Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Who's peeking out from under a stairway, Calling the name that's lighter than air? Who's bending down to give me a rainbow? Everyone knows it's Windy.
A friend called up to say Wendy was in town.
"Wendy the super teeny-bopper," the friend said. "Wendy the archetypal teen-age girl, who does everything and goes everywhere and knows everyone. A flower child. A sprite. Have you heard this song 'Windy,' by The Association? It's supposed to be written about her."
"Now I get it. She's in town promoting the record. A public relations thing."
"Nothing like that. She doesn't have anything to do with things like that. She's in Chicago because she purely and simply felt like coming to Chicago. She flies all over the world, living in the moment, welcomed by her friends. She just flew in from Paris with 11 cents in her pocket. Before that she was in Greece."
"I don't believe it."
"See for yourself."
Who's tripping down the streets of the city Smiling at everybody she sees? Who's reaching out to Capture a moment? Everyone knows it's Windy.
Wendy turned out to be a little girl, maybe five feet tall. She had long brown hair that she wore in a ponytail because it was dirty.
"I've been on airplanes for about three days and I'm filthy and tired," she explained. "But when it's washed, my hair looks glorious, like a mane, a lion's mane. It's really my best feature."
She said she was 17. Her face was round with freckles and apple cheeks, and although it was tired now it looked like the sort of face that might sometimes be merry. She wore a long dress down to her ankles, sandals, and no makeup. There was no way to tell her apart from the uncounted other teeny-boppers who come to Old Town on weekends and walk up and down Wells St. trying to look as if they might possess some magic not previously known in the suburbs.
"I'm known to my friends all over the world as Atomic Bubble Gum," Wendy said. "I guess that sums it up."
She was sitting in a boutique on North Ave., eating grapes and smoking Marlboros.
"I'm dying for a drink," she said, "I don't suppose I could be served around this dump. In Europe I'm welcomed everywhere I go, and people are happy to serve me whatever I want because they like me to be in their places. And in Los Angeles, too, the ordinary laws don't apply to me."
Wendy said she had not heard the song by The Association until she came back to this country. "I don't know if it's written about me or not," she said. "It's spelled differently, you know, but I suppose that's for the poetry. A lot of my friends have told me the song is about me. Probably it is. I know all those people, the members of The Association and all the other really good groups. I know this lovely American Indian, Tandyn Almer is his name, who writes for The Association. He wrote 'Along Comes Mary'. Maybe he wrote 'Windy' too."
She said the trouble was she had gotten out of touch while she was in Europe.
"I got tired of this whole scene, all the same people, and my friends in Europe wanted to see me. So I spent a couple of months on Hydra. That's an island off Greece. Then I went to St. Tropez. I was supposed to see Roger Vadim about a movie I want to make, but as it turned out I didn't see him and there was an awful scandal and I got tired of the whole thing and came to Chicago. I know everyone here."
Wendy said she was born in Chicago and used to live in Los Angeles. "But I don't live anywhere now. I just -- oh, you know, go around. I left my parents when I was 12 or 13. They were terrible to me. They kept treating me like a little girl. I stayed with some friends for awhile, and finally they set me free."
She finished high school when she was 16, she said. Well, she almost finished high school. There was one more English course to go. But why go to high school when things are happening everywhere?
"I want to be alive while I'm young," she said. "All these poor kids, they march into school when they're six and they march out about 15 or 20 years later and they're housebroken. They've been forced to sit still and listen for hours every day. That's no way to live when you're young. You've got to be free, like an animal."
Right before she left home, Wendy said, she was in a movie. It was a monster movie and she was the little girl who screamed at the monster. The name of the movie was "Face of Fire." she said. Now she wants to make a movie.
"That's why I went to Greece. I wanted to get the rights to a book. I wanted Jean-Luc Godard to make the movie, but I got fed up waiting for him and left the day before he came back from wherever he was." She giggled. "I had a tremendous adventure in Athens," she said. "I was kidnapped and held overnight in a brothel. Then I escaped to Istanbul. Did you ever see that movie, 'Shop on Main Street?' There was a dream scene near the end where everyone was in white and floating around. That was how the woman looked who ran the brothel. She dressed all in white and -- oh, just floated around, silently, like a dream. She was nearsighted, and I tiptoed right past her and out the door. It was a tremendously close call."
She paused, "Do you believe me?" she said.
Of course. Was that right before you went to the island to get the rights to the book?
"Yes, just before."
How much were you going to pay for the rights to the book?
"Oh, the author was going to give it to me."
How were you going to finance the movie?
"Oh, you know, I have friends, oh, just everywhere. People don't understand. People go around being suspicious and stupid, staying in their own bags, blind to the life going on around them. Money isn't important. All of those kinds of things mean nothing. When people are friends it's only life that counts. I was in love with a man in Paris, but he didn't understand that."
When was that?
"Just last week." She looked up suspiciously. "Do you always ask people questions like that?" she said. "What perfectly stupid questions. You don't have even the smallest, most elementary understanding of what my life is like, of what it means. I know what you're going to do. You're going to write a stupid story about the world's greatest super-duper teeny-bopper, who had a song written about her. People are always pulling that crap on me."
She puffed on her Marlboro. "I can see it now," she said. "You'll start out by quoting the song, and then you'll tell how I looked and all the things I told you, and you'll make it seem that somehow I'm just the same in real life as I am in the song. How I'm absolutely typical of my whole generation and how I represent the life that my whole generation wants to lead. Aren't you? Just making me into a...personality. I hate that! I hate it!"
And Windy has stormy eyes That flash at the sound of lies And Windy has wings to fly above the clouds Above the clouds, above the clouds, above the clouds.
The song "Windy" by The Association is at the top of the hit record charts. It was written by Ruth Ann Freidman, who lives in Los Angeles but was in San Francisco last week. She was asked over the telephone if her song was written about a real person.
"Yes, as a matter of fact it she said. "This may surprise you. The Association decided to change the lyrics around a little, but the truth is I wrote it about a boy I know."
Lyrics of "Windy" by Ruth Ann Friedman, copyright 1967 by Irving Music, Inc. All rights reserved.
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