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Unidentified Companion

I had a sudden impulse to go back to live in New York in the West Village, the neighborhood of my young manhood, when I turned sixty and my book New York in the Fifties was published.  A friend who doubted the wisdom of my move said “You were seduced by your own book.” Maybe so, but I’ve been seduced by worse (books, women, movie script deals.)

NY in the 50s

I had the great good fortune to become a client of the literary agent Lynn Nesbit, who publisher Sam Lawrence called “the best in America.” Nesbit represented people like Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Jimmy Carter, and Madonna, but always tended to a small band of stragglers and strugglers, a classification to which I had sunk after my fifteen seconds of fame. The Vanity Fair writer Lili Anolik described me in Hollywood’s Eve in 1971 as “a big-time journalist” whose first novel Going All The Way was “a commercial and critical smash the year before, in 1970. He was riding high.”

But now it’s 1992 and my last bestseller was 1973 and I’m living in The Village again and lucky to become a client of Lynn Nesbit. She has just got me a good book contract and calls to ask “Are you doing anything Thursday night?” I had only got settled in my new pad and hadn’t even reconnected with old friends yet. I was free. 

Lynn said she had a woman friend who had just had a bad breakup with a man and needed to get out of the house and meet people. She told her friend she just needed to go out – it didn’t have to be anything romantic, just see some men and get out of the house, have a good time. Lynn would take me and this woman and one of her other men writers to dinner at Elio’s, the in-spot on the upper East Side where she had a table. The woman friend who needed to get out of the house was Mia Farrow, who had just had the famously bad breakup with Woody Allen –oh, yeah, I’d heard about that, since it was covered in every newspaper in the known world and every media outlet in recent weeks. If you didn’t know about that breakup you were deaf, dumb and blind and being water-boarded at Guantanamo.

I knew the other writer Lynn brought, who I’ll call Nick, and we sat around Lynn’s table in a private nook at Elio’s. Mia looked just like Mia, and was pleasant, intelligent, low-key, witty and charming. It was chilly that night and after dinner the four of us went outside and said our goodnights, preparing to go our ways – me and the other writer downtown, Lynn and Mia uptown. I thanked Lynn and told Mia it was a pleasure meeting her, which it was, and to my astonishment, she leaned over and whispered in my ear “Why don’t you give me a call?” 

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked Nick as we shared a cab back to the Village.

He shrugged,

“Call her, I guess,” he said.

Instead, I called propecia online pharmacy canada Lynn the next morning. 

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

“Take her to dinner. Here is her number, call between 4 and 6 in the afternoon, the kids won’t be there.”

I knew better than to ask Lynn where I should take Mia Farrow to dinner. No doubt Madonna or Jimmy Carter was on her other line. I had my orders and I was to follow them to the best of my ability.  All I could think to do was to take Mia to dinner at one of the same places I would take any other first date to dinner.  It would be someplace in the Village. That’s where I lived – and had lived before – and I knew the terrain. Mia gave me her address and I met the many kids en masse (one of them had to be a little boy name Ronan, who is now (2020) the best-selling journalist/author of Catch and Kill, the first bestselling book blast of the Me-Too movement ( Ronan Farrow’s agent is – you guessed it Lynn Nesbit.)

There was a very nice small, unobtrusive, inexpensive French restaurant near where I lived on West Street, and that’s where I took Mia. I knew the chef-owner from previous visits, and he was obliging as usual, and made no big deal about Mia. No one else did either, although there was a young couple one empty table away from us on our right, who kept glancing over and smiling at us (or her.) No one bothered us, no one asked Mia for an autograph. Everyone pretended she was just another person, who was having dinner with some sixty-year old guy who was wearing his one sport jacket (maybe some distant cousin or Uncle Bunk from Indiana.)      

My entire mental energy was focused on NOT saying the word “Woody.” Mia said the word. I will leave it up to the reader to imagine the tone in which those two syllables were uttered. Nuff said. Otherwise our conversation was much like the one when we had dinner with Lynn and Nick books, movie, politics.

