Celeste tells me that when she first met me she did not like me.  You were like, seven stories above everybody, she says.   Now that I know you, you’re just like the rest of us.

She means the residents of Gabriel House and not the staff.  This Grail Center in Cincinnati is actually two large old houses on quiet Hosea Avenue.  All the girls have jobs in the city or are college students like me.

Her remarks are both reassuring and disturbing.  I know that I don’t wear a cover-up smile.  I did not know until now that the veil I feel inside me can be felt by others as something so off-putting.

Sometimes the veil feels like the huge white mosquito net that once cascaded from the ceiling above my bed, protecting that little girl I used to be.

Sometimes the veil feels like sticky spider webs that still cling even though I try to pull off every last icky bit.

Then there is the veil in my head, that is not a veil after all, but more like a fog beyond which I can still make out the distant edges of something totally wonderful.

I am getting my undergraduate degree at a Catholic liberal arts college for girls.   They gave me a four-year scholarship.   It is a lovely place.


EdgecliffEdgecliff College, later merged with Xavier University, Ohio


I take as many courses as they will allow.  I am feeling the lost years and time slipping away.

A course in theology is required.   I need to write a term paper on any relevant topic.  In the library I see the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas.  I start leafing through its pages.

I see a heading.  Why the Holy Ghost is Called Love.   For me, love has been pushed back so hard it is now in the distance, beyond the fog.

By the time I leave the library I have written my term paper.  It is only three or four handwritten pages, the suggested length.   The few footnotes are all from the Summa.  I have not tried to be original.  This is freshman theology, after all.

What I have done is write down my own way of understanding this love triangle called the Trinity.  It goes something like this.

The Holy Ghost is called love because it is the love of the Father for the Son which returns to the Father and bonds them.

But there can be no time and no separation in the One God.   All three – the Father, the Holy Ghost, and the Son are One God and one nature, but each, being God, is of necessity also a total person.   So we have one Nature and three Persons.  God is a Trinity.

I cannot really go beyond these ideas of Aquinas.  But I pick up on his word “spirate” and try to clarify the concept a little with the description of breathing in and out.  I change the word Ghost to Spirit, which resonates with the breathing metaphor.

Father Gary Martin, S.J., a young Jesuit priest, returns our term papers as we leave the classroom.  My paper is the last one.

This is publishable, he says as he hands it to me.  I would have it published in our journal except that our journal is a male publication, you understand.

Then he is out the door.  I look down at my paper.  He has given it an A+.  But publishable?   In a Jesuit in-house publication?  I can’t really take this in.

Something else occurs to me.  In the thousands of hours of being read to at Grailville, in all their talks about the Holy Spirit and woman, they identified the Holy Spirit, love, with the woman.  I never heard anything about the Holy Spirit being the Love between the Father and the Son.

Eleanor gave many of the readings.  She is thoughtful and would take the time to read my paper.  I send it to her.  I get a card back from her.




She is kind and too generous with her praise.  But her saying “the idea of breathing is beautiful” doesn’t tell me anything about what she thinks of Aquinas’s argument that the Holy Spirit is the Love between the Father and the Son.


Trinity Red


Nevertheless, something about the structure of this love triangle rings true.


05. July 2014 · Comments Off on Being and the Abyss · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

I have been recruited into a tribe of Hamlets.

After my freshman year I transferred to a university in Pittsburgh.

I am sitting in the office of an administrator.  He is very pleasant.  However, he has to do his job.

Look, he says, there are about eight thousand students here, and fewer than forty at one time are philosophy majors or graduate students.  All are male.  (We are in 1959.)

You would be the first and only female.

I start to say that it wasn’t my idea.  He interrupts me.  Yes, yes.  I know they want you.  Nobody doubts that you can do the work intellectually, but why would you choose this?

Take some elective courses if you like.  But major in something with more possibilities for you as a profession.  He goes on in this vein for a bit.

When he is done, I thank him.  I say that I will think about it.


Duquesne old UDuquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA


Dr. van Cronenberg tells me how he came to philosophy as a life calling.  He says that he was hiking in the Alps and fell off a cliff.  While dangling from a tree branch on a ledge, between life and death, he makes a bargain with God, or the universe.  If I am rescued, he says, it will be a sign.  I will dedicate myself to finding the true meaning of being in the world.

He tells me that I am “a natural” for philosophy.

I know what he means.  It’s not about being smart or doing well in tests.  It’s about hanging off a cliff between being and not being, breathing thin air, and demanding signs from the universe.

We speak of Being.   [Not God]  [Not Love]

It is semantics, hermeneutics, writing on invisible walls, slivers of light.

I can be here.  The core magnet that pulls me forward has been crushed thin as gossamer wings.   I can float on thin air and live on words.

It is heady stuff.




04. July 2014 · Comments Off on Written Words · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

Written words come afterwards.  They are dim snapshots recollecting the past out of context.  They are dragonfly wings, signposts spinning in any direction.  They are crumbs on the ground leading back into the labyrinth.

Dr. van Cronenberg does not say that I am “a natural” because of anything I have written.

The college did an experiment.   They put ten of us new students in a room.

A professor from each of the departments comes, in turn, to conduct a class with us.  They are making a pitch and scouting for talent.

Dr. van Cronenberg, representing the department of philosophy, asks us a leading question about Being.   He gets an answer.  He asks another question.  More answers.  Words bring objections.

Then more questions.  Now someone digs up a burning question that has been long buried and smoldering.

Hands go up.  Eyes flash.  Words fly.  A few of them part the fog and glow like fireflies.   It gets intense.

We want to keep going until something lights up the sky.

Once we did this for eight hours non-stop to New York City.  Four of us are cramped into a Volkswagen Beetle, talking through half the night.  We don’t care that we have a conference the next morning.  Pulling all-nighters is just part of being young.




It is mine and Jordyn’s senior year.   She is the other female in philosophy.  She transferred from New York the year before.  The other two are graduate students.   Al is in philosophy, Richard in psychology.  The conference is on some aspect of existentialism and we are talking about that faster than the speed limit.

In reference to nothing, Al suddenly throws out that he saw Simone de Beauvoir in Paris, and she is beautiful.   I try to see his expression.  The speeding cars around us reflect flashes of confusing light.  I see only that he is looking straight ahead.  Richard has no problem with Simone’s being beautiful.

I think but do not say, yes, from her photos she is nice looking, or even good looking, yes.  But my standards of beautiful are Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly.  I reserve “beautiful” for that kind of movie star beautiful.

We know that de Beauvoir is Sartre’s mistress.   Is she beautiful because of Sartre?   Heidegger has a mistress too.  Is Hannah Arendt beautiful too because of Heidegger?  What about Simone Weil who has nobody, is she beautiful writing in her notebooks?

Jordyn and I are the only females at this conference.  The star speakers are Gabriel Marcel and Paul Tillich.  Both of them have written many books about openness and loving dialogue with The Other.

It is a small conference.  It seems that there is not enough room for two philosopher kings.  There is a (subdued) squabble.  Dr. Rollo May uses his skills to smooth things over.  He succeeds.

How ironic, I think.  Here are two experts on loving attitudes fighting over pride of place.

I forget who speaks first.  The lectures are professional and interesting in their own way.  But I have been inoculated.   Even harmless motivational lectures alert skeptical antibodies in my system.

Still, I think the word “existential” is being used to say too much and not enough.

In closing, Dr. May says he discovered that actualizing without limits can become meaningless.   You need structure.

Structure!   It shows up like an uninvited guest hulking at the door, interrupting the flow, and not moving on.

03. July 2014 · Comments Off on Bedrock · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

They exempt some of us from taking the required course on logic.  Read the textbook if you like, Dr. van Cronenberg says.  I guess they figure our engines are good enough to skip a tune-up before navigating the ancient goat paths all the way to deconstruction.

There are no promises.  Nothing says you can’t step on the gas and speed off a cliff like Thelma and Louise, even (with greater euphoria) in a Ferrari.

For me, those lovely gossamer wings now live happily ever after in the fairy tales of my childhood.




I have crawled into the cave and touched bedrock and can never again think that it is all rubble, no matter how many towers break and fall and level the ground above.

