Alvy Singer: "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies... & I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."
I lived in NYC in the mid-1970s. NYC then is not the NYC now. I lived in Manhattan during the time that the city was bankrupt, with the garbage strike, a major power blackout & Son Of Sam. Still, I was living in the center of culture & I loved it, & I never took it for granted. Everyday I would say- “wow, I live in New York City!”
I lived with my former college boyfriend- WCK3 (who was attending Julliard) on the Upper West Side (87th between Columbus & Amsterdam), which in that era was the frontier. Brooklyn, except for Brooklyn Heights, was no-wheres-ville. I once went to a party in Prospect Heights & I was scared for my life. If someone had told me that in the next century, Brooklyn would be source of all things hip & that citizens would choose to live in Hoboken, I would have thought them daft.
I was in NYC to study acting at HB Studios with a very inspirational teacher- Austin Pendelton. I had what I think was my favorite job ever, working at ASCAP as a music monitor. I had a cubicle with a window that looked directly on to Lincoln Center. It had a a bird's eye view of the fountains & the Chagall tapestries at the Metropolitan Opera House.
The American Society of Composers Authors is is a membership association of more than 370,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, & music publishers of every kind of music. ASCAP protects the rights of its members by licensing & distributing royalties for the public performances of their copyrighted works. ASCAP makes giving & obtaining permission to perform music simple for both creators & users of music. I was given reel to reel tapes with 6 hours from random radio broadcasts. I would have to listen & list all the pieces of music, even bridges & cues. Anything beyond 6 hours would bring me a bonus. ASCAP chose staff with different musical expertise, mine being the Great American Songbook- popular & theatre music from the 20th century. If you had a tape with music that you were not familiar with, I could patch through to the expert in that genre, & have them listen & help you out. I was always delighted when I had a tape from some rural station doing the Farm Report, with so little music I could breeze right through a 4 hour tape, but I would need some help identifying the hillbilly tunes. I don't know my Flatts & Scruggs.
To make ends meet, I worked part time in the box office at the Metroplitan Opera House. Danny Kaye had a series of concerts for children to introduce them to classical music & opera. At one point in the performance, Danny Kaye would speak about how many people it took to present an opera. The curtain would rise on all the staff, crew, & performers that could be spared from their work & rehearsals would be standing there- 200+ bodies. For years I presented my acting resume with a credit for appearing in the Danny Kaye Concerts for Children at the Met. I would have my sack lunch sitting in the house of this gorgeous theatre & watch rehearsals for American Ballet Theatre (in the Met that season) & for The Dialogues of the Carmelites & Einstein On The Beach. ABT had a new, hot & very interesting new dancer who had just defected from Russia- Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov. He looked yummy in his rehearsal gear.
We met "cute" in the stationary store at ground level of the ASCAP building. I eyed him, he glanced at me, we managed to be in the same aisle looking at the same notebook. This is how cruising was done before the internet. He was Bronx born, Jewish, neurotic, seeing a shrink, smart, & funny. He was a former rabbinical student, now setting out to be writer. He was also a Stephen. He was very handsome (he looked like a young Frank Langella) & quite cosmopolitan. We kissed, but didn't have sex until the 5th date. I was impressed. Any kind of restraint was new to me. Our relationship was right of Annie Hall, a film we saw together at the Carnegie Hall Cinema. I was, of course, playing the Diane Keaton role- west coast & wasp. He showed me a New York I wouldn't have known about on my own. He took me on a tour of the homes & haunts of famous writers: Walt Whitman, Edith Wharton, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Dorothy Parker, Chaim Potok, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mel Brooks, Herman Melville & more. We made visits to the Plaza Hotel, Algonquin Hotel, The White Horse Inn, the Chelsea Hotel & Washington Sqaure. We made frequent stops for martinis.
On a beautiful spring day, Stephen & I walked from The Cloisters to The Battery- 11.5 miles of Manhattan history. We started drinking about mid-town, stopping about once an hour to "refresh". Then we went back to his floor- through, pre-war 2 bedroom, book filled apartment across from The Bronx Zoo, where we smoked joints & watched the Academy Awards. Rocky won Best Film over Network & Taxi Driver. I could only be consoled with 3 hours of making love... New York Style. Stephen was "gifted."
Stephen & I broke over geography & because we had a dead shark on our hands. He had no need to leave the 5 boroughs of NYC, & I was exhausted from having 2 jobs just to barely get by in this, the toughest of cities, & I moved back to my beloved West Coast. We did not stay in touch. I soon met & fell in love with the man who would become my Husband & lived happily ever after... but I still think about Stephen & our year of living Annie Hall. Maybe he will read this.
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