Conversation at Sardi’s

June 18, 1975

Anthony Hopkins was in “Equus” at the Plymouth Theater on West 45th Street, New York City

Wednesday afternoon.

In Shubert Alley, Tony Hopkins asked, “Would you like to have a drink with me?”

“Yes,” I answered politely and quietly. I thought he heard me, but a few steps on, he asked again, looking over at me, his hands held in front of his waist. “Would you?”

“Yes,” I said more loudly. I punched my right fist into my left palm and kicked out my right leg.

He grinned.

“I’m not going to drink,” he said.

“That’s good.”

“But I am going to smoke.”

“Oh!” I reacted partly in disgust, partly in pleasure he remembered my concern.

I stopped a big black car on 44th Street and he followed me across. I opened the door to Sardi’s, he held it and we went in. Sardi and he talked about someone who had bothered him and he made dinner reservations for 5:30, and I looked at a caricature of him on the wall.

Upstairs we went into the alcove next to the bar and after some musical chairs sat down at a corner table. He ordered two Tabs and one for me. He was still very excited from the show. When he poured his drink into the glass, he poured until it overflowed and then sat and stared at it. He put a paper napkin on the spill, and began to fold each corner into the middle, then took another and did the same thing. Later I offered him another napkin and he laughed and stopped playing with them.

When we sat down, I asked him about Saturday’s show – did he think it went well?

“Afternoon or evening?”

“Night.”

“Who’s your friend?”

“My psychologist and some of his friends.”

“Oh, what did he think of it?”

“He didn’t like it.”

“What didn’t he like?”

“He said the stuff about taking away people’s passion was stupid – foolish. And about everything being a trick and a catch.”

“Yes. Well, I’m reserving judgment about the play until after I’ve finished it.”

A little later he said, “I’m reading The Politics of Experience. I’ve read it three times.” [book by R. D. Laing]

“Don’t you think that’s a little obsessive?”

“I think he’s crazy.” He went on to say he doesn’t help people deal with society.

“He is kind of strange.”

“Doesn’t he live in this country now – in California?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think I would have heard about it. He visited here. I think he still lives in England. They had a press conference when he came to New York – last fall, I think.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

He seemed amused and/or amazed. I said The Divided Self [also by R. D. Laing] was a better book.

“I’m just coming down now,” he said at one point, exhaling and staring ahead of him at his drink.

I asked him about the After Dark interview, and he said he hadn’t read it, and he vaguely remembered Norma McLain Stoop, the interviewer. I told him she said he was a Welsh “volcano.”

“What do you think about being called a ‘volcano’?”

“Am I a volcano? People have called me a lot of things – vulgar, emotional, aggressive, violent.”

We talked about the effect success was having on him. He hated the star syndrome – some people go for that – the limousines and all that. Being a star doesn’t mean money, he said, then withdrew a little, “well . . .” [He talked about a star who came to work in a limousine, late and didn’t know her lines.] “One day, I had to have an argument with her. I told her she was going to have to settle down and work.”

“What’s it like to be a big star?”

“Am I a star?” he asked. After a moment, he said, “I’m going to be a big star…”

“You’re a big star.”

“Do you think so?”

“I know so.”

He was silent.

I asked him if he didn’t worry about losing his voice from smoking.

“Don’t say that!” He jumped up. “I have to knock on wood.” He hit his knuckles on nearly every piece of furniture in the vicinity, saying, “I’m so superstitious,” then sat down. “It hasn’t happened with this play.” And later: “It usually happens with those long Shakespearean parts.”

He said about leaving “Equus” that these last weeks were very hard.

“I thought these last two weeks would be easier,” I said in surprise.

“I thought so, too.” He said, “The play’s gotten too big. I don’t think I can finish it when I start. Every night before I go on, I take a deep breath and plunge on. It’s like taking a parachute jump.” A pause. “I do everything through fear. I know – I’m a masochist.

“You look so confident on stage.”

“I’m not. I feel naked every time I go in the stage door.”

“I had this dream last night,” he went on. “I went to the theater as usual and it wasn’t there. I went right to where the door is supposed to be and it was gone. There was just a wall there. There I was on 45th Street and I knew it was the right street and I was walking up and down it, but the theater wasn’t there. I asked a man and he said, ‘Oh, they’ve moved it.’ It was five minutes before I had to be on stage and I couldn’t find the theater.”

He asked if I had ever been to California and I answered no. He was thinking of living there, and of getting permanent visas to stay in this country. I said, you don’t want to be part of this country. We discussed England’s versus America’s corruption. I told him when I was in college, I marched and demonstrated against the [Vietnam] war.

He insisted English society – “high society” – was more corrupt. He said he felt useless being an actor. He should be saving the starving people of the world.

Later in the diary I wrote:

I was attracted to him at first because he is professional, because he works hard and I know that often “the muse doesn’t just descend” and you become inspired. I’m trying to learn how to write; when I am inspired, I am clawed up in the trying. I do apply myself to writing. People’s responses are so confusing – different. When I write it’s both serious, for an audience and publication, and as an exercise, because I’ve never done that particular thing before. Sometimes I just give up because I think I can’t do it and who needs quality? I am interested in how he remains sane and open under pressure to create, as an artist.

(This is for David Selzer.)

Tales of Times Square 3

In 1975, in the summer with the windows open at the Times Square Hotel, people had very few secrets. About 4 o’clock one morning a girl began to scream, No, please! Don’t do that! Get a prostitute if you want to do that! Here, take back your money! Just let me go! After pleading a half-minute more, a door slammed and she ran down the hallway. Shouting and sobbing, she knocked on the door next to mine. “Somebody,” she begged, “open the door please! I don’t want to get killed out here!”

I looked through the peephole. She continued to cry and knocked on more doors. No one opened a door for her. So I opened my door and she ran into my room. I called downstairs for the security guard. She cowered on the end of my bed and started to smoke with all the affected gestures of a high-school nicotine addict. I was surprised to see that she looked a lot like me, except she was a few years younger. She was white, blond, blue-eyed and dressed casually in light blue jeans and a white blouse. Someone else had called because the security guards arrived while I was on the phone. The security men arrived and she lunged at my door.

When she went into the hall, I closed my door on all of them. A few minutes later, one of the people in the hotel who “helps out” knocked on my door. While I fumbled with my bathrobe, he was becoming very angry.

“Put a master key on this door!”

“Just a minute,” I said angrily, opening the door. The security guard was behind him.

“What’s that girl’s name?” he asked. “Do you know who she is?”

“No,” I answered. “I only let her into my room. I never saw her before.”

He looked at me suspiciously. “Well, she came out of your room.”

“Yes, but I don’t know her. I’m sorry.”

He stood there a moment distrustfully. I heard the security guard say, “She’s not a madam.” Then they went away.

Several weeks later, the elderly woman who lives across the hall met me by the elevators in the lobby. We said hello and she leaned over to me and asked, “Are you in some kind of trouble, dear?”

“No,” I answered, wondering why she thought I was.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I heard all that noise in the hall the other night. That young woman was in some kind of trouble. I thought it was you.”

“Oh no.” I laughed. “That wasn’t me.”

Upstairs, she invited me to her room, where she confided, “I heard her knocking on my door and I wasn’t going to let her in.” She looked frightened then, as if she had to appeal to my understanding. “I have to value my life too. But I thought it was you. I would be afraid to let you in if you were in trouble.”

I looked around at her room, at the pictures of Jesus and the cross on the table next to her bed and I realized that this episode had been upsetting to her because she knew she could not help someone in trouble, and that for last several weeks she thought it had been me she left out in the hall.

She told me I could visit her anytime. “Don’t be strangers.”

Her name was Mary H. “My husband was an Irishman, a cop,” she said, “and a gambler. He died in a poker fight.” He died at forty and left no will.

“Do you have any family?”

“I had a daughter. She was sweet, just like you. She died of leukemia when she was 21. My other daughter, she’s no good, she never comes to see me.”

“Why are you living here?”

“I had a nice home once, in Chelsea,” she said. Chelsea was the neighborhood below 34th Street on the west side. “I lost the house, all my furniture stored away and then I couldn’t pay and it was all gone.”

Every day she made one trip, to the Blarney Stone. She got food there and on the way bought the Daily News. Several times she asked me when she was not feeling well or the weather was bad to make the trip for her. I did, and brought back sandwiches which she tried to share with me. One time I noticed a small container of milk leaking on her dresser and cleaned it up.

I thought she would not want me to stay and started to leave. She said, “Don’t go, I’ll miss you. Who else can I talk to?”

I sat and talked with her a short while but I was always restless, ready to get out into the city, ready I thought for anything.

When I left, I said goodbye. Never say goodbye, she said.

Gwenddydd: The Dreamer at the End of the World

The old myths are great. Here, this one talks of battke-weariness, death and the end of the world. (Merlin and his sister)

From Peneverdant

I have come hither to tell
Of the jurisdiction I have in the North;
Every region’s beauty is known to me.’
The Dialogue of Myrddin and his Sister Gwenddydd

Many people have heard of Merlin and a few of the northern British wildman, Myrddin Wyllt. But what of Gwenddydd, Myrddin’s twin sister, who was also an important prophetic figure from the Old North, whose legacy has been overshadowed by her brother’s?

Gwenddydd and Myrddin lived during the 6th century and their father’s name was Morfryn. From the poems attributed to Myrddin in The Black Book of Carmarthen (1350), we can derive that he was a warrior of Gwenddolau. His deep fondness of his lord suggests the twins grew up at Caer Gwenddolau (Liddel Strength) in Arfderydd (Arthuret).

View from Liddel Strength Liddel Strength

What kind of upbringing did Gwenddydd have? Gwenddolau was renowned as a ‘Bull-Protector’ and cattle-raiding warlord. Many legends surround…

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Increase Racial Awareness (Reblog)

From Concierge Librarian (Mardene Rosalee Carr), this list of books to help increase racial awareness:

Increase Racial Awareness With These Books

She writes:

Sometimes there are those among us who are unaware. There are also those who have forgotten. Others are just plain out of touch with racial issues. Since we must exist together, it is therefore important to understand each other. Here are 8 books that we can read to be more aware of the issues surrounding race.

Memories of Lost Worlds

Tools of the TRade The Paper So. Plainfield, NJ c. 1972

1970s Technology

I’ve been writing my memoirs using my old diaries. It’s an interesting form to write in. I’ve discovered connections I never saw back when I was living through these experiences. It helps give order and meaning to my life, beyond what I thought and hoped was in it. I’m writing about the Seventies and Eighties, lost worlds for a variety of reasons. We had primitive technology then, the IT future was just coming over the horizon by the mid-1980s. The sexual beliefs and behaviors are quite different from today. Racial discrimination was even more ingrained and unconscious than it is today. Although we haven’t made much progress, not nearly what many of us thought we had in the Nineties and early 21st Century, there was one major difference. Back then we were only dimly, dreamily, aware of our attitudes and behaviors and the need for change. 

Instead of publishing piecemeal these memoirs, I’ve decided to wait until they are in final draft and better shape, hopefully. 

 

Poetry in the Time of COVID-19

Here’s a fine poem about this time.

quarantine TV cuomo

When
by John O’Donnell

And when this ends we will emerge, shyly
and then all at once, dazed, longhaired as we embrace
loved ones the shadow spared, and weep for those
it gathered in its shroud. A kind of rapture, this longed-for
laying on of hands, high cries as we nuzzle, leaning in
to kiss, and whisper that now things will be different,
although a time will come when we’ll forget
the curve’s approaching wave, the hiss and sigh
of ventilators, the crowded, makeshift morgues;
a time when we may even miss the old-world
arm’s-length courtesy, small kindnesses left on doorsteps,
the drifting, idle days, and nights when we flung open
all the windows to arias in the darkness, our voices
reaching out, holding each other till this passes.

Tales of Times Square 2

I woke up, smelling smoke and went to the window of my fourth floor room to let in some fresh air. A cloud of smoke came billowing in from a fire below on the lobby roof. Across the way, in the tower opposite me, the old black man was pouring glasses of water on the fire.

I ran into the hall, shaking from head to foot and called the desk on the hall phone.

The old man came into the hall. “Goddamn! That’s a fire!” he said in a huge voice.

The woman at the switchboard answered that they knew about the fire, but it was on the other side of the building from me. I hung up. Back in my room, I looked down and saw firemen breaking windows on a lower floor and attacking a small wooden structure on the roof.

The next fire I woke at three a.m., smelling something cooking. Calmly, I got dressed. I opened my door to see a fireman walk by in hard hat and knee high boots and carrying an ax.

People were coming out of their rooms. A young man in the hallway greeted people as they came out of their rooms, some in pajamas and robes. He nodded at me. I stared: he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. Black hair, great body, beautiful eyes and face. He must have seen the way I looked at him.

He said there had been a fire that afternoon. “You missed it.” He asked me and another man to check that everyone was out of their rooms.

As walked down the four flights of surprisingly elegant stairs, the neighbor started joking with him about the fires and trips to the lobby, many in the wee hours of the night, in all sorts of dress and undress.

We waited in the lobby for the all clear, which was signaled by the firemen tramping out the lobby doors. The street was quiet, deserted; even the prostitutes had retired for the night. Upstairs the young man said goodnight, opened the door to his room, and I saw a plant hanging in his window facing 43rd Street. We spoke occasionally after that. He had been a model (maybe still was).

A few weeks later, on Eighth Avenue crossing 42nd Street, dust and trash swirling, cars braking and honking, the Port Authority Bus Terminal looming on one side, the air thick with car exhaust and hot dogs and stale pretzels, I saw him near the corner with some other young men. He was wearing white hot pants and not much more. We exchanged glances and I saw in his expression: this is the way it is, but you know me, you know who I am.

I looked ahead and went on my way.

Tales of Times Square

Times Square Motor Hotel 1976

Times Square Motor Hotel, West 43rd Street, New York City, 1975 Photo by Mary Clark

Diary of A Mad New Yorker

On August 20, 1975, I carry one suitcase into the Times Square Motor Hotel, 255 W. 43rd Street, to a room on the fourth floor. The hotel is on the corner of West 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, next to the New York Times building.  My room has one window, from which I can see an adult bookstore.

That night I hear bottles crash on the roof below, prostitutes shout to one another, cops on bullhorns, police and fire sirens. A din of iniquity, so to speak.

At 4 a.m., the New York Times trucks screech and snort in the street as the morning paper rolls out.

“Don’t they know,” a neighbor complains to me, “that there are people trying to sleep here at night? Honest, hard-working people? And elderly people?”

A few days after I move in I overhear a man say, “I wouldn’t live in a place like this. Not if they paid me.”

I decide it’s a challenge. ”It’s not a bad place, “I tell a friend visiting me. “At least it’s clean.” Just then outside the window, leaves of toilet paper flutter down. A few tissues come to rest on my plants, which are inside the room on my air-conditioner.

Across the airway from me lives a huge old black man. He has no air conditioning. He keeps his window and curtains open night and day. It’s summer now and if he could climb out on the ledge and live there, I think he would.

Downstairs in the lobby, the same group congregates every day. A lot of elderly people live here and most of them are on social security. There’s a lot for them to see. One hot summer afternoon an old bum wandered in, completely naked, drunk and fully erect. He walked to the front desk and asked for a pair of pants, saying he couldn’t remember where he had put his clothes. Another time, a woman asked to have her shower fixed and ten minutes later when the engineer hadn’t come yet, she came down on the elevator, walked through the lobby stark naked to complain about it. The night manager hurried her into the office and threw a raincoat over her.

There’s romance in this group too. One day coming down in the elevator an old woman was crying, rejected, hurt. Later that day I saw her back with her boyfriend, sitting in the lobby looking a little resigned and grim, but much calmer.