We hear a lot about destruction.   From the bombed out wastelands of Europe left by the armies of the Second World War, reborn star thinkers come to teach us new approaches to riddles more ancient than the sphinx.

Because there are so few of us (philosophy students), they encourage us to audit as many of the graduate courses, seminars and lectures as we can.  A few lectures have a broader audience.

In an overflowing assembly hall, we pay hushed attention to Dr. Victor Frankl as he tells about his anguished search for meaning, forced on him while facing extinction in a death camp.   Death was almost preferable to the degradation he endured.

Then he heard a tango playing somewhere, and the music filled him with unbearable longing for the life that he was not living, that by all rights should have been his.  That could still be his again.  No, he would not prefer death, he would cling to life.

In a seminar attended by a few post-graduates, a sprinkling of professors, and us, we hear Dr. Paul Ricoeur scalpel neatly through layers of the symbolism of evil.  He gives pre-written lectures.   No need for notes.  At each session he provides us with a printed copy of his lecture.

There are many others in between.

A tall man in a white cassock stands at the front of the classroom.  He reminds me of Mother Paulinus.  I see the same light blue eyes, the same quiet manner and the unmistakable air of authority.



Dr. Luijpen says that he will show us how to navigate a path through the present chaos.  As I listen to him, I realize that he has a map.

I move back to the front row.  I see that his course has a structure.  I take notes again.   Although the name of the course is the Phenomenology of Social Reality, it is really about epistemology.  How far we have come in the ongoing discussion about how we know.

There is one exam, at the end of the course.   Dr. Luijpen hands out bluebooks.   Write anything you want relating to this course, he says.

I can see the entire course as a whole because Dr. Luijpen did not just ramble on.  He had a clear structure.  It is not hard to fit the main points into the space of a bluebook.

Grades are not so important anymore.  I am not on any scholarship, I am working my way through college now, and I have no one to account to but myself.

I think that I have been in school long enough, even though Dr. van Cronenberg says of course you must continue – three more years, that’s all.   You will get your doctorate in three years.

I can’t explain to anyone that the pull towards New York is getting irresistible.  I worked there for two summers.  I feel that my life must go in another direction, in that city.  I can’t say why.

I do things that will keep me from continuing in academia.  I drop the German language course that I also need, besides French, for a doctorate.  It is almost as though I am preventing myself from changing my mind.

For some reason (which I will realize only years later), I feel the need to take a course in embryology.


Double HelixDouble Helix


The required course before embryology is comparative anatomy.   That is the course I should now take to complete my science requirements.   This is my last term.   I have no more time for extra science courses.

But I ask anyway.

Because I have maintained A’s in biology since high school, they make an exception and allow me to sign up for embryology.  Comparative anatomy is now a whole course I must study on my own.

If I get a grade lower than C it would disqualify me from graduate school altogether.   And if I flunked this biology course I would not even have the required credits in science to graduate.

Why am I doing this?  I don’t know.

It seems that the landscape of my life is shifting.  I am myself again, being pulled ahead by that core magnet.  I notice tugs and hunches and dreams.  I notice out-of-the-blue prompts from the universe.

I remember being haunted by Shakespeare’s King Lear at an outdoor summer theater.  Suddenly, I want to know more about this wounded king.  I sign up for a course.



–  King Lear by William Shakespeare

 Very quickly we find out that our eminent professor is forgetful and erratic.  He assigns one play and lectures on a different one in class.  He puts into tests trivia questions about Shakespearean quotes found on public buildings around the city.

They say that he has even flunked graduate students.  Students quickly transfer to other courses to protect their grades.

My schedule does not allow me to fit in another similar course.  I see that this professor has wonderful, profound insights into the plays, if you don’t mind winging it.   I don’t mind, and I take the risk.

Yet one grade now matters to me more than ever.  I want to get a good grade from Dr. Luijpen.  I need to know from him that I am getting it right.

When I leave, I will not just stop thinking about these things that I have thought about my whole life.   I want to be sure that I can navigate the new terrain.  His grade is important for that reason.

Dr. Luipen gives me an A.  Yes!

Now I know that wherever I am headed, if it gets dark and chaotic, I have this map, a sliver of light, with which I can begin again.

02. July 2014 · Comments Off on Analysis Paralysis · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

There are only three of us taking this elective course on the Meaning of History.   Everyone sits in the front row.

Dr. Verschieden holds two doctorates from European universities, one in philosophy and one in psychology.

He takes us on excavations into the old edifices built by Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Marx, and other creators of ambitious projects.

Dr. Verschieden shows no bias.  He is a thorough and impartial scholar.  He reminds us that great philosophers are not wrong when describing what they know, even when they disagree with one another.  Otherwise, they would not be universally considered great.

The great ones trip and fall when they build castles in the air and ladders to Utopia, creating systems that exclude everything they don’t know that they don’t know.

But what amazing, mind-stretching leaps of the imagination!  Maybe there should be a warning not to try this at home.

Still, these speculations should be read, if only for the adventure.  And there is always the chance of knocking loose one brick, then another, and the thrill of watching them free fall in space.



Mandelbrot fractalMandelbrot Fractal


Our class discussions are so animated that often, after we are kicked out by the incoming class, Dr. Verschieden carries on the conversation with us in the students’ cafeteria, or outdoors in the sunshine.

It is one of my last days on campus.   Dr. Verschieden invites me to lunch at a local eatery.   He knows that I am leaving.

Just before we are ready to go, he says, without a trace of emotion, I think that I am in love with you.

What?  I am struck dumb.

But I don’t see why, he continues, not making eye contact.  After all, you have only a few nice features.  Your eyes.  Your skin.  Maybe your hair, although you don’t wear your hair in an attractive way.  But then, you’re an artist, you don’t care.

Artist?  Did he look at the transcript from my freshman year at Edgecliff College?  They had given me a four-year scholarship after seeing an exhibit of my paintings at Gabriel House.  I felt obliged to major in art, although I do not think of myself as an artist.

I know him well enough to see that he means “artist” to be a mild put-down.  Like using the word “mystical” when someone is not expressing an idea clearly.

After all, he concludes, you are no femme fatale.

I am still speechless.  There was nothing whatsoever in our relationship that even hinted at anything like this.

Until today, I took for granted that I was just another philosophy student, not either a male or a female.

Dr. Verschieden is not quite done.   You did not do well in your final exam, he says.  You answered the wrong question.

The wrong question?   What happened to “first-rate mind”?  Okay, sudden brain fog can sometimes creep in on little cats’ feet.

I couldn’t give you your usual grade.  I gave you a B.

I guess a reputation for being smart still counts.   Anyone (else) who doesn’t even understand the question would not get a B.

Throughout his monologue I don’t say a word.

We rise from the table.  I thank him for the lunch, say goodbye as though nothing extraordinary has happened, and go on my way.

I refuse to give up the memory of that skilled scholar with his wry sense of humor, the fatherly learned man who so often found time to join our raucous students’ discussions.

The man I met today is a total stranger.  I will put him out of my mind, that’s all.

Less than a year later, when I have transformed myself in New York, I send Jordyn a glossy 8 by 10 femme fatale photo of myself.  Show this to Dr. Verschieden, I write.

Jordyn has no idea what has gotten into me, since I told no one about this incident.  She does not show him the photo.   Many years later, when Jordyn and I talk about this, I am grateful for her wise judgment.

I was too proud to admit to being hurt and too naïve to recognize my own capacity for cruelty.   Jordyn saved me.  Well, that’s what friends do.

01. July 2014 · Comments Off on Puppy Love · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

I cried like a toddler when he dumped me.

Dr. Lowen says he couldn’t do anything else.

Brett was the love I missed when I lived under a rock for half my teenage years.   He was my age but younger by categories.   I didn’t care.

Manhattan was our playground.  We were like tourists on a honeymoon.

Like children, Dr. Lowen says.


Old Manhattan


I did not think as far as marriage.  I never had a vision of my wedding and walking down the aisle.

You didn’t want to see that your father was missing.

I told myself that I was more adventurous than that.  In the back of my mind I thought it would go something like that song, Some Enchanted Evening.  I would see a stranger across a crowded room and somehow I would know.   He is the one.

Dr. Lowen asks, did that ever happen?


With Brett and me, it was a kind of spring fever, being in love with each other, being in love with love and the whole wonderful world.

Everything changed when he started talking about the future.  His parents would be inconsolable if he didn’t marry someone of his own religion/race.   His sister had already broken their hearts by suddenly marrying a stranger/inferior whom she met on a vacation in the Caribbean.

He still lived at home.  I never met his folks, but they had their radar on him and knew about Brett and me.  They pressured him to break it off.   I wasn’t going to fight it.

But it still hurt when it happened.

Dr. Lowen says your pride was hurt.

But I understand.

You had to face the painful fact that Brett was not his own man.  He was a prince charming, but you wanted a king.

That’s why, in spite of the tears, you gave him up so easily.

30. June 2014 · Comments Off on Not Beautiful Enough · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

Our apartment doors face each other across the carpeted hall.  My friend Claire has a roommate, Elke.  They are both stewardesses, working for different airlines.  They are seldom home at the same time.  Claire says it’s like having her own apartment.

On the other hand, Claire has mother hen instincts, and there are so many young women coming and going in both our apartments that we sometimes just leave our doors open.   We are high up in a new hi-rise with a doorman.   We give not a thought to safety except for known dangerous neighborhoods, which we avoid.

We are up-to-the-minute on the world’s romances and intrigues.   Eventually our conversations circle back to clothes, make-up, and how to look beautiful.  This is the city where vampire night magic never sleeps.

We are talking about artfulness here, made up glamor to dazzle and bewitch.   We know that this beauty is shallow and fleeting.   It has to be constantly re-created.   It is high maintenance.   But nowadays, anyone can be made over.


eye fashion


We feel the city’s energy.   It is our energy too.   We are its new face. We are the young blood.   It is our moment.

Even in ordinary daylight we are conscious of how we look.  We spend hours devising make-up routines that can be applied in rush hour minutes yet look natural (enough) in offices and banks.

We shower compliments on one another’s successes.  For all that high maintenance, no one thinks of herself as being beautiful enough.

No one, we think, except maybe Bobbi.  Bobbi is a top fashion model.  She is perfect.  She is from down south.  Her whole life she has been told she is beyond beautiful.  It doesn’t seem to help.

After her boyfriend leaves her with a baby when she is fifteen, she gives her little boy to her grandma to raise.  Then she hops on a bus to New York to see if her face is her fortune.  Not only her face, but her slim body and long legs are made for runway glory.

They work her into fantasies so surreal that often we squint at fabulous magazine spreads to find our Bobbi.  The images are one more gorgeous than another, but who are these creatures?

Our Bobbi is beautiful even when her face is scrubbed, though not in the same way.  That’s when we see the fragile, endearing little girl with the enormous, impossible green eyes.  We want to cradle her and keep her from breaking.

We cannot.   She disappears for days.   She denies.   She empties every bottle of vodka.   She makes boozy long distance calls to men who run off to meetings.   Or the stupid operator disconnects for no reason.

After her last show in Paris, she buys a heap of extravagant clothes that they wore on the runway.  Even at a discount, that wipes out her earnings.

She earns more money than several of us put together and then some, but she never has enough for cab fare, for take-out food, for phone bills.

Bobbi disappears for weeks.  We notice that she is drinking more and working less.  Her face is getting a little puffy.  We wonder how long her career will last.

When she drinks, she is never violent.  She curls into herself, sometimes whimpering, and eventually passes out.  I would rather see her drunk on my sofa than in some bar.

One night, sprawled out on my sofa, Bobbi gets talkative.  She starts a rant about her life as a professional beauty.  It is so painful to hear that we try to stop her.  But she shakes us off her boney shoulders.  She needs to do this.

After that night, we hear that Bobbi slipped out of her apartment.  She left no forwarding address and no phone number.  I hope she made her way back to her grandma and her boy.

We ask ourselves what it is about Bobbi that attracts so much evil.  Was it her lousy parents or just bad luck?  Someone says maybe she is too beautiful.

No, no, no!  Like the furies, we chant in unison.  You can never be too beautiful.   No one is going to make our Bobbi an object lesson.

Don’t you remember?  When Bobbi was on, it made people happy just looking at her.   Sometimes, it made their day.

Once, as traffic lights changed, I saw Bobbi, dressed in couture for the Oak Room at the Plaza, slowly walk across Park Avenue as though it were her runway.  A cabbie leaned out his window and spoke for the row of drivers stopped in her path.

See that?  What a knockout!  Now you really know you are in New York City.

The more I thought about Bobbi, the clearer it became that Bobbi’s tragedy was that she did not own her beauty.  It was something created by others for still others.   The men who pursued her wanted the fantasy of the moment, which vanished quickly.


bazaar ny


One evening, there is a happy commotion right outside my door.  I open it, and in come Claire, Elke, Lorraine and Rachel.  Rachel?  Oh my god, is that you, Rachel?  Rachel dances around and shows me her profile.  She has a new nose!  It transforms her whole face.

Wasn’t it terribly expensive?  Well, yes and no.  There is this plastic surgeon, Dr. Benito Rish.   He is amazing.  He reconstructed the face and body of a man, changing him into a gorgeous woman.

Yes, I saw the pictures in a magazine.  It is wizardry.  But it must cost a fortune.  Rachel says for celebrities and socialites, yes.

But nose jobs are routine for Dr. Rish.   He gives a discount for ordinary girls like us.   Anyway, he did Rachel’s nose for just $500.00.  In 1960’s money, that is still a lot.

Now I am thinking maybe this is possible.

That same week, I receive a check in the mail.  Since I became a permanent resident, the Government is returning the deposit they required for my voyage back.  The check is for exactly $500.00.  Talk about signs.

Dr. Rish says there’s nothing wrong with your nose.  It suits your face.

I say, I think it could be more refined, at the tip.

Of course he knows just what I mean.   He agrees that it would make a difference.   But it is a risk.  It is cartilage right here, and there is no guarantee that it will heal just so.

I think he can do it.  I will take the risk.

Do you want to be a model?  No.

You just want to be more beautiful?

I say I always felt that nature needs a little correction there.   Now that I saw what you did for Rachel, I have to at least give it a chance.

He smiles.  Yes, he says, I will do it.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off on For Yourself Alone · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

“Never shall a young man,

Thrown into despair

By those great honey-coloured

Ramparts at your ear,

Love you for yourself alone

And not your yellow hair.”

“But I can get a hair-dye

And set such colour there,

Brown, or black, or carrot,

That young men in despair

May love me for myself alone

And not my yellow hair.”

“I heard an old religious man

But yesternight declare

That he had found a text to prove

That only God, my dear,

Could love you for yourself alone

And not your yellow hair.”

–  For Anne Gregory  by William Butler Yeats


It is true that I never wanted to be anyone but myself.   As to how I appeared to others, I took it for granted that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.  It didn’t matter very much because I thought the man who was meant for me would find me beautiful.

Eventually,  I stopped taking it for granted.

I don’t want to miss out on the prince with my glass slipper in his hand.  For that, I have to dress up, show up, and be discovered.





Most of my friends don’t even notice that my nose has been improved.  The physical change is subtle.  But the change in my being is profound.  For the first time, I feel that I am meant to have the face I see in the mirror.  I don’t want to revise anything.

I don’t want to transform myself into some other creature, no matter how fabulous.  I feel confident in being myself.  It is still fun sharing beauty tips with Claire and the others.  But little by little, I find my own look.

I think there is a time, a very short time, in the life of a young woman, when it is optimum for this to happen.  It is biology, and at the same time it is magic.   As with all things magical, you have to take it on faith.

28. June 2014 · Comments Off on Three Wise Guys · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

I am standing in a large, crowded reception area with a glass of chardonnay in my hand, bantering with three young orthopedic surgeons.   This is as far as I got when I walked out of the hotel elevator into the convention.

The three men are all single, all fit and good looking, and with the assurance of young gods.  Is there a requirement that an orthopedic surgeon must be tall and muscular?   It helps, they say, when you have to jamb a lumberjack’s leg back into its socket.

They try to convince me that since I love New York so much, and they are tourists, it is my civic duty to show them the nightspots of the city.

