There are two Margos that I adore, Margo Channing (fictional) from “All About Eve” and Margo Feiden (larger than life), of the Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd. and curator of the legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld’s collection.
To paraphrase Addison DeWitt from “All About Eve,” ‘To those of you who do not read, attend the theater, attend art gallery openings or know anything of the world in which we live – it is perhaps necessary to introduce Margo Feiden. Her native habitat is the art world and the theater – in it she has toiled for 70 years. She is essential to the art world and the theater.’
I myself am a native New Yorker, born 1955, NYC tour guide today, who since childhood followed and revered Al Hirschfeld’s imaginative drawings that so precisely capture an artist’s voice, personality and movement with the stroke of a pen. I had always hoped that I one day I would get to meet him. That day came on March 21st, 2001 at a benefit performance at The Martin Beck Theater (now ‘The Al Hirschfeld’) of “Nothing Like A Dame,” featuring the who’s who of legendary ladies of the theater. He signed my Playbill and I gently touched the hand of genius as he etched that famous boxed signature.
Hirschfeld sadly passed away on January 20, 2003 in his sleep, just five months short of his 100th birthday.
June 22nd, 2011 Doyle’s Auction Galleries held an auction of his estate, one of the many things I bought was his shoulder bag which still has his handwritten name tag attached, written in his trademark squared signature.
November 14th, 2013 Henri Bendel’s Department store on Fifth Avenue celebrated Christmas with a tribute to Hirschfeld, filling their window with three dimensional figures of his drawings. Inside the store, a figure of Charlie Chaplin sat in the atrium, high up in a tree overseeing all the goings on – it was magical! Helping to create the displays and attending the event was the divine Margo Feiden herself. I showed Chris Fiore the president of Bendel’s my Hirschfeld bag, “I’m going to take you to Margo!” he said. (Shades of ‘All About Eve’!) She welcomed me with open arms and warmth. There I was, after 49 years of collecting Hirschfeld, sitting with Margo Feiden, holding hands and telling her my Hirschfeld stories.
Henri Bendel’s Hirschfeld Christmas window November 14, 2013
Charlie Chaplin observes the proceedings at Bendel’s
Six years later in June of this year, I am contacted by Margo, it was her secretary on the phone, “Is this Hans Von Rittern? I have Miss Feiden on the line, is this a good time for you take the call?” There was that unmistakable voice, she has never forgotten me and would I come to tea? My heart stopped. Tea with Margo in her Stanford White townhouse – I gladly said ‘yes’! It was arranged for Friday, June 14th, 4:00pm.
June 14th, at precisely 4:00pm, I rang the bell. I was greeted by her personal assistant who took me up the steep staircase to the main floor ballroom, I was in awe. There are the huge leaded glass windows Stanford White designed, the fireplace and all the moldings exactly intact to this day. The walls are filled with Hirschfeld art and . . . sitting in a chair by the sofa is Charlie Chaplin, the sculpture from the Bendel’s Christmas show. On the cocktail table was an assortment of teas and cookies awaiting me.
Six years later, Charlie awaits me in Margo’s ballroom
I was shown the bins of drawings, the hallway filled with iconic images we have all seen over the decades – there they were – in person.
Next to the hallway is ‘the front office’ where two of her staff were busy on the phones. It is filled all the way up to the high ceiling with Hirschfelds that are now part of the American landscape. There was Marilyn, Ella, Bogey, both Hepburns, Sinatra, the Beatles and above the fireplace Margo Feiden’s Hirschfeld portrait. I was agog.
Giddily her assistant asked if I would like to go down the cast-iron spiral staircase to the ground floor – down we went. A treasure trove of more Hirschfeld art and the lovingly curated collection of Margo’s glass and antique collection, meticulously displayed in shadow boxes and old wooden display cases. You could see the passion and care that has been put into these collections.
We arrived back in the Ballroom and still no Margo. ‘Hmmm,” I thought, ‘maybe this was just to be a tour of the townhouse.’ I stood there turning about marveling at the stupendous Ballroom chandelier, when suddenly, her assistant invited me to, “See the upstairs”. Gulp. We ascended the grand sweeping staircase from the Ballroom, the stairwell filled frame to frame with jaw-dropping art. All the way up to The Deck we went, where presiding over the residential court is a centuries old tree filled with the songs of birds, not a city noise could be heard. Oh the stories this tree could tell.