I took her home, said goodnight, and returned to my studio to flop on my bed and recover from th exhaustion of not saying the word “Woody” all night. The next morning I was awakened by a jangling phone (we are still in the Year of Our Lord 1992) and a friend said “Have you seen Page Six of The New York Post?) I had not, and wondered why I should. My friend said Page Six was the Post gossip column, and before I could inquire further he hung up. Off to the nearest newsstand on Seventh Avenue, I picked up the Post and read the following item:

“Mia Farrow was seen last night at the XX French restaurant in The Village, with an unidentified companion.”          
I had the title for whenever I wrote my life story: Unidentified Companion


The Adventures of Uncle Dan will continue with Episode III:  I introduce Mia Farrow, a former wife of Frank Sinatra, to the author of the prize-winning Esquire magazine article: “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.”       

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Me and Little Richard

I was sorry to see Little Richard pass from the scene today. I once was ushered out of a Little Richard event in a Washington hotel. It was the 1970 National Book Association convention, when authors, starved all year for attention, could show up and be invited to good parties with food and drink supplied by publishers. I had teamed up with Digby Diehl, Book Editor of The Los Angeles Times, and we had met some nice women at one of the many cocktail parties and invited them to dinner and a show at a ballroom in the host hotel. We had all had quite a bit of booze, dressed up with harmless seeming fruit juice, and we decided to dance.

Dancing was not on the menu. It wasn’t a full blown concert, but Little Richard and his group were there to be heard an respectfully appreciated. We intended no disrespect when we got up and started dancing, but two large hotel attendants (bouncers) took me and Digby by the elbows and ushered us out of there, our “dates” following.

I dont remember if we had to pay the bill or if the hotel felt it was worth it just to get us out of the place. I have no memory of such “details.” All I remember is the four of us waking up the next morning on the roof of a house in Georgetown. I don’t know how we got down, but somehow we evidently made it.

Little Richard, I meant no disrespect. I am not a good dancer (I flunked Mrs. Gates’ class). Your music inspired me to get up and try to approximate rhythmic movements. I will always be grateful.

– The Adventures of Uncle Dan

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Cecelia is “Grieving for Guava”

Cecelia Fernandez was working as a pharmaceutical rep when she took my class in the Graduate Writing Program at Florida International University. She was a single mother supporting a daughter (who was on the way to Princeton) and twin sons in high school. She wrote a story called “The Button Box, conjuring up a childhood memory of her last visit to her beloved Cuba before her family fled to the U.S. from the revolution they did not support. The story had power, evoked a lost time and the  love of  a lost homeland. Her story held the promise of a writing career – but such promises are seldom fulfilled.

Cecelia was committed. She left the pharmaceutical world and pieced together a teaching life, working as a part-time instructor at five different schools and colleges around the Miami area. And she kept writing. She wrote and published a memoir of her time growing up in Miami’s Cuban exile community, Leaving Little Havana, that won  First Place for Most Inspirational Book in The International Latino Book Awards. She kept writing. She wrote short stories, and compiled enough good ones to have a book of stories that has just been published.

When I go to Miami two or three times a year to visit my God Daughter, I always check in with Cecelia, to hear of her latest accomplishments, the trials and obstacles she overcomes. She told me she couldn’t ativan buy online no prescription think of a title for her collection of stories. I read with fascination this book that told of the Cuban exiles’ longing for their lost island, the sights and sounds and tastes of La Habana, that city that becomes more richly mythical as it recedes into memory. I realized that the spirit of her work could be evoked by the memory of a favorite Cuban food. I suggested she call her book Grieving for Guava. Cecelia liked it, and so did her publisher. Now it is out and available on Amazon.

Many people have Cecelia’s dream of becoming a writer; few reach the goal. All it takes is blood, sweat and tears. Red Smith, the legendary sports writer of the New York Times, was asked once if it was difficult to write a daily sports column. “No,” he said “All you have to do is sit down and open a vein.”

So it is with all good writing, so it is with creating a book. Cecelia has written a book of stories that dramatically tells of the love and the perils, the pathos and courage of those who have come to a new country to make a new life with a new language, new rules and customs, new obstacles and challenges.  This is real life drama, told with verve and spirit. This is what is called “a good read.”

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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield