My claim to fame at the UN Plaza when my family lived there in the 1960's was that I had a big spotlight and used to shine it at the tugboats on the East River. One of my neighbors on the 23rd floor was Walter Wriston, recently passed away, was a very famous banker, head of Citicorp. There was Mr. Cummings (changed his name to be waspy) had a bunch of kids at Harvard, 25th floor. Up on the top we had Fleichmann family, very nice people they owned Kennedy Galleries on 57 Street, maybe they still do. In West Tower did you know Mitzi Lynn and Laura Lynn went to Dalton. Ricardo (Ricky) Silberblatt? Think he went to Columbia Grammer. In my tower, we had Jeannie MacAllister not sure where she went to school I want to say Spence. Nobody in that place went to PS 59! In the garage, I remember Levi- had a Jamaican accent, Smitty (the boss) and Steve (tall guy). When Smitty went on vacation, it got a little sloppy down there, as I had some busted tail lights on my 1971 Grand Prix as
evidence. Peter Kalikow (construction family, now runs transit in NY) had five
cars, including a Ferrari got hit by a cab first and only time he took it out.

I got going a little bit here, I guess procrastinating from other stuff. In West Tower, there was a girl Jennifer? And Peggy Kahn, I am pretty sure she went to Columbia. Then there was Todd Schneider and twin sister Beth! Wilder family? They had kids they had a duplex up on 37 or 38 in West Tower. Remember David Susskind- the original talk show host, back in the 1960s, very erudite and Harvard educated? He was on 37/38 and he had a son- Andy Susskind who I think went to prep school someplace up in New England. In East Tower (870), we had Dr Jarecki up on the top, he was a shrink with a Kissinger like accent who was the Chairman of big commodities outfit Mocatta Metals. He drove a littel two seater Mercedes with wreckless (sp?) abandon. Then we had two twins Shelly and Robin Platzer a little older than me, their dad was a big wheel in the diamond business. Do you remember the super, Mr. Titland? (what a name, I could not make it up, not sure if he was just East Tower or both towers). He did have a daughter- poor girl ( I mean with that last name!) who went to PS 59 amazingly.

Your Novel is like the "Nanny Diaries" and the other was straightening out their real estate guy explaining that Johnny Carson lived in 860, Truman Capote was in 870Bobby Kennedy was in 870. OK, enough of this stuff. I am very excited about your book, partly for my own nostalgia, connecting with the past, etc etc and also for my Dad-who will just love this stuff even if you changed the names of some of the people. When I am visiting in Florida my Dad wants to just reminisce and the book will absolutely make his day. I have to tell you, the summer of 1977 they had a bad blackout, I was home-people got really out of control and at that time I realized that in spite of all the veneer, the human instincts were the same as everyone else. My parents sold the apartment that Autumn.

I am seriously procrastinating on my very boring work (number crunching
of exceedingly esoteric financial calculations). It is absolutely unbelievable that we are dialoguing about all these insane people of my past life at the UN Plaza when I was a kid. My experience with Cliff Robertson was that there was some kind of a
strike, maybe summer of 1975 or 1976, and we had apartment owners manning the front desk. So guess who the lucky person was who answered his drunken request for "where are my flowers, I ordered goddam' flowers?". Dina Merrill during the same episode was ordering coffee for all the volunteers. Cummings whom I mentioned, OK guy but sometimes a little obsessed with keeping the place running- I think he was Pres of the co op owners association, was getting very hyper trying to organize the service elevator to go from here to there and I think some key was required that he obviously didn't have.

One other person had play dates too. You had more playdates with people in the building than me. I had one friend in your tower named Stig, tall Nordic accent, sort of Eurotrash before the word existed. Back in those days, HBO was just starting. The East Tower (870) was a test case, so the people who least needed a handout in the whole planet got free HBO while they got the kinks out of the technology! I think because there was a good antenna angle from the Empire State Building (WTC antenna not yet erected) to the top of the building. So, then around 1970 the Knicks made the playoffs and Stig was a big fan. So Stig used to come over and we'd watch BBall on free TV and drink beers that I bought from Beekman Deli, on First Avenue at 50th - 51st Street. In Beekman Place, across the street, there were some wild people also, but we'll save that one. OK- rates beckon. I think it is fabulous that you are writing the book. WOW, it brought me right up! Continuing with book!



1966 – 1976

By: Leslie K. Siegel

It was 6:00 p.m. as the Bill-Dave youth center van drove down FDR Drive. Eliza, her sister Glinda and Brother Richard sat in the back seat. It was winter and as they zipped in and out of lanes. Eliza’s eyes were going snow blind and bugging out from all the white snow whizzing by out the window as the green van sped by huge piles along the curbs and streets New York City.

They’d been in Central Park all day, after school. Eliza’s fingers were dirty and just now thawing out from the afternoon’s activities in the park. Lenny, the obnoxious but experienced driver was constantly gunning the engine and making them lurch forward along with 10 other kids riding in it too. Some of the ‘diehards’ enjoyed the rumpus ride comparing it to a rollercoaster, but Eliza hated it and it showed on her pale face.

Eliza was fighting car sickness and tried to put the first memory of throwing up out of her brain. Eliza was a 1 year old fussy baby in her crib! Someone was teasing her and shaking the contraption and the 10 year old still recalled the fuzzy memory of being on all fours vomiting. She even remembered what it looked like ... baby food, vegetables mixed with formula clumps, Oy Vey!

“Are you going to get sick again?” asked a cute pixy looking black girl sitting a few seats away from Eliza.

“I don’t know Sheri.” Eliza turned to Lenny. “Can you slow down?”

Lenny quickly gunned the engine again and imitated Eliza… “Can you slow down….Oh, no, boo-hoo, boo-hoo!”

“Stop it Lenny!”

As they teased poor Eliza, another memory took hold in the cute little girl's sharp mind. It was of her father placing her on an amusement park ride between her 2 brothers. The ride had been a terror, traumatizing the 3 year old, but she had said to her father that she wanted to ride with her brothers so her dad obliged her against the wishes of their mother Lena. The ride had only aggravated the car sickness mode Eliza would fall into when riding in a bus, car or even a park ride.

“Are you going to get sick Eliza?” he asked using a little girl’s voice as the trickster guy weaved in and out of New York traffic erratically with one hand on the wheel. He really was a very good driver and had his license since he was 12 and he knew he had full control of the van. It just was so easy and tempting to tease poor Eliza.

“She’s going to be sick, she’s gonna’ lose her cookies,” said another little boy riding in front, a good looking imp of a rascal named Cyrus. Everyone took his cue and began mimicking Eliza. Even the usually quiet Gaby and her little pudgy fat sister Lauren who was always sucking her thumb were a bit hyper too.

“Eliza’s gonna’ get sick, she’s gonna loose her cookies!” They made it into a chant and kept it up, a sing along like ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’.

Glinda felt sorry for her older sister and seemed to bare the ride fine and same with the shy and quiet Richard. “Why don’t you leave her alone!” she yelled at the kids, but to no avail, the banter went as they sped up 2nd Avenue, Lenny gunning the engine.

At that moment Eliza wished she could be her older brother Roy who didn’t go to the youth center because he was at a different school and therefore on a different schedule than the other 3 Osberg kids, so he was spared the rough ride home back to the UN Plaza.

The second oldest Richard was introverted, shy and remote and didn’t say much due to a slight stuttering problem mixed with an overbearing mother with good intentions, of course, but sometimes the way Lena doted on the boy could have contributed to his quiet nature as well. He actually had an afro, his brown hair frizzed out like Don King. He even had a large afro comb black kids at their school used to "pick" their hair and it was sticking out of Rich's back pocket like a wallet. A few children in back whispered about it and were kicking the seat. Rich ignored them and pretended to be somewhere else looking out the little windows of the rickety van.

It wasn’t all negative like this, and Eliza knew more positives than negatives in her 10 years! All the Osberg children did! Sometimes, if not most times, their lives were a picnic filled with fun, surprises, fine arts and candy! That’s why Eliza couldn’t wait to get home to their apartment at the UN Plaza where they’d lived for just over a year.

But to the Eliza and her Osberg siblings the UN Plaza was this huge playground of sparkling crystal and glass. The revolving door was their merry-go-round, the elevators were fun rides at Disney; the hallways were bowling alleys and the children were gaining quite a reputation for themselves in the year they’d lived there. Other tenants constantly complained about their noise and uproar, their conduct and rabble rousing antics through the cavernous lobby. Usually it was Eliza instigating it in some form! People got used to it and conditioned to it and Eliza was sometimes blamed even if it was some other kid.

Lenny spoke up trying to get Eliza’s mind off the ‘an up-chuck’. “Are there really 6 bathrooms in your apartment?” He smiled at her, his big white teeth glowing slightly in the waning light of the day. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, but he had a rough, kidding side that sometimes showed his Irish roots. It was a bit much, but always at the end, he stopped and gave the ‘sorry speech’

“You kids know I’m only kidding around with you,” but sometimes he would take it too far, too rough and tumble; pushing it just a little too much, just enough! There was something about Eliza that made Lenny want to speed up and make her feel off balanced. It was just Eliza’s personality, which was a bit hyper, yet inquisitive and bold even when she was quiet and subdued. Even when the girl was calm, her silence burst in the air like fireworks! "...just the... What was that word Lenny was looking for that he’d heard at a James Taylor concert in Westbury, NY last month … 'the vibe', yes, that was it."

“Yes, and 4 bedrooms,” said Glinda proudly.

“Sounds nice and roomy with all those rooms,” said Lenny in his calm voice!

"I guess so," said Eliza, looking down at her penny loafers. Lenny wasn’t so bad when he wasn't pissed off. All she could think of was a nice hot bath in their nice bathroom up on the 23rd floor of the UN Plaza.

"Hey, it's not easy making you kids obey even though deep down inside I care about this job and all of you kids," said the usually joking Lenny. He wanted them to learn and he wanted to teach them, but the man could be a bit gruff.

“Yea, and we have a den, living room, even a maid’s quarters, kitchen and dining room,” bragged Glinda, seeming to be the spokesperson for the Osberg kids at the UN Plaza.

“Hmmm, the whole nine yards I would say!” Len drove onward into the city.

Now everybody was making fun of Eliza. Then Lenny felt he had to take control, “… and who knew, maybe the kid would complain and he’d lose his job!” He looked out the side of his light brown eyes and saw tears rolling down the curly-headed tomboy’s face. He didn’t want her to think he cared and was a ‘tough love’ sort of counselor even at Camp Wineko where he was during the summer.

“Hey,” he said as they approached some traffic as he turned and put his large hands gently on Eliza’s curly mass of curls as he was prone to do. He had to slow down. “Eliza, come up front okay?” He had second thoughts about teasing her when he realized she might even vomit in the back and he didn’t want to spend his Friday evening cleaning the van. He also began joking with the other children trying to get their minds off Eliza. But now that everyone was quiet in the van at the traffic stop Lenny could still hear the chanting in his ears.

Right in the slightly wet street Lenny opened his door, came around to the side hatch and opened it for Eliza. For an instant, due to Eliza’s fear of the heavy traffic, her adrenaline pumped up, the nauseous feeling was dissipating for the moment. “I can walk from here,” said Eliza, knowing she could if he’d let her.

“Right, sure, sorry Kiddo, no dice.” He pointed to the van.

As Lenny made sure she was secured in the front seat, Eliza remembered a few months back the kids had riled Lenny up so badly and he really had gotten very angry, that the driver actually pulled over way up on 3rd Avenue and 99th Street and got out of the running van and left them sitting there. Everyone was quiet for about 3 minutes and just about the moment Glinda was about to lose her little mind, thinking they’d been abandoned and she’d never see her mother again, Lenny appeared and got back in the van and slammed the door hard. No one dared question him and for the rest of the ride no one said a word.

This time other kids complained – “Why does she get to ride in front?”

“Because I said so,” barked Lenny to all the kids in general. “Besides, I can keep my eye on her and if she loses her cookies, I can roll down the window faster.” Everyone agreed with a nod.

They drove further into the city and dropped off kids at some very ritzy New York City addresses – The Excelsior, The Pierre Hotel, The St. Regis and even the Waldorf Astoria where Lenny dropped off twin siblings Gordon and Gwynne and Jamie and Mary respectively.

Lenny knew that living at the UN Plaza was very exciting and upbeat with gleaming black limos, fancily dressed doormen, immaculate elevator men, glittering celebrities and foreign dignitaries milling around the lobby and grounds, which were sprawling and elegant. He always hoped to see some of the ‘Well knowns’ who lived there; Johnny Carson and his wife Joanna Carson, and even famed “In Cold Blood” author Truman Capote roamed around. The distinguished and dapper Robert F. Kennedy with wife Ethel and their 9 children lived there too! That must be interesting. Eliza told Lenny once that the Senator had spoken to her once or twice, even joked with her for a split second before he was whisked away by men in black coats and ear phones and she was gently pushed aside by security and a report was made that she’d spoken directly to Kennedy, whatever that meant!

“It means you’re in deep trouble,” joked Lenny, as usual. But he sounded so serious even with his jovial clown-like features plastered to his face. In the end, Eliza waited for the cops to come and get her, but they didn’t.

Eliza was quiet and trying to fight her growing restlessness and nausea. She couldn’t wait to get home and away from the van and cold air and smelly odors of the city as twilight settled in and the air got nippy.

Suddenly Eliza started to talk to Lenny, and it helped her growing woozy feelings. "You know, we live on the 23rd floor of the UN Plaza!

Lenny took on an old Jewish woman's voice. "Yes, that's where Eliza Osberg and her family live.

The tomboyish oldest daughter sat in the van trying to transport herself to her bedroom she shared with her 8 year old sister Glinda.

"You should see the window view we have. It's a full length directly out into the General Assembly Room at the United Nations Building," bragged Eliza for the first time.

"Hmmmmm. Nice," said Lenny trying to imagine it all.

"And it's very warm and cozy!"

"Lots of rooms with white walls and interesting paintings and drawings and we draw our own stuff too. My daddy said one of the paintings on our wall in our room is called ‘Hands meet with flowers’ and it's neat," said Glinda.

"I'll bet it's a nice room done up in expensive wall paper," wondered Lenny.

"Yes, a lush, deep orange wall to wall rug," said Eliza.

Their beds were side by side and sometimes they would make a tent out of the bed spreads and sleep in it with Rich. It was great fun and they had flashlights. It was such a relaxing bedroom.

The van continued riding through the city, Lenny even allowing Eliza to crack the window for air even though it was very chilly out. He was tired of maneuvering the van through some of the worse traffic in weeks due to the snow that seemed to come from nowhere and dumped a good 2 feet on the city. He wanted to get home and wished everyone everyone out of his van so he could zoom lightning fast to that same old familiar 2 room squalor apartment in Brooklyn to relax and have a cold beer and watch the tube. He switched on the radio. A scratchy barely audible version of the the song “Lion Sleeps Tonight” droned on, “…In the jungle, the mighty lion, the mighty Lion sleeps tonight!” That song always calmed Eliza’s spirit and made her think of the outdoors and fresh air.

It was obvious Lenny was really getting a bit sloppy in dropping off all these sassy rich kids but he’d usually saved the Osberg children for last. It was fun driving into the UN Plaza and watching the doorman scurrying about. He knew one day he’d spot Johnny Carson or some other movie celebrity passing by his van.

“Are there really 4 bedrooms up there?” asked Lenny, although he already knew from what other people told him.

“Yes, and a lot more, we even have a hiding place behind the wall in the den, and no grown ups can fit in there only us kids, so it’s like a club house,” said Eliza, for once proud of it.

Lenny nodded with interest.

The UN Plaza Apartments were laid out in two sections – East Tower and West Tower. A red velvet lobby with crystal chandeliers, marble tables and floors was only scratching the surface of this residential opulence. It was, in Eliza’s Osberg’s opinion, “humongous”! 38 floors with each hallway on each floor decorated differently.

Lenny felt just a bit empowered as they finally drove down the driveway of the large apartment buildings although his stomach always seemed to flutter and that was unsettling sometimes for him.

By this time, there was a slight drizzle and the doorman was bundled up like a World War II soldier with gold tassels on either side of his shoulders of the dark blue jacket, and plastic around his doorman’s cap. His nose was red and when Eliza got out of the smelly van, she got a whiff of Sam the Doorman’s odor which was a pleasant smell of winter snow, expensive tobacco, jacket and cologne. Fog was coming out of his mouth as he hailed a cab. Eliza could detect the slight odor of Clorets Gum as Sam waved Lenny away after the kids were safely on the curb. He knew Lenny the van driver well and did not like the crass man, so he said with body language “get the heck outta’ my territory now!” But sometimes, on a warm evening, he talked with Lenny and found the driver pleasant enough and then Lenny would drive away feeling good as Sammy joke about him to the Osberg kids, which would break the tension in them, especially Eliza, he noticed. She seemed to be the worst for wear in the year he’d helped her out of Lenny’s fume infested coach! And to think that the Osbergs gave this guy Christmas money!

Sam always knew that the Osberg kids treated the hired help at the UN Plaza like pals they met in the schoolyard and that gave them a certain charm to the workers at the UN Plaza. It made working there so much more bearable because their family was so intriguing in so many ways and no one really knew what to make of them sometimes, so that made the job more fun because in the break room they all discussed the Osbergs, and even the service elevator guys got in on the action and it made them feel like a real union or something like that. The kids even joked around with the guy who ran the service elevator. “Hey Dum-Dum,” yelled Glinda and Eliza if they saw him peeking around the corner looking bored. They lit up his world in a funny way, but they were disruptive and the building could not ignore that. The Osbergs had been living at the UN Plaza on the 23rd floor for almost 1 year. It was getting really very turbulent and the times called for more protests at the UN Building, the Vietnam War, Hippies, drugs, pot and even Israel and Palestine! It was starting to make security at the UN Plaza a bit tighter than usual, and so that is probably why the kids were singled out sometimes.

Sammy the doorman could not resist Eliza, and was constantly bantering with her and all the Osberg kids, they were so full of life and news and questions. But how long would management at the UN Plaza put up with it? It all depended on who was on the side of the Osberg’s side! For now the kids came and went and it was actually lonely and quiet like a church when they left for a long vacation with their folks, but then they’d clamor back home and Sam would smile and pretend indifference when he saw Tom the Deskman looking at him from inside the building where he sat at a huge mahogany desk you’d usually see in airports.

“Hey kids,” he said like Santa Claus.

“Hi Sammy,” they answered back.

Eliza’s nauseous feelings dissipated as the doorman led them to the revolving doors. Once in the beautiful, richly smelling lobby any discomfort Eliza felt melted away, her rosy cheeks returning. Her nose picked up more expensive perfume, leather, glass even the cigarette smoke aroma was pleasing and evenly fresh.

They ran to the elevators laughing and carrying on as usual. A bank of 3 elevators stood like pylons to the sky. Glinda pushed the up arrow button. John McGrath was on duty and took them up to the 23rd floor. Fresh, sweet perfumed smelling warm air was coming out of the elevator fan hanging discreetly above. Eliza put her face up to catch a whiff, like the odor of a brand new car. It felt good on her face and felt revived to be back home. And at least Central Park had been fun and she’d gotten cotton candy for her treat there. The remnants dotted her faced and lips. Eliza also had some cotton candy stuck in her matted curly hair.

“Cold out?”

“Yup,” said Richard, who didn’t converse very much, but liked John, so made the effort to speak a few words and show recognition. “We played soldiers.”

“I’ll bet,” he said as he straightened his name tag.

“It’s really nasty out there,” said Eliza.

“Where you kids coming from?”

“The youth group.”


“We were playing in Central Park!”

“Oh.” He stared down at them with a huge smile on his big gentle looking face. His black uniform made him look more official than what the position of elevator operator was, but the kids had always treated him like he mattered to them and was important in their eyes. They looked up to him and that’s what he liked most about them. Mrs. Osberg was very generous around Christmas too.

“Where’s Roy?” He asked.

“Probably upstairs by now and sipping hot chocolate,” said Eliza

John slowly reached into his front shirt pocked.

“More sports pins, John?”

John nodded knowingly and retrieved a pin with a little football attached to it. “Oh yes!”

“Wow, why does he get that?” asked Eliza.

“Because he is the oldest and he loves football!” said little Glinda.

“Give him this, Rich, okay?”

“OK,” said John placing the little trinket in the palm of Rich’s plumpish hand.

Finally they reached 23 just as Eliza’s ears popped.

“Bye kids, be good!”

“Bye John,” they all said in unison.

They walked to their apartment and rang the bell. The door slowly opened and Roy was there smiling at them. The little dark haired oldest Osberg smiled. He wore braces and glasses but was dressed immaculately in a white tailored shirt and black dress pants with shiny men’s shoes that always made Glinda and Eliza laugh when they talked about them because their next door neighbor Mr. Ackermann wore the almost same ones, except his had little designer holes in them.

“Hey you guys,” he said excitedly as he let them in. He could be a handsome boy one day when the braces came off and the eyes cleared up. But for now he wore them like badges, not seeming to mind or notice, and he even had to go through getting his wisdom teeth out at a very early age in his teens. It would probably make the robust looking kid stronger when he got older. There was also a barely visible scar on Roy’s left thumb from when the boy ran through a plate glass door when they lived in a house in New England. He’d almost lost that thumb if not for the quick thinking paramedics that responded.

“Roy!” said Eliza, happy to see her older brother. She hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Here, this is from John,” said Richard, handing Roy the football pin.

“Hey, thanks.” Roy looked at the little pin and hooked it on Eliza’s shirt lapel.

“Roy!” She wore it like a metal and this one was special with a little golden plated football attached and it was the Washington Red Skins.

“Look, it’s Indians,” said Roy, knowing full well his kid sister’s love for the Indians!

“Thanks so much!” said Eliza.

The kids walked into the beautiful co-op. It smelled like fresh flowers and their mother’s expensive cologne, plus Mr. Osberg had come home tonight and everyone was in the den and Eliza could smell him clearly with his Aramis Cologne and expensive suit smell mixed with rich cigarette smoke. Sometimes she got a whiff of his breath after he’d had a few bites and sips of his Vodka and Herring delight he so loved; and it was comforting, not smelly nor offensive. He was such a fastidious man and was so clean shaven and put together so right, even with a toupee.

“There’s a lady here who is going to take care of us now,” revealed Roy.

“No more Vera the terror?” screamed Eliza.

“Nope, she’s gone!”

“Really?” asked the disbelieving Glinda, even getting up and looking out the den door into the long hallway leading to the maid’s quarters.

“This new woman’s in the den with mom and dad talking. She’s really nice, I met her!”

“Wow, neato!” said Rich.

They all walked into the cozy den. This room was decorated in very expensive brown intricate wallpaper and a huge Marc Chagall hung ever so exquisitely above the expensive Italian couch. The windows faced toward the tip of the Empire State Building, as well as the PanAm building to the right, and the Chrysler Building’s twinkling church looking lights to the left. The East River was lit up all around, and the George Washington Bridge stood to the foreground, cars flashing like stars. Trash and tugboats slowly drifted on the water, their little portals shining and cozy looking! When they came in and were seated, everyone sat quietly for a moment looking at the view that never seemed to get tiresome. In fact, it exuded their parent’s tastes.

Each child kissed their dad and sat on the couch. Mrs. Osberg was in the French chair dressed to the nines. The apartment itself was immaculate and glamorous. Mrs. Osberg was very particular about her decorators and furniture.

Lena Osberg could have been someone! With her almost Broadway career behind her and the contacts she stayed in touch with it was easy to still entertain with the idea of being known and ‘in the know’. The way she dressed and carried herself was very elegant and well put together. Blond long hair in a bun, her trademark cherry lipstick, signature white outfits and nifty flat heeled shoes in all colors and styles. The smell of Chanel #5 or A’rpeage French cologne at $100 an ounce. She shopped at Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and even I Magnin. The glamorous woman knew a lot of well heeled, high placed people and celebrities, singers and character actors. Her charity work and past paired her with many a surprise actor or singer who had even babysat them when they stayed at the UN Plaza apartment.

Their Mother Lena loved glamour! That mixed with the need to be different than all the rest, and know she was sparked with a special aura about her. Mrs. Osberg was gorgeous; she knew it. Lena was elegant, she knew. The woman who loved wearing all white and mink was outspoken and to the point; everyone around her knew that. Lena was simply smashing, gorgeous and vivacious. She didn’t smoke nor drink, except sometimes socially. She’d taken good care of herself through the years of having so many children. If all had went as planned there would have been many more kids, but she did have a few miscarriages. She and Victor had been busy, as the Kennedy’s were.

Lena could carry a conversation on for hours and absolutely lived for being in “The Know”. She was smart and raised well, fine bred in the Fine Arts, she sang opera like it was a walk in the park; Lena could play the piano and once had aspirations of either being a concert pianist or singing in the opera, but after a stint on Broadway, she met Victor Osberg and her mothering instincts overcame loving living out of a suitcase. But on the other hand, Lena used her theatrical background to her advantage; her public speaking skills took her to various forums and panels, as well as at parties in the “industry” both media and music, plus movies. In many ways it was rubbing off on Eliza, but more so with Glinda. Some called her over-dramatic, many called her beautiful and a great opera singer and the woman could raise funds for just about any cause related the The Arts!

“Kids, I’d like you to meet Gemma,” said Lena.

A young, petite light skinned black woman sat on the chair and smiled brightly.

“Kids, this is Gemma, our new housekeeper!” added Victor.

“Hello,” they all said in unison.

“She’s going to take care of you and cook, clean and keep our apartment orderly,” said Mrs. Osberg.

“I’m from Jamaica,” said the bright eyed lady.

Eliza remembered the sneering, ugly, old white face of Vera, and this new lady seemed anything but terrifying, Eliza could sense that right away!

“Wow,” they all said again in unison.

“You kids are cute, Ras…!” exclaimed Gemma, using the word “Ras” as in “Wow”.

“And she cooks!” said Eliza’s mother. “And I know what you’re thinking Eliza! You can tell right away that Gemma is a really sweet person, unlike Vera,” added Lena. She turned to Gemma. “That’s the lady we’d made the big mistake of hiring last year before we moved here to the UN Plaza, so things were a bit hectic.”

Eliza would always be haunted by Vera and remembered the incident with her younger sister getting her mouth washed out with Phisoderm nursing soap by Vera. Eliza recalled Glinda’s face turning beet red and she was screaming in terror, they both were.

Eliza stared deeply into Gemma’s twinkling brown eyes, and saw only kindness and depth she never saw in Vera’s dark grey winkers.

“I only have bad memories of Vera,” said Eliza.

Little Glinda and even Roy nodded. They would always carry the harsh memory of Vera the Terror, as they all called her.

“It takes a lot to push Roy to lose his temper like Vera and her sister Loretta did to the kids behind our backs!” admitted Mrs. Osberg.

Eliza cut in, “He ended up chasing them around the apartment with a steak knife until they locked themselves in the den bathroom.”

“They’d rile the kids up and tease them, and then claimed it was Eliza who was riling them up. Once Eliza had a terrible ear infection,” explained Mrs. Osberg.

“The school called and Vera come in a taxi and practically dragged Eliza by her sore ear to the cab and home,” explained Mr. Osberg easily remembering the incident and how they hadn’t seen how Vera was at first. “An aide saw the whole thing out the window and phoned us both!”

“Instead of trying to relieve Eliza’s apparent pain she told my daughter to go straight to her room, undress and get to bed with no t.v. on,” said Mrs. Osberg. “She told us that Eliza had been sent home from school for pretending to be sick, so at first of course we believed Vera…” She shot a loving glance of guilt toward Eliza and this had not been the first time Lena hadn’t believed her daughter hurt or ill. It’s just that she didn’t want her kids hurting, and sometimes she assumed they were playing wolf.

“But eventually by that evening the truth was out about Vera. Now that’s wrong and I should have seen that one coming. Luckily I called Fern and she and her sister flew in and took care of things for awhile until we found you Gemma!”

“Fern?” asked Gemma curiously.

“Oh, yes, we employed 2 sisters Fern and Ginny, wonderful women, to care for the kids years before Vera came into our employ,” said Victor.

“Remember, they have their own families,” said Mrs. Osberg.

But Eliza knew that Fern and Ginny just can’t stay away from the Osbergs, and the pay was very lucrative and the work was very fulfilling and busy, plus they get the fringe benefits of staying at the prestigious UN Plaza when their services were needed!

Mrs. Osberg added easily, “We would never ask them to uproot.” She leaned forward as if telling a secret. “The bottom finally fell out when Vera got so brazen as to steal my Bloomingdale’s charge plate and bought a $90 coat. She told everyone that my husband gave her permission!”

“Me Ras!” said Gemma almost dreamy-like as her cheery eyes took in the elegance of 23E.

“She was unceremoniously fired and we’ve never heard from her again and if we do the police will be involved. I did make a complaint!” said Victor.

Eliza didn’t mention that the kids had seen Loretta, Vera’s redheaded sister. She said Vera got another job on Park Avenue for some family and was making big bucks and that if “you kids want to come up to my place, I’ll make you a nice spaghetti dinner” to which the kids never accepted. As she walked away Eliza and Glinda would make fun of her.

Now this wonderful, young, friendly lady, eyes dancing with fun, stood before the kids laughing and carrying on with them.

After that, before dinner Eliza started to run her bath, Gemma came up and a said, “We’re gonna’ have so much fun, ras child! She even helped Eliza run her bath, and then washed her tangled naturally curly hair for Eliza which was a luxury. Even Glinda hopped in the tub as Gemma began to wash their hair and laugh with them. The Jamaican’s hands were supple and gentle and her demeanor kind. She had 4 children of her own and lived in Brooklyn with her husband Lev, whom Mrs. Osberg ended up getting a high profile job working at the UN Garage.

“Gemma, I like you,” said Glinda as she rinsed off.

“Me too!” added Eliza as she dunked her head under the warm cloudy water in the tub and all the grim and dirt of playing in the middle of Central Park came off of her like a second skin! It felt great to be clean and warm. Her fingers were still a bit frozen and were thumping, but soon that would subside once she was dry and in her night gown watching the latest t.v. show this evening.

It’s going to be my first night staying with you kids!”

“Yea,” cried both girls.

Gemma would sleep in her quarters and all the children were looking forward to it. That evening Eliza’s parents left for a glamorous party upstairs where Mr. and Mrs. Glass lived.

Gemma said, “I’m going to make ya’all hamburgers and French fries – a real treat for you!”

It looked good and all the kids were talking and conversing. “We’re so glad Vera is long gone. Gemma can you be a real ‘Gem’ to us?” asked Eliza.

Gemma smiled nicely and nodded.

They all watch TV in the den. Then Glinda fell asleep on the couch and Gemma ended up carrying the cute pixy to bed.

“Good night Gemma, thanks,” said Eliza as Gemma tucked them both in.

“Sure Sweetie. Kiss me dede,” she said kissing them each on the forehead.


The next day rose into a bright sparkling winter morning as the sun lifted slowly into the sky. It’s orange rays bounced and climbed over the East River winding its way around the various scrubby green parks dotting the streets of the lower East Side of Manhattan! The famous Twin Towers were in the foreground the 2 gleaming and sparkling like a contessa of diamonds all 110 floors of them!

Cars, buses and brigades of yellow cabs made their way up 1st Avenue as day overcame the twinkling lights of The Big Apple. And on the opposite end of the World Trade Center buildings, facing The Western Front across the street from the United Nations Building stood 2 tall, brilliant buildings rising up over Tudor City. The UN Plaza Towers stood alone in all their own gleaming glory!

Eliza, the curly-headed rambunctious 10 year old stared down at the long rows of shiny black foreign delegate cars lining up in front of the UN Rose Gardens. They looked like her brother’s Match Box collection, so small, yet so dignified even from that high up, over 20 stories!

She awoke to the slight commotion beginning at the UN Building, just a slight ripple of a clamor with men running to and fro, and even police cars taking positions on all 4 corners. “Wow, something is really going on today,” she said aloud. Eliza caught the slight strains of the scratching sound of radios and walkie talkies drifting all the way up to her bedroom!

The East River glistened in the background, with the 59th Street Bridge to the left and the George Washington Bridge in the distance picking up the slack for a spectacular view. It was always breathtaking, especially when something big was about to go down at the United Nations, which faced Eliza and Glinda’s bedroom.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy along with his family lived in on the 14th floor in the other tower and brushed by Eliza like a normal everyday thing. Eliza even remembered the Senator coming in the elevator and actually meeting her gaze and looking straight at her big feet, probably wondering if she were a boy or a girl! It was hard to believe he’s been assassinated not even a year ago. Then on the day of Kenney’s funeral, Eliza had full eye contact and a conversation with Ethel, who at that time was dressed in all black and heading for her husbands funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where even Eliza’s mother and grandmother attended and sat in the front row.

Her father and brothers and sister were upstairs in their dad’s den watching it on t.v. scanning for them in the crowd. Meanwhile Eliza had sneaked away to the other tower through the large lobby that connected them. She followed all the wires from t.v. cameras and broadcast equipment right up to the elevators. Elevator 3 opened and she walked in with a bunch of people in dark suits. She hid to the back and was not noticed. The elevator slowly made its way up to the 14th floor and Eliza stood transfixed as Ethel Kennedy walked slowly into the elevator. As the elevator traveled down to the lobby Eliza boldly went up to Robert F. Kennedy's widow who was dressed in all black. Eliza said directly to the woman, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay, Mrs. Kennedy!” Eliza said trying to imitate how her dad said it to her when she was very ill last winter. It calmed her then and she hoped it would steady Mrs. Kennedy.

“I know, Dear,” said Mrs. Kennedy curiously looking down at Eliza. Mrs. Kennedy was now a widow and Eliza looked into the black veil and spotted a single tear making its way down Ethel's smooth young face! She smiled at Eliza and everyone in the elevator were transfixed for a split second, until the doors opened on the Lobby level and she exited with her entourage in tow as a million and one flash bulbs and camera lights shined on her. Eliza had stayed in the elevator with Juan the operator. The clamor followed Mrs. Kennedy’s exit out the revolving doors and into a big black stretch limo. Eliza rode the elevator with Juan back up to 23, and thanked him. “Do you think Tom will tell?” asked Eliza speaking of the head front desk man who had been with the UN Plaza since it was built.

“I don’t know, Miss, you know him pretty well!”

“We’ll see, thanks Juan! By the way why didn’t they make the UN Plaza an even 40 floors instead of 38?” the imaginative, creative kid asked the old Cuban elevator man.

“I don’t know that one ‘neither, Miss Osberg,’ said Juan sweetly, but with dignity.

"Do you think it could have something to do with the 13th floor, look it’s even listed on the elevator panel?” Eliza pointed to the fancy board of round yellow lights. “Most of my friend’s buildings don’t even have a 13th floor.

“Well, I hear that most large buildings in New York City skipped the number entirely,” said Juan as Eliza left and skipped away. She was a whippersnapper that was for sure…

Now Eliza sat on the window sill pondering where Ethel Kennedy and her kids had gone, which later she found out was Virginia, or Cape Cod. They used to live in the East Tower on the 14th floor!

Eliza was eagerly joined by her sister and two older brothers Richard and Roy.

“Can’t you tell that there’s something really big going on today?” said Eliza looking out at the great expanse of the city with the East River simmering with tug boats, tour boat company Circle Line and even barges hulking with trash sifting back and forth.

As she was thinking about Robert Kennedy, and the day she met him and they had a “moment” in the elevator, a vibrating sound shook the window.

Suddenly, out of nowhere a roaring black helicopter flew by. Eliza’s eyes almost popped out of her skull when she saw it. They all jumped back startled.

Eliza wondered if other tenants heard the commotion or made any big deals about it after so many years.

“I hope it doesn’t wake mom up,” said the concerned Richard, always worried about his mom Lena.

It was Tuesday morning as their mother Lena Osberg slept like a log, not even an atom bomb could disturb her deep sleep, in the sprawling master bedroom. Their father, Victor Osberg had flown to where he maintained a lace factory in New England and manufactured lace and odd women’s underwear with no cotton crotch. They were innovated in Victor Osberg’s mind, so he was trying to make them all the rage and that included his daughters wearing them! Lena always wore them; she had them in 3 different colors and designs and didn’t mind that there wasn’t a solid crotch.

Eliza’s father spent 3 days there at his two bedroom apartment, and then he’d rent a seaplane and fly back to New York City for 3 days. He usually rented the smaller plane, but sometimes flew commercial.

The Osbergs received the best tables in the restaurants, the best service, #1 seats in the theaters and the best rooms in hotels. It was in Mrs. Osberg’s nature to strive for the big things in life. She got it, but not quite like it should have been! But an interesting life for Eliza lay ahead and was destined!

The 4 of them watched out the bedroom window as the Black Hawk helicopter hovered slowly down to the front lawn of the UN and landed. People passed by it as if it was another every day occurrence. As the roaring rotors stopped their twirling a few Secret Service agents flooded the perimeter around the copter. Nothing happened at first. The kids got impatient and had to get ready for school.

“Wait, hang on,” said Eliza. “Just one second!”

“Nothing’s happening!” answered Eliza’s older brother Roy. “Who cares anyway?” He got off the window sill. Eliza knew that was standard for her older brother, who seemed to lose interest before she or her sister and other brother Richard did. He’d gone back to his bedroom he shared with his brother and was dressing for school. The oldest Osberg sibling attended a different one than his brother and sisters and there was talk about sending him to a ritzy boarding school in Upstate, New York somewhere, which sounded very exciting to Eliza, who sometimes wished she was a boy!

“Do you think Darrin or Dum-Dum know what’s happening?” asked Glinda, spaeking of the UN Plaza elevator men they knew like uncles, and Glinda felt a bit scared.

“I’m sure they’ve been briefed since they do work in the building,” said Richard trying to sound like a policeman he so loved and respected.

Just then, as Eliza was about to give up herself, the helicopter doors opened and 3 men got out. They surrounded a cloaked figure dressed in black and grey Arab uniform, with his ‘signature’ turban.

“Look, its Arafat,” yelled Eliza, her nose glued to the window.

Gemma, their Jamaican housekeeper breezed in. “Time for breakfast,” said Gemma in a thick West Indies-like lilted accent. She’d been with the Osbergs for almost 3 years and was hired soon after they moved in to the well known UN Plaza Apartments. She had quickly become almost desensitized to the Osbergs constant clamor and energy, which was very high and it wasn’t just stupid kids talking like parrots.

They brought up interesting facts, and asked many questions. And not just run of the mill questions… Questions that deserved an honest and long drawn out answer. These kids drew you out of your shell which Gemma had put herself in at first. She retreated by locking her bedroom door at the UN Plaza and watching her t.v. and ignoring them at first, especially in the evenings after she’d looked after and cleaned up after them. But as the months passed she became very involved with the kids, and that was mostly due to Fern, a very close family friend who cared for them even longer before Gemma had arrived. Not that Gemma was ignoring her duties, she knew how to handle things, and the kids did mind her.

Gemma could just imagine how the school teachers dealt with this group!…A smile came to the sweet Jamaican woman’s lips… Her big white teeth were wide and strong. She looked, at that time, in her crisp white nurses uniform and white shores, like an angel with a twinkle in her soft brown eyes. She put in many years at the Osberg residence and would probably always be there for years to come. Just then the apartment phone rang. Gemma answered. It was Tom the desk man who had been there since the building opened in 1966, and it was amazing how he ran the front lobby, like a clock. He didn’t take any crap. “Just want to remind you to keep a sharp on those kids today, Gemma,” he said briskly. Yassar Arafat is around and there’s going to be demonstrations and a big ruckus and I know I’m sticking my foot in my mouth, but keep the kids away from there, please!” he pleaded.

“Yes sir,” Gemma answered in that soft voice she used to soothe Glinda when she was crying or fussy.

“I’m talking about when they go off to school. They’ll have to leave out the back entrance of the East Tower…Have them use the service elevator down to the cellar, then wall down the hallway to the other tower and get on do as instructed. I’ve called the school and the school van and they know of this situation,” said Tom officially.

Eliza attended PS 59, otherwise known as Beekman Hill School.
“But Mr. Shelley,” said Gemma. “They’ve been taking public transportation rather than being picked up.”

Tom’s voice was livid. “What? You mean to tell me they are not being picked up by the usual school bus van or limos like the other kids in the building and surrounding area?”

Gemma was silent then avoided it all by saying, “I will make sure they make it to the bus stop far from the UN Building, Mr. Shelley.”

“Please do!” He hung up.

As Glinda and Eliza got ready for school they laughed and joked with each other as Gemma went to the kitchen and started breakfast and started explaining the plan to the children who saw it all as a game like on TV!

“Just like on the Mod Squad, I wanna’ be Peggy Lipton,” shouted Eliza.

Roy ran in and turned on the little black and white t.v. set in the kitchen. It was a “special report” which always intrigued the kids because of the seriousness of the situation and that it directly affected them because they lived right by the eye of the hurricane!

“Do you have all your school things?” Gemma breezed out of the kitchen and into the girl’s bedroom down the hall.

Their Aunt Dorothy decorated their bedroom in shades of orange, black and white. Ripe stripes of color ran above along the upper walls that were wall papered the expensive way. There was bright “orange” wall to wall shag carpeting with the two beds on either side of the bedroom. And of course the Orange bedspreads and white wicker headboards, even a little white wicker elephant used as a nightstand blended interestingly. Some of the furniture in their bedroom was converted from their nurseries; a white wicker rocking chair and a delicate lamp with a statue of a white angel holding up the bulb. Pretty frilly paintings hung on their walls as well as the girl’s own artwork and scribblings.

Both girls were dressed and had grabbed their book bags and were in the kitchen where a nice nutritious breakfast of poached eggs, crispy lean bacon, lightly buttered toast and freshly squeezed juice awaited them awaited them. Roy and Richard were already at the round glass table chowing down. They all ate heartily and with gusto, but the Osberg children were reared on the ‘salad fork’, and showed much decorum at the dining table, except sometimes Eliza, who acted up and usually got a reprimand. It was Mr. Osberg doing the yelling about it, but he wasn’t around this morning.

And when he was gone, the Osberg children ran wild and their mother indulged them with money for Bernie’s Candy Store downstairs in the Delegates Lobby while she arranged big charity events and fund raisers for certain colleges and organizations! Her resume reads like a “who is who of entertainment”, but like most mother’s involved in The Arts, she also exposed her children to many things that were not on the menu of the other families at their schools and after school centers. But Lena was able to make many friends and occupied herself with family, running seemingly endless shopping errands plus her husbands anal demands to pick up his dry cleaning, have a certain type of dinner or just be ready to go out at the drop of a hat. She, Lena ran the household smoothly and with such formality in her even and electric way!

Victor Osberg took care of them all though and took them to vacation places and Europe with his wife in the summertime while the kids went to 9 week summer camps in Maine. He lavished everything he had on his beautiful, worldly wife Lena and his four children! Life was very good at that moment and neither would change a thing. Although, he had to admit that he was a little hard on his wife, her being from that entertainment Broadway crowd, raised by a daddy that indulged her every fancy, he could understand. His Navy background warranted it, so she put up with it, because they loved each other, and had actually met twice before, years ago before the fireworks burst in air in the late 1950’s after he’d gotten out of the Navy. But that is another story. Flash forward and here they were raising a family in the best apartment building on the Lower East Side in the Turtle Bay District. Lena had even attended the famed Julliard School of music which was virtually a stone’s throw from their digs. It was Heaven for Lena, and she indulged her children and encouraged them to read and take up hobbies and take a keen interest in The Arts, Broadway and The Theatre; taking them all to the Nutcracker Suite and all the Christmas and Easter shows at Radio City Music Hall hadn’t hurt them one bit.

Mrs. Osberg got a kick out of buying her girls books on which were loosely based on a little girl named Eloise who roams the halls of The Plaza Hotel. Her family was a bit more retro 1970’s than little French Eloise’s, but the books were fun to read to the kids. In fact, Lena loved to read the books out loud, which her children loved. And when they took the kids to the Plaza Hotel for dinner, there were huge posters of Eloise and everyone kept saying how much little Glinda looked like her, even though it was blatantly obvious that Eloise resembled Eliza more than Glinda.

Eliza was just too hyper for anyone to start to pay too much attention to her thus she would get too energetic, so most times they were trying to hold her down and make her quiet. Deep down inside they all knew Eliza was a special, creative little girl. Maybe with time she would be calmer. Maybe they would one day take Dr. Shipps advice and give her a pill to help her sleep. But then, maybe not.

The kids finished quickly, maybe a bit too quickly. Gemma was on to them!

“Listen to me, you kids march right down to the East Tower and out the back door and straight to the 1st Avenue bus stop. And to make sure you do, I am going with you!”

“Ohhhh, Gemma, no,” cried Richard!

“What about Roy?” asked Eliza.

“Roy’s bus is waiting outside by the East Tower.”

“Okay, Gemma,” said Roy, never misbehaving and always doing what they asked. But he asked so many questions sometimes, and it was usually questions he already knew the answers too but he wanted attention!

Though Richard was quiet and shy, he did have a very bad temper and he could get very riled up about things. Eliza was like the battery for it all to go. Glinda fussed and cried on a dime, but got away with it because she was just so cute. She looked like a little dolly crying and you just wanted to take her in your arms and rock her back and forth and sing an old Jamaican lullaby to!

Gemma got the kids ready, like an assembly line, but everyone had either a bagged lunch stuffed with goodies, or lunch money.

She walked them out the door, waited at the elevator, rode it down, and walked them to the back entrance of the East Tower. Roy’s van was there and she deposited him with no problems. Then she walked the other three to the bus stop on First Avenue where some other ruffian looking children waited. As soon as they spotted Gemma, they started laughing and making racial slurs, something Gemma never tolerated. She gave them a very disapproving look.

As the bus came down First Avenue, Eliza was eager to get on that bus. Once they got on the bus, Eliza saw that Gemma had gotten on and was talking to the bus driver, who was a black man and Jamaican like she was. She and the bus driver got out of the bus and gave the boys a real tongue lashing which quieted them down. They were Catholic school boys and attended John Holland School farther up on First Avenue.

“You kids better mind your manners!” scolded the bus driver as Gemma left without a backwards glance. Eliza watched the little, sweet young housekeeper they had grown to love more everyday walk back to the UN Plaza.

One of the kids hustled over to Eliza. “She seems really steamed, Man,” He slurred. Something wasn’t right about these kids today.

“Leave us alone,” shouted Eliza, sort of wishing she were on Roy’s bus and going to his school rather than the rough and tumble mixed school she attended now. Not that PS 59 was all bad, she loved school.