I am waiting for my boyfriend, who is a resident in orthopedic surgery in a New York hospitable.  He is often late, which I am sure they understand, since residents are serfs, but they pretend they definitely do not know anything like that.

Just then, the elevator doors open, and I see Liam.   He sees me, but an elderly gentleman takes his elbow and steers him towards a small group of people.

After a few minutes, I notice that Liam is still talking to one pretty young woman in particular.   He glances in my direction to make sure that I am looking, and he turns back to charming her.

My three guys make an instant diagnosis.   Come with us, they say, forget him.

We are on our way to the elevator when Liam comes running after us.

I introduce him.   Liam is actually the kind of guy that others would have a beer with.   We all pile into his double-parked little Mercedes 170.  Two guys crunch in the back, Liam is in the driver’s seat, and I sit on the lap of the fourth doctor.  Luckily, I am a featherweight.

Someone has a key to the Playboy Club, and we go there for dinner.   The place is jumping.  The guys tell them at the desk that they are all doctors, just in case.

Oh my god, a bunny exclaims, how did you get four doctors to take you out?

The service is outstanding.  While we are surrounded by gorgeous bunnies and in high spirits, the war in Vietnam still appears like a specter.   Young, unmarried surgeons get drafted.  But not tonight!

We hit a couple of other spots, and finally we end up in a German Beer Hall.  I get to hear specialized opinions about kinds of beer and how it should be brewed, proper serving temperature, and even the way it should be poured.  The guys are total buddies now, sharing drinking songs and trying to drink one another under the table.

The winter streets are almost deserted as Liam’s car skids on a patch of ice and narrowly avoids going down a subway entrance.

Don’t worry, if we crash, you’ve got four orthopedic surgeons right here on the sidewalk.   They think this is hilarious.   The distances are thankfully short.   We drop off the slap happy guys at their hotel.

Liam makes it to my apartment and passes out on my white flokati rug.

I am not drunk.  I hate being drunk and have learned to sip slowly and pace my drinks throughout an evening.   I am wide awake at my window.

Once Liam told me that there is an Irish saying that if three people tell you that you are drunk, go home and go to bed.

Didn’t three guys tell me something similar tonight?  They did not say to me, you are drunk.  They said come with us.  Forget him.   We just met you and we get it that your guy is playing games, but you are intoxicated with him and not seeing clearly.    Come with us.    Forget him.

But doesn’t it take two to play games?

If I were so intoxicated with Liam, why didn’t I get really mad at him?  Why am I so cool about it?

Dr. Lowen says, men were attracted to you because of your aliveness, your responsiveness.  But for all your warmth and charm, you kept a close guard on your heart.

I sense my holding back.

I am with Liam in the Winter Garden Theater, seeing the show “Funny Girl.”  A young singer named Barbra Streisand is the new sensation on Broadway.

She sits on a tall stool at the side of the stage and belts out People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world…

Liam holds my hand.

Barbra’s singing is unlike anything we’ve ever heard.  She is overwhelming.   The whole audience is swept up in her song.   Yes, yes, we are the luckiest people in the world, who need each other…

Liam is holding my hand tightly.  Yet a small part of me is reserving judgment.  Not about him, but about me.

Dr. Lowen says, you could not afford to need anyone again, the way you did when you were a child.

27. June 2014 · Comments Off on The Little Prince · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

Liam asks, do you mind if we do some shopping before we go to dinner?

I know they work resident doctors like serfs.   Liam never has enough time.

What do you need to buy?

I have a patient at the hospital.  He is ten years old.  He is dying from cancer of the bone.  He doesn’t have anyone.   Other boys in the ward have radios.   More than anything, he wants a radio of his own.   I want to buy him one.

I am reminded of the Little Prince whom no one could save.

I first heard of the Little Prince when I was at Grailville.  One day, someone calls me to a room behind the assembly hall and hands me a bunch of red clothes.   Change into these quickly, she says, and leave your shoes off.

You are going to dance the part of a fox.  Anne is going to dance the part of the Little Prince.  I have never heard of the Little Prince.   What is the scene about?

Never mind, she says, Cay will read, and you improvise whatever comes to mind.  Just remember that you are the fox.

Someone is playing the piano.   It is Father Vitry.  There he is in the corner, improvising.   Cay is at the podium.  The audience is packed with priests and seminarians, all here for the weekend because of Father Vitry’s celebrity.   They sit in a large semi-circle, with people in the front row sitting cross-legged on the floor.

You’re on!   I move into the open space.   I see Anne on the other side, a crumpled, dejected Little Prince.

Good morning, said the fox. I am the fox.  There is the little boy.  A strange thing happens.  As I hear the words, and the soft music, gestures just come naturally, from somewhere.  I become the fox.  I can feel it.  I love this!

The fox teaches the Little Prince rituals for taming him and becoming his friend.

The Little Prince comes alive, the audience is drawn in.   It is all of one piece, as though we had choreographed everything, including the audience.  The fox is tamed, love is in the air.   The audience is wildly applauding.

No one is more amazed than I at how it all turned out. Afterwards, Father Vitry asks me, how old are you?  I am seventeen.   He says, at seventeen it is all about romance.

Later they ask Anne and me to try to reproduce the performance.  It doesn’t work.   It was a one- time happening, when everything spontaneously came together.

I did not get the book and read the rest of the story.  I want to remember this experience as a transcendent moment in itself.

People speak about The Little Prince as the best and most inspiring of Antoine Saint-Exupery’s books.  I am shocked when I overhear a young man say, I hate that book!

We are at a party, and it is hardly the atmosphere for a serious discussion.   Still, I have to ask him why.

The story is pathetic, he says.   It is about a prince who won’t grow up and who hates adults so much that he kills himself.   Where is his father, the king?  If I had a son, I wouldn’t let him read such a downer.  Have you read it?  I admit that I have not.

I didn’t even know The Little Prince is a tragedy.  It is like King Lear before there is even a chance to be king.   It is the cold night sneaking in so early in sheep’s clothing that it is not even recognized, never mind railed against.


thisColdnight– King Lear by William Shakespeare


The Little Prince escapes from earth by joining a flight of birds.  He finds a tiny planet for himself.   But he falls back to earth.


Little Prince GilroyThe Little Prince oil on linen by James Gilroy


He chooses to leave again, this time with the help of a snake who injects him with deadly venom.   The fox offers wise words and the promise of love.   What good are promises when you go up against the power of venom and the seductive, instant wipe-out pain killer oblivion?

Day after day, Liam goes into the operating room to do bloody battle with death.  He likes it more than anything, especially when he wins.   Sometimes, death wins a battle, but never the war.

I believe that one day, because of fighters like Liam, and maybe even fairy tale foxes, death as we know it, shall be no more.    The time will come when death itself will be low-tech, outdated, and not useful to anyone.

26. June 2014 · Comments Off on Like a Bridge · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

Today was a good day for Liam and me, more than making up for our last dud of a boating trip.

That time, we were three couples spending the afternoon and evening on a power boat owned by Liam’s friend, a doctor.  The doctor’s wife hated me on sight.  Her friend went along with the effort to snub me in their conversations about their young children (at home) and the price of peaches.

By dinner time at a shorefront lobster house, Liam had noticed.  At our end of the table, he asks me, what happened to your charm and wit?

What can I say?

Later, Liam dismisses the snubbing wife.  Oh, that’s because you had the same bathing suit and you filled yours out better.   I didn’t even know there was a competition.

I am beginning to see that competing is a male thing.  I don’t mean that women don’t compete – but when they do, it is still a male thing.  The women among my friends like to circle their arms around you and make you feel at home.    They see strength in numbers unless someone sticks out and ruins the harmony.

That day’s experience weighed on my doubts that I would fit into Liam’s life when we settle down somewhere.

Today, we spent the day on an older doctor’s sailboat, a magnificent tall ship.   It was a large party of young and old sailors and people who love having salt spray in their face.  There was a moment when Liam and I lay side by side on the top deck, propped up on our elbows, with the wind and sun in our hair, and he said, this is living!

Liam was due back at the hospital, and he would first drop me off at my apartment.   The car top was down.   All the way back to the city, we didn’t mind the slow crawl of returning weekend traffic, because we were still in the afterglow of our splendid day on the water.

Shortly after I am in my apartment, my doorbell rings.

