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Episode 48

A NEW YEAR'S EVE TO REMEMBER

Getting Dressed for New Year's Eve
A Little After Nine P.M.
Thursday, December 31

Good evening. Come on in.

"Hi. Why aren't you dressed yet?"

I'll be ready in about ten minutes. Fix yourself a drink. Is the limo downstairs?

"Yes. Thanks for having it pick me up. Traffic's horrible out there. I'd have never made it down here without the lift."

I thought there might be a problem.

"You better hurry. The show starts at 11, and Jonathan asks if we could be there a half hour early."

Is he nervous?

"Yep. Sure you don't want a drink?"

Yes. That's a good sign.

"What?"

What?

"What's a good sign?"

Speak a little louder.

"What's a good sign?"

Nervousness.

"I'm nervous too - that we're not going to make it in time. Hurry up!"

Calm down. We've got plenty of time. I told Des we would swing by and pick him up too.

"Wonderful."

Do I detect a note of sarcasm?

"Just a small amount. I'm not sure if I like working with him or not."

Why?

"Well, it's more that I don't think he likes working with me. What's up with him, anyway?"

Let me guess. He's ordering you around a lot and, even though he says he's willing to listen to your input, every time you try to suggest something he gets that sort of vacant look on his face and starts talking about something else or just walks away.

"That's it. How did you - "

Jonathan called me about it days ago. The poor guy was almost in tears - thought Des hated him. In reality, that's just the way Desmond Derrick is.

"So you're saying he's naturally a prick?"

That about sums it up. Is this tie straight?

"You tie your own tie?"

Yes. Is it?

"Yep. Uh ... do I look okay?"

Let's see ... not too bad, I'd say. Why does that dinner jacket look familiar?

"It's the tux I got for the Tonys."

So this is the first time you've worn it?

"Yes."

You're going to freeze to death. But, other than that, it looks fine.

"Freeze to death?"

That's a summer weight dinner jacket. Weren't you cold coming over?

"Well, yea, I guess. I just thought they were supposed to be like that."

I wish you had said something. We could have gotten you a winter weight one. Much more comfortable this time of year.

"Is it okay to wear it? I mean, will people know - "

It's fine. You'll just freeze, that's all.

"Okay, no problem. So, why is he a prick?"

Des?

"Yep."

Who knows. I suppose it's a sign of how good he is at his job that people have put up with him for all these years. How was the run through this morning? Did you see it?

"You're right about him being good at his job. You won't recognize Jonathan Frank tonight. I almost didn't recognize him this morning, and I've been at most of the rehearsals for the last two weeks."

How so?

"Well ... no, there's no way to explain it. You'll just have to wait and see."

Am I going to like it?

"I think so. It's ... impressive. You'll love the finale. Des decided to go with ‘We Are The Dreamers.'"

I thought he was opening with that.

"They were, until Tuesday. Des managed to get the crew who are flying Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan."

You're kidding! They're flying Jonathan for the finale?

"They didn't get The Lighthouse rigged until yesterday afternoon. The first time they tried it, Jonathan ended up hanging upside down over the bar for about an hour. He only threw up twice."

Dear Lord!

"Hey, he was laughing about it too ... after they got him down."

Normally I'd be worried that something like this would end up looking a bit too much like an old Liberace act in Vegas. However, I trust Des will manage to pull it off with style. I hope.

"Don't worry. It's real classy."

Perhaps I should have made time to attend a few more of the rehearsals . . .

"What have you been up to all week?"

Working with the museum people. The paperwork and permits for the museum space is set. We ought to be able to open sometime this spring.

"Drema's museum thing?"

Yes. I also did something very clever. I added the space for the new theatre into the specifications for the museum space, so all the paperwork for the theatre itself is being approved as part of the museum. We'll still operate the theatre as a separate entity, but, when it's available on a no-conflict basis, we let the museum use it for lectures and presentations and fund raisers.

"Cool. Speaking of which, Des and I have been working on Neverland."

How's it going?

"I think it's beginning to look too much like that old movie, Singin' In The Rain, but, Des says - "

How so?

"The movie? Think Billy Finn as Gene Kelley, Rosalie as Debbie Reynolds, and these three guys, new characters Des has invented - I call ‘em the three stooges - all playing various aspects of Donald O'Connor. It's . . . interesting."

Hummm. I never thought about it in terms of an old movie musical, but my gut reaction is that you two are on the right track with this. Is that the phone?

"Yea. Want me to get it?"

I'll get it in here. If that's the doorbell, would you see who it is?

"Sure."

Hello? Mr. Fosse! ... okay, Bob, how are things going up in Times Square? ... good, good ... so everything showed up in time? ... wonderful . . . yes, you sound very happy and excited ... yes ... now, you're sure you can pull all of this off by yourself? ... and nobody was suspicious when you installed ... you do? ... of course I trust you . . . well, it's just that nobody has ever tried a publicity stunt of this magnitude before, especially on New Year's eve in Times Square . . . hundreds of thousands of people ... international television coverage . . . and you're sure it can't be traced back to us? ... well, Garth may have done something similar for Ragtime or Showboat, if he'd thought of it ... spectacular, yes ... I'll leave everything in your very capable hands . . . at the stroke of midnight, yes ... I'm looking forward to it too . . . what? ... what? ... what do you mean you've added something extra? Don't you think that's a little extreme? ... hold on, wait a minute ... but ... oh, dear God, NO! ... I said no, don't do it! ... but ... but ... Fosse! ... wait, Bob! ... wait! . . . Stop! ... hello? ... hello? ... Bob, are you still there ? ... Bob? ...

"Hey ... what's the matter? You're white as a sheet! Are you all right?"

It's ... I can't explain right now. Can you manage Frank's opening by yourself? I've got to get up to Times Square and stop something.

"What are you talking about?"

I can't take the time to explain right now. Where's my coat?

"Then you're not going to like what just walked through the front door."

What? I mean, who?

"Robin. And she brought Drema."

In the 1970s, many a precocious American teenager weaned herself on Lillian Hellman's An Unfinished Woman, Pentimento, and Scoundrel Time. So what if the author didn't look like her own screen alter ego, Jane Fonda, in Julia. Few, of course, would have dared to act on their obsession. But Rosemary Mahoney did, telling the chain-smoking, hard-drinking Hellman that she would love to work for her on Martha's Vineyard "in any capacity." Who better to toil for than a star who "glorified bad moods, gave them a glamorous edge, brought them to the level of art" - or so the 17-year-old thought. In a fairy-tale-like development, Hellman took Mahoney on as her part-time housekeeper. But the fairy tale was almost instantly to end, and a more complex saga of innocence, experience, and class to begin.

During the summer of 1978, Rose quickly discovered that some bad moods were beyond glorification. Relations between employer and employee were out-of-kilter from the start, since the self-absorbed, glaucoma-blinded Hellman's version of the job gave "part-time" an entirely new, 24-hour definition. The gig was a far cry from Mahoney's vision of the two of them "sitting at her table together, smoking cigarettes and making toasts to this and that with upraised glasses of a glowing amber drink (never mind that I had had only a few disastrous experiences with smoking and drinking), laughing sagely and discussing books and people and the world and life." Instead Mahoney's dream job was a mixture of tension and tedium as she bumbled around the house and stubbornly refused to admit how much she wanted to be thought worthy. What's more, the teenager felt deeply out of her element amid such Vineyard glitterati as William and Rose Styron, James Taylor and Carly Simon. Some might find her descriptions of the increasingly infirm Hellman less than generous, but the older Mahoney is very much watching herself in the wings and finding her younger self just as wanting. A Likely Story is a cautionary tale about adoration and celebrity from one of our more gifted journalists - each scene literally leaps off the page, fraught with emotion recollected not entirely in tranquillity.

A Likely Story: One Summer With Lillian Hellman
by Rosemary Mahoney
List Price $23.95
Doubleday
ISBN 0385477937


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