The kids backed off when they spotted the bus driver giving them a ‘Voodoo’ eye. “Sit down boys or you’all be walkin’ to yer’ fancy school!”

The boys sat down without another word and the rest of the trip passed uneventfully. A few women got on headed uptown to the financial district were talking about the helicopter from what she’d seen on the news this morning. Eliza joined in on their conversation saying that she and her brother and sister saw Arafat and the whole thing unfolding.

“We had to go out this secret entrance that they only use in extreme emergencies!” Eliza hyped up, just to see their reaction.

Glinda laughed sweetly. Richard turned around shyly smiling and looking out the bus window.

“Where do you guys live?” asked one woman, a blond bombshell dressed in a very short mini skirt and wearing a long maxi coat.

“The UN Plaza,” said Eliza proudly.

“Wow, ritzy,” said another lady.

“Ever see any movie stars?”

That was Eliza’s cue!

“Yes, Johnny Carson and his wife!

“What’s Johnny like?”

“He’s mean!” stated Eliza simply, and knowning it was true.

“What are you saying? Johnny Carson is mean?”

"Yup, it's all an act with Johnny! He hates kids and doesn't like people!" ranted Eliza.

"He seems so sweet on his show," said one of the ladies who almost seemed crestfallen over the sudden news.

"Well, he's not, and he's yelled at us a lot, and his wife called my mother and told her we were brats for running through the lobby!"

"Really?" asked another blond, who really seemed shocked.

“Hey, shut up Eliza,” said Richard.

"No, it's true, he is mean," said Eliza. "I spilled grape soda on his golf pants by accident," admitted Eliza.

"So he had a reason to be mean! If you did it to me, I'd be mad too!"

"Well, he's mean, take my word for it! The whole deal he does on his show is a big lie, I know it for a fact," said the talkative Eliza.

“Well, this is our stop kids, if you see Johnny and he’s not acting mean, tell him I’ve got a singer he’s got to hear, okay?” She handed Eliza her card and the three women laughed and hooted and left the bus.

Eliza took the card and put it in her front pocket.

“You are not going to give it to him are you Eliza?” asked Richard.

“Maybe, maybe not!” she answered.

They would ride the city bus all the way up First Avenue. At 57th Street they would walk three blocks to 3rd Avenue where their school was. They were rarely late.

As the bus made its way down the street, the bus driver asked, “So how long has she been with you?”


“Your housekeeper!”

“Oh, about 3 years,” answered Eliza, suddenly thinking back to when Gemma had
first come to them out of the blue after a horrible stint with a housekeeper they named Vera the Terror. All the kids were glad that Gemma was there with her sister and they were also getting to know her better each month that passed. She was a good lady and had a family of her own. Two boys and two girls, plus maybe more.

“She’s happily married though,” said Eliza.

The black bus driver sighed but handled it well, probably having many girls of his own, maybe even a wife.

“Do you love Gemma, Mr. Bus Driver?” asked Glinda.

The bus driver seemed to get shy but laughed nervously. “Nooooo, ‘course not… I have a wife,” he said, trying to sound miffed.

“She’s married too, and her husband works in our garage at the UN Plaza!”

“Now that’s fine, just fine…hmmmm,” acknowledged the bus driver as he maneuvered around multiple yellow taxis and many Town Cars clogging the bus lane.

“We love her so much!” said Eliza.

“I can see that kids!”

“She’s very nice!”

“I can see that easily,” he said. “How did you find such a…a … a … a Gem?”

They all laughed.

“I think someone recommended her because the one before Gemma was this really mean older lady.” They made a face thinking of the horrible Vera.

“Well, you’all lucky to have a lady like Gemma!”

“We know, we know,” they all agreed.

Eliza thought back to the time she had first met Gemma and already the housekeeper was like one of the family.


Eliza was always very flexible. She’d be able to take her legs and fold them behind her back which would amaze even amaze the biggest and meanest of all bullies.

The curly-head, hyper girl has a fine tuned memory and could recall as far back as being 3 years old and falling asleep in the Yoga Lotus position. Mrs. Osberg would check on her daughter and would be aghast at how she folded herself all up in a round ball… Mrs. Osberg made a big problem out of it and forbade Eliza to sleep that way, as if Eliza didn’t have enough worries as it stood.

In school, starting at first grade, Eliza noticed by accident that could she could do that; the folding of her legs behind her back trick… otherwise known as, “Hey Eliza, roll up into a ball!!!!”.

But that would bring attention to her odd looking fingers, which only had 2 knuckles, instead of the customary 3 everyone had on each hand, and a few of her fingers were bent to the right, the ring fingers and the pinky on the right hand. This brought mostly “unwanted” attention to her, and that along with her crazy antics of bending her body like an Indian Yogi didn’t dull her presence that seemed to thrive on some underlying need for attention!

Then there was her keen love for the American Indians. She was so into them. And Eliza so easily had become a full fledged Far East Student as well … She would have excelled at Yoga if her parents had only allowed her even though she did have a lot of freedom of expression thanks to her mother and father.

Her dad had much experience with it when he did a stint in the Navy in the early Fifties. He’d taken a liking to the Oriental culture and art, and had many things Oriental.

They were not encouraging her to do the Yoga, and seemed dead set against letting Eliza try it. They warned her not to do it. But in school Eliza was more popular when she did the Yoga antics. It sort of empowered her and led them to change her wardrobe from the cute little dresses to the little boy’s Danskin outfits.

It should be noted that Barbara Streisand mentioned in her semi autobiography that she too could do that same trick as Eliza could do, putting her legs behind her head and rolling up into a ball, so that fueled even more antics at school. Streisand is quoted in the book to the extent of this: “When I was a kid I remember I could do this little trick for attention. I would gather the other kids around me and would plop down on the ground and roll my legs up behind my head and roll up into a ball. I got a lot of attention, until my mother found out, and knowing I was wearing dresses… Oye, oye!’

But Eliza had her limitations too. Due to her missing knuckles she could not grip the jungle gym bars, and she could not make a full fist so later on in her lifespan she would also take a high interest in Oriental things, especially Karate, which allowed her to learn open handed jabs and techniques. That along with her flexible body would take her far when she’d finally joined a Karate school in college, which would be years from now!

Eliza had a natural enthusiasm that bordered on hyper activity but they had never given her any meds of any kind, except when she was very ill as a child and they had given her a mild antihistamine. Some wondered if maybe Eliza Osberg was out of control. In first grade she jumped up excitedly because she knew the answer to the riddle in the workbook, which came to her mind quicker than most of the other normal students in the large classroom. Mrs. Slusskin was standing over the child and suddenly Eliza jumped up and knocked the teacher with the top of her little curly head, clocking the teacher in the chin, making a bloody mess! At first they thought perhaps she may have hit the teacher on purpose out of an anger outburst, but a little German boy saw it all and saved Eliza from the gallows! It was the shy, quiet boy who still donned the traditional German suspenders and leather chap looking shorts and intricately woven top!

Roland & Eliza! They made a great pair, like Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney. Captain & Tennille. Minnie & Mickey Mouse?

When Roland and Eliza met, the two became inseparable. They ate together, played together, talked non stop and tried to sit together in class. Mrs. Hamilton made it her ‘life’s blood’ to keep the two lovebirds apart, which is what it was becoming. Roland got a great kick out of kissing Eliza, and watching her roll up into a ball, so did the other kids, but when Roland’s brother Daniel asked Eliza to do her leg trick for his sixth grader buddies and kiss Roland for them, the couple agreed readily. Any attention for Eliza in her mind was good attention. So at recess practically the whole sixth grade made a beeline for the little couple, who usually sat together under in the sandbox building things with excess cinder blocks they’d found. The kids made a circle around them! Eliza and Roland did their ‘thing’!

“Now kiss!” Every coaxed.

They kissed, holding each other close.

“Woooo, what a kiss,” said one boy in awe.

“Now do that trick Eliza, do it, do it!”

Everyone began chanting, “Do it, Do it Eliza, Do it!”

The whole crowd was chanting louder and louder until the usually distant 9th graders across the fence over at the High School of Art & Design even looked in.

“Do it Eliza, Do it, Do it, Do it Eliza, Do it, Do it!”

And she did, very well indeed. Everyone screamed with glee, some others in shock, this girl Eliza could really tie herself up…”Wow!”

But ‘acting’ principal Averberg had been looking out from his “parapet” at the whole incident from beginning to end, and he was going to take action. He called Mrs. Hamilton, of all his staff, in and said, “Go see what that’s all about!”

“Yes, Mr. Averberg,” said Mrs. Hamilton, loving the authority that her job lended. She went outside and walked up to the group, with her hands on her hips. She spotted Roland and Eliza on the ground in full swing! They were not acting dirty or causing bad things, but on the contrary it was making everyone laugh, so much so that some students who were usually bullying were rolling around laughing and holding their stomachs in glee over the trick Eliza did and how the 1st grade couple would kiss and show cute love for each other, budding love, not dirty.

Mrs. Hamilton watched with eyes squinting in rising anger as Eliza jumped up and down then put her legs way behind her head so effortlessly that it was like being in a circus!

Mrs. Hamilton ran into the crowd of kids and grabbed Roland by the collar and pushed him away. “Stand there,” she yelled. Eliza looked up from the ground. She’d been laughing and carrying on then saw an upside down Mrs. Hamilton glaring at her and for a second she saw Marla’s ugly triangle face mixed in there, but there was something else in Mrs. Hamilton’ eyes, pure unadulterated hatred, maybe even slight racism rearing its ugly head during that time. The woman did have access to school records, and her daughter let her know where Eliza lived and all that that entailed. So Mrs. Hamilton must feel a mixture of things that would breed such a scathing attitude that had been building all through Eliza’s years at Beekman Hill School.

Eliza realized then that she was in big trouble. The plucky little tomboy nimbly got to her feet, dusted herself off and faced Mrs. Hamilton pretending she was famous Apache war chief Geronimo, an Indian that she so admired through her love and study of American Indians!

Mrs. Hamilton grabbed Eliza and shoved her over to where Roland stood stiffly. He unconsciously put his skinny arm around Eliza.

“You two are a menace and should not be together,” ranted Mrs. Hamilton as she came over and pushed the two friends apart again.

Eliza spotted Marla, who stood in the crowd of kids looking on and smirking. She stuck her little pink serpent-looking tongue at Eliza. The other girl ignored her and said a prayer and just smiled back as if Marla stuck her tongue out for a joke.

“I’m glad you are not my mother,” said Eliza to the irate Mrs. Hamilton.

“Girl, get, git’, git to the office now!” Mrs. Hamilton proceeded to prod the kids through the terrace and into the hallway toward the principal’s office like a prison guard. “You should be glad you ain’t my child!” She had them each held in her clamped down bony, long finger-nailed hands. The older woman took hold of Roland and Eliza’s shoulders and continued directing them like prisoners roughing them up just a tad, just enough she knew she could get away with. They walked down a long hallway to the principal’s office. She made a big point of acting like a prison guard and that’s how she treated her own kids! At that moment Eliza was grateful Mrs. Hamilton wasn’t her mom, but she did not feel anything for Marla at this point. They reached the principal’s office.

“Sit down, you here,” directed Mrs. Hamilton like a Nazi SS man. Almost like a Gestapo officer, Mrs. Hamilton goose-stepped down the hall and out of sight.

Across from them Eliza spotted the boy who had earlier shot a rubber band at little girl sitting in an adjoining classroom across the hall from where he’d been sent out for being unruly. His weapon hit its mark from almost 30 feet away, by shear luck and had struck the girl square in the eye. The boy began talking to them non stop and even wanted Eliza to “roll up into a ball!”

“No, I can’t,” said Eliza exasperated. She was a bit nervous over things.

“Do you guys really kiss?” asked the unruly boy, with the ruffled black hair, dark freckles and dancing mischievous eyes darting this way and that way!

“Yes,” said Roland matter of fact. “But not for you, kid!”

Mrs. Hamilton had left them all there without another word or backward glance. She had other “fish” to fry! In her mind she’d done her job, so she returned to her post on the recess floor out on the terrace.

Roland came over to Eliza and took her hand and squeezed it. “Don’t worry, it will be okay,” he assured. His big blue eyes were soft and his blond hair ruffled over black thick rimmed glasses a bit askew upon his cute little German nose, but Eliza loved his outfit of suspenders and leathers. She also loved his lunches of ham sandwiches, Chocolate Snack pack and dried apricots that his mom packed him every day.

“You know what Eliza,” said Roland.


“One day we’ll get married and they’ll never separate us!”

“They’ll never keep us apart, Roland, no they won’t,” agreed Eliza as the rubber band boy looked on in awe and interest.

“And we’ll elope, right?”

“Can I come?” asked the bad kid, just for a second seeming to want to.

“No,” both Roland and Eliza said with finality.

“Yes, I’ll get a long ladder up to your apartment!” Said Roland, already seeing it in his little 7 year old mind’s eye.

“You guys are talking doo-doo!” The boy actually shot a rubber band he’d hidden in his shoe at them.

“Shut up kid! Said Roland who dodged the flying projectile easily.

“You shut up,” he spat back, even spitting a wad at the couple.

"Hey, stop it,” Said Eliza. “We’re in a lot of trouble too kid!”

“Yea, shut your mouth!” Roland grabbed the rubber band and stretched it until it broke and then threw it back at the boy.

At that second the principal came in. He looked at the children sitting there. Eliza and Roland were arm and arm. He shook his head in a ‘tsk, tsk’ fashion.

“Roland, Eliza,” said Mr. Averberg.

“Yes sir,” they said in unison.

He took them in the office, but he couldn’t be hard on them and already stories about Mrs. Hamilton’ tactics in the recess yard were becoming distressing. He knew Mrs. Osberg and knew the families, even Roland’s. His mother is a doctor, and both children were bright. But this was very troubling. “You can not continue to make a spectacle of yourselves,” said Mr. Averberg sternly.

“We are so sorry,” said Eliza.

“I don’t’ want to hear any excuses. If you continue to be unruly and continue to act out of hand, I’ll have to take steps,” warned Mr. Averberg. He was already planning to leave Roland back one grade, not just because of his closeness with Eliza Osberg, but he’d seem to be having problems. Maybe that would quell their friendship.

“Now I have a pressing matter to deal with here,” he said. “Did you see that boy out in the hallway?”

“Yes,” they both said in unison again. They were a very cute and intelligent couple.

“Well, that will be the last time you will see him, he’s being expelled for shooting a rubber band at a girl. That girl is in the hospital and they are trying to save her eye!”

“Oh, how terrible!”

“So I want you both to calm down and be like the ladies and gentlemen I know you can be. I know both of your families and this is not respectable for Beekman Hill School!”


“Good, now get on with you to class. I will have a chat with Mrs. Hamilton too!”

“Okay, thanks sir!”

“It’s okay kids, just don’t get into trouble and stay calm!”

“We will. We’re going to elope!”

“What? Now don’t be talking like that kids!”

“It’s true, Mr. Averberg!” Said Eliza.

“Get back to class now, and stop talking such foolery!”

The two left the office. The boy outside leaned forward in expectation, wanting to know his fate. Eliza hesitated to tell him and bit her tongue, lest she get in more trouble. She so wanted to scream it out that he was getting expelled! Roland held her hand rather tightly which helped her stare straight ahead as the boy’s parents were running down the hallway to hear the bad news. They looked so normal it was hard to believe it was that kid’s parents. Roland and Eliza walked down the hallway and knew homeroom was about to begin so they headed to Mrs. Epstein’s class! She had sat them on opposite sides but they were always making ‘goo-goo eyes’ at each other so she put Eliza facing toward the window and Roland toward the desk by the door! It was heart breaking for the couple because they so enjoyed each other. The whole class knew this, but no one said a word, but many snickered in little groups usually just making fun of the couple that seemed meant to be together! Tragic is a better word, so most fed on tragic circumstances…

Mrs. Epstein was strict and if you were quiet, she would give you a piece of candy, usually a Hershey kiss and many wanted to play that game! Roland always gave Eliza his chocolate because he could remain very quiet and would do it for Eliza, because she was the opposite, usually getting a demerit for talking and carrying on. He knew she didn’t hit Mrs. Slusskin on purpose last year. He’d seen her jump up in excitement and she didn’t realize the teacher was standing over her. If not for him maybe Eliza would have been suspended! He’d also said that she should stop with the legs behind her back. She was getting in too much trouble and more than not they were separating her and him, and he didn’t want that. They talked on the telephone until Eliza’s mother popped on wanting to call someone.

But by the Fall of the following year right before school started for 1970, Roland was to leave the country going back to his homeland. Eliza would always remember their antics, how they would play in the sandbox at school and build little houses and temples with the blocks in the sand. Their favorite game was how Roland would play a white flying horse and Eliza would direct him all over the recess terrace. They would fight imaginary enemies and dodge other kids as they would try and pull on Eliza’s naturally curly hair. Then they’d wander over to the big kids playing the game “Ride a Buck” where they would jump on the backs of kids stooped over and ride them like a bronco until there were 10 kids popping up and down, bobbing and landing pretty hard on the terrace tiles! They never did it, except once Roland was coaxed into it and got a black eye from being kneed in the face by someone! Mrs. Hamilton actually tried to say that Eliza had hit Roland in anger and that the German boy was lying to protect his little girlfriend, but Mr. Averberg would have no part of that.

At that moment Eliza thought about the one time Roland and her had ended up in her apartment building.

But while playing and running through the building they stopped on the dim lit 13th floor of the United Nations Plaza Apartments. It was decorated in dark ‘Halloween’ colors but there was a very potent odor of potpourri or some type of bitter smelling herb conjuring up images of potions and aromas.

“Be damned if you lived on the 13th floor!” Screamed the German boy who had captured Eliza’s little 7 year old heart!

“The couple who live here are friends with my parents,” pointed out Eliza to Roland. “But they are so strange. She gives my sister these little Oriental pin cushions like Voodoo dolls or something like that…and the man has a lazy left eye and is just strange all together. He paints as a hobby and it was always just rows and rows of faces, happy faces, sad faces, round, blue, red and yellow, drawn like a little kid drawing an audience of faces at a baseball game. It was shallow, yet there was some weird thing about how he did it,” said Eliza easily to Roland who just smiled, so smitten…He leaned over as she was talking and planted a sweet kiss on her cheek and held her hand softly and with awe… “I love your fingers, they’re so different!”

But later on Mr. & Mrs. 13th Floor would come to dinner and as usual Eliza would cause a stir… which would almost been comical if the couple had not lived on the
13th floor! Who knows?

“I wish we could forward in time and then be together,” said Roland as they sat on the floor of the 13th.

“I know what you mean. We’ve tried everything, but I guess we’ll have to wait until we grow up,” said Eliza. She remembered they’d tired Astro Projection and it didn’t work. They were still in this time. So they tried to pretend when they entered this alley by the school and Roland said, “When we emerge from here, it’s going to be 15 years in the future and we’ll walk away from the school and start our life. Let’s try, okay?”

“Sure, let’s do it!” They’d made a strong attempt at it, prayed, tried conjuring up the image. Then as if it really would happen, they left the alley only to find themselves where they’d always been. “Well just have to keep trying,” said Roland holding Eliza tightly.


There were moments when Eliza and Glinda got equal treatment and that’s when it was time for bed and Mrs. Osberg would bring her daughters ginger ale and crackers on 2 elegant gold trays. Lena would sit with them and read them stories out of the many books on hand in their quaint bedroom. The girls loved it. It calmed them. As she read Eloise at the Plaza, her voice took on the characters French airs and it took the girl’s to far away Europe and even the Plaza itself, where they’d been many times with their Grandma Hazel for fancy tea, although Hazel preferred The Russian Tea Room.

As For Mrs. Osberg, she read in a clear, fresh almost operatic voice, the girls were taken right to the scenes and got very excited as their beautiful mother, who really did resemble Lana Turner, the actress of the 1940’s, read Eloise at the Plaza without a flaw… The two sisters sat back under their covers and sipped their chilled Canada Dry Ginger Ales and munched on simple saltines. They looked satisfied. And Mrs. O. smelled so fresh and good and elegant. In the night Eliza could still smell her mother’s expensive odor and that was long after she’d left their bedroom and went out, or retired for the evening.

The odor actually sometimes lulled Eliza to sleep because usually their mother would spend more evening time with them when their father was away at his factory. It was a simple arrangement and everyone sort of liked it, because Victor Osberg could be very strict, even on Lena, who was a ravishing beauty and held just as much, if not more stature than her hubby Victor O!

Sometimes instead of reading to the girls, Mrs. Osberg would sing to her daughters, but they absolutely loved when she would sing an opera standard called “Papers” about a Jewish concentration camp woman trying to escape and who is stopped by the Nazis. She is being interrogated by a German officer. “Papers, Papers,…What is your name, Magda Salone, Age 42…,” Mrs. Osberg would sing the words in a high soprano opera emotional stance… Sometimes it was overwhelming, but spectacular all the same. It was as if Lena became the concentration camp woman trying to escape. The emotion on her face, her facial expressions and the way she sang the opera with a lot of gusto and emotion. She thrived on it. She loved it and secretly regretted not singing in the opera.

She sang as if she lived it. Then the sisters would reenact the song and laughed their heads off as the song intended them to do, even though its theme has sad and tragic undertones. The girls would sing and mimic the words…so much Jewish emotion, which opera seemed to thrive on. How many children’s mothers were classical pianists and opera singers?

Eliza sipped her Ginger Ale loving the taste of it. It relaxed her. She would always remember how her mother would bring the Ginger Ale and crackers before bedtime.

Also on occasion, as her daughter sat listening, Mrs. O. would sing the same songs she’d played on piano for them. One of the Osberg Daughter’s favorites was when their mother sang and played a song about a big brown bear! The kids would go wild and even Lena would lose control and play like a bartender piano in a saloon, but only for a minute or two and then it was back to the classics.

The most interesting thing Eliza noticed was her mother’s thick Brooklyn accent, and then the woman would sing and sound totally different, so styled and classically trained, not a note off, not a NY accent out of place! Singing so beautifully her accent disguised and Eliza and her siblings and father heard a high soprano, 4 octave range.

“My wife Mrs. O., what a beauty. She really does look like Lana Turner,” thought Victor Osberg. People would stop her on the street to see who she was; on occasion she was mistaken for Carol Channing, and she’d really be Channing and the kids and hubby got such a kick out of it.

“Mrs. Channing, you didn’t say you had children or that your husband was so handsome???”

“Oh yes, these are my kids and husband,” Mrs. Osberg would play along, even autographing napkins and playbills. But she did it as a gag really. And now Eliza understood why actors like Paul Newman didn’t want to give out autographs. But they got through it and went onward.

Another thing Eliza loved about her mother was how every now and then she would do a magic trick at the dinner table, which was fun and light hearted. One trick Eliza remembered was when Mrs. Osberg had a napkin but it was a sheet of magnesium paper that glowed when she lit it up. It was great fun. In fact, if not for Eliza’s mom, their dinners would most probably have been more low key. Instead they were electric, fun and lively with candles, flowers and glamour. Mrs. O. knew how to entertain well.

