Okay. By Wednesday of this week I had processed the review in the Times that’s running. I listened to a lot of Lena Horne to help me do it – especially her “Live on Broadway” recording. I not only love listening to her sing her songs, but also all the patter between them when she relates the ups and down of her life and how she consistently had to overcome shit. “I ran up the steps of MGM (where I was already signed) and told them you call Twentieth Century Fox and you tell’em ah’m back and ah’m gonna be Pinky!” she exclaims at one point – I love that moment – when she heads out to LA on the Super Chief train in the 1940s, quitting her job at Cafe Society to try and break into the movies for the second time, in order to claim the title role in that upcoming movie. She loses out, however, to Jeanne Crain. “A pretty little brown-haired blue-eyed child,” she says, her voice reverberating, reverence far from its tone, with all the times she had heard that very phrase spoken around her, no doubt, as she grew up in Brooklyn able to pass as a pretty little white girl herself but proudly refusing to do so, joining the Cotton Club chorus line by the time she was 16. “I felt bad for a while,” she deadpans to the audience about losing the part to Crain. “About 12 years. But I got over it. I knew life would go on and history would catch up and I’d end up sweating like a dog up here on Jimmy Nederlander’s stage actin’ like a damn fool and lovin’ every minute of it!” God. I love Lena Horne. If you don’t have any Lena in your music collection, go out and get some. She won’t let you wallow in self-pity; even when she’s singing about it you can hear in her voice that it ain’t gonna last too long because wallowing is for lower forms of life. And Lena is one superior form.
If color-blind casting had been in effect back in her day, Lena would have made a great Scarlett O’Hara. In fact, I summoned my inner Scarlett on Wednesday night. I stared at the drapes in my window. Tore them down. And whipped myself up a gown to wear out and hold my head high. I’d been invited by Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair, to a cocktail party he was throwing for an old colleague of his, Kurt Andersen, who has just published a highly praised novel, Heyday. Graydon was holding the party at his exclusive new restaurant, Waverly Inn. At first I thought I’d not go since I knew probably a lot of the people there would have already read the nasty review of Mississippi Sissy in the NYTBR. (It publishes early and the literati of Manhattan all grab their early copies so they know what to gossip about in the days leading up to another Sunday.) But I held my head high and made my way to the Village. Sure enough, a lot of the people there had read my review and were spitting mad about it. I talked to several friends who bucked me up. Others, I spotted, to reprint the list that Page Six ran: Rosanne Cash, Jim Cramer, Barry Diller, Jonathan Franzen, Kurt Vonnegut, John Huey, Walter Isaacson, Norm Pearlstine, Rick Stengel, Jacob Weisberg, and Michael Hirshhorn. Amy Fine Collins and I hung out for most of the party and made our way back to the lovely garden room of the Inn. It is said – this was my first time there (I did love the murals) – that one doesn’t want to be seated back there because it is considered Siberia, not part of the inner sanctum’s inner sanctum. But that’s where I felt most comfortable.
I walked home listening to Lena. I smiled all the way.
Enjoy this while you’re here: