations along that line made me look up Elaine's on the web: and: “Oh My…” how elegantly lacquered and appointed
the once hole in the wall had become whence I have not been for about twenty-five years… and… what even more important people than? frolicked there than I recalled from the ten + ramshackle years [FN-Obit Quotes], 1965-1975, that I was something of a regular, intensely at times
less intensely while married, then intensely again in the subsequence, less frequently once I moved downtown, to Tribeca, occasional intense stretches even then… 40 + years of Elaine’s and several generations of habitués each with a different set of overall impression, mine deriving, imprinted by its first decade plus… And then this photo of Elaine herself - there’s big and little, scrawny + an overfed baby hippo, a crackling pig about to burst on the spit, the fat about to explode out of skin unable to contain - made me wonder about what heart and circulatory system [had] helped bear such weight for so many decades. And there: she is said to have died of emphysema.
My favorite photo of Elaine, the NY Times has it, is her tossing a garbage can cover,
shield-like at a photographer! - There probably are certain matters that you ought not to do while shooing Paparazzi from your premises, and throwing a garbage cover would be one; photographers, as other gun slingers, will fire in flight and yet be earning their keep. I forget whether Elaine smoked? I have this déjà vue that she did, occasionally, but held the cigarette very awkwardly; not as a regular nicotine fiend like Jack Richardson would/ did?. You did not need to smoke yourself at Elaine’s during those years - was it 50 years of secondhand smoke killed her? Or did the fat if that's what it was, not water, exert mortal pressure on her lungs? She is said to have come with oxygen tanks in her last years. All the chain smokers at the Big Table, some, one with only half a lung, Tom Buckley, who has passed on, too; Paul Desmond who died of Pall Malls already in the 70s! It is amazing that Jack Richardson is alive what with his habits – although I hear barely. Jack remarried some decades ago, the last time we talked he was tending a young child, and sounded sweet - the man who metamorphosed within moments at a pack of cards being cracked open, had turned sweet; Norman Mailer was said to have turned pussy-cat, Peter Handke, what with now wanting to be Goethe [he had already been the new Kafka and the anti-Kafka and new Stifter], and knowing you can regard the stages of Goethe’s life by the woman he was with, Handke it appears is making peace with his feminine side, and so there might even be hope for me, who had started off sweet - “kind kind kind” was a motto - I took away with me from Henry James - but who is now like one of those tom cats who has had one ear half-chewed off. Yet my image of Elaine - whose face, though evidently buried in an increasing wealth of blubber - I always found her quite beautiful - the sound facial structure showing through the accumulating layers – is of her, pencil in hand, perched on a stool in the left side of the carriage, near the pay-phone at the far end of the bar – it is a sight that penetrates whatever crowd might be milling inbetween, the beacon lighthouse, promontory – at the inception of the length-wise coat-rack along the left side of the bottleneck, the railway-carriage-length-and-widths storefront restaurant's bottle-neck - the bottleneck where well-concealed stairs lead to a second floor of the 30 foot wide and 80 foot deep building - adding a tab, invariably in the house's favor, with the consequence of the routine annoyance of having to show her the errors of failing math; thus my moniker Mujer de Negocios, or of Elaine seated at the main the Big Table, Table 4, or its adjoining # 3 or # 5, listening with some raptness, astonishment, wonder, truly childlike, to what was rarely all that scintillating, shop talk, male gossip, boasting among the mastodons, or of her doing a bit of table sitting - you could not really call it hopping in her case. Squatting. The obits mention her one liners – she was sharp and to the point, and a first rate observer.
I have distinct recollection of moments of the first time I went to Elaine's, was taken, suggested I go there. On first pale blush it seemed just a regular NY railway-car-length bar-restaurant, with that bottle neck, and what had Frank Conroy been talking about when I called him the first thing off steerage in the QE 2 in December 1964 that there was this interesting hot new place – not that I myself knew or had frequented places of the kind since coming to New York about four years prior, unless you counted jazz spots, and spending my first three years doing an assortment of often menial but also interesting work to survive: reader for numerous publishers of German books, book club reader, translation doctor, literary magazine editor, getting my feet wet in publishing, and then had spent a year in Europe as literary scout, while translating, with a lot of time in book shops. [YEAR ABROAD-FN]
Initially - thinking back nearly fifty years - I considered that maybe Frank Conroy had picked me up dockside and took me directly to Elaine’s. But no, I think that in that case I am melding a memory of then 7 years prior when I had returned from my junior year abroad, still an Army dependent, on the U.S. Troop Transport, the “U.S. General Bruckner”, of Bruckner Blvd. Bronx fame! for a second time and with a lousy case of mononucleosis [the first voyage was in 1950 on the “U.S. General Maurice Rose”, named after the one Jewish General during WW II, where I had noticed that enlisted men, stuck in the holds, looking up into daylight, yet seemed to have a lot more fun than the officers amongst whom 12 year old dependent I was bunked, but with access to the one beauty aboard, “an American girl with lipstick and in a tight sweater” straight out of a magazine it seemed, who begged off that she had to baby-sit her brother, the II Star General’s daughter I think she was. But no band this second time to greet a II star general – ‘Was that the same band that had seen him and the Maurice Rose off in Bremerhaven about 10 days before was a thought that crossed my mind in October 1950 as I was about to step ashore the North American continent at the Brooklyn Port of Embarkation, the fabled land of the Declaration of Independence and Indians and sexy cars each with a sexy girl inside the magazine, of the films I had seen the previous Christmas in Berlin, “The Red Shoes”, “A Road to Morrocco”, and especially the Marx Brother’s “Night at the Opera”, a country with such-like could not be all bad, nor one that produced Cheaper by the Dozens which I was reading with some hilarity while the Maurice Rose plowed through the North Atlantic through the foam-cresting waves, I was photographing endlessly... The memory is distinct, not of the unprepossessing place that Elaine’s was then, or of the then still lanky, scrawny Conroy, who certainly must have been one of the first persons I called back on land, but of the willowy young blonde as the silken corn of Kansas, and bending as easily, my shipboard romance [one fantasy was to just travel back and forth on various ocean liners!] Christine D. whom I took to Elaine’s that first night, we met Frank at Elaine’s… or did he pick us up in his car? were those the days Frank was driving a Jaguar, not a Morgan any more, and sat at what became known as Table 3 – the numbering I don’t think went beyond 6: from the Juke box at the right of the entrance, which eventually added a three and a half foot square vestibular to intercept the NY cold or heat and street dust, to the right turn to the powder rooms… beyond was so-called Siberia, only waiters used numbers for the half dozen tables there – scarcely more than a dozen tables all told I would think it was then.
WORM-HOLE: FRANK CONROY
That was also the time that Frank had started to write STOP TIME. He had stopped working at home in Brooklyn Heights and had rented a shoe box of a room at one of those great 15 story
mercantilers on Park Row of Monopoly fame which, at a diagonal to City Hall, led at a 45 angle to the Brooklyn Bridge. I'd stop by every now and then and read another chapter and got Richard Poirier at Partisan Review to take one of them. Frank was finally able to post check stubs on the wall, Paris Review, the New Yorker, Esquire, everyone wanted a part of STOP TIME, I recommended it to Suhrkamp Verlag whose reader complained that the writer seemed to be a person on the make, they looked forward to his next book - if a certain kind of ambition was despised at Suhrkamp I felt like replying they might want to rid themselves of half of their writers.But although “making it” was all over Frank’s behavior as of a certain point,I still don’t see to what extent, but some finessing in Frank’s behavior when the opportunity to get an advantage, STOP TIME manifests that drive. These were Frank’s first earnings since his marriage 7 years prior.Frank had a small inheritance, Patty Ferguson, his wife, a larger one. After their first apartment, in an upper West Side, 'tween Amsterdam and Columbus, in the 90s, newish high rise, cum balconey where I recall hearing the news of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, they had spent a year in England and then moved to Brooklyn Heights. Frank was I think the first person I talked to at Haverford in Fall 1954, in front of Barkley dormitory, a granite-dark baroque monstrosity that did not fit the so pastoral, 18th Century Plain understated campus and Founders Hall and its two Gingko Trees on whose foul fruit you might slip each fall. Frank said he wanted to be a writer, I wasn’t so sure about that, though I had a hunch that literature would be my field, with the life of a naturalist also beckoning since early days as a kind of half-wild child. I spent the summer of 1955-56 at Frank’s mother’s apartment on East 86th Street and for a few weeks we were 28 cents an hour Good Humor independent contractors near a city pool on the lower East Side; the hoodlums played with our change boxes, but the department of labor insisted we had no recourse. I went on to work at the Lorillard Paper Mill restaurant in Bronx Botanical Garden no tips squeezing a lot of lemons to which lemonade I read all of Conrad and all of Henry James but for his last novels... that seemed too dark... I was reserving them for much later in life. Frank went to Rehobath Beach in Delaware with buddies... The by and large fatherless called each other “old man,” and fought who would get to wear the black turtleneck sweater each day and were meant to be each other’s conscience keepers and roomed sophomore year with Marty Weigart and Jamie Johnson in Lloyds. Frank saw me sleepwalk. And again Senior year with Marty again and Tommy; Jamie split after his Junior year. Haverford was also too limited for me, too small, one other reason I spent my Junior year abroad; thus the more so after I returned with a whiff of the big world in Berlin and Paris in my nostrils.. A big public university like U. of Wisconsin would have suited me, but Haverford at least had Bryn Mawr with far more young women interested in literature Haverford did men. Frank and I were the successive Haverford editors of the Haverford-Bryn Mawr Review; I had one of my greatest future heart-aches Paula Dunaway, the “blonde lioness,” as Bryn Mawr counter-part. I spent my Junior Year abroad out of some disappointment with Los Unidos Norte Americana but chiefly to find out whence and to reconnect with those roots, and to retrieve, the inception of what would be a kind of life-long inbetween and back and forth, go-between activity that later Frank would prove quite uncomprehending of what I myself was unable to articulate at that time, because I had not reflected upon it. I went to the West Coast for graduate school, however the prospect of being life long in such a department of pure academia was a dimly perceived and successfully avoided and now confirmed threat to my very being, and am I ever glad I discovered not just the West Coast, but the Southwest in the summer of 1959, meeting up with Frank, now married to Patty, at her uncle Jack's ranch outside Williams Arizona, near Flagstaff, learning to ride Western, cowboys looking like cows; and then spending nine months in Alaska as a fire fighter and assistant geological surveyor in 1960.
By 1965, seven years after graduating,Frank had written one book, the book that Knopf had signed up his Junior year which I had spent abroad, and one review I believe of Psycho. I was willing, for old time's sake, to put one chapter from this ill-begotten priest-befuddled book I think it was into a magazine I edited, Metamorphosis, but neither co-editor Fred Jameson nor publisher Michael Lebeck liked that chapter or any other part and evidently I did not like that section well enough to insist or whatever I would do to absolutely get my way. With chapters of Stop Time making the rounds in various publications in the next few years it was not long before Frank told me, at Elaine's, that he was the most famous author in New York without a published book, perhaps for not having a published book, for being that fantasy - to which moment I trace fame starting to go to Conroy's head and his beginning to lead an entirely false life to live up to his own [?] image of his fame and thus wreaking long-term havoc, and completing STOP TIME far too hurriedly looking half way closely at its ending you notice. I looked really closely at what seemed an honest book about a certain kind of, it turned out, fairly representative mucked-up American adolescence, by one of the few Americans I’d gotten to know by then without needing to think about him, as I have since, and so had a fairly firm image of, and thus would be puzzled if Frank started to act “out of image” as it were, as he would then start to at Elaine’s and disturbingly so, and only now would this once sleep-walker have said something. At Elaine’s Frank mentioned that I, too, seemed to be going through some changes, this was 1971 after I had split from my first wife. Pretty much disoriented, a fairly permanent state of affair since early in life, I could not have articulated the change I myself was experiencing, although Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” [we had become friends in 1966] I imagine that I in my own way was sleep-walking into a kind of “living out”, breaking out, bridging the boundaries between the academic and “life", which also produced its legions of academic “swingers", Susan around that time, mentioned how much younger I seemed [as compared to 1966 I imagine when we met and went to see Kopit’s INDIANS with Peter Weiss] [FN-SONTAG].
In Frank’s case, at Elaine’s,I had a sense who he was and of his origins.Orphan I had attached myself to him and loved his big blowsy mother Helga who was then, in the 50s, married to a funny cab driver male model, Guy Trudeau. I liked his older sister, and her husband and his younger half-sister India. During our drive from Arizona in his 1954 Chevy convertible - first to Malibu to visit ex-roomie Jamie Johnston, then back East - Needles Arizon, 110 at Midnight - we played chess, dangerously so, Patti in back most but not all the time, and I recall I was so close to her that during that night drive during which she was driving I once called her Paula, the last person I had been deeply close to, the 1954 Chevy convertible with necking knob lost its gas pump right in the middle of the Interstate through El Paso I left a suit with a wad in it at a Motel near Austin and the owner only took the change for mailing the suit to me at my and Patty and Frank’s Bryn Mawr buddy Avis Fleming’s ex-plantation Bayou estate, south of New Orleans. There, Frank and I continued to play chess but for hunting Neutria in the levees in the early and coolish mornings. In other respects, the summer tropics I discovered did not agree with this Nordic wolf. Patty, at a a certain point, left for New York ahead of us and then Frank and I drove through Mississipi without stopping a single time as though haunted by the ghost of the dogs the slave owners had used to hunt runaway slaves, and played chess on the front seat and much of that summer, too, long stretches of it spent at his mother’s place in Connecticut, I with a ricochet romance with the already fading beauty Pamela W. who had dropped out of Bryn Mawr and who hailed from a very upscale apartment building right next to Frank’s Mother’s. I met Fred Seidel for the first time at the same party where I suddenly found myself coming on very strong, very unusual for me, to Pamela W. Fred would or was married to Patty’s sister Phyllis and I think I recall a drive to Cambridge to the place they lived in. Fred was a coal mongers son from St. Louis who went to Harvard, Phyllis was Radcliffe. Later Frank would much of the fact that he, too, might have gotten into Harvard. I did get into Yale but had not the money, twice; but had also applied to the Mississipi School of Mining, as we had all at Oakwood, figuring that if we got in nowhere else where we applied we might all become southern miners or whatever joke proliferated among Kurt Anschel, John Ernst and myself at Oakwood, a Friend’s school outside Poughkeepsie opposite the down the hill IBM plant by the Hudson whose three red letters glowed in the night and burned themselves into the consciousness of someone who had to keep slipping out of the first floor window of Kurt’s and my room to go aroaming also on the huge parking plaza in front of the IBM I was so restless, stir crazy in any kind of institution, even such a warmhearted one as Oakwood that I cried at the the impending departure from such environs, you too would be if you had been abandoned to a kind of police woman governess as of nine months and not forgive your mother until you found out that she had no choice, though she might have been more clearheaded about to whom she entrusted me as she joined the resistance against Hitler as a very clever and charming counter-spy. Policewoman, Ms. No. from one fortress to another then during the war,occasional reappearance of the beautiful mother. A Priam for a father.
As to that great war horse Eleanore, who was our graduation speaker at Oakwood: what the hell, Oakwood was just a skip and hop down from Hyde Park. I was meant to work as a lumber jack that summer, my actual father who had suddenly shown up in Canada from Ethiopia where a business venture with one of Haile Elassi’s sons had not worked out, but in no time again successful in business, had gotten me that job, in a Quebec forest, and I would have too, but the forest then was closed because of the danger of forest fires - I had spent the previous summers at Camp Pocono and had taken to the outdoors life and had become more than adequate with a double bit axe and a canoe, I already knew how to handle a rifle, my mother had given me my first one at age nine, but still had not found any American Indians in Mr. Penn’s splendid sylvanias. Fortunately in this instance, it was also too early to pick tobacco in Simcoe County, adjacent to Lake Erie, Ontario or I expect I would be suffering if not from arthritis for having been exposed to the cold morning dew dripping on me from the rubbery tabacco leaves as I picked the lowest, cured leaves first, but from a very bad back - the adventures of hitchhiking in those days!.
My stepfather and mother had been, respectively, in Korea and Japan since 1952. Oakwood had been my salvation - especially the literature teachers Terry Matern and Yoshira Sonbanmatsu, not just its plenitude of succulent female flesh but also men you might actually make friends with where there had been none in West Orange from a quickly about to turn delinquent friendless but for other misfits - which I had never been or felt like before - existence at West Orange Junior and High School, the trauma, from which I never really recovered, the huge disappointment that the U.S. came to seem, that succeeded the splendors of my first two years at the boarding school castle Ploen in Schleswig Holstein, where at age 12 you could have a girlfiend, be a chess champion, write and be a poet and astonish your buddies, nay the entire class, and play soccer: the Social Democratic postwar state of Schleswig Holstein had taken over that once Prussian military academy and made it democratically available. I appear to have been precocious, not the sort of thing you know at the time. Frank had spent a year abroad, in Denmark, for his mother being Danish, and some months in Paris, and had graduated from Stuyvesant High in Manhattan.
Eighteen years after the publication of STOP-TIME, Frank published MID-AIR whose title novella manifests his ambitions and his anxieties. Some of the other pieces in the collection, each of which I could annotate at their equivalent length, manifest a self-critical, aware attitude toward what was then the past, seen from the perspective of someone who had left the city for Nantucket and, after quite a few years, had become a teacher at various MFA programs, last as the head of the Iowa Writer’s workshop - Frank had already been a fine and patient editor teacher at Haverford, so that turn made sense. As to being self-critical: to mention just one story: the one that treats of how obnoxiously competitive Frank was on the squash or handball court: I could relate to that and its truth, I didn’t recall Frank as obnoxiously so when we played chess, or in any way at Haverford, the score there was Even Steven, and we seemed to play more for the beauty of the game than for outscoring each other, but I recall a Christmas at his mother’s place where a silly game was played its objective being to knock small wooden staves into the requisite holes in a board as quickly as we could. Neither of us had played this game before, and it turned out that my hand eye coordination was superior and I beat Frank hand’s down, effortlessly, and to my immense surprise Frank seemed so bothered by losing at such a silly game that he kept trying over and over, that was I suppose the first hint at the ambition and effort that made him such a superior writer when he was on his game there, or as a jazz pianist. An even more extreme instance was a time when we discussed extremes of pain we had experienced. I mentioned having my ear drum pierced without an anesthetic during a bout with a childhood middle ear infection, Frank one-upped me with his ear drum bursting on the occasion of the same childhood affliction. But that was also the only way I could win, nonchalantly, playfully; when I tried with effort I went awry, I know as much of other instances in my life. So it isn’t that I was unambitious, but it had to be done playfully, existence was meant to be easy and playful, not some arduous monstrosity, existence was meant to be a dance - oh how I danced in “Area”, the once Pony Express arena that had turned dance hall that took up an entire block between Hubert and Harrison and Greenwich Street and Hudson in Tribeca once analysis had taken the governess monkey off my back in the early 80s. No wonder I realized why Nijinski’s diary had been so important to me, say around 1955. In 1986, when I saw Frank in D.C., only the second time after he had split from New York, I must have been so furious at him that I sacrificed my Queen when we played chess again and I lost both games.
The first time I saw Frank after his wife, Patty Ferguson, had divorced him, was in Nantucket in 1974. But it does not do to see your oldest friend and bring a smitten concubine along. Frank had a lousy back from scalloping, very little got said, but he approved of the concubine. Little did he know with whom I was tangling. He was playing piano at The Chicken Shack, and we may have played one or the other game of pool at which I had become superior in my downtown bars, and for having a great teacher in Boris “Policeband” Pearlman. I liked the trooper of his second wife, Maggie, as she struck me. The morning after that evening in D.C., the last time we saw each other, where the once lanky scrawny Conroy had become a being engulfed in a mound of blubber, worse than obese, Jello, and a politician it seemed, one of the grandees at a grant agencies, corrupt, and a jingoist to boot! So much for being each other’s “conscience keepers” - as Sven Lukinm another now ex-buddy of Frank’s had warned me, who also said that Frank was full of himself again: I had seen Sven shortly before heading down to D.C. - Frank had evidently been irked the previous night that during our walk down memory lane my memory, utterly freshened by the then recent compleat reversion and rebirth under psychoanalysis, had beaten his utterly shot memory hands down and seemingly irked throughout the nite he sought rather pathetically to recover from these shortcomings, on waking, of his own memory citing incidents to which I might have difficulty relating. Did I remember that Jim Moody, a fellow Haverfordian who had been a class ahead of us and who had become a U.S. Congress person, had been oddly emotionally unavailable at that time. It was a matter I had not noticed or given though to at the time. I had not got to know Moody well but as a friend of Paul Hodge who then married Avis Fleming. Moody seemed to ride a motorcycle and was a good singer in the pseudo barbershop stuff that a foursome that tried there. Later, Frank’s second wife, Maggie - on being asked whether she had had the magic touch in her kitchen to feed the so food-finicky Frank into blubbery obesity [who was endowed with what would be called autistic sensitivities now, and like someone else I got to know quite well, had had some serious “fugue” events ] - mentioned that Frank had become diabetic. He even brought up what lousy physical shape he was in on his own, no doubt the sight of a strapping me who had nicely recovered from the ravages of Manhattan during his year “in country,” Billy the Kid to be specific, who had taken down trees again, and gone hunting and riding, and who dressed half in my there Western gear, made for an odd contrast between the now middle aged “old men” - and might have mentioned the diabetes.
Frank had tried psychoanalysis during his last years in New York and it had not taken, proved to be too injurious to his pride, he makes one or the other dismissive comment about that in his books, when last we met in D.C. in 1986 I mentioned how marvelous I had found it and that I would complete it in L.A. But, indeed, on the level of pain analysis requires pushing through, waiting out, enduring some extraordinary moments, more painful than having your ear drum pierced without an anesthetic, to come out the other end. The great pleasures of what is called “a good hour” or weeks upon weeks of “good hours” cannot be weighed, adjudicated against the pain. Looking back at some of my own behavior during that extraordinary process, endeavor, adventure I attribute some obnoxious behavior of my own, during the lifting of repression. But what I recall from that last visit with Frank was not just the shoddy memory, but an extraordinary lack of curiosity about me and some of the matters that I told him, he had not been like that before. I had missed him during the seven difficult years as co-publisher of Urizen [see URIZEN FN], it would have been good to discuss my difficulties there with someone to whom I felt close, whom I knew. I had had to hold it all in. Unexpectedly I found myself in a rather lonely battle, there was no one to talk to who ultimately had learned to keep some cards very close to his chest, and had the grandiosity, necessary or not, to think that he could do it - the impossible - all by himself; the venture was enough of a battle, and it turned out that I loved to fight, my stepfather realizing as much had installed boxing equipment in our garage in West Orange before shipping out to Korea, and I was an afficionado of American boxing who eventually would hang out at Sugar Ray’s in Harlem, and was also taught to box at camp but would fight as Gentleman Mike until I was hurt at which point something so furious could burst out of me that I became afraid of the violence that resided in me - but to have to fight not only up-front but as well a rearguard action with one of the partners who seemed to step out of a German left background but became transmogrified, a malevolent Mesmer, it was ironic that ultimately Wieland Schulz would be one of the producers of that film and have another falling out, another law suit and judgment against himself for double-billing, that I had a monster for a partner was rather unexpected, it was a new kind of war: It would not have been such a bad thing if they had continued to teach a course in military tactics at the once Kaiser’s Kadetten Anstalt Ploen; the fact that by dint of heritage I had absorbed some of those capabilities, by osmosis [?] - osmotically let me coin you here and now - in other words my anger at Frank had to do with a lack of fidelity, old rages connected with early abandonment were surfacing. Fidelity was not Conroy’s strong suit. Perhaps that was what the mysterious reader at Suhrkamp had noticed in STOP TIME, a fundamental flaw. Talking with Michael Arlen once at Elaine’s about STOP TIME, he too, had failed to read the book as closely as it needs to be.
ELAINE’S does not feature in the MID-AIR stories, although well it might. Frank and the Ellsworth Kellyish painter Sven Lukin [the Sheik of Latvia] and the Japanese scholar Ivan Morris formed a peculiarly dandyish threesome during those years 1969-1972, and there is a story in MID AIR that relates to that, Frank unaccompanied, Ivan with one young Japanese thing after another, Sven in company of the fabulously delineated and hard Malaysian/ Portuguese [Macaonean?] beauty and model, I think Maya was her name, must have gone out nearly every night of the week to whatever light fantastic. Sven, in the mid-eighties, just prior to my seeing Conroy for the last time, mentioned that this had been a hard-knit threesome to break into. I did get to know and like Ivan, at Elaine’s, and later we once discussed a book of his that I might do at Continuum. As to breaking in, or wanting to be part of that group: I think I was taken along once, from Elaine’s, the group ending up at Maya’s friend Danny Padua’s apartment, once again on 86th Street, Danny was part Brazilian and would have suited me fine, but I seemed not to suit her, what a sensuous beauty. Nothing seemed to transpire at her place that evening, just folks sitting around, I think I dozed off in the corner of the large living room, tired and bored.
Since I, as chiefly Suhrkamp agent, worked out of the same office as Frank’s agent, Candida Donadio [The Lantz-Donadio Agency] from 1969-1971, I was apprised of various contracts Frank had signed subsequent to the success d’estime of STOP TIME, and on which he was not delivering, chiefly high advance screen plays; something had to pay for the life style. Simultaneously Jack Richardson indicated that Frank was seeing the same Dr. Feelgood that serviced him. Yet Frank became nastier at Elaine’s as time went on: “I am trouble” is a sentence that still rings in my ears. Indeed, chiefly it turned out to himself and his marriage. And then, suddenly, in the early 70s, he was gone. To Nantucket. Disparu. I knew the house, I had visited him and Patty there once in the mid-60s, hugged their dogs a lot! Living rugs. Golden retrievers, I had need of a girlsqueeze. I heard, I think it was from Wilfred Sheed [someone I really cottoned to as a person and as “a hack”, my Anglophile European sensibility requires the occasional connection of that kind in my, as it were Mid-Atlantic barely tethered - buoy or balloon - existence] that Patty had shown Frank the door but given him their house in Nantucket. Wilfred was so pissed at Frank’s treatment of Patty that that meant the end of their friendship. Wilfred observed that ultimately Frank was entirely in love with himself. I ought to have argued with Wilfred on that score, because this was not the generous friend I recalled, but there is a soupcon of truth to Wilfred’s statement. Self-involved? Living downtown in Tribeca as of 1975 with that shoe box of a bar, Barnabus Rex, for a standby hangout - Barneys, as it was popularly referred to - had a pipeline to Nantucket that piped in news of how nasty Conroy was. Later, there came news of how devastating Conroy could be to his students at Iowa. Cruel - that came as a big surprise that Conroy could be gratuitously cruel. However, he struck me as very married in D.C., the way Maggie and he instantly fell into intimate chatter as they walked upstairs that night. He and I, however, were no longer close, and I had not been close to many people during my years in the U.S. Yes, to my Oakwood roommate, Kurt Anschel, very, he too now deceased. To Paula Dunaway the great love of my senior year, my Bryn Mawr counterpart as editor of the Review, and to Patty it appears to the extent that after Paula, a talented poet who got the best scores in the advancement tests, who, amazingly, was not admitted to the Stanford writing program, and so had staid East, at Yale grad school and had quickly gotten lonely, had broken up with me, or rather I noticed that something had to be wrong what with our lively correspondence suddenly becoming one sided; yes, during the drive back East from Malibu, I think it was near Needles Arizona, Patty was driving for a change and Frank was curled up in back, I felt so intimate, such transference to her an analyst would say, that I called her Paula! And we both noticed. Wow. Frank and I had been so close that during one of those drives back to the old hunting grounds Bryn Mawr after I had returned from my two years of graduate work and nine months in Alaska, we turned on, it was pretty much a first for me, and there was a heavy downpour on the New Jersey Turnpike and I was amazed at the high that pot could produce and turned into instant idiot and started jabbering about it raining dogs and cats, my mind askew at once, as Frank laughing his head off, corrected me “Cats and dogs.” “Anything, bull frogs for all I care” I chimed in.
I imagine I became quite close to Michael Lebeck, his turning into a Sufi acolyte in 1966 changed that at once. “Rocks in his head” was Leiber’s one-line response to that when I mentioned the odd succession of folks inhabiting that one mews in Patchin Place: E.E. Cumming, Michael Lebeck, Jerry Leiber whom I happened to know each and everyone.
The last time I saw Patty was at a party of Jack and Carol Gelbers, 1981 or 1982, I had my blue-blooded sluts of sluts Leith not Keith in tow and Patty expressed how wonderful it was to have children, and I forgot whether Patty once again went through her so American social motions to Leith of “Oh you must come over" the kind of All-American gesture to which Europeans rarely learn that it is a merely formal tic that is not to be taken seriously or counted on transpiring and the like of which I had experienced from Patty as early as the wedding reception that Ekaterina and I gave at our apartment at 55th and Sixth Avenue. I had seen Patty by herself once after Frank split, and had taken her, since she liked drama, to a Sam Shepard play, Suicide in B-Flat [?], and with respect to Conroy’s saying that his wife never believed in his talent, as though anything along those lines is an excuse for not exploring it to its limits, Patty certainly did that day when I found a way of testing her on that score. That evening ended with Patty promising to have me over to meet her cousin Anson, I had had no idea that Anson was her cousin, whose marriage had foundered. Anson was famous at Haverford-Bryn Mawr for having eloped. I had seen her but once, as the fellow she eloped with whoever he was had entered the huge Haverford dining hall and the entire hall had fallen silent at this apparition, at this tissue-soft amazing beauty who elicited every males protective instincts as she enterer the hall and breathed through it, and there is nothing that my memory ever forgets if a moment is tied to the face of a beauty. Thus Patty’s “not happening”, also in the social realm, mattered to me in this instance but none of the others, although I had hoped to integrate Ekaterina among my American friends, no luck in that direction either, not that Ekaterina was especially interested. Thus Ekaterina’s and my mutual friends were emigres of one kind or the other. Ekaterina also worked with Anthea Sylbert, at Capezio, for whom she did ads, but I don’t think that is how Paul Sylbert and I met, I think that was at Elaines. But that might have been one of the other few ways I might have hooked up with a sometime regular if Frank Conroy and I had happened not to be friends in 1964.
I imagine Patty’s mentioning how wonderful it was to have kids [as Frank writes, it had been her decision and he was happy with it and his having children is what triggered STOP TIME and made him stop pissing around] I was thinking of having a love child with the slut of sluts whom I had become entranced with at one of my neighborhood bars, at a time that I had also been entranced by Johnny Rotten’s super slut, but saved from that mis-step by Lindzeee Smith, no savior this time, nor Elaine’s for once, Puffy’s to be specific, part owned by author Jim Stratton, a former UPI writer who had also done the electricity for my first loft, and was fancying himself an video artist with some footage of the water towers atop all our downtown loft buildings [that is all I recall of Jim’s failed efforts along that line]. I don’t think I took the blue-blooded slut of sluts ever to Elaine’s. We had our first dinner before our first night at the Odeon and noticed her fixation on my lower arms especially when I flexed its muscles the look in her eyes would eat there many a time, and at the more intimate Brass Moon around the corner. I don’t think Le Zinc with my wild French friends from midtown Un Deux Trois was open yet, 1-2-3 where I put in my most passionate and only public performance for Urizen on the occasion of the Kaliches wanting to get out of a book contract [vide: Urizen+ SLUT OF SLUTS Footnotes, ].
I forget how I met Jack Gelber, possibly at a party at Frank and Patty’s, but I recall an evening at Elaine’s with Jack and his strapping California wife Carol and hooking up with one of her oldest friends, yet another strapping Calfornia blonde - now sing the praises of splendid strapping California blondes! - who was in New York on her bi-annual way from Idaho to buy things at the Paris collections and who didn’t muck around with the standard “cup of coffee” at midnight euphimism “I want you to be my lover” was how she put it, and coming from the right source, who can say no to that? and so we had my one and only Algonquin affair, twice a year during Connie’s bi-annual trip to Paris. This was shortly before Renate Karlin picked me up at Rochelle Owen’s party, which dates Connie’s welcome appearance in my life, the second Connie in my life, at 1971.