Eliza had seen first hand how her mother could take over a room. All eyes went to her. As if she was some celebrity… And other than in school, Eliza was proud of her mom. Maybe because Eliza’s school was mostly poor blacks and Hispanics that she felt out of place when parent’s day rolled around and her mother came to the school. Unlike all the other parents, who stood to the side and dressed down and plain looking, so as not to startle or scare their kids, Mrs. Osberg was the opposite. She didn’t mean to do it in a negative way. Mrs. Osberg was a strong personality and she was what she was…

As the teachers put the kids through their paces, Mrs. Osberg went straight over to Eliza and sat next to her and prompted her. Lena wore a white Chanel suit, a long skirt with a floor length grey mink coat, a big whit e floppy stylish hat, and a Gucci purse, smelling like Neiman Marcus!

“Would anyone like to read?” asked Mrs. Greenberg.

Mrs. O. raised her hand … “Eliza… My daughter will read!”

You could have heard the tiniest pin drop out of an earlobe!

“Anyone else,” echoed another teacher taking part.

No one dared answer. The room was frozen all eyes, some averted but still gazing at the woman in white across the classroom!

Eliza just started it… She began to read clearly and just a tad bit shaky at first… It was like someone else was reading and she was watching from above. She felt a dizzy, a strange light headed sensation as she felt the urge of wanting to scratch an itch between her shoulder blades. She didn’t even realize what she was reading, maybe it was the Canterbury Tales, or maybe even Beowulf! She stumbled over one or two words. Her mother corrected her softly. All of a sudden there was a ringing in Eliza’s ears and she felt her face turning bright red, her whole body in a cold sweat but she read on not really comprehending what she was really reading. She could smell her mom’s distinct glamour odor. Out of the corner of her eye she watched her mother in the limelight as the other parents stood to the back of the classroom some trying to feign non interest, others looking boldly on in shock, and dismay… Some whispered quietly, eyes squinted, lips in a tight fake smile. It made Eliza so uncomfortable, so isolated, so apart from where she wanted to be.

Eliza realized her mother was no Princess Grace, but she felt what maybe Princess Grace’s kids felt… Or even the Kennedy kids upstairs from the Osbergs… They felt it too, but Eliza was dead sure that Ethel Kennedy did not go to her kid’s schools and sit beside them while they read, or make her kids feel different! There was a big difference… But Eliza felt what they may have felt… She was sure of it.

It was attention she didn’t want or relish. Usually the black kids picked on her constantly, but even they had gone underground about it after Eliza snitched on them in such an offbeat and odd way. It would be something that would follow Eliza the rest of her life in different forms. Not the snitching, but the way Eliza went about getting grounded again after such an event took place.


The first time Eliza had seen or noticed Truman Capote was one evening when the Osbergs were on their way to dinner at the Coco- Cabana, a new supper club in their neighborhood where the movie “The French Connection” was filmed.

Mr. Capote got into the elevator from the hallway on the 38th floor penthouses. He’d just come from visiting and drinking with Joanna Carson, and things were not going well between her and husband, talk show host Johnny Carson; it was well known in certain social circles and in the tabloids.

Capote always had been intrigued with emotional upheaval and immersed himself in it on purpose. It fueled his writing so when he saw the Osbergs, he was dissecting them closer even though he’d knocked down a few Vodka Sours with Joanna. He seemed amused when he heard a riveted Eliza whisper to her well dressed father, “Daddy, he smells weird, and why is his nose so red?”

“Shhhh, be quiet Eliza,” scolded Lena Osberg all decked out in a white sparkling gown and Barbra Streisand’s mink coat. There was something about this family that lended an underlying upstrungness that could not be denied! Things seemed to be swirling around them like bees to honey. It was a very high energy probably due to Mrs. Osberg’s personality and aura, which was so up and dazzling.

Anyone in the building with any sense could see that Eliza was a tomboy through and through. Glinda had cute looks and her smile was bright and glistening; the brothers Roy and Richard were clear faced, but slightly overweight in the cheeks, like you want to pinch them every second like a doting grandmother!

Capote heard at the meeting that Lena Osberg was an accomplished opera singer and concert pianist. He’d love to sit down and chat with her. She also did a stint on Broadway as well. Intriguing and interesting signals he received. The children seemed orderly but he’d heard stories from Joanna that they were rambunctious and loud. She had also filled him in on the Kennedy play day that went so awry.

“But J Dear, aren’t I as rambunctious and loud as the kids too! Capote wore a plain blue denim shirt with blue jeans, shoes with no socks. The elevator man seemed a bit overly friendly with the Osberg girls, and they were chatting non stop to him. It bothered many but not Truman.

The next time Eliza and Truman Capote crossed paths was the following Sunday when
the Osberg kids were on their way to the bike room in the East Tower, then over to the park next door to the UN Plaza.

He noticed Eliza’s huge feet. She smiled up at him, reminding him of Pippy Longstocking! Her sister was very petite and cute, pixy girl cute, like a shiny button! Capote wore his signature straw hat, dressed down jeans and shirt with an antique silver flask filled with the best Russian Vodka money could buy hidden in his shirt pocket. He was walking his bulldog Maggie, who was an unruly and unfriendly jealous animal that you only petted if you liked the sound of snapping teeth and a low grunting growl.

“Your nose is red,” said Eliza. She kneeled down and petted his dog.

“What’s the dog’s name?”

“Maggie, but she might bite you!”

“You smell funny,” said Glinda.

Both girls broke out in innocent laughter. Capote was not fazed, in fact, he found it quite amusing. It’s a good idea to get down to a kid’s level and try that on…

Maggie got nervous with all the talking and clamor of children in the elevator’s small space. She barked a hoarse whisper of a yelp and bared her crooked missing teeth and backed up against the wall.

Adolfo was on duty and joked with the Osberg kids. They were not like the usual indifferent children that lived at the UN Plaza. Those kids were snotty and aloof, but the Osberg brood was like the piñata swinging at a fiesta. It was fun to tease them and pretend the elevator was stuck, and then shut the lights out and say, “We’re going to go sideways!” Adolfo would do a funny ’23-Skado’ dance step when he said it! The kids loved it, but Eliza was scared most of all because of her earlier ordeal at the amusement park when she a mere baby.

Everyone who worked in the building joked around with the Osberg kids, some tenants not liking it. Having hired help fraternizing with the most nosiest and unruly neighbor’s children was like fingernails against a blackboard for some.

“Why is your nose so red?” Asked Eliza looking up at Capote, trying to suppress a grin.

“I’m Santa Claus,” he quipped back at her. Capote needed a comeback and observed Eliza up and down with his piercing blue eyes squinting merrily. He was looking for something. He found it and pointed to her sandaled large feet and said loudly and clearly “And you my dear have ‘dirty toenails’!’” He emphasized “dirty toenails”.

Everyone in the elevator, even Eliza, cracked up, including the operator who was supposed to be akin to the London silent guardsmen you tried to make laugh.

“Dirty toenails, dirty toenails, dirty toenails,” laughed Richard.

“That’s right,” said Capote. “Dirty toenails! Not mine, hers! Mine are clean he said removing his expensive Italian shoes with no socks.

Even Eliza started to laugh because her toenails were uncut and dirty. It wasn’t a very pretty site, and her feet were also oversized for her age, so the 10 year old tomboy stuck out like a sore thumb with a size 8 shoe!

From that time until they moved, when Truman and Eliza met he’d utter the 2 words that would have them cracking up and roaring with laughter. It became infectious, because most in the vicinity knew Truman Capote and what he wrote and stood for. After a few months it was almost like Capote and Eliza shared a strange friendship. Even when they’d spot each other in the lobby or when the elevator door opened they would acknowledge each other almost fondly. It was odd and many did notice and told Mr. Osberg. He would roll his eyes after they’d told him and left him standing dumbfounded in the elevator almost having to ride all the way back up…

It was almost as ludicrous as when Johnny Carson invited him to go skydiving in the coming months since they’d moved in the building. Victor had declined the offer and it was at a building party so Johnny had a few in him and Osberg brushed it off as they sat together talking about the latest issues. Carson thought Osberg had a good head on his shoulders and was interested in what made his lace mill tick and how he managed to balance his time and shuttle between New York and Rhode Island!

But it would a few weeks later when Mr. Osberg was out of town at the lace factory. It was during Eliza’s spring break. She’d gone by herself to the park when she bumped into “The Grass Harp” author who was about to drive away in his Aqua blue convertible Mercedes with Maggie in the back.

“Well, it’s the ‘Dirty Toenails Tomboy!”

“Hi Red Nosed one,” teased Eliza back at him, not batting an eye. Suddenly she felt like Tatum O’Neal in the new movie that was becoming the rage “Paper Moon” with Ryan O’Neal! Eliza felt like that character Tatum played. She sidled up to his car, the steering wheel on the opposite side than American cars! She boldly petted Maggie. “I want to have a ride,” she half demanded just as Maggie snapped at her fingers.

“I don’t know, Maggie doesn’t like you very much. She’s jealous…”

“Please, it looks like fun!”

Truman was debating with himself. He felt a bit drawn to this offbeat little girl. She sort of made him feel like a child again. Blurting out whatever came to mind, running wild through the elegant lobby, unknowing of the right manners or decorum or at least pretended not to. In a strange way his main character from “In Cold Blood” had a slanted innocence under the surface.

“Okay, hop in. I’ll tool you around the block….”

“Great, thanks!” Eliza climbed in and seat belted herself in.

Sammy the Doorman helped Eliza and shut the snazzy door of the vehicle. He knew very well how Mr. Capote drove and maybe that he might be a bit tipsy. “Does your mother know about this, Eliza?” He asked in earnest, only trying to protect the little girl.

“Yes Sammy,” she lied while sitting in the front seat of the Truman Capote’s blue Mercedes. He took off with a screech and picked up speed fast, leaving the doorman stunned and worried. Even Tom at the front desk stood up when he saw Capote driving off with little Eliza Osberg in the front seat!

Eliza’s curly, frizzy hair blew in all directions. Maggie began barking her whispery yelp, but by now Eliza was not afraid. Truman maneuvered the car expertly, but with more speed and gusto than more drivers out that day! He wasn’t a pro, but more of a speed demon. It was in his blood as well as expensive Vodka!

They raced up Beekman Place, and onto 1st Avenue, and then took a fast turn onto Riverside Drive. Eliza watched the picturesque towers from all angles and since it was the first time she’d driven in a convertible she was very excited and it showed on her exuberant flushed face, her curls whipping in the warm New York City wind.

“So,” yelled Truman, above the din of the engine and wind. “You lied so easily to the doorman!”

For some reason, Eliza trusted Capote. He had a very dry sense of humor but he right away seemed to relate when he started with the ‘dirty toenails’ banter with the girl.

“Yea, I lied to Sammy, but I wanted to go!” Said Eliza trying to emulate the Tatum O’Neal character Adie Prayer from Paper Moon!


“Look, even Maggie likes me now,” said Eliza. She was gently stroking Maggie's fur back and the dog was responding well. Truman was impressed.

“Hmmm, you must be ok then…If Maggie lets you pet her like that!”

They sailed along Riverside Drive at an even pace, then Capote suddenly gunned the engine and they sprinted easily by the UN Building in the flashy car, drawing lots of attention which was Truman’s intentions in the first place. They drove onward toward Tudor City where a virtually unknown Robert Redford lived. In that moment Truman Capote and Eliza were so much alike!

Capote would never be able to live it down, but he liked Eliza, more than he would have other children. Even the Kennedy kids were a bit droll after Capote met Eliza. They had a reputation, and could not be children, but more like mannequins. How sad.

Eliza had spunk and chutzpah and it’s the little kid enthusiasm she showed, more than most of the other snot-nosed kids at the UN Plaza had, and Truman liked that about Eliza. But it was time to get back to reality as he reached into his front pocket and retrieved a small silver flask and took a sip. He stared at Eliza and held out the flask.

Eliza really felt like Tatum O’Neal now! She related to that character and was the same age as Tatum in that movie! She pretended in her head that she was in that movie and it fueled her imagination to the hilt.

“What’s that?” Asked Eliza, already knowing, but playing cat and mouse.

Truman ate that up. “Magic juice!”

“Can I have a taste?”

“Well that all depends. It’s pretty strong juice for adults!”

Eliza seemed confident. “I can take it. My dad let me try his Vodka once! And
I also tried it at his dry bar and mixed my own Vodka drink once. I added Ginger Ale!”

“What? How could you! Ugh…”

“That’s what is in the flask,” Eliza said and winked, trying to emanate the confidence of Tatum!

“Smart girl.”

“I know that.” She smiled brightly at the famous author as he smiled wryly at the girl

“If I give you a swig do you promise not to tell anyone?”

“I promise,” said Eliza earnestly.

“Now don’t lie to me like you did the doorman!”

“Oh, I won’t!”

His glassy blue eyes pieced Eliza’s brownish green ones. Slowly he passed his precious flask of grade-A Russian Vodka to the 10-year old girl. She took it and mimicked Tatum O’Neal’s character in Paper Moon deftly. She put the flask to her lips and took two huge big sips and swallowed with no problem, which surprised Truman Capote. Eliza felt the warm liquid go down her gullet and into her stomach. She immediately felt light headed and warm and uplifted, slightly drunk already.

“Okay Dirty Toenails, that’s enough for you,” joked Capote as he yanked the flask out of her strange looking fingers.

They both started laughing and carrying on as Capote drove back toward the Towers again and took another swig.

“Feeling tipsy, Eliza?”

“Oh yes I am Mr. Capote!”

“Know any good jokes?”

“Yes… Truman Capote,” she quipped.

“Very funny young lady!” He joked with her amiably.

“Ladies and Germs, can I have your attention!” Screamed Eliza at the top of her lungs as they passed a group of Japanese tourist about to enter the famed UN Building.

“Eliza, you are drunk,” he spat out. He gunned the engine to the hilt until Eliza thought it would burst into flames, but the liquor made her suppress the fears of her childhood.

“Yes, I am drunk,” she said tipsy-like.

“I better get you back,” he said, sort of not wanting to go back. He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a breath spray. “Here, open your mouth little girl,” he said to the kid.

Eliza closed her eyes and opened her mouth wide. She enjoyed his attention. “Ha, ha, now I smell like you!”

“I don’t want your dirty toenails! And I’ll bet you can sing like your mother!”

“Wow, Mom can sing so well,” said Eliza absentmindedly. She was watching some small commotion with a taxi and a bus by the time the sun began to set behind the Twin Towers in the foreground.

The car sped back onto the UN Plaza driveway and just one last stretch along Mitchell Place. By this time Eliza felt just a bit woozy but also elated. She had made a new friend and would not betray him. She got out of the car and headed to the park first to see who was around. After playing in the sandbox for awhile, then sliding down the largest slide, she walked slowly toward the UN Plaza, stopping in the garage to say hello to Lev, Gemma’s husband who now worked for the building. He noticed she seemed a bit more subdued than her usual high strungness but said nothing. Eliza then ran up to the bank of elevators, pushed the button and rode it all the way up to the 38th floor. She got out and walked around the penthouse level where Capote lived. Cliff Robertson lived on one side and Johnny Carson on the other. It was quiet but the hallway was decorated very richly and smelled fresh and crisp. She wanted to see what Truman’s place looked like. Maybe one day. It was a strange friendship. She also had an urge to ring Mrs. Morralt's apartment and run away and hide just to bug the ex model. It was hard for Eliza to believe that the older, silver-haired ‘bitch’ was really a model on a runway with a smile planted on her pretty face. Eliza did not see Mrs. Morralt pretty and really put her in league with Mrs. Morralt, both witches and mean spirited.

She didn’t ring Morralt’s buzzer, but walked the patterns of the rug and slowly pushed the elevator button. Thank God the quiet elevator man Hugh was on duty and she did not have to talk. But the man was still sort of eerie and dark when all he would do was hum some useless ditty as if the tune was German or Dutch, or whatever Hugh was. Once back downstairs she played a great game of monopoly with her sister Glinda then watched TV and had dinner when she felt sick. She ran into the bathroom and threw up and Gemma gave her Pepto Bismol which worked.


It was no secret that Lena Osberg had a penchant for ketchup. Supposedly, her mother Hazel was such a rotten cook that Lena, as a child, had to dump ketchup on everything, even chicken! It became a running hilarity with her husband Victor and their friends. Ketchup jokes, ketchup bottles, ketchup gifts, ketchup made in glass and crystal of all colors and sizes, but the most blatant ketchup object of all lasted for the years that the Osbergs lived at the UN Plaza. A 6 foot blow-up plastic Heinz Ketchup bottle that hung in the kitchen window 23 flights up!

The ketchup bottle was visible within a few blocks to anyone who happens to gaze up at the glistening UN Plaza twin towers; Eliza knew that tourists visiting the UN must see it. The large, oversized plastic ketchup bottle was like a beacon drawing the eye to it. When Robert F. Kennedy was shot and the media converged on the towers, anyone with a keen eye watching the news must have seen that ketchup bottle in the window; postcards that came out during that time showed the UN Towers and the ketchup bottle was seen in the card. A few t.v. series shot at the Towers and when a long shot of the UN Plaza was flashed on screen the famed ketchup bottle was spotted!

The history about that ketchup bottle started when Herbert and Eva Glass purchased it at Saks Fifth Avenue as a gift gag, but Eliza’s parents got such a kick out of it that they ended up hanging it in the large kitchen picture window. Believe it or not it caused a slight furor in the building meetings when some tenants complained that it was more of a blight. It was discussed about, voted on and the Osbergs had won the right to keep it hanging. And it did until the family moved in 1976. Eliza would always remember that ketchup bottle. Her friends at school loved it too. And if not for the positive votes by Johnny Carson (who liked Eliza’s mother and father), Cliff Robertson, Dina Merrill, Ethel Kennedy along with Herb Glass and the husband of Lena Osberg’s friend Della Krenz (who was president of Bloomingdale’s at that time). The final count yielded a vote from famed author Truman Capote to keep the ketchup bottle in place.

“It’s like a work of art by my good friend Andy Warhol!” Said Mr. Capote. “And his Campbell’s Soup masterpiece will be worth a pretty penny one day, so I vote that the ketchup bottle remain in placed,” said the flamboyant author of “In Cold Blood”.

But on the other side of the fence there were the “non-fans” of the Osbergs sense of design. Truman Capote’s and Johnny’s neighbor on the penthouse floor Mrs. Morralt and of course the couple on the 8th floor the Marette's whose children avoided the Osberg kids like the plague. Mary Lasker also wanted it down. It was rumored that Lasker had another apartment across the street from the UN Plaza at Beekman Place, and that she was simply using her place at the UN Plaza to store and collect some of the finest art in the World. She was known to have filled her 20th floor apartment with works and masterpieces by many known artists.

“It isn’t very classy and looks bad,” the petite woman said in a low voice. “Mrs. Osberg, it certainly doesn’t reflect the high class and nuance you and your husband portray when you first applied to be a tenant here!”

“No taste, I agree,” said Morralt.

“It’s like bad advertising and low class-ish looking!” Chimed in Mrs. Marette. “They’ll airbrush it out of a postcard, say by Hallmark, then send ‘us’ the bill…I won’t pay it and I won’t take it!”

“I can’t believe you’ve all voted to have it remain! Has the world gone mad?”

“Oh shut up Ladies,” piped up Capote. “It’s different and breaks up the monotony a bit. And if they send us a bill, ‘I’ will pay it!

“So will I, Capote,” said Osberg.

“Me too,” said another man in the back who usually was quiet. It was Mr. Love who lived next door to Mr. Osberg. Love had broken through all the rooms and made it one big apartment, like a studio and it was rumored he was trying to get Willie Mays buy it or rent it maybe. Eliza got a fast glimpse of the baseball great the first time he’d looked at the place.

“I’d feature it as a gag on my show if I was in charge of that!” Said Johnny kiddingly.

“The building would not allow it, Mr. Carson,” said Mrs. Lasker.

“I figured, but everyone knows the Osbergs are good people.”

“Sure they are, we not disputing that, but since we are on the subject, I think the Osberg children conduct themselves atrociously in the lobby,” said Mrs. Marrate.

“Aren’t all children rambunctious at some point,” asked Mrs. Kennedy.

“To a point, yes, but I know for a fact that there has been a rash of complaints.”

“They throw things out of the windows and someone is going to be hurt,” said another snot-nosed wife of a banker.

“It’s got to stop,” said the manager Mr. Williamson, a swirl of cherry pipe smoke ringed around the rotund man. “In a matter of a few days I’ve got complaints about them and I’ve tired to talk to you Mr. and Mrs. Osberg!”

“Hey, hold’ up, is this about a ketchup bottle in the window or my kids?” Asked Mr. Osberg, growing a bit hot under the collar.

Everyone started to talk at once, some shrilling. Mrs. Osberg with her Soprano opera training made her voice heard as she began to protect her brood!

“Now just a minute, just a minute, who do you think you all are?”

“I agree, don’t get down on the Osbergs! Let them keep the damn ketchup bottle up!”

“Really, the children are another issue to be brought up at the next meeting please!”

“I agree.”

“Me too!”

“Second it.”

“Third it.”


Mr. Williamson pounded the gavel several times. “Meeting adjourned.”

So the ketchup bottle stayed, but the children were never really reprimanded for their behavior, partly because Mr. Osberg was out of town half the week, and he didn’t want to scold or dole out any spankings and would have rather played games and joke with them, or discuss things with them like adults even though they were just kids. He missed his kids when he was in at the factory, but the lace business was very good and he couldn’t stay away. But at least Fern was there to clean his apartment and they would drink coffee together and chat about his children mostly.

Mr. Osberg told Fern about the building meeting and what was said.

“Don’t worry Mr. Osberg, they are all bark and no bite!”

“I’m concerned,” said Mr. Osberg. “People were also talking about the kids, that and how they’re acting up in the lobby and some other incidents.”

“Oh, don’t let that bother you!” Fern sipped her 3rd cup of coffee that morning. “Those kids are all great. God has blessed you, Mr. Osberg.”


“Victor, yes. Those kids are alive and vital. Don’t get angry about it, even if there is some truth to the complaints.”

“For Godssakes, they want us to take the ketchup bottle out of the window.”

“Really? Well honestly Victor, we can only pray for them.”

“I would imagine.”

“Compared to what’s going on in the World now with Vietnam, they’re acting very petty. People are getting shot and are dying and they’re worried about a ketchup bottle?”

“Seems so… It almost sounds ironic!”


“They were not all against us.”

“Well that’s comforting,” answered Fern.

“Carson and Capote were in our corner and Mrs. Morralt and the Marrates were in the other,” he said. “Mary Lasker didn’t approve either, but Ethel Kennedy threw her vote for us, majority rules!”

Fern laughed a deep, almost baritone laugh. “That’s funny, Victor.”

“I know,” Victor smiled.

“So, no fisticuffs?”

“No, but Lena was fit to be tied, you know her.”

“Yes, I do.”

“She’ll fight tooth and nail for those kids!”

“I would too! But Mr. Osberg, I mean Victor, Eliza is a very special child.”

“I see that.”

“Yes, very bright, but the other kids have beauty too, but you should really focus on some things with Eliza. She’s got so much talent!”

“I know it, and I’ve always encouraged her!”

“I think she has a very good imagination and I saw her building this project with wood, and she’s got some interesting art talents too,” bragged Fern as if Eliza was her own child!

“Oh, yes, I’ve noticed. You know Fern, just because I’m away from home 3 days a week doesn’t mean I’ve not noticed.”

“Oh, I wasn’t saying that, but I just think Eliza is very gifted, as are all your children, Victor.”


