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Broadway Bound

Episode 50

PROMISES, PROMISES

A VIP Table at The Lighthouse
After Jonathan's Show

I saw you standing over there by the bar. I was wondering when you'd be over.

"I didn't want to interrupt the show. Besides, Des was sitting with you. Where'd he disappear to?"

He's somewhere, working the room.

"Have you seen Bob?"

Bob? Oh, the bizarre Mr. Fosse? No. Should I have?

"I invited him to the opening last night. He said he had something else planned, so we agreed he would meet me here tonight, my treat. It isn't like him not showing up or calling to cancel or anything."

You do realize he's crazy, don't you?

"Yep, he is sorta out there, isn't he? But, he's not dangerous. I kinda like him."

Why?

"In this weird sort of way, he reminds me of my father. Never knew my old man that well, so . . . hanging around with Bob sorta makes up for some stuff, you know?"

I guess . . . here's to Bob, to absent friends.

"I'll drink to that. How did Jonathan do last night? What did you think?"

You were right. He'll make an excellent Billy Finn. Unfortunately, Des thinks he'd also make an excellent Percy.

"Pimpernel?"

Yes. He's over there right now, pitching Jonathan as the only logical replacement for Sills.

"Jonathan wouldn't do that to us. He's loyal; he knows we gave him his big break."

We haven't really given it to him yet, have we? Look at it from his point of view. A contract for the lead in an established Broadway musical, as opposed to the promise of a lead in a musical that isn't even written yet, much less scheduled to open.

"Don't rub it in. I've been working on it."

Is that what you were up to today, working on it?

"No . . . not really."

What were you doing today?

"Nothing much . . . "

I don't suppose you might have any idea where Robin is, would you? You didn't happen to go back to my apartment looking for her after we split up last night, did you?

"Of course not. Robin's missing . . . again?"

Yes. She wasn't there when I got home last night. You're sure you have no idea . . .

"That's what I said, didn't I?"

Okay. Okay, it's just that Des mentioned something about you saying you were going to pick her up. He must have been mistaken. You know how Des gets when he's had a few.

"Yes."

Oh, by the way. Is that my overcoat you're wearing?

"What?"

Both of them look so much alike. We must have accidentally switched them last night. See, this one doesn't have my initials embroidered under the label.

"Is my wallet in one of the pockets? I think I lost it last night."

Here's the coat. You check. You know where you would have put it.

"It's not here."

Did you call the limo service? They're usually good about returning things like that.

"I will tomorrow morning. Wait a minute. Why is the arm of my coat torn like this?"

Some drunk got a hold on me last night, in Times Square, and wouldn't let go until I pushed him away. I didn't realize it was torn. I'm sorry. Have it repaired and send the bill to me.

"Repaired? The whole back part of the arm seam is ripped."

Yes. They probably couldn't fix that, could they? Well, I was wearing it. Buy yourself a new one and I'll pay for it. Just pick a different color or cut, so we don't get them confused again.

"Are you going to tell me what was so important in Times Square last night you couldn't make Jonathan's opening?"

It's silly.

"What?"

I was fulfilling a promise I made to Drema many, many years ago. I only remembered it at the last minute, that's why I didn't take the time to explain.

"What was it?"

Did I ever tell you how she and I first met?

"No."

On a New Year's Eve, in Times Square. I had slipped on ice, fallen and twisted my ankle. She was the only one of thousands and thousands of people who stopped and asked if I needed any help. She almost carried me five blocks until we could find a cab to take me home. She even gave me three dollars to pay for the cab, which should tell you just how long ago this happened. We were talking about that night, a couple of months ago, before she died. She made me promise that the first New Year's Eve she wasn't around, I'd go back to Times Square and see what I could do for somebody else who looked like they needed a little help.

"I understand. Did you find anybody?"

The best I could do was help an old couple from the mid-West, who were lost, find their hotel.

"I guess it's the thought that counts."

I hope so. Then I was planning to come back to the apartment, pick up Robin and take her to late services at this wonderful old Greek church Drema always loved. I think Robin would have liked that, don't you?

"I . . . I don't know."

Having Robin show up out of nowhere last night, looking all pale and drawn and in pain, was quite a shock. She seemed confused. Didn't she seem confused to you?

"Not particularly."

But, you could tell she was in pain, couldn't you?

"She looked fine to me."

She looked like she hadn't had a decent night's sleep in a month.

"To be honest, she looked in pretty good shape. If anything, she was mad as hell."

Really? I didn't catch that. What was she mad about?

"She . . . I don't know. You'd have to talk to her about that."

But, I can't talk to her, can I? She's missing, isn't she? Do you think she and I need to talk?

"From the looks of it, yes. Yes, I would."

Why? What's she mad about? Do you have any idea?

"No."

Then, there's nothing I can do, is there?

"Damn you!"

So, you do know where she is.

"Yes."

And what she wants?

"I think so. We talked for hours last night. The two of us have a lot more in common than I ever thought. I understand where she's coming from about a lot of stuff now."

Did she tell you why she disappeared on opening night? Did she have anything to do with the theatre burning down?

"She said she didn't have anything to do with the fire."

Did you believe her?

"Yes."

I hope the police do also. What about disappearing like that?

"You know she never knew her father, right?"

Drema once said something about it.

"She hated him for leaving her mother before she was born."

Wasn't he killed in an accident, or something?

"That's what Millicent always told her, when she asked about him. But then, on opening night, she found out the truth."

What truth?

"Drema's present to Robin that night was an old chest, carved to look like a cottage in a fairy tale. Robin used to play with it as a child. Anyway, Drema gave it to her."

And? So?

"The key to the chest was lost years ago. Robin said she never remembered it being unlocked. She could never get it open when she was a kid. Drema must have thought it was empty."

It wasn't? What?

"When Robin was changing out of her costume, after the show was over, she accidentally knocked the chest off her dressing table. When it fell on the floor, it came open. There were old letters inside. She read them."

Okay, what was in the letters?

"They were from Millicent to Drema. Millicent told Drema who Robin's father was - is, he's still alive. Millicent wanted Drema to promise never to reveal his identity, if she ever wanted to see her granddaughter."

And Drema agreed?

"Apparently. Drema obviously never said a word."

You would think Robin would be happy to find out who her father is, especially if he's still alive.

"She feels betrayed and hurt and angry and she doesn't know what she wants to do about it yet."

Who is he? Maybe we could get in touch with him . . .

"Not a good idea."

Why not?

"I'd just stay as far away from her as possible, if I were you, until Robin thinks everything through."

Why?

"Just my opinion, for what it's worth."

Forgive me for doubting the value of your considered judgement, but, again, why? Who is he?

"I promised Robin I wouldn't . . . "

No. I'm not letting you get away with that. Who is he? Who is Robin's father?

"You're sure you really want to know?"

Yes.

"You are."

Samuel Beckett, a talent so exceptional that he created masterpieces in both French and English, shied away from the limelight for much of his life. However James Knowlson, in Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, shows Beckett wasn't entirely hesitant to talk about himself; the book relies heavily on interviews with Beckett to reconstruct the writer's dizzying career. Knowlson fills the pages with exhaustive detail - some major, some minor. In addition, he analyzes the influences on and evolution of Beckett's work. Through it all a larger picture emerges, one of the artist at work and in life.

This long-awaited authorized biography of the reclusive Nobel laureate, based on access to Beckett's correspondence, papers, friends and colleagues, and most important, five months of interviews with the subject himself, will stand as definitive for the foreseeable future. Knowlson traces the familiar trajectory of Beckett's career in minute detail, from his comfortable, middle class childhood in Dublin through his difficult period of shuttling between France, Germany, and his parents' home and his abandonment of an academic career. After settling in France more or less permanently, Beckett would become actively involved with the Resistance; one of the great strengths of this volume is the attention paid to Beckett's political views and activities, which were more extensive than generally imagined. In the aftermath of the war and its privations, Beckett underwent a burst of writing activity that included the play that would make him a famous if misunderstood name, Waiting for Godot.

Knowlson is preoccupied with relating events and settings to the writings, something that few Beckett observers have troubled to do in such copious detail, and the result is that the first third of the book has a jagged, discontinuous feeling. But once Beckett's career takes off in the postwar period, Knowlson's narrative flows more graciously. He is an astute commentator on the later writings in particular, explaining how Beckett's love of painting and music inspired much of his work, showing how the passing of an entire generation of Beckett's friends and family inflected the darkening vision of his later works. Above all, Knowlson offers a convincing picture of a man who was better rounded and better-adjusted than the bleak universe he depicted: a man of surpassing wit, generosity, and kindness, deserving not only of the kudos he garnered over his long life but of a well rounded portrait, which this most definitely is.

Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett
by James Knowlson
List Price $20.00
Touchstone Books
ISBN 0684836580


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