Those last days of 1968! There was so much going on — aside from all the political chaos. It was as if New York was on an energetic social cultural binge to balance the energy expended on warfare, police riots and anti war demonstrations! The city was in full swing, the anger subverted and filtered into a frantic explosively creative change in every aspect of city life! Discos were opening almost weekly featuring every barely legal aspect of the newest hallucinogenic reality!
In the middle of all this, my mother (pictured above) arrived from her home in suburban Central California for a visit before leaving for a cruise on the MV Kungsholm, a new Swedish American Line ship that had been built two years earlier in 1966.
She was wise to think that a leisurely cruise would be restorative after reading my letters home describing how I was energetically spending my days. And my nights!
She was as ready as she could be and had always loved the idea of traveling. My father had died in 1966 and he didn’t enjoy traveling as much as she did. Her life at home was comfortable and busy but she missed my father — truly the love of her life!
So she consoled herself by visiting new parts of the world! And here she was in New York. Ready for anything!
My friend Katia invited us to dinner at her apartment near Central Park.
It was a marvelous french-style dinner and evening; so much so that my mother jokingly said that she needn’t really go away as she already felt transported!
The next day we met Ray Smith for lunch at the Brochetteria. Ray worked at NBC on the TODAY SHOW and my mother loved hearing his “backstage “ stories!
She got such a kick riding on the subway comparing it to an amusement park ride. Her gleeful smile was such a contrast to the everyday catatonic expressions of the other riders!
There was a promotional party for something at the chic restaurant, The Sign of the Dove, and this would be the chance for her to see and experience some of the atmosphere I’d written about in my letters.
So many people working the room, trying to seem unconcerned while aiming their charisma at anyone with a camera!
One really great outfit was a young man wearing a moss green silk velvet “suit”; a vaguely Russian-looking tunic top with elaborate mauve embroidery surrounding gold buttons ending in a high mauve velvet collar. Around his waist he wore an elaborate gold chain as a belt! The pants were cut exactly like Levi’s jeans but in the same silk velvet!
The next day we went to a neighborhood hardware store and bought yards of decorative gold chains. My mother, half shyly, half apologetically explained they were going to be worn! The salesman said for her to not explain but that he’d sold a lot of them for accessories. It was, after all New York. This wasn’t Central California!
We had to balance the Sign of the Dove party experience with Times Square so we went to lunch at Howard Johnson’s where there was a much different crowd — the other real New York!
And that night we went to dinner at Elaine’s with Maria Smith. My mother was thrilled to meet Maria since she looked like a super model but was 4 feet 11 inches tall, a half inch shorter than my mother! Maria had shoulder length hair but also wore a short pixie cut wig, something else my mother admired. It was about having the courage to play with fashion — and identity!
Paul Bartel was also there with Valorie Armstrong who had just finished being the star nurse in our short film, Naughty Nurse!
Paul explained to my mother that we’d shot the film without sound like Italian filmmakers and that we’d be looping — dubbing the sound after. He invited her to the dubbing session. After Elaine’s I had to work; I was illustrating a cover for New York magazine! I was pleased to have that job as it would probably be on the newsstands while mother was still in town. She’d see the whole process!
The next day we met with Mary Robin Redd, my friend from UCLA and Beverly Hills so mother and Robin could comfortably share stories!
For dinner, I had to show mother my little neighborhood Hungarian Restaurant, the Kis Little on Second Avenue just around the corner from my apartment.
My mother ordered a small a la carte salad with the entree and was shocked when the waiter who was also the owner said in a loud voice, “NO! You cannot have a SALAD with that entree!”
Okay, okay! No salad with the entree!
I hid my smile from the owner but I expected something. Just not that!
Welcome to New York!
The next day we hit Schrafft’s. After all, she had to see famous landmarks!
From Schrafft’s we went to the dubbing session where I was the voice of a taxi driver with one line: “are you a noi’se or sum’tin?” My big chance at lasting fame!
After the dubbing we went to The Ginger Man for dinner.
Bunny Dexter was also in Naughty Nurse but she didn’t have any lines; she “played” the anesthetized patient lying on the operating table!
And Dick and Bobby Waddell had a little dinner party.
Mother and I met with Annie Rieger for lunch at la Crêpe.
Annie had a style that was a bit like Diane Keaton’s in Annie Hall and she liked the comparison. She usually wore a pile of necklaces and one of them featured an old roller skate key!
After that we checked a few stores. At Alexander’s we spotted Rosalind Russell buying something. After she left I asked the saleswoman if she knew that that was Rosalind Russell and she said that the charge was for a “Mrs. Frederick Brisson.”
She was taking prednisone for arthritis and it had slightly changed her looks.
Wistfully the saleswoman said that people said that she resembled Rosalind Russell and she did!
We then went to Blum’s for ice cream!
Blum’s originated in San Francisco and in 1958 opened a branch in Beverly Hills; for too short a time they were on Central Park South but then just went away. After shopping and ice cream we needed a rest. My mother was staying at the Stanhope Hotel on Fifth Avenue across from the Metropolitan Museum. I dropped her off; she said she was just going to go to bed and maybe order room service.
Only in New York!