Fern took the coffee cups and put them in the sink.

Meanwhile, back at the UN Plaza it was coming up on summer when the kids would go off to sleep-away camp. Before Eliza, Glinda, Richard and Roy left for their perspective summer camps in Maine, the 4 kids were playing around in the kitchen. Gemma was busy with her sister Marge making a rum drink with nutmeg. School had just gotten out so they were punchy and rambunctious, having thrown a variety of items out the window, made many phony phone calls and went through their mother’s scarves drawer when Roy saw the ketchup bottle hanging on a thread ready to fall down due to the heat of the sun.

The bottle had hung there for so long so Roy grabbed at it and it fell onto the kitchen floor. He began kicking it and Richard joined in, as well as Eliza. They were laughing and hooting when Glinda heard the commotion.

“You better stop that,” warned Glinda, who did have an inbred sense of being the snitch. “You know how Mom loves that ketchup bottle.”

They didn’t listen and kept up their play.

“Hey, stop that!”

Gemma and Marge looked up and didn’t realize what was going on. Suddenly Roy gave ‘Heinz” a swift kick, which knocked the breath out of the bottle that had hung there for years undisturbed. The 4 watched the coveted ketchup bottle deflate like the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz did.

“Ohhhhh, uh-oh You are in big trouble now!" said Glinda.

Eliza laughed and Richard left the kitchen, retreating to his bedroom. Roy was stunned and just stood there in shock.

“What’s going on?” Gemma and Marge stopped mixing their rum concoction.

“Kiss me dede, Ras,” said Gemma.

“Who did that?” Asked Marge.

“Roy!” Said Glinda.

“I did not, you did it,” argued Roy, trying to pin it on his younger sister.

“No way, you were kicking it, I was just laughing,” argued Eliza.

“Told you so,” piped up Glinda.

Roy picked up the now deflated ketchup bottle, his face on the verge of crying. “I didn’t mean it,” he said sadly.

“Wait until your mother hears about this, get to your bed, get to your bed,” screamed Gemma half-heartedly trying to chase them out.

Marge piped in, “Kiss me Grand Auntie Ferry, Ras!”

“Wait, I have an idea,” shouted Eliza. She ran to her bedroom lickity-split and got some scotch tape, clear. She picked up the plastic bottle and turned it around and saw a small hole in it. She deftly scotch taped the hole inside and out. Then Eliza gently blew air into its original shape. Roy was so happy he started jumping up and down cheering. Gemma got up on the window sill and re-attached it. “Okay, now be good, or get to your bed!”

Roy hugged his sister and Richard came in from the bedroom and was amazed Eliza had miraculously fixed it.

“You are so smart Eliza, thanks,” said Roy.

“No problem Brother,” said Eliza.

“Don’t tell,” said Roy to Glinda, who was infamous for squealing.

“I won’t,” she promised.

The 4 kids turned their attentions to Gemma and Marge who had gone back to their rum drinks. The smell of nutmeg and rum permeated the kitchen as they added eggs and milk and began mixing it with an egg beater. All was well again and Roy never even went near the ketchup bottle after that day.


Victor Osberg could never sleep well so he stayed up very late watching the tube. Eliza too had trouble falling asleep and it was offhandedly because of her father, but tonight she still felt tipsy from the Vodka she shared with Capote. Her mind raced with thoughts of ghosts and monsters under her bed, and sometimes her imagination would run away with her and she’d think snakes were in between the folds of her sheets. Glinda would be comatose the minute her cute little head hit the pillow, as with her brothers and mom.

Because Eliza was traumatized by a trip to an amusement park where her dad put her all the fast rides so he could watch her better and not leave her alone while her brothers and he rode the rides. That extreme experience left the then 3 year old Eliza practically shell shocked and scared of her own shadow, especially when her father had brought her into the spook house at the park and that left her jangled and nervous at night, hence the insomnia the 10 year old experienced presently.

Her father had his TV on very loud and she kept tossing and turning until the sound of audience laughter floated into her dark bedroom chasing away the evil apparitions. She got up and headed for her parents room down the long hallway, passed her brothers who were snoring away. She popped her head in and saw her parents. Mom was sleeping like a dead woman, the TV noise not affecting her in the least.

“Dad, can I stay up with you for awhile? I can’t sleep.”

Usually Victor would shoo her back to bed, but this time he relented. “Alright, but then sleep, okay?”

“OK,” said Eliza, running for their big comfortable bed.

“Pop on in,” said Mr. Osberg, making room for her.

“What are we watching?”

“Johnny Carson.”

They began talking and Eliza felt close to him, even though he did travel a lot and was not around 3 days out of the week.

Eliza recalled the first time she’d realized he was not at home and she told him as the commercials rolled on the TV.

She’d been having a nightmare soon after the amusement park incident. Worms were appearing behind her white wicker headboard and she was screaming and thrashing until Eliza felt mom’s hand rousing her awake. Eliza was crying hysterically so her mom tried to carry her and have her sleep in their bedroom. Eliza resisted until they got to Mrs. Osberg’s bedroom door and Eliza saw her father was not there. She slipped into her parent’s bed and fell fast asleep until morning when her mother told her that her father always commuted, but even if he was there he would have come and taken her out of the bedroom into their room in an instant.

As the standard Carson music opened up and Johnny started doing his monologue Eliza laid back and tried to understand the humor, which was obviously for adults.

Victor laughed at almost every joke and Eliza understood some of them, especially the ones about the Vietnam War. They watched the whole 90 minute show that featured Tiny Tim singing “Tip Toe through the Tulips.” Eliza and her dad laughed uncontrollably. Buddy Hackett, the comedian came on and cracked them up too, then Carson did a skit with Carol Wayne that hinted at sex and big boobs which Mr. Osberg got. Finally, as the show started to wind down Don Rickles came out and did his usual shtick! During commercials Eliza would ask her father questions, usually about current events.

Her father loved her enthusiasm and it was stimulating and fun to answer his daughter’s questions. They were very insightful as well as very creative and intense and Mr. Osberg did his best to fill her in on all her questions…. Eliza was always peppering everyone with “questions!”

During a commercial break Mr. Osberg asked, “Did you know he lives in our building?”

“Of course, I’ve seen him and I’ve talked to him!”

“Really, in what way Eliza.”

“Oh, dumb stuff in the mailroom and in the lobby…He's mean Daddy!”

"What are you saying he's mean?" Victor sat up. "Eliza, I hope you didn't upset him!"

"He's so mean, and on t.v. he is so funny and pretends he loves people, but he doesn't like kids!"

"It's t.v. Eliza, remember that he's acting, just like any other show on t.v., now stop saying he's mean!"

"I told these ladies on the bus that he was mean and they couldn't believe it!"

"Eliza, stop that and don't mention things like that! I raised you better than that, you are not some poor girl from the gutter, and saying Johnny Carson is mean is gutter talk, so stop it!"

"I'm sorry Dad!"

“I’m becoming a bit concerned about what they are saying in the building meetings, Eliza,” said her father sternly. He didn’t want to upset anyone and he knew better than anyone else how hyper his kids were. “Eliza, I don’t want any problems or I’ll ground you and your brothers and sister if I hear one more thing, do you understand?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

“Dad, come on!” Eliza sat up ramrod.

“No 'come on, Dad…' I don’t want to hear about my children’s rap sheet in the meetings so you better not be causing trouble, or instigating it…”

“I’m not!”

“Well keep it that way.”

“OK, love you Dad,” said Eliza and when Carson was half over, she crawled out of the bed. She kissed her dad and he kissed her and gave her a bear hug. “Good night Sweetie, remember what I said, okay?”

"Yea, love you dad..."

Eliza returned to her shadowy bedroom and lay back down. Dad was now watching an old movie with the TV still blasting but she did fall asleep finally after pretending she didn’t hear it or just blocking it out until he had to turn it off around 3:30 am. Then before they knew it another day was dawning.


It was Friday night, right before the Osberg kids were to depart for summer camp in Maine … all 4 Osberg children went, and that would free up Gemma to enjoy her own family an summer when Victor and Lena went traveling to Sardinia and Europe, but it was to be a special Friday dinner and a very close friend of the Osbergs, Elle Moss, was coming by with her boyfriend Werner Klempner who played the Commandant on the TV show Hogan’s Heroes. Gemma was going all out to make the dinner elegant and classy, with the help of Mrs. Osberg. The table was set with the Osbergs most expensive silverware and crystal, except for Eliza who had plastic and unbreakable plates. Last year when they celebrated Roy’s 13th Birthday they’d pulled out all the stops with fine china, food and entertainment. Mrs. Osberg brought out her fine paper thin crystal. During the meal Eliza held the delicate wine glass and got Glinda’s attention by holding the precious expensive crystal glass between her teeth to make her younger sister laugh.

As they both carried on, Eliza pressed too hard with her mouth and a chunk of the $100 a glass crystal broke off.

Mrs. Osberg almost had a full blown cardiac arrest when she saw what had happened. Mr. Osberg rarely hit his kids, but he saw how upset his wife was and knew how much she coveted her china and dishes.

“What was that, Eliza,” he yelled.

“It was an accident Dad!”

He reached out over the table and slapped Eliza square in the face, which was startling, especially to the company that sat at little round tables around the dining room. Eliza’s cousins, Lauren, Dina and Stan were shocked as well as her Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Kelley.

“Go to the kitchen and eat the rest of your food there. Get out of my sight,” yelled Mr. Osberg.

Eliza got up with tears in her eyes and was crying and hiccupping. She did as she was told as everyone began to relax again.

So now she spotted the fake crystal and plates by her place. It didn’t bother her like it used to… And in the end it was better.

It was going to be some special dinner and evening of good food, and music. Werner was bringing his violin and Eliza’s mother was going to sing some opera and standard songs accompanied by Mr. Klempner.

The Osberg children adored the show Hogan’s Heroes and were looking forward to meeting the funny bumbling actor who plays the Commandant Klink!

The moment came around 6:00 PM when Elle showed up with her famous date. They stood in the hallway as the children filed out and were introduced to Werner, who looked like his character except he had a lot of freckles. They went to the living room after giving Mr. Klempner the grand tour of their wonderful spacious apartment, skipping Eliza and Glinda’s bedroom.

“Oh, that’s the zoo!” Said Roy.

Werner laughed. “I was the same way as a child. I was lucky to be able to find the right color socks.”

Everyone laughed.

In the living room they all discussed the latest political situations, Vietnam and lighter issues about the lace business and what the state of Broadway was these days!

Talk leaned toward Lena Osberg’s stage career and beautiful Soprano Opera voice. They chatted and discussed the latest rages and talked drifted to Werner’s TV role of a Nazi Commandant.

“It’s just a part, nothing more,” he said, flitting his hands nervously too and fro, trying to make light of it.

“But you’re doing a Nazi, doesn’t it bother you a little?” asked Mrs. Osberg.

At first, but we’re in our 6th season and I don’t think much about it anyways. It’s a job.”

“Do you get fan mail?” Asked Eliza, totally intrigued with him.

“Yes, of course I do,” he answered strongly. “More than you’d think.”

“Do you answer back and send your photo with an autograph?” Asked Eliza on cue.

”Yes, sometimes, but not really,” he answered back cryptically.

“What’s Hogan like?” Eliza was on a roll.

“You mean Bob Crane?”


“He’s very likable and a very funny talented man, but he’s very intelligent….”

“Stop pestering him with questions Eliza," said Mrs. Osberg.

“OK. Just one more…. Can you say that one thing you say to Hogan?”

“What?” He feigned ignorance, but knew what she wanted, everyone did!

“Can you?” The company, even his girlfriend looked on eagerly, trying to hide it badly.

“No, I don’t think so,” he snapped.

“He turned away from Eliza and talked to his date.

Glinda sidled up to Werner. “Oh please, can’t you just do it once?”

“No!” He said it firmly.

“The kids were disappointed, but then dinner was announced and they all floated into the dining room decorated with burning white candles, white table cloth linen and fresh white flowers.

At the table they served wine and a before dinner appetizer and salads. It was scrumptious faire.

Everyone was talking and laughing and relating. Eliza asked Werner again between the banter. “Can you just do that thing once?”


“Will you stop pestering him,” scolded Victor Osberg sternly.

“It’s alright,” I actually get that all the time.”

“Sorry about that,” apologized Eliza.

“Can’t you do it please,” asked Richard shyly, his voice squeaking like a mouse in his nervous shyness.

“Is it fun being on Hogan’s Heroes?” Asked Roy out of the blue.

“Yes it is, but it’s hard work keeping up that energy my boy,” said Werner not missing a beat. He enjoyed it all. It was then that he turned to Eliza and said frankly: “Eliza, you have a very special effervesce! But you are all very special too!”

“Say thank you to Mr. Klempner, kids!”

“Thank you,” they all said together in unison.

“Dinner was excellent, Mrs. Osberg,” said Werner.

“Why thank you Mr. Klempner.”

Eliza came up behind him and whispered. “Can you do the Hogan thing please?”

“No Eliza I can’t,” he said seeming to get exasperated.

They all went to the living room to listen to Mrs. Osberg sing to Werner’s Violin.

He played the instrument with much fanfare and energy. Eliza remembered one particular episode where the commandant plays his violin for a fake record Hogan’s men are making.

“When you played in that one episode I didn’t realize you were really playing the violin!”

“Yes I was, and it was my idea,” he bragged.

“Wow. Neat.”

All that evening all the kids were asking him to do “the Hogan thing”. He declined, even after Mrs. Osberg sang many opera standards that he played to on his violin. It was mystifying to Eliza.

“Kids, stop,” said Mr. Osberg.

“Leave Mr. Klempner alone children,” said Elle.

“In fact, get ready for bed now, it’s late,” said Mr. Osberg.

“Okay,” they all said filing out.

The children got ready for bed. They were all in their matching pajamas and had brushed their teeth. Gemma supervised. They filed back in just as Werner and Elle were leaving. Goodbyes were said and Werner complimented Mrs. Osberg on her wonderful singing.

“You are so wonderful Lena, I’m very impressed,” he said, every bit like his character on TV, just a little bit softer and not so stern and arrogant, almost shy.

“Thank you! My pleasure,” she answered demurely, the true social hostess.

“You have to come back again,” said Mr. Osberg.

“You play the violin lovely,” added Mrs. Osberg. “Very sweet.”

"Children, say good bye to Mr. Klempner,” said Mr. Osberg gently.

“Bye, good night. Thanks.”

“Oh, thanks, I had a marvelous time.”

“We did too,” said Eliza.

He bent down on one knee. “Good.”

“Mr. Klempner? Can you…” Eliza begged…

“No, sorry…,” he said, abruptly getting up.

“Please,” they all asked again.

“Not tonight kids, I’m tired.”

The Osbergs walked the couple to the elevator as the kids followed.

“Mr. Klempner, please,” they all begged.

“Children, stop!”

“Okay,” they all said reluctantly, but still hoping against hope.

The elevator came quickly and Eliza tried one last time. She just said,” Please Mr. Klempner, Please????”

He acted like he didn’t hear and went into the elevator.

“Please,” yelled Glinda, then Roy and Rich and finally in a last ditch effort, Eliza yelled, “Do it Mr. Klempner!”

The elevator shut and just as it was going to engage, an arm came out and pushed the elevator doors open. A bald head popped out and uttered loudly “Hogan!!!!! Now get to bed kids!!!!”

All the kids laughed and hooted and Werner Klempner threw them a kiss and left.

“He did it, he did it yea! Can’t wait until I tell the kids at school!”


The first apparition Eliza saw at the UN Plaza was a man in a grey jumpsuit and construction hat. She’d just returned from Sunningdale and was adjusting to being back at the UN Plaza in her own bed. He was stooped over the dining room table one early Sunday morning Eliza walked by. She’d seen something out of the corner of her eye. Her heart did a flip-flop when she’d walked in and the man came up, arms raised with a strange distorted strangled look on his ashen face. He was wearing workmen clothes and what looked like to Eliza as a painters cap. It was his face and aura that freaked the girl out. She ran down the long hallway to her parent’s room crying and carrying on about a strange man in the dining room. Mr. Osberg had just gotten out of bed and was about to shower and shave. It was Sunday morning.

“What were you doing in the dining room?” Asked Mrs. Osberg.

“I was passing by and looked in and saw this man.”

“Eliza you’ve got to stop this. Your imagination is running away from you,” said Mr. Osberg.

“I’m telling you I saw him!”

“Don’t go in the dining room again. You might break the Venus D’ Milo statue.”

“It already has two broken fingers, Dad.”

“That’s not the point Eliza,” said Mrs. Osberg. “Your father and I bought that in California from the Hearst Estate, so stay out of the dining room. “ Mrs. Osberg shut the doors leading into the brown paneled room.

Lena walked back down the hallway as Mr. Osberg took Eliza into the den where they began discussing spirits, ghosts and imaginations gone wild.

“But dad, I saw him!”

“I know you think you saw him, but it’s called a figment of your vivid imagination.”

“Nooooo, a ghost dad, a ghost.”

“Eliza stop talking nonsense now!”

“Dad, it was so real I could have reached out and touched him. I could even see his face.”

“What did he look like? And tell me straight,” asked Victor, getting drawn into it.

“His face was like he was surprised, like he was afraid too! But not of me, or surprised because I saw him. He was reacting to something else in that time frame!”

“Hmmmm, I see.” It made total sense to Mr. Osberg. His daughter may come off as an odd ball, but she was a brilliant girl, but too hyper.”

Mr. Osberg remembered a story he’d read recently about when they built the Brooklyn Bridge. Some construction workers lost their lives. Some said the impressions of these men were still visible. But he didn't want to say that to Eliza. Instead he called Fern and they discussed it after sending Eliza to do an errand.

“She’s always been different than your other kids, you know that!” Fern was sipping coffee and talking to Mr. Osberg from her cozy roomy house in Lyon Avenue, across the street from a small oil truck stop. Sometimes late at night in the middle of a raging blizzard, the oil trucks would pull up to the little rest spot, and re fuel, have a bite and a cigarette far away from the pumps….

“I don’t know what to make of it, Fern.”

“If she sees something than it probably is something in her mind.

“I don’t disagree with that. I just don’t know how to deal with it.”

“Just don’t discourage her enthusiasm, it’s so natural and fuels everything behind that gifted creative sense. Watch her as she grows….Just don’t judge!”

“I try not to, Fern. She comes up with some wild things.”

“Just monitor her. Sit down and explain things to her. And for Godssake, Victor, don’t give your sons hunting knifes!”

“How did you know…Oh never mind I know … Eliza!”

“Don’t be mad at the child. She cares deeply. She’s different than most kids, as well as all 4 of your kids, Victor. She’s a smart cookie. I think you already know that.”


“Yes, I know.”

“Listen, just try and calm her and don’t tease her Victor, and don’t let the others either. You remember when she fell at the club? No one believed her at first.”

”Falling is one thing, seeing strange men in our dining room is a whole other ballgame, Fern,” said Mr. Osberg looking out at the view of the East River and 1st Avenue.

“I know, but she can pretty much comprehend things better than the rest of the kids.”

“Yes, I realize that…”

“Yup, but open to knowledge.”

“Okay, I’ll agree with you on that,” said Mr. Osberg…

A few days later, Mr. and Mrs. Osberg had a small dinner party and had Mitchell the caterer do the food and favors as usual. Eliza and her siblings watched in the kitchen as Mitchell did his thing. Then later on when the company came, they made quick appearances then went to the boy’s room to watch TV.

The party raged on all night and to the early morning. Mrs. Oberg sang, there was laughter and Eliza heard a lot of men laughing and singing together. It was a good party that finally wound down around 1 AM. All was quiet by 2:00 AM, even Mr. Osberg didn’t put his TV blasting for once. It was silent. All of a sudden Eliza awoke from a dream she was having. She had sneaked into her parent’s bedroom and was watching them dress for a party. Her mother saw her hiding behind the love seat and began screaming at her hiding there. Then as Eliza stood up and ran from them in her dream she could hear drums and male voices chanting over and over, louder and louder. She suddenly woke up from the dream and it was quiet. She turned her head and looked to her right side of the bed and she spotted a man standing there, who at first looked like Mitchell the caterer to Eliza. Then he came closer to her bed. Eliza’s foot was sticking out of the blanket and rubbed up against the mysterious man’s lapel. He was tall with black hair and dark eyes. It wasn’t Mitchell. Eliza didn’t know who it was. The man turned to the side and Eliza saw his hair up in a bun like a Japanese Samurai warrior. He was wearing a black suit and stood close to Eliza’s. She could almost feel him breathing, but all he did was stare at her. She felt he wanted her to see his profile clearly when he suddenly turned to the side and came so close to her! Her foot was touching his jacket and she could feel the vibrations of her foot rubbing against the fine fabric, the friction. She tried to say, “…who are you?” but all that came out was a croaking sound. All of a sudden, drums beat again with chanting men and as the music got loud, the weird man popped like a bubble and disappeared. The room became quiet again. When the apparition Eliza saw disappeared, her voice came to life and she said to the darkness “Who are you?”

Eliza froze and couldn’t move for the longest time. She finally turned and pulled the hot blanket over herself and started to cry in fear. She knew she couldn’t bother her parents on this, but it was so real. She got up and ran quickly to her bathroom across the hall. Glinda slept through it just like when she’d slept through the hurricane when they stayed up in West Hampton at the Bath and Tennis Club!

Once in the light of the bathroom Eliza looked at herself in the mirror. She looked scared and panicked almost like the first ghost she saw in the dining room. How did Glinda do that? How did she sleep like a rock?

She went down the hallway and went into her brother’s room and watched them sleep feeling jealous. She went to her parent’s room and they too were asleep. Her dad snored like the lion (Oh the Lion Sleeps Tonight)! Her mother was the same lion but without the fire. Why did they all sleep so well and Eliza slept terrible. Well all except her dad, but this time her father slept soundly and she dare not wake him up because he truly deserved his sleep for once.

She slowly walked back into her bedroom, but decided to take her pillow and bedding and sleep in the bathtub. She went in and made a pallet for herself and fell fast asleep in the tub. She closed the shower curtains and closed the bathroom door and locked it. So if she over slept she could say she was in the toilet. She locked the door and lay down and soon was fast asleep. She felt much safer in the tub.

In the darkness of the dining room a flicker of an apparition, the construction worker Eliza saw … he was upset and riled up and had actually been killed when they laid the foundation of the UN Plaza.

The other ghost Eliza saw was also someone who might have been killed while the UN Plaza was going up. He’d fallen from the 23rd floor when a wind whipped up. He was the foreman. So Eliza did see the entities, but no one except maybe Fern believed her. She tired to explain to her sister Glinda and brothers, but they couldn’t totally grasp the concept. Neither could Mrs. Osberg and even Gemma guffawed it and didn’t want to discuss it. Eliza went in the bright dining room and stood by the Venus de Milo and stared at the spot she saw the construction worker. She made a mental note to find out if it could be true about seeing these ghosts. She would ask around. “I’m sure someone like Adolfo or an older building maintenance man will know, maybe Dum-Dum.

Eliza did ask and low and behold Dum-Dum knew something and told the girl that some men did get killed in the building of these towers. She told him about seeing the two men and his eyes got bright.

“Ya' know Eliza, I’ve been here since the building opened in 1966, and I saw some strange things too.”

“Can they hurt me, Dum-Dum?”

“No, just your fear can hurt you,” he said wisely.


