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ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY 1

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  1. A XVIII 1
  2. A XVIII 2
  3. A XVIII 3
  4. A XVIII 4
  5. ANDREW ELIOT
  6. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  7. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  8. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  9. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  10. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY

 

October 12, 1965

 

 

Ironic, isnt it? Just as Ted and Sarah, my Ideal Couple, are reaching new heights of marital bliss with the birth of their first child, I am becoming a statistic.

Much to the delight and profit of the legal profession, Faith and I are divorcing.

Although it isnt in anger, it is with what you might call a lot of deeply held indifference. It seems that she never really thought that being married to me was a fun thing. Our lawyers are citing irreconcilable differences, but thats because the fact that Faith finds being out here an utter bore is not sufficient grounds for divorce.

Actually, I cant see how she could say her life in the country was dull. She was having so many affairs that her schedule must have bordered on the hectic.

When I first started to suspect that she was branching out into the realm of extramarital dalliance, I was worried what my friends would think. I shouldnt have. She was having flings with almost all of them.

In some ways I wish I had never found any of this out. Because frankly, I didnt realize anything was really wrong. I mean, our weekends were pleasant enough. And she seemed to be enjoying herself. But, unfortunately, one of my buddies at The Lunch Club thought it his duty as a fellow Harvardman to let me know, in so many words, that I was the laughing stock of southern Connecticut.

On that all-too-short train ride home, I tried to figure out a way to broach the whole thing with Faith. But when she met me at the door, I didnt have the guts to confront her.

Hell, I kept telling myself, maybe it isnt true. And so I went through the motions of drinks and dinner and going to bed. Still, I was awake all night, my heart pounding, wondering what to do.

Finally I understood what was behind my Hamlet-like hesitation. It was not really any doubt of her infidelity. I noticed in retrospect how cozy she had been with so many of the guys at the club during those weekend dances.

What was shaking me to the core was the fact that I knew Id be losing the children.

I mean, no matter how promiscuous you prove the woman to be, the court inevitably gives her custody. And I cant bear the thought of not being able to come back at night and hear little Andy shout, Daddys home as if I were king of the universe. Or to be there when Lizzie speaks her first sentence.



Not only have they given meaning to my life, but Ive discovered that being a father is actually something I do pretty well.

I grew so desperate thinking about all this, that at around 4:00 A.M. I had the wild notion of grabbing both kids and rushing off in the car somewhere. But, of course, that wouldnt have solved anything.

The next morning I called in sick (which was not a total lie), so I could have it all out with Faith. She didnt deny anything. I actually think she wanted me to know. She certainly said a very quick yes when I asked her whether she wanted a divorce.

I inquired when it was exactly that she had discovered she didnt love me anymore. She replied that she never actually had been in love with me but had, at one time, merely thought she was.

Now, having discovered that she was wrong, she deemed it best that we separate. I told her it was pretty irresponsible to have two kids with a guy she didnt really like.

To which she retorted, Thats what I cant stand about you, Andrew. Youre such a sentimental drip.



She asked if I wouldnt mind packing a bag and moving out that morning, as she had a very busy day. I retorted that I damn well did mind, and I would stay until Andy got home from nursery school so I could talk to him. She told me to suit myself as long as I was out of the house by dinnertime.

As I mindlessly threw some shirts and ties together in a suitcase, I wondered how the hell you explain to a four-year-old why Daddy is going away. I know youre not supposed to lie to kids, But saying, Mummy doesnt love me, seemed hardly conducive to the health of his psyche.

By the time the nanny brought him home, I had cooked up a story about having to live in New York to be nearer my work. That he shouldnt worry, I would be out to see him and Lizzie every weekend. And I was sure we could still spend the summer together in Maine. Or at least part of it.

I watched the expression on his little face when I recounted this fiction. And I could see that he understood the truth. It broke my heart. Even at four, my son was disappointed that I couldnt be totally honest with him.

Can I come with you, Daddy? he pleaded.

My entire soul ached to steal him. But I told him hed miss school. And his friends. And now he had to be a good boy and take care of his baby sister.