In 1974 I prevailed on Jack Gelber to work on one of my Kroetz translations with me, Jack was the author of one famous play, of a then in middleclass America risque subject, heroin addiction, done by the Living Theater, but the standard structure, which he, having a deft social touch, had parlayed into social networking... ah those networks, those trampolines, those cobwebs, those fragile structures. When nothing was happening with the four Kroetz translations that I had initially done for Carl Weber while still the Suhrkamp agent [1969-71] when the Peter Weiss play Carl wanted to direct was optioned to a different director, thus this event too can be traced to Elaines [see TRANSLATION footnote]
Frank wrote two more books subsequent to MID-AIR, BODY AND SOUL and OF TIME AND TIDE. B&S is as obesely inflated and blubbery, corrupt as I had seen his body last, but for one of the most extraordinary endings, the last fifty pages or so, which boogie as no other ending ever has that I have read. The need to write a “big book" is written all over what is a blown-up version of that first rate novella MID-AIR. Never have I seen such piles of remainder copies of the book on those tables at the stores. The market can be devastating to an item that is “over sold," by Candida Donadio in this case, also to its author. “You’ve done it, Frank,” a real dog of a book ...but with a great tail and one amazingly drawn figure, a girl named Catherine... for whom I can find no analog among our mutual acquaintances, thus an “imaginary” [?], which four fifth of the book is not; and OF TIME AND TIDE, a book about Nantucket. Frank first went to Nantucket the summer after our Sophomore year, as he mentions, my mother and stepfather returned from the Far East for the first time in 5 years and so I spent my summer at Fort Belvoir, and Frank spent every summer in Nantucket even during his stint of teaching. Of TIME AND TIDE is a wonderful book in the sense that it shows Conroy to have been a writer of places, the “last dramas” occurring, being played out there, as Handke has it in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, to which Conroy, too, like so many other of the heartless failed to respond. STOP TIME gives hints of that placeness: as you regard Of Time and Tide’s end papers - a map of the island - once you have read the book, the writer has filled in nearly each cove and inlet, and stretches inbetween. However, when Frank Sinatra’s yacht pulls into the harbor, with the trophy girlfriend spread-eagled on the bow, there is no mention of Conroy’s once star-fucking ways. All those years on an island exile turned out not to have been wasteful. It was a fine book to go out with into the dark nite far too soon.
Below a photo of some regulars circa 2000, which leaves out a lot of the early regulars who were still alive and in New York and going to Elaine’s: Bruce Jay Friedman, Woody Allen, Jack Richardson, Nan and Gay Talese I assume, Lewis Lapham [unless I fail to identify him among the proliferating WASPS], Bob Brown, Bobby Ryan was still alive… I am sure that I am forgetting a bunch of folks, I did not know all the regulars even at that time I don’t think. I am missing that photo of 1970 that had the early crew and whose taking I myself could not attend.
[photo: Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair]
From right to left, front row:
a-Hotchner, [b] a newsman, his name escapes me right now, muckraking; [c] ?? could be but is not Arthur Kopit with a shoe polish mustache, [d] George Plimpton.
Backrow: left to right: ???, Fred Seidel, ???, Mayor Dinkins, ???, ???, Nelson Aldrich, Danny Zarem I think.
and Elaine with a nice wry I suppose: ”What do you know, I got it made” expression who, so amazingly, didn’t really take herself all that seriously though she liked the passing parade from the moment that it appeared [see anon], and became a kind of trophy to certain people who would “we’ve got Elaine coming too” lending cachet, something a touch exotic to the proceedings, parties, East Hampton outings.
Fred Seidel and I bursting into Maurice’s apartment once early in an evening is another recollection that burst through the wall of denial: a picture perfect 50s couple in their p.j.s.!... Donald Ward, certainly a good sprite while he was Elaine’s partner, the two first rate waiters maitre d‘s Nicola, Elio who eventually opened places of their own; Bobby and Didi Ryan – many of them gone; Bobby once introducing me to Mr. Schlesinger whose firm, however, never invested less than one million where I felt that I could only justify half that sum for Urizen Books – and in the event that I had asked for the million and he had met partner Schulz, he would have passed, one look is all it took, as it did in two significant opportunities, but Bobbie, a darling, who was willing to extend himself, a rarity. [Urizen Books FN] ; Didi [Sp.?] who looked as though she had stepped out of Cocteau's Orphe, a sinister Siren, always in black, tight black dress and cleanly coiffed tightly wound hair, ready for an Egyptian funeral, ultra elegant companion to rat-faced Bobby, the most regular of regulars in my recollection.
Jerry Leiber was to be the longest and most complicated friendship I made at Elaine’s and, ultimately, most disappointing, to me as to so many others with whose work and life I became engaged over the course of about 20 years, until he had wasted my and others’time - Bernstein, DeNiro, Bruce Jay and his son Josh’s - once too often! It is odd that “the runt" as I think of him now then kept getting of on jerking people around, ensuring no end of regret on his part and wretching at the very mention of the name. If I didn’t come a year or so ago at a boast of his that he was collaborating with Handke, circa 1980: he met Handke once through me,
around 1977 in Paris, where Handke famousely said: “I don’t do Singspiel”, and the runt dropped out of collaboration with Carl Weber and me on shoehorning a few fine songs from THE INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING MATCH into Handke’s THEY ARE DYING OUT, and we had hoped, finding it in him to write one or the other tune.
I was forced to write a little book about him in the mid-90s in order to get paid [LEIBER-FN] and I will not repeat myself here. Leiber didn’t write another song after 1975 but managed, cultivated their continuance in the catalogs and play lists the way you might expect of the son of a dry goods store. He went into the falseness of “pure" style, in every which way and the only person he might fool was himself and the kids he brought to his little palace on Venice boardwalk where he became known as Mr. McNasty with his incurable acid reflux.
Two books came out of that relationship, Baby this Was Rock and Roll, which was then published by Collier Books. I had put in no end of time interviewing and researching, but Werner Linz at Continuum killed my money book. BABY sold about 75 k copies for Collier, it wasn't the low-down dirty scrap book I envisioned, and at Urizen Books I then got the left-over 5 thousand copies to distribute. But the book and the relationship afforded a long, deep look into the very dirty music business. The second book was my idea, to winnow Leiber's lyrics down to those that could stand on their own as poetry - the book was ready for some years at Urizen but for Leiber's inability to finalize the selection, a shame of sorts. Leiber, a millionaire as of his early twenties, knew some of the regulars at Elaine’s prior to his becoming a fixture, until he, too, went back to the West Coast in the mid-80s. When he lived in the Vougeria, on 57th Street, and didn’t want to go up to Elaine’s but suddenly felt like steak he would have her pepper it for him and come and fetch them or send a cab to pick it up. Over the course of many evening at Elaine’s, spring of 1979, Leiber eventually prevailed on me to give his scarecrow of a stepdaughter Rachel S. a job as an intern at Urizen, he and Barbara Rose had to get out of town - they were always getting out of town to save their marriage! ha - but first find a baby sitter - how could I refuse if he eventually gave me her salary in cash! Later I would have occasion, not only to appreciate how dearly Leiber, promiscuous user of plastic, hated to pay cash, but to have a few qualms at my inability to say no to a friend and at having allowed myself to be seduced by said scarecrow - that was how she had looked at the Vougeria, broken down clothes, thumb in mouth at age 17: thus my initial horror of having her at my office - into which then waltzed an elegant precocious Bird of Paradise with very forward thighs on the dance floor whence her mother had urged me to take her... “Rachel and Michael, Michael and Rachel" shouted my lefty Aussie loft mate Philip Frazier's girfiend Paula who was Rachel's father’s mistress and his Pepsi dealer... the morning after the night after I had let Rachel's Chow Bear decide whether to head to her father’s domicile in the village that night at the Mudd Club and dinner in Chinatown or downtown and we said “this is not going to be like Woody’s MANHATTAN” and I “I am yours for the summer.” Thus, never entrust your fate to a meandering Chow who is inhabited by Hamlet’s ghost...even if you and she say, after the first nite “This is not going to be like MANHATTAN” [Woody Allen’s film of it] or my: “I am your’s for the summer.” : but - no Elaine's, no Leiber, no Chow, no end of wonderful adventures with the brat, no Palombe Bleu, no Bird of Paradise who constantly had to be amused turning into a leaden Albatross of which the only way I appear to have had of ridding myself was to make myself entirely impossible. This year-long episode is not so much of a wormhole as a stub that leads into the very heart of a “Darlings and Monster Novel”.
I have numerous distinct recollections of important sequences at Elaine’s [Worm Holes]. I took a lot of authors, lots of German authors, Handke was the first, I have a handful of adventurous recollections, none truly awful considering what must add up to weeks upon weeks months of evenings in the altogether I spent there, prior to my first marriage and after I left, what proved a prison, very intensely night after night, intermittently at other periods of my life, not just listening and gabbing, but also, sometimes, reading, working on a manuscript – in Siberia as the moths of the night who wanted the phosphorous of celebrity to singe them seem to have called these not very distant reaches, that other half dozen tables, beyond the Big Table and table 6; one but only one dangerous encounter, it happened to be with a Rupert Murdoch henchman. When I was a kind of regular I was perfectly happy if either Nikola or Elio was around, I didn’t need Elaine herself; the place, some friends to talk to if I felt like was quite enough, and a couple of good waiters… who often were more interesting to chat with, as in my childhood during which I had liked our milk maid best, the most extraordinary instance of that kind of liking and talking to “the help” was at a Frankfurt Book Fair luncheon party that Einaudi gave, off at some castle I think, the Italian publishing house, I think for some gilded anniversary edition of the works of Lenin, I tried to find out how the waiters felt about such a luncheon for such a book. I know that Arthur Rosenthal of Basic Books, whom I much liked, was there as well, and we exchanged knowing glances at the blatant absurdity of all that. Elaine's kitchen employed migrants from the Andes whom I would get to know more intimately in Mexico on their treks north.
Although Elaine’s Big Table featured men, and these were Elaine’s boys, most of whom had lousy or fading marriages or none, I also have those romantic recollections alluded to above. Not many women could hold their own at the big table, yet they were taken there, or fluttered on their own, hanging out at the bar, which I never did, don’t remember a single bartender or their names except that, during the NYPD’s French Connection days, some who were on leave or whatever from the department or under one or the other cloud, seemed to have worked there… this too one of those many worm holes via which…. perhaps because the then co-owner, Donald Ward, was the son of a line of Irish bar keeps and policemen? Anyhow: another wormhole or, if you like, another sewer. Some women could of course hold their own, very much, Anthea Sylbert, also after she and Paul divorced, but only two or three other women come to mind who handled it with apparent ease, Nan Talese, and the woman who did the acrostics was it for New York Magazine, Mary Ann Madden, and tended to hang with friend Tom Buckley, a New York Times reporter who had been in 'Nam. Mary Ann had a touch of that forties hard-drinking reporter gal about her that seemed to admit you to the male club. Renate K., the second woman I dated after I split from my first wife, was entirely feminine but smart, a Professor of Art at Sarah Lawrence, and charming, and had fine hind legs of her own; a relationship I messed up by being insanely jealous – the first time that I recall being conscious of that feeling. Looking farther back I may have acted under its impulse quite unawares at other times, too. Renate could what my wife had been too stubborn and socially incompetent to, e.g. hold her own, and not be fazed by the tough talk at the so male oriented Table 4, the “big table”, at Elaine’s – it took very little really to be admitted to the circle if you were a woman. Renate delighted everyone and was entirely feminine yet could still blush at some of the male shenanigans as I recall someone of middle eastern heritage on my left I had the strangest sensation not just of Renate's hand on my crotch but of the hand of the middle eastern fellow reaching over who in what way I don't know had managed to grab Renate’s hand that I guess must have been in that nether region: oh how she blushed when she discovered that she had not been holding hands with me on my crotch but with the comedian on my left... Jack Richardson was partial to blondes, exclusively, comically so, and it was noticeable how a blonde could waken his spirit out of whatever dark doldrums, funk he might otherwise find himself in. Oh how the Big Table livened up if a bright pretty woman attended it – I recall Arthur Kopit’s then and perhaps still wife, and the blonde wife of a first rate scholar from the Yale French department, Peter Brooks?, that I don’t think was something Elaine liked all that much, so was my impression, these were her boys. I recall being furious at Elaine when she 86ed Cathy Greene, a really really big girl, who had injured Paul Sylbert’s feelings the way she had broken up with him: Elaine took the boy’s side in those Tangos. Elaine was the female version of the Pasha – she wanted all the men for herself!
I took Ekaterina to Elaine’s the day we were married and had champagne, but that is all I that I recall. It had been a civil ceremony at the municipal building downtown. I think we also went to a happening that was not Elaine’s. Frank Conroy and Michael Lebeck were best men. My marriage settled me down, which is what I imagine I wanted, and I got a lot of good work done. Ekatarina was a far harder worker than I and far more accomplished… Diana Vreeland had imported her as a fashion illustrator, however not suitable for Elaine’s, took it too seriously and so was hurt, confused, too foreign. Elaine was “demi”, to be taken lightly. Unlike Susan Braudy’s* pathetic, other-directed, 50s “I’ll do anything to go to Elaine’s,” this party required the ultra-light touch, well perhaps not that light a touch as Nora Ephron’s “champagne” being as I experienced her once – what bottle could preserve that? Certainly not it seemed the fairly brutish Cal Bernstein to whom she was married then – heartaches to come! Ekaterina called so often when I went to Elaine’s after I knocked off work around midnight while she went on working, she was jealous, insecure, one reason I proposed was that I hoped this would allay her jealousies, however she spotted my roving eye spotting a blonde pony tail a mile off, I was an incurable beauty addict, and to her governess-like behavior, in that and other ways, can be ascribed the eventual demise of the marriage. Nor was she interested in my literary friends or the work I was doing – until it was too late – whereas I liked her painter and photographer friends, Marvin Israel, Eric Linder, Hiro, Avedon with whom she worked for the fashion magazines, doing collages. Unlike my friend Conroy, I was terrified of having an affair, the terrifying governess of my childhood, oh what it took to get that monkey off my back; it took me a while to develop a taste for the occasional infidelity, but once with a taste then had a serious one – a real breakout affair that rejuvenates you and makes the goose that is being fattened for the kill loose a lot of fat, muy rapidemente, with the only one who could have torn me away, a Jezebel who, like many a girl, started to fiddle around your crotch or grab you by the balls! In recompense for her calls to Elaine’s I made Ekaterina do a painting of a huge mouth on the telephone, it was in the style of Lindner, and for all I know it may still be hanging above the entrance to what I was glad to read is called the “Paul Desmond Room,” the once Elaine's first kitchen. I met, was introduced to the then Jezebel for whom I left my wife – at Elaine’s, of course! My wife had been so right, but then said: “Oh just another woman.” I think Bob Brown [see quite a bit about Bob Brown later on] had brought the woman who would prove to be this romantic’s Jezebel, who would say, one actress and never another. Bob Brown could be counted on to be just a friend, as could I, a close friend of a truly close friend – what is the test of the closest friendship, a near unbreakable bond, aside author editor of a gutsy book, FINAL CUT – it is when you can call each other all the names in the world, and disagree and be disappointed in each other… anyhow, Paul Sylbert still is after all this time, and I am sure Bruce is too, although I am only in touch with his sons Josh and Skip. Fred Seidel faded once I moved downtown where he never visited me. He would have fancied the Odeon around 1980. An uptown poet, although he did drive a motor cycle for a while, a Gucci! Jezebel P. knew others there, Fred for one, another serial infedelicker from early on in his marriage to Phyllis who, compared to her serious and deep sister Patty, who however “never happened” as her husband Frank Conroy would write several times in his books, and there were many levels on which Patty didn’t happen, Phyllis had a fighting spirit, and did happen, not that this made any difference to her cycling Fred. I had the idea if my plans to run Urizen on my own had they materialized I would hire Phyllis as managing editor. These highborn girls were married for status, for social climbing purposes, what they got was what their parents had warned them about! If they stayed in their class, they got worse, lawyers, bankers, boredom ad infinitum unless they liked motherhood. Their husband’s treated them like safe haven mother ships from which they could venture out into the night, dhows on expeditions. I appear to have married my governess, no matter that her looks were those of an Audrey Hepburn.
I recall the first time Frank Conroy brought Patty to the suite at Lloyd's where he and Marty Weigart and Jamie Johnson and I spent our sophomore year and how happy all of us were to have a friend bring a serious woman into the proceedings, and not a girl everyone, not I, would hound-dog after, as all my roomies did after all my girlfiends. Patty, wise beyond her age, calm, attractive – yet that relief of lack of sexual charisma… what did it signify in retrospect, in the long run, certainly not a lot of fun? Patty with those great lines, Learned Hand, the Breasted Egyptologists, the first congress person from the Arizona territory, Jack’s mother. Perhaps that lineage weighed on her, it appears she loved being a mother, and the expectation that something more than president of the Bryn Mawr student body and her class of 1957 may have weighed on her, too. Considering her origins and class, she may just have seen too much evil early on, a Jamesian or Willa Cather character she might be in another age, but not made for running around with in a Manhattan that was starting to cook and with a writer who is happening and interested in exploring a city that is always breaking up and re-organizing itself. Frank also hung out at Max’s Kansas City, I went once, everyone seemed to want to look like Mick Jagger there, but got to know Max when he had the “Lower Manhattan Ocean Club" on Chambers Street with all kinds of neon art work hanging from those ultra high ceilings, and I gave a book party for George Bataille's STORY OF THE EYE there and met Hanna Wilke with whom I did not have an affair since she kept talking about nothing but her heartbreak, Claes Oldenbourg, but we became friends, and her too early death of breast cancer is of the kind, as that of other marvelously beautiful women of the same horror, makes me cry oceans.
I met three serious affairs at Elaine’s. Ekaterina had been right, her stubbornness – every serious woman artist is a stubborn beast - would prove fatal to her marriage. If she had been able to hang out and run around, just a bit, we actually had prior to our marriage, gone dancing at Arthur’s, the first and in retrospect ever so modest, and Upper East Side disco [1965-66], Jackie O. dancing with Nurejev, Bobby Kennedy dancing with his wife, there was that one week I encountered Bobby Kennedy thrice: at Arthur’s, then on West 8th Street, he was campaigning for Abe Beame, who was running for mayor, he stepped aside, and I nearly bumped into Abe Beam who was about 5 feet tall, a machine politician, and then at the Carlisle Hotel, I was waiting for my father who had a meeting with a businessman there, and by that third time Bobby as he noticed me took a really hard look - might I be laying for him kind of look. Thrice and never again except of course on T.V. Was he already a senator from NY then? However, if “Bright Lights Bright City” it was to become, Manhattan then was one big wide open city, swinging indeed, or trying to awkwardly its Upper East and West Sides.
I can’t say I happened onto that combination of playful but serious, either one or the other, Jezebel was pretty good in that respect actually, I recall taking her to Smalls Paradise, and since she could magick a great face out of her toilet kit they seated us next to Adam Clayton Powell, Cathy was too antsy, great passion composer Laurie too serious; so was Judith Thurman, my occasionally intelligent heart’s “great fondness.” Best person I ever ran around with in the later 70s was Paul’s ex, Cathy Greene, a really big girl, her shooting off six-shooters on a movie set had frightened the shit out of Sam Shepard, and we really were pals, not a hint of our ever hitting on each other.
Although the Big Table was [is?] very much of a man’s table, some of these men occasionally brought their affairs, their wives, or just women friends… some of these wives if they were trophy blondes and had begun to be taken for granted or neglected became quite flirtatious at the Big Table… and it was difficult to say whether their neglectful husbands noticed… and the night plays the same song in all the bars all over the ocean liner, on every deck, the night breaks down stratifications, and a lot of the neglected trophy blondes as of a certain point in their marriages are wanting to have affairs. The decks sway, the troubled waves.
WORM HOLE: CATHY
Bruce wanting a certain 26 year old Cathy out of his life, kept mentioning how interested she was in me. I had seen her once with him at Table 5 while sitting at Table 4. She had gone strangely quiet at being introduced to me, impish expression on her face, touches of the wondrous, mid-20s was my guess, the year is 1971, Cathy was her name, Wolf something. My two previous affairs had been with women not all that much younger, although Jezebel, the actress would shave ten years off the years of her birth eventually and eventually, too, I would work my way down to what one friend termed “cradle robbing” – it made no difference. Happy to be a bachelor with no end of feathered friends, the occasional longing for the brat because there were long stretches there when we kept falling in love with each other over and over again, but chiefly because we could trot alongside each other like a pair of old shoes. It took several decades of always needing to be in love, a prolonged “Midsummer Night’s Dream” if ever there was one, for the realization to set in that I needed to break that addiction, an act as painful as running a razor through your brain, and in a dream.
At that time that Bruce kept mentioning Cathy, I was not especially interested in getting involved after the first two major affairs, I was regrouping, as I would quite often until I finally found out what that obsession was about, under analysis and the subsequent working through, but then in 1971, for lack of anything else to do one evening, I was still living in my and my wife’s apartment [or back at it after Jezebel, we had remained friends after I had walked out on her for being manipulative on the most basic level, then objected to my sleeping with other girls in “our bed”] called up Cathy W.B.B., who it turned out was still living with her husband, and took her to Frankie and Johnnie’s and Normal Mailer was sitting in the opposite corner on the back bench, at his usual spot. Yes, Bruce had kept telling me that the Cathy I had seen him with at Table 5 was really interested in going out with me. Eventually I took him up on the suggestion and that proved a real heartbreak of an affair, chiefly because of my dithering, did I want Cathy to be my whore did I want to be her gigolo, did we want to go stealing horses together [the nature of my conundrum was so unanticipated and complicated I feel fortunate to have gotten at least a hint of it later in life, the fact that the beauty I dragged home might then turn into my governess was really the least or half of it.]. The time of Bonnie and Clyde was upon us and one of its screenwriters, David Newman, was one of my favorite regulars at Elaine’s and I regret not having made it a point to get to know him better, I loved his attitude and the way he bore with his wife when she decided it was “women’s lib” time and she went literalmindedly through each and every one of its changes, his patience and humor about that great necessary non-sense. Cathy, as teenager still living with her parents on 86th Street in a building next to Frank Conroy’s mother, it would devolve, had picked up Jerry Leiber, at Elaine’s, the year must be 1963 or 64, as a teenager, and had taken him home. She was 26 in 1971 and I had quite a run of 26 year olds for a while. When Leiber, married to his first wife, Gaby, asked what that noise was on the other side of the wall and Cathy said it was her dad and she wanted him to pretend that he was her father when she fucked him, Leiber split. Each time ever after he ran into Cathy it would frighten the shit out of him; but because Leiber had been in analysis ever since he was a teenager when he had a nervous breakdown after one of the two black chicks with whom he was driving in his convertible in the California hills was killed when he crashed the car, Leiber, meanwhile, wore an analyst’s impassive mask, thus you had to have been in analysis yourself to read his expression, that it was a mask, so by the time I lived in the Leiber pretentious den for six months at the Venice boardwalk after returning from Mexico in 1994 this mask told me more than if he hadn’t put one on; of course it could crack, say when his last wife, Barbara Rose, split, at a time that Leiber was about to have a triple by-pass and she did not want to be married to a man who might die [!], Barbara Rose, the vilest of the vilest, and I and his sons had to nurse him as he was heaving; and then had no problem in keeping the stinking Rose part of his life! [Imagine that! The woman who had tried to kill you just before your life and death operation!] Cathy and he had been undressing. Cathy had a thing for Leiber because Elvis had recorded some of his songs, and Cathy said that she had her first orgasms while masturbating to “Love me Tender.” Cathy was so fantastical she imagined having aborted a child of Leiber’s she had been pregnant with. Just imagine the various fancies interacting! Subsequent to his days of heaving in the early 80s Leiber’s chief interest became the correct dosage of Lithium; he might as well have asked God to intervene as he tossed his daily cocktail of drugs down his gullet.
When Cathy and I went out on our first date she was no longer living with her parents but with her first husband, an instantly broken marriage, to a businessman who refused to run around at night, and who had Hodkins. Cathy was an ex-philosophy student who had fucked her professors for better grades, Cathy was an ex-junkie who worked for Odyssey House, a drug treatment center one of her boyfriends had odeed. Cathy was surprised that I didn’t fuck her when I walked her home through the park that night. The following weekend we were off to Woodstock; after the drive Cathy said that she realized she was going to get laid at once. The first nite, in bed, Cathy asked me to pretend that I was her father, why not, big deal, Cathy had a wondrous come, her thighs were instant fetishes. As we woke from our slumber into the winter snow romance that was upon us, Cathy asked “What do you want to play now.” It had dawned on me that Cathy would, as the saying went then, “do anything.” Did I though? Many men it turned out were far more uptight than the women, what a surprise that was, and women’s sexuality once unloosed was so insatiable that you came to appreciate why certain societies had formalized genital mutilation. Toward the end of Urizen Books, in the early 80s I was looking for a bestseller entitled “The Well Laid Woman” but did not find the writer for it. Half of Cathy could be said to have lost her innocence, the other was quite wondrous. Amazingly she held no grudges, her volatility would not have made you assume as much; and the way she could laugh - also about herself. Shizzy, disturbed, birds of a feather keep meeting up with each other. That Cathy was good for stealing horses with I realized at the time that I started Urizen Books about 4 years later, she was fighting to keep her firm, Bus Stop Shelter, from being taken over by two competing monsters, and her second husband had fled back to France. If I spent one night clubbing in the years 1975-1980 downtown, I spent at least two evenings into the early morning with Cathy at her Lincoln Tower apartment, as her sounding board, and an occasional nite with her at Elaine’s, and across the street at Eric’s, with one of her bankers, I was Cathy’s sounding board, I was good at making the connections, that seemed to require stronger alkaloids than coffee to stay sharp: she laid out the stupendous corruption of the city and its commissioners and what the two behemoths were up to. Early in the morning I would go for a swim at Jack LaLanne’s in the basement of the Woolworth Tower, on Broadway, at City Hall Park, there would be Mayor Koch dog paddling with two guards and politicking even in the water and never losing the chicken fat pudding on his tummy, from the chicken circuit, a surprisingly tall man for the small Jack Perdue head, that tall frame with a pin head, not a clue that his comptroller and his commissioners were seriously on the take. That is, in those many directions, also where you might acquire stronger alkaloids than coffee, another wormhole opened up, is where that or those multiple worm holes led, worm holes, sewers, dimensions, of a many layered city. Wormholes that lead into prison, into suicide inquests. I had been so injured from Cathy and mine’s initial encounter - an injury that upon reflection I had elicited, let’s say because of my dithering - that Cathy and I did not become romantically or carnally re-involved, I was tetchy, Cathy was with one of her bankers, one of whom was willing to become a sound investor in Urizen – until they met Schulz. Plato’s Retreat is another of those wormholes where that wormhole led, or those worm holes lead…. a veritable delta of worm holes you might say… Cathy and I told each other that no matter what did not work out, we always had each other as fall back positions. I never did ask Cathy where and how she met Bruce, or why she who fucked at the drop of a hat didn’t fuck Bruce and had just let him chase her around his apartment [this was before he was marvelously remarried, so it seemed to me], perhaps Bruce met Cathy at Elaine’s, but it might as easily have been across the street, at the far younger bar, Eric’s. Bruce and Jack, the evening wearing on, would mosey across to Eric’s, for nose gay, and often returned seeming so silly that I decided never to ingest a single line or whatever else you could do with the stuff, but you could also hook up with young girls there, and a young woman like Cathy might prove interesting of course. Cathy taught me how to hang out in younger places like Eric’s, and I made some good friends there, not just Eric himself, who too got busted at some point, not just his dealer whom I would recognize even now, his thin frame and the intelligent look on his invariably somewhat anxious face became indelible as so many others have not. The Eric's bartender Neil Meyers, and Paul Kravitz, who was the best chess player on both sides of the Ave, with the looks of a Jewish Abe Lincoln, and quite a few girls - Jeanette, Diane, Cathy - talked about what a marvelous big cock he had. At Eric’s you danced, hung at the bar, and milled around. As I said before, it was a young very hetero Fire Island crowd, an entirely different world from Elaine’s. But no Elaine’s no Bruce no Cathy no “nosegay" a lot of nos. and no Eric’s for me. The receding crowds. A ghost walk.
There was one young woman I took to Elaine’s in the early 70s, after Cathy but before Brenda Potemkin, and Mary and the far safer and saner Judith T. whom however I don’t recall ever taking there, but perhaps the sheer sanity of the relationship, then, that someone I would regard as “my great fondness” has failed to leave a dent in the memory bank. That interim, that I dated after Cathy, was an amusing 21 year old guttersnipe fresh out of Barnard, light fare after the three serious post marriage affairs had not worked out, Philip Roth’s “My Life as a Man” seemed written for me, Robin who told the mastodons at the Big Table off when they fell agrunting self-importantly, which they did with some frequency by this time. The mastodons did not know what to make of an exotic 21 year old with an irrepressible entirely irreverent mouth. Both before and after returning from my boat trip, something light to get me over my latest heartache, three heartaches after one marriage!, and all my fault, to the Big Table. Robin Wablonsky Weber of "Spring Poem" fame Robin had famous legs no tits and an ass as flat as a flanken, as her dads:
SPRING POEM 
The Robins are in good voice at 4:30 a.m.
Yes the Robins are back in the mating game,
and the ”Mating Game” is on Starbucks TV.
'what Lola Wants' is on.
Lola wants good coffee
and to be well whatever
and the Starbucks baristas have been retrained and chirp 'good morning' 'how are ya?'
"good morning how are ya"
to every customer
until you are sick of them
and wish they would say
'ya know, I feel just as dazed as you look'
I had to go to bed too early
to be whatever.
Ah Robin Wablonsky
where are you
the Robin of Belle Harbor
at Rockaway Beach
are you still
in the autumn
raising baby Robins
getting them to fly
not fall out of nests
to get ready for the mating game
and to chirp like the dickens come next spring."
famously flat ass, who was making a small fortune in a small factory in Long Island City with items for shoes. Robin had shocks of black hair that reached down to her hips, and so was decorative as she described herself, and the fastest most irrepressible mouth this side of you name the river and laughed not only at what she herself said but every stupid comment made by the troglodytes at the Big Table, but no red stripes on her wings, and never had any Baby Robins as I had imagined before she turned back up in my life, for the poem’s sake, and none of them knew how to handle an exotic kid with an unchained mouth, taking them down notch after notch, deflating them. That was one of the main reasons I took Robin, because sexually Robin was entirely selfish, a princess, a lower middle class princess from Madoff country it turned out. However, with my three serious post marriage affairs still smarting and licking a lot of wounds and zero self-understanding something light and amusing wasn't such a bad deal, she was also affectionate, it appeared that I was her first boyfriend, and she had graduated from college and was the last person in her class to lose her virginity, not to your’s truly. I realized her disgust with my organ and simply stopped calling. I faded away, and as I found out last years regarded that as a breakup. Robin was a 50s girl, go out to Queens and you will find 50s girls even now. However, since Robin was born around 1950 but this is 2011, Robin is one forever arrested “bird” if ever there was one. I had really liked her parents, as I did so often like potential in-laws, finding them more interesting than their daughters. Jerry Leiber, married to a different woman than when he let Cathy pick him up around 1965, sought to date Robin's mother who was his type, the saftige mature woman, his mother from whom he could never disattach. Robin showed back up in my life, online, about a year ago. Her once fat little blonde sister, a true dumpling, Susan, married and divorced Mr. Soros, the divorce is said to have broken her father’s heart [“So the guy scews a lot of broads and it makes the paper, is that any reason to waste the billions you will inherit once he croaks?” I can hear it now!], and the once dumpling has a hard time living off a 300 million dollar settlement and Robin’s ass is as flat as ever, and she is still “the wettest," but she says that she has become bosomy, she has become a lawyer, that’s whom you should marry the moment you set foot on the great gambling boat, the HMS Manhattan, unless born there and accustomed to its Magpie ways, Robin has never been married and the once amusing guttersnipe mouth of a once irrepressible, pretty, exotic 21 year old coming from that of a 60 something woman, however, is I don’t’ know how to put it, you can probably imagine yourself that this comes closer to fishwife, fishmonger squawking than to being amusing! Robin is creating her own foundation, wouldn’t you know it, for a sad little girl. I once spotted her around 1978 entering Barnabus Rex, and I realized that that spelled the end of our shoe box of a bar. End Robin Wormhole,
WORMHOLE # 3: MARY H.