We stood there for a while and I wondered, ‘Where is the mysterious Margo? Am I to meet her at all?’ After some time we descended back down the magnificent staircase to arrive again in the Ballroom. At about 5:00 pm, it was announced, “Miss Feiden will be ready to receive you now, please have a seat.” I sat on the sofa next to Charlie and waited anxiously.
Then, suddenly, Margo appeared, poised midway, posed gracefully on the sweeping staircase, attired in one of her trademark quilted hats and jackets, hand painted sneakers and a ponytail almost down to her knees, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
The sweeping Ballroom staircase
I sat there stunned. ‘Hans, get up…say something!’ I thought. I answered as I rose, ”You know how to make quite an entrance, don’t you?!” We spent the next four and a half hours talking about our lives.
It turns out Margo is an avid reader of my blog “In The Wit Of An Eye” and was concerned that she no longer saw me posting my stories. She suggested telling me some of her own stories to get me to write again.
I explained I had stopped writing the blog in 2014 in order to write the life story of my mother Ursula Von Rittern and three generations of the independent women in my family, a telling of how they survived two world wars in Germany in a book entitled, “Last Train Out of Berlin.” My mother Ursula was 88 at the time, and I felt time was fleeting, so by age 90, we had finished the book and even received a complimentary letter from Meryl Streep after she had been handed a copy of the manuscript by me personally. (At age 93, Ursula and I are are still looking for a publisher.)
Margo started to tell me parts of her life story and presented me with rare clippings and mementos of her amazing life, shown here. To know Margo is to receive a history lesson of New York City and it’s art scene.
In 1961 at the young age of 16, Margo Feiden then ‘Margo Eden,’ was the youngest person ever to produce and direct a musical version of “Peter Pan.” This was at the 41st Street Theater in the Wurlitzer Building. Her unique vision was to produce it with mostly high school age actors to fit the parts accurately. These were young professionals from the revered High School of Performing Arts. The fact that the High School of Performing Arts permitted their students to miss school in order to rehearse and perform in her production of Peter Pan, shows the importance they attached to Margo’s production. History was being made.
Here is a rare New York Times Broadway A – Z listing showing the “Peter Pan” production, but let your head spin to see who else Margo was on the boards with at the time: Henry Fonda in “Critic’s Choice,” Carol Channing (later in life to become Margo’s close friend) in “Showgirl.” Ironically Mary Martin was appearing five blocks away at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in “The Sound of Music” and Cyril Richard the original Captain Hook was appearing in a production on 45th street. As well as Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker,” Lucille Ball in “Wildcat,” Richard Burton & Julie Andrews, Elsa Lanchester, Phil Silvers, Zero Mostel, Tammy Grimes, Maurice Evans…the listings go on. As you can see it was a time on Broadway never ever to be again.
The New York Times Broadway A - Z listing, April 1, 1961
The following year, Margo had penned “Out, Brief Candle,” a three act play about dope addiction. Featuring 30 actors, it centered around ‘Bob’ whose life long dream of becoming a surgeon is destroyed by his heroin addiction. In 1963 Margo prophetically returned to the 41st Street Theater where she directed and produced the play herself.
She was heralded in the ‘teen magazines’ of the day, Hi-Teen 11/1962 and Teen Time 01/1963 as “News maker” and “Teen of the Month.”
High Teen Magazine, November 1962
Teen Time Magazine, January 1963
At age 17, now known as a child prodigy of the Broadway theater, Margo became the agent, as well as producer, director and publicist of Kuda Bux, a Pakistani mystic and mentalist performer who could read and see despite being heavily blindfolded. They appeared on stage and television together.
Oh, did I mention she is a licensed pilot? Has gone camel racing in the desert? So it is also no surprise, that Margo also happens to be a member of MENSA, the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world, open to those people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized IQ test.
In 1969, Margo opened her first art gallery, but she had no art to display. So her girlfriend, who just so happened to be iconic photographer Diane Arbus, suggested they exhibit her work. Margo told me, “In the morning within an hour, I had rented myself an art gallery but had no artwork, by midnight, Diane and I had finished hanging her work.”
Also ahead of her time, on December 10, 1995, Margo became the first person ever to hold an art auction on the World Wide Web, when she auctioned five Hirschfeld works on the Internet to benefit New York City Meals-on-Wheels (god bless her).
