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Double Life: Portrait of a Gay Marriage From Broadway to Hollywood

Double Life: Portrait of a Gay Marriage From Broadway to Hollywood

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Double Life: Portrait of a Gay Marriage From Broadway to Hollywood

4.5/5 (2 évaluations)
529 pages
9 heures
Jul 30, 2013


“A fascinating, frank and page-turning memoir about the lifelong love affair of two extraordinary men” (Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City).
  The human story at the center of this debate is told in Double Life, a dual memoir by a gay male couple in a fifty-plus year relationship. With high profiles in the entertainment, advertising, and art communities, the authors offer a virtual timeline of how gay relationships have gained acceptance in the last half-century. At the same time, they share inside stories from film, television, and media featuring the likes of Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, Rock Hudson, Barbra Streisand, Laurence Olivier, Truman Capote, Bette Davis, Robert Redford, Lee Radziwill, and Frances Lear.
Double Life is a trip through the entertainment world and a gay partnership in the latter half of the twentieth century. As more and more same sex couples find it possible to say “I do,” the book serves as an important document of how far we’ve come. 
Jul 30, 2013

À propos de l'auteur

Alan Shayne retired as president of Warner Bros. Television in 1986. There, he was responsible for launching the hit shows Wonder Woman, The Dukes of Hazzard, Alice, and Night Court, among others. He began his career in television with David Susskind’s production company after heading the Broadway casting office for David Merrick. Prior to that, he was an actor on Broadway and in television. Norman Sunshine is a painter and sculptor whose work is in permanent collections around the country. Earlier in his career, he was a fashion illustrator and creative director at the Jane Trahey Agency, where he coined the phrases “What becomes a legend most?” for Blackglama Minks, and “Danskins are not just for dancing.” He won an Emmy for graphic and title design in the 1970s. Shayne and Sunshine live in Connecticut. 

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Double Life - Alan Shayne




June 1958

The ringing of the phone shattered my concentration. I was in the back room of my apartment on Jane Street in Greenwich Village. It was a warm June morning, a Wednesday morning. I was working on an illustration and was totally absorbed, experimenting with a fashion drawing as a sample for my portfolio. I had my Billie Holiday album on quietly, enjoying, as always, her accompaniment as I worked. I was just so happy to be where I was, drawing away and singing along with the lyrics It’s that old devil called love again…gets behind you and keeps giving you that shove again… Little did I know. Love was the last thing on my mind. 

I was building a career in New York as a freelance illustrator. Although I had recently completed an album cover drawing of Count Basie for Columbia records, an illustration for a story in Woman’s Home Companion and a four-page spread of men’s fashion for Esquire magazine, I had to find a broader range of clients in order to survive. I thought I’d try my hand at women’s fashion illustration, which could be very lucrative. I knew I could draw anything if I set my mind to it. The sketch I was working on was based on a photograph from Vogue magazine. I was using a bamboo pen with India ink and washes of sepia watercolor, all of which had to flow spontaneously. I didn’t want to stop at that precise moment and answer the phone.

Whoever it was would have to call later. On the other hand it might be a job. This was long before answering machines and caller I.D. and I always needed work. I quickly jammed the bamboo into the inkbottle, jumped from my stool and ran to my bedroom to get the phone.

My apartment was on the parlor floor, quite narrow, with very high ceilings, one room feeding into the next, railroad style. At the back, beyond the small kitchen, the rear space widened out a bit and functioned as my studio. There were tall windows, and in front of them was my worktable, flanked by a taboret stuffed with art supplies. My drawings were tacked up on the walls, and in the corner stood an easel for serious painting, that I never seemed to have time to use.

I’d left my parents’ luxurious home in Los Angeles against their wishes. I had been living on my own in a tiny rented guest cottage in West Hollywood and working in a prestigious art studio that praised and showcased my work but paid me very little. When I took off for New York, my father couldn’t imagine anyone forfeiting a comfortable existence in the family furniture business by moving to the other side of the country to follow what he ridiculed as some stupid cockamamie dream. I was determined to prove my parents wrong.

I was twenty-five-years-old and knew just one person in the city when I arrived. Finding work was slow at first, but then picked up, as one art director would call another and suggest that they look at my portfolio. Assignments were steadily coming my way and I was gaining more and more confidence.

In between interviews with the art directors, I could always take a breather by walking over to Fifty-third Street where I could hang out at the Museum of Modern Art. In those days, when it was smaller and far less crowded, I could stand very close to Cezanne’s The Bather or Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and study them unhurriedly.

Another favorite hangout was the Riverside Drive apartment of three talented Oberlin College graduates, John Kander, William Goldman and his brother, James—none of them yet famous—whom I had met through another graduate, cartoonist R.O. Blechman. He was my one New York contact, and he generously invited me to one of their social gatherings. They asked me to come again and frequently thereafter. I started making new friends through them, mostly in the writing or theatrical fields. The world that I had dreamed of seemed to be within my reach. I was enjoying my life, living alone and feeling wonderfully independent. Los Angeles seemed another country now—a place of past emotional and familial baggage that I had finally left behind.

At the time, I was dealing with my sexual identity. I’d slept with women, had lengthy relationships with them and I’d also been with men. There was a growing conflict within me that was surfacing more and more. I was beginning to accept that there was something in me that responded sexually more to men than to women. It had taken the distance of moving away from home for the truth to finally come into focus. Growing up, the only gay men I was aware of had been called sissies in grade school or fags in college but my encounters with them were few. When I was in high school, a muscular man at the gym I had joined offered me a ride home and kept rubbing his groin. My mother would occasionally carry on about her hairdresser, Maurice, who understood her better than anyone. Only years later did I find out that a few of my fraternity brothers were gay. People spoke about homosexuality only in the context of ridicule, or tragedy. If I did have early feelings toward men I hid them from everyone, even from myself. The shame would have been impossible to bear. The world I lived in would have no place for me. But eventually feelings did start to appear, overriding my resistance, and they were impossible to ignore. When I finally allowed myself to have sex with a man when I was nineteen, I felt neither ridiculous nor tragic. In the years that followed, I had sex mainly with women but occasionally with men. It took until my mid-twenties to accept the fact that I was gay. There was no doubt that part of the reason for my moving to New York was to explore my feelings about men. But it turned out that I had left the last vestiges of my heterosexual self in Los Angeles.

Yet any hope for love with a man was squashed by the memory of a painful affair I had had with a classmate in college. It was a complicated relationship that ended badly. Sex for me was now casual, not furtively promiscuous, by no means obsessive, but not romantic. I was hardly alone. It was easy to walk around the Village, browse in a bookshop or sit with The New York Times on a bench in Washington Square and find my eyes connecting with another man’s. A short time later, I’d connect with the rest of him physically. It seemed like fun, no big complicated attachments to worry about, just a healthy release. The few times I saw someone on a more regular basis proved frustrating. They wanted a commitment right away, which didn’t interest me in the least. I really liked my lone, what you might call self-centered, life as it was. Oddly enough, my closest friends were heterosexual. What they may have said about me behind my back didn’t seem to matter since I was invited often as a third wheel on dates and of course as that extra man at dinner parties. Any thought of making an announcement or coming out to friends was by no means in fashion yet. And to parents? Never!

I grabbed at the telephone receiver. Hello?

Norman, hello, it’s Charles.

Among the new friends I had made in New York were Julia and Charles MacArthur, a wealthy, attractive couple from St. Louis who were trying to make their way in the city. We had met at one of the Goldman brothers’ dinner parties. The MacArthurs had a large, glamorous apartment in the famous Dakota apartment building, with treetop views of Central Park, where they were raising their four children. Julia was charming, smart and very kind. Charles was the quintessential WASP, with blond good looks and impeccable manners. Although he wanted to be an actor, he was achieving more success as a model. Behind a smooth demeanor, however, he was a troubled soul, which was revealed to me little by little. I came to find out that he was bisexual, wracked with guilt, and had his eyes set on me for a short while. It was extremely uncomfortable since I had gone through a similar experience years before in college and never wanted to go through it again. Soon his ardor cooled and we became fairly relaxed friends.

I ran my fingers across the telephone cradle, which was covered with paint spots and was about to say, Can I call you back in a little bit? I’m in the middle of a drawing, when Charles said, "Can you come with me to the theatre this afternoon? I’ve got two tickets for the matinee of Jamaica. Julia’s not feeling well, so I thought you might enjoy it."

