Thursday, June 7, 2012

Adventures at Finch - That's Entertainment!

Julie was not someone I expected to meet at Finch. In the class behind mine, she had a languid sexy manner that made you think she would meander her way through life mesmerizing you with her Midwestern drawl and her inquisitive way. From Ohio, she was a New Yorker at heart.  She loved,loved, loved Manhattan. She loved the hustle, the bustle, the buildings, and the people.  She loved art, the theater, and fashion.  From the time we became friends, she was forever dragging me to see plays, concerts, movies, or art exhibits  one after another. 

Uptown to the Whitney, the Frick; downtown to Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and Greenwich Village
  where we heard Melissa Manchester sing in a small bar with a stage.   In 1971 Manchester had been hired by Barry Manilow and Bette Midler (whom Julie saw on Broadway in the now-famous Clams on the Half Shell Revue) to be a back-up singer, but she was still trying to strike out on her own.  We were close to the stage and I kept saying how small her hands and fingers were.  But her voice was enormous.

1974 was a stellar year for us  January in particular.  From the balcony of the Morosco Theatre, we saw Jason Robards, Colleen Dewhurst, and Ed Flanders in A Moon for the Misbegotten. Three remarkable actors embodying the angst of Eugene O’Neill. Clive Barnes, the theater critic for the New York Times wrote, "This is a landmark production that people are going to talk about for many years. " The cast's portrayals of these flawed and tragic characters was so powerful that people were actually holding their breath during the soliloquies.  I remember thinking, “This is what it means when people say, ‘It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.”

After a seven-year-plus hiatus, Bob Dylan decided to return to the stage and perform with The Band.  One of the concert dates was on Julie's birthday at the end of the month and she was determined we would go. "The tickets were hard to get.  Had to mail in a check and it was a crap shoot.  I mailed the check at five minutes after midnight and didn't get the damn tickets.  A friend knew someone at Madison Square Garden who got us tickets."  Alan Bershaw wrote,  "Over five million paid mail orders were reportedly sent in for the 650,000 tickets available over the course of the [43-day] tour, making them the most in-demand ticket in the history of rock music."   The music was incredible; Dylan was incredible, but what I remember most from that night  it was the first time people lit and held up their Bic lighters (these had just come out in 1973). Everyone holding their flame high to create a sea of tiny flickering lights in the surrounding darkness of that massive arena. 

Here's Redford on our street
Later that year, next to one of the magnificent buildings that was a Finch dorm was the location of a film shoot for Three Days of the Condor with Robert Redford on the block!  It was the office where he works at the beginning of the film, a CIA front.  We were all scurrying around, hanging out on 77th Street to catch a glimpse of him and when we did   he was short!  

After I graduated from Finch and Julie went back to Ohio, I still went to see plays.  In 1976 I saw Equus with Richard Burton.  My sister was a huge fan of Elizabeth Taylor and even though he wasn’t with Liz at the time (he was in a marriage with “Susan”) I still thought it would be great if I could get his autograph for Donna  so along with crowds of others, I waited at the stage door after the emotionally harrowing performances of this disturbing play. [He won a Special Tony for his performance in his limited 14-week run.]

The mob scene was so great that when Burton came out of the door (with publicist and whomever else in tow) people started surging, and he was quickly engulfed by bodies straining to get a glimpse, a touch, a smile. The throng pushed him into a tight channel of humanity between the theatre and his waiting limo. All of a sudden I found myself smashed up against him, face-to-face in the mob. At first I couldn’t say anything because I was so shocked at how short he was!  Only inches taller than me! I was trying to get over my frozen state when he looked me straight in the eyes (his piercing green eyes) and said in his unmistakable Welsh voice, 

“We simply can’t go on meeting this way. Susan wouldn’t like it.”  

And I simply melted. If it hadn't been for the crush of bodies keeping me upright, I probably would've slid to the ground. And then, before I could think to say anything, anything at all, New York’s Finest  mounted on horses came jostling in to break up the crowd and get Sir Richard (well, not-titled yet) to the door of his limo (Susan inside) and whisked away. 

Jules, thank you.  For Melissa, Dylan, Redford, Burton, Warhol
  and so much more.


  1. What fun! No wonder you are such a well-bred aficianada of the arts!!--BA

    1. Well later in my life I was in a job where I was in even closer contact with celebrities...more stories to come!

  2. A trip down memory lane. Thanks for sharing this and for helping me think of all those great performers!

  3. You really need to get back to the city!!!

  4. Great memories and fun to read -- the only one I share with you and Julie was the filming of Three Days of the Condor. And what I remember about Robert Redford was how many moles he had on his face! -- Megan

    1. Yes he had terrible skin..I DO remember that but was trying to avoid saying it! but it is true!

  5. I never saw Robert Redford in person when he was filming next door. But I did see a lot of other famous people. The most famous of course was Denise James :)