Celebrities I Don’t Know

/ Chat /

I’ve blabbed a few stories involving contact with people who may have later become famous; maybe not, maybe I met somebody who would later remind me of some celebrity.
I may have once skied with a teen Madonna
I may have once wanted to murder a teen George Carlin. …

I’m going to use this post to accumulate other celebrity associations.
Listing links to mentions already made:

Already told: John Houston: in My Life with Marilyn
And musicians:
Count Basie
Cozy Cole
Alan Arkin and Eliot Gould, and Barbara Streisand
Hilary and I loved a restaurant on Bowery and Bayard Street. Her friend Marie, Chinese girl, husband, likewise Chinese, an architect, liked to have parties in your apartment where she‘d cook! Marie would bring the food, the gear, the condiments — wok, steamer, spatula, scoop … and whip up a meal to feast a dozen. Then this amazing girl would clean up!
Well, Marie and her husband suggested dinner out, but they‘d chose the restaurant, they‘d order; we’d help to eat, we’d help to pay.
So that was how I had snails with black bean sauce for the first time (and many times since). Yum. (It’s such a cute trick getting the snail to pop free of the shell and land in your mouth! (with a full complement of spice! scallions, black beans, garlic …) whole. tiny things, land snails.)
But this story comes from a later period: Hilary had been fed up with being the only person in the world supporting pk and the Free Learning Exchange financially. She’d kidnapped the kid, run to her mother’s. I was trying, not learning very well, to support myself, keep myself alive and functional … keep Illichian deschooling alive, at least in my own mind … Anyway I go to the restaurant on Bayard alone. For once I don’t order the snails, I was having a clam dish: not very good either: that was indeed a change, a dish not simply great from this now familiar to me restaurant.
I’m eating my wretched cherrystones. A party of two males and two females is seated at the table next to me. I’m not attracted to the females, can’t afford to do anything about it even if I am: I don’t have the money, can’t afford to get beat up either … Doesn’t matter, life is full of disappointment, helplessness, frustration. What’s really beginning to frustrate me after a while is that these people are talking about movies! They’re talking, intelligently, at least one of them is intelligent, about movies that I know and love! Fellini is coming up! (Satyricon had come out only a couple of years earlier.
How can I intrude on these people’s conversation without looking like I’m trying to birddog the chicks? Or that I’m a fag, trying to gaff one of the guys!
So: I try to keep a blank face and I listen, silent … averted, to what they‘re saying.
After a while I realize: I know that guy! (the intelligent one) That’s the guy who starred in that brilliant one-man comedy, That’s Me! I’ll think of his name: Alan Arkin!
Then I realized I know that other guy too: that’s the guy Robert Altman has been using! the big guy! MASH, Elliott Gould!

Oh, Jesus: so one of these chicks is probably Barbara Streisand! the girl whose voice makes me flee the West End when she starts screeching “People, people who need people …” on the jukebox.
The women hadn’t made a peep this whole time. I judged one of them to be Streisand, the other to be with Streisand, sisters possibly, neither woman with Arkin. But I don’t know.
These decades later I confirm, Yes, Arkin was Arkin, I talked to him, briefly on the way out: somehow we were all leaving at the same time. The three others I ignored; as all four would have ignored me had I let them: Arkin looked very uncomfortable to have been recognized — No, thank you, he didn’t want any admiration, just leave him be. Understandable: but too late, I’d already praised him.

I’ll quote one detail: Arkin was lauding Satyricon, Gould was dissing it. Arkin said, right into his face: No, look at it!
Look at it indeed. Movies can’t be separated from how they look, certainly not where it comes to Fellini.

Image from Fellini’s Satyricon evaporated

Woody Allen I’ve seen Woody Allen zillions of times: downtown in the Village, uptown on Madison Avenue. Both of us were often about. I’ve never spoken to him; he used to talk to my girl (then wife, then ex) regularly. Woody was around town conspicuously solo. I was around town, actually solo, but accompanied by Hilary …
Hilary would tell me what Woody did, said: he’d come up to her, and, here’s the secret of his success, with women, this nerd, talk about himself! Utterly self-absorbed! Trigger the maternal in the female, then coral her where you can get her on her back, get your puss in her quim.

Me too. Though the headlines hit him, miss me. We’re alike in more than one way.