We talked and talked about the wonderful and even curious stories she has to tell. It was now 9:30pm, the summer sky was casting it’s dark hues into the ballroom, it was time to end my delightful tea with my fellow Sagittarius Margo. Perhaps I will tell some more of her stories here. My favorite (so far!) is of the fateful meeting of Hirschfeld and Charlie Chaplin in 1932. I teared up as I sat on the sofa listening to Margo tell the tale, gazing into those sparkling blue eyes of hers. Thank you dear Margo.
This November 19th, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd. Margo is penning her memoirs to follow hopefully thereafter. I dare think it shall be Auntie Mame, er ah, Margo telling tales that will keep us captivated!
I hope you will also stay tuned for more stories from me as well, especially hopefully one day, my book, ”Last Train Out of Berlin” – – – Berlin, March 21st, 1945: A charismatic opera singer receives secretive warning that Berlin is doomed by advancing Russian forces and that there is one last train out of Berlin leaving in four hours. A true story that spans three continents and three generations.
STAY TUNED . . .
(with a special nod
to my extra-special line editor…you know who you are!😉)
Harvey Fierstein & Hans Von Rittern and Casa Susanna/Valentina
Photo of the day: HARVEY FIERSTEIN AND HANS SEE “CASA VALENTINA” TOGETHER – well….kinda…
Harvey came to see his show last night and I was sitting right near him.
THE SHOW IS FUCKING BRILLIANT! It is based on a cult book “Casa Susanna” which contains flea market find photos of women in the Catskills in 1962 – the women were men. Not drag queens, but men who simply had the desire to express their feminine side on the weekend and go on doing ordinary household chores leading an ordinary life for two days…as a ‘ordinary’ woman. All were married with children. It is not sensationalist Fierstein drag. It is a dramedy of social mores and sexual politics of the sixties,
To be very honest – I didn’t want to see this play. I thought,’who are you to further expose what was to have been private?”
My mother has always said to me, “please destroy all family pictures if there is no one left in your family. I don’t want to wind up in some flea market and have total stranger pawing over my photos and doing god knows what with them.” I sadly agree. So I felt, who is Harvey to do this – how is he to know what really these people were about and what went on, sorry theater fans, this is how I felt. Yet the book haunted and fascinated me of the sadness yet sensation of this secret world revealed. Reluctantly I bought the cheapest discount ticket possible. I brought my treasured copy of the book along with me.
Almost full house. Curtain rises. I am sitting there with arms folded, negative Nancy. ‘Ok, what did you do with this?’ After 5 minutes I was riveted. The visuals, the acting – breathtaking. I abandoned all doubt and negativity and realized I was watching something intensely personal and brilliant. Half way though act one, I kept thinking to myself, ‘where and how did Harvey come up with this, how did this come out of his head?’ Each actor is cast to perfection for the part. I flipped through my book trying to guess who was who. After a while it didn’t seem to matter, there were real people onstage.
It’s story is of intrigue, mystery, politics, raw emotions, sharp wit, great humor, 1960’s sexual politics, being exposed, homophobia, buried secrets, gut wrenching moments, great sets, superb lighting. Mare Winningham and Reed Birney are FUCKING BRILLIANT! Birney channels Margo Channing/All About Eve yet does not imitate her, it is her fiery essence – it is riveting sheer brilliance at what a strong determined (calculating) woman he portrays. He should have won the damn Tony award he was nominated for as best actor in a play. Mare’s voice projects to the upper balcony even in her most quiet sad moments – that’s technique! (They were not micked.) John Collum is everyone’s grandmother of the period.
The setting is the Chevalier d’Eon, a Catskills resort where button-down married men from the city can slip into something more comfortable for the weekend. This sanctuary is run by George (Patrick Page) and his infinitely accommodating wife, Rita (Mare Winningham). And if the place is a bit run down, for its guests it remains “our own Garden of Eden.” But Harvey being the brilliant Harvey, he has set a serpent loose in their garden of Eden, and you are hooked.
During intermission I asked to buy the poster. The head usher saw I was carrying the book. He tells me several of the men are still alive and the man who took the photos actually had come to see the play! I come further to find out, that of the men/women who are still alive, Harvey (I think) felt it his duty (and privilege) to interview them. So some of the mystery was gone, but yet all the more heightened. Who are they and what has become of them?! I was obsessed with the fact that the usher knew what the photographer of most of the photos looks like! I am even more energized for act two for now I know how much more ‘real’ the story is and I was watching also a history lesson unfold.