Brett, what are you doing here?

I saw you in the Mercedes with the MD license plate.   I was right behind you.  Is he your new boyfriend?

Brett is sputtering, he is so angry.

Brett, I say, why are you so angry?  You dumped me!

I am going to tell him about us.

Brett, there is no us.  That was months ago.

We are still standing in the hallway.

What is this about, Brett?

He doesn’t really know.

Brett, please go home.

Brett and I did not go backwards.

Brett moved.  That is, he left home and got his own apartment not far from mine.   We became friends even though we never dated again.

Well, once I asked him to escort me to a benefit dinner dance, one of those huge affairs where showing off is the point, although pots of money go to charity.   It was an industry benefit and part of my job to be there.   Liam was on call that night.

Brett got a big kick out of meeting my philanthropist boss and the crowds of movers and shakers, celebrity politicians, and their glittering trophy wives and girlfriends.

It was fun to see this vanity fair through Brett’s new eyes.   Of course, the looking went in both directions, like a bridge.

Someone I will never tell who, pulled me aside and asked, who is that gorgeous hunk you brought with you?

25. June 2014 · Comments Off on As If · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

I see in an ad that Marguerite Haymes is giving voice lessons.  She is the singer Dick Haymes’ mother.  I remember him starring in Betty Grable musicals that I loved when I was a kid.


more I see you


Marguerite is very pleasant and chirpy.   She has just moved into her apartment and is happy with its new décor.  She shows me photos someone has taken of her apartment.

Marguerite decides that I am a lyrical soprano.   She sends me to buy sheet music for songs like What a Difference a Day Makes, I’ll See You Again, and I Could Have Danced All Night.

I learn to practice scales.

I buy a double reel tape recorder the size of an icebox to sing homework that Marguerite can critique.


tape recorder


Dr. Lowen says, did you want to be a singer?

I didn’t know what I wanted.  It was a kind of self-improvement thing, I guess.  I was always signing up to learn something.  I had already taken courses like business machines, speed writing and touch typing which I need at work.

The day comes when Marguerite says, it is time to meet with an arranger and get you ready for auditions.  Auditions?

For Broadway shows, she explains.   Look, you are too much of a lady to go out there and make your way singing at little clubs.  But you are a true lyrical soprano, and you look the part of an ingénue.  There are only a handful of those.

I immediately come up with objections.   Broadway requires singing the same songs every night, over and over again.  How can I do that without getting wrung out emotionally?

You don’t.  You learn to sing as if  you are feeling those emotions.

I say it is hard to believe that Barbra Streisand is doing that when she belts out People Who Need People.

It is a colossal mistake to bring up Barbra Streisand.

It is the first time I see a crack in Marguerite’s calm manner.

Barbra Streisand is a freak of nature!  She has an iron throat and everything else that goes with it.

With that, the unmentionable 800 pound gorilla appears and sits there in the room.  Everybody knows that Barbra claims she never took a voice lesson.

I try to undo the damage, but it is too late.   I thank Marguerite for her advice and say that I will think about it and get back to her about auditions.  I call later to say that I am sorry but Broadway is not for me.

I regret that I was so clumsy because Marguerite was always encouraging and gracious to me.   But although I enjoy singing, I never thought that I would make a career of it.

If truth be told, I prefer my voice before it was trained, and soon went back to singing in a lower key, in my old, natural way.

At the office, I get a call from a man who says he is Eddie Fisher’s agent.  I know who he is.  Milton Blackstone is among the most famous publicists in the world.   Not only was Blackstone the promoter of Fisher’s career, he single handedly re-invented Jennie Grossinger.  He transformed her family resort in the sleepy Catskills and put it on the A-list of places in the world where celebrities go to see and be seen.

However, since he did not call my boss, Mr. G., on his personal line, I ask him what he is calling about.   He is looking for an investor for Eddie’s comeback tour.   Marrying and then being ditched by Elizabeth Taylor all but ended Eddie’s career.

Because Jennie is one of Mr. G.’s hundreds of close friends, who took the time to show up and speak at a recent industry fund-raiser in his honor, I put Milton through.

My boss does not think that show business is a good investment for outsiders.  Unless you are like Joe Kennedy or Howard Hughes and don’t care about the money but like chasing the women.   However, because of Jennie, he doesn’t want to say no outright.   So he sends me to the Delmonico Hotel where Fisher is staying.  I am there to observe and hear them pitch the tour.





I walk into Fisher’s suite, which has a very large living room with a grand piano.   He is being coached by a man who is telling him how to deliver the remarks between songs.

Milton greets me at the door, introduces me to Eddie, and leads me to a sofa directly facing the piano.

It is not unusual for a busy CEO to send his secretary/personal assistant on this kind of errand.   However, the woman is usually an older, business type.

Milton and I hit it off right away.   I realize that he is very smart about a lot of things I know nothing about.   I am as comfortable with him as with my old professors.

When he starts talking about how it would be a good idea for me to join Eddie on his tour and make my singing debut at Lyndon Johnson’s Inauguration party, I had to suppress a laugh.

Of course, they are assuming that I am Mr. G.’s girlfriend.   He must have told them, just to stir things up, that I sing.   I say nothing about that.   Milton leaves, and Eddie takes a break from his coach.  He sits on the other end of the sofa and nurses a drink.

I guess that Milton told him to be friendly to me, but not too friendly.   Eddie makes a sour joke about Elizabeth what’s-her-name.  The whole world knows that Elizabeth Taylor has recently ditched him for Richard Burton.

The joke is not funny.   I smile politely.   It is very awkward.

As soon as another bunch of moochers walk in to say hello to Eddie Fisher, and order themselves drinks and snacks from room service, I escape.

I know they think I’m the girlfriend because nobody even asked to hear me sing.  They’ll find out the true situation soon enough.

On Monday morning, Mr. G. walks in smiling and says he was wined and dined in Hollywood.  Some people even thought that he was Otto Preminger.

That was quick.   Milton doesn’t waste any time.   I like him.  I hope he gets an investor for his tour.

Our company is the largest manufacturer of cast iron and plastic soil pipe in the country.  We also make artillery shells for the military.   General James van Fleet sits on our Board of Directors.

He lives in Florida.  When he comes in to the office, I sometimes do secretarial work for him.   He is always courteous, with a sort of old world charm.

He would say to me, you should be in the movies.  Even though he is also on the Board of Twentieth Century Fox, I take it as just his way of giving me a compliment.   People say things like that very casually.

One day, he says that Fox is looking for an exotic looking girl for a part in a movie called Sand Pebbles.  Steve McQueen is starring, and the filming will be in China.

General van Fleet says they tell him that not all beautiful girls photograph well.   Do I have a close-up photo?

I show him a photo.



DoreenBlog1 copy


He says how can they turn that down?

I may not look oriental enough for the part.

Oh, I’m sure they can fix that.

Just in case, a friend finds a professional make-up artist who makes me up to look more oriental without any drastic changes.  A photographer of cinema stills takes new photos.

Next time General van Fleet comes in, he hands me two tickets.   They are tickets to a dinner dance to benefit some Greek organization.

These were given to me, but I can’t make it.  Take your boyfriend and enjoy yourselves.


White is my best color.  I wear a white satin gown with a sprinkle of faux diamonds glittering on the bodice, and no jewelry whatsoever.  Liam says, you look like a million dollars.

He is tall and handsome in a rented tuxedo.  You don’t look so shabby yourself.

He jokes that we should join the jet set before we lose our looks.

The hotel lobby is filling up with guests in finery to impress Croesus himself.  Greek potentates swagger in with wives and girlfriends showing off megawatt carats and stunning couture creations.

Suddenly, people are moving aside.   I see a small group of people arrive.   An old man in the center of this group is looking directly at me.


White gown copy

You look like a movie star, he says.

Then people close in around him.

Immediately, a man tells me that it was Spyros Skouras who spoke to me.   Mr. Skouras is the Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox.   He gives me a business card and an appointment with Skouras at Fox.

Dr. Lowen asks why did you want to be in movies.

I didn’t know what I really wanted.    I thought that maybe if I were in movies the man who was meant for me would find me.   Besides, all kinds of people were saying to me, you should be in the movies.    Bartenders.   Cab drivers.   Photographers stopped me on the street and asked to photograph me.