I knew that Jamaica was a Harold Arlen musical starring another favorite singer of mine, the great Lena Horne. Her co-star was the MGM Latin Lover, Ricardo Montalban. I was torn, not wanting to break my discipline, but only for an instant. Harold Arlen! Lena Horne! Would I ever! I could always do another drawing. We arranged to meet at the Martin Beck Theatre.

We sat waiting for the curtain to go up, when a voice came over the loud speaker and soberly announced that for this performance the role usually played by Ricardo Montalban would be played by Alan Shayne. There was an audible groan of disappointment and the orchestra quickly started the overture. The curtain went up and an actor appeared, gliding across the stage in a small boat, as though on water, but actually propelled by hidden wheels. He stood barefoot, dark curly hair, skin the color of mahogany, an open cloth vest revealing his muscular chest. Underneath the shuttered window of a tiny West Indies house, he sang out in a clear light baritone, Savannah, Savannah, open up de shutters do… Lena Horne came out of the house and threw herself into his arms, making it clear that he was the lead. For an understudy, he was magnetic and if the sustained applause at the end of the show was any indicator, the audience hadn’t missed Montalban.

During the intermission, Charles told me he had happened to be in a television show with Alan Shayne and suggested we go backstage and congratulate him after the performance. Even with all my new friends in the theatre, I had never been backstage before.

I was quietly thrilled as the doorman announced that Mr. Shayne would see us. At the top of a flight of stairs, I saw the star on the dressing room door, and although the name Mr. Montalban was printed underneath, I was still quite impressed. When we walked in, there was the actor I had just seen onstage, standing on a small platform, in what appeared to be a bikini, while a black man with sponges was repairing the dark make-up that had given his body the mahogany glow on stage. He was obviously being prepared for the performance that evening.

Charles greeted him and introduced me as an artist friend from California. Close up I saw a different person than the character who had in the middle of a song picked up the little boy who played Lena Horne’s brother and with one hand effortlessly lifted him over his head, much to my amazement. His features were elegant, almost patrician. He had a high forehead, a longish nose, large, elegant hands and feet. Underneath the makeup was a strong lithe body. A stout grey-haired older woman, who turned out to be his mother, sat in a chair smiling and nodding approvingly and cooing little praises. I felt uncomfortable—a stranger next to a nearly naked man—but I managed to mumble how much I enjoyed him in the show. My praise was met with a wan smile and barely a nod, which irritated me. He immediately turned to Charles and spoke about the theatre, while the mother and I remained fixed at the opposite sides of the dressing room. He was acting as though I wasn’t there. My privileged self, the one that had grown up in a big house, drove a yellow convertible, and was the heir-apparent to a small fortune, began to take hold. Who did this understudy think he was? He stood on his platform, towering over us with his larger than life personality and talking away with his deep theatrical voice. Still I found him handsome and unusual. Was I really annoyed with this man or was I attracted to him?

Finally he focused his attention on me, as if noticing me for the first time. While his dresser smoothed on his body makeup, the actor, who insisted I call him Alan, asked me banal questions about life in California and whether I liked New York. Why the small talk and why the sudden interest in me? Here was this man who I found to be bright, talented, physically appealing but at the same time his superior behavior angered me. Our eyes met just once, since Alan seemed to be looking at himself in the mirror the entire time, and that was when we said our goodbyes. He looked at me without smiling and seemed to want to hold my gaze for an extra moment. I felt a rush, an unexpected connection. My red flag of caution went up. I was disconcerted and relieved when Charles said his goodbyes and I mumbled mine, adding something stupid about having to go to dinner. Something had happened in that dressing room and I really wasn’t sure what it was. I jumped onto the subway to go back to the Village. Jammed in the middle of the rush hour crowd, I was still thinking about him.