As I am waiting for the curtain to go up, coming up my aisle is an unmistakable figure of man – it’s the playwright himself Harvey Fierstein! He sat 1 row across from me! I had to go over to him to ask to sign my poster. “He’s got the book,” he growled to his friend. I grabbed his wrist and kept babbling “it’s brilliant! It’s brilliant’! Hans tongue tied = not often. Back to my seat. I now watched the show and out of the corner of the eye watched this Broadway royalty watching his own show. Surreal. He laughed at the jokes, was stoned faced at the serious moments, just like the rest of us.
Harvey’s reactoin to Jonathan Groff (blue t-shirt) being there
After the show I ran to the stage door and got the cast to sign the poster. Glee star Jonathan Groff was there, a girl next to me nearly died. Harvey was saying goodnight and I asked if I could have my picture taken with him and the book since he had made it come alive along with preserving gay history. “Sure with the book!” We hugged and the guy I gave my camera to couldn’t figure out how it works. Harvey growled, “Heterosexuals! They can’t even figure out how to work a camera.” We all laughed and that is the moment captured in this wonderful moment. I am still on cloud nine.
The ladies who lunch
GO SEE THE PLAY – it has a limited run and is closing June 29. Tickets sometimes available 50% off at TKTS nightly.
CASA web site: http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/2013-2014-season/casa-valentina/
New York Times review: http://online.wsj.com/articles/like-earlier-hot-spots-williamsburg-adds-gloss-1402620838
Cast signed poster
Photo of the day: CHRISTMAS DINNER AT BENDEL’S WITH LIZA, SARAH-JESSICA, WOODY, MARILYN, CAROL AND AL HIRSCHFELD – Since I was a little boy the magical drawings of Al Hirschfeld have absolutely fascinated me! The fact that a few twists of the pen could totally capture a person and their character was astounding to me. Every Sunday I would get up early to run to the corner store to get a Sunday New York Times and pull out the Arts & Leisure section to see who had been ‘Hirschfelded’. That was a steadfast tradition from about 1964 till Al Hirschfeld’s death in 2003. I have boxes and boxes (and boxes) of clippings of all the Hirschfelds I could find from then till now.
The great Hirschfeld
My dream of meeting him came true one day in the year 2000, in the theater that was later to be named for him, The Martin Beck now The Hirschfeld. The story of meeting him is a story unto it’s own. I had met the greatest of the greats until then: Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Elvis, Elton, Cher, Liz Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, but meeting Hirschfeld had topped them all. I had met the man that had documented close to 100 years of America’s entertainment history. It was the most humbling and breath taking moment of my life.
Jerry Stiller meets ‘Jerry’ with Margo Feiden and Bendel’s
When Hirschfeld died, I bought many of his possessions at the 2011 Doyle Galleries estate sale, his pens and pencils, his large wooden pencil box, his shoulder bag and many, many other items, all lovingly displayed in my home.
Fast forward to November 14, 2013 and I am standing in front of Henri Bendel’s windows waiting for the grand unveiling of their Christmas window featuring a three dimensional tribute to the great beloved Hirschfeld.
Bendel’s president and top executives and creative team
I waited front row, clutching my Hirschfeld owned shoulder bag which still has his handwritten name tag attached written in his trademark squared signature. Due to arrive were Jerry Stiller who is featured in the window and Margo Feiden, the sole curator of the Hirschfeld collection. They were followed by the president of Bendel’s, the artistic director, and by Tom Carroll who created the pieces and Bendel’s Assistant VP of Visual, Gilberto Santana. Once inside, I showed the president of Bendel’s my Hirschfeld bag, “You must meet Margo!” (Shades of ‘All About Eve’!!) She welcomed me with open arms and warmth. There I was, after 49 years of collecting, sitting with Margo Feiden, holding hands and telling her my Hirschfeld stories. She so very much reminded my of my dear aunt “G” (see older posts here.) I told her: “Back in the 1960’s and 70’s I was the quintessential stage door Johnny. I had met Bergman, Davis and Crawford…” Margo squeezed my hand and cut me off, “but when you met Hirschfeld…” she interrupted. “Yes!” I proclaimed, “how did you know?” “I can see it in your eyes, it’s still there.” She held my hand tighter. I will not forget that moment. Bendel’s has a limited edition ($100.) poster available for sale commemorating the evening which I asked Margo to sign. “I hope you can read this,” she said as she rolled it up before I could read what she had written to me. I was on cloud 9 as I thanked her and left.
Hans, Jerry Stiller, Margo Feiden
I called mom and told her of the wonderful evening and how my Hirschfeld story had come full cycle. “Well what did Margo write to you?!” mom asked. I didn’t know, because shortly thereafter it was tied up in the traditional brown/white polka dotted Bendel bow and into to fancy large shopping bag it went. “I’ll stop by your apartment on the way home and we can unveil it together.” I rushed home holding onto to it for dear life.
Once in mom’s living room, we carefully untied the bow and unrolled the large parchment poster, our eyes transfixed on the small handwriting on the poster, trying to make out the inscription. Then we both looked at up each other and were speechless when we saw what Margo had written: “To Hans, with your enthusiasm Bendel’s won’t need lights, Margo Feiden.”
My heart is full.
The celebrated party guests translated into three dimensions in the window include from left to right: Whoopi Goldberg, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Woody Allen, Matthew Broderick, Liza, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jerry Stiller, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing and Hirschfeld himself. (Omitted in error is Margo Feiden.)
The Margo Feiden Gallery
15 East 9 St Between 5th Ave & University Place
Mondays on Memory Lane: HAPPY 89th BIRTHDAY LAUREN BACALL ! – On a cold night in May 2000, I waited by the stage door of Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theater in hopes of getting an autograph from one of Hollywood’s lasting screen icons, Bogie’s Baby – Lauren Bacall. Noel Coward’s “Waiting In The Wings” had drawn Bacall to the stage one last time. She still had the sleek smokey elegance, that high society feel, and of course, we were all hoping to hear the infamous smokey voice.
She commanded huge crowds, still after all these years. Rosemary Harris was her co-star but Bacall caused the stir on the sidewalk and stopped traffic.
My absolute goal was to have her sign my Blackglama ‘What Becomes A Legend Most?’ poster. She and her security guards made sure that only your Playbill were being presented to her. No matter how much you begged and pleaded, Playbill only…
At the time she was also doing a voice over for a “Fancy Feast” cat food commercial on TV. Coincidentally the ad also ran in the Playbill and many fans would ask her sign the picture of the cat. She absolutely refused, “that cat is going to haunt me,” she said.
I’ve grown up with Bacall, seduced by her demure coolness on my old black and white TV set in 1944’s “Key Largo” with Humphrey Bogart (‘You know how to whistle, don’t you?’) , seeing her request a rabbit dinner in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and then finally in 1981 on Broadway at the Palace Theatre as Margo Channing in the musical version of ‘All About Eve’, the sensational “Applause.” Who will ever forget her bellowing her opening lines, “Welcome to the theatah!”
In 1987, I lived at 160 Columbia Heights on the promenade in Brooklyn Heights, and Lauren had bought the upstairs penthouse apartment for Jason Robard’s father. I had no idea she owned the upstairs apartment, it was all hush-hush. One night, I had stayed out till the early morning hours at a night club and was coming home at around 6:00 am. I took my 3 little strays onto the elevator and pushed “L” for lobby. The elevator went up, allll the way to the penthouse level. I was so pissed that at this early hour, when my dogs were in need, that we were being hijacked “up”, I decided to refuse to acknowledge the person and kept my eyes closed. As we are going down I hear a knee crack and then all of a sudden, one of the most famous smokey voices on the planet, “oh they’re so cute!“ No one else has that voice, it couldn’t be. I opened my eyes and there was Lauren Bacall playing with my dogs on the elevator floor. “Wuuwhat??” It was totally surreal! After our first ‘meeting’, Bacall and I would often meet in the elevator and she would play with my 3 dogs regularly. I would always try to coax her to come to my apartment to sign some of my Bacall posters, she always politely declined. “One day…” I thought.
Now that time has passed, I have become a NYC tour guide and often pass her famed apartment in the legendary Dakota Apartment building on 72nd Street and Central Park West, each time holding on to the hope that I will one day get her to free willingly sign my poster.
In 2011 she fell and fractured her hip. It is rumored she has made one last film at age 89 to be released in 2013 called “Trouble is my Business”. We may have to settle seeing her for the last time on the big screen, since she has become a recluse and is seldom seen in public, only seldomly seen as she sometimes comes and goes with the other luminaries from her Dakota apartment building.
