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.)
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.
“Call her, I guess,” he said.
Instead, I called 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.”