He promised and I suspect, to make it easier on me didnt cry as he watched me toss my bag into the car to drive to New York. He just stood at the doorway and quietly waved.

Kids are smarter than we think. Which is why we end up hurting them so much.

 

***

 

When the Pulitzer Prizes for 1967 were announced, there was particular joy in the Harvard University news office. While it was hardly novel that two Harvard men won awards in the same year, it was rare if not a first that two members of the same class were simultaneously honored.

This was a nice little tidbit they could get out over the wires. For the years prizewinner for poetry was Stuart Kingsley 58, and the recipient for music the already much-honored Danny Rossi of the same rich vintage.

In fact, the two classmates had not known each other at college. Stuart Kingsley spent his years at Harvard as an almost-invisible figure in Adams House. His powerful verse in the Advocate occasionally elicited praise from the reviewers of the Crimson .

Indeed, until the morning he received the phone call from the Pulitzer Committee, Stuart had continued to live in relative obscurity. He and his wife, Nina (Bryn Mawr 61), and their two kids lived in a high-ceilinged, slightly seedy apartment on Riverside Drive near Columbia, where he taught creative writing.

What excited Stu almost as much as the prize itself was the prospect of finally meeting his illustrious classmate at the award ceremony.

Think of it, Nina, he enthused, I might actually get my picture taken with Danny Rossi.

But then to his chagrin, Stuart learned that there was no Pulitzer award ceremony. That phone call and your picture in The New York Times was it .

What the hell, Nina said to dispel her husbands disappointment. Ill throw you the biggest damn party youve ever seen. Taylors New York State champagne will flow like seltzer.

He hugged her. Thanks, Id like that. I dont think Ive ever really been the subject of a party.

Listen honey, if you want to meet Danny Rossi so badly, Ill gladly invite him.

Yeah, he replied with a sardonic smile, Im sure hed love to come.

Nina grabbed him by the shoulders. Now you listen to me, kid. I havent seen this Savanarola ballet Rossis won for, but Im sure it didnt hurt that it was choreographed by George Balanchine. Anyway, it would have to be damn good to be on a level with your Collected Poems . So if you dont mind my saying it, the honor would be his.

It doesnt matter, Nina. In New York it isnt so much talent that matters as image. And Dannys got so much charisma

Oh, for Gods sake, Stu, thats just hype from a press agents office. Frankly, the only thing Rossis got over you is a few locks of flashy red hair.

Yeah, Stu smiled, and a few million bucks. Im telling you the guys a real star.

Nina looked at him with indulgent affection. You know why I love you so much, Stu? Because youre the only genius I know who suffers from the opposite of megalomania.

Thanks, honey, he replied, gathering up his notes and stuffing them into his briefcase. But youd better cut this ego-boosting short, or Ill be late for my four-oclock seminar. See you around seven. We can throw a party just for us.

 

When he returned, she had a surprise for him.

Really, Nina? Are you serious?

Yes, my dearest, You are actually having lunch with your charismatic classmate at one tomorrow in the Russian Tea Room. By the way, you may be stunned to learn hes looking forward to meeting you .

How did you reach him?

Oh, I just had an apocalyptic notion. I left a message with the Hurok office and about ten minutes later he called back.

Nina, youre terrific. It will be some occasion.

Yes, Stuart, she said lovingly. For him.

 

The Russian Tea Room, on Fifty-seventh Street, scarcely an octaves distance from Carnegie Hall, is a favorite New York haunt of the international music and literary set. Until this afternoon, Stuart Kingsley had known it only by reputation. Now he stood nervously at the entrance, scanning the tables to catch sight of Danny Rossi.

At one point he nodded to what he thought was an old friend. The balding, bespectacled chap gave him the most tenuous of acknowledgments and then turned away. It took another second for Stuart to realize that he had mistakenly greeted Woody Allen.

He did not commit the same gaffe when he perceived Rudolf Nureyev holding forth to a table of worshipful balletomanes. He merely smiled inwardly at the prospect of being so close to such living legends.

At last he spied his classmate. When their glances met, Danny waved him over to a corner booth, its table covered with yards of music paper.

I see you dont like to waste even a second, Stuart remarked jovially as they shook hands.

No, youre right. I have an unfortunate tendency to overcommit myself. And you cant deliver a July Fourth Suite on Christmas Eve, can you?

After Danny ordered blinis for them both, they ran the gamut of do-you-know, and discovered they had many friends in common among the artistic community of The Class.

Do you get up from Philadelphia very often? Stuart asked.

At least once a week, unfortunately. Its gotten so that Ive had to rent a studio in the Carnegie Hall Apartments.

Must be kind of hard on your wife, Stuart offered, unable to imagine having to spend a single day away from his beloved Nina.

Yeah, Danny replied, but Marias pretty involved with the kids. He then quickly changed the subject. You know, I was almost as happy for your prize as I was for mine. Ive always admired your stuff.

Youve read my poetry?

Stuart, Danny answered with a smile, you publish regularly in the New Yorker . Thats my favorite airplane reading. So I dont think Ive ever missed a poem youve had in there.

My wifes not going to believe this, Stuart murmured half under his breath. And then aloud, What are you writing at the moment, Danny? I mean besides what were using for a tablecloth.

Thats just it, Stuart. Im starting to feel somewhat hemmed in on the composition front. Thats why this whole meeting with you is a kind of kismet. Have you ever thought of writing lyrics for a musical?

Do you want to know something? Stuart confessed. Its not only been my secret dream, Ive actually been playing around with a specific idea for a couple of years. Its based on a kind of highbrow book, though.

Nothing wrong with that, Danny responded warmly. I wouldnt be interested in doing another Hello, Dolly! What masterpiece of world literature do you have in mind?

Would you believe James Joyces Ulysses?

Wow, thats a sensational idea. But do you think its really do-able?

Listen, Stu answered, his creative juices now really flowing, Im so steeped in that damn book that if you had the time I could lay the libretto right out on this table. But I suppose youve got a fiendishly busy schedule.

Danny stood up in the middle of Stus apology and said casually, Order us some more coffee while I go reorchestrate my agenda.

 

All afternoon Danny listened spellbound as his classmate cascaded with ideas. Naturally, they couldnt cram Joyces whole epic novel into two hours of stage time. But they could concentrate on the Nighttown episode, when the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, wanders through various exotic parts of the city.

There were infinite possibilities for musical invention. Only one significant change was needed. In Stuarts words, Our only concession to commercialism.

All they would have to do was translate the locale from Joyces Dublin to New York. Stuart even had exciting ideas for specific scenes and songs. But it was growing late and theyd have to put this off for a second meeting.

I think were already a little pregnant, Stuart, he commented. If youre free tomorrow, Ill be glad to stay over in New York so we can keep going.

Ive got no classes. What time do you want to start? Stuart responded eagerly.

Well, if you can make it to my studio as early as, say, eight, Ill provide lots of cups of disgusting but strong Nescafé.

Youre on, said Stu as he stood up. He glanced at his watch. Gosh, its nearly five oclock. Ninall think Ive been hit by a bus. Id better call and tell her Im okay.

Is it really that late? asked Danny. Id better scramble, or Ill have one hell of an angry guest waiting outside my apartment.

 

After their second meeting the two were ecstatic.

They had worked through the day, even chatting as they munched the sandwiches Danny ordered from the Carnegie Deli.

After eight hours of feverish symbiotic creativity, they had not only a broad outline of both acts, but at least half-a-dozen song suggestions and a place pinpointed for a ballet sequence.

Most of all, they shared the common euphoria that when the curtain fell on Bloom parting with young Stephen Dedalus, there would not be a dry eye in the house. Or a single prize they wouldnt win.

Danny suggested that if they spent a lot of concentrated time together, they could finish the whole thing very quickly. He proposed they rent adjacent houses on Marthas Vineyard for the summer. Then they could bring their families along and if they could snare a producer have the show ready to go into rehearsal just after Christmas.

There was only one difficulty. And Stuart approached it with some diffidence.

Uh, Dan, a house on the Vineyard is uh a little out of my budget.

