My friend David moved to Los Angeles from Manhattan. He and his partner, JD (really Jeff but too confusing for all of us) left the east coast behind, while still bringing as much of it with him as possible. Two moving vans and a car carrier departed the snow belt for his new California digs.
And what was his west coast domicile? An enormous faux Tudor mansion in the heart of Westlake Village. It looked as if it has been dismantled brick by brick from an older section of Greenwich and painstakingly reassembled amidst the palms. "A courageous house", was my observation. "One that exudes self confidence".
The theme continued on the interior. An enormous curved stairway, which seemed to anticipate the stylish descent of Dolly Levi at any moment. Enough carved oak trim to keep all of the woodcarvers of the Black Forest busy for months, were they not already steadily employed making veneer trim for Mercedes Benz. And just to the left of the entry, a very grand dining room.
Beautifully furnished, suede ceiling, table for twelve, and as Edwardian as the rest of the interior. Exquisite hand made lace tablecloth and fine linen napkins. Twin German silver candelabras which, even while lit, were tempting to look beneath for the silversmith's mark. An impressive setting indeed for an east-meets-west dinner party, one which would prove memorable for other reasons besides the decor.
David's parents, Doctor Raymond and Doctor Wilma, were visiting. He had been a fashionable Park Avenue opthomologist, now retired. She was a PHD psychologist who had made her mark in the world of pharma. They were accompanied by his aunt and uncle, an East Coast University professor and her husband. Upon receiving the invitation, I wondered if I should enroll for a quick Master's degree to be prepared. Instead, I studied E! online. Let the games begin...
It was a very witty and lively conversation at dinner. David's aunt Lillian told a story of how she got released from Jury duty on the excuse that she was just back from Africa and had to testify before Congress that week regarding the famine she had seen. And this was the truth. After the NPR topics has been thoroughly reviewed, the conversation steered a bit more toward the west and celebrity talk began to surface. I told my favorite Elaine Stritch joke (of course, everybody has an Elaine Stritch joke, and I'll publish it later. I'm certain you are all breathless with anticipation) and we all had various snippets to interject- JD manages a fashionable hotel and had a couple of amusing sightings to share regarding a former pop princess recently shorn of hair, but I am sworn to secrecy on her true identity. Other names got tossed about- Martinis with Barbara Mc Nair, Gwen Stefani at church, Linda Ramone in a black Cadillac convertible wearing a chartreuse maraboo. Chartreuse- it's not just a color, it's a lifestyle.
"You know", Dr. Raymond began. "Rex Harrison was a patient of mine. We became good friends". Our celebrity gossip was becoming bi-coastal. "And Tennessee Williams. I was very fond of him" he said. "I feel very badly that I killed him". At this moment, twelve people were nearly as silent as a jury about to sentence someone to the chair. Dr. Raymond explained how Tennessee Williams came to see him for a matter that could have been easily corrected with minor surgery. Tennessee was nervous about the idea of eye surgery, so Dr. Raymond gave him some eye drops as a temporary measure. Shortly after that, when the great playwright was in an inebriated state (which we were all rapidly approaching ourselves) Tennessee unscrewed the stopper from the bottle, held it between his teeth, inhaled and choked to death on it. Hence the good Doctor's claim of culpability. He broke into a hearty smile. A bottle of twenty year port got opened. The rest became a bit of a happy blur, but I found myself repeating in the car on the way home, "I feel very badly that I killed him".