I happened to be talking to Amy Ephron who was dating and I think living with Jack Richardson at the time and mentioned that I found her friend Mary H. very attractive. Within the hour Mary was at the table, within another hour we found ourselves in a hotel room with the mattress on the floor. What suave underwear was a thought that I verbalized. Dangerous liaisons. Mary had a husband in California, was living with a mob lawyer on Park Avenue, and we really liked each other. Of course I went with her to Woodstock as had Cathy and I on our first weekend. Mary, as she put it there, who much liked the work of Ford Madox Ford's masochistic lover, “was good with women.” She had let herself be seduced at age 14, and regretted it and had her share of resentments of men who had taken advantage of her easy ways. That her way of being multiply affiliated spelt trouble I did not say, because that thought would take a while to dawn on me. With the yellow Firebird convertible I was driving and the heavy leather hat I wore to keep my hair, which I kept long but not hippie long of the time down in the air flow. Mary was the dark Maude of my Grandfather’s sallop salad days in the Berlin of the 20s, in my own small way, a small cut of that adventurousness, I realize and say now that I fancy acting a little bit less in that character. Mary was my dark Maude of the night, a marvelous concubine who could assemble a marvelous harem for you if you had the money. Unfortunately the relationship became just too damned dangerous. After spending one night at the St. Moritz I drove to Nantucket to visit Conroy who had left New York after being kicked out of his home by his long-suffering wife who, however, had allowed him to keep their house on Nantucket, Mary had to fly in the next day. Conroy was most approving, but had a really bad back from making a living as a scallopper. From Boston I called Mary, and that night received a call from her mob lawyer, death threats. That was sufficiently troubling that I went for a walk and talked about the threat to one of Boston finest. Mr. Siff had wrecked the apartment after intercepting my call to Mary, and at Elaine’s was told “oh this has been going on for months.” But what an erotic education a suave cool French American girl who was not all that happy at having surrendered her virginity at 14 could provide. A wormhole into the Darlings and Monster Novel, another wormhole into no end of other worm holes, and not just of the imagination. To provide a hint of the strange life I was leading, simultaneously I was - the year is 1974 - translating and then publishing Michael Schneider's compilation of German New Left thinking, hoeing, e.g. a very left line with Larry Birn's The End of Chilean Democracy, Stanley Aronowitz's Food, Shelter and the American Dream, Frankfurt School stuff and the like, and, properly speaking, might have found a somewhat less deliciously decadent girlfiend than Mary. And, looking back in time, I had fine comparisons for sturdy militants. The sturdiest crossed my path at a party I gave in the early Sixties, I think I was doing a lot of freelance work for MacMcillan which had dreams of putting the most difficult texts on U.S. drug store shelves, and the name Villacana arises from the depth of a murky recollection, a devilish little fellow who was one of the organizers I think of that McMillan venture which succeeded I think at least in putting all of Freud out in quality paperback, I think it was he who brought a sturdy and chunky young woman dressed in fatigues who was said to have been in the Sierra Maestres with Fidel and Che. I might have spent a little time in Alaska, but for jungle warfare especially in the tropics, I was merely semi-tough.
In the instance of the other writers or whatever I’d meet at Elaine’s – how many of them did I really get to know? I knew Fred Seidel pretty well, as a poet, via Frank, prior to Elaine’s, but Frank represents the major link in my life to Elaine’s and that world. Without that link it is most unlikely that I would ever have set foot at her place or have made friends or become acquainted with some of the folk there, although I would have got to know Bruce Jay Friedman’s work and, possibly, Bruce personally from the occasional visit he paid his agent Candida Donadio when I worked first as scout and then as agent for Suhrkamp Verlag and some other, smaller German publishers, out of the Lantz-Donadio Agency from 1969 to 1971, but the fact that I knew some of Bruce’s work even in manuscript and knew what he looked like at Candida’s would not have led to Elaine’s unless we had become friends outside of Elaine’s. I can’t off-hand think of another person there aside Frank or Fred whom I knew outside those ranks who might have urged me, or taken me there. There were plenty of fine restaurants midtown to which to take German authors. Once I lived downtown in Tribeca, most of my authors belonged there far more than uptown, for sure.
Each of the original dirty dozen at Elaines - aside of what apparently trouped north with her from her Village restaurant Portofino days - must have similar linkages, and brought a train in their wake, if they had a train, with them to Elaine’s – in my instance a lot of German authors, a lot of girlfiends. One American author, Michael Brodsky, but only because I needed him as a buffer for the sinister Handke; one Australian, Wilfred Burchett, but only because it was a good place to meet with other journalists, but I did not take Sam Shepherd there, who what with his inflated inferiority complex to “big people” would probably have become a regular who would have caused a lot of havoc, he may have come later on his own. A really good downtown friend, an once UPI writer Jim Stratton, whom I got to write Pioneering in the Urban Wilderness when I was co-publisher of Urizen Books – it would not even have occurred to me to bring Jim. Jim did not have a demi-monde, he was part owner of one of my two stalwart downtown bars, Puffy’s, a forever gear in the downtown progressive Democrats. Marvin Cohen – I loved Marvin and ought to have taken him there it occurs to me, after all I took his friend Moira Hodgson, and Elaine would have cottoned to Marvin like the seedy son she never had, Marvin needed feeding. Hang him up among her coats, feed him. Marvin was a plant you could put anywhere in his seedy overcoat. Moreover, Marvin was really good company. If Frank had not been married to Patty with brother in law Fred Seidel who was married to Phyllis and was friends, at Harvard, with Nelson Aldrich, a part of the Rockefeller clan and a friend of George Plimpton’s… would Frank ever have set foot at Elaine’s? Perhaps. Probably. Since once success struck Frank started to be a fellow about town, usually in company of side-kick Sven Lukin. Frank was taken up by the likes of Mike Nichols, and dropped. I certainly was not ever someone who frequented the newest hot restaurant, or would even hear of it, jazz clubs, jazz nests, jazz holes in the wall - now that was an entirely other matter. Frank played at a few Village bars, Bradley’s on University Place, Bradley a most improbable Haverford grad that did, however, produce its share of odd fellows amongst its med and biz students and scientists. I well recall the embrace Art Blakey gave me at Bradley’s, like being crushed by a small mountain Gorilla, upon my telling him that, courtesy of Frank finding the 10 inch L.P. with the first Jazz Messenger record issues by Blue Note, around 1954, we had come to love him, and Horace, whom we all actually got to know quite well and whose career we followed, and who chased some Bryn Mawr girls around the Haverford-Bryn Mawr post graduation pad at 85th and Columbus.
I recall going to one truly fancy famous restaurant in New York during my entire 25 years there, and that was the Four Seasons, when I worked for Roger Straus [FSG-FOOTNOTE], to negotiate and finalize the second 10 book contract for Hesse, around 1968 or 9, with Joan Daves and big crude culture vulture Roger being a bit apprehensive at the sum of $ 50,000 he had committed for these titles - my modus vivendi that I figured might satisfy the greedy Suhrkamp/ Hesse clan and not be unbearable for Roger. When I lived at 55th and 6th Avenue I explored the nearby steak houses, Gallaghers and the like, but those were scarcely … on the Four Seasons scale, my standby in that area was the Stage Delicatessen. I think I did go to Luechow’s once and a famous steakhouse in Brooklyn, just for the look see of supposedly ancient atmosphere.
It must have been that I had called Frank Conroy in December 1965, fresh off the ship, still then the closest friend, soon after renting a shoe box of a room at the Chelsea, where I seemed to have Shanghaied this willowy daughter of a professor from Lawrence, Kansas. - Why the Chelsea occurs to me now - I knew no one there, never did get to know anyone there, don't think had ever been inside, the dreary lobby [then... still?] was disinviting, I had a vague sense that it was reputed to be inhabited by Bohemians, as a city walker had walked by and much liked buildings with turn of the 19th century facades of that kind.
Perhaps I got the cheapest shoebox of a room because the Chelsea was within a few blocks of where my then second closest friend, Michael Lebeck had his apartment – Frank and Michael would be the best men at my wedding within about a year, at Elaine’s, but had different literary interests – Michael Lebeck and his library lived at 19th and 8th Avenue in a fourth floor walk up in a brickish - that is, you couldn't tell for certain whether these were real bricks or merely tar paper pasties - non-descript six floor tenement complex. I had met Michael through Burton Pike because I was supposed to write a master’s thesis on Robert Musil and Burton was a Musil specialist, in 1960 shortly after coming to New York from the West Coast where I had been in graduate school at Stanford for two years and then nine months in Alaska as a fire fighter and assistant geological surveyor, before, that is, Michael lived in a Mews, one of those converted horse stalls, in Patchin Place, that had been E.E. Cummings’s at one time, opposite the lunatic Djuana Barnes’s mews whom I once visited to make a copy of Ryder for the German publisher I was working for, or was it after [?], and which mews stall would be Jerry Leiber’s dolls house in the early seventies, whom I first met at Elaine’s, before Jerry and wife Barbara Rose moved into a condominium in what I call “the Vougeria,” on East 57th Street... you get the point of a city constantly on the move, that is the Battleship Manhattan.
Michael Lebeck, with some private wealth, in 1964, was then still the publisher of Hillsboro Books and of the magazine Metamorphosis, which I and Fred Jameson edited, whose 3rd issue I had put to bed during that past year in Europe, specifically at the Königliche Hofdruckerij Minherr van Zee in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, where I not only learned, it was my first visit to such, to love printing plants, but Mijn Herr, one day after lunch, took me to survey the rolling acres upon acres of fields with white crosses, the fallen of General Montgomery's air assault at Arnheim in Fall/Winter of 1944 - tens of thousand of crosses, cemetery plains, lots of Canadians supposedly. Arnheim was of some significance to me. The first time I had seen German soldiers from up close was of what was left of a battalion that had fought at Arnheim and then walked been walked on bloody feet all the way to the outskirts of Bremen… where one fine morning looking out of from under the thatched reed eyebrow of the second floor room of our splendid house I saw these troops encamped - encamped? collapsed! all around distributed helter skelter splattered with their arms, machine guns, Panzer Fäuste, all over the slopes of the fir forest around our pond, allegedly to be employed in a last ditch effort in the defense of Bremen they would ditch their arms in the pond within the week as my cousin and child bride Nona and I dragged buckets upon buckets of water from the well - with the electricity gone the pump did not pump, rumor had it that toads blocked the pipes. It was a lovely 3rd issue, designed by Ralph Coburn, the MIT designer, in the finest modern type, it had a long interview with Uwe Johnson, the translation of Robert Musil’s novella The Portuguese Woman, a fine cross section of West Coast poets, courtesy of our West Coast editor, Michael Miller whom I had met through Gus Blaisdell, a life long friend to be until his death, too, did us part some years ago, whom I had met at Kepler’s book store on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, where I was in charge of a dorm at Menlo Park Junior College while working as a TA at Stanford in graduate school. Gus, a great reader, turned me onto quite a few writers, Terry Southern, Chester Himes, Revolutionary Road come to mind, news of whom I brought back to the East Coast with me, together with Gus, in early winter 1960, who had just left his first wife, in Aspen, and who would go through a half dozen wives in his life, and who later opened and eventually closed the Living Batch Bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I saw him last in 1986… with my last wife, Mary Lynn, “the Moose.” However, on my return from that all-important year-long stint in Europe, Lebeck - who had as fine a humanity education as Yale could offer and a slew of languages, who was an interesting poet and fine translator of Trakl - had begun to lift rocks in his head for a Sufi sect that had taken possession of him mind body and also of his checkbook. Michael was, had been one of those Poundians who had trekked to St. Elizabeth - I too had learned endlessly from Pound, or so I hoped, but not to a fanatical degree, I would take the best that was to be gotten there, and it was a lot. It happened to be Pound’s ABC of Reading had seized me – literally, during my contemplations, a friend from the fires, a Minnesota Swede, noticed, and was struck by my seriousness, as I contemplated all kinds of adventures to succeed the endlessness of the ones I had had in Alaska: conch diving in the South Seas, but I hated getting my head underwater, joining my famous great white hunter uncle at Safarilanda in Mozambique who at the time he left looked like an Albino chieftain - I don’t think I knew about that, or how could I have withstood joining the negative role model of my childhood? -; driving Nitroglycerine trucks in Venezuela - I also had seen one too many films!, I was a good enough shot, a good enough woodsman, I knew how to ride English and Western, I knew how to build a birch bark canoe, take down a tree, do leather work, whittle my own axe handle... sharpen one side of a double bit so I could shave with it? – well yes, but I never actually tried that; which is why due to that seizure in Fairbanks I had a magazine in no time once back East in New York and entered, backed into the far less perspicuous jungle of publishing in New York, and had befriended Michael and made one truly interesting friend through him, Robert Phelps, from whom I learned sides of American and English literature that would have remained obscure to me … udderwise Michael seemed to have some flakes for friends… which probably explains why Michael Lebeck [whom I used later as the translator for several Hans Erich Nossack books] also sold all his books, which, once regret set in, he tried to retrieve from the high-end used book shops. And I myself, after working as a scout for Seymour Lawrence in 1964, first for him at the Atlantic Monthly Press and then when he became editor in jefe at Knopf for one year, my first Frankfurt Book Fair, what a humbling event it was to enter those airplane hangars full of books, translating three Hesse novels, toward the end of my European stay, at my sister's in Pinner, London, doing a long interview with Peter Weiss in Berlin, whose work I knew well, which Partisan Review would do... [Sam Lawrence then published Peter Weiss’s prose, and Peter Bichsel]. I knew of no other angel for the magazine and was so destitute I could barely afford the shoe box at the Chelsea, its southern exposure - with a treasure trove of books in the large drawer beneath that window checked out of the NY City Public Library in the name of one Lane Dunlop, a fellow with exquisite taste not only in 18th century English literature – Villette comes to mind - but in French Surrealism, Soap, Amour Fou - whom I located, to tell him to get his books and give them back; and after Michael Lebeck had bequeathed his apartment at 19th and 8th to me and gone to live communally with his Sufis and raised and lowered who knows how many rocks in his head and I had lived at 19th and 8th Avenue for about a year before I married Ekaterina, Lane inherited that apartment, and for all I know he and its ineradicable huaraches may still be residing there while he translates wonderfully not just from the French but from the Japanese.
In a room next to my shoe box, that must have been even cheaper, a small square windowless space tucked into some corner of a building that on the inside felt more like the grotesque Barkley dorm at Haverford than any hotel I had or ever would be in, one day the door open I caught sight of a small dark haired half-nude girl, perhaps the incarnation of a Mesopotamian hussy who would do nothing but bite later on in life, who had been in steerage, too, on the QE2 and seemed to be fucking the entire crew and looked amazingly lascivious as her whole being beckoned, eager for more. Ultimately Manhattan seemed to be a QE 2 itself, or a La France, all twelve miles of it, steaming on forever in its own erotic course, and toward the end it seemed that everyone had fucked everyone.
Perhaps Fred Seidel was at Elaine’s as well that first night, a bunch of whose poems from what became FINAL SOLUTIONS I had put in the 2nd issue of Metamorphosis, that also featured a story by Michael Locascio, and Louise Bogan’s wonderful Valery translations. I sure was very belles letters in those days. Let’s say there were two dozen magazines of that kind at that time, and I hand-consigned it myself to shops all over Manhattan, now there are hundreds and every shool with a writing department has a magazine. I was well-read in poetry at that time, now the profusion is too extreme, especially if you focus as exclusively as I have been the past several score years on my analytic education and on Handke, and worthwhile endeavors they have been indeed.
Frank and Fred were brothers in law for having married the Ferguson sisters, Patty and Phyllis, poor sods. I liked Fred a lot for quite a few years, in about a year we would give a party for Peter Weiss, and I caught a glimpse of something I wanted to catch a few glimpses of but not more than that, whereas Fred seemed to be able to negotiate the littoral between the so-called literary establishment and his younger world, I don't think I had met yet Nelson Aldrich who was alleged to be the discoverer of this hole in the wall, and who had such a yen for a very sexy Carol Southern that he once urged me to mind my rare hounddog ways, for this group, presided over by a hefty lady and her amusingly gay partner, Donald Ward, son of a NY City cop and from a family of Irish saloon keeps, for Fred and his brother in law Frank and me and whoever we or I might bring, but chiefly for the Paris Review, for George Plimpton, whose esthetic I did not share, and rarely found of any interest aside its famous interviews, parochialism of a different kind, and him a wooden Indian, that was not my literature, however he certainly knew how to fund his publication, chacun sa gout, where Elaine's took out an ad for fifty plus years saying “Elaine's loves the Paris Review.” Well I suppose I would, too, if that crew kept coming to my joint. The idea of some Harvard strivers then trying to re-live the Paris of the 20s, I was baffled. Yes Mr. Hotchner, too, used to come by the big table, and I met Irving Shaw there who had prohibited my putting on his anti-war play Bury the Dead at Oakwood during the McCarthy years, From Here to Eternity stopped by, too, and I recall liking him. Norman Podhoretz I recall making one appearance, impish and funnee, we corresponded once many year later about Buzz Farber whom he had known from early on, no Buzz, had never been well, what with fear written all over his face, Norman Mailer’s sidekick, Buzz Farber is rumored to have taken a fall for Norman in a drug deal, and after he came out of jail committed suicice. I have not one bad word to say about Buzz, I liked him and his wife, superficial as the acquaintance was, entirely based on a few meetings at Elaines. At one of them he and his wife had someone along with whom I ended up for a delicious night in the Riverside Drive region. On the second date, the wench, as so many, had some marvelous grass that during our cab ride to the movie we were going to see turned us both into such satyrs that, during the drive through Central Park, I gave the driver $ 20.00 to park somewhere and go for a 20 minute walk. Subsequent to this carnal event, however, I at least turned stoned cold, and we did not even go home together, I felt so estranged. Thus I was always hesitant about smoking grass, it might turn me into a satyr, make me fall asleep, or leave me seriously dissociated.
However, if you look at the long list of names in the below “notes”: it’s a parade of ghosts at last. Dick the Prick, Paul Sylbert’s twin, I took the Kalich twins there when I was editing Bob’s THE HANDICAPPER which allowed a long deep look and acquaintance into what was called The Jewish Mob: yes, there at least used to be such a group but except for Robbie Margolis you couldn’t really tell them apart from the so-called legitimate operators. I met Normal Mailer at the publication party for STOP TIME at Frank and Patty’s place on Jerolamon Street in Brooklyn Heights, I was away in Europe for the party at Elaine’s, and, with time spent in Alaska, asked him how much he had spent there to be able to write so well about its flora in Why Are We in Vietnam; and unfortunately or not he gave me a true asshole of an answer, to the effect that soon he would be holding a press conference about his hunting adventures. I shook my head to indicate that that was not what I had in mind, but that was that. We kept being introduced at the Big Table and kept nodding at each other whenever our paths crossed. Our paths crossed several times in back of a second floor lamb chop joint called Frankie and Johnnies on East 43rd and 10th I think to which Jezebel had introduced me and to which I would take a series of beauties on the first date – you didn’t want to go to Elaine’s on a first date generally, it was too superficial and busy a place for getting a sense of what kind of trouble you might be getting yourself into, and I really loved a good set of lamb chops in those days. Carey C., for reasons that we had talked animatedly at the dinner party where we met was the exception to that rule. Carey, too, of the "would you want a cup of coffee" at midnight, the youngest daughter of an oil wildcatter who had been the richest man in Hollywood around 1940, Carey of the “sleepy eye," her mother starlet had graced the cover of Life Magazine at the inception of World War II. Carey, of the sleepy eye, at that time was in need of a new "beaux", as certain kinds of American girls have a new beaux the way their mothers change with the fashions, and the affair had a lightness that was welcome after the previous passion, a composer, had turned out to be a most unexpected mistake, the music might be deep but the person might be a stubborn harridan of the worst sort. [FN LAURIE]. For Carey sex was sportif, thus fidelity was not an issue. Sort of pathetically she kept reverting to a faggy boyfiend by the name of Flourescu, a Romanian of some kind. I kept editing her book for her, taking a lot of trouble over the text, it made little difference, and because I was somewhat in love loved the text more than it deserved to be. She seemed immune to intellectually difficult tasks, such as Adorno. But Carey was a lot of fun who was, then, slumming in SoHo, on Greene Street, before she bought the top floor of a conversion in the meat packing district, Gansevort, and placed a writer’s hut on top of it ~ yet the occasional weekend at her sister's penthouse on Park Avenue was agreeable. Much as I liked my downtown digs and urban pioneering ways, the occasional weekend at that penthouse when the sister and her husband were wherever, or at Leiber’s Vougeria on 57th Street, proved a pleasant surcease, although I couldn’t bear surrounds of that kind longer than a weekend at the time, I'd go stir crazy, and my favored residences, that corresponded to my Edgar Alan Poe side, aside unfinished or old wrecked lofts, were broken down castles and chateaus that I had been deposited in as a child, huge, and too large to get to know all its nooks and crannies. Carey wanted to be a writer and was not untalented, and for a rich girl had a nice way with money, drove a beat-up VW station wagon, but couldn’t handle some Clique champagne and the finest flake without throwing up. The author of "Daddy's Boy" eventually married a man 20 years older, Carey was a scared bird who didn't know where to flutter until back in Daddy's Nest, crushed and happy, the girl who was most likely to have no end of affairs then had none. But definitely a good sort. Our withdrawal from the affair was fairly mutual, thus there were no recriminationsm but a subsequent friendship.
Later I would use Nicola’s, when he had become independent, for the purpose of getting a drift of who I might be getting involved with, and also to stay in touch with him, whom I much liked and who I read, 15 years ago is it? died at the meat-axe that an enraged Puerto Rican employee of his struck into his chest. A whole set of wormholes there!
Norman Mailer was invariably ensconced in the far right hand, the north-west corner of a very long nicely cushioned bench, of Frankie and Johnnie’s, each time with a different beauty, and I would take the far southwest corner and either sit next to or face whatever beauty I was with. I recall one evening at Elaine’s when Mailer seemed to have been upset by a TV duel he had participated in behaving so badly in the Paul Desmond room that Elaine exerted him out of the premises, just with her big belly, push push push out you go fella, and Norman seemed like a pretty small fella by compare, cursing and shouting, but not pulling a knife.
If the way to powder rooms required a left turn after you took a right at Table 6, [i.e. Elaine’s apocryphal comment: “Take a right at Michael Caine.”] the kitchen, initially, required another immediate right and then extended back toward the street, a parallel section of that railway carriage, into what I notice the obits is called the “Paul Desmond” room where “Elaine’s” like Elaine herself gradually expanded horizontally, three parallel railways carriages it seems, and she owned the buildings! The way she eased out her forever bitter partner Donald Ward who, however, in 1981 once cooked a wonderful meal for a huge party I gave downtown, beef bourgenoin [SP?]. I am so glad that the best wit that graced Elaine's, Paul Desmond, as witty as his music, was memorialized in the fashion of having a room named after him, and not just on the Juke box which was not all that distinguished compared to some I came to know as I learned to “hang out.” Paul was the wittiest, perhaps the only real talking wit there, aside the person with the best one liners, Jerry Leiber, the three minute genius - Woody Allen ensconced at table 5 for years on end, huddled in his US Army coat, who seemed to keep staring at my profile my peripheral vision kept noting who tended to sit at the Siberian end of Table 4 with a view of the two big picture windows and the street and of the main entrance-exit, the Big Table when I came by myself, Woody didn’t seem to do much more than stare, observe, watch: the lepidopterist catching moths for his films, and a brilliant job of it he did. Having some experience with the sheiks of Araby and Shrinkdom in the long meanwhile, I must say that Woody kept a fine mask indeed, as he caught Jack Richardson so perfectly in a film, that wreck, was it “Manhattan”, standing in a doorway there he was captured for all eternity Jack in all his then decadence. Paul Desmond and I lived at opposite corners of Sixth Avenue and 55th Street as of 1966 and often shared a cab, and as editor at Continuum Books in the early 70s I wanted him to write his biography, but witty as Paul was – witty as a bird, you can hear it in his music, the bird in the nest still chirping, intact, twittering – he became entirely uptight, could not even write his liner notes, thus it would have taken many interviews, something I had become really good at editing down, to get his life on paper, but by then his lungs were ravaged: not just the strain of his art but longest coffin nail devised by the American cancer industry had taken their toll, the inadvertently so perfectly named Pall Malls. – Occasionally I have a Pall Mall in Paul’s honor! When I buy filtered small cigars! I had begun to make my first acquaintance with Pall Malls, in their long red pack, and with Camels, and Lucky Strikes and Old Gold and Chesterfields, all those distinctive packages, Lucky graphically the neatest, as a kind of pet of the OSS detachment in Bremen after WW II, in 1945, under whose protection our place and my family had come. You could buy a Leica or have a woman for a pack of cigarettes, or for a pound of “real” coffee – as compared to chickaree I suppose or whatever “unreal” wartime coffee had been. [These forever reference points, parameters.] The first time I tasted real coffee – I was willing to down a shot of whiskey and play drunk to be able to get a cup of real coffee to sober up! What an amazing fragrance. The first time I inhaled one of those cigarettes, a long butt picked up after the night time parties in the parterre had ended and Nona and I stopped gawking from our perch on top of the long set of stairs, at about the same age, I seemed to have to run for a quarter of a mile up hill of the clearing in the woods to recover from the shock to my lungs, to get my breath back. The “Schneise” of my first night mare! Paul Desmond’s wit twittered, the child bird lived in him that way, and I would go wherever he played, as he did often with Jim Hall, the guitarist. I had been listening to blues and jazz since Spring or early Summer 1945 with the opening of Radio of the American Forces, Bremen. The Warrant officer who ran the station had been part of the contingent of OSS and CIC men who had put off-limit signs around my parent’s small estate and came to party there, but was the only one who turned out to lack a sense of humor in playing with the children who had caught on to the fact that the “Amis” were wonderful to children and would play and wrestle with kids who hadn’t seen a male except grandfather figures for years on end. A shame that Elaine’s was not a jazz spot, like the Vanguard, the Half-Note at Spring and Hudson, with its meatball sandwiches, or their equivalents in Philly, The Blue Note, San Francisco or L.A. or Chicago that I had come or would get to know, or for that matter the Timberline in Fairbanks, which had a still in back where I had among other girl friends a black jazz singer while someone who claimed to be King Pleasure, [“James Moody, and you can blow now."] and he sure sang like that, too, and so perhaps he was Jefferson, claimed to be in love with me and where Edna Ferber allegedly wrote ICEBERG and where time stretched like the endless Alaskan summer days when you needed only four hours sleep and the sun only made believe it would set again before easing back up. It was certainly the most unexpected place to learn how to live an African-American life. How had they got there? They had built the Al-Can Highway, which was still unpaved when Rick Litterick and I drove up in our torpedo, a 1954 Nash Ambassador whose seats reclined into beds, and so you might get stuck for hours behind a truck carrying huge timbers throwing dust into your eyes and lungs, grinding along at 25 m.p.h. until you came on Whitehorse or Dawson City, or the driver needed to take a leak and you could pass. Lend-Lease, WW II, they had built it, later I saw news reels of it, true. I was still an Army dependent in the sense that I had P.X privileges which came in handy at the the Fairbanks Airforce base. Elmendorf I think is its name. On the fire only the crew chief, a tough Texas cutthroat as I recall him, of the 150 fighters, carried a gun, otherwise no end of mayhem. But the six man geological survey crew with its Professor of Geology, the Roadrunner [as he was known for being able to move across and through the two feet of moss and the scrub spruce and fir jungle at that comic book pace - later, in the Southwest I would see the actual roadrunner, which looked to be perhaps a Pheasant had decided it was easier to run than to fly on the desert floors] who had been an Army Ranger, allowed us to have all the guns in the world, but I never shot anything bigger than grouse which big fluffy chicken were the most delicious fowl I ever ate, they had been feeding on the profusion of berries that grow in Alaska in its brief but intense summer; and later, when only two of us were left, camped out 15 miles north of Fairbanks in the old Goldrush area, rabbits chewed on the willows in the frozen brooks, which is not a good diet since rabbits have no fat. We had our chances at no end of Meese [!], but always on the move it would have been a waste to kill a moose unless we could give the rest of the meat away. And there was no one to give meat to in the area we covered, or down the rivers we chuted on our rubber raft. We did not reach the Yukon where I had spent some time working with Indians on the fire and then been invited to a festival on the other side of the river, from Galena - not Koyukuk, but something like it. The Yukon is so wide there, I felt like Huck Finn crossing the Mississippi. One of the several girlfiends I happened into in Fairbanks, if she asked me to spend the winter in her cabin I might have stayed, Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading and all, but I was not her main squeeze, her main squeeze was a bona fide lumber jack earning big dollars a ways down the road in B.C. However, the way I happened on this g.f. is probably the most extraordinary way of ending up in bed with someone. I had returned from two months straight on two different fires, six weeks on a 20 k acre fire near the Galena jet interceptor base, that was the only size fire that a crew of 150 might be able to contain in that period of time; then 24 of us, four six man crews, had been flown, by banana helicopter, several hundred miles north, across the Yukon and a 3 million acre burn of a year past, that had never been contained except at certain critical spots, such as a village along the Yukon, into the Brooks range, to a lightning fire within that burn, but the smoke jumpers had come ahead of us and scatchen it out, so the fire never penetrated down into the one green valley or one of the few green valleys that the previous years mammoth fire had spared, and so all we had done was read and toss a line with a fish hook and a salmon egg across our shoulder and pulled in another Greyling [a kind of trout], and could not be airlifted back out, because it was now the middle of August and the Brooks Range starts to be fogged in by that time of year, summers are short and intense. So by the time the Goose lifted off with us, the same model that had crashed into the trees during the mile of water it takes/ took for this ancient craft to become airborne, this crew had not had a shower for 8 weeks and our pores with dirt, with the first fire’s residue, and so we spent a lot of time in some very intense steam rooms to get clean, and then there was a party and I was sitting on the floor and a bushy bear of a dog, the kind I would have later on in downtown Manhattan, a Wooly Bear of dog, part Lab, part Collie came up level to my face, and I am someone who has been talking to animals since childhood, so I said a friendly “woof” to him, whereupon he, however, did not woof back but took my face in his jaws, leaving a small gash above my right eye, which is how its owner, Alma, decided to play nurse, and not only was this the most unusual way I have ended up in bed with a woman, but Wooly Bear decided to bark as long as we made love, and although this did not seem to bother Alma, I never got used to such fervent expressions of jealousy; having been bitten once I imagine I was afraid I might be bitten elsewhere, but all Woolly Bear the First did was bark and bark and bark and all my ardors did nothing to displace the faraway main squeeze. There are no jobs in that part of the world in winter, my apprentice papers as a tile setter were of no use, I was offered a job by the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, but only because its editor misheard Harvard for Haverford, as their reporter who would spend one week at a time at one Indian Village and then to give his write-up to the pilot who would take him to the next village, and if I had not spent that one night and day at the festival in a village across from Galena and witnessed what transpired when my great hunter friends from whom I had learned so much on the fire were like after they had taken the outboard and their ten days earnings [after ten days they started to drift away] to the one village that sold liquor I probably would have taken the job, and if I had survived the experience might have become an anthropologist. But because I had seen what happened after a night of drinking and dancing to the same song - “You ain’t nothing but a Hound Dog” - in the all purpose meeting and dance hall church I might have. Instead I went to yet one more party, by this time it was the middle of November, whereas the temperatures were - 20 F when the Roadrunner had pulled his last two surveyors out of the snow and ice 15 miles north of Fairbanks, who hated each other at that point, and went off in opposite directions during the four hours of daylight, on snowshoes, to dig, what?, I always with a wolf about a hundred yard off who would pick me up about a quarter mile outside our Army tent by the frozen creek - thus I always carried my 30/30 rifle with me and the shovel, and some fried rabbit, but of course I hadn’t the faintest what the wolf was up to, perhaps he was in love with me, perhaps he had been raised by one or the other panners who still were in the area in the summer, and he wanted to be my pet - the temperature was about -40 outside but heated up on Chena Ridge [the Chena River runs through Fairbanks] where there was a fine drop-out scene - have you seen McCabe and Mrs. Miller? - You went to Alaska in the summer because the pay was so good because you had to live all year from what you earned, and then you might go to Ibiza as quite a few fire fighters did, or you might spend the winter on Chena Ridge, partying, partying very hard. This was about the third party I attended there, and the parties were getting wilder. For amusement in Summer people went to court in Fairbanks to attend to yet another cabin fever trial, so and so had burst in, in flagranti: two years! The next day I gave my guns to Ma and Pa from Montana who maintained a camp near the forest fire h.q.; sold the Nash Ambassador [Rick had gone on a fire sooner than I, he was a Stanford medical student and mountain climber, and had got off his fire long before I returned, and I imagined him on Annapurna, but this fine strapping fellow died under far less illustrious circumstances: while giving lesson in rock climbing near Palo Alto the boulder on which he was illustrating his craft tumbled and crushed him]. Since the camp and the H.Q were on Airport Road, it was but a mile to the departure; there went my fantasy of driving back south on the Al-Can on compacted snow. I had suddenly been spooked. As I may have said, I used to be merely semi-tough and felt most comfortable at places where time stretched, as of course it occasionally did also at Elaine’s, the night stretched, and did it ever stretch sometimes during those early years into the early morning closing time and the greasy spoon across the street – it required a fair amount of nonchalance or loneliness not to tear yourself away, for such ease to set in, during the night into the early hours, and of course it is the most natural thing in the world that in the course of the passage of such lengths of time you get a real feel for the place, and that you look forward or dread the appearance of certain familiar faces in that comparative timelessness of sitting at the Big Table or its regions having your dinner and this or the other regular sitting down and you introducing each other or Elaine doing the honors.
