Last week driving down the road chatting with his nibs & I suddenly broke off: ooo, that's a great topic for a column. Got a
chance to pull over, whip out my phone & say some stuff into it.
Presto. Wouldn't have to get home & say what was that idea..?
Now I'm two days out from deadline, tired & it's been a cruel week.
R. heading for his afternoon walk thought you were going to work on your column which of course makes me not want to work.
So I don't. It's early. I look up my phone-notes & sigh. Not near as exciting as I hoped. Rarely is.
In front of the laptop, furious at the expanse of information lurking. Been on Google News & Facebook & SFGate & all I've
seen are politics & out-of-control fires, Olympic stuff I cannot watch—irritates the crap out of me to have a spectacular dismount described & then can't find
it on YouTube because of course it's blocked; they really don't want to show it to you, they want to punish you for not obtaining the rights to watch it from whatever
service might offer it.
And I don't even like the Olympics.
I've shopped today because I'm upset, so I'm not going to do that anymore. Didn't buy anything. Just wasted time, although a
little voice at this very moment is telling me no, you informed yourself!
The immensity of potential from any electronic source sets me in despair of connection, as if I'm a ham radio geek unable to tune
anybody in: trump static.
Going around the little track in relation to my notes though, does come up with one thing: eBay. I can search it for listings of antique
couches & lacking any real winners, just look for images of antique down sofa.
I love couches.
A little background (forgive me if I've told this story before). We
were in San Francisco in search of a hall-tree. I'm sure it was my idea because I've always taken the lead in antiquing; it's in my
dna. Going down Market street twenty five years ago was not the same as today. In the old shops it was musty & full of a certain
promise. There was no internet shopping, no Etsy, no Craigslist, no online auctions. It was either there in front of you, or it wasn't.
It must have been the last place we stuck our noses in; three floors to explore. A daunting challenge for his nibs, but not for
me of the radar-eye. He stopped at a corner where there were three or four examples of coat-racks & such; I surveyed at a
glance & moved on. Behind me he was weary; called out this could work...! but something told me to go downstairs.
What happened next will go down in history. (They love to say something like that on all those ubiquitous stupid videos, but it's
I came back upstairs a little breathless, only to find his nibs over by a doorway, just apart from a couple of men who were
chatting. He had that look that said he wanted to settle on something he'd found because he was tired of the search, so he
had gone to find the owner & one of these guys looked to be him. The other one definitely wasn't.
That's because he looked familiar. I was distracted. Remember, I came upstairs breathless? I needed to talk to the owner, too.
And I did. I politely interrupted their conversation & asked the un-familiar fellow about an item that was marked 'SOLD'
downstairs, just to make sure that it really was no longer available. The two men were polite as well, considering my presumption. The answer was no. It was definitely SOLD.
I put my hand on R's arm, without even looking at him. Are you sure? I asked. Cuz I'd trade you this guy for that couch. That's
my couch down there...
That got a laugh from the guy who looked familiar, but the answer was still SOLD. It wasn't until we were back out front on
the sidewalk I figured out who that amused guy was.
It was Neil Young.
His nibs is upset now; he looks at a draft of the column & gives a qualified grunt of approval: thought it was going to be about
I've got this deep grudge that I remind him of periodically. Whereas he has 12 years on me which statistically means I'll
mostly likely outlive him, he has the advantage of having been consciously present during WWII. That means old radio shows,
Good Humor Bars, & sights & smells of Auto-mats in New York. That's part of being from Queens. I just have early dim visions of
lights on the waves in San Francisco Bay & the Hamm's Beer sign next to the Bay Bridge, not far from the neon-fireworks of
Admiral Appliances. It's always been inferior, the way new money is from old.
The worst part is that along with this place in history, he's just a kid with the casual gumption to have a family contact who, as Sol
Hurok's private secretary back in the hey-days, gets him tickets to shows.
Picnic (Kim Stanley & Paul Newman in his Bdwy debut); Bus Stop (Kim Stanley & Albert Salmi); Born Yesterday
(Judy Holliday & Broderick Crawford); Dark at the Top of the Stairs (Pat Hingle & Eileen Heckart), Don Juan in Hell
(Charles Boyer, Charles Laughton, Agnes Moorehead and Cedric bloody Hardwicke); Annie Get Your Gun (with Merman's
young, cute, perky understudy—did a great job.); Oklahoma(Ridge Bond—what a name!); Damn Yankees (Gwen Verdon); Guys & Dolls
(Sam Levine & Stubby Kaye.) That knocked him out; the whole beginning number Got the Horse Right Here—fabulous, unforgettable.
Of course, if something was sold-out, it wasn't sold-out for Sol
Hurok, particularly for a single matinee—second row seat for Danny Kaye Live & at the end of the show the man himself
comes down, sits on the apron, houselights up & has a heart to heart with the audience about show biz.
Another set of shows were the ones that were gonna crash & they needed to paper the house, he almost had an obligation to go.
The Biggest Thief in Town (Thomas Mitchell) written by frikkin' Dalton Trumbo of all people; Courtin' Time, a musical
that played for a week with Joe E. Brown as a farmer. Terrific stuff.
He was out on his own seeing Ulysses in Night-town (Burgess Meredith directing Zero Mostel) when I was starting grade school.
I ain't complaining. I sat on Piaf's lap backstage at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco in ‘53; got sprinkled with sweat
flying off Nureyev from the first row at the Paris Opera in ‘68.
But man...what I would give to have been in the same room with Charles Boyer.