December 31, 2009

The Last of 2009

“As you grow older you grow lonely because your associates are no longer of your own generation. The companions of your youth are gone and the new generation speaks a language without an echo. Until finally the last and the best, the faithfullest, the wisest, the finest, most upright of all, are gone”.
from my mother's journal

On his last visit Russ was staying in "The Tower" on Sunset which has seen many re-incarnations.

Everybody has his or her favorite spot in L.A. Russ’ for a long time, was the Polo Lounge. However, the smell of canned pine had lost its charm. The Polo Lounge, no longer conjured up Sharon Tate or Jaqueline Susann. Just a week after Thanksgiving we had our last tête-à-tête there. We shared remembrances of old Hollywood and Beverly Hills. What was it like? Different we agreed.

Peter Finch suffered his fatal heart attack here on the red carpet leading from the parking lot to the foyer.
"There but for the grace of God"…said Russ, days before his own demise.

"The Tower" has seen many transformations. The dank smell of stale booze and smoke has vanished beneath a thousand coats of oatmeal colored paint. In the penthouse, framing a spectacular view, shiny glass glistens in the sun’s rays, and in the night, the city beckons with a million lights. The terrace wraps around the entire building. Truman Capote, Claudette Colbert, Errol Flynn and, of course, Montgomery Clift, among others, had all stood there and watched a thousand dusk fall.

The Hollywood hills rise sharply behind, with their houses perched on stilts, roads cut into the crumbling sand, and below the cities of the plain stretch into the haze. 

Thirty years ago, I adored this view and my heart raced just to stand above it. In my imagination, I summoned Monty, and we stood there together looking at the city.

The night before Russ was to return home, we had dinner with a group of Hollywood friends, at Dan Tana’s the old eccentric on Santa Monica. We were in great form, full of life, deeply anarchic, and of course, hysterically funny. We shared the Hollywood we all had loved. The other tables were sullen and speechless, lost in anesthetic by comparison. We on the other hand were raucous, tipsy, and overflowing with stories. Russ had an impressive narrative of “the juiciest skeletons in the choicest closets”. Opinions were aired and squashed. Entire careers were polished off in a sentence. Others were enhanced by some extraordinary revelation. Russ knew them all. It was a magical evening and we closed the restaurant.

Back at the Tower we stood on the terrace. The ghosts were all out on the streets of West Hollywood, shadows flitting through the air, rats watching from the palm trees. Somewhere down there, the next blockbuster was being written by a lonely tech geek hunched before a computer.

Strands of streetlights shimmered in the misty desert night, mile after mile, as unimaginable as the universe, and all of us up here on the terrace looked down in wonder. Truman, Claudette, the Duke, Errol, Monty, Russ, and I.

Now, one more ghost has joined the party.


Alistair and Bill said...

Thank you, great post. Now, who will remember all those juicy skeletons?
Best for 2010.


Millie and family said...

Thank you for remembering Russ so lovingly. We miss him terribly.
Best for 2010.

Geoff said...

and the Tower look-out will never be the same. If he is half as entertaining as a ghost as he was in life, then that place is rocking. Dan Tana's eh?
Happy New Year.

C and C (Lake Tahoe) said...

Happy New Year.
Loved to have been with you that weekend. We miss him too.

"Ms Capshaw" said...

from your Mother's journals? May we talk about them....?
All the Best for 2010. Good luck in Vancouver.

Anja, Bruce, Charles and Clive said...

Aloha, and Happy New Year.

ucla fan said...

love the story
wish you all the best for the new year

Anonymous said...