June 1958

For quite a few years I had struggled as an actor in New York and now I was, at last, in the star dressing room, but it didn’t belong to me. I was just using it temporarily. I was the understudy to the star and he was on vacation so I was going to go on for him at the matinee. I had come to New York right out of high school and looked desperately for acting roles, lived in cheap furnished rooms, never had enough food, lost a tooth, because I couldn’t afford a dentist, which kept me from smiling, ushered in theaters, was an extra in a play for which I got a dollar a performance, and never was warm enough in the winter in my thin coat. I put a brave face on it with my parents and my friends back home by acting as if I were a great success but I doubt if anyone believed me. It seemed to take forever before I got the juvenile lead on Broadway in the hit play The Madwoman of Chaillot and acted with stars like Katharine Cornell and Maurice Evans. This led to my playing leading roles on television in the classic live dramas Studio One, Philco Playhouse and Kraft Theatre. But then Hollywood decided that television was not just a passing fancy so the roles I had been getting went to movie stars and I was back scrounging for work again.

In October of 1957, the musical Jamaica, starring Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban, opened on Broadway. The setting was a West Indies island and it had an all black cast except for Montalban and Erik Rhodes, who played a British governor. The book, by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy, was a simple story of a native man (Montalban in very dark make-up) and woman (Lena Horne) whose imminent marriage was constantly being called off through misunderstandings, fights, and even a hurricane. The plot was ridiculous but the songs of Harold Arlen and the radiant performances of the two stars turned the show into a hit. The director Robert Lewis, who had been one of my acting teachers, (by this time I had studied with all the great teachers, including Uta Hagen, Herbert Berghof and, my favorite, Sanford Meisner) had gotten me an ignominious job as an assistant stage manager and understudy to the governor, but I was grateful to be working. I had gone into psychoanalysis to try and figure out what was holding me back in my career, and I hoped, at the same time, that I could shed my homosexuality, which was at that time considered a curable disease. Some years earlier I had had some therapy but this time I was in deep analysis. The doctor’s hourly fee was miniscule compared to what it is today but at $15 a session twice a week, it was taking a great deal of my limited money. I had to earn more so I ran the magazine photographer Jerry Cooke’s office in the mornings, paying his bills and occasionally acting as his assistant. My days were spent in early sessions from eight to nine with the doctor, then ten to two each day in the office, and two matinees and six evenings a week at the theatre. As busy as I was, I felt my life was on hold, as if I were waiting for something wonderful to happen.

For five years, off and on, I had been having an affair with an actress. We had many happy and loving times together. In addition to the fun we had, the comfort of being able to move about in the theatre world with a woman was enormous. Being homosexual, as it was called in those days, was anathema to many, especially to agents and producers, who would not cast known homosexuals in anything but eccentric or character roles—never in romantic leads. Well-meaning friends had told the actress that I had been to bed with men, but she chose to ignore it and it was a subject we didn’t discuss. I played my role as a confirmed heterosexual and never let my guard down unless I was alone with my few gay friends. I occasionally had sex with men I met at the gym or spotted on the street, but I tried to curtail my activities and hoped that analysis would finally make me change completely. The actress and I became engaged, but there was a bad incident when I had broken a date with her to have dinner with a man and she saw us in the restaurant. She was terribly upset and I think that was the beginning of her feeling that I would not be able to give up men. In early 1957, she met a very handsome actor, broke up with me and married him. I was, in many ways, relieved. I began, as a result, to have more sexual experiences with men. There were many bars where men met men, but I didn’t go to them. I wasn’t good at sitting nursing a beer and waiting out the night until someone came along. I lived in the East Fifties, a hotbed of gay life. I had only to walk out of my building and, in a few minutes, someone would approach me. But most of the time, I met men at the YMCA; often, married men who used their lunch hours to pick up other men. I hated the promiscuous life I was leading and longed to have a full time relationship with one person. It seemed impossible. No one I met wanted anything but a quick physical encounter.

I was so busy trying to earn enough to live on and pay for my psychoanalysis that I didn’t get involved in political life, as some of my friends did. One of them, very much into left-leaning causes, had lost her lover when he committed suicide, several years before, as a result of his being branded a Communist by Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was vilifying people without any evidence and even condemning suspected homosexuals as Communists. President Eisenhower did nothing to stop him nor did he come out against him. I kept abreast of current affairs and read my New York Times in the subway every morning on the way to the analyst, but my main interest was in finding my next acting job. I knew Jamaica wouldn’t run forever. I often took over from the stage manager and ran the show by myself, which consisted of cueing the lighting people for the myriad light changes, cueing the stage hands for the movement of scenery, pressing the buttons that controlled the curtains, checking the actors and keeping my eye on the script in case anyone forgot his lines. I had to coordinate the musicians, the stagehands, the actors—I didn’t stop working during the entire performance. When the actor who played the governor decided to leave the show, I asked to audition for his role. I was much too young for the part, but I used a very thick British accent and screwed up my face and my body to look old. The producer, David Merrick, who was at that time the most important theatrical producer on Broadway, was happy to find a cheap replacement so, with a very small raise, I got the job. I would go to the theatre, put on my old age make up and the governor’s costume and then knock on the actors’ doors announcing half hour, fifteen minutes, and places then I would run the show, go on stage for my two scenes as the governor, and then go back to the wings for my stage managing job. But I still barely scraped by. My parents, who had never had any money, couldn’t help me nor would I have let them if they had been able to. It would have been an admission that I wasn’t the success that I pretended to be.

One day, I overheard a discussion that the management was looking for another understudy for the lead played by Ricardo Montalban. They had one, who was a singer in the chorus but there was some feeling that he might be too young to play opposite Lena Horne. I immediately sensed the possibility of making still more money so I asked to audition. The management put me off. I always spent some time with Lena in her dressing room before the show, talking with her about her day and what was going on in her life. I had helped her during rehearsals when she was confused by the director Bobby Lewis’ Group Theater jargon. Method words like actions, preparation, motivation, made her uncomfortable and she was afraid she couldn’t act. Bobby would talk about what Lena’s character wanted in a scene as if it were Chekhov. Lena would ask me questions on the sly, and I would help her without undermining what Bobby said. I explained the terms as simply as I could, praised what she was doing, and encouraged her to be herself. The script was so banal that the best thing to do was just say the words fast and get to the songs. Lena and I became friends. She was always lovely to me. When I brought up the possibility of Ricardo’s understudy, she thought it was a great idea and insisted I be given a chance. Although I was hardly a singer or a dancer or a native Jamaican, I did get the understudy for an additional fifteen dollars a week. No one ever thought I’d have to go on since Ricardo was strong as a bull. New York winters, however, can be hell for Hollywood actors and he got a cold.

I was in the middle of describing a dream to my psychoanalyst one day in February when his phone rang, interrupting me and making me jump almost imperceptibly. I was brought back to the office from far away. I was annoyed when the phone rang during a session, but the doctor had explained he had to answer it in case it were an emergency with one of his other patients. I’m sorry Alan, he said. He picked up the phone. Hello, I heard him say. There was a pause while I waited, eager to continue describing my dream. It’s for you, Alan, he said. I had given the doctor’s number to no one except the theatre in case of an emergency. I sat up on the couch and reached over and took the phone from him.

Alan, a voice I didn’t recognize said, this is Jack in the office. We’ve just had a call from Ricardo Montalban’s doctor. Ricardo is sick and you’re going to have to go on at the matinee.

My mouth fell open and I thought my heart had stopped beating. Will there be time to rehearse with Lena? I asked.

We can’t reach her, but she’s always at the theatre at one-thirty, so you can go over some things then. I know you’ll be fine. I hung up and started to shake.

What is it, Alan? the doctor asked.

I have to go on for the star today—opposite Lena Horne, I said, and I won’t even have a rehearsal.

But that’s wonderful, the doctor replied, You’ve rehearsed before, haven’t you?

Yes, I said, unable to stop shaking, but never with Lena, just in understudy rehearsals.

Do you know the lines?

I think so—but all those songs, I’ve never sung with the orchestra. I unconsciously clasped my hands together and began to rub my fingers against each other.

Alan, the doctor said soothingly, "you wanted very much to get this understudy, didn’t you?’

Yes, I answered.

As I remember they didn’t want to let you audition, the doctor continued, yet you pursued it until you proved you could do the role. You’ve told me that everyone has been enthusiastic about your performance in the rehearsals.

Yes, that’s true, I said.

You’re very talented, Alan, and I know you can do this. You’ve played leads on Broadway before. Why don’t you, for once, do something just for yourself—you’ve talked so often about trying to please your parents or someone else. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sing opposite Lena Horne in a big musical on Broadway? Think of the fun. You’ve always wanted it and now it’s within your reach. You can have a great time and it’s all yours.

I looked at him and saw the warmest, kindest expression on his concerned face. I realized I had stopped shaking. I took a deep breath and smiled. Thank you, I said, I’ll be fine. For a moment, I just wanted to lie back on the couch where it was safe, but I got up and pulled back my shoulders. I’ll see you on Friday, I said and walked out the door.

Since I got up so early to go to the doctor’s, I hadn’t had time to shave and shower yet so I went back to my fourth floor, $50 a month, walk-up. I put on the record of Jamaica that had been recorded right after the show opened and sang along with Ricardo on all of his songs as I got cleaned up. I seemed to know them perfectly which renewed my courage and I set off for the theatre, but I did feel as if I were going to my execution.

When I got there, I found Ricardo’s dresser, and he helped me get ready for the matinee. The make-up was very dark to make me look like a native; I had dyed my hair black at the instruction of the stage manager, so I would be ready in case anything happened. And I had also been working out at the gym to build myself up. When I was through putting on my make up and was dressed in a fisherman’s skimpy vest and tight pants, I wandered downstairs to Lena’s dressing room to see if she would run some lines with me, but I was told she would be late. I walked around the darkened stage to areas where I would play scenes and I went over them in my head. I seemed to remember all the lines and the movements. But I felt so alone, so isolated and with no one to help me. The dancers and the singers began to arrive and as they crossed by me on the way to their dressing rooms, they said a perfunctory hello. Not a word about my being in make up and costume and not one of them wishing me luck. They had always been friendly before, but now they were cold and distant. I was upset and puzzled until I realized, of course, that the other understudy for Ricardo was black and one of their own, whereas I was white and an outsider. There was nothing I could do since Lena had obviously chosen to play with me. But they had managed to create an unpleasant atmosphere that made me feel anything but the jolly fisherman I was about to play.

It was getting close to the time of the curtain and Lena finally came out on the stage. She looked so beautiful. She walked over to me and said, Hello, Koli, which was the name of the character I was going to play. It was the nicest thing she could have done.

I looked at her and thought, I’m going to be making love, in front of a huge audience, to Lena Horne in a few minutes." It all seemed so unreal but I had to make it real. I said to Lena, I have to kiss you or I’ll never be able to do it later. I went over to her and we kissed, and at least I knew I’d broken through that barrier. Then Lena went into the little house downstage where she waited for her entrance, and I walked all the way upstage and got into a boat that would be pushed downstage after the curtain went up. The prop man handed me a fishing pole at the end of which hung a few fish. I slung it over my shoulder and everything was ready.

Suddenly I heard a voice over the loud speaker: At this afternoon’s performance, the role of Koli, usually played by Ricardo Montalban, will be played by Alan Shayne. There was a tremendous groan from the audience that sounded as if a subway train were entering a tunnel. I felt like I’d been hit. Then I pulled myself together and thought, Fuck them all -– I’m going to be great. I’m a big star and I’m going to give them the show of their lives. The overture started and the curtain went up, the stagehands pushed my boat on wheels from the wings, and I sailed down to the footlights and sang my heart out.

After that first performance, anytime I went on for Ricardo, I had to psych myself into a big star persona. I had to believe that I was a great singer, a great dancer, and handsome as a movie star. Only in that way could I overcome the hostility from both the cast and the audience. I had to win them over each time I performed. I behaved the way I thought a star should, but it took me some time, after the curtain call, to come down off my self–created high.

When Ricardo took a vacation in June, I played his role for a week. After the Wednesday matinee, I was in the star dressing room, practically naked, with my dresser repairing my body make up, when my mother, who had come down from Boston to see the performance, came in followed by Charles, an actor I knew, and another man. My mother kissed me and said how wonderful I was and Charles agreed. I looked at his companion. He was about my age and phenomenally handsome. His thick, black hair fell across his forehead almost hitting his startling brown eyes that seemed mysterious and hurt at the same time. His face was so sensitive that my first thought was to protect him against something that was about to happen to him. And yet there was nothing weak about him. He was extremely masculine but with a closed off quality that said, Leave me alone. I don’t need anyone. His mouth was the young part of him, soft and appealing. He was dressed in a seersucker striped jacket and a pair of grey slacks, a button-down white shirt and a tie. People dressed for the theatre in those days. He had a prominent nose and his skin was deeply tanned from the sun. In spite of his good looks, there was nothing vain about him.