No, what was your real reason?

Deep down I was beginning to doubt that I would ever find that man who was meant for me.  I was beginning to think that I couldn’t really love any man in the way I imagined love should be.  It was me.  I had spent too many years associating love with God himself.

I was ready to find something else that I wanted to do.

I am in the reception area at Fox.  You cannot miss the festive mood.   This is the morning after The Sound of Music opened to rave reviews.   They are saying, The Sound of Money!  It is the good news they need.

I know that Fox has been in financial trouble.  I know this because besides being CEO of a public company, my boss has a couple of small companies of his own.  One is a factoring company.   I hear a lot about people’s financial ups and downs.

Filming the extravaganza Cleopatra had been bankrupting Fox, although there are always a slew of things wrong when you get to this point.  In any case, there had been a shake-up a few years ago.

In desperation, Skouras himself, then President of Fox, called back Darryl Zanuck from Paris, where for years he has been living in 5-star hotels and producing independent films.  They made Zanuck President, giving him the humongous job of trying to bring Fox back from the brink.

Skouras was kicked upstairs.   No one expects him to like it.   It was Skouras who had brought in General James van Fleet to sit on their Board of Directors, back in the plush days.  General van Fleet is a war hero to the Greeks.

As soon as I walk into Skouras’s large, drab office, the festive mood evaporates.

Sitting behind the big desk, he seems older than the man I saw at the benefit.   He does not rise from the desk.  He does not ask me to sit down or at least put down the portfolio of photos I brought with me.

First thing he says is you have too much make-up on.

I am startled.  He saw me in full evening war paint and said I looked like a movie star.  I have a minimum of daytime make-up on.  Maybe he means the mascara and touch of eye-liner most of us New Yorkers wear to the office every day.

You don’t need all that paint on your face, he continues, it does nothing for you.

That gentle touch of transparent blush?

Then it dawns on me, this is deja vu.   Shades of Dr. Verschieden!   I keep my pleasant listening attitude and say nothing.

He asks me how much money I am earning at my present job, as if I were applying for a job on the payroll.   He says, that much, huh?  Actually, like everyone else at the office, I think I am underpaid.

It is a very short interview.

As he rises from his desk, he says, in the meantime, you should take acting lessons.  There is a class I want you to be in.   It is Sandy Meisner’s.  My assistant will give you the details.

Come with me, he says, you are going to meet Robert Wise.  He is directing Sand Pebbles.  Did you bring your photos?  Only now he notices that I have been holding my portfolio all this time.

Robert Wise has an office down the hall.  He is very gracious.  He shakes my hand, takes my photos, and promises to look at them.

I go to the acting class.  There are a lot of aspiring starlets in it.  One young woman introduces herself to me.   She is Stella, and she is Greek-American.

While the teacher, a middle-aged man who is definitely not Sandy Meisner directs a couple in a scene, Stella tells me about herself.  She says she has always wanted to be a movie star, since she was a little girl.  That’s the only thing she ever wanted to be.  If she doesn’t become a star, she says, she might as well kill herself!

Wow!  I hope she makes it.

What is she doing now?  She is getting ready for acting roles.   In the meantime, she goes on junkets and other events for Fox.   I guess she is on the payroll.   She knows that Spyros Skouras sent me to this acting class.  Skouras sent her also.

The teacher overhears and remarks that just because Skouras sent you to this class it does not mean that you will get a role.   He sounds bitter.  Stella ignores him.

For the next class we are sent to a low-rent neighborhood, in an ugly, almost bare room.   Most of the starlets are gone.  There are only a handful of students.  I would have thought that the acting teacher has been demoted for his tactless remark, but Stella is still here.

The teacher gives all his attention to one slightly chubby wannabe.   The same thing happens in the next class.  Same thing happens in the third class.  I am paying for these wretched sessions myself, even though it’s peanuts, and I am wondering what’s up.

The teacher pairs us off to practice scenes as homework.  I meet with a quiet, pleasant young man.  He is a hairdresser.   He looks a little like Eddie Fisher, but he can’t sing.  He can’t act either.

However, he knows worlds I am completely unaware of.  He regales me with wicked stories about vain older women, which I store up as object lessons for the future.

He sees that I am more naïve than I look, and he tells me that the reason we never get a chance to do scenes in class is that the teacher is screwing the chubby girl.

I stop going to acting class.  Nobody says boo.

At least I can be thankful that the movie star bug did not bite me the way it bit Stella.

23. June 2014 · Comments Off on Honor · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

I answer my phone.  Mr. G’s office, I say.  A woman tells me that she is calling on behalf of Mr. Darryl Zanuck.


Daryll Zanuck - Copy



What is your call to Mr. G. in reference to?

Not Mr. G., she says, this call is for you.  Mr. Zanuck would like you to come and see him.  He is staying at the St. Regis Hotel.

We arrange for me to go there at 5 o’clock.  Bring your portfolio, she says.




Reception at the posh St. Regis sends me right up to Mr. Zanuck’s suite.

Darryl Zanuck opens the door.   He seems a little taken aback, as though I have materialized from a vision he had.

I am Darryl Zanuck, he says, come in.  He looks at home in a tailored smoking jacket with his initials, DFZ on it.

He takes my portfolio and sets it down on the coffee table.

Would you like a drink?

This is the first thing you ask a guest.  I say yes, and he goes to the full size bar on the side, where he mixes me a scotch and soda and something for himself.

I sit in an armchair.  He puts my drink on the coffee table.  He sits on the sofa across the table, sets down his drink, and gives me his whole attention.

You have that look, he says.  You can play any nationality except a Swede.   Your speaking voice goes with your looks.

I will find the right stories for you to star in.   I will choose the right script writers and the right directors.

He has already decided that he will make me a movie star.

He does not stop to take a breath.   Whatever we design for you to wear in the films, you get to keep.  Furs, gowns, anything you want.

My daddy sang to me

There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do, for you, for you,

I’ll make a string of pearls out of the blue, for you, for you…

My father couldn’t give me these things, but he gave me the essential thing.   I knew he loved me simply because I was his.

I almost never hear from him.  Yet once he wrote out of the blue to tell me that the pretty little girl upstairs reminds him of me.  All pretty girls will forever remind him of me.

I don’t need a father to give me things.   I can take care of myself.

I have not said anything at all, but Zanuck stops talking.  He has not taken his eyes off my face since he sat down.   He read my thoughts.

It is my turn.

How did you happen to call me?

Sam Shaw sent me your photo.   He is an old friend.   He saw your photo being processed in a photographer’s lab.  He thinks yours is the face I have been looking for since Gene Tierney.   I’ve said Gene Tierney was the most beautiful actress of her day.

Which photo did Sam Shaw send you?

This one?


DoreenBlog1 copy

No, he says.  He picks another photo.  This one.

0 R

Photo by Bob Ross


For this one I had a professional make-up artist try to make me look more oriental.   General van Fleet told me that Fox was looking for an oriental girl for Sand Pebbles.

He says you know General van Fleet?

Yes.   He is on our Board of Directors.  We have military contracts.  Sometimes I do work for him.

That part in Sand Pebbles is not for you.  It is not a starring role.  I gave it to a girl from Bangkok.    Somebody’s wife, he adds.

You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone.  You have a beauty all your own.   I will bring that out.   I will build you into a new star.

I am scheduling a screen test for you at the studio.   I want to be there.

He writes down a name and phone number on a slip of paper and hands it to me.    This is my assistant’s private number.   Call her if you want to ask anything about that.

I would bet that the camera loves you.  But we have to go through the process.

Sometimes the camera simply does not like someone.   No matter what we do.

You know, I can make even your aunt Milly look glamorous!

I laugh.  I don’t doubt it.

But Juliette?  You know, we had her nose fixed.  Twice.  Best plastic surgeon in London.

I never heard of Juliette.

The camera refused to cooperate, no matter what we did.  A look of regret, like a memory of some bitter and costly mistake, passes over his face.  He quickly shrugs it off.

He does not stop talking.  The man has some incredible force that propels him.   He is not talking about me.   That seems to have been settled.

Now it is about him, what he thinks, what matters, and what he wants to do in his productions.  How he likes all manner of sports, croquet, skiing, horses, hunting, polo.