No sweat. With what weve got already, Im sure we can find a producer willing to give us a healthy advance. But first weve got to get somebody to represent the property. Do you have an agent?

Poets dont have agents, Danny. Im just lucky to have a wife whos not afraid to talk on the phone.

Then why dont I ask around and see whos supposed to be the best for Broadway. That okay with you?

Sure.

Good. Hey Ive got to really sprint. As the Mad Hatter put it, Im late for a very important date.

It was the White Rabbit , thought Stuart Kingsley. But he didnt dare contradict his senior partner.

 

The next evening, as Stuart and Nina were conscientiously studying an LP of Dannys Savanarola ballet, the phone rang. It was the composer himself.

Hey, Stuart, he said, slightly out of breath, Im rushing to catch a plane, so Ive got to talk quickly. Ever heard of Harvey Madison?

No. Whos he?

My informants tell me hes the best theatrical agent in New York I mean, a guy in Huroks office said he isnt even ten percent of a human being.

Thats good? Stu responded with astonishment.

Good? Its incredible. What you need to negotiate for you is an absolutely heartless shit. And this guy Madison makes Attila the Hun look like Saint Francis of Assisi. What do you think?

Well, the poet confessed, Ive always had a soft spot for Saint Francis. But youre the guy that knows the business.

Great, Danny said, quickly signing off. Ill call Harvey at his house right now so he can start beating the drums. See you, Stu.

 

Summer on Marthas Vineyard is always glorious. But if you are the author of a show in progress that is destined for Broadway, it becomes the Island of the Blessed.

Stuart and Nina were invited to numerous star-studded barbecues, celebrity clambakes, and glittering soirées.

Of course, had he been merely a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, he might not have merited inclusion on the A-List. But he was also living in one of the most luxurious houses in Vineyard Haven, a sure sign that his balance sheet scanned as well as his verses.

Actually, he had Harvey Madison to thank for his good fortune. For it was their new agent who had set up the fateful meeting with Edgar Waldorf, undisputed king of Broadway producers. It had taken place at the only possible venue for such an encounter over lunch at 21.

Stuart, Harvey, and Danny had been waiting for twenty minutes when the rotund, flamboyantly clad producer made his grand entrance. Before he even sat down, he looked at the composer and lyricist and stated emphatically, I love it.

Stuart was somewhat confused. But, Mr. Waldorf, we havent said a word yet. I mean

His polite response was strangled in mid-sentence by the strong under-the-table grip of Harvey Madison, who then interposed, What Edgar means is he adores the concept.

No, what I adore is the chemistry of the authors. When Harvey called me about this, I literally frissoned right there in my office. The thought of two Harvard Pulitzer Prize winners writing for Broadway is absolutely fab-u-lous, By the way, have you thought of a title yet?

Edgar had diplomatically used the plural but was really directing his question to Danny, whom he knew to be worth a lot of candle power on the marquee.

Well, the composer replied, as you know, weve based it on Joyces Ulysses, just changing the locale to New York

I love it. I love it, Edgar murmured like a countermelody.

Now, the novel is, in turn, based on Homers Odyssey , Danny continued. And since the essence of our piece is the heros trip around the city, we thought wed call it Manhattan Odyssey .

Edgar pondered for a moment, and popped a shrimp into his mouth before replying.

Its good, its good. My only question is is it too good?

How can anything possibly be too good? Stuart naively inquired.

I mean relatively speaking, Edgar responded, deftly backtracking. After all, your average Broadway audience didnt go to Harvard. I dont think I could fill the theater with enough people who know what the word Odyssey means.

Please, Mr. Waldorf, Danny disagreed, its a common term in the English language.

At which point Harvey Madison felt it opportune to refocus the conversation.

Hey, guys, Edgars got a sensational idea for a title. Just wait till you hear it.

The spherical producer waited until the spotlights of all gazes shone upon him. And then uttered, Rejoice!

What? asked Danny Rossi.

Dont you get it? The authors name is James Joyce. We are bringing his property back. So its re -Joyce. Of course, well add an exclamation point after it. And thats it. Fab-ubus, huh?

Danny and Stuart exchanged incredulous glances.

I think its absolutely brilliant, offered Harvey Madison, instinctively accustomed to praising anything uttered by a potential source of income. What do you boys think?

You might as well call it Hello, Molly! Danny Rossi commented sardonically.

I like Manhattan Odyssey , Stuart said quietly.

But you just heard Edgar Waldorf Harvey Madison interrupted.

I like Manhattan Odyssey , too, Danny echoed.

Then, from an unexpected quarter, came the rather surprising panegyric, I think Manhattan Odyssey is absolutely fabulous. And I, Edgar Waldorf, will be honored to present it.

The producer then proceeded to elicit schedules from the authors, so that he could plan rehearsals, arrange a tour, and book a theater. Hearing that the boys could complete the work this summer if they could be isolated on Marthas Vineyard, he magnanimously offered Stuart the use of his own unhumble abode on that island.

Oh, I couldnt, Mr. Waldorf.

Please, Mr. Kingsley, I insist. Besides, that will help me write the place off for taxes.

Then, without having read a word or heard a note, he went straight to the heart of the matter.

Whore we going to get to star?

I think Zero Mostel would be great as Bloom, Danny offered.

Not great, replied Waldorf. Fab-u-bous. His agents a ballbreaker, but Ill get to work on that monster this afternoon. Oh God, will Zero bring in the theater parties!

In the midst of his own self-induced rapture, he suddenly chastised himself, But

But what? Harvey Madison asked anxiously.

Zero is great for the party crowd. But we need another name that will draw the out-of-towners. Someone with broader appeal. Is there a womans part in this thing?

Havent you read it, Mr. Waldorf? Stuart Kingsley inquired.

Yeah, sure. I mean, a college girl in my office did me a kind of summary.

Then you might remember that Blooms wife, Molly, is a rather important role, said Danny Rossi, muzzling his impatience.

Of course, of course, a great role, the producer agreed enthusiastically. So what about Theora Hamilton?

Unbelievable, Harvey ejaculated. Thats a genius idea, Edgar. But do you think shed share the marquee with Zero?

You leave that to me, boasted the producer, snapping his fingers. The First Lady of the American musical theater owes Edgar Waldorf a favor or two, and Im going to call in my marker.

Isnt that great, boys? Harvey bubbled to the authors. Mostel and Hamilton. Or maybe itll have to be Hamilton and Mostel. Anyway, theyll be lining up for tickets from here to Hoboken.

To be honest, Stuart confessed shyly, I dont think Ive ever seen her.

Youd remember if you had, Danny remarked. Shes got tits like the Goodyear zeppelin. Unfortunately, her talent does not extend as far as her mammaries.

Edgar Waldorf turned ingenuously to Danny Rossi and inquired, Am I to infer that you do not respect the vocal gifts of Miss Theora Hamilton?

I couldnt possibly, Danny replied quietly. She doesnt have any. Look, Mr. Waldorf, Stuart and I want to write a good show, a classy show, and, yes, a commercial show. But if you have so little faith in our ability to attract an audience without giving them please excuse my pun gross titillation, then I think wed better find another producer.

Harvey Madison coughed uneasily.

But Edgar Waldorf shifted gears as smoothly as a Rolls-Royce.

Please, Mr. Rossi, let us forget the female lead for the moment and concentrate on what really matters in this enterprise your two genius talents.

And then he raised his hand in benediction.

Go, boys. Go off to Marthas Vineyard and create exquisiteness that will dazzle Broadway and that limey bastard from The New York Times . Write your masterpiece. Mr. Madison and I will work out the vulgar details.

As he backed off from the table, Edgar bent in what almost seemed like a curtsy and said, You boys are giving me the honor of my life.

He then turned and exited to the flourish of invisible trumpets.

 

Soon thereafter, Harvey Madison departed, leaving the two authors to revel in their success.

Hey, said Stu, Ive gotta call Nina. Can you wait and well walk uptown together?

Sorry, Danny replied. Ive got an important matinee in twenty minutes.