If Jerry Leiber or Frank Conroy were the persons I looked most forward to at Elaine’s during my early years there, the person I dreaded was Bob Brown, which put me, and perhaps him as well, into an especial quandary, for we shared a really close friendship with Paul Sylbert, so it wasn’t as though I or he could sit at another table if he or I were the only one’s at Table 4, and he and I kept making these hopeless attempts to talk, or to play chess. I had the same initial reaction to Bob as I had had - the first time I noticed that intestinal reaction in myself - when I encountered a pair of future major criminals at Gus Blaisdell's home in 1959 in Palo Alto. I froze and could say very little. I had the same reaction when I happened to hitch a ride from Eric’s across the street with someone who was going downtown - it turned out to be the murderer that William F. Buckley had helped get out of jail, and who later murdered again. Later, Brown once asked me to see his shrink who wanted someone to opine on some German expressionist paintings that the shrink owned and was planning to sell and the shrink confided what a good shrink ought not to, that Brown was a hard case. Some kind of frozen narcissism would be my guess now that I know a little bit more about matters like this, the way he held his profile to the assuaging light that flowed through the mantles that Elaine had placed over the small candelabras that lined the length of her establishment and that lent a pink glow to the decaying faces of her clientele. Bob Brown for a few years there was the fiction editor at Esquire and published a lot of stories by his friend Bruce Jay Friedman from Elaine’s, and other friends there, talking about making it easy on yourself. When I had had Metamorphosis I had got know and much liked for the interest he took, his predecessor, Rust Hills, and then Brown’s successor, Gordon Lish, who kept expressing interest in the work of some of the German writers I represented, Peter Weiss, Peter Handke, but never bought any of the goodies I sent him. Bob Brown, for a few years, was an editor at Dutton Books, courtesy of his friendship with its editor Hal Charlotte, but I recall I don't think he acquired a single book he liked at a time that I did at least a dozen per year. Bob received an inheritance of some kind and so had no need to hustle or whatever and seemed like a thorough waste of oxygen in this world, a Swartmore graduate too, and Fieldston, I think. I had worked with his brother Jeff, who keeled over on a street with a heart attack a few years back, who had been Candida Donadio's assistant and who seemed alive, and whom I liked and who was interested in writing. I had no such intestinal hang-ups about him. Jeff, too, derived from that curious world of New York magazine editors who kept shuffling among these publications. Bob knew a few Goethe poems, the extent of his knowledge of German literature. A wasted life best as I could tell, he and Paul had met in the Army and been in Korea together. Paul, much later, would write a fine set of stories about his years on that Peninsula that, best that I know, have never found a publisher. During the period 1966-86 I translated and published a fair number of quite interesting and important authors and was reading, privately, intensely, Roman Jakobson, Naom Chomsky’s linguistics, and if I saw myself operating as an operator of some kind it was as the Commissar during revolutionary times in Viktor Shlovsky’s Sentimental Journey, guerilla style as it were, I felt like a cuckoo, yes call me “Commissar Cuckoo”, who might lay this or that egg in this or that nest… that was my way of doing good, of getting a few good things published. However, in retrospect, worm-eaten as my memory may be, I do not recall any interest among Elaine's attendees, Frank Conroy is the exception since our relationship on that level was deeper and of long standing and not confined to Elaine's, Elaine’s was irrelevant to my keeping Frank informed of my interests, Uwe Johnson, Enzensberger, Walter Benjamin, Handke... Frank really cottoned to Benjamin, and Peter Handke. I gave Frank the collected works of Wallace Stevens, I think as a wedding present, the man who later in life would boast that he had read everything worth reading by the time he entered college was unaware of Stevens at that point. I showed Frank an early version of the translation of The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and he hustled himself a review of the book in the New York Times Book Review which made it evident [to me] that he had not reread it since I managed to get the translation up to snuff. Frank had a bit of a hustler, you notice as much reading Stop-Time halfway closely, and eventually turned politician, for Urizen’s sake I became a bit of a hustler too; and would not have had to had my killer instinct been so inhibited. Politician? I don’t think so, unless my finding just compromises, which scarcely ever succeeded, can be counted as a politician’s ways.
I don't think you wanted to attend the Big Table and its surround if you wanted to be able to address even the cruder points of writing. In the last few decades, what with my intense correspondence with Paul, it turned out that he had been involved in theater before he turned to film and that Brecht had become important to him. If he had been more often in New York I might have taken him to the early Handke productions there and he might have a better sense of my point that Handke is one of the main successors of Brecht, that is if theater is actually important to you as the oxygen that you breathe, instead of yet another distraction, amusement. During the late 60s I translated the early Handke plays and perforce for lack of interest in them in NY theater first had a wild little pick up troupe doing readings at a lot of venues that paid a $ 100 or so for our efforts and then Handke was done at the HB Studio and then at B.A.M. and Lincoln Center, and I worked with the director Peter Brook who wanted to do KASPAR. If I talked to anyone at Elaine’s about that but for Conroy or Leiber? I may have of course, but don’t recall, but I do recall that not a single of those attendees went to any of those performances. The Ride Across Lake Constance - I went every night of its five week run, if only for a ten minute hit of the wondrous lifting of the weight of the world it provided.
Was I myself especially interested in what the other writers there were writing? Sure. I read Gay Talese’s books and I imagine I conveyed my admiration. I read and enjoyed Bruce’s books. It took Jack Richardson forever to get his book on gambling done, but am drawing a blank on whether I liked it or not. I did like Jack a lot despite a unique quality that I kept testing of being utterly self-involved and taking and never giving back.
On those long nights into the early morning whence you might hit the greasy spoon across the street at 4 a.m., over the course of time you got a feel for what Elaine’s as you would of any other place that you spent that much time in. However, running into this from the blog that the NY Times had upon Elaine Kaufmann’s passing: “ I was in her place sporadically over the years. It was a good restaurant for people and drinks, not so much for food, though food was plentiful there. (Ms. Kaufman, if she knew you, was often game to sit and eat half your portion.) Elaine’s was a writer’s room. My father had gone there a lot when I was a child, a lawyer out late with his writer friends, and I suppose I wanted to experience the same excitement he seemed to hint at on mornings after: the proximity to hilarity and intelligence you get when you’re eating not very good black-bean soup three seats away from Gay Talese or Woody Allen, the poet Fred Seidel, the late, great Frank Conroy. The stories you hear… There was a terrific one that went around about Steve Dunleavy, the New York Post columnist, coming out of Elaine’s late one winter night with an heiress and stumbling with her into a snow bank, at which point a plow came by and clipped his foot, breaking it. Pete Hamill, then of the Daily News of New York, was said to have said, “I hope it was his writing foot...”…is a wonderful, and it appears, sincere instance of the degree to which the superfices of charisma can feed a weakfish ego. But if, say, you were the wife or close enough friend, of any of these worthies, you would be singing a more chiaroscuro song of them. And that they had the occasional bon mot or witticism among them would only feed and not even that for very long. Or for that matter…
I recall three instances of violence at Elaine’s, one is by hearsay and it involves a fight between Mailer and Jerry Leiber, and some broken sheet rock, and it appears to have centered on Buzz Farber whom Leiber allegedly helped get a gig photographing or writing about bullfighting in Spain for CBS but who returned with photos of himself in front of said bull, and arm wrestling I think.. I wish I could imitate the way Leiber, an inimitable story teller, tells or used to be able to tell that hilariousness… I don't think Elaine pushing Mailer out of her store counts as violence, more as an instance of opera buffo humor. The second was when I saw Willie Morris assault friend Tom Buckley from behind. Buckley was sitting with Marianne Madden on Table 6, I was at Table 5, and Morris got up from Table 4 to do his dastardly act. I well recall that crude, drunken, wide face of someone who looked like the quintessential redneck, and as he hit Buckley I shot up and hauled out to hit Morris whom I only knew by sight and whose face brought out all my hatred of certain kinds of Southerners. As I was about to slug Morris, Nicola, my favorite waiter, and the maitre de, did a flying tackle lunge on me… saying, ever so correctly, "you're supposed to stop a fight, not make it worse."
The third involved me and an author of mine when I was co-publisher of Urizen Books [1975-1981] whom I had brought to Elaine’s to meet his vis-a-vis from the days in Vietnam, Wilfred Burchett, Grasshoppers and Elephants, the year must be 1977 or 1978. It was a good evening at the Big Table, I recall Tom Buckley, David Halberstam, David Arnett but forget the other journalists who had showed up to meet the fabled war correspondent who had fed them the inside dope from inside the Vietcong tunnels and whom the US Army had sent parachuters to find because they figured if they found Wilfred they would find the Vietcong Headquarters, which was always on the move. The evening went well until Rupert Murdoch’s henchman from the NY Post, Steve Donleavy [of “Son of Sam Sleeps” fame and many infamies] showed up and made it a miserable evening with his taunting and anti-communism. Apparently Elaine had seen a photographer for the NY Post lying in wait outside the main entrance and so, as Wilfred and his darling Bulgarian peasant wife and I made to leave, Elaine indicated I might want to leave through what is now the Paul Desmond room, which then was still the kitchen, and as I made the mistake of following her suggestion, Donleavy, followed by his photographer, burst into the kitchen entrance from 2nd Avenue, Donleavy pushed me aside against the wall to make room for the photographer to get a clean shot – however, the NY Post did not run a photo captioned “Tortured of Korean GI’s Leaving Elaine’s through the Kitchen Entrance” as they had put a photo of very pudgy looking Wilfred on their cover the day of his “arrival in NY,” a matter that worried me until Hoving, who was doing the White House Press at that time, told me that as far as they were concerned Wilfred had been one of the go-betweens during the peace talks with Uncle Ho, and the rest seemed to be a lot of old, bad Australian blood. I didn’t take kindly to being pushed, as others intervened. Did I call the cops? who put everybody back in their place. Having been pushed I had cause for an action and swore out a charge and Wilfred supplied some wonderful details about Donleavy's doings in Asia, breaking legs, gouging eyes, biting off of ears - the sort of thing that I imagine was a matter of course for any old Kiwi rugby player. At court, Part I, Leonard Street we were the first to be called that morning of the it seemed thousand, a veritable sea of cases waiting to be heard. The judge said he would give me no more than a conviction on the order of a ticket for not covering a garbage can, a detail I much liked in the context, and for that I would have to get everyone at Elaine’s who had witnessed the event to court, three times, or I could just read what I knew about Donleavy into the record; and so I did and Donleavy disputed none of it, but as we walked out, Donleavy and his NY Post lawyer, I by myself, it turned out Donleavy had a sense of humor as he asked whether I wasn't glad that he’d not gouged my eyes or bitten off an ear. He weighed I'd say 185 pounds, and a welter like me wouldn't have had a chance. But it made for a memorable incident, and only Jane Perlez, a fellow Aussie, when she edited the Soho Weekly News, took note. But I am glad that at least this Rupert henchmen has a sense of humor, at least this one. I forgive a lot for a good incident in that case.
Back to Norman for a moment: I was fairly amazed to read not long ago what with his and his wife’s passing that he had had an eight year affair with the once model Carol Mallory. I had met Carol in Paris – don’t ask me how, I don’t think anything but hypnosis would find the link – I loved Paris more than any other city, I never felt lonely there, the city sufficed. I had spent Spring 1957 there and Ionesco at the Theatre la Huchette and the Berliner Ensemble doing Brecht’s Mother Courage and some plays at the TNP had been the high points, I know the French publishers I did business with: Edition de Minuit, Gallimard, de Seuil, 10/18 Christian Bourgeois, Edition Laffont whose daughter Isabelle, if only she had also not been lonely as soon as she was back in Paris, during the 70s. I saw Handke in Paris perhaps half a dozen times, as the agent for Suhrkamp I had to deal with a florid madman by the name of Mel Fischman or Fleischman, one of the producers of the film Steppenwolf with which the agency actually had nothing to do, but I did see him a few times at a great oyster house on the Boul Miche. In the late 70s I had a girlfiend who studied in Paris for half a year… no connection comes to mind how I might have been invited to Claude and Ms. Mallory’s apartment. I did not go to clubs or dance halls in Paris. Girlfiend Carey tried to hook me up with one of the Watson IBM heirs but when this ugly girl asked me up “for a cup of coffee” I did what I did when that was all I might have wanted: I talked and talked and talked until I got kicked out, and there went another chance to put Urizen Books on a sound financial basis, perhaps. Yes, I had met Carol when she was living with a Picasso son, Claude is it? in one of those huge, marvelous, cavernous, mysterious, dimly lighted Parisian high-ceilinged 19th century apartments, it was a tough call whom I liked more, the apartment or her, the apartment certainly was more intriguing, Carol’s sexuality was very much up front [as the dream has it: “from room to room, from womb to womb” - the allusion is to the German word “Frauenzimmer” which can refer to a room as much as to a woman: woman-room, preferably wooden, madera!], we were attracted to each other, I sensed the end coming between her and Claude. However, when we found ourselves, in the 70s just the two of us, alone at the Big Table, late at nite, she as luscious as ever, I happened to have heard that she was getting over the clap, and so when she proposed that I might want to join her “for a cup of coffee” at her place – I begged off: I had had one too many cases of the clap, the first had proved to me, in retrospect, that I had a hysterical side, but then you sort of got used to those ladies who announced that they had it when they came into your life, but it was the “Park Avenue Ladies” who proved least knowledgeable about the wages of promiscuity in that great ocean liner, HMS Manhattan as she steamed from one steamy night into the other; the so-called “surfer’s clap” that had started out as the “’Nam Clap” and became the “Subic Bay clap” and then “ski bum clap” as it traveled East, was the toughest to shake. Even then Carol was said to be writing or have written a book about all the men she had slept with. It was written all over her body how much she loved to fuck, just on the verge of being gross. However, all that fucking did not seem to make her happy, she was in AA with Jerry Leiber, who downed half a bottle of brandy a night and got himself a serious case of an acidy esophagus as a result, reflux, which he hated to have mentioned, and the rep of “Mr. McNasty” on the Venice Beach boardwalk! I could easily have done nothing but make love to one beautiful woman after the other and been in several heavens all my life long if they were also half-way smart… or very smart and half-way good-looking, and since Boris “Policeband" Pearlman, a really close downtown friend, whom I truly miss, remarked, correctly, that I was male slut and there were few women I would not find something beautiful, wide ranging editors with far ranging tastes are promiscuous also in all respects... but could also be entirely abstemious... but it was also a question of money, a lack thereof can keep you out of a lot of a certain kinds of trouble that impetuousness might lead you into.
Norman had meant, half seriously I suppose, to change the consciousness of the age, but only managed, as far as I could tell, make love to no end of women and to take up far too much space in the literature and society pages. What he wrote was always interesting, in some way, but never great, if you want a writer who can actually alter your consciousness, at least during the reading of his texts or the experience of his plays, that would be Peter Handke; that, I’m afraid, is all there is in the forever historical lethargy of the species, “all she gets,” but it is a great deal as you experience plays like The Ride Across Lake Constance or The Hour we Knew Nothing of each Other, or read, say, the world being remagicked verbally and the last hundred pages of Crossing the Sierra del Gredos. Heartless as Handke himself could be in some ways, he knew the heart of those realms.
In the 70s some literary agents started showing up at Elaine’s, I recall Robert Datilla, Peter Miller, bright chaps it seemed, and Ron Hobbs who became a friend, but is either dead or, anyway, no longer has a literary agency. I got him and another African American friend, who had been a commissioner under Lindsay, Ben Patterson, to start a Black Literary Foundation - at about the time that Urizen Books was going down, 1981, aside my idea they also wanted some money to fund their foundation, when I really had no money at all. However, a number of authors and books were developed, came out of acquaintances with friends I made at Elaine's. When no one wanted to do Paul Sylbert’s FINAL CUT, his story of a Hollywoood producer decimating his film The Steagle , I was able to take it on at Continuum Books. Paul being so design oriented came up with a fine meat cleaver photo and cover design, what a fun author to work with, smart, quick, funnee fiery. For reasons to be explored I am drawing a blank on the party Continuum gave for him. Paul told me that John Simon came, not enough to jog my memory, it would have been 1974, have no end of other memories of that year, also relating to Elaine’s. My memories frequently also feature women – so I did not meet a woman at that party? I don’t forget many parties either, since I never went nor gave that many during my years in New York. I expect David Newman was there, whom I came much to like at Elaine’s and a couple of whose parties I attended, but David is no longer with us either. Who was Paul affianced to at the time? Turns out he was still married to Anthea, according to him it was a night time party, and a friend whom he had forgotten to invite crashed, that is the extent of Paul’s memory of a party which appears to have sigued into the usual evening at Elaines. He was still married to Anthea and not yet with Cathy Greene before marrying the so-well named Ambrosia. It’s hard for me to believe that I might have missed such an event. I do recall the screening of The Steagle. When a henchman of the producer whom the book had savaged gave the book a nasty pre-review I wrote the henchman’s organ a letter, and Werner Linz, Publisher of Seabury Press, with Continuum its secular wing, came down on me like a ton of bricks. I wasn't quite ready yet to call it quits at his shop after two years. Why was he a publisher: he was excellent at schmoozing with the Bishops. He had got a hold of Herder and Herder and sold it out from Frank Schworer to McGraw-Hill. However, when he suddenly nixed my project, already signed, to do what became Collier Books Leiber/ Stoller BABY THIS WAS ROCK AND ROLL, I had put in no end of time interviewing and researching, I did not tell him that I'd take the first chance to get off the boat. [More about Linz at the Urizen Footnote] BABY then sold about 75 k copies for Collier, it wasn't the low down dirty scrap book I envisioned, and at Urizen Books I then got the left-over 5 thousand copies to distribute.
At that time – from 1973, after returning from a half year’s trip half way around and back the world on the “Hellenic Splendor” until the founding of Urizen Books in Spring 1975 - I was living on the Rockaways, near Rijs Park, by the Atlantic Ocean, after six months of clean air I did not want to expose my lungs to more of Manhattan's, I could not bear the NY air after six healthy months at sea. I'd drive to work two or three times a week, I had a yellow Firebird convertible with traction bars that I failed to tie up and that occasionally scraped the pavement until one of them caught the cover of a manhole cover once upon a pot hole on West 15th Street [I took the Blaupunkt Radio and gave the car to the garage on the same block] and then an MGB convertible until I no longer needed a car once Laurie and I took a loft on Duane Park in 1975 and she had a Renault Station wagon in which she could transport her electronic equipment,, I’d have a snooze at the Continuum office, at 43rd and Lex, and head to Elaine's for dinner prior to heading back or spending the night – straight through Brooklyn, a rough ride down Flatbush, not taking the Belt or BQE, with one or the other beauty. And prior to Judith T. entering my life and I her’s early in 1974, and the return of some calm and sanity in that respect, there was a series of tempestuous and dangerous affairs, some but not all traceable to encounters at Elaine's. Judith became the “great fondness” [see Judith Footnote] – and I knew how to give writers space since I myself felt so easily trapped and imprisoned. But I am uncertain whether I ever took her to Elaine’s. If I did, it seemed not to have made for a memorable evening. Judith always watching... writer... After I had read her OUT OF AFRICA I said I figured she would win the prize, and I liked the book a lot but for the chapter on 19th century romanticism about which, however, I did not know more than she did. I even teared up at the end of the book – this was around 1983 I was in a tearful state of mind in general.
FOURTH WEAVE & WOOF
I recall that first evening at Elaine’s not just because Frank and I both danced with my willowy friend in her corduroy skirt from silken Kansas, a state I had occasion to get to like [FN-Kansas] … but because at the end of the evening of my first night at Elaine’s – we must have been in Frank’s car or shared a cab - Frank followed Christine and me up to the fourth floor at the Chelsea and it seemed wanted to follow us to my room… and, as I was gently turning him in that huge dormitory-like hallway in an easterly direction, he explained that Christine would make love to him… which I did not doubt then nor now considering not how easy, but how flower-child like passive this innocent beauty had proved to be… and if it had been the late 70s in that huge Orgon box known as Tribeca where you could surf from one pair of breasts to another I would not have most gently directed my then still sweet friendliest of lanky Irish wolf-hound friends in that other direction.
There were instances during my colorful Mexican colored “blue and orange blazer” period [see anon] where I would pick up one date but end up in bed with an entirely different woman, when girls would just follow me,say from the MUDD, waifs, with whom I might just cuddle, but
how to get another waif out of the loft; or, one night, I took Collette to Puffy's and she went somewhere for ten minutes but I left with Lisa
the hippie barmaid, Collette a bit distraught, yet I promised to spend New Year's eve with her...Really, what I remember most was how sweet a man Frank was at that point. Frank had been unfaithful while engaged, with someone I would later have a complicated ricochet affair with, Pamela W., who derived from a building next to his on East 86th Street, and within the year of his marriage, with a blonde from Bryn Mawr, Joanne, and I had been his foil, and with caring so deeply for Patty might have given that matter further thought, as might beauties who are having affairs with married men who will not leave their wives, but I deferred when that beauty, Joanna is her name, she had a Brigitte Bardot body but not the face to go with it, had wanted to also fuck me, on a ferry no less, it would have been too complicated and have endangered the friendship, besides the girl instantly agreed to my suggestion that she was doing what she wanted only as a way of staying close to Frank, who, I told her, would never leave Patty – I did not consider whether Patty might give Conroy the heave; and if Joanna had suggested that she wanted to fuck and be close to both of us I would certainly have assented. That is the girl of MID-AIR, and as Frank would tell me the last time I saw him, in 1986 in D.C. the affair lasted three years. So by the time he met me and Christine D. at Elaine’s in December 1964, he was having who knows how many other affairs. Girls hung all over Frank when he played the piano, as he did so joyously, so it wasn’t entirely his doing. One night as he was going to drop me off at what had been Michael Lebeck’s place in Chelsea we happened on two Filipino girls – am I imagining them on motor scooters? - and Frank and I then ended up going out with the pretty one of the two; one time, going to pick her up – to go to a Mets ball game? - it took her rather a long time to open up the door to her apartment: Frank had to be concealed in a closet I found out later. This was a French film with a certain kind of Rolling Stones score about Puerto Rican girls. Fidelity but to his arts proved not to be Franks strong suit at that time, but that, too, changed if we read one of the stories in Mid-Air, the one that describes his withstanding the temptation that one of his students represented - my wife at the time, Marylin M. when she read it commented that it seemed to be a story about the girl that got away. I did not bother to explain to “the Moose” as MM was known [I was her Wolfie, and we were living in a fix-me-up hunting lodge at 8 1/2 thousand feet in Penasco Canyon in Billie the kid country] that you really had to appreciate Conroy’s love of love making to appreciate how painful such a withdrawal from further hound-dogging must have been for him. Eventually all this friendly early sheepdog love-making would have an earth quake of a consequence for him. Besides, New York Manhattan was really tough on marriages, in that milieu.
Subsequent to that first evening in December 1966 my recollections bring up a night at which Elaine moved me from Siberia to the Big Table, where I knew one or the other, and the nite, in February 1965, at the end of which Elaine exclaimed “What do you know, I’ve got it made!” Prior to that I would occasionally just head to Elaine’s after dropping off some galleys and picking up a new set at the job my friend, the Trotskyite novelist Daniel Gordon, had got me at the Columbia Pictures reading service. This service had first dibs on the galleys that publishers sent out to Publisher’s Weekly, the industry organ that has some significance in that business for running the initial reviews on the basis of which buyers at the chains and bookstores base their initial impression. Columbia Picture was interested in first dibs on stories that might be made into films. Thus, for between $ 50 and $ 75.00, depending on the length of the book, the reader for the service would render a one page critique, sparing Publisher’s Weekly that expense, but for some editing, and Columbia Pictures got a rough present tense, as I recall, story outline, if the book contained a story; we read both fiction and non-fiction. And so I read and ate in Siberia once or twice a week for some months. I was so broke, what with Lebeck having gone Sufi, that I lacked the funds to send out most of the printing of Metamorphosis’ last issue once it arrived from Holland. The fellow to whom and his wife I had given the huge Haverford-Bryn Mawr apartment at 85th and Columbus, a friend of my friend Robert Phelps who had a wife with child, had put my library of then about 500 books into storage, at my expense, and I lacked the funds to retrieve them. Those were books I had been accumulating since high school and college and graduate school and three years working at the edge of publishing in New York. A grievous loss.
I sat in Siberia, eating and reading, until the day that Elaine hauled me to the Big Table, she felt I belonged there, the first friend I made there was Jack Richardson but I already knew him as I did some of the others, I was more on the retiring than the pushy side, and I don’t think that what I had heard so far at the big table was all that fascinating, there was a fair amount of one upmanship, and Jack, it turned out, was the master of the Big Table, where he held forth most volubly and in stentorian tones.
Jack and I connected for his knowing some German and having spent a Fulbright year in Munich and writing one play, an anti-Sartre play was it?, while snowbound. Jack got stuck at Thomas Mann and is supposed to have been Elaine’s favorite playwright, which makes me wonder how many plays, if any, Elaine, went to see, did she attend matinees? The Obits quote her as saying she was taken to plays, for that one play of Jack’s did not do the trick, Herb Gardener showed up at Elaine’s too, a pleasant enough man I recall,
so did Arthur Kopit
whom I think of as the male version of Wendy Wasserstein, although he was not that bouncy although the success of Oh Dad and of Indians [see anon] made you wonder not just about the public’s taste. By far the greatest playwrights that ever set foot at Elaine’s were the two that I brought, Peter Weiss and Peter Handke, who is the successor to Brecht in what he has done dramatically; unless Sam Shepard came on his own. Which also makes me wonder whether Elaine read any or how much of the books of the author’s that frequented her joint and whose covers adorn the walls… She read the reviews I know because once I became co-publisher of Urizen Books in 1975 she said one night, “I’m sure you’re going to make it,” which was an estimate that could have been based on nothing but reading the reviews of the books I published [which were amazingly fair, yes how fair people in the industry had been to the first little firm to head way downtown], or having the reviews read to her, certainly not based on knowledge of the conflicts between Urizen’s principles which eventually would drive me nuts and a too late resort to a legal beagle; or Urizen Books frequent dire economic straits. [FN-URIZEN] With respect to Elaine’s the pain I was in by 1980 and the relief dear Dr. Marc Vechsler prescribed, who kept half of the downtown artists alive, made me so loose with my checkbook that Elaine eventually started to frown, and I behaved so crazily and became so charged up with the notion that no matter what I could do it all alone that I actually managed to drive Schulz crazy, who had drive me crazy, not that his dastardliness wasn’t a form of ultimate stupidity. But as Ödon von Horvarth observed, there is nothing like stupidity to give you a foretaste of eternity. Carey wondered afterwards how I could be so calm, but everyone, but I expect John Houston, who had something to do with Schulz absorbed his extraordinary nervousness. On returning from a hard weekend at a Chicago ABA if there is not a hysterical screaming Schulz in the office who has hired a truly sad case, Bernard Hassan as an extra editor. I briefly considered whether to just hit him or throw him out the window by which he stood, as the sad case flinched. Hassan was gone within the year, but he brought the Augstein with him from McMillan, imagine McMillan giving up on Augstein’s JESUS SON OF MAN. So I entrusted that book to him to edit, and also to copy edit and proof read. If the printed book did not come in with 400 spelling errors, Hassan’s boyfriend! I think I took three vacations during those seven years, the first was with Carey in Maine, two marvelous weeks, even as I am returning Schulz is hysterical on the phone. Ditto for the two other times.
One other reason to avoid him.
And there would come a time in the late seventies, 1980 to be specific, when the relationship with the partner at Urizen and some romantic breakups had begun to take its toll and I worked my way through all the hard brandies one by one, half a bottle a night, but managed to dance it off except the one nite that Gina and Lisa G. escorted me home, giggling, they thought it was hilarious, the two darlings. The anger in my gut was taking its toll and I was getting into fights in my downtown bars with a surrogate for the partner, always a foot taller, too, but it always seemed to be with folks who had been asking for it, and so it was not I who was tossed out. However, never having fought bare fisted before, I had not anticipated the subsequent pain in your knuckles after they had connected full force with a chin.
Dr. Vechsler, hearing of the ague in my intestinal region, prescribed Donnatal – and it was like magic, incomparable to the silly putty that I had dabbed under my gums since I hated sore nasal passages. The pain was gone… I started to wear a blue and orange jacket blazer Mexican blue and orange brigh, primary color bright, and thus met a friend of Cathy Greene’s at Elaine’s, one Jody, beautiful and nubile and very Sephardic and then there was Patrice who was the small tank type and who had been on the Ramparts at Columbia not that many years ago and was still married to an Israeli Tank commander but couldn’t handle it when one of my happy smiles, apparently as bright and positive and cheerful as that jacket, picked up a Texan beauty in the subway… it was raining girls now, it was not sequential monogamy it was an inundatation…. And if Dr. V. had told me what the tal part of the medicine was … having take a barbituate once during my marriage I hated what it and Valium did to me, especially the way they interfered with dreaming...As wormholes go... this is too deep to explore further here, but see Beaten Up.and the long Urizen footnote.
Jack Richardson was one of those Americans who were, who got stuck at Thomas Mann, and I don’t recall whether he read any of the postwar authors aside Max Frisch, for a screenplay of whose “I am not Stiller” I once engaged him around 1971 and he disappointed me and its producer Ruth Kalkstein. Still, you could talk seriously to Jack about books, as you could to Paul Sylbert and Bob Brown, who had got stuck at Goethe, Paul at Brecht for having seen some performances of the Ensemble as a GI in Berlin. Lots of Americans got stuck at Rilke. The 19th century appears to have been more thorough. Jack’s most interesting feature was that he frequented 42nd Street late at night, that dark side was truly day and night: bring out the poker deck and there was that instant transformation. There was a stretch of heavy pokering and Jack brought or he came in Jack’s wake, a card mechanic, someone hard to forget, a tall fellow, very broad shouldered, slightly bowed for having to bow forward so much he was so tall, with a frog’s mouth and dark hair, head always slightly askew to the right. I once had Jack come down to Urizen Books and our homey bars, Barnabus Rex, Puffy’s, Mickey’s, the Raccoon Lodge – it was odd to see how fish out of his water was Jack, a native New Yorker, Jack had not really developed the common touch, the country’s lingua franca, I got along with far greater ease among the young crowd at Eric’s across the street than Jack did where he and Bruce ventured for pleasures other than young girls… Bruce was Elaine’s favorite writer as a person, ditto for me in that respect, pretty much of a whole man for once. But what occurs to me in this context of Elaine’s being or having been a “writer’s room” was how little talk there actually was about books or writers. Of course if you wanted to have a worthwhile conversation it would have to be the kind of tete a tete that Styron and I once had about Faulkner, both parties had a pretty good sense of the texts. I myself breathed both American and German literature, present and past, at the time, and was reading Roman Jacobson and Noam Chomsky on linguistics and the Russian formalists, but I don’t recall talking to anyone at the Big Table about these interests. Obviously books mattered to Fred Seidel, Bruce and to Frank Conroy and to Plimpton and to Bill Styron and to Norman Mailer and to Nan Talese and to a lot of other editors and writers there. So there might be an occasional evening when a few halfway serious words were exchanged. I translated and published some wonderful books during those years, but cannot recall a single query about Hesse, Nelly Sachs, Hans Erich Nossack, Christa Wolf, Sam Shepard, Michael Brodsky, Norbert Elias and Peter Handke and his plays that were then performed at fine venues in my translation. In my case, Elaine’s had no direct material or other influence on my living out the images that Blake supplied for his Book of Urizen [Horizon/ Your Reason]. The exception is Frank Conroy who was indeed kept abreast, but who would have been no matter whether there had been an Elaine's in this world or not, and I introduced him to the work of Uwe Johnson, and he met Hans Magnus Enzensberger at my place, and Fred Seidel was intrigued by my translation of Handke’s Innerworld poems… Udderwise? Yes, Jerry I managed to interest into trying to shoehorn some songs of his and Mike Stoller’s songs into my translation of Handke’s They Are Dying Out, and of course Leiber jerked me and Carl Weber off for half a year with some great breakfast at the Patchin Place Mews, as he did in no end of instances, Leiber had written some very nice Brechtian ditties by then, as can I at this point. I did have a book party for Norbert Elias’ The Civilizing Process, in the “Paul Desmond” room, in 1978, friends Renata Adler and Susan Sontag came, who otherwise would not hang out or bother with the Big Table, but with whom you could have far more serious talks about my books, as I could with Judith Thurman. If I had known of Paul Sylbert having been influenced by Brecht… but Paul was back on the West Coast… and even though he and I have been in constant contact over the past e-mail intense nearly 20 years and I have meanwhile become a Handke super-specialist I don’t think I have prevailed on him to read those plays, experiencing of which is what counts of course. The Big Table was really more for gossip and chitchat, vigorous and lively as that might be.
What did I eat at Elaine’s it occurs to me since I must have eaten there some hundred times – since the place was not but came close to being the kind of home style restaurant of which I’d grown so fond as a student in Munich. Living in its Schwabing quartiér I fancied one or the other family style restaurants that served boiled beef and red cabbage with horse radish sauce, the beer wonderful. The “prix fixe” places in Paris was all I needed, au steak pomme frites, vin ordinaire. Even in Berlin I had a place like that. Eating at Elaine’s the words “veal chop” “arugula” “zabaglione” come to mind for the wine I would drink Barolo and Bardolino, I forget off-hand which white I would drink summertime. Dry. I was easy to please. I don’t recall ever getting drunk at Elaine’s, or even very high, and don’t recall the food ever being godawful. What is odd is that such a quintessentially Jewish restarateur as Elaine purveyed Italian fare: the Obit mention of her taking her Italian Portofino lover’s pots and pans I imagine is the clue. I don’t recall ever eating at Portofino: but I imagine its menu was much the same. Also: Elaine's preference for Italian waiters! I myself would have been far happier if her menu had resembled that of the Stage Delicatessen. Leiber has an amazingly rendered story how its owner made a busload of Ohioans who had wandered into that wonderful place in error so instantly uncomfortable that they departed in a great hurry.