Once, in a polo match, he held up his mallet to defend himself against a speeding incoming ball.  The ball broke his hand and smashed his own mallet into his face, breaking his nose and turning his face into a bloody mess.   He was finished with polo.

He gave all his Argentine ponies to the West Point Military Academy.  But they had rules and insisted on paying.  So he charged them one dollar a horse.  Twenty horses for twenty dollars!

That is his kind of élan.   He is still feeling the spirit of that take-all act, even as he tells the story.  He loves the military, ever since he talked his way into the army and became a soldier boy at the age of fourteen.

The logistics of producing The Longest Day were like sending another whole army over there.  Maybe even more so!  He put everything he had, and then some, into making that movie.

I saw The Longest Day.   It was a huge hit.  Won two Oscars and many other kudos.

He did most of the talking, and I responded, sometimes with questions.   I see that he is, first of all, a man of action.

The surprise is that at heart he is a Midwestern kid who values honor, valor, loyalty, pluckiness, going after what you want against all odds and never admitting that you are behind.  You have to love that.

Yes, love.   He wants love.  Not just the love of home and hearth.   Not the playboy thing.   Most of that is exaggerated, made up by writers.  He knows too many writers   Not the as if love affairs either, which end in bitter disappointment.   What then?

To be understood, to be loved for himself alone and not for the things he can provide, not for access to power or luxury.

Are we talking about being loved, as the poet says, for yourself alone, as only God can love you?  This, from a mogul.   Or maybe it is from the heart of a long ago forsaken boy from Nebraska.   Still plucky, still not giving up the quest.

This man is asking for everything.  His intensity does not let up.

We talk like this for hours.

The drinks are untouched, melting in their glasses.  There is no famous cigar.  No interruptions whatsoever.

Then Zanuck stands up.   I do the same.

Will you have dinner with me at Danny’s Hideaway?

I want this conversation to go on and on.

But I hear myself say I am sorry but I can’t make it.

I can’t believe I said that!

His expression does not change.   I didn’t break the spell.

I’ll call you next week, he says.

Yes, next week is fine.

He says it will be my honor.

I spent about two hours in a hotel suite alone with Darryl Zanuck, and he did not so much as shake my hand.

I couldn’t explain to myself what happened and certainly not to anyone else.   So, over the weekend I told no one.

When I arrive at the office, I discover that everyone has heard that Darryl Zanuck scheduled a screen test for me.  All sorts of strange people are showing up at the office without an appointment, offering services.

I walk by a vice-president’s office.  A woman sitting across from his empty desk sees me, jumps out and blocks my path.   She wants me to know that her cousin works at a telegraph office.   She saw ugly cables back and forth between Zanuck and his ex-girlfriend.

I try to be polite to the ghoul.   Excuse me, but we have work to do in this office, I say.  I walk straight to the receptionist at the front.  Poor Roxanne is beside herself.  Nothing like this ever happens here.

I tell her to let no one wait in the reception area unless they have a definite appointment.   See that they get back into the elevator.  Call security if she must.

I get a call from Milton Blackstone.   You need a friend in the business to show you the ropes, he says.




Milton Blackstone




Been There, Done That by Eddie Fisher


Milton has just bought an apartment in a ritzy new building on the Upper East Side.  It has its own restaurant just for its tenants.   We eat lunch there.  The food does not live up to the décor.

His apartment has no décor.   It has one forlorn armoire and a couple of armchairs in the living room.  No carpets, no window treatments.

You turned down Darryl Zanuck?

Did you have other plans?

I don’t know why I said that I did.

I don’t mean dinner plans.    I mean, do you have plans to do something more exciting than to be a movie star?  I know girls, drop dead gorgeous girls, who would line up around the block, who would kill, to go to dinner with Darryl Zanuck!

I can just see you walking into Danny’s Hideaway with Zanuck behind you…all eyes are on you…you look so beautiful you glow…you have that  look, like a fresh, young Elizabeth…

This guy can sell salt water to Venetians.

Bring out the violins, Milton, you forgot the violins!   I am laughing.

And what is that look, anyway?  Zanuck said that too.

That look, my dear, either you have it or you don’t.   You have it.  Case closed.

Well then, what else is there for anyone to do?

When you smile, at a certain angle, that tooth in the back turns in just a little.  It creates a shadow.  Should get that fixed.

He just can’t help himself.  He is a fixer.

Listen, he says, Danny’s Hideaway is not some little bistro, you know.    It is swanky and all the rage.   Sure, it has private alcoves to hide away if you want.   But when you walk in, it is like Maxim’s in Paris.  It is an announcement to tout le monde.

I am not ready for an announcement.

In Milton’s apartment there are at least two totally empty rooms.  One of them has a huge pyramid of papers – envelopes with windows and without, opened and unopened, newspapers, and file folders, all dumped on the floor.

He doesn’t have to tell me that something is stressing him out.  But I am surprised that he has woman trouble.   I don’t know what I thought, but there was never a man-woman vibe between us.   I know, because I spent a lot of time around priests.

Turns out, Milton has an obsession.  When he was a young man he met a sixteen- year- old showgirl.   She wanted to go on a junket.  He didn’t want her to go, but she went anyway.

What he feared happened.   She met an older man and never came back.  She married this man, who seemed to have been well off but not wealthy.

For more than thirty years, while Milton grew to be one of the most powerful public relations men in the country, and very rich as well,  he kept track of her and mooned after her.  He couldn’t have her, but there was no other woman he wanted.

After her husband died, he rushed in, courted her and married her.  It has been disastrous.

He is still trying desperately to win her back.  She is taunting him with divorce.    He laments, do you know what she said on the phone?   We are in splitsville, she said.   Who uses words like that?

Milton’s favorite word is perception.   Perception is everything!  What he knows about perception philosophers have no idea.

At least when Milton is walking me through the twists and turns of show business, he is not obsessing about his marriage.  He is vibrant, clever, and he can be as entertaining as any of his clients.


I get a handwritten letter from Stella.  We are not really friends, and I didn’t even know she has my address.   Stella writes that she heard I met Darryl Zanuck and that he scheduled a screen test for me.  She is very excited for me.  She asks me to write back right away and tell her all about what happened.

I always suspected that she was at those classes to keep an eye on me.   Now I know for sure.  It is the first sign that there is trouble at Fox over Zanuck’s scheduling my screen test.  I ignore Stella’s letter.

Then I get a letter from Bob Wise, returning the photos I left with him.   He thanks me for letting him see my lovely photos.  He is returning them in case I want to use them again.

Something’s going on at Fox, I tell Milton.  I also tell him about my having met before with Skouras and Bob Wise.  I never got around to telling Zanuck any of that.   From me Zanuck knows only that General van Fleet had told me about the part in Sand Pebbles.

I smell palace intrigue, Milton says.  You must call Zanuck right away.

I demur.   He said he will call me.

In the meantime, I have to make a decision about my apartment.   My lease is running out.  I don’t want to sign another three-year lease because I don’t know where I will be living after my screen test in Hollywood.

My friend Julie will buy most of my furnishings, but I have to decide soon.  Milton says he has the perfect solution for mine and his problems at the same time.

He asked his wife to come to New York to talk things over.  She would not stay in the unfurnished apartment, so he made a special deal with a hotel on Central Park South for a room for her, just for a few weeks until she can pick out some furniture for the apartment.

When she found out that it was a room and not a suite, in a chic but not grand hotel like the Plaza or the St. Regis only steps away, she saw it as a step down and refused to come.

She has standards to maintain as Mrs. Milton Blackstone.

I think it’s ridiculous.  All the hotels in that row on Central Park South are high end.  Recently we held an industry benefit luncheon in one of them, and it was elegant.

Milton says again, in this business, perception is everything.   He and Eddie had a public falling out.   His wife’s turning her nose down at the hotel accommodations he arranged for her would fuel the perception that his wife is dumping him, and that his stock is falling.

This kind of perception has a way of rapidly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.   In this business people see a fall from grace as contagious.   The people that matter avoid you because they think they’ll get sucked into your vortex going down the drain.  It even happened to Frank Sinatra.

The worst mistake at this point is for him to leave a vacuum.  Someone will fill it with negative rumors.  He wants to fill that vacuum himself before that happens.

