Gala Supper, ‘That Girl’ and Bella Abzug
After leaving the Ziegfeld Theatre the main issue was getting ourselves over to the Imperial Ballroom at the Sheraton Centre for the Gala Supper. A splendid affair was planned for us, no doubt. Greetings from Joseph Papp for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas for the Ms. Foundation for Women. Music by traditional Yiddish klezmer band KAPELYE and the Jerry Kravat Orchestra. And I’m quoting from my original invitation.
I was in a daze. I couldn’t believe ‘Yentl’ wasn’t ten hours long. I remembered every frame of film but I had no sense that I actually saw anything. I was more concerned with if the audience loved it. I knew I would, or hoped I would. I tend to clam up in tense situations and walking over to the hotel I had nothing much to say. John Hanrahan and Michael Mayer were getting ready to pop more champagne and literally floated across the street. Alex recovered from his blood loss and was able to walk without support. And I was in a daze.
We sat at a table with two couples that had seen the movie in the MGM screening room. There were some bottles of vodka on the table and I think bagels. I heard Michael Mayer turn to one of the ladies and say, “Do you think it will be fish or dairy?” Could that be right? Is that something Jewish people would ask each other? One of the husbands split up the booze (“You guys can have this, we’d like that bottle). His wife asked me how I liked the movie. I said I didn’t know. Talk to me in ten years. She said they had some technical difficulties in the screening room. “Although she looked beautiful and sounded wonderful I didn’t think this was one of her best.
Why do people have to talk to me? Did I ask her opinion? I just looked at her for a moment and looked away. What do you say to something like that? I’ve always felt that if you argue your point you lose your credibility. I was not about to tell this stranger that Barbra’s father’s brother’s wife was just crying into my shoulder. It burned me that she would repeat her opinion at the beauty parlor or the boutique and possibly keeps someone who wanted to see the movie from seeing it. And if they had gone instead of listening to her they would have loved it.
Everything is a constant battle. This woman who may not have known anything abbot making a movie has an opinion, which she is allowed to share with everyone. But what other movies didn’t she like? Is she a frustrated singer? Does she have a pretty sister name Barbara? Is her husband having an affair with someone named Barbara? Or is she just out to all girls named Barbara? Fine, she didn’t like the movie. I get it. I get it. But where sitting a Gala Supper honoring the movie so keep your mouth shut.
As Marlo Thomas and I had become estranged earlier in the evening I hadn’t realized she had taken to stage. Which was just as well because at this time Evelyn Perez found us in the ballroom. Evelyn had been supervisor that Harley Hotel where John and I both worked and now she was currently at the Sheraton and had told us she was going to come find us. At this point Alex asked someone for a quarter because he had a raging headache and was leaving and was going to call Jimmy Connors.
Michael asked, “Are you going to tell him to have some aspirin ready?”
Alex responded, “No. I’m going to tell him to have the baby oil ready.”
Michael loved this. I found it to be decadent and disgusting.
But back to ‘That Girl’. Marlo Thomas was getting angry. “I have something important to say but I’m not going to say it unless you all quiet down. Could somebody get the waiters and busboys to be quiet?” The waiters and busboys? Well I was also a shift worker and pardon me Miss Free to Be You and Me, registered Democrat, but I hear a lot of noise coming from the big spender tables.
We had had it. We didn’t need to listen to her and decided to leave. We had to cross the front of the stage and John walked right up and snapped Ms. Marlo Thomas’ picture and then turned his back on her and walked away just to let her know we weren’t staying. And he was a fan. As, up until tonight was I. I had deliberately decided to wait and see the replacement cast of ‘Same Time, Next Year’ because I wanted to see Ted Bessell (who replaced Charles Grodin).
I bumped into Bella Abzug.
“Aren’t you having a good time?”
“Well, Marlo Thomas thinks we’re being to loud.”
“It’s a party! What’s her problem?”
I have often wondered.
We left the Imperial Ballroom and Evelyn took us on a tour of the hotel eventually winding up in the telephone room. When you work in the hotel business and go out visiting other hotels you are treated like a visiting dignitary. I had spoken to some of these operators over the years (“This is the Harley, can you get me the manager on duty, our MOD wants to see if he can take a bus of gals from Eastern, they’re snowed in. One moment please, I’ll connect you.”), but of course had never met them.
Kaya Tawana Kendricks (K.T. whose butcher coat I wore just hours earlier for hair and makeup at Michael’s), who trained me at The Harley in ’81, was now working at the Sheraton. She fired off questions while working her board:
“What are you doing here? Yes ma’am, located on six. What are you doing all dressed up? Room service isn’t answering, well I can’t go knock on their door. Did you meet Barbra?”
I love K.T. She was one of the best co-workers I ever had. Never see her but think of her every day. She let me sit in and take a few wake up calls. Remember, we’re still dolled up in our ‘Yentl’ premiere outfits. I loved it. I had been on vacation all week, it was now Wednesday and I missed my board. I am not technical, not particularly handy, I trip over air, but I am a good telephone operator. All those years watching Lily Tomlin, no doubt. And of course Barbra worked a classic 501-plugboard in ‘The Way We Were’. It was the first thing I found that I was good at. I could work my console, the service desk, the engineer pager, the Telex machine, and the wake-up machine all on my own. I worked midnights and earlier that year when I won Employee of the Month I was the first midnight shift employee so honored in the hotels two years of existence.
So there, Marlo Thomas, I know how to communicate.
We said our goodbyes and headed down to Greenwich Village. We decided to go grab a bite at Tiffany’s. Did they renovate by ’83? Or was it still the old Tiffany’s? John would contend that I never saw the old Tiffany’s, because I don’t remember the liquor store next door. Don’t ask. The Tiffany’s I knew was the middle Tiffany’s with the booths along the back wall – the wall opposite the counter – wait, wouldn’t that make it the side wall? Anyway, the renovation I speak about was when everything went blonde wood and ceiling fans and they bumped it open, adding a little mezzanine area. Now my question is, was it renovated in ’83? I sure as hell cannot remember.
So, we had breakfast at Tiffany’s, filled Evelyn (who came with us) in on all the events of the evening and said our goodbyes. And not a moment too soon. Michael was very loving and supportive but he could also be a little bit testy. We all knew Barbra was not going to be in New York, that she was attending the Los Angeles premiere, but he was holding out hope until the last minute that she would show up. And now he was beginning to speak up about it.
“Honey, she could have done this on Monday and be in L.A. for Tuesday. Who let’s a big night like this happen without them? “ And so on.
Enough. I was tired. My feet hurt. I wanted to be alone. This entire ordeal has been exhausting.
So, at some odd hour I headed home dressed in my tux. What’s to be ashamed? I’m sure I wasn’t the first person who arrived in a limo but returned on the subway.
And anyway, the week was only half over. We still had to get through Barbra Streisand on “20/20” for the entire hour tomorrow night.