Assorted Wormholes and Rat Tails:
Now several events that stick out from the general kind of timeless realm that you enter if you spend so much time in one and the same place that you are part of the furniture, and who is treated like a favored old chair, put here or there by the waiters, pull it up, make some room, be fit in. Very pleasant, comforting. Looking back you begin to see how you might have become one of those old men sitting together day after day week after week, on a bench in a park, perhaps even playing bocce… watching the pony tails walk by. The general hoi polloi always featured Elaine at the center: it was her face that I espied and found or that projected itself out of the crowd no matter how big a crowd crowded the space between table 1 and 5 and the bar. And Nicola and Elio retrieving ordering drinks, in a rush when times were busy, always conscientious, side comment to the left and right to those they knew who had shot a word at them as they were passing. Elaine the still point in the melee, in the passing parade to the powder rooms and back. But I would have come once I started to come even if she had not been the owner, there were friends there, and you might catch a conversation at the end of a day’s work, and most of the time the talk was not entirely stupid, although that could happen too, of course. Now an enumeration:
Jackie: Late one desultory February night in 1965; that is, within just a few months of my first starting to go to Elaine’s, Elaine’s had begun to have the feeling that something was about to happen, an electric storm was about to, and I really didn’t know these crowds, this crowd that was emitting this electricity… in the air, how do these vibes get in the air, are emitted by the herd?? No doubt the time had something to do with it and no doubt Time Magazine has the half dozen clichés that explain it all. JFK had been assassinated a few years back, I had been at Frank’s house, so had Wilfred Sheed, and although I didn’t feel besotted by Camelot, rather the opposite since I looked at his foreign policy actions, I recall the shock I walked around in Brooklyn Heights that night. The Hesse wave was upon the country and other mindlessnesses as there are now, my translation and publication of the German of that species I contribute my lot…. The Civil Rights Marches, free speech movement. THE PILL. By 1966 the Vietnam infamy was such an outrage that, knowing history, and how governments need to underpin what they do by legalese I had started to assemble a drama entitled The Committee Hearing and if I had not been so impressed by Peter Weiss. But that was me, I deferred once Peter told me that he was writing a Viet Nam play, very black and white agit-prop piece it turned out to be too. Thus the revelation that there actually existed a trove of legal matters that would be called The Pentagon Papers did not come as a big surprise to anyone, I don’t think, who has a smidgen of knowledge how governments of whatever degree of legitimacy work, try to cover their asses.
As I was saying: Late one desultory February night in 1966; that is, within just a few months of my first starting to go to Elaine’s, Elaine’s had begun to have the feeling that something was about to happen, an electric storm was about to... Frank and I were sitting with our backs to Siberia, at the Big Table, Jack Richardson was present, so was a big bearded bear of a fellow, an oceanographer from Woods Hole, Elaine, Nicola, I imagine Donald Ward, one or two other folks, Fred Seidel perhaps. 2 A.M., very desultory indeed, a light snow is falling on Second Avenue on the other side the picture windows as I saw what looked like Jacqueline [“I am not going to be the widow Kennedy”] Onassis’s [if she was already then] profile appear in the right window, Jackie, no it can’t be I said to Frank, who said yes as my friendly Irish setter transmuted into bird dog mode. And in waltzed Jacqueline, and Leonard Bernstein, and Bill Styron, and Sybil Burton, and Susan Sontag, whom I would get to know within a year, and Richard Avedon. And they wanted to dance. The Juke box that I think had been silent was fed. Jack knew Jackie, so he danced with her. I danced with Sybil. They did not stay long, and after they walked out Elaine exclaimed “What do you know, I’ve got it made.” And of course I did not need to wonder long whom she called for the news that her hot place had been fried into the social consciousness of the city. So the notoriety or fame or whatever you want to call what became Elaine’s celebraciousness can be traced to that evening, that moment, of Elaine’s realization, knowledge of the coin of that particular realm. And I can't say that it made the slightest difference to me. - “Elaine’s, in fact, was a scene, a noisy restaurant and bar celebrated as a celebrity hangout that all but shouted “New York” to the rest of the country, if not the world. For Billy Joel, in his 1979 hit “Big Shot,” the very name connoted the uptown in-crowd. (“They were all impressed with your Halston dress/And the people that you knew at Elaine’s.”) And in the new movie “Morning Glory,” with Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams, the indomitable Ms. Kaufman herself makes a cameo appearance..” is not how I would have put it at the time. [See Obits FN] Did the place change as a consequence? I do not know, as far as I was concerned it was a hole in the wall with some friends and some people it might be interesting to get to know, and lighting through the little pink mantles over candelabras that favored everyone’s skin tone. The proprietor was motherly, warm, she had a sense of humor, sturdy, she went to no particular trouble to accommodate the stars that came to her place, but if they became regulars they acquired a certain right of domicile, but at least during the first couple of decades you didn’t need to be a star of any kind to become a regular and earn the dues that regularity earned. The food was edible, nothing for the NY Times food writers who can carry on at amazing lengths and enviable detail about restaurants, their food and ambience, you wish that there were drama and book critics who would take such detailed care of those matters.G-2]-
It came as a surprise that when I took Susan Sontag, whom I had first seen about a year before at Elaine’s in the Spring of 1966, to Elaine’s and who had struck me as oddly girlish when she addressed the Gruppe 47 meeting at Princeton, and Peter Weiss - that was the connection: Susan [see Sontag FN] had written a piece about Marat/Sade for Partisan Review and Dick Poirier had taken my interview with Weiss published there - to Elaine’s in Spring 1966 for Susan to tell me “I know her, she used to run a lesbian joint in the Village.” – Perhaps one of those places that the obits mention is it. Perhaps there had been an after hours joint in addition to the Portofino? I ought to have made inquiries. Elaine herself certainly was no lesbian, not someone with whom I would exchange those lusty kisses late at night at Table 4, it led no further than that for the reason that I could not imagine myself in bed with such a mound of flesh – perhaps if it had been a matter of life and death, her life. I used to have a lot of helper of damsels in distress in me, more discretionary now, so I tell myself. Elaine however was no damsel! And her distress… she did seem to have some relievers. Perhaps Donald Ward’s gayness had operated a gay after hours joint in the village? Donald, though delightfully gay, in no way made passes that I knew of, nor did a following of gays appear in his wake, not that I noticed. Elaine’s was pretty straight and hetero all the way. So was Eric’s across the way. Not that it matters much, but someone who knows for sure might still be alive.
Bill Styron’s work had been important to Frank and me when we were editors of the Haverford-Bryn Mawr Review, Styron, Ellison. It took a while to break out of that pastoral confine and the humanity courses that I had taken already at Oakwood and that had supplied a nice backbone. I had devoted every course I could Freshman year to Faulkner or "The South" and the love of Faulkner persists, and I wish I could reconstruct the far ranging talk that Bill Styron and I had about Faulkner at Elaine's.
Chess During the Fischer-Spassky matches in the 70s the chessboard was pulled out both at Elaine's and Eric's and a cross-avenue championship ensued, won by Paul Kravitz. This was the last flowering of my chess mastery - I had been precocious at age 12, in every respect, the high point of whatever natural talent I have was then and it has been the proverbial downhill slalom ever since - unless I am having a momentary attack of grandiosity I believe I came in second. Frank Conroy, if he’d been around, but he was not, he was in exile in Nantucket, would have done awfully well and what with his need to win at all costs... I miss Paul Kravitz more than Conroy at this point. I guess Bob Brown did not play? He was good, but Brown and I “could never git it or anything on” and that included chess.
As to mastodons, troglodyte conversation, less than electrifying, there is one that has haunted me all these years, and it is of the group discussing at great length whether Gay Talese [simply referred to by first name] would forever remain an uptight regular NY Times reporter now that he was on his own. Conversations such as these proved that the group really had little to say to each other, and there were many conversation like it. Gay was neat, he was a journalist who did not go “new journalism”, as I did belatedly for a while here in Seattle, and he had a neat wife in Nan, and they stayed married, a tough enough feat in that surround.
The Sinatra Evening. I was with Jezebel, the year must be 1971, the night that Frank Sinatra came to Elaine’s in company of the would be publisher of his autobiography, Bennett Cerf, and of Bill Styron, and his body guard, and because Frank Conroy and I both knew Bill Styron, with whom I had had a great talk about William Faulkner, is why we sat down with them in the far left corner in Siberia, where a star might remain unmolested, and Frank Conroy’s then side-kick Sven Lukin, when Frank was in his fancy man about town mode after he could not handle the success of his first book [vide some of the fine self-critical pieces in MID-AIR] and at the end of the evening Sinatra invited everyone to join him on his 707 to London the following week. Jezebel and I both had to work and thanked him for the kind offer, Conroy and Lukin swiftly followed Sinatra to Jilly’s, Sinatra's reputed chief watering hole at that time, and news of Conroy’s desperately trying to find his passboard so he could make the flight to London reached me from various quarter during the following week: so MID-AIR desperate on the make indeed. On second, perhaps more generous thought: a writer reporting on such a flight might of course have quite a story to tell! Are there any accounts of what such a flight was like? Sinatra was cool and sharp and well behaved, I sat to his left but did not notice the scar tissue from his traumatic birth on the left side of his neck, so was the body guard, perhaps Bennet Cerf kept a diary or Styron and so there are accounts of what was a pleasant interlude, Jezebel is alive, I loved her well enough to marry her. However, she was the kind of hoofer who would answer the phone while you made love, for a call-back, and then not resume. She was manipulative on that most basic level, and when she was again when I had flown down to Coral Gables to the Butterfly I walked out after a few days, and that was that. Others, such as Handke, would probably have done it differently, and not even bothered to put their foot down, but rape the little beast - some shrews, quite a few of them, want to be tamed, want a tamer, unfortunately; this way to S+M ladies and gents. However, I could still stay at her place at 95th and Madison until she found out that I was bedding other beauties in “our bed” - which is how you find out that though the beast might be a manipulator the ground of manipulation then was sacred. Later, when Jezebell developed a small following for a TV show, I had to tell friends what an Aschenputtel she was to wake up next to. It was all out of a bottle and jar. After the shock of having neither a wife or girlfiend but living in the girlfriend’s place at 95th and Madison I played the field for a while until I met Renate K. at a party for Rochelle Owen on the upper West Side. Walking Renate home I was familiarized with the euphemism of euphemisms “would you like to come up for a cup of coffee” – which, after Midnight, might be appropriate for a long distance trucker but for no other man. I appear to have nothing but favorable feelings about Renate, she later once showed up at my Urizen office, a broken woman who was working as ad sales person – she had had a health breakdown during a really bad winter, trying to support her two kids; that was a melancholy matter about which I was unable to do anything at all. Jezebel has shaved at least ten years of her bio I noticed the other day, it appears she graduated from Radcliffe when most people enter Junior High; she had been married, had had her share of affairs. I know I didn’t have a flirt with a 21 year old Pamela King Bellwood Wheeler who now lives in the exquisite St. Barbara which I came to know well and its surround during my six years in the St. Monica Mts.!
The meeting with Sinatra would prove fortuitously fortunate in the sense that I came to admire his manners, his cool demeanor, and in that, about 20 years hence - camped out in my big 74 Malibu just south of Santa Rosalia in Baja California Sur, which lies across the Sea of Cortez, opposite Guaymas - sick of an endless rainstorm, drove to a nearby Motel’s long bar – which, aside its tender in all that motel bar barrenness in October, had as the only other person a fine looking gentleman, a Roman profile, silver haired, and a Sinatra song came on and the Gentleman with the so Roman profile said “Old Blue Eyes”, it was Senor Fernandez, the head of the Federales de Caminos in Baja California Sur, who, in the Forties, had been a waiter at Toots Shor or some place like that and had served Sinatra and who, too, had been memorably impressed by Sinatra’s fine manners, how he had treated the staff fairly and well, and so Senor and I fell to talking, and he advertized the pueblo of Mulege, which lay about 40 miles down Mex I, and were it not for his advertizing of Mulege [Moo-lay-hay – Linda Ronstadt has a song about the pueblo] I would have headed straight back to harsh and barren Bahia de Los Angeles and staid with Tony the Turtleman, Tony Resendiz in a trailer in his camp – and missed three years of Mulege and not have been enchanted by Mulege and its bare back horse races on the todos santos weekend; and been unable to avoid paying “Christmas gifts" to some of Senor Fernandez’ minions who might stop a gringo car around that time of the year.
The Habermas-Evening. One evening, as Suhrkamp Rep, I took Juergen Habermas and Max and Marianne Frisch to Elaine's and author to be Christian Enzensberger, of one of my favorite books to publish, at Continuum, An Essay on Smut, noteworthy for the kind of marvelous bibliography that leads you to no end of goodies. I don’t recall whether anyone else was present, I was without girlfiend, but, seated at table 5 I asked Jack Richardson at Table 4 - for his interest and smattered knowledge of matters German and linkages - to join us. During the course of the evening my German innelectuals fell to bickering, in that unpleasant “aeh aeh aeh” way that only German innelectuals can, a bit from hunger it struck me, the evening was degenerating, Jack sensing that turned back to Table Four, and I quickly joined him. I recall one evening just with Max and Marianne, just prior to a reading Max was to give at the Goethe House, and when Max, grandly, said, “oh you don’t need to come” I replied, “Well, in that case I will just for the wine and the hors d’oeuvres - and noticed that he did not like how I treated his attempt not to be so vain.
The Elias Evening: One matter that partner Schulz handled splendidly, he his grandfather's servant, was the publication of Norbert Elias’s THE CIVILIZING PROCESS. Schulz was not just excellent at playing “impresario” but also in being one in matters of being of service to grandfather figures. Later, John Houston, a man with far more moxie than I might ever have, seemed to have instantly realized that Schulz was one of these useful idiots when Schulz showed up at the set of ANNIE in New Jersey with the stolen UNDER THE VOLCANO project.... what did Houston do but have him play the THIEF in Annie and Schulz was proud of it, and when Schulz and some others produced UNDER THE VOLCANO in Guernavaca he sent Schulz and Moritz [a Max and Moritz team if ever there was one] Bormann to get some real whores from Mexico city, and Schulz could not have been happier doing yeoman pimp’s service. In the instance of dear Norbert I felt that it might not be such a bad idea to introduce him to aspects of then current Amurrican civilization, thus Elaine’s, but all I recall of that evening was that one of my two women intellectual friends, Renate Adler had to leave early because she had a bad back, and she really seems to have had a pain in that region, whereas I was afraid that I might have made a mistake in seating her next to Susan Sontag. That weekend I then arranged for Norbert to visit a truly splendid Park Avenue Penthouse, it was that of the sister of my then girlfiend, Carey C. Unlike Carey of the sleepy eye and funky slumming it in Soho, her sister, like their mother, was a substantial American blonde - money marrying money, Schlitz Beer as I recall. Norbert, as I recall, was quite fascinated, or at least was sufficiently polite to claim to be fascinated by the plumbing fixtures of the American nouveau riche.
At her request I once took the seriously scrawny photographer Marcia Resnick, whose collection of photographs BAD BOYS, Urizen distributed, and whose neat loft at Canal and West, by the Holland Tunnel I rented the summer after I split from Laurie, to Elaine’s, for her to photograph the “bad boys" that might show up there. But neither Norman Mailer nor Buzz Farber, who would qualify within her parameters, showed up that evening; the only other who might have qualified at that time was Jack Richardson. Does Steve Donleavy? He appears to have come again despite the Wilfred Burchett incident. My forever house guest the now deceased, of Lupus, Lindzee Smith was the only really bad boy I ever knew, he stole from me even after I had put him into detox and he got out clean.
I have a very distinct recollection, for the manner in which it left its impression on my mind of an evening spent with Michael Getty and his wife, Collette I think was her name at Elaine’s where Michael proposed a threesome with his wife. Cathy alerted me that she had participated in such a delicious event with the two of them, and, looking back in time, I might have proposed that she join us not just in spirit as I felt she was present, for I turned in an oddly steely, adamant performance in averting anything of the kind happening: it appears that the automatic chivalrous part of me wanted to protect Cathy in that fashion, who asked for nothing on the score, not in that respect anyway. I was still hung up on her, who was much “easier” when it came to such pleasures, as I myself was becoming too downtown. There was a truly comical event one day at Cathy’s upper floor apartment in Lincon Tower, it was an afternoon, and both Cathy and Michael had asked me to attend Michael Getty going down on his knees to swear life-long fealty, Cathy smiling in wondrous amusement at the turn matter had taken. It was not long before Getty got so infuriated by the sometimes infuriating Cathy that he slapped her around. Michael arranged for the perfect investment in Urizen in late 78 or early 79, unfortunately when these first rate bankers, to whom I had made our situation clear in the starkest and most honest terms, then met Schulz in company of our then sales manager Hyung Pak, he behaved at his most asshole arrogant, as Hyung told me, and that then was that again.
The utterly neglected Elsbieta Halberstam and I one evening hit it off and were engaged in the nicest of Polish-German rapprochement when that heavy dude David Halberstam had to come by and ruin it. That was the first attention he had paid to her all evening - and I don’t think, at least consciously, she was goading his re-interest.
Beaten up: In the early 80s the now ex-partner’s dubber, Christopher Giercke, a fellow who alway dressed in black, an amusing person, a kind of poodle, as we sat opposite each other at the Odeon, he had come to see me to discuss the aftermath of our being entrapped by Charles “Boquet” Cristoph, suddenly hit me in my face, and I got a bloody nose. I rose up and took him by the shoulders and the most extraordinary thing happened: Christopher, a killer he turned out to be too, exerted himself against my hands that I had placed on his shoulders and by dint of the force he exerted against being held, to it seemed, turned backward onto the ground: a girl! I was tapped on the shoulder, the McNeils and the wait staff had seen what had occurred and took Giercke by all fours and tossed the snake skunk out into the West Broadway sidewalk, as he was then, shortly afterwards, by the authorities out of the country as a whole; and whence his once master would flee in another year or so. It was another lesson, of which I had many, that I might not be so nonchalant in allowing a lot of creeps into my life, a matter that puzzled my shrink at that time, and to which I had no better answer at the time - when I was trying to collect 10 k for a screenplay I had written from someone who the dream said was “too big to hit”, as Ralph Cotta, all three hundred pounds of him, certainly wa - than to say “what choice do I have in this city? Dr. R.?” but now know it is an aspect of my identification with my grandfather who would drive and talk to everybody, and it was no skin of his nose, whereas my got a bit bent this time, which is I imagine were my just deserts for my non-chalance. Were there no “right" people, only invariably the wrong one? No, that was not the case either. But what is important to me in this connection is Elaine’s reaction to the way I looked a few weeks later when I happened to go to her place that I base my observation on her powers of observation. “Beat up” she said as I came in and said hello to her: my nose was still just a tad askew. I don’t think I told her the whole complicated story which goes something like this [but you need the entire Urizen footnote, too] Within the year of Urizen Book’s founding in 1975 Susan Sontag called to ask if I knew whether partner Wieland Schulz’s [the passport name of a now film producer who has also acquired a host of European legal judgments in addition to his American ones, who goes under the self-inflated Schulz-Keil] sources of funds were a pornographic film dubbing company named Vicland Productions. I did not, I had been given to understand that Schulz’s sources were the little socially relevant documentaries he produced for West German TV, the only relationship of that to Elaine’s is that I had had a bloody nose from winning a fight that relates to Schulz in a number of intricate ways. However, instead just aborting the Urizen Enterprise or seeking legal counsel, the next time Schulz and I talked after what Susan had conveyed - he had been away - I said it would be nice to know about these things – it was too late to avert the entire enterprise. Yet it is at least the second time that I might have sought counsel, the original share holder’s agreement being the first. But I now took greater interest in one Victor Bertini, the Vic part of Vicland, [Vic is pronounced FICK in Kraut, Fuckland is the joke] who showed at the office every so often, progressively more distraught. Later it would devolve that Schulz had also screwed the Italian mob out of their cut, specifically Victor, I heard the figure $ 250,000, source for which information was self-same Christopher Giercke, the actual dubber of the porn films, and I, too, was to become progressively more distraught as Schulz’s pulled his two card Monte tricks on me and Leo Feldsberg, the third partner, and his insulting shouting and the pain he caused me, who kept pulling rabbits – tax shelters that involved a lot of dangerous driving with my junkie tax shelter agent Jeffrey Steinberg, whom I had met at “Bouquet" Charles to whom Bruce’s supplier at Elaine’s, whom I recalled from the “Blue Note” in Philadelphia had taken me, while getting a supply of nosegay for Cathy - out of hats, and only in the sense that I came to know the fateful “Charles” through one of Bruce’s providers, whom I remembered from a jazz joint in Philadelphia, is this connected to Elaines: but no Elaine’s, no Bruce, no Cathy, no Cathy in need of nosegay to stay awake while she fights the Prizker family and Saul Steinberg in an endeavor that the city of New York eventually takes over, no “Charles” of the great barman’s guide... and a lot of things would not have happened down the line. see URIZEN FOOTNOTE
1] NAMES that occur, pell-mell, in this communication: Peter Handke, Libgart Schwartz, Marty and Faith Hillenbrand, Ambassador McGhee, Fredi Kolleritsch, Michael Brodsky, Charles Hoving, Jeff Brown, Marcia Resnick, Hans Magnus + Christian Enzensberger, Patty and Phyllis Ferguson, Frank Conroy [deceased], Fred Seidel, Nelson Aldrich [?], Gus Blaisdell [deceased], David Arnett, Juergen Becker, Verushka, Burton Pike [?], Michael Lebeck [deceased], Ekaterina Denzinger [?], Renate K. [?], Renate Adler, Susan Sontag [deceased], Christine D., Bruce Jay Friedman [bum knee], Woody Allen, Ivan Morris [deceased], Sven Lukin, Donald Ward [?], Nicola [deceased], Elio, Jack Richardson [barely I hear], Gay and Nan Talese, Lewis Lapham, Didi + Johnny Ryan [deceased], Jerry Leiber [barely], Mike Stoller, Maurice Sonnenberg, the “monkey’s” sister, Pamela K. B. Wheeler ["Jezebel"], Werner Linz, John Houston [deceased], Gonzalo and Jorge de Herralde Grau, Ödon von Horvarth [long deceased, via tree branch, famously on the Champs Elysee], Carl Weber [barely], Barbara Rose, Rachel S., David Newman [deceased] and wife, Richard Poirier [deceased], Willie Morris [deceased], Roger Straus [deceased and a good riddance too], C. Michael Curtis, Judith Thurman, Joanne Chapin, Laurie Spiegel, Uwe Johnson [deceased], Hans Werner Richter [deceased], Fritz Raddatz, Annalie von Alvensleben [deceased], Ledig Rowohlt [deceased], Joan Daves [deceased], Ruth Kalkstein [?], Robert Lantz [deceased], Lane Dunlop, Eric, Lisa, Jeanette, Diane, Cathy W.B.B., Paul Kravitz, Norbert Elias [deceased], Max Frisch [deceased], Juergen Habermas [emeritus], Nelly Sachs [deceased], Hans Erich Nossack [deceased], Paul Sylbert and Anthea Sylbert, and Dick “the Prick" Sylbert [deceased], Michael Getty, Hannah Wilke [deceased], Terry Southern [deceased], and Carol Southern, Jody R., Cathy Greene, Chester Himes [deceased], Susan Braudy, George Plimpton [deceased], David Halberstam [deceased], Ron Hobbs, Ben Patterson [?], Elsbieata Halberstam [deceased], Wieland Schulz [Keil], Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis [deceased], Bill Styron [deceased], Sybil Burton [?], Leonard Bernstein [deceased], Frank Sinatra [deceased], Señor Fernandez [deceased], Maya, Norman Mailer [deceased], Dike Blair, Wilfred Burchett [deceased] and wife [?], Rebecca Johnson, Seth, Steve Donleavy [of the New York Post], Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Barbara Becker [“Slavegirl”], Frederick Jameson, Jane Perlez, Bennett Cerf [deceased], Danny Padua, Andrew Arato, Carol Mallory, General Maurice Rose [deceased], General Bruckner [deceased], Cal Bernstein, Claude Picasso, Moira Hodgson, Marvin Cohen, Robert Datilla, Peter Miller, Mary H., Nora “Champagne” & Amy Ephron, Rupert Murdoch, Howard Linzer, Leo Feldsberg [deceased], B.B. & Brecht fils Stefan [both deceased], Ivor Whitson [?], Carey C., a Watson Daughter, Isabelle L., Mel Fishman [deceased], Michael Arlen [deceased], Paul Desmond [deceased], Patrice Marden, Olaf Hansen, Patricia Highsmith [deceased], Bob Brown [barely I hear], Bob and Dick Kalich, Howard Pariser [deceased], Victor Bertini [?], Boris “Policeband" Pearlman [deceased], Christopher Giercke [?], Debra Emin, Michael Hafftka, “Ace” Nowara, Chris Sievernich, Gina and Lisa Giobbi, Barbara Rose, Robin Weber Wablonsky & Susan Weber Wablonsky Boros, Mr. Weber Wablonsky, George Boros, “Charles" [“bouquet”] Kristoff, W.P. Program], F.X. Kroetz, “Connie" M., Jim Stratton, Lindzee Smith [deceased], Heiner Mueller [deceased], Claes Oldenbourg [deceased], Michael Stoller, Joanne Chapin, Martin Weigert, Jamie Johnston, Roger Downey, Fritz Heubach, Steve Pearson, Lawrence Pithkethly, Anson Rabinbach, Miriam Hansen [deceased, just now, they keep dying like flies in the Sahara],
1-a] 1965, self, Suhrkamp Scout, editor Metamorphosis  1966-69 Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Nelly Sachs, Hans Erich Nossack, Hermann Hesse, Peter Handke, Christa Wolf  1969-1971 Lantz-Donadio Literary Agency as the U.S. Suhrkamp Verlag agent;  1971-72 editor at McGraw Hill;  1973 Self: ½ year trip on the freighter “Hellenic Splendor”; Enzensberger translations;  1973-75 editor Continuum Books; H.M. Enzensberger, Christian Enzensberger, T.W. Adorno; Michael Schneider, Peter Handke; Stanley Aronowitz; Sam Hall Kaplan, Larry Birns, etc. …… 1975-1981 co-publisher Urizen books: Jim Stratton, F.X. Kroetz; Peter Handke; Michael Brodsky, Sam Shepard, etc…. 1981-85: self, translations; plays of my own, etc. And upon the inception of the conflagration of the Vanities it was the time to "cut out west", you guessed it: it took a wench to help me make up my mind, which was considering other possibilities: Shelter Island, London, Spain, Berlin. I had known the wench for some years and when she appeared, freshly divorced, in New York Christmas 1984, we hooked up with each other in the kind of fast and furious way I had not since the great passion in 1980 that had made for “Breakup under Analysis". They were both Princeton graduates, which is how I learned of the informal course taught to its female contingent, “Entrapment 101“. The wench was a big girl, who among other matters mentioned that she was part “white trash", a warning I might have heeded more seriously among her many talents, another painter, summa cum laude, and writer. However, the idea of raising twins in the heavenly abode we then found in the Island in the Desert, just east of Alamogordo, White Sands, N.M. seemed like a great place, indeed to raise kids, for the first time in my life the idea of kids no longer felt like an insufferable encumbrance - after three quickly depressing months in El Paso, despite the attractions of Ciudad Juarez and many a trip across the bridge featured in “A Touch of Evil". Few people resided in the 5 % that had been reserved for them once the 250 square mile Island in the Desert had been turned into a National Forest in 1942 [every real valley was also called canyon in that part of the world], an incredibly healthy lot compared to city folk and all those living four thousand or more below - White Sands is high desert 4,000 feet.
I went back to NY in early summer 1986 - by which time I was divorced, something I handled myself in cowboy boots in Las Cruces and had a heavenly place in the St. Monica Mts., a pepper tree and Juniper shedding their fruit on the tin roof of the loft in the hills - to close up the loft, the wenches were hotter for me than ever, and if I had not sold the key to the loft back to its landlord I would have fallen back into the old so sybaritic life-style, it was touch and go. Even Gena with whom I had been so utterly infatuated during my colorful days in 1980 suddenly wanted me - but, fortunately in this instance - I had become terrified of falling in love and hesitated when she beckoned, and with her sister, what a marvelous threesome I now regret not having, and so we have remained friends and she has led an admirable life since with a good Bone it seems. There would be no more madnesses, although one last g.f. with whom I visited NY in 1991, but no Elaine’s then either. I did not go to Elaine's in 1986, Derrick and the McNeil Brothers at The Odeon made for the story “Heart-Ache” that just about everyone likes. I did not seriously miss anyone in NY at that point, except for Boris “Policeband" Pearlman, Jim Stratton, Elaine herself a bit, Bruce Jay,
Gina of course, Michael Hafftka [then, not any more],most of the old friends had moved away, gentrification was seriously upon Tribeca. The city whose lights had beckoned this moth from the promontory at Eagle Rock in West Orange, just up Eagle Rock Road from the Thomas Edison lab where as I ascended it I recall the belief in God around 1951 seeping out of me as though from a punctured tire, had singed the moth’s wings and he was glad to be alive and to have the twenty-five years experience to dwell on.
Gina of course, Michael Hafftka [then, not any more],most of the old friends had moved away, gentrification was seriously upon Tribeca. The city whose lights had beckoned this moth from the promontory at Eagle Rock in West Orange, just up Eagle Rock Road from the Thomas Edison lab where as I ascended it I recall the belief in God around 1951 seeping out of me as though from a punctured tire, had singed the moth’s wings and he was glad to be alive and to have the twenty-five years experience to dwell on.
1-b] Where I lived: [a] 1965 - 18th and 8th Avenue [Chelsea]; [b] 1966-1971 - 55th and 6th Avenue [while married]; [c] 1972 - West 84th Street; [d] 1973-75 - Rockaway/ Rijs Park;
[e] 1975-1985 – Tribeca, two lofts, first Duane Park, then 65 West Broadway. Summer of 77 I briefly rented Marcia Resnick’s loft at Canal & West Street, right by the Holland Tunnel.
Jerry Leiber: I have a short book about Jerry Leiber that is about to be published, I can send it on request, but aside from what I say above, which is a lot, I don’t wish to say more here. Leiber knew I could be patient, and took full advantage of it - until he could no longer. An entirely other-directed scared old woman he turned out to be. After he and and Carey and I and “the sluts of sluts” went out to dinner with him one time, the delicious S of S said at once afterwards that the woman in her told her that he was a complete basket case. 45 years of shrinkage, and he had never done the work! Outsmarted himself by thinking that style, and being “dukey” could cover up the basic fault [s]. He thought I was as tough as steel, I knew when and why my steel could crumble and I could be a basket case, too, anyhow by that time I did.
Year Abroad: 1963-4: This was the first time that I flew to Europe - it had been all freighters or U.S. Army troop transports or Ocean liners until then - Icelandic Airlines. Somewhere between Gander and Rekjavik an Icelandic sheep who pretended to be a stewardess asked me if I did not want to spend a week with her at her home pen. I was stunned and suggested that we might talk about it in the men’s room the next time she had a break. She was on break, so that was that; she, too, worked the same flight a week later, and we met for a good goodbye once more in the men’s room before a very worn me landed in Luxembourg. No fear of flying in Iceland it appeared, so whenever I see sheep-shaped clouds, little lambs, in the sky, imagine what they remind me of. And on becoming friends with Jim Krusoe on the West Coast I looked forward to his novel ICELAND, it did not disappoint, and has far “woolier” erotic escapades than mine. It’s those volcanoes that have become internalized by the lambs that they spew out, something like that, so the next time one of them spews ashes in the air and stops all flights it must be one of the other Thor who is really really angry at his lambs, and so I flew Icelandic Airlines all but the twice, first with Roger Straus in 1967 and when USIA paid for a Lufthansa direct to Frankfurt and, via Vienna, to Sofia in 1980.