“Yes, so remember this, as scared as you are of them, they are triply scared of you,” said Dum-Dum, who for once didn’t have that ‘Dum-Dum’ look on his face. He didn’t have his usual shot of whiskey yet either.

But to Eliza it made sense and she was relieved that someone understood and explained it to her. Although her father did, she liked Dum-Dum’s explanation better. And Dum-Dum believed her.

“Oh, don’t say nothin’ to no one about what I tells ya', Eliza,” he said.

“Oh I won’t.”

“I could lose my job and I can’t afford that. So mums the word, okay?” He put his rough hand out and Eliza shook on it.

“Don’t worry Dum-Dum, I would never tell,” she said, thinking of her excursion with Truman Capote and that day she got drunk with him and she’d kept her promise even though she was acting strange! And for once her personality hid her antics from her family, which for now was good!

Eliza reflected as she got ready for school in the clothing her mother set down – Danskin pants, white socks, penny loafers. They were a very boyish style and it would be Glinda who would break out and get her own dressing sense, but Eliza stuck with the Danskins line up until 8th grade. In Mrs. Osberg’s mind it was simpler to handle the high strung daughter. Mrs. Osberg had even attempted to control her oldest daughter’s hair which was out of control “ethnic curly”! She meant well and brought her oldest to the best and upcoming hairdressers that went on to be semi famous doing the hair of presidents and their wives as well as celebrities.

Fern and her sister Ginny were professional governesses Mrs. Osberg had hired, 2 Italian Catholic sisters who were hired even before Vera the Terror before they moved to the UN Plaza!

Eliza remembered how Fern and Ginny came on board after Glinda, the youngest of the Osberg brood was born. Fern had taken a firm hand and interest in Eliza and even had taught the hyper kid how to tie her shoelaces and potty trained her.
Eliza recalled even earlier when Fern would come and when she left Eliza would cry and carry on, thinking that if she kept up the tantrum, Fern would have second thoughts and would come back. When she stayed over she slept in Eliza’s bedroom which had a twin bed set.

Fern was deeply religious, a devout Catholic woman who was trained as licensed nurse! She wore a nurse’s fraternity pin along with medium sized silver cross with an intricately carved figure of Jesus dying on the cross. She had natural abilities to rear children and even nursed Eliza though many accidents and sicknesses.

Soon after the amusement park trauma Eliza had contracted some sort of infection and had a raging fever. She was having hallucinations of a large blimp flying around the room and when Fern was napping in the chair Eliza would have sworn that Fern’s face turned into a wolf. She would stare at it and watch it change from Fern’s face to this hideous wolf’s face that would growl and try and talk to her. It was really Fern snoring, but the girl was so hyper focused that her imagination was bright but out of control, thus the fever intensified the personality trait.

Fern and Mr. Osberg stayed up all night and bathed poor Eliza in alcohol and cold water. The Governess, as Mrs. Osberg referred to her as, sat through the night with Eliza who actually was having hallucinations about many things due to the high temperature. On a whim, Fern started talking to Eliza about how God was watching over her, thinking that maybe the hallucinations would turn nicer. But what happened was that somehow they bonded very closely, especially when Eliza had fallen at the Osbergs country club they belonged to.

She’d been playing with her brother Richard, who had a frozen ice cream pop and Eliza was chasing after him around the pool area. Suddenly Eliza fell down by the same pool her sister had almost drowned a few weeks earlier. At first the spunky girl got up after slipping pretty hard on her left leg. She brushed herself off feeling no pain at first. It wasn’t until the next morning that she awoke to the most excruciating ache on the left side of her leg above the inner thigh.

She’d gone to her father initially. “I fell down Dad.”

“Where,” asked her father Victor, shading his eyes to look across the pool area where he rescued his youngest daughter a few weeks earlier.

“Are you hurt?”

“My left leg,” she pointed to the injured spot. “Here…”

“Here?” He touched the spot, but not hard.


Richard walked by with the ice cream half eaten, the cause of the fall.
Momentarily Eliza forgot the injury and looked longingly at the ice cream. Her dad didn’t seem concerned as he handed her a county club ‘chit’ or ‘chek’ as they were called, for Eliza to get an ice cream cone.

It wasn’t until the next day, Monday, that Eliza felt the searing pain of a torn ligament. Any movement caused tremendous discomfort for the girl, but her dad had gone to work hours before. When the cleaning lady came in to make up the beds, Eliza was full blown crying and traumatized and was in shock from the sudden fall and sustained injury, which had aggravated during the night. When the maid could not budge her, she called Mrs. Osberg who had little patience with the daughter who was prone to temper tantrums and was always crying as a baby, from the moment she was born.

Lena Osberg tried to rouse her daughter out of her crying fit. In the past Eliza would pull something like this. She loved her daughter who looks so much like her, but the little girl tended to “cry wolf” and cry she did, for hours on end!

“Come on Eliza, get up darling…”

“I can’t, I hurt my leg!”

“Stop this carrying on or I’ll call your father!”

She tried to pull Eliza up but it only caused the girl to cry louder with pain. Her mother never struck her daughter, but this time she lightly tapped her on the butt which had made things worse. Finally, Mrs. Osberg lost patience and left the bedroom just as Fern was coming in for work. She heard the commotion upstairs as the maid pulled Eliza from the bed as the girl was howling in pain.

When Fern ran upstairs she spotted Eliza stooped on the floor crying, face red, tears flowing.

“What’s going on here?” Fern was like a mad mother bear trying to save her cub.

“She’s going nuts,” said the maid in a huff and leaving the room as she hastily made up the bed. Mrs. Osberg came in again. She was wearing her nightgown but was wrapped in a silk robe from Bloomingdale’s.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know what’s going on with her, or if it is all in her head…,” said the perplexed maid. “I can’t get her calm.”

“Why is she crying?”

“She’s carrying on about nothing.”

“Now come on Mrs. Osberg, I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years and I don’t think she’s carrying on for nothing. She may be injured. Did something happen?”

Mrs. Osberg stopped in mid step. Now she knew. “Yes, yes, something did happen…She fell down yesterday at the club. But my husband and I thought she was fine.

“I don’t’ think so,” Fern said moving closer to Eliza. “Eliza, what’s wrong Honey?”

“My leg,” said Eliza tearfully.

Fern bent down and took the girl in her arms and soothed her gently. After that it was revealed that Eliza had a major injury and Mr. Osberg was called at his factory in out of State by Mrs. Osberg who now believed her daughter. She came in the bedroom as Fern further soothed Eliza and had her sitting up drinking a vanilla shake she had laced with an antihistamine which would help the nervous girl sleep better.

“Lie still Eliza!”

“I called Mr. Osberg, Fern. I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry Eliza. I love you darling,” said Mrs. Osberg making a big production out of hugging her daughter. She obviously felt guilty now for not realizing there was something wrong. She reached down and stroked her oldest daughter’s curly bushy, out of control hair… She loved her and Eliza sensed this. But for some reason, they missed communicated with each other. Maybe as they got older they would bond like Glinda and mom do! For now they show tolerance toward each other but they did have their moments and moods.

From that moment on, Fern took over caring for Eliza, even taking her to the hospital. Fern seemed to steady Eliza and was capable. They bonded and Fern even called her sister Ginny and between the two of them they began to nurse Eliza even though the doctor wanted to keep Eliza in the hospital due to the extent of the injury and the location of it. And the fact hat Eliza had to remain almost immobile, a tough thing to make Eliza do, but Fern and Ginny were up to the task and managed to watch the little girl in shifts. After they’d give her the mild sedative they would sit with her and talk about Jesus and how he will always be at her right side no matter what and to always pray and not be afraid if he appears to her. He isn’t a ghost. He’s the Holy Ghost. Eliza took it all to heart and studied it well. They were amazed. But Mrs. Osberg did not like it one bit. She constantly tried to stop the teachings but no one would budge, not even Mr. Osberg would breach it with Fern, and told his wife so! “What harm can it do? We can teach her about a Jewish faith we don’t really practice?”

Eliza remembered very well how she would wake up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom, being in such agony…. But either Ginny or Fern would gently carry her to the toilet. Finally, right before the Osbergs were planning to move to the UN Plaza in New York City, Eliza was healing at home. The Osbergs were amazed at this. Fern and Ginny loved her children, especially her most difficult daughter Eliza! But Eliza would always pray to Jesus as Fern instructed when the pain was at its height, toward the end of the healing process.

Eliza would always remember them, even though by the time Arafat’s plane landed, they were coming to stay during the times the Osbergs went on vacation, taking their older sons with them.

One memory Eliza recalled was how Ginny would make a foot concoction out of vinegar and Athletes foot liquid, and then wrap her feet in plastic after applying the smelly goop. She’s sleep all night like that, the odor wafting in and out.

But the best was when Fern would take Eliza and Glinda to her house on Lyon Avenue, which described what Fern represented … A lioness and her little cubs. In fact, Glinda was deathly afraid of dogs until Fern introduced them to Mitzy her beloved Beagle.

At fist Glinda was scared and cried when Mitzy trotted in, her little paws going ‘tit tat tit’ on the shiny linoleum in Fern’s kitchen. At that time, Fern’s daughter Gayle lived with her parents Al and Fern, but Al and Fern had separate beds and photos and paintings of Jesus and Mary up on the walls in all forms of painting and design. The eggshell walls were chock full of Jesus in many mediums, even candles with his picture. The old style home had a happy children’s vibe and Eliza always felt safe and secure there.

It was one day during Easter vacation that the Osberg girls were at Ferns. Glinda had been avoiding the dog daily. While at church, Fern had whispered to Eliza to pray hard that Glinda would like Mitzy, and that if Eliza prayed hard enough it would happen!

When the group came back from church, Mitzy made a bee line for Glinda. At first Glinda began crying, but suddenly her younger sister’s face un-contorted. Her tears turned joyous and her face turned up from the frown that threatened to suppress a giggle as Mitzy charmed her and won her over.

But the real inner feelings Eliza felt were for the new religious world that Fern opened and instilled in her. She took to the Mass and the giving of communion, Jesus, and his story as well; saying prayers and forgiveness, plus more valuable lessons. Fern’s sister Ginny was one of several sisters of Fern, but Eliza remembered Ginny’s husband would make fun of her when she cried or was in distress. He’d say, “Sing for us Eliza, sing!” It made Eliza cry harder and more violently, especially when Arthur would mimic her. But all and all they all had good hearts.

Once the family moved to New York City at the UN, she would come with Ginny and even help Gemma with meals and cleaning. Eliza always had trouble sleeping so would wake up and not being able to sleep she would seek out Fern, who was not about to sleep on 25 cups of coffee a day. She was painting the molding around the apartment at 2 a.m.

Many times Fern would let Eliza stay up and they’d talk about God and many issues as did Eliza and her father.

Eliza and her sister would spend many Easters and Christmases with Fern’s family. The sisters in both camps were close. The Osbergs usually took their older boys to South America or St. Martin in the Caribbean and would leave the girls home mostly due to Eliza’s hyperness and they just thought Glinda was still to young or they would have taken the child. And they did notice that Eliza wanted to go, the boys were half and half, feeling dragged, and that Glinda would fight them on it and cry and want to stay home to play in her room and see her friends and talk on the phone to her other friends. She didn’t want to go to Aruba, so they obliged her and brought Rich and Roy. Poor Roy sat in the sun the first day too long and spent the whole vacation almost having to be hospitalized, but Mr. Osberg took over nursing his oldest boy from sun stroke, which had hit the kid pretty hard. He was a lobster ready to be boiled and eaten. They slaved on Noxzema and tried to make the boy comfortable with ice and ice cream and cold things to drink, coca cola, and finally the doctor suggested a sedative, so the teen slept most the time until they bundled him up and flew him home first class.


Every year Lena made sure that Miss USA and Miss Universe would come for dinner at the Osbergs compliments of some very ‘high end’ friends who lived upstairs from the family!

Eliza enjoyed meeting the gorgeous women every year. They all seemed different, but Glinda especially got a kick out of sitting in Miss. Universe’s lap, and took turns switching from Miss. USA to Miss. Universe in a heartbeat. Of course Eliza peppered them with many questions, some surprising everyone.

Gracie Berg didn’t believe Eliza’s family had dinner with the famous beauties, so one evening they showed up for dinner and Eliza coaxed them onto the phone and extension and called Gracie. Of course Gracie finally believed it when she heard their almost purring voices talking to her about the competition and how much they enjoyed having dinner at Eliza’s apartment at the UN Plaza. Gracie then believed and had even been given an autograph from both women. But in the beginning of the evening before all the clamor of guests coming to and fro, there would be a transformation.

Eliza remembered how they smelled so good, almost akin to Eliza’s mother’s odor, but Eliza loved the way her mother smelled when she applied the Ponds Cream before bedtime. That mixed with the odor of expensive perfume would always settle Eliza’s stomach when the family took a rowdy yellow cab to Bruce Ho’s Chinese Restaurant on Broadway near the theater district, once Lena Osberg’s stomping ground.

But one thing Eliza loved were the huge parties her parents threw. They had so much fun watching the preparations, it was all so exciting.

Usually Mitchell would show up with his crew and start the procedure of pulling out all the fine china and such things. Table cloths, cooking-ware and the like were pulled out of golden woven fine baskets and drawers built into the walls of the dining room! It was fascinating for the Osberg kids to watch it all unfold. Maids and food servers in place, plenty of champagne chilling, plenty of fancy finger foods, Russian black Caviar and fancy social crackers were the order of the evening.

Then the sisters would wander in to watch their parents get ready. Eliza would drift to her father’s bathroom and observe him shave and they’d talk about so much and so many subjects to discuss. She would watch him deftly apply the shaving cream and easily start his routine, finishing with applying bronzing cream and a fake mustache making him resemble a bald Burt Reynolds.

Eliza would joke with her dad and they got along so well. Sometimes when Glinda or Richard or even Roy wandered in when Eliza and Mr. Osberg were talking loudly, he would nicely shoo them away as he and his oldest daughter would discuss world peace.

“I want you to be on your best behavior tonight Eliza, and if anything do it for your mother. Some famous people are coming and just be good and don’t disappoint your mom Sweetie.” Said Mr. Osberg.

“Alright Dad, I’ll be good.”

“That means no loud talking or jumping around and don’t ask so many questions.”

“I won’t,” said Eliza.

“Tell your sister too, okay Eliza?”

“Yes Dad, I will.”

“I don’t have to tell the boys except sometimes your older brother.”

“I know.”

"Good,” he said, finally putting the finishing touches on his toupee, making sure it was in place, the mustache giving him an air of importance he so valued. He also loved the parties they had at the UN Plaza. Lena could really entertain, he wouldn’t deny that ever.

He knew that tonight sounded like it would be a mixture of old comics and new surprises. Also, Abel Faderberg a famous lighting director on Broadway was coming with his wife, once a famous singer and showgirl. James Earl Jones was rumored to be coming by after supper for drinks, so it would be interesting.

Finally all was in place, even Gemma was there with her sister Marge minding the kids and wearing formal white nurses uniforms. This was supposed to be a huge event and even some tenants in the building were invited. So important people would be showing up and Eliza hoped Truman Capote would be there too, or maybe even Johnny Carson, but not that horrible Mrs. Morralt, thought Eliza as she put on her nightgown.

Glinda ran in. “Hey, this is a big one,” said the cute little button of a girl.

“I know, mom is going nuts.”

“Yea, guess she is. A lot of people are going to be here,” said Glinda excitedly. “Do you think mommy will sing and play piano?”

“Probably,” answered Eliza.

“Mitchell is really going all out in the kitchen, he won’t even let Gemma help him!”

“Well he wants all the credit, have you seen what he makes?” Asked Eliza to her little sister.

“Yea, I do. Looks good, and I’ve tasted a lot of it,” she said mischievously.

“Me too, he’s nice. In fact,” said Eliza. “…Once I saw a ghost and I thought it was him!”

“When?” asked Glinda.

“Last week, right on my bed,” said Eliza showing Glinda the spot.

Glinda looked fearful and on the verge of tears at the thought. Mrs. Osberg was passing by at that moment. “Now Eliza, don’t start scaring your sister or I’m telling your father.”

“I’m not mom, but it’s true!”

Mrs. Osberg was wearing a beautiful white gown, complimenting gold slippers with her makeup done up to a tee, plus her hair was freshly dyed her usual platinum blond with the cherry lipstick in place. She was smashing looking. She resembled Lana Turner for sure! And Eliza knew her mom went through a lot to look fantastic, same with her father, but Eliza was not really up on it, and usually wore tomboy clothes her mom picked out… The boy’s Danskin pants and shirts with penny loafers.

On the other hand, Glinda was developing her own style and had long since grown out of that and had been accumulating quite a wardrobe herself, although they still had matching pajamas.

Richard and Roy used to have matching clothes but also had graduated a bit more into their own identities. Richard took to wearing bell bottom jeans, button down checkered man tailored shirts and hush puppies while Roy wore simple sweaters and slacks and shiny shoes.

By the time company started arriving the kids had already eaten in the kitchen and were told to come out later to be introduced and then back to TV in their bedrooms. While they were in their bedroom Eliza had an idea to do a musical show for guests. Glinda would be in it too. They started setting it up and ended up on the window sill putting on this weird oriental songfest using bedspreads, fancy colorful pillows and even the wicker tops of the laundry baskets that looked like a Chinese hat. They sat on the sill with the cute pillows set up against tan oriental screen from their father’s den. They sang a made up song by Eliza and both had the small finger cymbals that Indian women belly danced to. Each girl looked so adorable that when Mr. Osberg passed by their bedroom he couldn’t resist grabbing his Polaroid camera and taking a few shots of his 2 daughters doing that shtick.

“Girls, girls, I love it, I love it!” Said Osberg, always having a penchant for anything oriental because of his Navy days in the early 1950’s. He also faintly reminded Eliza of Havi Gold the camp director and his love of Broadway and how the whole camp revolved around Broadway Musicals. It was as if Ira & George Gershwin inhabited the soul of Havi Gold, and certainly Victor Osberg.

Mrs. Osberg walked by, then the boys and finally Gemma and Marge stood to the side smiling. It was a very good skit, very creative, thanks to Eliza.

“Honey, let’s let the girls do their bit for our guests!”

“If you don’t mind ’Bouge’ ,” she said, using her affectionate nick name for him.

“Lena, I’d love it, and they will too!”

“Well fine Honey!”

“Yea!” Both girls cried in excitement.

In excitement they ran around and yelled and began bowing and acting like a Chinese couple.

The party went in full swing. It was a very high life evening. People ate, drank, played music and when Mrs. Osberg sang everyone went crazy over her! When the party was in full swing after drinks and dinner, the Osbergs gave everyone the grand tour of their apartment. They saved Eliza and Glinda’s bedroom for last.

They had Richard by the light switch and when everyone came to the door, Rich switched on the light which the girls had draped in purple Hermes scarves. The sisters did their 5 minute act to a very receptive audience, including a very famous comedian that did old time radio and played the violin and another well known black actor, who came right in the middle of drinks just in time to squeeze in the frilly girl’s bedroom. You could cut the air, which was thickly and richly laced with the odors of perfume, cologne, expensive cigars and cigarettes, along with the sweet odor of fresh flowers and soap. The show ended with the black actor who starred in “The Great White Hope” taking Lena in his arms and waltzing around the bedroom, then turning into a rumba number.

“Very impressive girls,” said the famous comedian. “Put them on the Road Lena, I’ll give ya’ my agents number,” said his companion jovially. Everyone was in great spirits and the skit had brightened the night with vitality and good vibes. It almost seemed to some to be a hippy version of the oriental dances and songs. Strange, but well done.

They all were squeezed into the bedroom, many wearing full party attire, but not Mr. Famous comedy guy. He looked a bit like he was doing a stint of 18 holes in the evening as he held his dry scotch in one hand and munched on some high class snacks of caviar and matzo crackers. It was amazing to watch and see the people in the room. Of course Eliza was very young and didn’t realize who these people were until years later when she grew up.

The Osberg kids up on the window sill, the 2 girls looked so cute and their costumes were ingenious thanks to Eliza’s ingenuity! Anyone could tell right away!

“Hey, these kids are naturals,” piped up the black actor, finally releasing a tuckered out Lena Osberg in the arms of her husband. He was extremely happy with what Lena had done to raise money for his newest show! “Not bad kids,” he said directly to them. It was like his own childhood was surfacing for that one moment. These kids had a good start with a mother like Lena Osberg.

“I agree,” said Abel. “Victor, you should encourage it,” said the older man.

“They’re a good act,” said the comedian. “I liked it.”

“Well, what do you think we just did… We did everything just short of charging you all tickets,” joked Osberg. Everyone laughed. Even the glitzy Helene Holly and her hubby Darth Martin had flown in for the party and were staying with the Osbergs.

Everyone was talking about it and wanted them to do it again from the top. They improvised and Eliza loved it. Because for once, she was being treated like the favorite daughter, not just Glinda. The boys stood to the side looking jealous for attention…but eager.

“Hey,” said Roy. “I can do that too!” He jumped up on the sill. It was like he was making a speech, but he was trying to fit in and grab some of that spotlight and follow what his sisters were doing, failing badly.

“Get off the stage,” said Mr. Osberg, puffing on a More cigarette. For a second he looked like Rock Hudson’s character from the detective series.

“You girls are great,” said The Great White Hope guy, who by now was fully ‘tuned’ on the drink he was nursing.

Eliza looked at him and thought of Truman Capote. She wanted to try the same with the black actor who she’d seen in many movies and even in plays through the years, but couldn’t because her parents were watching her every move!

“Yes, very impressive,” said the comedian who also was very famous and well known and had his signature attire so that when Eliza got older she would remember.

“Take it on the road kids, like we did,” said the comic’s very drunk friend.

Abel cut in, “and the lights were a nice production touch girls, and Rich.”

“Thanks,” they said together.

The well known ageless comedian walked over and patted their heads. “Good job!”

“Thank you, and you are funny too,” said Eliza, although she wasn’t that familiar with him.

“Thanks,” said the kids.

After that everyone filed out and back to the living room. They listened to records of all types and styles of music and it drifted throughout the apartment and even into the hallway. It was a positive evening for everyone especially when the black actor recited Hamlet to a hypnotized audience. Eliza’s heart was beating quickly and both girls could not sleep. They talked most of the night, most about being seen by famous people seeing them perform. Finally they slept and Mr. and Mrs. Osberg crept in and kissed each of them.

“These kids are so special,” said Mr. Osberg.

“Bourge, I love them so much!”

“We’re very lucky. I love you darling,” said Victor now that he had his wife alone away from the crowd and kids prying eyes. They embraced in the darkness of the bedroom then retired to their own.


Eliza was 6 years old when her parents sent her to a sleep-away camp in Lake Sebego Maine. Camp Sunningdale, an all girl’s camp where they swam, did sports, arts and crafts, campfires, sleep outs, even Broadway plays, plus songfests and camp competitions, as well as many other activities. It was a place that was an all time favorite place for Eliza through the years.

Eliza enjoyed the Arts and Crafts and when the art counselor Annie picked up a creativity and imaginative streak in Eliza, she encouraged the slightly hyper, yet sensitive 6 year old! Eliza would celebrate the next 5 birthdays at Camp Sunningdale.

It was a sprawling camp with volleyball courts, basketball courts, badminton, arts and crafts shack, social hall, and a quaint looking lake front and ski dock. A boathouse and beautiful dining hall and lodge with a huge fireplace and various forest animals upon the walls. Even a small little island in the middle of the lake that the older girls would swim to. You could see a cute little dock and sun deck, with small hut with goodies and a fridge of sodas and fruit and package Twinkies!

Havi Gold and his family ran the summer camp. There were 10 cabins, girls ages 6 – 16, and then a descent C.I.T. program yielded year after year of summer fun for Eliza.

Her favorite was how the girls in her bunk would role-play. One particular girl Samantha, who everyone called Sam, a very boyish Jewish girl with jet black hair and braces, was the leader and a bit of a bully. For the most part the camp was wonderful and fun for Eliza, but there were some small differences. Eliza was extremely high strung and hyper, some saw it as a problem.

Havi Gold had been informed of a few problems between Eliza and the other kids. They were teasing her and she’d been prone to car sickness therefore had to be left behind with one counselor and that was debatable. But she had a nice spirit and was not violent. Her counselor Annie had good positive things to say about the little girl. As the summer of 1968 came and went Eliza grew up a bit. By the end of August after her 7th birthday celebrated by all in the dining hall, Eliza went on her first canoe trip down the Saco River with the older girls after she begged and begged the head counselor.

They had even gone on another small scale camp-out beyond Sunningdale perimeters at a discreet camp ground. But they were rained out within a few hours and had to go back to camp. Believe it or not the Saco trip rained out as well, although it was a rainy summer in Maine, for the most part Eliza’s first summer camp experience went well. There were a few problems with the other kids, but nothing that would prevent her from returning. Even though most in her bunk had not liked her and more or less teased her. Also, before the first camp out, she had also signed up to go on a mountain climb, and if her counselor Annie had not gone along, Eliza didn’t know if she would have made it back downhill.

It sounded a bit more glamorous on paper in Eliza’s mind when she read the description on the sign up sheet. She had a deep love for American Indians and being at the camp gave her new insight and activities to pursue. Her high enthusiasm made it at first easy to accept her on the camp outs and climbing expeditions, but once she was there it was a whole other ballgame. She was prone to volunteering and being the first on the list, but by the time the first campout and the end of the mountain trip, Eliza was in better shape and understood what it would be like. So by the Saco River trip Eliza was willing and ready and felt she could do it, actually imagined herself doing it. She faired well on the third trip down the Saco River. All was well until the rains started soon after they were on the water, a light drizzle. One canoe had capsized having the male counselor and two campers soaked and super wet. But they made it to the campground and set up tents and began the process of dinner and fire tending.

By the time evening fell, it was pouring buckets of cats and dogs. Everyone went to one tent, but eventually was soaked to the bone, but somehow the counselors kept the fire going.

Eliza ended up sleeping in Annie’s lap throughout the ordeal and felt safe and secure. She dosed and awoke a few times to find the rain rising. Half sleeping and half awake she remembered being carried by the kind quiet counselor Annie into the only secure dry tent. There were 8 other girls in their group alone, and another counselor there and they all huddled watching out the tent flap for someone to rescue them as were the groups of older girls in the same boat. They were calm and Sam was even jovial and told a few jokes.

Another rain out and Havi Gold had to drive the old station wagon they all dubbed “The Old Grey Mare” all the way around the river until he found them and piled them all in old clunker of a auto at 2:00 AM.

Along with the camp out Eliza loved the camp dog Tiffy. Havi owned an aging black Labrador. She followed the dog all over and really loved Tiffy. Her second summer at Sunningdale she even got picked as a gag to play Tiffy in the camper/counselor day where counselors and campers changed roles for a day. She dressed in a black leotard, black socks and a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Eliza spent that day walking on all fours like Tiffy and even sitting under Havi’s desk while Robin the C.I.T. playing Mr. Gold fed Eliza M & M’s just like Havi did with the real Tiffy…

It was Eliza’s 3rd summer … 1970. This time Glinda was sent along with Eliza. She was 6 and cute as a button. Unlike Eliza’s tomboyish ways and loud manner and the fact she was always teased and picked on by the other children, and was afraid of the lake, and had problems being in a shower stall, Glinda was the opposite and like a little angel, cute face and baby personality. The youngest Osberg child was more subdued, more normal looking. Glinda started to really shine when “color war” broke out and the camp went into heavy competition with them breaking into two teams, blue and gold. Glinda was the camp mascot and they would dress her up in team themes like a mermaid for the blue teams Tempest theme. When the teams marched to breakfast they carried Glinda on a huge surf board. She was like a little queen on a throne when she said to Havi, “Come up and see me sometime!” It was a good gag and Havi ate it up, he loved it so much, he wanted it done again at lunch and dinner for his guests and camper alumni. It was no secret that Havi Gold loved Broadway and always judged the best musicals and songfest competition when it was Broadway themed, and the C.I.T's who were the future counselors, knew this and would bend the teams to reflect that to try and win the completion. One summer Eliza gleefully played in the chorus of a Westside Story spoof for Color War where she was a ‘Jet” gang member and even got to carry and fake Jim Bowie knife at her belt and they let her wear a feather in a coonskin cap, thanks to Annie again. That year it was Broadway vs. Westside Story and Glinda stood at the center dressed in a show girl outfit looking like a little glamour queen. A surfboard painted silver was brought out with much fanfare and the campers were dressed in black tie and tails with the old ‘Fred Astaire” top-hats and canes. They sang Broadway tunes changed to blue and gold team fight songs. It was amazing to watch. Eliza’s team came on stage and did a spoof of ‘Officer Krupke’ directed at Havi, using things that had happened throughout the competition and summer that warranted reprimanding.

After the songfest, Havi had his aides had out the new summer yearbook, a beautiful, colorful book with a pictorial of the summer. And there was Glinda smack dab in the center of the camp photo yearbook cover sitting on the shoulders of Havi’s daughter Jani. Then one summer another little girl named Lori Osberg (no relation to the Osbergs) showed up. She was darkly cute as a button as opposed to Glinda’s light blond look. So Lori then became the second mascot after she threw a small tantrum to get that position. She was not even close to the pixy looking Glinda or the cute beauty she possessed. Even Eliza was envious of Glinda and remembered that when she was 6, she never was asked to be a mascot. In fact, the third summer when they announced camper/counselor day again and no one mentioned her playing Tiffy, so Eliza went up to Havi and asked. He was half paying attention to her, but nodded his head which to Eliza was a “yes” so she ran as fast as lightning to her bunk and stated to get ready and screaming “I’m going to play Tiffy, I’m going to play Tiffy!”

At lunch she’d acted up at the table and was disruptive and bratty so the counselor Lyn who was sitting at the table that day ran up to Eliza as she was running out of her cabin to the main office to play Tiffy. Robin was playing Havi again and was just making an announcement of rest period and that the candy bag would be coming to each cabin. Lyn screamed at Eliza, “No you are not playing Tiffy!”

Eliza froze in place, tears forming. “But Havi said I could.”

“No Eliza, you are not going to play Tiffy this year.”

“Why!” She began crying and carrying on.

“Because of the way you acted at the table… Atrocious!”

“I want to play Tiffy, please Lyn!”

“You have to grow up Eliza. You are not 6 years old anymore, you have to be mature.

Eliza began crying hysterically.

“Come on Eliza, let’s take a walk…”

Eliza walked with Lyn to an old abandoned camp ground. They talked for almost one hour and Eliza had calmed down, Lyn reached into her pocket and gave Eliza a pack of Atomic Fire Balls. “I know you missed canteen so here, this is for you!”

“Thank you Lyn,” sniffed Eliza.

“You are a very special little girl,” said Lyn.

“I don’t feel special.”

“But you are,” said Lyn as they walked back to camp. A few campers were staring openly and knew Eliza was in some sort of trouble.

At that moment Lyn handed Eliza an opened letter. “Sorry you didn’t get this after lunch but you were acting so horrible at lunch that I didn’t want you to get it just yet. It’s a special letter from a cartoonist friend your mother’s. All the staff recognized his name Bob Kane! Look, he even made little cartoons of Batman and Robin. She handed it to Eliza. “Let’s read it in the back porch.”

They walked to the back porch and sat at a picnic table and Eliza read it out loud. “Dear Sweetpea, have to make this short as I am getting ready to write some new Batman material! I’ve drawn Robin to keep you company at camp. Thanks for your letter. Your mother gave it to me and you are a real Gemma to write me. Take care and have fun. I’ll send you more comic books too! Love Bob Kane a.k.a. Batman!

“That’s amazing Eliza. He wrote you! How many girls get that,” praised Lyn trying to bring the girl up to her usual high intensity.

“Thanks. Can I play Tiffy now?

“Eliza, now you know you can’t play Tiffy any longer. You’re a smart girl, why do you act like a dum-dum so much when you are so intelligent?”

“I don’t know.”

Eliza went back to her cabin where everyone saw her outburst and knew Lyn had put a damper on Eliza’s dreams of playing Tiffy the camp dog.

“How dumb, she cries ‘cause she can’t play an old smelly dog,” said Betsy to Sam.

“You know Eliza, she’s weird!”

“I know,” said Betsy, and all those around her nodded in agreement.

“Hey, stop talking about Eliza,” piped up Amy, a nice girl from New Jersey. Eliza ignored all of them and just changed into a yellow tee shirt and blue shorts and climbed onto her top bunk. Then Robin as Havi came on the P.A. asking the blue and gold teams to line up.

"Glinda Osberg and Lori Osberg report to the C.I.T. cabin for your costumes.”

A cabin door slammed and Glinda ran very quickly, and soon another cabin door slammed and Lori Osberg from Newton Mass ran in the same direction. Believe it or not they were NOT related, just shared the same last name, but it was strange.

“Hi Glinda, “yelled a few people. She waved happily. The girl was like a celebrity at the camp. She would even eventually get the lead in the plays put on by the camp every summer, which were all Broadway hits like Carousel, Oklahoma, Sound of Music, and Oliver! Glinda could sing like her mom and had a certain something. Eliza had it but her hyperism hid it and she came off as flighty, high strung and off the wall. Any talent was lost in a whirl of the fast talking and jerky motions. Most could not take the keen imagination and the out of the control personality that she had inherited from her mother’s high energy and opera singing attitude. Highly based on emotion, very excitable and quick to break a glass, spill the water, drop a plate, not paying attention.

Eliza’s curly hair went in all directions and unlike Glinda’s straight brown locks. Glinda’s feet were small and delicate awhile Eliza’s were as her dad said, ‘gun boats!’ Glinda also seemed socially planted and well adjusted there.

And Havi was also very impressed with Glinda’s mother’s Broadway background and made no mistake about it, he rolled out the red carpet when the Osbergs arrived on Visiting Day in Mid August and Glinda was playing Oliver in the musical they were putting on at the camp! In fact, Dina their cousin was playing Mr. Bumble and Eliza’s best bunk mate friend was playing Artful Dodger, this girl from Illinois named Jill!

Even at Roy and Richard’s camp across the lake from the girls, word has spread there that the production was open to them and Havi had put out the message to them that they were invited so there was going to be a huge barbecue and then the play later in the evening.

Eliza watched her parents in the darkness of the Social Hall as Glinda sang “Where is Love?” Eliza saw the tears in her mother’s sparkling hazel eyes, and she could smell her mother’s signature perfume.

Eliza prayed to Jesus and thanked him for making Glinda not forget the song and words of the play and she didn't, which made her much more normal.

Afterwards everyone hugged and sang the Sunningdale theme, “Friends, Friends, Friends, We Will Always Be…” It was strange for Eliza to see her parents, so well dressed, standing outside beside a campfire as candles lit the paths and walkways of Sunningdale, and singing was heard in every corner. Havi loved singing, especially the Broadway standards so even that summer they utilized Eliza for a very important song, a medley of standards rewritten to reflect what happened during the summer. Not just when they read your name and then read a song title you most fit. Eliza still remembered hers … “I had the strangest dream last night!” She chuckled at the meaning and recalled waking up and telling the girls about what she dreamt and it was so vivid that they were in secret awe over it. Annie saw that right away about Eliza, she was destined for writing or art career, Annie was sure of it.

The best of the night for Eliza and Annie is when a special award was presented at the end, a special title, called “Maturity” which went to Eliza Osberg. At first Eliza froze in her seat, and then she shyly went up and received her award. It was a 3 by 5, very professionally done card that was signed by Havi himself, plus by Lyn, and even the tennis counselor Danny Blatt, who also liked Eliza’s spunk and enthusiasm and how the little tomboy would volunteer first for anything new even if she’d never done it, and usually she was not get it, but she would try, then the next time they found that she had an incredible back hand so it was not a total loss, so he signed the award.

But even at Sunningdale they wanted to hear Mrs. Osberg do a few standards or opera tunes just to enrich the children of course. Mrs. Osberg would greatly oblige and make the once large stage to Eliza seem very small because of her mother’s large presence and voice. She sang her heart out to anything they played. She even sang the song she sang to them at bed time and then some opera standards and even the Papers, Papers song the girl’s so loved. It brought the house down and even for once Eliza wasn’t embarrassed or overwhelmed. These kids were rich and knew culture so it was easier to fit in and feel proud like she should! Mrs. Osberg was a talent all her own and it showed on her kids very much!

And Eliza’s love for American Indians only enhanced her art and creative niches that they were bringing out at Sunningdale! It had been good for both girls in many ways. Her love for Indians truly came out that summer of 1968. Once ensconced in the arts and crafts shack Eliza began creating acrylic paintings on canvas of faces of Indian chiefs and Indian themed landscapes.

There was a hat contest coming up and the whole camp, including Havi and his staff were to make hats and then parade around the social hall and winners and prizes would be awarded.

Eliza worked on an Indian bonnet decorating it nicely and creatively. She also decided to add a nice touch and offered to do a speech by Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierces when he surrendered to General Crook in 1877. No one else made speeches and it was a bit odd, but they said yes once Annie stepped up to the stage. She had paved the way for people to understand this little girl some called “odd-ball”.

Earlier in the day Eliza was hanging around the Art shack waiting for Annie to get some feathers to decorate the bonnet. There was a totem pole by the shack and Eliza looked up and saw a strange hat sitting way at the top. “I wonder what that is.” She said pointing up.

Eliza looked at the hat in the totem pole for a bit. She circled it and no one was there until Annie showed up and got the feathers. She went back to her cabin and continued decorating her Indian hat, and working on her speech. About one hour passed and it was almost time for lunch, then the continuance after rest hour. The winners would be picked by everyone… Majority … Just as lunch was announced by the ringing of a big bell near the dining hall, Havi Gold came on the P.A. and announced “Attention, attention, all counselors and campers somewhere on the grounds of Sunningdale we hid a special hat. Anyone that finds it will get a special prize!” Suddenly as Eliza finished her chieftain bonnet a flash came to her!

“The hat in the totem pole!”

She jumped up excitedly.

“What’s up Eli,” Asked Jill, her bunk mate, calling Eliza by her tomboyish pet name.

“I know where the hat is!”

“Hey, everyone, “ said Jill. “She knows where the hat is!”

“Cool, where?

“Follow me,” said Eliza triumphantly. Everyone, including Annie ran behind Eliza who made a sprint to the totem pole on the hill.

“There it is, up there! Look!” Eliza pointed up to the top of the Indian symbol. Everyone was cheering and yelling and jumping up and down.

“Eliza Osberg and her bunk mates have found the hat!”

Everyone filed into the dining hall after a big fanfare and order was restored. Lunch was cold cuts, sandwiches, King Cole potato chips, dill pickles, grape bug juice and ice cream for dessert. The rest hour, then canteen candy, and then everyone was supposed to report to the Social Hall for hat festivities.

Eliza saw Glinda who was wearing a small cardboard cutout of a hat, but she’d glued different colored sparkles on it, so it actually looked like one of the better ones of her age group.

All Eliza could think of was the prize she won for her cabin. Maybe it’s dinner at DJ’s Café in town, or maybe candy or something good to eat. Everyone paraded around showing off the hats. There were many styles, trends and shapes. Havi came in with his usual entourage. The head counselor and her husband, Havi's daughter Jani, and Havi’s pretty girlfriend June. The two riding counselors stuck like glue on the outskirts.

Havi held court on the stage and judged the young cabins first, and of course Glinda won a prize a pack of M & M’s. Others won candy mostly! When it was time for Eliza’s age group the candy was gone so they have I O U’s for candy ands soda.

Then Eliza’s bunk paraded by. Eliza asked the judges, “You know we found the hat right?”

“Yes, Eliza, we all know. We are all aware of it,” said Jani officially.

The end came finally with winners awarded except for Eliza’s bunk.

“What happened to our prize, Havi?” Asked Eliza boldly.

“Be more patient. That’s a problem for you, Eliza,” snapped Havi.

“Hey, aren’t you making a speech?” asked the head counselor, trying to break the tension.

Eliza had changed her mind and didn't want to do it.

“I’m not.”

“Oh?” Havi got up and shooshed everyone with … “Hey everyone, Eliza’s going to do a speech now!”

“No I’m not. I don’t even have my hat,” said Eliza losing her high morale.

At the end of the social hall Eliza’s bunkmates sat in back. Sam, Betsy and Jill grabbed Eliza’s Chief Bonnet and did Indian yells and whoops to get more attention. “Here is your bonnet Chief Eliza!”

Havi announced Eliza again. The room quieted except for the occasional subdued laughter of some campers. All attention riveted on Eliza Osberg. She was nervous but began a speech she’d read over and over again or role-played with her friends. A dozen times or more:

“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. TooHulHulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are… perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Here me my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever!”

For a split second no one did a thing, just frozen in a time frame, then someone clapped, and then the whole auditorium was clapping and cheering. They were surprised but she did it! They took her on their shoulders and carried her around the social hall. It was embarrassing but more bearable than being singled out and teased as they were prone to do to Eliza.

The campers made Indian calls, bird calls and whoops and yells, especially Sam and Jill.

“What about our prize,” asked Eliza in the microphone.

“At dinner kids,” said Havi, making a quick getaway.

His entourage followed and swallowed him up like a clam. Annie came up and hugged Eliza. “Very good, Eliza…Very good speech. You didn’t even have to use the book!”


“You were great,” said Jill.

“Yea, you were,” everyone agreed.

Glinda came by and congratulated her sister. Richard and Roy were there too and ran up to her in their matching camp outfits of Skylemar, a camp they had attended summer after summer, after a few years of going to the youth center’s camp Wineko…

“There’s a lot of talent here,” said Annie.

“Hey Glinda, do that Mae West thing,” asked someone in the crowd.

Without much prompting Glinda struck a sexy pose and aid, “Come up and see me sometime!”

Everyone broke in laughter and applause.

“God, two sisters with so much between them,” said Annie, trying to push Eliza too, not just her pretty sister.

“What about our prize Annie?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“I don’t know, we’ll see at dinner.”

“Did Havi tell you?

“No, he didn’t.”

“Well, Kids, don’t worry, it will be nice, whatever it is…”

They went back to the cabin and got ready and cleaned up for the afternoon activities, which were taking place at the lake. A lot of the kids were being tested and moving up from beginners to intermediates, and advanced swimmers. Eliza was afraid of the water and thanks to Suki the swim counselor, and Annie, Eliza had overcome! She also had overcome her fear of showering in the shower stalls. A lot of her quirks alienated her from the other kids. And her sister was cute and spunky, but also had some bathroom issues too. Annie had enjoyed meeting the Osbergs who did not stay for the hat contest, which disappointed both Annie and Eliza, but it was what it was. Visiting day had turned out fantastic for all and the Osberg had brought cute gifts and candy and food to their girls. Eliza would probably sleep in her new genuine moccasins that said “Streaker” on them! They were a size too big but it didn’t matter. She loved it.

Later on the lake, Eliza and Jill took out a canoe. They role-played Indian warriors and Annie watched them handling the canoe. Eliza was in the bow controlling it. Annie realized that the girl was very positive, and that was due to the fact that Eliza went on those trips two summers ago. Now she could handle the canoe and had the gumshoe to give a speech like that. Camp had been good for her and she had grownup, even now unafraid of the close walls of the shower stall. She always volunteered for new things and activities even though she’d never done them. There was resilience in her, a hyper ball of fire. So many gifts, her mother is a beautiful woman, well accomplished concert pianist and opera singer, Broadway success! But it would seem most of the favoritism went to Glinda, who obviously was more normal, even calmer. The afternoon came to a nice end, even Eliza won the greased watermelon contest, grabbing it and running down the beach. Everyone was very excited about what the prize would be and knew that Eliza had come through for them. All though dinner anticipation was brewing with Eliza and her cabin mates. Finally, after along drawn out dinner and announcements, Eliza’s cabin was up front and Havi’s girlfriend June handed out blue and gold pennants with Sunningdale written on it in yellow stitch.

“This is it?” Asked Sam, who was expecting more.

“Yes, that is it.”

“What a rip,” said Betsy.


Havi knew it might be harsh, but the crescendo was growing too large and he didn’t want his campers to lose the sense of humbleness. They had expected to win something grand, so he downplayed it, like a tough love dad. Annie realized what had happened, and right then and there she had a plan that would give the girls the prize they so deserved. Havi is wrong on this one.

So Annie decided right then and there that these kids were going to get the best prize kids love. She was planning to raid the kitchen that evening very late, around midnight when everything was quiet. So when they got back to their bunk that evening for the night, Annie gathered them all into the backroom and told them the plan. They all agreed and wanted to do it. Most of them really felt cheated. It was all so unnecessary.

“So we’re gonna’ raid the kitchen,” asked Sam.

“Yes, we are…with me directing the onslaught.”


“Here’s the plan kids…”

“Is Suki in on it too?” Asked Eliza.

“I told Suki to get into the kitchen through the dock path below the kitchen cellar! It opens easily, that’s where we will go. Follow me kids, and be quite.” She stared at Eliza and said, “Be like Eliza’s Indian friends!”

Everyone chuckled and agreed.

They sneaked out into the night under the cover of darkness. It was cloudy and the only light was the softball field mosquito traps that glowed like little satellites suspended above on wires. Eliza slinked along and emanated her favorite Indian Geronimo of the Apaches. Annie had even allowed her to put on a little war paint on her cheeks with colored clay and even wear her Indian hat she had made. Everyone knew Eliza loved her Indians, so they played along. But she was still teased relentlessly. This time she was in her limelight, mostly thanks to Annie.

“Everyone watch how Eliza acts this time, kids…”

“That speech blew me away,” said Sam to Eliza.

“Thanks Sam,” said Eliza, amazed at it all.

“Yes, me too, I liked it.”

Eliza had prayed as instructed by Fern in a fevered letter to the girl a week earlier. Fern had said she needed to pray to God to soften the hearts of those around her who have hurt her or helped her! Jesus had done his job!

They all came close to the opening at the kitchen cellar. They easily slipped in and before anyone could blink twice they were in the food cellar and going into the freezers and ice cream caches. Eliza found root beer pops and began eating them. She found a huge tin of King Cole Potato chips and opened it and ate to her hearts content. They found a big chocolate cake for a future birthday that week. They all shared a slice and ate it all quickly….

“No evidence!”

Everyone quietly rummaged around the cellar and got candy, peaches, fruit, ice cream, soda and many snacks. Jill ran over with a cheese bottle and was spreading it over an ice cream cone….

Everyone nibbled on granola, Twinkies, ho-ho’s, ding dongs, raisins, peanuts, pretzels, some even making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches mixed with cereal. Eliza saw Sam eating a bag of raw oatmeal.