A plea – to Lauren Bacall and anyone who knows how to somehow get in touch with her, “Please grace my first Blackglama ad with your signature! It will be treasured on my wall forever.” Lauren . . . you listening??
The first ‘Legend’ ad Lauren Bacall, 1968
(I am a passionate collector of the advertising “What Becomes A Legend Most?” campaign and own almost all of the 70+ posters ever done, ending with Tommy Tune in 1994 and Janet Jackson in 2011. Many are signed. But – Bacall was the first in 1968, followed by Garland, Streisand, Dietrich, Cher, Crawford, Davis, Liza, Callas, Stanwyck, all the greats. To think the first legend is still alive, when so many have passed is thrilling to me and my ultimate autograph to receive.)
MONDAYS ON MEMORY LANE – BACK STAGE WITH AGNES MOOREHEAD: It is Sunday,February 4th, 1973 and Agnes Moorehead, better known to mortals as Endora, was giving her last performance in the George Bernard Shaw play “Don Juan In Hell” at the old Palace Theatre in Times Square New York. I had to attend the performance since the shocking notice had been in the papers that past Friday that Sunday the 4th would be the final performance after only a total run of 24 performances.
Shocking? Yes. You see the cast included: Paul Henreid of ultra film classic “Cassablanca” and “Now Voyager”, Edward Mulhare of the TV series “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, Ricardo Montalban latin film star as lover and villain and of Star Trek fame. Directed by esteemed actor John Houseman. But most of all…there was Endora. From 1964 till 1972, one of my sheer pleasures was watching witty, chic, acid tongued Agnes Moorehead play Endora, mother-in-law to Darrin Stevens on the beloved TV classic series “Bewitched.”
I was still a bell-bottomed sophmore in high school and unfortunately not smart enough to secure the autographs of the entire incredible cast, my main goal was Endora/Agnes! So after the show I ran to the stage door and waited and watched for the luminaries to leave. Paul Henreid left, Edward Mulhare left and Ricardo Montalban left. Ninety minutes went by and the nervous question was – where was Agnes?!
In a panic I ran into the main entrance of the theatre to enquire if she was still in the theater (perhaps she had snuck out.) One of the ushers who still there cleaning up pleasantly said “Oh she’s still here! You want to meet her?!”
Huh? This doesn’t readily happen. These were still innocent times though. The history of celebrity security is basically divided in two. Before December 8, 1980/John Lennon’s assassination and after December 8th 1980. No one thought anything to stop this star struck kid in the platform shoes and huge bellbottoms from running to find Agnes Moorehead in that huge, huge theater. I raced down the aisle. “Wait!”, I thought, “slow down, don’t appear too eager or as if you don’t belong.” I slowed my pace but my heart beat only faster. The cavernous theater’s aisles led me to the side of the stage where a stagehand volunteered to show me to her dressing room. I was in disbelief! You know how incredible it was to be behind stage of the legendary theater where the greatest of the greats had performed? In the vaudeville days it was Ethel Barrymore, Bert Lahr, Fanny Brice, the Marx Brothers, Will Rogers and Lillian Russell. In modern times such incredible luminaries as Judy Garland, Bette Midler’s first show, Liza Minnelli, Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall, Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross. The film “Citizen Kane” premiered here on May 1, 1941 . . .and there I was. To quote Eve Harrington in “All About Eve” ‘You can breathe it, can’t you?!’
The stagehand led me through the winding corridors to one remaining dressing room where the light was still on. “Miss Moorehead…someone here to see you.” There she was, methodically packing her blue suitcase. She came to the open door, “Yes?” as she looked at me inquisitively. “What is it dear boy?” That unmistakable voice, the mannerisms, the posture, the red hair – it was Endora saying ‘speak up!’ I was in awe. I nervously told her had wound my way backstage because I couldn’t run the risk of missing her and just to shake her hand. Her right hand had rows and rows of bracelets that clinked as she took my hand. I had brought with me a rare photo that ABC TV local stations used to focus the camera on when they went to commercial. I nervously watched as she signed it with my ink pen which didn’t take on the glossy photo (this is pre-Flair pen days) and she didn’t have another pen either, so the autograph is sort of scratched into the photo. She surprisingly asked me “Oh, Endora eh? So which was your favorite Darrin Stevens name?” “Durwood” I replied. “Mine too!” she said, “it was so easy and fun for me to say, it was the name we used the most. Is there anything else? I must pack.” I asked if I may take her picture with my little instamatic camera. She regally struck a profile pose. “Now young man, I must go.” She headed back into her dressing room and I wandered unescorted through those wonderful backstage hallways and walkways of theatrical history. Not knowing where I was going, I found myself at the edge of the stage. The lone single ghost light was standing center stage. ‘Why not?’ I thought, this would be my only chance! I peaked out from behind the curtain – no one. I took my first step. My clunky wooden platform shoes echoed on the wooden floorboards as I crossed the stage Judy Garland and all the legends had stood on. When I came to center stage, I stood there for a second and breathed – you can breathe it! I took a silent bow . . . and left.
ENDORA’S NAMES FOR DARRIN STEVENS:
Dagwood, Darwood, Durwood, Durweed, Beady eyes, Charm Boy, Dalton, Dar-Dar, Darius, Darwick, Darwin, David, Dawson, Boy, Delbert, Dennis, Denton, Derek, Derwin, Dexter, Digby, Dino, Dobbin, Dogwood, Donald, Dorian, Dulcin, Dulfin, Dum Dum, Dumbo, Dumpkin, Duncan, Featherhead, Glum-Dum, Tinker Bell, What’s his name and Low-grade mortal.
WHAT WILL YOU DO IN YOUR FINAL HOURS ON EARTH?: According to the Mayans and many other ancient soothsayers from the past centuries, December 21st, 2012 has been predicted as the end of the earth. Now logistically – when does the universe &/or God determine the final bang should begin?? Each new day starts on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean at 5am local New York time, so by Thursday the 20th at 5am we’re already screwed, but – if you’re reading this then the great chain reaction didn’t start and it proves the Mayans simply didn’t have a big enough rock for their calendar and they only had enough room till 12/21/12.
But if the end does come….how will you spend your last hours on earth?
Having that last great meal?
Spending all your money shopping?
Drinking till the end?
Making a list of questions you have for God?
Having great sex?
Listening to your favorite piece of music?
Watching ‘War of the Worlds’ or ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’?
Quietly with loved ones?
Opening the bottle of fine wine you have been saving?
Calling someone and tell then you forgive them?
Playing every last Cher (or insert favorite artist here _____ ) CD you have till…?
Reviewing and burning your bucket list?
Calling your boss and telling him what you think of him?
Going to the most expensive restaurant in town knowing the bill won’t matter in a few hours?
Finally buying that pair of Louboutin shoes and going in style?
Be happy you don’t have to make your bed and do the dishes?
Getting your camera ready, because this should be one helluva final shot!?
Listening to Sinatra over and over again singing ‘I Did It My Way’?
Or just sitting back with a beer and say “Fasten your seatbelts it’s going to be a bumpy night!”?
I myself, will be listening to Peggy Lee’s recording of “Is That All There Is?”, over and over again.
However you spend the time – it’s been swell guys!
“WHY DO THEY ALWAYS LOOK LIKE UNHAPPY RABBITS?”: Marilyn Monroe’s (as Miss Caswell) query to Addison DeWitt played by George Sanders when asked to go and meet the theatre producer Max Fabian played by Gregory Ratoff and “go do yourself some good”. She puts back her shoulders and puts on a big smile and goes to do herself ‘some good’ at Margo Channing’s (Bette Davis) ‘blasted party’ for Bill Sampson’s (Gary Merrill) birthday.
Photo taken during the Bryant Park and HBO Film Festival showing of “All About Eve”. Monday, August 13th, 2012. Bryant Park is behind the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. 10,000 people showed up to see Marilyn, 50 years after her death. Marilyn lives eternal.
Marilyn Monroe and George Sanders
“FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS, IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY NIGHT!”: ‘All About Eve’ is my obsessive favorite film of all time. I own film memorabilia from the film and had the extreme privilege to meet Celeste Holm in 2011 and even attended her 95th birthday party. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when she signed my original 1950 film poster for me.
Imagine my euphoria to find out Bryant Park’s and HBO’s Film Festival was showing ‘All About Eve’, Monday August 13th, 2012. I would have attended if I had the plague. Approximately 10,000 people showed up to see Marilyn Monroe ascend the staircase on George Sander’s arm and make her entrance in the party scene just after Bette Davis as Margo Channing utters one of the immortal film lines of all time: “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” The audience stood up, hooted, hollered, cheered, whistled and applauded. It is a truly unique New York experience and I was in heaven . . .