How about moving into this hotel for a while?

Me?  What will people think?

The important thing is that they don’t think what I don’t want them to think.  Let them talk, let them speculate.  Trust me your stock will go up!

I think you are corrupting me, I joke.

Don’t worry.  I won’t show up.

I am not worried.

I say whatever special rate you got for the room I know I can’t afford it.

It is paid for.  That was part of the deal.  You can leave after a few days, or weeks.   It won’t matter.

Okay then.

I move into the chic hotel.

Milton is urging me to call Zanuck.    I know that you don’t belong to anybody, but I’ll wager there are battle lines drawn around you at Fox right now.  You’ve got to call Zanuck.

As I go out the door, he calls after me.

Call Zanuck, and wave to me on your way up!

But I won’t call Zanuck.  Isn’t he the man of action?  Let him work it out.   Or not.  It’s beginning to wear on me.

Milton convinces me that I should at least get in touch with Sam Shaw, who may know something.  So I get in touch with Shaw.  He comes by with his camera.  All he claims to know is that Zanuck went back to Paris.   Always the photographer, he shoots a bunch of photos.

I go to work downtown every day, but I miss having my own apartment.   I miss my friends.  It is hard to explain what I am doing, until I know myself.  It hasn’t been much more than a week, but I feel I am in limbo.  I hang out mostly with Milton.

Milton takes me to visit Jennie Grossinger in the hospital.   She is seriously ill, but she jokes around for Milton.   She is a plucky lady.

Then we go further uptown to another hospital where Milton introduces me to Dr. Max Jacobson.   He regularly gives Milton shots of a “miracle” concoction he customizes for each patient.  Dr. “FeelGood” has many celebrity patients.

Milton enthuses about these shots, how they perk him up so that he can stay up all night if he wants to.  That rings a bell.  Once, in my last year at college, I had neglected to read a book on the Russian Revolution until the day before a scheduled test.

My friend Regina said she had some miracle pills that would keep me awake all night.

I took the pills.  I read all night.  At one point I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw that my pupils were completely dilated.  I finished the book by morning and went straight to the test.  It was a pop quiz on the book.  All those Russian names, and I still got an A.  Then I went home, collapsed on the bed, and slept all day and through the night.

The next day, I forgot everything, as though I never read that book.

What was in those pills, Regina?  Speed, she said.   No, I mean the name of the drug.   Some kind of amphetamine, she said.  I promised myself that I would never touch the stuff again.   I don’t want something in my brain that produces knowledge that flickers and then is gone.   It is alien to the way my brain works.

I worry about Milton taking those shots.   Oh, Dr. FeelGood puts in a lot of vitamins and good -for- you wishful thinking, but the main ingredient is methamphetamine.

One night, Milton calls me and says come and meet Elizabeth.  Her lawyer, Aaron Frosch, is here too.   Eddie isn’t here.   We have been working on the divorce settlement details, you know.  But we’re done for now.   Come and have a nightcap with us.

At that moment, I decide that show business is not going to be my world.   Elizabeth is not going to be my friend, and I will not need a lawyer to the stars like Frosch.

I am done.  It wasn’t meant to be.   Milton has already told me too many personal stories about Elizabeth.  I would rather keep my childhood memories of her movies.   I would remain just another fan of Elizabeth Taylor, movie star, forever up there on the screen.

I invent an excuse, and I go to bed.

There is still one thing I need to do before moving back downtown.

I call Zanuck’s personal assistant at the number he gave me.  No one has actually told me that a screen test was scheduled, although lots of people knew, including Stella at Fox.

His assistant asks me to come to her office, and please bring my portfolio.   She is a sweet woman, but she has been put into a difficult position.    She says that she has not scheduled a screen test.   She tries to tell me that she is really the one who decides who gets screen tests.    Then she looks through my photos and asks to keep one in her file.

It is pathetic.  She and I know that Zanuck decides.  Why can’t she just say he changed his mind?  She could have done that on the phone.  Why are we doing this kabuki of shifting the blame on her?  I am puzzled, but I move on with my life.  A few months later, I got married.

One evening in 1971, my husband and I are having dinner with J.B. Fuqua and his wife Dorothy.   Fuqua is buying a company from my husband’s group, and he has picked this restaurant.

I am sitting next to Dorothy.   While the men confab about business, Dorothy tells me that their eighteen- year-old son recently died in a motorcycle accident.   His father bought him the motorcycle for his birthday.   It is a somber thing to talk about at dinner, but I realize that this is weighing heavily on her.   I don’t mind listening.

All at once, I realize that we are at Danny’s Hideaway.   I have never been here before.   Restaurants change; this one may not be the same as when Zanuck asked me to have dinner with him here.  But we are in an alcove, much as I once imagined it to be.

Dorothy’s sadness is reminding me of stories I have been hearing about Zanuck.  He was ousted from Fox in an epic struggle like that in a Shakespearean tragedy.   The wife he left long ago but did not divorce opted for payback and voted her block of stock against him.   His son voted against him.   His power stripped from him, they say his health and his mind are deteriorating.   It has only been about six years since I met him.

I feel a mixture of deep sadness, pity, and something like regret.  I don’t regret that I followed the path that led me to my husband.  And yet, I feel for Zanuck, as though I should have gone to dinner with him and somehow forestalled his fate.

Dr. Lowen says, you were drawn to the wounded king, but he was the wrong wounded king.


thisColdnightKing Lear by William Shakespeare

It was not until the 1980’s, when I read Zanuck’s biography written by Mel Gussow, that I realized why everyone had behaved so strangely, those many years ago.

Gussow writes that after the ugly breakup with Greco, Zanuck drank heavily, refused to see his friends, and gradually fell apart.

“Ridiculed, cuckolded, he was no longer the power, the tycoon, but just a small, lost man cracking up in Paris…Situation hopeless -unless a miracle happened.” 

Even though all his six independent films were flops, he was called back to save Fox from financial ruin.   Part of the deal was his producing The Longest Day.

“The Longest Day may well be the most important event in the life of Darryl Zanuck.  It changed his life, saved his life, and saved the life of Twentieth Century Fox as well, which is why he made it as if he was fighting for his life.  Before The Longest Day, he was a washed-up, played out producer.  After The Longest Day, he was one of the most powerful men in the movies…so powerful that he revived an almost defunct organization and established a dynasty.”

But he almost lost The Longest Day.

While Zanuck was producing and even directing The Longest Day in Europe, back home Fox was “split by dissension and facing possible bankruptcy”.  The management made Zanuck and The Longest Day its scapegoats.  They wanted to scrap the picture and take their losses.

This time, Skouras was on Zanuck’s side, but by then he had lost all control.   He frantically called Zanuck back from Europe to plead his cause.

As he faced the board of directors, Zanuck had fierce opposition.

“Outnumbered, outflanked, and seemingly defeated before he began, Zanuck got up and began fighting with his mouth.”

He defended his picture for four hours.  “He was boiling,” one executive said.  But the enemy was implacable.

General van Fleet came to Zanuck’s defense.

“He lost his temper,” says Zanuck.  “He practically called them idiots.  He had landed in the first wave on D-Day.  Usually at board meetings, he never said anything, but now he said, ‘This picture will make more than any other picture.”   

General Van Fleet won.

It wasn’t just the picture he saved.  General van Fleet saved Zanuck’s life.  Zanuck was on the battlefield, shot down and bleeding to death, and General van Fleet ran out under heavy fire and picked him up and carried him back.

Now I know what happened.   Milton was right.  Perception is everything.   I was incredibly naïve.

I did not consider that assumptions were made when General van Fleet planned a strategy with Skouras to meet me and cast me in Sand Pebbles.

I did not consider that turning down Zanuck’s dinner invitation would make him try to find out who took precedence over him.

Of course, he thought it was General van Fleet.   What could he do?  He backed off in as gentlemanly a way as he could.   That’s why everybody was doing that kabuki dance.

The last thing Zanuck said to me was, “It will be my honor.”

Darryl Zanuck was a man of honor.

So was General James A. van Fleet.

Milton Blackstone was something else.   I love Milton.   For a short, crazy, critical time, he was my guardian angel (whoever sent him).