Sometimes, it feels as if we are eavesdropping on day-to-day conversations rather than just hearing the usual litany of platitudes and regrets.
Where is the piece, the editor wanted to know, about Thomas Tryon? I knew where it was, but I wasn't telling. It was in that dark and musty cupboard of my mind where I keep all those articles which (a) I hope never to write and (b) which would be mean and nasty if I ever did. When Ingmar Bergman was a bad little boy, his father would lock him in a closet and tell him there were things in there that would bite off his toes. My cupboard is the same.
"You're gonna think this is crazy," Cliff Robertson was saying, "but I think the Libertarian Party has the right idea. There ought to be a place on the ballot where you could vote for None of the Above. Then maybe in November the parties would have to go back and nominate somebody else . . ." He grinned wickedly at the notion. This was the other night at O'Rourke's, where he's settled into the corner of a booth after a flight from San Francisco. He was in town to talk about his new movie, "Obsession," but the conversation turned into a debriefing about the Democratic primaries. Here it was August and he was STILL for Mo Udall.
Milton Berle made his acting debut in 1914, at the age of 6, as the little newsboy in Charles Chaplin's "Tillie's Punctured Romance." Since then, he has been in vaudeville, radio and the movies and in 1948 became television's first big star.
In 1945, his sixth year in the Army, John D. MacDonald sent a short story home to his wife. She typed it up and submitted it to Story magazine, which bought it for $25. "1 thought that was pretty damned good," MacDonald recalls. "I figured, hell, if I could sell about four stories a week, I could live pretty well."
"I'd say 'Silent Movie' is my best film by far," Mel Brooks was saying, "and, let's face it, the others were pretty good. This is the funniest, the hardest to accomplish, the best. But we could not get the crew to laugh! There we were, knocking ourselves out to be funny, and behind the camera, not a snicker. This was a veteran crew. After 50 years of making sound movies, they were afraid if they made a noise it would spoil the shot. Fer chrissakes, fellas, I said, there's not even a microphone. Laugh a little! Yuk it up!"
Eugene O'Neill's wife thought "Hughie" was one of her husband's lesser plays, Jason Robards was saying. "She said he loved writing it and it came out easy. She was full of baloney. Oh, it may have came out easy, because he wrote it at the height of his powers. But it's one hell of a play."
L. Q. Jones is one of these guys who meets you for the first time as if he's carrying on an old friendship.
"My favorite Hollywood suicide of all," Kenneth Anger said, "was Gwill Andre's. She was a starlet who got her pictures in all of the magazines - Film Fun had photos of her galore - but all she got in the movies were walk-on roles. Well, one day she got fed up at having stardom denied her. So she went out in the back yard and built a funeral pyre of all of her press clippings. She lit it and jumped on. That sure does beat 'Day of the Locust.'"
I met Martin Scorsese for the first time in 1969, when he was an editor on "Woodstock." He was one of the most intense people I'd ever known - a compact, nervous kid out of New York's Little Italy who'd made one feature film and had dreams of becoming a big-time director one day. It would take him five years.
In 1954, a young New York actor named Paul Mazursky hung up his beret, combed his hair into a ducktail and went to a casting call for a movie named "The Blackboard Jungle." He got the job. He left behind a bohemian existence in Greenwich Village and set out for Hollywood and an acting career that somehow never quite got off the ground.