I didnt know you were performing today.

Danny grinned.

Strictly chamber music, Stu. See the cover of this months Vogue ?

Not my style of magazine, he replied, still not tuned in to his partners wavelength.

Well, check it out at your local newsstand, my friend. Shes the guest of honor at my studio this afternoon.

Oh, said Stuart Kingsley.

 

 

***

 

Except for the occasional cocktail parties, the junior and senior members of the Harvard Classics Department almost never socialized. It was not merely a question of age differences, but the almost Calvinistic distinction between those who had tenure and those who did not.

Assistant Professor Ted Lambros was therefore surprised when Cedric Whitman invited him to lunch at the Faculty Club, even though, as both he and Sara agreed, he was the most humane humanist they had ever known.

After they ordered, the senior professor cleared his throat and said, Ted, I got a phone call from Bill Foster, the new chairman at Berkeley. His department very much admires your book and wonders if youd be interested in their tenure opening in Greek literature?

Ted did not know how to respond. For he could not sense precisely what lay behind the question. Was it an intimation that he was not going to be granted tenure at Harvard?

I uh I guess I should be very flattered.

I should say, Whitman replied. Berkeleys got one of the best departments in the world. Theyve certainly got some very distinguished scholars. Pragmatically speaking, their salaries are extremely generous. I took the liberty of telling Bill to write you directly. Thatll mean at least a nice invitation to go to California and lecture.

Ted felt like Aeschylus famous description of Agamemnon struck deep with a mortal blow. But he summoned the courage to ask.

Cedric, is this Harvards way of saying they wont renew my contract? Please be frank, I can take it.

Ted, said Whitman without hesitation, I cant speak for the whole department. You know that John and I admire you enormously. And naturally, wed like to keep you here. But this will ultimately come down to a vote, and heaven knows how the historians and archaeologists and people who are less familiar with your work might stand. If you got a formal offer from Berkeley, it might stimulate the uncommitted into feeling more possessive.

So you think I should at least go out there?

Take it from a veteran, his mentor smiled, an academic never gives up a free trip to anywhere halfway decent. And to California, well, res ipsa loquitur .

 

Sara was delighted to see him.

What a nice surprise, she said as she skipped down the stone steps of the University Press and saw her husband. He kissed her perfunctorily but could suppress his fears no longer.

Cedric had some pretty gloomy words at lunch.

Theyre not renewing you?

Thats the bitch of it, he answered with frustration. He evaded the whole Harvard issue. All he said was that Berkeley wants me for a tenure job.

Berkeleys got a fantastic classics department, she replied. Teds heart stopped. This was not what he had hoped to hear.

So you think its the ax, huh? he asked mournfully. When she did not reply, he added, I really thought I had a shot at tenure here.

Hell, so did I, she answered honestly. But you know how their system works. They almost never bring up someone through the ranks. They sort of send them off and see what kind of a reputation they build up. And if they grow, they pluck them back.

But its in California, Ted complained.

So what? Cant we survive three thousand miles away from Harvard?

 

Two nights later, Bill Foster called and formally tendered the invitation to lecture. They agreed on a date close to Harvards Easter vacation.

We dont usually do this, he added, but wed like to include your wife as well. The folks at U.C. Press would like to meet her.

Uh thats great, said Ted, while inwardly he thought, They know all about me. Im like a baseball player being traded. Theyve gone over my hitting and fielding and probably even my team spirit. It intensified the feeling that, in some way, he had failed.

 

On the last Sunday in March, Ted and Sara, having left their son in the care of his doting grandparents, boarded the late-afternoon flight to San Francisco.

Isnt this exciting? Sara bubbled as they fastened their seat belts. Our first free trip, courtesy of your brain,

Ted looked at his watch three hours later. They had barely crossed half the continent.

This is ridiculous, he said. I mean, where the hell is this place? Its incredibly far from civilization.

Ted, she chided affectionately, stay loose. You may just discover something wonderful about the world.

Like what?

Like the life of the mind does not cease at the borders of Massachusetts.

 


: 2015-08-05; : 19;


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