One man, confined to a wheelchair because he has no legs, sits in front of the couches closest to the entrance and watches the people come and go all day. Then there is Mr. C, a neighbor of mine, who doesn’t like to go up on the elevator with anyone else. For an hour or more every afternoon after work, he waits for one that is empty or only has one passenger. Another elderly man walks around with his hands behind his back, observing everyone and taking notes in a small notebook. He always wears the same clothes, summer and winter, and won’t take the elevator either. He walks up the five flights to his room.

The elderly woman across the hall says when she can’t sleep she sits by her window and watches the fights on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street.

One night, as I close the window, I hear from the street below, “All right, let’s break it up. Move along. This is the vice squad.” Let them stay on the streets, I think. I don’t want them inside where I am.

Good night, New York!

The Times Square Hotel is now run by a non-profit agency and provides affordable housing. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

 

The Diary of a Mad New Yorker – Broadway 1975

“Equus” was on Broadway at the Plymouth Theater on West 45th Street, starring Peter Firth and Anthony Hopkins, Frances Sternhagen and Marian Seldes

Broadway 1974

March 29 (circa the 29th)

Anthony Hopkins bowed with the others, one foot on end, and turned and bowed to the stage-seat audience. He seemed embarrassed or mad as he went off-stage, from the angle of his head with his hair flopping over his forehead. After the applause ended, I went in the stage entrance. There was another young woman there waiting for another of the actors and a security guard wearing a Scottish-clan type hat. He asked who we were waiting for. After a while, the woman sat down on the bench and I leaned against the wall with one shoulder against the radiator. The man said that you could always tell a Shubert theater because they turned the heat off before noon even on the coldest days.

Hopkins came downstairs alone, pulling on his coat, took the step from the landing heavily and too fast.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hi.”

He turned by the door to sign an autograph for a man who had come in, and faced me. He signed his name silently; he looked pale, almost grey, and his clothes were disheveled, but not good-naturedly and charmingly as usual. He had on tan slacks, a yellow shirt and a brown knit tie that was spread suggestively over his shirt, and a coat and winter coat. The public display of unhappiness was mesmerizing and I stared at him unabashedly, which annoyed him more.

He did not want to talk and ran off, and I followed him past the Booth Theatre and through Shubert Alley, he on one side near the theaters, cutting through a crowd outside the Shubert Theatre, and I on the other side.

On Monday, I read the Tony Awards nominations. He was not nominated for best actor for his role in “Equus.” I think he knew last Saturday. [He should have been nominated.]

May 31

I waited outside the theater. I was wearing my black velvet jacket and blue bells. I met him just inside the stage entrance. He came up to me as I stood by the door so fast that I was startled, but there was no place to step back. His eyes were light grey-blue, so was his voice, but forceful, when he said hello. He wore a blue denim jean suit and a pink shirt. There was a little bit of shaving cream or cold cream at one corner of his mouth and by the opposite ear.

I followed him outside. A woman had photos of herself taken standing with him and some young woman joked that they would meet him at Sardi’s. He came toward me and put out his arm to sweep me along with him as he went down the street.

“I have nothing to say to you today. I’m just hanging around.”

He smiled at me, indicating that it was all right. Two other people, a young man and woman started walking and talking with him and by the Booth Theatre, he stopped momentarily to talk to someone else and we three went ahead slowly.

Rejoining us, I walked beside him. They asked about a letter and he said he wasn’t sure, then reached into his coat pocket, “Oh, I’ve been carrying this around all day.”

The young couple left us. He asked me to have a drink with him.

I said no. “I can’t drink.”

He said that he was going to have a Coke.

“Oh? Can I have a Coke too?”

“Yes. I’m meeting some people. I don’t know what they’re up to.”

“I’ll just have one drink and leave,” I said, thinking he was meeting business people.

“No –”

At the curb of 44th Street, I said, “Maybe they won’t let me in.” I looked down at my blue bells, pull-over shirt and sneakers. “I got my sneakers on.”