One way we’re different: I thought he was an unbelievable genius at least two years before I’d written anything I’d now offer as competition. And what if my First Week, my whole Model, were actually known: what if God himself dictated at us that it was more brilliant than everything Allen has done put together … Still, his Hitler’s Barber would have made me fall down the stairs, busting a gut with laughter first. He’s the elder.

I can get in the car on Riverside Drive in New York and arrive at Topanga Canyon Blvd in Los Angeles a week or two later having seen nearly nothing in between. I put Miles’ Agharta on the casette deck and myself on automatic pilot. But I was already walking around Manhattan self-absorbed, eyes reflecting inward; not seeing outward.
Bucky talked about seeing deep patterns because his eyesight was so poor: I see deep patterns by virtue of cosmological narcissism.
No, I’m joking, but I do believe I see reality (don’t we all?) Not science, poetic science.
Anyway, for the few years we loved each other madly Gail Bruce and I got along great because we were such a weird mismatch: I stayed unfocused on the universe’s deep patterns; she lived on and saw the surface of things. I don’t mean she was superficial: look at her art, see what I mean: she sees physical patterns: the gesture that makes the man (boy, girl …)

Gail Bruce, Beach Kids, serigraph

Gail Bruce, Beach Kids, serigraph

So: Gail and I are on the street, tooling around in the PKFineArtsmobile, me seeing nothing, Gail seeing everything:

I’m crossing 7th Avenue at Sheridan Park, about to proceed on 11th Street. A wraith crosses before us.
“Why, it’s Diane Keaton”, Gail says.
Sure enough. Keaton looked like a rag lady. Looking closer you could see that her dress was an assemblage of rags, thousands of rags, each a unique shimmer of gray. Like Arkin I guess she wanted to be invisible, yet be invisible with utter uniqueness.
Another time Gail and I are stopped for the light on Park Avenue. Some fruit is crossing in front of us, he doesn’t register on me anymore than anything else does: till Gail says, “Oh, it’s Tom Wolfe!”
Was it ever, bless Gail for noticing. In Manhattan, on Park Avenue, Tom Wolfe is wearing one of those absurd southern white suits, three piece, all white white: and a scarlet tie, and scarlet socks, the trousers a bit short to show the socks! the handkerchief protruding from his jacket breast pocket folded with preposterous perfection.
Had anyone else pointed him out to me but not by name, I likely would have thought that queer has no idea what he looks like; but here I thought, “That’s Tom Wolfe! He knows exactly what he looks like!

Tom Wolfe
thanx dandyfashioner

On the Street: 1980 or so Robert Vickrey and I are in the Studio 53 Gallery. Boy, have Linda and her gaggle of dykes moved upscale since I make friends with her in 1974. The place is crowded, Linda must be in her office: probably no longer accounting restaurant receipts, which is how she paid the bills the first couple of years. I’d wanted to introduce them casually, not by knocking on a door, or by having phoned, but never mind. It’s all Norman Rockwells on the walls. I’m trying to explain to Vickrey this phenomenon of reproducing famous popular art, pencil-signing a moderately large edition — 200, or 250, not counting all the various proofs — calling it “origianal”, and playing stock market with it by raising the price, then raising the price some more. Vickrey bumps me, nods, brings his mouth close to my ear: “Faye Dunaway”, he whispers.
Sure enough. She was looking as gray and anonymous as Diane Keaton had, disguised as a wraith.
Faye Dunaway was famous as a movie star world wide I don’t doubt. But would she have known who Bob Vickrey was? (or who I was?) Would she have known that Vickrey’s films were collected by the Museum of Modern Art (which institution wouldn’t own or display any of his paintings?!)

Robert Vickrey, The Visitor
Robert Vickrey, The Visitor
egg tempera, then lithograph

What remains of my life and eyesight can add other examples, mostly trivial: Art Garfunkle I saw on Madison Avenue, and many another. I offered a lift to Bert Stern once. He took it, and neither of us said a word.

I phoned Dudley Moore in Hollywood once, he was in the phone bookk, I wanted to tell him how much I loved Bedazzled. He was telling me where I could meet Mick Jagger, any of the English in Hollywood, of a Saturday, any Saturday, playing soccer.
Hmm, what if I’d tried it once?


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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