Back in Germany an exhausted me, who was also getting over a heartache that has remained a life-long friend, staid for about three months with my mother and stepfather [in Villiprott outside Godesberg], how depressing the Rhine Valley is in Winter, all fogged in, who was getting himself a masters in German Lit at Bonn University courtesy of the G.I. Bill and had also hooked back up with the outfit under whose auspices he had entered my and all our lives in May 1945; a lot of time spent with the U.S. first secretary who was baby-sitting the Johnson appointed Texan Ambassador, McGhee I think is/was his and his brood’s name unless my memory is failing me; it was interesting to see the lovely secretary Marty Hillenbrand doing the jig when Chancellor Erhardt, who was known as a rubber lion, taking on the opposition. Marty had entered the family during his first posting, in Lorenco Marques where he had hooked up with the future great white hunter uncle who was working as a counterspy for the Brits and ship chandler, and then had his second posting in Bremen. His wife Faith and my mother would become close friends. From what I saw of the CIA in Bonn and their Russian counterparts I had no regrets in turning down the company in Berlin in 1957, the US contingent was headed by a music critic for the Herald Tribune and his hapsichord playing wife. If they had offered a thousand a month instead of the paltry hundred just to report what I happened to see during my visits to East Berlin it might have been another matter. My mother’s experiences as a counter-spy for the resistance, as of 1934, did not prove enticing, but a fright. Another heart break affair of course, Jutta is her name. I had not enough money for her - one feature that makes me get over a heartbreak real fast. I set out to translate the three Hesse books, completed another translation for Fred Praeger, and turned some translation work over to my stepfather, Colonel Richard Weber. I ventured to all the publishers up and down the Rhine; Kiepenheuer + Witch in Cologne was probably the most interesting of those visits, Luchterhand in Neuwied; then to Hamburg, I staid with my aunt Annalie von Alvensleben [of the unchained mouth was a favorite of successful men who were sick of subservience] and met Rudolf Augstein one of whose books I would later publish, and Ledig Rowohlt who would become my favorite publisher of a certain kind, say, for drawing a contract at Harry’s bar, on a napkin, and then dissolving the napkin and what was written on it in a whiskey soda; that is, for personal style; Fritz Raddatz and Juergen Becker and we had an interesting venture with one of the major pimps through St. Pauli. I recalled the time that I had arrived in Hamburg on a freighter in fall 1956 and the sailor’s yen for the Reeperbahn. I don’t believe my grandmother who lived in Blankenese, a Hamburg/ Altona suburb with great views of the Elbe river, was still alive. The other Hamburg publisher, Hoffmann & Campe, of Heine fame, was interesting, too.
Then Berlin, where I became the first U.S. scout to visit East German publishers, well primed by Uwe Johnson, I wrote that up at length at one point and sent it to the Suhrkamp Verlag’s Johnson Archive, Christa Wolf at Farrar, Straus came out of that; lots of publishers in West Berlin, too, and a literate aunt, Ursula von Krosigk, with a great book shop on the Ku-Damm where I holed up for weeks on end. I interviewed and became friends with Peter Weiss whose work I knew well, and either he or Uwe introduced me to Hans Werner Richter, the master sargent who ran the Gruppe 47; thus the Princeton invitation in 1966. Unfortunately Guenter Grass was not amenable to a tape recorder: I was a good interviewer by then, and a fine editor down of interviews, but had that short-coming of not having learned shorthand at Oakwood, whose most important gift to me was to learn to type from Mrs. Newlin, whose husband was a great teacher of American History, thus an abiding affection for FDR and the WPA and the “New Deal” albeit’s salvaging of American capitalism. Coming up with a hybrid interview lit journalism for the Atlantic Monthly proved to both C. Michael Curtis and me that but for talents as an interviewer I better leave ventures in literary journalism - until much later in life - to others... My strengths lay elsewhere, in editing, in translating, an infallible nose for talent, in being my betters’ servant. I wrote very few reviews, of Enzensberger’s first collection for the NY Times Book Review and of Max Frisch’s Gantenbein for Partisan Review; in each instance I took the task as seriously as though I were writing a dissertation, thus a rather immense divergence between time spent and payment. Later, I wrote a series of postscripts to books I translated for Ariadne Press, and they turned out well, which gave me the idea that you might not want to write a book review until you had translated the book and read all of an author’s work, only then might you do justice to it; a suggestion, if taken, would certainly improve reviewing and cut, do its bit to conserving paper and electrons. Then to Munich where I staid at cousin Verushka’s apartment and did some work at the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte on my Kurt Grosskurt biography, on which I would eventually give up because even he, a German Abwehr [Counter Intelligence] early conspirator, with the background of a Lutheran Pastor’s son, not from the military caste in other words, and then the conspiracy itself, would prove disappointing as models for anything along that line in the U.S.; but lots of interesting publishers, Hanser, Piper, C.H. Beck to mention only the biggest of the lot, in that so sybaritic city. Then my first Frankfurt Book Fair, whose air plane hangars full of books would prove crushing to certain grandiosities, and linking up with Suhrkamp and the seeds the German SDS was sowing. Then back to Villiprott, briefly, the East German had sent all the books and a lot of other books had arrived. At the end of Frankfurt I had a pretty good feel for what German and Swiss and Austrian literature was bringing and was about to bring, a lot of contacts were made. Then on to Nijmegen to put the last issue of Metamorphosis to bed, as mentioned above. Three months in London with my sister Grace and her husband Claude in Pinner, and nieces Angela and Vanessa, a few London publishers whom I had met at Frankfurt, another Islandic sheep found me, I think near Trafalgar square, and I became her shepherd. And I completed the three Hesse translation, and sent the one of Demian off to Michael Lebeck to look it over before turning it in to Roger Klein at Harpers who had allowed me to crash on the floor of his room, I think it was at the Frankfurter Hof, during the Book Fair. He liked the translation fine but took out the changes Michael Lebeck had made, but I left Michael’s credit anyhow. Then the aforementioned trip on the QE II in whose steerage was my Kansas beauty of the silken hair and corduroy skirt.
JUDITH “The Great Fondness" + “THE GREAT PASSION" LAURIE SPIEGEL
I forgot how I met Judith Thurman, but the year would be 1974, fall, because it was subsequent to my telling Mary H. to call me once she had moved out from her mob lawyer’s place on Park Ave, which I did after she came back from some months in Paris after the French postal worker’s strike which had put a crimp into our correspondence. The fate of concubines is that they need to be kept, I only saw Mary once more, Judith and I ran into her as she was coming out of a movie, 1975 I guess. It was a bit of a shock, at least for me, to see her, never again at Elaine’s, and I don’t think Amy Ephron put up with Jack Richardson all that long either.
I suspect I met Judith via Lawrence Pithkethly, but how did I meet Lawrence, who at one point asked me up to a college in the Amherst region - was that too called Lawrence? - where I read my translations from Handke’s INNERWORLD? Via Schulz? Via Anson Rabinbach? I recall a group of at most six people, a somewhat scrawny girl named Linda / Gentle, Mexican American, but that is all aside Pithkethly who rode fame and success on his great Irish brogue, though if you listened closely, brogue was all it was, sonorous bullshit, having dinner, in Chinatown? Judith and I hit it off, for once a woman was not just interested in my bod, I scarcely ever did not want to find out first what their tastes and loves were in literature and art, but noticed often their panties dripping while I was still all head; the sort of moment when of these hussies would touch my crotch or take my hand and put it to her crotch. We ended up at Judith’s place in Westbeth, a former ATT sound-lab with wavy ceiling, our love making was always gentle, though we had fantasies of it becoming as kinky as mine had become with the great hussies, such as “Brenda Potemkin” who had unloosed my wild side. Brenda fucked everything and one, now I recall one moment that I took her to Elaine’s and her telling my friend Neil Myers, a bartender from Eric’s across 2nd Ave, how she had fucked someone whose legs had then fallen off: a double prothesis which she had not noticed until then. Some shock! We ourselves were very fucked out at that point, glowing with it. I nearly had a heart attack when this affair that was grounded near entirely in polymorphous carnality ceased to love me from one moment to the next. And my great ardors were adjudged to be at best mediocre, so so. Brenda of the delicious threesomes seemed to require an entire squad to keep her happy, Brenda was the first real affair after I had faded away from the reversion to high school with the arrested Robin from Belle Harbor.
Judith, thus, became the “great fondness,” [that kind of “internal 'object’” I found myself capable of] and we were close and there was real depth to the relationship, and I loved the fact that her Hungarian Jewish parents, well into their sixties, still made love twice a week. Endurance, constancy, a fine prospect, whereas I am also someone who believes in the “permanent revolution,” and prefers to be unencumbered as I am now, and prefers solitude and tells himself that he has become discretionary in his friendships, which means far and few between. No happy medium there. However, at least “the idea” of marriage was significant, the aria in Arabella “Willst du mich heiraten” - as it can be to children of divorced parents and traumatic fractures, some faint notion that can make them go soft in the knees of certain matter, not always ruin.
About the time that Judith went off to Africa to research her book on Isak Dineson, I started Urizen Books, she witnessed the prophetic first program “conference” which ended with the surf upending Wolfgang Schivelbusch at Rockaway Beach, and my moving back into Manhattan, into an apartment on the 25th floor of Independence Plaza, the south-most building with a balcony and great views of downtown Manhattan and Jersey and even of the Brooklyn Bride, Greenwich Street and Duane to be fairly precise, an apartment that a year and a half hence I would give to Wolfgang Schivelbusch when I moved into a loft in Duane Park with Laurie Spiegel. I believe for one month I also lived at Judith’s place in Westbeth, and owed her the rent until the end of Urizen when I finally had the cash to pay her; and I will not forget her peculiar reaction to that. Prior to Judith’s departure I had not really noticed any qualities that I might find untoward, Judith schmoozed, she seemed a bit of a macher, these matters did not seem to interfere with our being together. She was a fine writer and became a better one with time. Indeed, of all the women that I would be afterwards, the hundred or so, half a dozen serious affairs, and several marriage-like arrangements a calm, longterm might have been in the cards but for other factors and happenings; how does one know that one might have to grow together at that age?
By the time Judith returned - was it a whole year later? and a fine correspondence we had too - having learned Danish and Swahili and with time in Kenya and Paris, the sexually so active me had had three utterly negligible affairs. One was with an Irish lass who also fucked the three principals of Puffy’s, one of my two neighborhood Tribeca bars, Ned, Frank and Jim, and via which lass I discovered Shelter Island, between the North and South Fork of Long Island with its nature preserve and an actor-owned house [Alan Arkin] on an island in a small bay accessible only at low tide via a peninsular bridge, whence I would go for R. + D. and also take some other lassies in the future; a fairly delicate English friend of Judith’s, who, if there had been no Judith I might have been interested in getting to know better, and a German Leftie who would crawl into my bed in Frankfurt once more when I staid at a Left crashpad huus there a few years hence during a book fair. Thus, after such a long absence, only a fine correspondence to keep the heart warm, there comes a mutual debriefing: whom have you fucked? I did my enumeration, she claimed to have been chaste, but I had this eery feeling that the wench was lying. I had mentioned to her that she might want to look up Handke, in the Rue Montmorency at the time. Why did I just know that she had fucked him? What extra sense did I possess? or that that person who had struck me as sinister from the git-go would take her forcibly? We pried the truth out of the wench, and it then turned out she not only sought to lie about big things, like affairs, but seemed to have the proclivity to lie about no end of little things that there was no need, or sensible justification, to lie about. According to her, she had been taken forcibly. I did not point out the discrepancy or whatever it was of her then seemingly sticking around to be taken forcible over and over again... if discrepancy it is. But I found out a lot about Herr Handke’s sexual style and his behavior, near first hand; and that Handke then might think we were friends after what he had done only proves once more how mad he is, how split, how able to forget and make believe, say that the so violent bloodthirsty Balkan tribes might make for a land of peace; and what a bastard of course, for it seemed to have been an entirely gratuitous act, or series of actions. When Handke showed up in New York once again about a year later after Judith’s return - he’d show up annually in the mid-seventies, as usual he stayed at the Algonquin. He had also been in New York the previous year by which time I had left the ‘great fondness’ for ‘the great passion’ Laurie Spiegel, and had given Handke and Amina my apartment at Independent Plaza. Handke left after one day, calling it a suicide apartment, I guess Handke does not like heights, no matter the great views, and I was already living with the ‘great passion’ in the 4,000 square foot raw loft on Duane Park and I drove Handke and Amina to JFK and made sure that he didn’t meet the third, silent, partner in Urizen, Leo Feldsberg, a near instantaneous embarrassment.
I had translated Handke’s NONSENSE & HAPPINESS by then, which Handke had given me as I left him at the Rue Montmorency in 1974 and which I would publish on Urizen’s first list, a troubling text I realized as are the contemporaneous WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING. Meanwhile I have better clues as to what troubled my man from early on and why he was so troubled then, and behaved the way he did. But when he showed up in 1977 I wanted to see what if anything might be going on between him and Thurman, so I suggested that we have drinks at the Algonquin. Nothing was going on, no sexual tension that I could detect. Handke was utterly uninterested in her. Judith had just been a convenience, someone, another girl to take hard, another of his acts of gratuitous cruelty. I tested Handke once more by asking him whether he minded my dedicating the translation of NONSENSE + HAPPINESS to “Judith"- t’was fine with him. In CIA mode then I suggested to Judith why not stay friends with him, it sounded as though she had tried a correspondence but had had not response. I had sought to withdraw as gently as possible, if there is such a thing as gentle break-up? Does it really matter to anyone but yourself who does not wish to see himself as cruel? However, I did not become completely disaffected from Judith for another ten years or so and kept her part of the Urizen circle, and used her as a kind of sounding board for lack of having another, but did not unload all my Urizen troubles, I played my cards badly, but kept them close to my chest when it would have wonderful to have someone to discuss them with, and I was someone who thought he could do it all himself. Judith received $ 5,000 to write a screenplay of Midsummer Night’s Dream from Leo Feldsberg in his venture on that project with Wieland Schulz; at one point she re-did an Italian translation of Padre Padrone that a friend of hers, Ruth Feldman [?] had mismanaged. For a few months, during the transition from “great fondnesss” to “great passion”, I deluded myself that I could dance to the tune “I have two Lovers” - it did not last long, mad passion won out! Judith rented space at Urizen when she preferred to write away from home. She gave me a woman’s low down on “the brat” when I was with the brat in 1979, whom I might have kicked out once it devolved that she was “bored” after our fabled todos santos trip through northern Spain that seemed to follow the route of her mother's marriage trip! - but no, you couldn’t abandon the child in yourself, not again, I had to arrange matters so she would leave me - as the hideous biting and scratching brat gave me the lowdown on Judith whom I had over for every party I gave on my roof or at the loft. Success with her fine Dineson bio made her look ravishing. At some point Judith started saying “give me a break” when no pressure of any kind was put on her - that must have been about the time she had been in analysis for a while and the “chineese footbinding” as she called it so perfectly started to come off, all those toesies starting to kick into individualism instead of being bound by niceness and subservience. I myself, about ten years later, in a dream, saw myself as Gulliver tied down by no end of Lilliputians, it appears your need to untether each of them one by one. A wholesale break-out and they grow back.
Prior to my leaving NY in 1985, however, there were two moments that made it clear to me that no matter that I might still be fond of her Judith was anything but of me. Spending one week with her ex-husband Jonathan David the last time I was in New York, who also visited me in my St. Monica Mts. retreat, in 1991, I learned that Judith also was not fond of herself, and he and I speculated why it was that all men left Judith, I think she had had two serious relationships prior to our hooking up, one with a fellow from Jersey who at least had the name of a halfway famous psychoanalyst, and with a London earl who would marry a cousin of mine, I thunk [?]. For Jonathan it was Judith’s emotional unavailability that made him seek out someone who was, whom I had caught having an affair, why was Jonathan on a pay phone for such a long time just a block away from where he and Judith lived? on Warren Street in a building that had been converted into lofts from being a hiring hall warren where I had got my first job in New York City, where I lasted one half day, as a dishwasher at a truck stop type restaurant in the Bronx, the owners were ever so nice in explaining to me as they gave me a great lunch that I was not suitable!  During our musings I told Jonathan the tale of how that mad
boar Schulz had then been caught in the boar net I had set. Johnathan said something to the effect "You win" - I did not bother to explain that that had not been the point, not atsuch destruction of such a gem as . Judith and I however had a fairly well integrated circle of friends, thus Handke, and I recall staying with Stuart Schramm in London, and especially liking her translator friend Jonathan Griffen, Pessoa, Kleist, and Bobby Seidman and his wife Patty. Bob Seidman was a Joycean and I too was still at that time. So why did I not take Judith to Elaine’s? Did I perhaps and am just forgetting it? She met Jerry Leiber and his then wife Barbara Rose who were both most approving, as no one would be of the great passion. Evidently I met Judith’s parents. In a lot of ways it was a relationship that for once made sense. I might easily have forgotten Judith’s mis-step with Handke - after all, she did mine - had I not been lied to initially and had I not met the “great passion”, the composer Laurie Spiegel one evening in company of a German musician or musicologist who was a friend of Schulz’s; albeit the part of me that feels so easily trapped was already feeling a bit trapped by all that cooking and the middle class existence to which Judith aspired, the forever wild child in me was. I have become a tad more sensible in the meanwhile, but only a tad.
Of the arts, perhaps of anything, music gets to me most, and I fell in love with Spiegel Musik and mistook the person for the musik; the person, as Richard Serra once averred, is just one step from being institutionalized. It would take too long to address why music is the deepest of connections, so let me just say this: we had a grand piano at the Fichtenhof, no one played it, not even my mother’s mother when she came to live with us, to die, after she had been bombed out in Berlin, and she had been a concert quality pianist. The other grandmother was friends with the greatest German soloists of the time. My father was Furtwaengler’s best ear. I banged angrily at the piano, but no one seemed to have the good sense to give me lessons, I taught myself to read music and schlepped several heavy leather-bound scores of the Beethoven symphonies and all the sonatas around for years. My father had a great collection of everything that was on 78 RPM. I have all that intus, still...
Within the year of moving into the loft with the “great passion” she turned harridan, would tackle me on the West Side Highway during the 1976 Manhattan brown-out [Blackout-Note] she was so desperate or happy to have found me, threatened to throw herself out of the car on the shoulderless BQE if I didn’t repeat what I had said - that i found he beautiful and talented and that I loved her, and since I guessed I would have a hard time explaining to the cops why the body of Spiegel Musik was identified as having been mangled on the BQE I said what I was forced to say - at my one and only couple counseling session, would not let me go with Bob Silver to attend a Russian emigre meeting that I had to raise my fist to protect myself and she kept running into my raised fists. It was at my return from the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1977 when the second night after a first wonderful night of being back with Laurie - I had been away just long enough - she called at 7 at the office, furious that i was not home, that I decided to walk out right there and then, and with all the regrets I might have I have not regretted that decision, that it was the right thing to do. Laurie meanwhile has learned nothing, appears to be the same person I walked out on. She refused to remain part of the Urizen circle unless I got back together with her. Once she came into Barnabus Rex and saw me and Handke and Brodsky there and promptly fainted, the Maoist Aussie son of a sheep farmer, Tim Burns carried her home. A tad too intense even for me at my most intense. But I don’t think I ever took either Judith or Laurie to Elaine’s, although Laurie lived in a real dump on the upper east side before I managed to drag her downtown to be with her fellow electronic composers.
At some point in the early 80s I mused out loud “always the wrong people” [title for a novel if ever there was one, and if Handke, too, didn’t muse to that effect in one of his diaries and in W.A.V., to which Stendahl’s “too few” is, of course, the proper answer, but even those very few have their problemas] and Judith replied “that is fate.” Regarded through that lens... alas alas alas... indeed there are too few of the few and even they are fault-ridden, too. One further nail in the Judith coffin, I am remembering just now, was that her sole reaction to my translation of Handke’s WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES was her liking of the line “hefty taxes.” That is all you actually need to know in this instance. W.A.V. became my heart test - it is no wonder that nearly everyone failed it, and that Saul Bellows titled a novel along the line of too many dying of a broken heart. But the few who haven’t failed the heart test: oh how I cherish you for having a complex heart!
I translated Michi’s Blood, Men’s Business & its second version A Man a Dictionary [Through the Leaves is the third and final version, which I happen to detest for its politically correct falseness, those “co-dependents” will be McNasties to the bitter end] & Farmyard [por nada, of course! while I had a weekly income of $ 125 and supported the supposed part time job which quickly turned into a frazzling fulltime occupation with ten Suhrkamp titles reaching me per week and it turning out that most of what there was to sell had been sold by the time the agency and I took over the representation, [see my home page for my history with the Suhrkamp Verlag] but the second 10 book Hesse contract had not been signed, with my royalty income, no wonder that Joan Daves had given up the representation and dealing on a daily basis with the likes of Helen Ritzerfeld and Siegfried Unseld; even now, decades later, people coming on mention of my having been the Suhrkamp agent complain of having had to deal with Helene in trying to obtain permissions for one or the other Suhrkamp text], and worked on one of these translation, I think it was of Men’s Business with Carl who managed to find 10 k for a Kroetz production in New York [I had initially sought Cormac McCarthy’s collaboration on Farmyard for his knowledge of the one and only true American country dialect that could be substituted for Kroetz’s Bavarian - [Tennessee/ Kentucky mountain dialect - what’s left of Elizabethan English here] - in which Kroetz wrote the first version of many of his plays at that time, and even the softened Bavarian inflection that is left in the “hochdeutch” versions benefited from these authentic origins, and I had looked for something along that line also in my American versions, but despite my expressions of admiration for Cormac’s Orchard Keeper, that was written in his original authentic style, it was no go, and so I resorted for all four translation of Kroetz’s intentionally “broken" language to a vernacular of which I had fair control, Black American city speech, with whatever country leavenings remained there from them thar cotton-pickin’ days. I might have had a wealthy upbringing, but that ceased as of age 12 when I came to this country, within weeks I had a paper route in the small settlement off Prospect Avenue in West Orange where my stepfather, now a Captain, and back in his original outfit, the Corps of Engineers, which for his knowledge of German had lent him, forced to I suppose, to the OSS/CIC in Bremen where he had become the first American to visit our place, as a lieutenant, to inform us that his Colonel Fink had requisitioned my father’s Maybach which they had discovered stashed in my father’s chauffeur’s garage some ways off on the Heerstrasse in St. Magnus. I imagine these fine chaps were going from garage to garage to requisition the most desired German cars... I had worked as a camp counselor for some years, as a soda jerk for two different Howard Johnsons, as a chauffeur for Mr. Beach’s Cadillac at the Basin Harbor club in Vergennes, Vermont and, after being fired, as both a marble man and tile setter with Italian and Polish crews in Middlebury, all the while attending Breadloaf at night; as a Good Humor man with Frank Conroy, as a waiter at the Lorillard Paper Mill in the Bronx Botanical Garden, as a fire fighter with a truly wild crew, as an assistant geological surveyor, lived a fairly African America life in Fairbanks of all places, had hitchhiked around, also in the South, and so had a pretty good ear for the all-American vernacular in my capacity as a translator and was always amazed at NY Editors turning to Ralph Mannheim who had lived in Europe for twenty years for translation where hoeing close to the living breathing vernacular was essential, Grass, Celine, Brecht. But all these hopelessly rutted editors, but for Fred Jordan at Grove Press, that is what they did then and what they do now. They go to “the trusted name” - because they don’t want to want to think and don’t want to take a chance and develop new translators and most of the time they are relying on outside readers since they are mono-glottals. Basta fini. Herr Kroetz [who has meanwhile allowed that possibly there might be something to the accusation that he is stingy] on hearing of the 10 K that Carl had found asked for all 10 k for himself, and that was that, with of course worse to come, until I published these four plays at Urizen Books, with the addition of Request Concert [a play consisting entirely of stage direction of a woman about to commit suicide while listening to her request concert] and paid myself $ 300 for the translation of the four plays and Richard Gilman $ 1000 for the introduction and Marty Moskoff did a beautiful cover and it was a sweet book indeed on Urizen’s first list. But no one was playing these plays until I prevailed on Jack [around 1974], I offered him co-translator credit, if he would work on the texts and could find a venue. Jack had an in at the Yale Drama school, I believe he taught there, Jack was a first rate director was my experience of seeing him work at the old Yale Co-Op, just pushing some bales of straw around as the set, he had a delicate touch, so we went up there and rehearsed it, and I changed a few lines at Jack’s request. Joe Papp told Jack he would never do any German play at the Public, and that was that for me as far as Joe Papp was concerned. And I also gave Denise Gordon, who was a directing student at Yale, but who also did not know a word of German, part credit for playing with Michi’s Blood with some of her acting students, and what if when I get back to L.A. in 1986 and Denise is a director - it is really too perfect for words: at Life Styles of the Rich and Famous - and I see her name as the sole translator of Michi’s Blood at the perfect hole in the wall theater for the play and well directed by a Brandeis grad who worked his way through school selling crack, who then paid me my 1/3 translators fee, a first since Kroetz had not shared on other productions of my translations, except for one where I had the chance to steal back!, and did a first rate job directing my own Dental Slugfest, whose original long poem version I had written in Billie the Kid country after having another tooth extracted, in Ciudad Juarez. In L.A., also at about that time there played my translation of Handke’s THEY ARE DYING OUT whose playing version was much improved in work with the director of its American premiere, at the Yale Drama School, Carl Weber. I had actually received my royalties for once from the American agent for Verlag der Autoren under whose auspices that play came out in the early 70s in Germany. So I expected at least my, preferably both Carl’s and mine on the program, but no, it was the name of the director, a German, who barely spoke English but then said “translating is another matter” - fellow who claimed to have been part of the original Publikumsbeschimpfung at T.A.T. in Frankfurt in 1966. Well well well what do we have here it occurred to me who had been through his first long bout of psychoanalysis and had had a total regression and rebirth real fast, and had learned the usefulness of adopting the mask of the analyst as you looked at him as you left another session, and who had come to L.A. specifically to complete this part of his education there. I didn’t press the point of the discrepancy of my getting my royalties and the agreement he had drawn with Samuel French. And then he did it again, as he and his girlfiend were courting me with strawberries and cream on a morning. He wanted, next, to do a Heiner Mueller, yet seemed unaware not only that Carl Weber, then, was still my friend, and that I had looked closely over all his Mueller translations, as Carl notes, but had taken credit only in the one instance where my contribution was both essential and substantial, i.e. a total rewrite: DESTROYED LANDSCAPE. And so even after I pointed out these matters to this fellow, I imagine I could Google his name in combination with the names of the plays and L.A., and his name instead of Carl’s appearing on the playbill, for was it ???? , I saw one other Mueller play in L.A. I decided to cut his feet from out of under him for this utterly unnecessary boosting of his weak ego and whatever pretense that would lead to, and his troupe dissolved within the week. And what if my Google Spider that is also primed to pick up all things Kroetz not just Peter Handke Wieland Schulz Keil and Carl Weber, the CIA’s best friend are the Google Spiders, and Wikileaks, brought me news last year that among the papers of the now deceased Jack Gelber is a translation of Farmyard, in his name, my name has vanished, no matter what the published version says! And what if I who is still a visiting scholar at the University around the turn of the centuries coming on the home page of my alleged good friend and collaborator the full professor Carl Weber at the Stanford Drama department come on the notice that he is the American translator of Handke and Kroetz, my name become a “with”. And it took quite some doing to get the drama department and the dean to get Weber, fat and padded as his vita as you can imagine it to be with a blatant instance such as this to set the matter right: a single instance of asking him to look over a Kroetz translation - and of course I recalled his hunger for credit! and one successful collaboration on the playing version of Handke’s They Are Dying Out. And what if my wonderful spider does not bring me multiple news a few months ago of Carl Weber’s going to give a lecture at Trinity University in Old San Antone Texas and announcing himself as “collaborator with Peter Handke” whom he has never met and never asked me to meet with during the several times that Handke was in New York, and the only thing collaborative is along the above mentioned lines. Let me give Weber the come-uppance that this sad case deserves.
I first saw Weber as a soldier in the once expressionist poet Johannes R. Becher, then the minister of culture of the DDR’s infamous SOCIALIST REALIST agit-prop play STALINSCHLACHT [The Stalin Battle - i.e. the battle of Stalingrad] in 1957 at the Berliner Ensemble, during the second part of my year abroad - real tanks on a real revolving stage! - Brecht had to sacrifice, make amends for being allowed his things - Weber must have been in his early thirties then. I then met him as the director of Handke’s Ride Across Lake Constance in New York in 1971. He happened to be in the West when the wall went up, in 1961, and stayed in the West with his wife Marianne; I at that time was interviewing the great East German author Uwe Johnson in New York and at Fred Jameson’s apartment in Boston. By the time Weber came into my life, who would also do the American premiere of Handke’s KASPAR at B.A.M. in 1972/3 while I was on my half year trip on the “Hellenic Splendor”, I had not only translated all the early Handke plays but had had a troupe and run around town with PUBLIC INSULT and SELF-ACCUSATION, and had worked with Herbert Berghof on these two plays and with Herbert and E.G. Marshall on KASPAR, and so knew how these plays worked [see
for a piece on translating those plays]. However I had not the faintest what the effect of RIDE would be and did not attend a single rehearsal because I spent weekends with Cathy, whom I had met at Elaine’s and become deeply involved in, in Woodstock. Thus my innocence with respect to the premiere which I attended with Marianne and Max Frisch and Cathy, and coming out of it as though cleansed, the world very light. But Max, who had termed KASPAR the play of the fatherless generation, did not care for RIDE, not at all, but I was too stunned by the experience to inquire why. I do not recall what if any Cathy’s reaction was, but went each night I could during the play’s five week run, if only for a ten minute “hit”, that was all I needed. Only in analysis, after the so-called good hour, after which you too felt cleansed, had had a catharsis of that kind did I ever experience anything like it again. The world made light via syntactical magic, this is one better than Brecht and Ionesco. And as the ultimate anti-Boulevard play1
For Peter Brook, whom I had given a year’s option on KASPAR in 1971, I had revised certain parts of my translation where I took a wild and wooly way with Handke’s transmogrification of versification, going one rung wilder, but those changes can only be found in the Methuen edition. However, Carl had them for his production at B.A.M. where the first official Handke performances were done in 1971. So we had gotten to know each other well enough by 1971 for me to do four Kroetz for Carl por nada. And it was with great pleasure that I and Carl went over his Mueller translations while he was still in New York, that seemed to be someone I could work and collaborate with.
I published Carl’s collection of essays on Brecht at Continuum, provided him with a doctored fictitious invoice for books he had allegedly bought from Urizen when the tax man was checking up with him, and we collaborated nicely, first, on the stage version of Handke’s THEY ARE DYING OUT, also when Jerry Leiber felt he could shoehorn some of his songs into it; later on all of Carl’s translation of the Heiner Mueller plays, I was not interested in Botho Straus. So Carl Weber will suffer in a particular circle of hell reserved for the padded; and I damn him herewith and consign him.
Wouldn’t you know it, coming to Seattle in that spectacularly fine summer of 1994, but that one of these thieves dwells among the Sasquatch. The first person I planned to call was the big butch bear, Roger Downey, for my suspicion that his translation of Kroetz‘s “Through the Leaves” might rely on my translation of MEN’S BUSINESS and A MAN A DICTIONARY the two predecessor versions of this monstrously false but politically correct piece. Coming to know Downey did nothing to allay that suspicion, least of all his lie to Verlag der Autoren that Heiner Mueller had given him the exclusive rights to translate QUARTETT, whose translation I happened to have looked over for Carl Weber in the early 80s. I never saw the completely unnecessary translation he did, if he actually did one, of Handke’s HOUR for Steve Pearson’s wonderful production here at the U.W. [the stage directions, all this play consists of, existed in Honegger’s published translation from Yale U.P.]. However, since Downey was the only person I gpt to know a bit here who knew something about theater [there were others but they have left these wastelands, Dan Sullivan, Mr. Wadsworth, M. Burke Walker, a first rate director, Bart Sher] and knew the authors of the work whom I had translated I arranged for a memorial on Heiner Mueller’s death, Carl Weber was supposed to come too, but as expected was pussy-whipped by the at once sick wife, into being a nurse [Weber only directed once more once on the West Coast, a production that had to be cancelled because he allowed Marianne to do her pussy whipping act]; and Roger Downey, at the prospect of encountering the man whose work he had meant to steal - Carl’s translation of QUARTETT - quickly contracted a case of convenientia diabetica.
The reason I am so incensed is because just this past year, in 2010, I have had my translation of Tankred Dorst’s FERNANDO KRAPP WROTE ME THIS LETTER stolen by the new artistic director of the Canadian Stage in Toronto, who has no German and has never translated before, not for the at most $ 1000 fee that its translation commands during the customary 5 week run, but to signify his ego; and my lousy teeth really need that $ 1000. And what has happened to me in this respect has happened to Carl, who sort of deserves it since he is a thief himself, and to others, it is astounding, and it is unending.
As mentioned, I first set eyes on Susan Sontag at Elaine’s in February 1965, I had read her Notes on Camp and though it described a take on culture that I was unfamiliar with, it looked like first rate work; and playful! At Princeton at the Gruppe 47 meeting she struck me as surprisingly girlish - but her looks were stunning. We met over Peter Weiss and since Peter wanted to see a Broadway play I bought tickets for five, Peter and Gunnilla, Susan, and Ekaterina and myself for Kopit’s Indians, balcony seats. Susan at first found the balconey seats odd - until she found the play entirely camp and congratulated me for being so cool to seat us where we might enjoy this piece of nonsense campily as it were - whereas in fact I had bought those seats because I could not really afford five of the best seats, which I imagine Susan felt she deserved. It was after this performance I then took them to Elaine’s where I had seen Susan first, in February 1965, a happening writer running around with the creme de la creme, Avedon, Styron, Jackie O, Bernstein and poor Sybil; heady stuff to be taken up by that crowd. Susan and I got along and... we had hit it off and we stayed in touch and she provided generous quotes, liked my Enzensberger essay collections, consulted with me when she was looking to get a loft way downtown, but did not want to be an urban pioneer such as I was for a while, and she was of a kind what with her strong intelligence and flair and beauty that I might go through the fire for, she helped me in putting Handke over at FSG, she volunteered to do an intro to my Adorno reader which that “asslicking stilleto man” [as he will be forever known] Michael DiCapua then killed at F.S.G. after I left. Susan was a very good egg, just not a good novelist, although these are interesting if your are interested in her, and politically then a naif Wilsonian; however, her essay work will last. I sure miss her. And I always defended her against all that male envy of a woman with such a strong intelligence. What was odd, though, was that she looked like that most dishonorable of culture vultures, Roger Straus, at the time she passed away. I recall flying to Frankfurt with Roger Straus in 1967 and his sorrow at the thought that he would probably never sell the first printing of 10 k copies of Susan’s then novel, DEATH-KIT, that has some quotes from my Nelly Sachs translations - oh my gawd, so much trouble to sell just 10 k copies flitted through my head. Susan did write one first rate story, formalist, “the way we live today” which she would have been unable to if she had not known Peter Weiss “the shadow of the body of the coachman” & “conversation of the three who are walking.” With her first rate understanding of art and appreciation she it appears desperately wanted to be an artist, too, a matter that cannot be willed; her strong head stood in her way there.
THE SLUT OF SLUTS:
Looking back, I actually knew who this person was with whom I had one wild first night, as a word escaped me on waking and taking a look at her. But the word, believe it or not, is unmentionable even in this wide open context. But there is no drug like love, and I was still taking the occasional Donnotal until I called Dr. Vechsler, whom I had just seen for my annual, what my blood count was: hm, I guess you are a bit anemic. Urizen Books and the fractious relationship with one of the two partners had taken its toll, on my intestines. I knew why I was anemic, Donnotal, and checking into its ingredients I discovered that one half of it was a barbiturate, a downer. I had taken it once during a tense stretch during my marriage, as I had Valium: and hated what they did to me, the degree to which they interfered with my dream work. I never berated my darling Doctor for failing to warn me what the ultimate effect of too loose bowels might be; and if I drank on top of Donnotal: someone once said after I had had just one beer: I ‘have never seen you smashed.’ However, although Donnotal turned out to be wonderful temporary cover of the intestinal agues that the dealings with Schulz elicited, and an all around disinhibitor, something that unloosed an energy charge, anemia is an inhibitor of a very active sex life, and ruined many a planned wild super-male and femal slutty weekend. But for some months indeed the slut of sluts, and the male slut danced the light fantastic, the wench was a ballerina, the great loves were invariably artists, except Cathy who was a work of art of sorts just by herself, until one of the two dogs we had instantly acquired instead of making the love child fell off the embankment that constituted the rim of the barge-like roof of this ramshackle part 150 year old hotel loft and nearly landed on top of a commuter who had just alighted from the Hudson Tubes and who could be heard exclaiming “Dogs falling of roofs in New York, I’m heading straight back to Jersey City.” But I imagine that was the first hint that somewhere down this last line of my Midsummer Night’s Dream there might be a big crash, as there was indeed, announced by a 747 crashing in a dream while I was house sitting the slut of sluts parent’s house in Brewster. Thus if denial is so powerful that it might only crumble via a dream announcement... this is the stub that leads into “Breakup under Analysis.”
KANSAS When the one year old second-hand Ford with that retrospectively suspiciously clean oil on its dipstick that I had bought in San Francisco upon my return from Alaska had gone down near Hill City in 1960 in a big billow of oily smoke pouring from its tailpipe, In Cold Blood territory, and the garage owner had bought it for the same sum I had paid for it a few weeks before and sent my trunks and belongings to NY I felt that there was something right about Kansas, which it appears it no longer the case. However, although I suspect I would much care to live in Nebraska, or Kansas, or Iowa I concluded after 25 years in New York City that the city required an infusion on the order of 50,000 fresh bloods from the heart of the country to sustain itself.
BLACKOUT NOTE: Let me add a not so brief note here on the “brown-out” of 1976 and the “complete blackout” of 1965. In 1976 I happened to be playing pool with my friend Lily [who was Ed Dunphy’s girlfriend] at Barnabus Rex, as the brown-out began to effect the lights, it was getting dark, either Lily or I sunk the 13 ball in a side pocket, and then we all went outside to note the brown-out spreading, the lights going dim in all the sky scrapers, and I decided to go for a walk on the then already abandoned West Side Highway [abandoned for a few years by then ever since a car crashed through the ill-maintained elevated highway along the West Side of Manhattan] I forget whether my dog Wooly Bear, ex-mascot of the Department of Sanitation Holland Tunnel division, was with me or not. I wanted to see what the city looked like as it blacked out. As noted above, at some point Laurie Spiegel appeared and was so happy to find me that she tackled me. She had called Barnabus and found out where I had gone. This particular brown-out blackout was marked by riots in the Bronx and in the ghettos I recall and not by the kind of mass love making that ensued upon the blackout of 1965. At that blackout I found myself in the Subway, the IRT, between 96th and 86th Street, it was summer and rush hour, I helped a Columbia University secretary get out of the train and we walked to I think 86th Street Station and promptly made love, I was already living with Ekaterina at that time. The occasion to make love and not to riot was general all over the city, in 1965, and indicated a kind of general readiness to make love and not make war, during that period at least. This was a marker as was the blackout that started as a gradual brownout in 1976. What a difference a decade can make in the general dispospotion of the populace. NY City, not just the West Side Highway and the Bronx, were falling apart and was nearly bankrupt.
I believe I first saw Boris “Policeband” Pearlman, the whole stringy ultra skinny 6‘ 3“ of him, all in black, leaning like a pole in a corner at Barnabus Rex. We hit if off at once, Boris quick as a whip was a classically trained violinist who had a punk act, Policeband, and he became my pool teacher, occasionally not just at bar pool but also at a billiard parlor, on Park Place was one that I recall, and Boris had a congenitally bad ticker, and so it was always touch and go whether he would survive a cold, his health was that fragile. However, the way he dressed, all in black, motor cycle black leather jacket, some chain work, kept potential muggers at bay, although the signaling function of his mode of attire, might frighten others, such as Handke whom I told Boris to look up at the Rue Montmorency the time he went to Paris to do some busking there, or he survived there busking a bit, and that was the second time he saw Handke, when he was busking, and perhaps Handke also saw him, on the Champs or some major public place of that kind as Handke walked past. At Urizen I gave Boris, or rented him for the allowance that SSI provided, $ 100 [?], a slither of a room next to my then spacious corner office, and his ears must have absorbed some of the occasional fervor in there. Boris was not only good at pool and music he was also an excellent reader, more Borises in this world and it would be a better place. Dike Blair, who became the author of the American part of the Punk book that Urizen imported from the UK, also produced one record of the “Policeband” act, these were one minute or minute and a half takes. I saw him do these succinct pieces at CBGS, and Dike Blair, whom you can find among my friends on facebook, may still have some records left. As was to be expected, Boris passed - truly passed faded away - a few years ago, the congenitally back ticker was not up to another cold or flue. Aside the fact that his ex-girl friend, a fine floozy, and I once spent one night in each other’s arms, we never had the slightest misunderstanding, and as noted above, it was Boris who called me a “male slut”, where I ought to have mentioned the 100 times I actually said no or did not seize the opportunity that offered herself. Via Boris introducing me to her, Rebecca Johnson, the “Blueberrry Queen" from Michigan via the Rhode Island School of the Arts [oh what the art schools poured into downtown Manhattan!], a young lower East Side film maker, became “publicity" for some years at Urizen. On being introduced to her at Barney’s I recall taking her instantly into my arms and kissing the tall willow, somewhat pockmarked, acne-scars [?], definitely a first to do that, I happened to be in the mood, but that was as far as it went. “Becky" is famous in my memory for two matters:  A Brit film maker Seth, one morning showing up at her office, she also lived there [!], to film her “playing Bataille" - talking about living the books you published [!], and  on welching on the 4 k thousand dollars that I had my friend Ruth Kalkstein lend her to make a film, when she in fact was in a position to repay on having briefly struck it rich as a screenwriter in Hollywood. “Becky" was another of that lower east side crew who would sell at the drop of some serious money.
LINDZEE SMITH, deceased too, was an Aussie actor and director who came into my life when I moved to Tribeca. Do not ask me how or where I met Lindzee, it might easily have been at Barnabus Rex. Lindzee had played KASPAR in Australia, so that gave him an immediate in with me. Lindzee was a powerful bloke, and as he put it, “brushed with the tar brush”, which meant part Aussie Aborigine. In 1975 or 76 he did some work at a beautiful large first floor space in the then ex-Ribbon Factory building at the north-east corner of Duane and Hudson, that would later become a book shop, among them Handke’s PROPHECY and CRIES FOR HELP, the only time I have seen these translations of mine of these succinct early genius works done. On his return from Australia, Lindzee did truly extraordinary, forever memorable one man performances of Muellers HAMLET MACHINE, at the Mudd Club, using one of these double decker painter’s platforms on wheels as his stage, and of SELF-ACCUSATION at a brief lived large venue, with balconey, that was also a music place, at around West Broadway and just below Canal, opposite the Thread Needle Building, these performances were so extraordinary because Lindzee was a junkie, his way of dealing with having Lupus, a condition from which he succumbed a few years ago, back in Australia. Around 1978, by which time, I had Schulz’s former loft, a former mid 19th century hotel co-joined with a more regular building, across the street from Urizen, Lindzee gave me a call from Australia whether I could put him up for a month before he got his bearings again. “Sure, mate.” The month stretched into a year, and Lindzee arrived not with just one wife, but with two. His Aussie wife and his American wife, a girl he had hooked up with while still in the US who it appeared had followed him down under, Betsy Sussler, from Connecticunt and supposedly the daughter of two original American communists. Whether Lindzee was a genuine bigamist I don’t know, perhaps he just arrived with two girlfiends in tow. The Aussie g.f. was first rate, a real socialist who quickly left the boheme at 65 West Broadway to become a social worker in the Bronx, but not before slipping into my bed in upstairs loft bedroom, a kind of captain’s bridge over looking the wobbled barge like roof, and up at the WTC, which night reminded me of Guenter Grass’s description of young girls when you bed them as being as agile as fish leaping the water. The month became a year, the pair paid $ 100 to defray utility costs, the gas heater in such a space, I have a story called “Betsy’s Fridge”, about a utility forever promised that never appeared, and the year wore on and Lindzee’s habit was taking its toll, especially on telephone #s that had to be disconnected for his running up thousands of dollars, and my credit with the telephone company, and then “Nightshift” as he called his theater troupe did a combined version of my translations of Kroetz’s MEN’S BUSINESS & A MAN A DICTIONARY, at a storefront in Chelsea. Strong work, I asked whether they had ever considered paying royalties, my Maoist friend had not. Lindzee also imported a young girlfiend whose Herpes I once saw him tending. Once, returning from a bookfair and in my office late at night across the street, I noticed my loft filled with the absolute detritus from the East Village, the lumpen of the lumpen Marx might and I do put it. I decided to spend the night on the green nougahide couch in my offiece, I also have a story called “what the green nougahide couch said” - it starts off with in the Nickelodeon wars in St. Louis or Kansas city in the 20s, think Wurlitzer, somehow got to the Skouras brothers in Hollywood, and via Schulz’s porno dubbing firm Vicland ended up at Urizen, and but for one of its six legs being broken, its nougahide which did not absorb sweat or marks of any kind, could be said to have the toughest denial hide ever devised yet with an Elephant’s memory of its travels and what had transpired during. At some point, Betsy moved out, Lindzee was so down and out that I took him to a detox uptown that put him on a heroin surrogate, upon his return if he did not have to rob some things of mine once more before disappearing. Initially, at the prospect of Lindzee given a place in the loft, Phillip Frazier, the educated part of the Aussie left, had raised a major eye-brow. I might have inquired more deeply into that raised brow.
LOWER MANHATTAN OCEAN CLUB
On giving the book party for George Bataille’s STORY OF THE EYE at Max’s new venue on Chambers Street - a former downtown merchant’s restaurant that ran all the way from the major thorough fare Chambers Street through to Captain Reade Street, one block to the North - I could not but fail to notice that in advance even to my appearing as the host all hors d’oeuvres had been consumed by a swarm of hungry voracious vanguard from the East Village; sign of things to come to Tribeca, which when I had come to the area in the mid-seventies was rife with urban pioneers who lived with the ethos of the 60s counter culture exchange of crafts and the like. By the late 70s this ethos no longer held, it was crumbling under the onslaught of a truly hungry crew, amongst them a variety of people who began to populate “our” bars and the new restaurants that were springing up. Quite a few of those names you came to know later in the unending Wall Street scandals. The 1980 and the election of St. Ronnie Reagan spelled the nail in the coffin of Tribeca.
Continuum + Urizen Books:
What Susan Sontag told me about Schulz - that the sources of his funds were a porno-dubbing firm called “Vicland" - was the first really serious warning that something was amiss, the first time that I had a hunch aside what people had told me. But what did I know about Schulz at that point, in Spring 1975 when Urizen was initiated it occurs to me: in 1970 a fellow in a clown suit, sewn by his American hippie girlfriend Barbara Becker [“Slavegirl”, accompanied by a Koolie named Suhki], had appeared at the Lantz-Donadio office on West 57th in 1970 wanting to direct some Handke plays at B.A.M., a welcome development since my having run around with a pickup troupe in the late 60s and these plays and Kaspar being done for two weeks at a time at the HB Studio had not gotten me very far. I had even taken away my own translator royalties to enable the B.A.M. contract - to the consternation of Suhrkamp Verlag. I had attended a few parties of Schulz’s at what would become my second loft around 1978, when Schulz married a woman known to one and all as “Crazy Helene” who, according to Olaf Hansen, who knew her from Frankfurt University, had not been crazy until she got involved with Schulz, and moved into a small Mews on Carmine Street in the West Village. Schulz had an interesting crowd around him, there were parties, dancing, he seemed to be courting me, I was a bit puzzled why, and going out one midnight to fetch a pack of Camels had discovered the one bar that was open at that time in the deserted neighborhood - a small red Budweiser sign aglow - Barnabus Rex: what a shoe box jammed with human warmth. The productions at B.A.M. were so so, Jezebel with the feminine part in Self-Accusation, until she dropped it for a well paying role, mentioned that the director, Schulz, shouted: what German director did not shout? well, I didn’t see Herbert Berghof shout. Nor later Carl Weber. Handke had within moments found Schulz to be very dark, or a least very German [as he himself would prove to be, very differently of course, and appeared to have told Schulz so to his face; at any event, aside Handke’s NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS I could not get Schulz to agree to do any other Handke; ditto for finally getting my famous Adorno reader into print: it appears Adorno had not succumbed to Schulz’s charms in Frankfurt and Schulz carried his pettinesses far]. At the start of Urizen, Barbara Becker, the hippie - and what an advantage it was for a German mountebank to have a real Kentucky hippie girlfriend for a cover - who became known as slave girl for her obeisance to and exploitation by Schulz - mentioned that a certain Christopher, the actual dubber of the pornographic films as I would find out - was getting screwed over in matters that I might have inquired into. I filed these matters away, as I did what Susan Sontag had told me in 1976, and I would say, in retrospect, was too nonchalant. It was not yet time to get a lawyer, but perhaps a good time to reflect instead of blindly forging on to keep such a venture going at nearly all costs. Schulz’s reaction to my introducing him to the man who would handle production for us, an outside contractor friend, Walton Rawls, proved dimly worrisome, too. Walton was a production manager I had befriended at McGraw-Hill. Schulz said that Walton seemed immediately trustworthy, which however meant that Schulz trusted no one, probably not even himself, that his view of the world was peopled by the untrustworthy. I tucked it away and did not say anything. Walton indeed proved utterly trustworthy but for hooking up with a totally incompetent sub-contractor for the typesetting, Herbert Mordana, who was late and mis-set the types, but that is how Michael Hafftka, who and his wife worked in that capacity for Mordana, entered my life as an illustrator for several Brodsky covers. When my friend Hannah Guenter from Praeger found out that Herb Mordana was our type-setter, she pitied me! Little good did her pity do. We had a great first cover designer in Marty Moskoff, so the first list looked most presentable no matter how late some of the titles were.
The opportunity to branch out on my own arose in the oddest of ways... at a Christmas party at future severely delinquent and criminally indebted author Andrew Arato’s apartment [delinquent in the sense that of the three book contracts we drew with him, he delivered only on one, and so far has refused to return the advances on the two others, saying that I ought to sue him!... So much for Arato’s worrying about Iraq’s constitution, and other matters of that kind. When Schulz, despite taking the 25 K dollars for which he sold the heart of Urizen in 1981, was apparently so down and out that he asked Arato, to whom no end of courtesies had been extended, for a loan of $ 300, Arato wrote me that he had refused to lend Schulz the money because he had heard that Schulz did not pay back! Talk about petty bourgeois projecting! Schulz may be a big time crook and embezzler, so what if Arato would have got his lousy $ 300 bucks or not. Instead Schulz found the wife of the Germanist Arnold Heidsick, to bail him out of his scrape, a silver trader. Socialism was not to be made with folks like Arato or Eike Gebhardt or Maoists like Lindzee Smith. About the only one whom I came close to whom one might count on it was Smith’s first wife who quickly left the Seraglio once in New York and went to work for social services in the Bronx, and perhaps Philip Frazier, whom I rented space in the huge loft, of Digger & Australian Rolling Stone fame, who then worked for The Nation Institute after his idea of starting a leftist equivalent to Time Magazine was still-born; but a sybarite, too; too much pot and too many women. The old left was not like that. I myself could afford to pay myself a mere 1 k a month at the start of Urizen because I had sufficient royalty income to afford it, for about half the firm’s duration. Socialism of any kind would seem impossible without some considerable personal sacrifice on a very immediate personal level. Fritz Heubach, then a friend of Schulz’s, would wonder about what kind of socialist that fellow was within short order. I can do that for about six months I once discovered. I see little hope for it in this wage slave culture that propagates the delusion that everyone might be a self-made millionaire: the ”Millionaires Club” here in Seattle here we come!]
Arato lived on McDougall Street, there was a discussion of left publishing, [I had had discussions of that kind with a variety of people since my McGraw-Hill days in 1971, but no one was able to get off the pot and possible authors only liked the possibility of getting better royalties; but by that time, in 1975, I had the model of Verlag der Autoren and saw how that was run when I represented them for a few years.] Anyhow, I happened to say to Wieland Schulz, the only one there I knew to have some business sense [I had turned my representation of German publishers over to him after seceding from Suhrkamp and hooking up with Werner Linz and Herder + Herder at McGraw-Hill, and all but Suhrkamp had taken him]: “You and I ought to start a firm some day," And never shall I forget the look that shot back at me. I had hit pay dirt - what kind of pay dirt I would find out during the course of ever more dreadful few years.
Some months later, in early 1975, Werner Linz had killed my Leiber project and was cutting back at Continuum Books where I might be able to do poetry and politics and theory but could not publish novels, whoever Werner Linz was and I never really found out, a real publisher he was not, but he was known as “a real shit” to a lot of people, I decided to test whether I had seen right that evening at Andrew’s. I called Schulz, ensconced in a cutting room in Krautland, and asked whether I had apprised the look I had seen on his face correctly. It turned out that I had. At the same time I was meant to do a new book for Brecht/ Weil’s The Three Penny Opera for Leo Feldsberg who had the option from Brecht’s son Stefan and was talking to the Brechtian director Carl Weber about directing it. When Leo Feldsberg got wind of what Schulz and I were about, he wanted in; and the extra 100 thousand he was willing to introduce made for a very different small than I had envisioned, who wanted to do this part time, small small. For that amount Leo even wanted the firm to be located on Central Park South - for a million I might have considered such a hideous venue and for a million - Atheneum in the 60s was started with three million I believe - he would have seen some return on his investment, too. Moreover, Leo wanted a board, I guess he envisioned getting in touch with a “who's who" of overseers- Leo hated every single buck he lost in a bet, another lesson in how to become a millionaire. But Leo and Schulz hit it off, as entrepreneurs impresarios, and at one time planned to do a film of Midsummer’s Night Dream - it certainly was the right time for that, and serious girlfiend Judith Thurman, the “great fondness” - as opposed to the subsequent “great passion,” - even got five thousand dollars to write the screenplay. Schulz then welched within the year on his commitment of 50 thousand dollars of development money, something I failed to remember at a critical future moment. Leo, the son of a Viennese wine merchant, who via British internment and the last boat from Australia prior to Pearl Harbor, had struck it rich in Columbia in the fruit exporting business with a 25 k loan from the Danish Consul [that was the story] - had sold the business, Fructo, for $ 40 Million, when it appeared that Castroa / F.A.R.C. would take over the country. He had a penthouse on Park Avenue South, where we met, and a fortress on a hill outside Kali, with, I gather, a grand collection of opera recordings, two guards with submachine guns circled his fortress, and the opposite hill the Christians ascended on their knees on Easter as Leo giggled at them from his hill. Thus the Urizen monies derives from dirty old men masturbating in porno houses and from the backs of fruit pickers in Columbia! Leo was now in a position to fulfill his Viennese childhood dream, so rudely interrupted by the Anschluss in 1938, to become an impresario. The only book Urizen published that Leo cared for was Rudolf Augstein’s Jesus Son of Man.
Schulz, in his cutting room, delegated future author Wolfgang Schivelbusch [The Industrialized Traveler] - to whom I would give my Independence Plaza apartment where I lived after I had to move from Rockaway until the great passion and I bought the 4 thousand square foot loft on Duane Park, for 10 k I think, what must be worth 5 million dollars now - to discuss the “program” at Rockaway Beach, near Rijs Park where I lived then. Emblematic of the enterprise as a whole, on concluding the discussion, Wolf Gang [a wolf’s pace] marched into the surf as only an East Prussian might, which promptly turned him upside down, he lost his glasses! - imagine going into the surf with your glasses on! - is this Jacque Tati or not? - got an instant headache and Barbara Becker had to drive him back to the city in Schulz’s beat-up International Harvester personnel carrier. I forgot whether Judith and I merely looked at each other or broke out in laughter. All I really cared about in the discussion of the “program" was that you couldn’t program literature. Wieland and Wolfgang’s fascination with social history was fine with me, and Urizen then did perhaps half a dozen interesting books along that line, and the continuing education that editorship is was much endowed and grateful. However, Wolfgang then had to sue Schulz to get his contracted-for Industrialized Traveler into production; I found a fine translator for it, and it turned into Urizen’s prettiest book. Schulz during his then 5 years in the US had made it a pointto acquaint himself with the variations of the US left, a sometimes brilliant but still ineffectual lot. Divest the billionaires of their illgotten worth, no one have more than 10 million, and distribute, and thus Tom Ferguson's work was published by us, and if we'd stuck around the three or five volumes of Marx/ Engels'contribution to the New York Herald Tribune, they had been their chief foreign correspondence, from London, for many years, and we did this by subscription commitment, but had not reached the number of I think 300 by the firm went under lots of the then Soviet Union libraries as was to be expected. A huge and expensive enterprise; another major task that remained uncompleted was the publication of the collected translated Bresson screenplays.
Urizen was started first in Wielands’s loft, 65 West Broadway, with his fine secretary Siegrid as its only other employee, then I discovered that the fourth floor in the opposite commercial building was for rent - and I found the most marvelous old items - ledgers of all kinds, grand old mahogany desks, an assortment of 1920s technical gadgets at an airplane manufacturer that had gone down at bankruptcy auctions, and that was a lot of fun. Urizen was started with $ 200,000, 100 from Leo and 100 from Schulz, via entities entitled Oberon and Princeton N.V. I, later, within a few years introduced 50 k, 10 from my father, ten I had earned editing the autobiographical novel of a rich banker’s wife, and 30 k in the form of 10 dollar loans from three different friends, whom I did not even have to approach, as I wouldn’t have, they sensed that Urizen or I had money worries; or they liked the idea of Urizen. Generous as hell. Expressions of confidence. Yet very odd. Handke, Jeannette N. and Carey C. and I then signed notes for all three; as I would later for half of Urizen’s debt to our printer, the George E. Banta Company which stood at $ 160,000 K at the end. Only Jeanette, so far, at least got part of their money back, the only one in some real need. My third share was based on my experience, and I think Leo imagining that with my record of publishing Hesse I might strike another vein of gold. I did in a way, by consolidating all of Sam Shepherd’s plays at Urizen, who was our best seller year in year out, a playwright with the following of a novelist; five collections, plus the Pulitzer Prize winning Buried Child.
Initially Urizen Books was called Hyperion, think Hoelderlin. I had checked P.W. for the name's availability. Within say six months, however, a Hyperion Edition came out of the woodworks, not a real publisherwhich is why it was not listed in PW, but a reprinter from Connecticut. We wanted to avoid confusion as well as a lawsuit and so, at Olaf Hansen's suggestion, it became Blake's URIZEN, a book I did not know then, but its illustrations certainly prophetic for someone who will undergo no end of near torture for a cause. Michael Hamburger was none the happier about the name change. As soon as the firm was founded I asked my former wife, Ekaterina, whether she could come up with a stationary design, and so she did, with something nearly as fine and modern as Ralph Coburn, the MIT Metamorophosis designer might have. Schulz, however, was quite unhappy, and since it did not seem that big a deal, the new stationary, printed on marvelous grey stock, with the old forever used as scrap, assumed the pretense of being at least a 100 year old, another hint at the pretentiousness of my man. A 100 + year old impresario fraud. About the only good thing that came out of Leo’s presence was his insistence that I get a bona fide distributor, Dutton, and, being unexperienced, I was so grateful to have found one that I made a distribution deal with Ivor Whitson there that called for Urizen having to pay Dutton a minimum of 50 K annually [25% of cover price] for distributing our list, which however meant that if we were going to approximately generate such an expensive but validating nut - i.e. a gross minus book store discount of $ 200,000 per annum - I had to put a lot of books into print really fast and expend the start-up money in a hurry. And if it hadn’t been for SEX DIFFERENCES being taken by five different book clubs...
I was so furious at Leo at the way he kept not introducing his promised funds that I recall making the one and only threat in my life: Leo, if you welch on this agreement, you will never produce anything in New York. What else was this embarrassment interested in: young girls, of course. If only I had thought of Mary H. and she had still been in my life, maybe I could have pried more than his promised 100 k out of Leo. I really earned those 100 k the grief that man gave me over it I felt once it had all been introduced.
By the second list Schulz had found books for us to distribute, the Trotskyite Pluto Press in London, the Kidrons, lovely people, first we fell behind in paying them their share, then they fell behind in paying us for distributing our books in the UK; and that is how Wilfred Burchett came into my life: as Trotzkyites they would not publish a Stalinist old-time United Front journalist like Wilfred, who also behaved most honorably during WW II, no matter that there was really no political line in his reporting from inside the Vietcong tunnels in his Mosquitos and Elephants, which proved a considerable success for us. South Africa Stands Up was another matter, it lacked the kind of firsthand experience on which Wilfred was able to draw so well in Mosquitos, and took a hard left party line politically. But no wonder that NY Times Books then had the good sense to publish such a great war reporter’s autobiography. But no Elaine’s it would have been unlikely that I had known how to assemble some journalists to meet with Wilfred when he came to New York. Ivor Whitson at Dutton was none the happier for my showing up with a list of 40 books for our second sales conference, but there was nothing he could do about it, he had put no limit on what we could give his sales force to carry. Surprisingly, some of the Pluto titles did really well, especially their Jack London biography - one of those authors you can publish a biography of every decade and expect to do well with it if it is halfway up to snuff.
One example of Schulz’s thievery at the very time that Urizen was started was the four part series on the WPA which was based on Olaf Hansen’s research, and for which Hansen was never paid. What Hansen got instead was a contract for the completely unnecessary “Randolph Bourne Reader” [superfluous in the sense that something along that line had been published five years earlier] but eventually I gave in to Schulz’s pestering and said, “ok we’ll do it but you will see that it will be a loss leader”... as indeed it was. However, it proved to be Olaf’s ticket to American Studies in the U.S. Not that that made up for having years of work stolen! Olaf can regard himself lucky that at least his name is cited in those documentaries. Olaf also did not deliver on a biography of James Agee for which he was paid a fairly sizable advance. For that I believe I put him in touch with old friend Robert Phelps who had been a friend of the fabled Agee.
As to trust: it took a lot of living in New York to get at least some of the stupid trustingness out of me, to become a tad jejune. But dealing with folks like the so utterly dishonorable culture vulture Roger Straus, Werner Linz, Siegfried Unseld, or fools like Harold McGraw will waken even the biggest shlemiehl in the course of time; that women might not be trusted to be faithful was far more easily understood and forgiven or not.
One noticeable feature early on was Schulz turning various personal expenses that he was incurring over to Urizen and paying himself even when he was not working, which was rarely since, e.g. the four part WPA series kept him out of New York at least for one whole year early on.
The third time that I might have consulted a leagle beagle was when Hyung Pak, the aforementioned burnt-out case of Korean sales manager who replaced Howard Linzer, who is the only valuable employee Urizen ever had [see Linzer note], after Howard had walked out after a spat with a fellow employee, alerted me that Schulz appeared to have sluiced through an extra $ 80,000.
The situation was the following. With my two attempts to put the firm on the kind of sound financial footing it required for long-term growth had been aborted once these bankers had had one look at Schulz, Schulz had managed to inveigle ex-school mate Michael Klett, who had inherited the Klett Verlag and Klett Cotta, into possibly introducing half a million dollars. For that Schulz claimed he needed to be in charge and claimed that Leo wanted him as president - later I would find out from Leo that Schulz had told him that that was what I allegedly wanted and so Leo had consented. The year is 1979, around 1978 Schulz discovered to his own surprise that l’il Urizen was quite hot, we got good reviews, we won some prizes with Sam Shephard and Brodsky; thus his interest. We had a pretty neat list. Classy. Howard Linzer, the only good person Schulz ever brought into the firm, had gotten us out from under Dutton, we had a fine sales force. It was on my return from a todos santos trip with the brat, subsequent to a Frankfurt Bookfair, that I was confronted with Schulz’s demands. I might have remembered Schulz’s welching on his 50 k commitment to Leo Feldsberg - so Schulz had to be taking a major chance that I would not. Or perhaps he wanted to be caught? At any event, when he appeared at my office after Hyung Pak had alerted me that $ 80,00 had been sluiced through Urizen, I had several choices of course. Call Leo, call Michael Klett, call a lawyer - instead I decided to test Schulz, who had devised one of his overly complicated deals, a buy back scheme, for the introduction of 500,000 into the firm, and which was tied to the initial share holders agreement and the monies that the three partners had introduced. So I said, “Well, if you really have put in $ 180.000 of working capital then your shares in the future arrangement ought to reflect that.” By that time  I had already arranged for an infusion of $ 250,000 in tax shelter money - there was that amazing ride I took with the tax shelter lawyer, who headed a boy scout troupe, say to Massapequa, on the Long Island Railroad because the individual investment agreements had to be signed outside the New York City limits for legal reasons that were beyond me even then, and then returning with $ 250,000 in checks and depositing them in our bank.  I was also keenly aware that Schulz had paid himself $ 1 k a month, plus expenses, for the four years of the firm’s existence, while, to put it generously, working half time - how could he have the time what with his his little socially relevant films and branching out disastrously into independent film making; and  Urizen had at least half a dozen employees, three more than needed. And I was not sufficiently insistent on pointing out that we did not need a special person to handle publicity, that after Howard split we did not need a useless replacement such as Hyung Pak, whom at least I managed to get Schulz to fire a year later. To justify its overhead Urizen needed to publish more or more quickly selling books. Later I would arrange for two further infusions of tax shelter money - one less missile head I told myself, and it was invariably dentists who did the investing in books that sold a little, but god forbid that these investments suddenly turned a profit and could not be used as tax write offs. No wonder my expensive teeth is all I can say!
I will never in my life forget Schulz’s reaction to my statement that he ought in that case be rewarded with an equivalent in new shares. He shook his head in the particular old man’s way - Schulz looked at least ten years older than he was because he was so identified with his grandfather, who I would later find out had been infamous in Frankfurt for being the same kind of crook - when something transpired that he did not understand at all. Shake that head Wieland, shake that head, and when he couldn’t get his way he would threaten to run out! In retrospect, now that I understand what a perversely masochistically sadistic character structure governed the fellow, I imagine he expected to be punished, now that he had been caught, in flagranti as it were, I expect he expected that he had been found out and would be whipped as his grandfather had whipped him when caught him stealing or whatever - what is so wonderful is how John Houston saw so entirely through Schulz at once and made him play the role of the burglar in Annie, and used him to provide real whores from Mexico city to Guernavaca during the filming of Under the Volcano.]. It is just not me, so I not only fancy myself, to treat people in that fashion. I was just playing with Schulz that day and also wanted to see whether the Klett-Cotta deal would actually materialize - it did not but for $ 50,000 k tide over money that they invested, and lost; and when it did not materialize, there I was with another tax shelter deal and Urizen would stay afloat another year, and I had some other, far more dangerous options too - but taking the firm over on my own as I might have then, no, I preferred the position of eminence grise, let Schulz be the head of it, he was scarcely ever around. Thus if anyone is responsible for the demise and the crash that would be Urizen it is I. However, Klett’s introducing the 50 k moneys via Dresdner meant a change of banks, and closing out the old account: looking at that final statement from Citibank I noticed that Schulz had paid it, it was about 15 k, entirely to himself. I never saw a check book again until after bankruptcy in 1982!
Schulz stealing – what didn’t he steal! Ideas too – my friend Gonzalo de Herralde Grau’s “Under the Volcano” project from him and running with it to John Houston. That was the tipping point, I stopped dithering, giving Schulz the credit he deserved for his line of social history books; he had sluiced no end of money through Urizen by then; and been caught , and got paid and scarcely put any work in, how could he with all his own still-born film projects that were bankrupting WSK Productions, Pretty Maggie Money Eyes and whatever they were all called, Maggie was made in Cartegena, Columbia, a town I regret not having been to, and its colonial splendors. At that point of Schulz taking out Gonzalo I took aim at him, I recall the moment to the day, I was in my office, looking out across the street at what was now my loft across on West Broadway, as Schulz said he’d got the project for himself, he was standing to my left, and had run with it to John Houston who had been wanting to make a film of one of my favorite books, Under the Volcano, for a long time. Schulz had neither understanding nor respect for a younger film maker such as Gonzalo who came out of Antonioni, he had entered our lives with his brother Herralde who ran Anagrama in Barcelona, which was part of a small consortium of small publishers: Marion Boyars, Klaus Wagenbach, 10/18 Christian Bourgeois, was there or was there not an Italian, and Urizen. At that moment something clicked. As usual, I remained laconic. For good reason Chris Sievernich, who has assisted on occasion, as I have him in his dealings with Schulz, calls me “the hunter” - my sign, Sagittarius! whenever we talk or correspond. And the hunt, the collection is still on, and with the last breath I breathe... Even now Schulz finds ways to inveigle himself, via the film set photographer, also of a lot of Handke photos, Helena Birnbaum, with a moron like Stephan Peter Jungk, who has the dark Handke on one side and the destructively dark Schhulz as a close friend! Jungk is either a moron or likes the company of all kinds of dark folks, so might just have some dark sides himself.
People have asked me and so I have myself why it took me so long, why I put up with Schulz with all I knew about him and what he had done, why I endangered my life with all the matters I did to keep the firm going, as kind of eminence grise: Schulz had screwed Leo, taken over the firm, used it to sluice funds through, tried but failed to have access to Michael Klett’s credit line of half a million, etc. etc., and all I can say is the following: until the end I always had a lot of outs,  As of 1979 I had an inheritance coming with which I could borrow and buy him out for the apparently desperately needed 25 K, in 1980 matters looked so favorable that I moved the entire office across the street to my loft - I had never wanted to have a staff of seven as Urizen did for some years;  there was Charles’ [“Bouquet”] brilliant bar tender’s guide as a real money book, and a promised investment of $ 500 k, I could always find another tax shelter and provide relief to no end of American dentist investors in these instruments, there was Leiber who was thinking and thinking about buying out Schulz and for whose wife Barbara Rose’s Acquilla Editions - which Urizen was meant to distribute - I had raised the start up fund [of course this stinking Rose never paid me my 10 k agent’s fee, nor would her husband see to it that she did]; Cathy, too, loomed as a possible partner once she solved her Bus Stop Shelter Inc. problems; I also still felt slightly indebted for Schulz’s initial introduction of funds, also: the prospect of running the firm by myself, it was a lonely prospect for a while, I had not yet learned to dealing with loneliness; I was torn about what I wanted to do; I was going into analysis; I had dragged the latest great love home, whom I had met while under the influence of Donnotal, she wasn’t the Sex Pistol’s dream girl, but it was an instance of the male slut falling for the slut of sluts... and no one to warn me... No Lindzee, or friendly Irish Setter, Keith Goldsmith who was no longer working for us and who seemed to have realized that when I might have a good nose for books but when it came to girls I was pretty damn blind.
It is funnee, a funny wrinkle how the firm actually went down. It was generating about 10 k a month, but Schulz had failed to pay the fulfillment service in New Jersey, imagine that, and when the fulfillment service’s owner retired and put his kid in charge the kid wanted to prove to dad what a toughie he was, so they kept our checks that went to the fulfillment service, and Urizen was out of cash flow. I went on unemployment. But just before I did Schulz, who it appeared knew about the “little black book” [actually one of these ancient dark blue ledgers I had bought at bankrupty 6 years prior, a slim one] came to my desk to ask if there was anything coming in. “No, not until early next year,” I said, to make sure I’d get the $ 2000 that I knew was in the mail.
Thereupon Schulz sold the heart of the firm, its 12 best producing titles, to the kind of man who will buy the Brooklyn Bridge, my ex-boss Werner Linz, who might have been smart in buying the whole enterprise for the $ 120,000 it produced per annum, the 125,000 books and 75 titles that were in the ware house, and Schulz then kept the entire $ 25 k for himself: to obtain the underlying rights for Under the Volcano I believe [?], I used to think it was to get hold of the screenplay, but I have been in touch with the screenwriter, Guy, and that was not so: or for whatever desperate need Schulz, with WSK vendors besieging him, had of 25 K or out of sheer greed? Certainly not smart. At the bankruptcy hearing Schulz then claimed that bankruptcy law prevented him from paying our fulfillment service... and no one bothered to look at the check book [!], which I had been unable to have a look at the past several years. Urizen’s 250 k. debt was fiddlesticks what with its assets and cash flow, even during those 21% interest Jimmy Carter days. After I looked at the two checkbooks not having been unable to see either for several years - Schulz even told our accountant, Glaviano, not to show them to me - I added up every thinfg he had taken out, a cool $ 300 k. My work had been to fund the bankrupt WSK productions! Moreover, Schulz cancelled the $ 100 x-mas check I had given our last employee, Anne Hemenway...to give a hint of how petty and cruel we are!
Christoph Schlotterer, someone who kept being bamboozled, kept warm by Schulz – who had met him when I turned the Hanser representation over to Schulz -
that Schulz and I did not seem to be speaking to each other, we were diverging so radically. Were we ever!
Since I had signed for half of Urizen’s debt to its lovely printer, the George Banta Company in Neenah Menasha, Wisconsin, which stood at 160 K [80k for me] I then managed to place the first of two judgments on Schulz. He turned blue when served and ran, and so it was an easy matter for me to pride myself on winning a suit, per se, before Constance Baker Motley the chief judge of the Southern District Federal court: so can you if the defendant is so scared he doesn’t even show up in court. It wasn’t until the U.S. Marshal service attached a notice to the little Mews on Carmine Street where Schulz was holed up that he got himself a lawyer - and the only good one I encountered during those fascinating proceedings, a mob lawyer I think, Howard Pariser: my respects to you counselor in whatever circle of hell you find yourself. Another time Schulz was served was by a charming big French girl who was
the friend and bouquet dealer of one of the clerks of Constance Baker Motley whom I had rented the room in the loft vacated by the Slut ofSluts disparu, a brilliant fellow fresh out of NY Law School who introduced me to the Federal Rules of Procedure! It took some real doing to keep my otherwise brilliant beagle from importing his bouquet dealer, I mentioned it to my parole officer, and we both laughed our heads off, one of the nicest men I ever met. I was beginning to think that the federales numbered some nice people amongst them. It was snowing all over town. However, I found a good use for the French girl, I had her call Schulz to tell him she had a screenplay from our French colleague Christian Bourgois, 10/18. Schulz immediately excused himself on the phone for not having been in touch! Opened the door for her and wanted to hold her coat - this impressed her to no ends! - as she served him with the notice
to the Duces Tecum hearing! Surpris surpris! A hard man to serve indeed it was people of all kinds lying in wait outside the entrance to the Carmine Street Mews to serve Schulz!
If it didn’t turn out that Schulz at the first bankruptcy after being asked, by George Kilsheimer, the very nice but unkilling lawyer for our major creditor, our printer, the George Banta Company, whether any monies had been transferred from Urizen Books to WSK Productions, right after the hearing left a desperate message on my answering machine, he had been lying through his teeth during the proceedings and his brow had pearls of sweat, the mask was breaking down; I had been somewhat terrified by an actor, another little Hitler, and at the first Duces Tecum hearing - which serves to inquire of the assets of the party which has a judgment against it [mine that I then transferred to the Banta Company] - when the two lawyers had left us alone for a minute - congratulated me on having won the judgment against him: now it was me to begin to wonder, a bit more than I had, what kind of truly weird man I had had for a partner, congratulated me on bringing him to heel: what did we have here? A masochist who, as Paul Sylbert so accurately put it, wanted to be caught and do it again! But it turned out also wanted to be punished and then went through no end of pain and expense to avoid the inevitable. An unimaginable character structure to me at the time. And he stole from Urizen’s debtor in possession account – caught there he never showed up at another hearing. He did his usual double invoicing at the Under the Volcano production, but I had warned Michael Fitzgerald, the executive producer, so Schulz expended his take on lawyers against someone who had been warned and thus kept close watch. What a man to have for a partner after all the other swine I had happened to get in business with in publishing, Roger Straus, Linz, Harold McGraw, the extortionist Siegfried Unseld, who at least had a vision. UNSELD, whom I came to know as an extortionist on the high end as Michael Klett then enumerated others.
But compared to those worthies what an ogre Schulz turned out to be! Beyond my imagination. I thought people like that only existed in books. http://www.schulz-keil.faithweb.com/
It was odd how the firm went down for whose sake I might have become am even greater criminal than I did - after all, this was my “revolutionary cell” [talking about fantasies!], it was meant to be owned by its employees, and share profits with its authors [but not losses!], I nearly did a trip to Kali: after all, with a partner there I had the best cover, I might get in touch with F.A.R.C. and had a friend at customs who would have walked me through, one downtown friend actually did something along the line, and I even might have had I had the up-front money, Jeffrey wanted in, but you couldn’t get past customs with such an obvious junkie in tow. But Jeffrey in Heather White had the kind of girlfiend with whom you could steal horses, and if I had run the firm and met Heather as I did again after Jeffrey died in a car mishap that a junkie will inevitably have I would have had the kind of woman that Ledig had. When Jeffrey finally had that kind of mishap that will kill a junkie - he had nodded out in his Saab on the Long Island expressway and been rear-ended by some drunks and the Saab had exploded -, Heather, as she told me, had kind of sleep-leapt, instinctively, like a samon, through a part open window before pulling out Jeffrey who died within the week of singed lungs.
About a year ago I wrote up the history of Urizen Books and you can find these matter described in greater detail. Schulz screwed each and every one of the workers at WSK Production, starting with Olaf Hansen, Bodo Bear, and each of his vendors, and friends of mine to whom I introduced him, Patrice Marden, a young film maker then, and continued to do so with his Under Volcano venture, in getting Inge Feltrinelli to invest there who never received a cent in return. Why is this man alive, who has continued in the same manner once back in Europe? Aside what you read above, greater detail is available via:
However, I have also regarded the possibility of not ending up with the partner of hell, but someone who was equally dedicated to the survival of the firm; and that thought then led to envisioning, after all I went through quite a publishin churn during my 25 year in NY - working for McMillans as an outside reader in 1961, to the end of Urizen and beyond - what might be a feasible model for a publishing firm, and this is what I have come up with. Obviously a bare minimum of starting capital for whichever size you aspire to. But let us say you want to have an all-around firm, you need at least half a dozen good editor, preferably a dozen, each with a speciality of one kind, whose name would go with their line, as is the case in France as a matter of course; and you would enlist those authors who had the breadth to be publisher editors to have lines of their own. At Urizen that would have been Susan Sontag, Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Peter Handke, each could easily supply between half a dozen and a dozen books. Do that for a decade or so and U.S. publishing would look very different from what it does now.
Double checking myself on the mistakes I had made - aside not going to a lawyer sooner than I did - I considered whether with a different partner matters would have been different and found that an interesting potential partner had actually worked for us for several years handling sales and finances, Howard Linzer. Howard, as a physically small person, had some compensating to do, which created problems in the department of small people, there was another such, Debra Emin, an intern via Bennington, and they got into each other’s short hairs, you recall the song “Short People” - udderwise Howard was a delight, he organized a fine set of salesmen and Urizen got out from under Dutton, he was creative when it came to editorial input, he even brought in a book about running that sold well, and took particular pleasure in a real send-up of a book, Sabbath and Hall’s End Product, and found Abbie Rockefeller, whose claim to fame was backing a mulch toilet, to write a preface. I might have said to Howard when he complained what a bastard Schulz was that he ought to buy him out, or buy in. Big mistake not to have proposed as much. Instead, when I heard the “short people,” Howard and Debra, calling each other names in their combination store room and office, my tack was to be fair and politically correct and intervene, in other words that kind of asshole, saying that I didn’t care for that kind of language in the office. Howard that day packed his things and walked - and Debra forever after was deflated not having anyone to fight with, looking for some kind of approval from me or whatever. She kept busying herself and attaching herself to one or the other person. Howard is a delight in my memory. Debra anything but, a would-be Toadprincess if ever there was one who ought to have been combed out of the woodwork right after Howard left! Look it up: Sullivan Street Press - one book, it is her own!
My finest hour in Urizen’s behalf was not the ride on the Long Island Railroad to Massapequah and back, or one or the other hour like it, but the evening at Un Deux Trois whose object was to get the Kalich Organization, you can find their website, as the unequal twins Bob and Rick called themselves, to pay as high a price as possible for getting out of their contract for Bob Kalich’s THE HANDICAPPER.
The Kaliches has appeared in my life in a most unlikely manner: they had come upon the Publisher’s Weekly pre-review for Michael Brodsky’s DETOUR, which, this being a difficult book to do a capsule off, P.W. had bought my liner notes hook line and sinker: would Michael Brodsky by chance be interested in writing a screenplay of Bob Kalich’s THE HANDICAPPER. Michael Brodsky might just, this ague ridden tortured being was working in the usual symbolic perfection, for The Athritis Foundation at slave wages doing publicity I think; he had been in medical school, my son the doctor Michael Brodsky, prior to being hit by the writing bug. Have you the book, THE HANDICAPPER? They had a manuscript. All right, let’s see it, I’ll send it to Michael. They would bring it in, the clever fellows would, and they did, and I am only slightly exaggerating when I say that all 2,500 pages of THE HANDICAPPER, in various versions, arrived in The Twins front loader in a the kind of Kotex carton into which you could stuff an entire destitute family in Calcutta: the Kalich ruse had been was to get someone to read and possibly edit and then publish the box’s content. Thus prior to transmitting it to Michael Brodsky, who I don’t recall whether he read the book in any form ever, was to get me to read it, as I then did, and made a deal that I would edit and publish it for $ 20,000 k. Editing the m.s took about six months of interesting work with its impressive author Bob on his terrace at 250 Central Park South, at Columbus Circle. Bob was an ex news paper writer, the Daily Mirror, and ex-degenerate gambler - The Twin’s father had been a cantor, the mother the first woman to have an appointment teaching psychology at Columbia - who had become a minor millionaire as The Handicapper, on College Basketball, for the Jewish Mob, indeed it was, and its members subscribed to the book, it’s $ 20 K nut, in the form of checks, 10 k from its most featured member, and so on down; one thousand arrived in a brown paper bag from a pawnshop on nearby Canal Street, and as I edited the book I came to know each and every one of this clan, and perhaps one day they will walk off the set of the Darlings and Monster novel once again as they did off Bob Kalich’s novel and we into each other’s lives, mostly indistinguishable from others who had started off with push carts in the Bronx during The Depression, one that rarity a Jewish ex-Marine Colonel, the only one to become a friend, and a fine and distinguished lawyer in my downtown neighborhood, Herb Diloff, who gave them the lowdown on Broadway shows, and only one, Robbie Margolis, Frank Costello’s best Jewish friend, an immediately lethal presence: on being taken to Abe’s [Abe Margolis’] Restaurant, an establishment on Third Avenue appointed with the kind of wicker chairs as you can find them on the beach fronts of Miami, that is with a wicker shield at head level, Robbie seemed to stand guard and apprised this guest of Bob Kalich’s with the kind of scalpel eyes that will separate the flesh from you bones in a single second second. A memorable look in other words. I would see Robbie only once more, at the swimming pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, we remembered each other. Bob, boasting perhaps, apprised me of the company I was now keeping, and who carried what kind of firearms, and their ethnic background. Later he once took me to Abe’s home on Fifth Avenue, all Louis Quartorze furniture, and who should happen to be visiting but if it wasn’t the king pin of the Harlem drug trade. The very pink and very corpulent “Colonel”, too, might be a bit beyond what is regarded as “legit.”
It took six months to edit the 2,500 pages of THE HANDICAPPER down to its published 500 pages, and it was fun, I learned to respect Bob, and most of my work, aside providing a major story line to hold the beast together, to give it spine, consisted of cleaning the Augean stables of shovels full of romantic clap trap about his fight with his ex-beloved, the mother of his child. Urizen typeset the book, and at the subsequent Frankfurt Bookfair sought to create an auction for a powerful book with some commercial potential. No takers. However, Urizen managed to get the for Urizen unheard of advance in bookstores of 3,000 copies - which is where the evening at Un Deux Trois - a restaurant whose table cloths were made of paper and the clowns provided the crayons for their kiddies - comes in. 3,000 copies is not what the Kalich Organization was looking for, and so they wanted out, and take the edited book to another publisher who had a more powerful advance machine, that might generate a best seller. I could not have been happier at the prospect to get THE HANDICAPPER off the Urizen list, but wanted them to pay the highest possible price for their out. Thus I put on perhaps my one and only performance, it was of insulting Bob with the amount of work that I and Urizen had put in; also, I wanted him to make a mistake, of responding to my insults; and for once I came with “all my people”. He did not break, he kept his cool, and the day after, Schulz, for once “the good cop,” had arrived at the absolutely satisfactory out for us: another $ 20 K for Urizen. Thus for six months of work of mine, copy editing and type setting and some sets of bound galleys, Urizen had cleared something like $ 30 k of the $ 40 k that we had been paid: by far the most profitable individual publishing event ever in the history of Urizen Books, and Schulz of course was engaged with Bob in some other enterprise, a casino deal, which did not come off. THE HANDICAPPER was then published by Crown and became a Book of the Month Club alternate, and was sold to mass paper, and on my last flight to a Frankfurt Book Fair, in 1980, on Lufthansa, the one paid for by USIA, I happened to sit next to the woman who was editor in chief at Crown, intelligent, good looking, and a blonde, and she unloaded a bit about the Kaliches: there had been a time that Crown, too, had had its qualms about what they had got themselves into, not so much the book, but “The Twins” and their pestering, how they manage to get in your hair, and these doubts had elicited some threats from “The Organization”, she had checked with her husband, a lawyer, whether these threats might be realized, but her husband had checked, no no one was going to kill anyone to have THE HANDICAPPER published.
Later, with me on the West Coast, Bob sent me two further manuscripts. One made me rather proud of his emotional development, riddled as it was once again with sentimental clap trap. The other, A TWIN LIFE, had absolutely amazingly powerful sequences, however the beginning was all fucked up. By that time I not only appreciated the extent to which Bob and Dick had been married since their intra-uterine days, but had made it a point to read the great analytic literature on twinship. I struggled with Bob a bit, and then went back to a tack that had worked once. I thought I could insult him into getting the opening right. It didn’t work. Don’t fathom that well twice. But it was the kind of book where I ought to have suggested: fly me to New York and I’ll hold your hand and we’ll get it right. Instead the book was ultimately published, with its lousy opening, by of all houses, Kodansha, and has not been heard of since. Domage. But a powerfully strong writer, who kept needing a sanitation crew to clean up was/ is Bob Kalich.
His twin Dick is a whole other kettle of fish: your forever sophomore admirer of great art [say of Max Frisch’s THE MAN IN THE HOLYCENE], and the author of THE NIHILSTETE and BOBBY or is it JOEY G., and PENTHOUSE F, a forever minor writer, but a hustler like his brother. They of course write their own screen plays based on their books.
Giercke, Christopher. I have no idea how this snake charmer hooked up with Schulz to become the person in charge of the actual dubbing of American porno films into German for Vicland Productions. However, there he suddenly was at the beginning of Urizen and it was he who told me, around 1978, when he was “lent” to Urizen [which re-embursed either Vicland of WSK Productions for his services, which only paid him half his “lending fee” [!!!] to organize the book tour for Dr. Mikhael Stern’s THE USSR VERSUS DR. MIKHAIL STERN] that Schulz had stolen a minimum of $ 250,000 k from Victor Bertini - a matter I could well believe at that point since I knew how Schulz double-billed and sluiced while accusing his partner of mismanagement. A double binder our Schulz the sadist is, too. Subsequent to having been lent to Urizen and organizing the Stern tour, so I was apprised, Giercke mis-represented himself as “the publisher of Urizen Books” around town and tried to hit on my girlfiends and could be seen strutting around downtown during his exhibitionist morning runs. Was Giercke along in Columbia for the filming of Maggie, Money Eyes? At any event Urizen started receiving books from that country whose backing had bouquets of the best nosegay packed inside. I had no objections and even introduced Christopher to Charles “Beaucoup Bouquet,” Cathy knew there was something very wrong and never wanted to set eyes on him again, no matter how good his goods, to Larry who had come into my life via Peter Pearl, the “Peter Puck” of Wolves of Wyoming, son of American painters who lived in The Spring, a puckish delight as a bartender who odeed at some point on “speedballs”, an addiction I had no idea he had beside the occasional line of nosegay - all that represented yet one other out with which to salvage Urizen Books, if not by hook then by crook, and I always the fairly selfless go-between, and not between Schleicher and Hitler either, this eminence grise instead of taking care of the major flaw, the major drain on funds, Wieland Schulz, evidently fancied himself as an eminence grise who “could do it all by himself” as he once told Handke he would, thought he had no choice. But apparently not with the sufficient killer instinct to pounce on the so vulnerable Schulz? As of the discovery that he was using Urizen to sluice his ill-gotten gains through the firm, I was less or perhaps no longer at all terrified of him. I became playful and wild, and played at being mad. At one point, in 1979, Charles called me to ask if I could put him in touch with Peter Pearl, he had a deal, I said sure, but I don’t want to be part of it, the deal went bad I heard a while later, and for some reason Charles wanted to have lunch with me who had no knowledge of its details. I myself no longer even took the stuff, it had been off and on for a year and a half, and when I had it I was a pig about it, but I had soured on it, there was something off about every instance of buying it. There was no way I would get addicted, as Cathy eventually did, and on Crack, too, until she put herself into detox, ever ten years or so Cathy got addicted and put herself in detox when a realization came upon her. When I told Leiber about this, his analytically trained brain asked that analytic typically non-obvious question: “Where did she get the money”, to which my reply was “Perhaps from the money the City paid her once it took over the completely fucked up Bus Stop Shelter venture.” But since Cathy was another who did not “stand by her name” I never found out, although I expect I could have when she told me she had been in detox in 1986: as I stepped into my loft after a year in Billie the Kid country, who had to call me that very moment, but Cathy... wanting me to help her write the story of what had gone down with Bus Stop Shelter, from A to Z. I said I’d call her back, but never did. As with nosegay, something always went wrong when you had something to do with Cathy. Domage. My addiction was to female beauty and nicotine, and although it becomes easier to deal with the former as you age, even in the instance of the latter I am down to about half a dozen of small filtered first rate little cigars.
A fellow dealer, Larry, who was involved, had gotten busted while making a bike delivery. Charles had a friend along, I had picked the place, “Patsy’s”! How appropriate, how perfect. His so-called friend was a DEA agent who would arrest me a year and a half later, and if I had not said that I didn’t want to be part of the deal, if I had financially gained from it, I would have ended up in jail, it turned out that just one phone call made you part of a link, and of possession of one Kilogram, the likes of which I would never see, but 1 K had a certain near mystical fabled nuance to it, a different kind of aura, wealth and pleasure all maxed out in one package, all around. It was the kind of shock I needed. “They just want to frighten you,” was friend Bruce Jay Friedman’s comment. They succeeded. Later I once spent a single night in jail, here in Seattle, for getting into a fight with someone from who I was renting a room, interesting, I instantly congregated with my African American friends, playing cards, joking around. A true act of belated stupidity of mine. I and an Ethiopian friend of mine rented two rooms, marvelous light-filled big rooms, after the place where I had lived for five years had been sold, from a hysterical fellow who insisted on being called “Max,” a hilarious faggot, whom a real estate agent had put in charge of a house as it wound its way through probate, something like that. In other words “Max,” as this fellow who made his living as a house cleaner wanted to be called, and whose tall frame could be seen weirdly erect, as though he had been trained to ride English saddle, on his Vespa with his cleaning gear, mop and all, turned out to be a would be dictator as to what could and could not be put into the garbage, just like dear old mom over in Port Orchard I expect, otherwise he watched children’s t.v., kept working on some age old paper that would get him his degree from the UDub, and his hysterical laughter resounded through this wide-spread ranch type house. One day he suddenly would not let me pass, he interposed himself, I took him by the throat and up against the wall and proceeded toward my room, whereupon he interposed himself once more in my doorway, whereupon I took him once more by the throat and put him on my bed, the frightened look on his face! So I imagine I have a Boston Strangler in me, too, whereas the smart thing to do would have been for me to have called 911 as soon as he interposed himself. And a good thing I wasn’t really angry, I might have cracked his throat!
Thus a fine all around show it was by this set of rubes, with its sinister pathetic the Schulz from hell. I once told Leiber the whole story in Venice when he had the patience to hear me out, and oh how we laughed when I said wouldn‘t that make a great screenplay called “What a way to run a business", and Leiber said “get yourself an agent."
Farrar,Straus & Giroux
I wrote up the history of my involvement in the firm and it can be found on my home page. Let me just say that I could not have been happier to read in Christopher Lehmann-Haupt’s obituaries, of Roger Straus. Sr. how miserable that unennoblable crude culture vulture was in monetary matters, but that the very thought of Roger had kept the so unapproachable old-time banker like Robert Giroux, from from writing the history of the firm, a matter now left to Boris Kashka, ex-Moldavia!~
From the Obits:
Michael Falco for The New York Times
Rooms: The Saloonkeeper’s Sanctum (February 5, 2009)
City Room: Memories of Elaine: An Appreciation (December 3, 2010)
Diner’s Journal Blog: Elaine Kaufman is Dead at 81. Long Live Elaine's (December 3, 2010)Her death, at Lenox Hill Hospital, was caused by complications of emphysema, said Diane Becker, the restaurant’s manager.To the patrons she knew at her Upper East Side establishment, Ms. Kaufman was the quirky, opinionated, tender-hearted and imposingly heavyset proprietor who came in almost every night to check on things and schmooze, moving from table to table and occasionally perching herself on a stool at the end of her 25-foot mahogany bar.With those she did not know, her demeanor varied; some accused her of being rude, though she indignantly denied that she ever was. As she put it, she had little time to explain to dissatisfied customers why they were being directed to tables in the back, known as Siberia, or led to the bar or even turned away, when they could clearly see empty tables along “the line.” The line was the row of tables along the right wall of the main room, extending from the front to the back and visible from the entrance. Those tables were almost always saved for the most valued regulars, with or without reservations. One regular was Woody Allen, who filmed a scene for “Manhattan” at Elaine’s. Of course, it was an unspoken rule among the customers never to appear overly impressed or distracted by the famous. This was New York, after all. But there were exceptions, Ms. Kaufman recalled. Mick Jagger was one. (“The room grew still,” she said.) Luciano Pavarotti was another. (“Everyone stood up and applauded.”) And Willie Nelson proved irresistible. (“He kissed all the women at the bar.”) Once, when a newcomer asked directions to the men’s room, Ms. Kaufman replied, “Take a right at Michael Caine.” Ms. Kaufman opened her restaurant in 1963, along an unfashionable block on Second Avenue just north of 88th Street. Soon a loyal clientele began to form, as if by chain reaction. Almost from the beginning there were writers, many of whom were granted credit privileges when cash was low or nonexistent. And the writers — Gay Talese, George Plimpton, Peter Maas, Marty Weigart and Jamie Johnson, Dan Jenkins, Joseph Heller, Mario Puzo, Frank Conroy and others — drew editors: Clay Felker, Willie Morris and James Brady, to name a few. Mr. Viazzi, a former seaman and struggling writer, owned Portofino. Many of her old patrons followed her uptown, and neighborhood celebrities like the painters Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell, who were married at the time, began dropping in. She was also discovered by the columnists Dorothy Kilgallen and Leonard Lyons.During the first year, Ms. Kaufman waited on tables herself; one summer Elaine Stritch, unwilling to do summer stock, tended bar. In 2003, Ms. Kaufman was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
“I’ve lived just about the most perfect life,” Ms. Kaufman said in 1998. “I’ve had the best time. If I wanted to do something, I did it. Designers designed my clothes and did my apartment. I had house seats for the theater. I was invited to screenings and book parties. I’ve had fun. What else can you ask in life?”
“If you want me to bet on something,” said the writer Gay Talese, “I don’t think it’s going to make it, the same way Toots Shor’s didn’t make it. He was such a personality. He was a New York character. And the ashes of the city swept that restaurant away after he was gone.” “And Gino,” he added, referring to Gino of Capri, a Lexington Avenue restaurant that closed in May. Elaine’s without Ms. Kaufman? “Inconceivable,” said the novelist and screenwriter David Black, who married his second wife there. “A bar that basically started as a literary hangout would never get traction now.” The mystery writer Carol Higgins Clark added: “Of course there’s a void without Elaine — there was no one like her.”
Josh Gaspero, a former publishing executive who was such a habitué he calls himself the Cal Ripken of Elaine’s, said he had gotten a glimpse of an Elaineless Elaine’s “years ago, when she took vacations.”
Another regular, Paige Peterson,
What Susan Braudy had to do to get me to take her to Elaine’s! Or: A Dog's Life!
I’d met the great beauty a few times until we found ourselves having dinner at George Malko’s and she asked me to come up to her place at 240 CPS as I was taking her home and then she said that she liked sex, which was not really overtly on my mind, I was exhausted and she was too stunningly beautiful, and I’m positive I was not the only man to find such beauty to be
forbidding unless asked to be of service, to have their beauty loved, which I then did with her dog right next to me looking more eager to be devouring than I and her exclaiming with some surprise “satisfying the woman!” – which I was glad I, aside whatever my exhausted state, could not have been happier to provide, and regretted not having learned early on in life, women looked the most beautiful as you espied them, looking across the beaver dam, as their faces were suffused in ecstasy, so that there would be others who could look back at least to sexual satisfaction.
Susan was up and about as was Sam the poodle, as I woke out of my exhaustion, and exclaimed she would to anything for me to take her to Elaine’s, which surprised me, aside the timing of the request, since Mama’s was a public place, anyone could go there any time and at least hang out at the bar, but I guessed she meant introducing her to the Big Table, which I didn’t think was such a big deal, and few of the regulars did - it was an outsider’s perspective to think like that - Susan would do anything to be an insider, nothing very special was said there. Susan’s tone of voice had more than hinted at desperation, I had the sense that what she was most interested in was people saying that she was "the kind of girl who hung out at Elaine’s," and so, having had some rest and feeling in need of relief myself, I mentioned that she could reciprocate for the previous night’s satisfaction, something she then did with considerable alacrity, and finesse unusual for a Bryn Mawr broad, yet without requisite passion, as I indicated she ought to put the same amount of heart into the excellent servicing that was beating
to become a regular at Mama’s. And indeed passionate she became, like a piston ring in overdrive, as my attention was drawn to her big black Sam jumping up and down next to her kneeling by the bed. The king-size black poodle had the kind of long, thin, pink penis characteristic of dogs sticking out of its black fore-fur the way only dog penises will, eager and dripping wet, a sight that gave me the idea that once I was satisfied Sam, the poodle ought to be satisfied as well. A satisfied threesome in the early morn looking down on Central Park; who could ask for anything more?
Susan did not immediately leap at the suggestion until I made it one of the conditions of taking her to Elaine's and explaining to her that since she kissed the poodle, slept with the poodle and
let the poodle eat her pussy when there was no service man, the least she could do was relieve her poodle.
Did Poodle taste good?
And then I would turn out to be a real bastard and take Sam the Poodle to Elaine’s!