“Now you’re just being paranoid.” He stood, looking over and down at me, putting his weight on his right foot.

Outside Sardi’s he mentioned the girls again. I still didn’t know who he was talking about, and then he said he didn’t know if they were going to show up but they’d said they were meeting him at Sardi’s. I suddenly realized who he meant.

“Oh, do you think they’ll show up,” I asked, as we walked into them. I didn’t know we were already in front of Sardi’s door. He rushed forward and gathered them in and we went inside.

He told Sardi he was going upstairs to have a drink.

“Just one?” said Sardi.

He turned as he started up the stairs and put up one finger. The five of us followed, with me last in line.

“Oh, I see,” said Sardi (or whoever he was).

I glanced back to see everyone in the restaurant looking up at us. Upstairs we went past the bar and he looked for places in a small area on the other side, but there weren’t enough. After hesitating, he went into the dining area and we sat at a table in the back.

I sat next to him. They ordered drinks, he ordered a Tab and I a Coke. When the drinks came, I stared at mine. He poured it for me. One of the women, sitting on his left, was talking about “Equus” and psychology. I couldn’t hear him well, but at one point, he said, “Oh, but he does help the boy.”

They discussed Nazi concentration camps and “QBVII.” He said he’d told his agent he didn’t want to do “QBVII” – Dr. Kelno, his part, was hateful. They had tried to make him a more sympathetic character.

They mentioned “War and Peace” and their favorite scenes. One woman told us how many times she saw it. But the book is unreadable, she said.

“I’ve read it five times,” he said.

He had another Tab and asked what I wanted. “I’ll have what you’re having.”

He said that he wanted to stop smoking, but that one could always find an excuse for everything. He lit up a cigarette after just finishing one and everyone commented.

“I have an excuse,” he said.

I asked one of the women if she was going to finish her drink and she said no, so I took it. “If he’s not going to have any control,” I said, “then neither will I.” Later, when we left, my legs shook and I had to hold onto the bannister.

Then he talked about “absolute truth,” a subject which clearly defeated us all.

I heard two of the people giggling self-consciously. I realized we would have to leave soon.

When he got up, he kissed several of them rather abruptly. I hung by my chair, having some trouble standing up. The woman next to me knocked her chair over and I helped pick it up. Just before they got up, they thanked him, said they hoped they hadn’t imposed on him. He said it was nice to have an audience. The most talkative woman said his talking to them was a “mitzvah” – a nice thing, a good deed.

June 18

I stood by the Tonight 8 P.M. sign just inside the door. Most of the people were gone when he came down.

“Just a minute. I have to make a phone call. I have to confirm an appointment.”

With one foot on the step where I’d been sitting, he talked to someone. “Hello, this is Tony Hopkins.”

I stopped listening to imitate him, putting my opposite foot on the same step. I felt like a mirror reflection.

One of the horses asked him something about the phone [or the phone call?] and Hopkins boxed at his shoulder.

I followed him outside. While he signed autographs, I turned in circles, and waited in front of the lobby. A few minutes later, he came by with a middle-aged woman who was wearing an overcoat in the 86 degree heat. I thought he would put out his arm to bring me in, but his gesture was minimal. I walked along, just a little behind him, wondering what to do. He glanced at me while he talked to the woman.

She thought the show last Thursday night was “uneven,” that it started out rough and never came together. What did he think?

Yes, yes, you’re right, he said. I remember it seemed to be out of rhythm. It was “jarred.” I realized that a few minutes into the play and “it’s my responsibility to establish the rhythm” of the play. I think we got it together by the end.

She went on when he stopped, “It started off slow” and didn’t seem to get going or come together.

“Oh?” he responded. “Did you think so? I didn’t think so.” Thursday, he asked himself, last Thursday? Oh, I know what it was. I had a blood test that day and didn’t feel well.

“It was much better today,” she said.

“Thank you.”

He dusted some talcum powder off one of his pants’ legs. “It wasn’t as bad as that woman said,” he muttered when he straightened up again.

Good night, New York!