This is an artist friend of mine from California, Norman Sunshine, Charles said. I tried not to show any interest. How do you do? I said formally but inside I panicked that he was not from New York and I would never see him again.

I thought you were very good, Norman said but his face was unsmiling, as if there were more serious things in the world to talk about.

I turned back to the dresser who was applying more dark make up to my body. There was a wall of mirrors in front of me, and I could watch Norman without being obvious. When are you going back to California? I asked him, trying to act as if I were just making polite conversation.

I’m not, he said, I live here. I nodded as if it was of little interest to me, but now that I knew he lived in New York I realized there was a greater obstacle—was Norman having a relationship with Charles? I had heard even though Charles was married that he had affairs with men.

After a few words with Charles about the television show we had done together and the awkward exchange with Norman, Charles said, We have to be going, but I really am glad we happened to come to the show today and you were playing—you were terrific.

Oh you don’t have to rush, I replied, I don’t go out between shows—I just take a nap.

We have to get to dinner, Norman said.

I was afraid I’d sounded too eager so I resumed my star façade Thank you very much for coming back, I said graciously. I turned to Norman. Very nice to meet you. I watched the two of them walk through the door.

Who were they? my mother asked after they’d gone.

Just an actor I worked with, I replied, and a friend of his. But she had lost interest in them and was now talking about how she told the head usher she was my mother and how he had taken her to a better seat in the fourth row. I wasn’t listening. I was going over and over in my head everything I’d said and done in the last few minutes. I must have behaved like an idiot, I thought, and I’m sure it seemed like I was showing off—standing around in the nude having my body made up. Why didn’t I put on a robe? Maybe I wanted Norman to look at me. But he couldn’t have been less interested. Anyway I’ll never see him again. I wanted to shout to Norman, This is not me you’re seeing. I’m really a very nice guy and you would like me, but he was gone. I was really rocked but I just put it out of my head and went on with my life.

To my amazement, a few days later I ran into Norman as I was going into the subway and he was coming out. He was struggling with a huge portfolio and seemed totally preoccupied. I had to remind him that he’d met me in my dressing room at the theatre.

After an awkward attempt at conversation, Norman said Goodbye, went into the subway, and that was the end of it. But after that, it seemed like we never stopped bumping into each other—on Madison Avenue, on Central Park West—but each time, we’d engage in some small talk and Norman would continue on his way. I didn’t need a building to fall on me to make me realize that he couldn’t be less interested.



June 1958

After our first meeting in his dressing room, Alan and I ran into each other a number of times. We exchanged perfunctory greetings and that was it. He was so expansive and so sure of himself that it had the effect of making me withdraw. He obviously moved in the illustrious and sophisticated world of the theatre with great ease, a world I was just beginning to know. My desire to know Alan better was frustrated by my comfort level with him. We just couldn’t connect.

One day I was surprised to see Alan working out at the Sixty-third Street YMCA where I was a member. He clearly knew everyone—most of them were fellow actors—and he was talking with them happily. We waved at each other but I wasn’t a part of the group so I focused on my curls and presses. I finished my workout more quickly than usual and went downstairs for a bite to eat.

I was even more surprised when Alan sat beside me at the lunch counter. Unfortunately, it was a day when I was in a state of totally self-centered anguish. A scene with my father, from the day before, was being played over and over again in my thoughts. My father and I had never been close. He had his own agenda for success and his thoughts were mainly about his furniture manufacturing business and how to improve it. He was the salesman side of the partnership that formed the company. My father was an immigrant from a Polish village. He was a little man, not blessed with good looks, but he had an indefatigable aggressiveness combined with a jovial personality that allowed him to advance in the business world and into Los Angeles’ middle class society. He became a great example of the achievement of the American dream. Objectively I was proud of him, but in terms of our relationship, I just didn’t like him.

Although he was fairly generous to the family, especially to my sister, whom he doted on, nothing he did brought us closer. Even as a child, he seldom showed me any physical affection. When my friends were playing ball with their fathers, mine was buried in his newspaper. He would come home from work, have his two scotches, turn on the radio and shut himself off from the family. The only time I got his attention was when I did something that annoyed him, like making too much noise when he was listening to his favorite newscaster, H.V. Kaltenborn. He wasn’t the father I wanted and needed.

The day before meeting Alan at the lunch counter, my father had concluded a special trip to New York to see me. For two days he laid out the arguments for my giving up being an artist, going back to Los Angeles, joining his business, making money (much more than I was making, even with all the freelance work) and having an assured future as the heir apparent. The only thing he left out was the subject of marriage. It never came up, for had it, we might have had the worst scene ever. I would have had to tell him the truth about myself. But somehow, perhaps through more intuition than I ever gave him credit for, he never brought up the subject. That could help explain why he always kept a distance from me as an adult.

What he offered, of course, made total and practical sense. The only problem was that I would have rather died than given in. I had come to the greatest city in the world to prove myself—as much to me as to my parents—and no one was going to get me to leave. So the fight lasted two days. The apartment I loved, he loathed. The city I loved, he hated. Nice for a few days to see a couple of shows but for life? At one point he burst out crying. He was good at that. Who are you? Why don’t I know you? he wailed. Why have you done this to me? Just to draw pictures? Just to depend on your two hands, that can’t be a life. In the end, in order to send him back to Los Angeles feeling he had accomplished something, I asked for one more year. I knew in my heart, however, that I would never return.

At the Y, Alan and I chatted for a bit. Looking fresh and fit in his white polo shirt and khakis, he was so disarming. He had a most engaging smile. I noticed the veins in his muscular tan arms. Normally I would have wanted one of my mindless trysts with him. But at the moment my libido tank was empty. On top of my argument with my father, I had received a call a couple of days before, from an art director in a big advertising agency where I had shown my portfolio, to do some small advertising illustrations of men’s dress shirts. I had accepted the job, as I did almost any job that was offered to me, and the drawings were due by the end of the week. The shirts had arrived that morning, but I was having a difficult time finding a model. I was extremely nervous because I had never done anything like this assignment in my life. I was to get $250 for each drawing, which was a lot at the time, and, as always, I needed the money. My father was right regarding my financial instability.

For some reason I started rambling on in my most self-centered way about my father, the daunting job that awaited me, and the fact that I couldn’t find a model. Alan, almost a total stranger, listened patiently. When I started to leave, he said, I’d be happy to pose for the shirt drawings if you need someone.

I accepted gratefully and we immediately took the subway to my Jane Street apartment. Alan took off his polo shirt, exposing his well worked out chest, but I couldn’t have cared less. Those four folded dress shirts alone held my attention. I sat on my bench with my drawing board and paper on my knees, ready for action. Alan put on one of the shirts, along with a striped tie that had been delivered. I got him into a typical male model pose and I began to draw—very, very badly. The head too big, the body too heavy, the shirt too wrinkled looking. I simply couldn’t get it right.

It’s the pose, I snapped at Alan, who was standing there for God knows how long, without complaint or a break. It’s the pose, too stiff, I complained. Move your head that way . . . Not that way. That way. Alan did as I said. But as hard as I tried, throwing one sheet after another of drawing paper on the floor, I couldn’t do it. Alan looked wooden and the shirts looked worse. The drawings were no good. I was frantic. My father’s words were whirling in my head; all I had were my two hands, and now I couldn’t make them work. Meanwhile, Alan was standing there so patiently. I finally threw down the pen. We have to quit. I just can’t draw you, I said, as I picked up the drawings from the floor. Of course I will pay you.

Don’t be ridiculous, Alan said quietly. I came here to help, not to do a job. He quickly put on his polo shirt, staring straight ahead. I looked up and noticed his handsome profile. What a payback for Alan’s kindness. From the cool way he said goodbye and calmly walked out the door, I knew I had insulted him. I felt awful, incapable of reaching out to him, but all I could think of was those dreaded shirts and my beckoning father.

The next morning I received a call from one of the models I had tried to hire,

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