It was then that Eliza was drawn to the front cellar door. There was a stairwell that led up to the softball field. Eliza looked into the darkness and saw what looked like an old woman with a shawl standing on the steps glaring down at them. She tried to say “Who are you,” but the words were frozen in her throat. She turned to show Jill or Annie, but when she turned, the image was gone. Then they heard shrieking on the field and clamored up carefully, not revealing they were hiding there. The C.I.T.’s were running around the field covered in masks and white sheets and they were scaring everyone and spooking each other. They must have been drunk on their day off, or maybe even on some type of drug of that time, the Sixties, which was the intention of the game they played. Little campers squirmed in their beds at the shrieks so late in the evening. Some other counselors ran into the field and were being spooked by the crazy counselors in training. It was all confusing and jumbled but they left out the back door. Eliza looked again and at the same time a counselor was grabbed by a ghost, it was the other swimming counselor Mary from Texas. She played guitar at campfire evenings and was very animated and intense. But she was grabbed by someone and when Mary pulled the sheet off it was the shy C.I.T. that was with Eliza always wondered could be a C.I.T. she was just so shy! She didn’t seem shy at that second. The young C.I.T. Faith was smiling and seemed like she was possessed on L.S.D. in Eliza’s opinion!

Annie told them that this was the real prize and to play like we didn’t do a thing. They all were prompted and if they were good at acting they will get away with it. So they took all they could carry that would not melt and left the premises the way they’d entered.

“I saw a ghost!”

“What do you mean Eliza?” Asked Annie.

“It was an old woman!”

“Sara Hayden,” said Annie.


“Sara Hayden owned this property many years ago. They say she is buried under the lodge, which is the cellar we were in. Are you sure it wasn’t one of the C.I.T.’s?”

“I’m sure. It was different,” said Eliza.

“Well, don’t mention it anymore! Be good and quiet. Even Geronimo knew when to be quiet…okay?”


“Now everyone follow me and our little chief here.”

The kids laughed and quietly hooted like Indians.

They slowly made there way back to their cabin and once safely inside they had a big party in the backroom. Candy, potato chips, cake, soda, ice cream and snacks, even fruit and milk. Chocolate milk shakes and even scoops of Italian ice!

They stayed up most of the night. And then quietly took the evidence into the woods and buried it. They all walked back arm and arm and went into the cabin and went straight to bed. In the morning the bell rang for breakfast and at the flag pole they knew that Havi Gold was pissed and looking for blood.

“Someone raided the kitchen last night and left the doors all open, and now everything is ruined!”

There was a mumble in the crowd. But Annie knew she had locked everything up and probably for the first time she realized it was a set up and Havi had come in later on and opened the doors making the kitchen raid like a criminal offense and someone would have to pay. He already had his suspicions and he couldn’t believe it if it was revealed to be true. Breakfast was a solemn affair. Havi made many announcements and a lot of people took the floor and talked about lying, deceit and trust.

“How could you do that? How could you be so selfish as to ruin it for the others, who ever you are!!!”

Annie wanted to blurt out that the CIT’s always raided the kitchen and sometimes played ghosts. Havi knew about it, but was reluctant to say a word about it. He knew instinctively that it was Eliza’s cabin that did it, with Annie’s help! But no proof was found even when he sent a few cronies to search Cabin 9, and they found nothing amiss. So the whole camp would suffer instead and were all confined to their cabins until dinner! No games, no talking, no nothing. Just lie on the bunks and meditate on what had been done.

Annie held a private meeting in the backroom.

“Don’t worry kids… We are in the clear okay?

“How,” asked Betsy, who was prone to crying when agitated.

“We sit tight and let the heat pass, just like the Apaches did, right Eliza…What did they do in this case….”

“Oh, they would fade into the desert and lick their wounds, then go to their stronghold in the old country of Arizona and lay low!”

“Right!” Annie held them together. “Hold my hand everyone….Good. Now, promise to keep cool and let me handle this, okay kids?”

They all agreed…

They all went to bed and Annie left to talk with Havi. She talked to him for many hours and now he realized it was the CIT’s that left the door open. She told him about the CIT’s and the ghosts and goblins thing they did. He knew about it. He would talk with them. If anything they would fess up that they left the doors open. Annie admitted that they did raid the kitchen but they took very little and locked up everything.

“I believe you. But you should not have done it.”

“I realize that, but the kids were so down about the prizes they got, like they were overlooked.”

“They were not acting humble and had to be brought down a notch. But you got what you wanted, so let’s call it even, okay?”

“You got it Havi…”

She left and went back to the cabin and went to bed.


Helene Holly and Darth Martin were character actors and very good friends with Lena Osberg. They’d known the Osbergs since the early 1950’s when Lena and Helene worked together on Broadway and in show business. They had stayed close through the years. When Helene was making a new movie she’d invite Lena and Victor to the set.

Lena Osberg was no lightweight when it came to talking to and relating with
celebrities and important people around town.

Helene recently had worked with Joan Crawford and George Segal and Mrs. Crawford was about to do an episode of “Night Gallery” about a woman in an elegant high-rise apartment. Rod Serling was told about the Osberg apartment and wanted to check it out. He’d heard from his people and staff thanks in part to Helene Holly, that the Osbergs UN Plaza apartment would be perfect for the episode he’d been planning on. Rod always checked out the locations first then let his crew handle the details.

Meanwhile, the Osbergs were all going out for dinner at the Grenadier Restaurant on 1st Avenue, a favorite haunt of the families, celebrities and delegates living at the UN Plaza or having offices on the first 7 floors of the UN Plaza.

Mr. Osberg wanted to use this dinner time to discuss rationally the pros and cons of having Rod Serling shoot his t.v. series in their wonderful apartment at the UN Plaza. A representative from Serling’s production company had been at the last building meeting and discussed the situation with Night Gallery coming to film. Mrs. Osberg was all for it, but not Mr. Osberg nor the majority of the building’s tenants. It would be a disruption and in light of the Osberg children running wild through the halls of the building, they needed to curtail things to better able to figure out how to remedy the children’s rampage first. But they would keep things open until after Serling came and went. Maybe he would be interested in an apartment and Mr. Osberg was discreetly told to encourage Rod Serling to maybe consider renting an apartment here! It would mean big perks.

For now the Osbergs were buzzing as usual as they went to the elevators and rode them down with no fanfare.

The restaurant was across the street and up the block from the UN Plaza. They were dressed up and ready. The girls wore frilly dresses, even Eliza. The boys wore dark 3 piece suits with brown mackinaw jackets. The Osberg sisters wore paten leather shiny shoes from Bergdorf Goodman’s and Mr. and Mrs. Osberg wore nice attire, Mrs. Osberg sticking to her all white floor length dress and her grey mink coat. Mr. Osberg wore a Pisces 18K gold fish necklace with a yellow shirt, black slacks and Gucci shoes. He puffed on a cigarette in the elevator as they went to the lobby and out the revolving doors, smelling like expensive cologne, perfume and shampoo.

Sammy the Doorman watched them walk up the driveway. Most would ask for a cab, but he knew the Osbergs and they walked a lot. “Boy, that Mrs. Osberg is a real looker… She looks just like Lana Turner!” He commented to Darrin, another doorman manning the front.

The family walked up the street to 1st Avenue. The restaurant was crowded to the hilt, but they were immediately led to a round table for 6 in a prime location at the ritzy Italian place called The Grenadier at the time.

Rod Serling possibly coming to dinner next week was the topic of conversation, and having Gemma cook one of her Jamaican dishes or even taking him here to this restaurant!

“Wow, Rod Serling in our apartment,” marveled Eliza excitedly.

“Now Eliza, calm down, it’s no big deal,” said Mrs. Osberg, scanning the restaurant for anyone famous. She spotted her prey, Paul Newman and his agent sitting at a window booth to the side.

“I’ll be right back,” said Mrs. Osberg, getting up daintily and with gusto of knowing she made an impression wherever she went. The woman walked straight over to Paul Newman’s table. She was animated and bright like a shining star; a cross between Lucille Ball, Carol Channing and Lana Turner!

“Well hello, Paul,” said Mrs. Osberg as if she’d known him all her life.

He took the bait right away, seeming amused. “Well, hello to you too,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

Eliza got up and followed her mother to Newman’s table.

“This is my daughter Eliza,” said Mrs. Osberg.

“Hi,” said Eliza friendly, following her mother’s lead with familiarity.

“Hello,” he said, suppressing a smile and looking over at the gentleman across
from him and told him with his eyes to play along, or if he knew this lady. Eliza stared deeply into his sparkling blue orbs! “This is my agent.”

“How do you do,” said Mrs. Osberg. She put her gloved hand out and Paul took it and kissed it gently.

“Please,” he said. “…Would you like to join us?”

“Oh, thank you, but the rest of my family is over there!” Mrs. Osberg made it a big dramatic point so all in the restaurant would notice her, which they did. She acted outwardly familiar with Mr. Newman. It was interesting and fun to watch.

“Please, we insist, have a drink with us,” said the agent.

“Oh I can’t join you. You two look like you’re finished anyways.”

“How about coffee, I mean you're practically sitting in my client’s lap already, why not?” The Agent sounded sarcastic but light hearted.

“I can’t stay, but Mr. Newman, can I have your autograph for my friend,” she asked boldly.

“Ummmm, I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t give autographs anymore.”

“Oh? Why?” Asked Eliza as she peeked her face over the cluttered table at Paul Newman’s almost empty plate and half filled glass of red wine.

“Because some screwy broad took his name and charged a bunch of junk on his plate,” said the agent.

“Oh, how awful,” said Mrs. Osberg.

“We had a housekeeper named Vera the Terror who charged a coat on my mom’s plate,” revealed Eliza.

“Oh Eliza, must you?”

“Don’t worry, I know what it feels like… Sorry about the autograph,’ said Newman, who was genuinely concerned.

“Okay, well, l had better get back now,” said Mrs. Osberg. “Thank you both.”

“No problem…”

Everyone in the restaurant was watching like hawks as Paul Newman got up and embraced Mrs. Osberg friendly and familiar-like, then kissed the little girl with the woman.

She made you feel that you knew her well. “Give Joanne (Woodward) my best,” said Mrs. Osberg. She walked back over to their table with ease and a triumphant look on her face.

“Bye little girl,” said Mr. Newman.

“Bye Mr. Newman, see you in the movies,” she added.

They sat back at their table. If Mr. Osberg was embarrassed he didn’t show it on his calm face as the successful businessman sipped his drink of Vodka on the rocks. The boys had cokes and Eliza’s Shirley Temple sat on the table. Glinda had fruit juice. Mrs. Osberg took a little dainty sip of her scotch on the rocks. Mr. Osberg played it cool and suave and didn’t even comment on his wife’s antics. He just got very stern looking and tried to keep the kids, especially Eliza, in line and disciplined!

Suddenly Paul Newman got up and headed for the Osberg table, which surprised even his agent.

“Mrs. Osberg, I just wanted to thank you again about not being sore over my no autograph policy. It’s not you, I can assure you of that,” he said.

“Oh, Mr. Newman….”


“Paul…Yes, of course…. Well, Paul of course we understand.”

“I just wanted to make sure you knew what a gorgeous woman you are,” he said. Newman turned to Mr. Osberg. “You Sir are a lucky man!”

“Thank you,” said Victor Osberg.

“Kids, say hello to my new friend Paul Newman.”

“Hi Mr. Newman,” they all said in unison. It was like in a movie, so surreal that Eliza doubted any of the kids at school would believe her unless they were sitting there beside her. It was that amazing!

Suddenly he walked gallantly up to Lena Osberg who was emotional under the surface, you could see her breathing raggedly and Eliza could actually see the flutter of her mother’s heart against the fabric of her white gabardine gown. He got close and hugged Lena tightly and whispered “check your purse later,” as he slipped in a white of sheet of paper. The agent didn’t miss the action and was dumbfounded. He shrugged. Go figure…

Newman and his agent finally left. Talk drifted to his last movie “The Sting” with Robert Redford, who lived very close and who the kids had seen on the bus and on the set of “The Way We Were” with Streisand. Then even when Redford did “The Candidate” by their school Eliza remembered going up to Redford on the set next door to PS 59 and asking if he remembered her from the bus or his film with Streisand. He had either pretended he recalled her, or maybe he really did! Eliza would never really know.

“You should have said how you guys used to see Robert Redford every day on the
bus,” said Roy.

“I was nervous when mom talked to him right off the bat like that,” said Eliza.

"Neat, he plays a cowboy.” said Glinda.

“Okay kids here comes the food, eat up.”

“By the way,” said Mrs. Osberg as she reached into her purse and retrieved the
paper Newman had put in there. “…he left this!” She held up the note. Everyone was amazed and talking at once. Mr. Osberg was handling things well considering the star had been polite and even said he was a lucky man. The note read: Dear Lady, May you always be as beautiful and bountiful as you come off as. Your dear friend Paul Newman!”

“Well, that’s special…” Every talked at once until the food started arriving in shifts.

It was an Italian delicacy and very high class food, very expensive, very rich, but very good!

There were baskets of warm garlic bread, appetizers of little Italian pizzas, and then they brought large salads with Caesar dressing and croutons along with glasses of grape juice for the kids and red wine for the adults. The main course was everything from Chicken Marsalis to Pasta with meatballs and sauce, and even fish. They all ate everything but with passable table manners. Out of the corner of Mrs. Osberg’s eye she watched Eliza and was pleased the klutzy girl was not spilling her juice or talking a mile a minute.

The family walked back toward the UN Plaza after dessert of a big cake of baked Alaskan, which they all enjoyed.

It was a great dinner and Mr. Osberg was filled in on all the doings the kids were up too when he was gone. Eliza told him about the youth center when John the bully took over the game and how she turned the tables on him. Glinda said she was taking the recorder flute lessons and loved it. Roy was quiet, and said nothing for once. But Rich was doing most of the talking with his father about a new fish in his fresh water tank and Lena Osberg was saying that she and Mrs. Krenz went to the Plaza Hotel for tea and bumped into Herbert Glass but he wasn’t with Eve.

By the end of the week, Rod Serlings office called but Victor had put his foot down. “That would mean lots of people strolling in and out of the place, wires, chords, cameras…Hmmmmm. I don’t know about this,” said Mr. Osberg, weighing the odds of good and bad.

“Oh I see. Well, you’d be compensated nicely and your place will be on the show.”

“We will have to really think on this,” said Mr. Osberg.

“I hope you will consider this, it’s like art.”

“Whatever decision you decide is fine, Mr. Osberg,” said a sweet voiced assistant to Serling. “Just get back to us by tomorrow afternoon with your final answer.

“Really, it’s all great. The crew will be very careful…”

In the end, after a long discussion between Mr. and Mrs. Osberg, they decided against it due to the fact that Mr. Osberg would be away for 3 of those critical days so they decided not to do it after all. Everyone concerned was disappointed and in the end Serling got another place but it wasn’t what he had intended and he’d wished the Osbergs would have let him film there!


Victor Osberg made no secret of the fact that he wanted his kids to attend a “normal” school! Not the hoity-toytee ones the children at the UN Plaza went to. A special school bus picked up those snooty rich kids while the Osbergs seemed to be the only kids in the building at the UN Plaza that went to a district public school and took public transportation.

The school Eliza, Glinda and Richard attended was at 220 E. 57th Street in New York City, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. It was a time that the city first started busing the students in from Harlem and the Spanish Barrio so there was a very “tough” element at the district schools.

Eliza and Richard became friendly with the Moshe family, 6 black brothers who lived on the lower East Side. Two of them, Shadee and Ishmael were in Eliza’s classes. David Moshe was in Rich’s and the other three were in the lower grades or different schools like Roy attended. A few times Shadee and Ishmael were at the same table when Mrs. Greenberg matched up 4 to 6 kids in squared off desk groups.

And sometimes on the recess yard called 'The Terrace' where everyone played games and sports, Eliza would be the only girl in the bunch and the Moshe brothers would always pick her for their team when they played touch football, or once in a while, Ishmael would bring a soccer ball and they’d play that.

Rich’s only friend seemed to be David Moshe who also was very quiet and shy like Rich was. Eliza wondered what they talked about seeing as Rich barely said one sentence.

It did look odd sometimes when they sat together at play time after lunch. Eliza would stand together with the Moshe brothers and it did look rather strange, especially when Rich joined them. Most of the white groups stuck with their own. There were rich kids like The Osbergs, and lower income children, black, white, Chicano, Puerto Rican like Gracie Berg was, plus a few Orientals, but they stuck in clicks and few had the notion or the gumshoe to cross the color lines except Eliza and Rich Osberg.

All the Moshe brothers would eventually become friends with the other Afro American kids.

Marla Hamilton was a bully through and through and lived in the heart of Harlem. She found Eliza and her brother Rich easy pickins', and recruited her friends, all black, to help her torment them. The rich whites invited the Moshe brothers to their big apartment with the 6 bathrooms. That’s what one of the Moshe brothers said. She wanted to see for herself. She was going to try to befriend Eliza and then get invited over. Eliza saw the mean black girl coming toward her in the long hallway. Eliza started to run away from Marla.

She didn’t need to be tripped or made fun of today. She began to trot away toward the guidance counselor area where she was always safe. They told her that if the black girl Marla or her group of friends started up with Eliza, she should make a beeline for the guidance department which was what she was doing when Marla caught up with her. “Hey wait, I ain’t gonna’ hurt ya’, Eliza,” soothed Marla, so unlike her. “…At least not this time,” thought Marla.


“I’ve not been too nice to you,” she admitted, not meeting Eliza’s steady gaze. “Well, uhh, I don’t know….” she said in a sweet sickening voice. “So I want to be your friend now,” said Marla out of the blue.

Marla had been hearing things about Eliza’s living space. Her friends were daring her everyday to have the balls to befriend the loser white chick and see for herself.

“Why are you wanting to all of a sudden be my friend?”

Marla feigned anger, “Why the hell do I need a reason, just accept it, and that’s that white girl!” She held out her hand and that was Marla’s way so Eliza shook the black girl’s hand and it was a sealed deal although it felt uncomfortable for both kids!

Part of Eliza wanted the friendship, wanted to show Marla Hamilton that she could be a very good friend and confidante to the unhappy, unruly black bully of the school. But most probably it was some kind of cruel trick. Eliza tended to fall right in, and it was mostly due to Fern’s teachings to be friends with enemies, turn the other cheek, which is why Eliza had so many problems socially with other kids at the rough and tumble school. She also wanted to be liked, simply liked!

“Really, I ain’t kidding I can be your best friends,” said Marla, usually used to hitting Eliza rather than gently putting her slim black fingers on Eliza’s back. Marla had picked on the Osberg kids since first grade and now Marla was curious about the UN Plaza.

All day Marla stuck with Eliza like glue, which made Eliza’s friends stay clear. There was a very weird moment when after many years of Marla’s cronies picking on Eliza, that Eliza turned around and saw all those kids (Marla’s cronies) standing beside her now. It was sort of eerie and brought strong memories of Fern’s strong voice about how Jesus would walk with his enemies and others would chastise him for it, not understanding why… But here Eliza was amongst her enemies like Jesus. She felt like Jesus, or felt what he might have felt. It was even lonelier and darker than she had imagined! Deep in the recesses of her mind she knew that Marla was not being friendly for nothing, just as Jesus might have felt the same thing. It would be a learning experience for both Marla and Eliza. As the day progressed, Eliza began feeling a little embarrassed as people came up and asked her what was up. Finally Gracie Berg had cornered her in the gym alone and Eliza managed to get the message out about what was happening… She just wasn’t sure what was going on, but she was trusting in God!

“You and your Jesus,” said Eliza’s best friend Gracie Berg.

“What do you mean me and my Jesus?”

“These girls are playing you up big time Eliza. Why are you falling for this?”

“Look, it is what it is!”

“And what is that?”

“Look, don’t freak further, but I invited Marla over to the apartment,” admitted Eliza.

“What, you crazy girl?”

“So what? She’ll be alone, not with all her cronies. They act different alone,


“Her crew… I’ve seen how she is when it’s just me and her… I think I can win her over and make her see me for good!”

“You are making a big mistake.”

“Maybe so, but God leads me!”

“God … Your sick,” said Gracie. “Do you need approval that badly?”

“Maybe I do…who knows?”

“You are much better than that Eliza,” said Gracie, who was way beyond her years.

Eliza shrugged.

Later, after school, for the very first time, Eliza wasn’t running from Marla, and when they met it was like a dream in slow motion. So very Surreal! There was the moody, mean and sour Marla with scowl on her dark features. But this time she smiled widely when she saw Eliza, a huge white toothed grin.

Marla was not pretty. She had an overly oval looking face like a triangle. Angular features, high cheek bones, eyes too close together, severe corn row braided hair, not attractive in the least. Years of bullying and fighting and anger had made her sharp features rough and tumble. Her eyes were dark, you couldn’t even see her pupils. She was short and very skinny and was prone to anger quickly. She was actually left back in 3rd grade and even paraded around her report card like a purple heart. A big red stamp proclaimed her “not promoted” so she ended up in Eliza’s class long ago. Little by little Marla’s teasing turned ugly and almost violent. Sometimes she would kick or trip Eliza in the hallways or in gym class, even when Mrs. Fohrs heads was turned.

“Well you ready Marla?” Asked Eliza as they walked down 3rd Avenue. They’d just left school and were out on the street. Eliza was nervous still not believing she was walking calmly with the school bully Marla Hamilton. At that moment she knew they would go straight to the apartment and not stop at the Indian store or the candy store either like with Gracie or other friends of Eliza’s.

And the first thing Eliza noticed was that none of her friends or even family walked with her when she hooked up with Marla.

So Marla and Eliza rode the bus in silence together. Marla wondered how she’d agreed to this! At least Eliza wasn’t as what Marla had imagined. She was actually an okay kid, but Marla had gotten into a habit of teasing Eliza. Her friends would never understand so she told them she was just messing with Eliza and wanted to see the apartment the Osbergs lived in.

They walked down the driveway of the UN Plaza. The doorman smiled when he saw them coming.

“Hi Eliza,” he said going down to her level. “Who’s your new friend?”

“Oh, this is Marla Hamilton,” Marla this is Sammy the Doorman!”

Instead of being friendly, Marla smacked her lips in disgust, and turned away from him, looking off into the distance of Sutton Place.

“Nice.” Said Sam sarcastically.

“What did you say mother fucker?” Marla turned violently.

“Nothin’, I didn’t say nothin’,” said Sammy.

A chill ran up Eliza’s neck. She’s never seen that coming out of Sammy and he always exuded a calm demeanor, but his mean Irish roots came clear and cold and it was so strange and sad and exciting all at the same time.

“Humph,” she said under her breath, but he had heard that too.

“Now there’s no need for that young lady,” said Sammy menacingly.

Just then, as Sammy glared at Marla in disgust, a taxi pulled up so he left them standing there.

Eliza’s old fears of Marla surfaced so she ignored it. “Come on, let’s go,” she said.

Now Eliza began regretting she’d fallen into this with Marla. It was now obvious what Marla was all about, but they rode up in the elevator. Chin Ling was on duty and joked with Eliza, but Marla became stone faced.

“Who is your new friend, Eliza?” Asked the little Chinese man with the happy smile. He always had a twinkle in his eyes.

“Hi Ching Ling,” said Eliza, but nothing more about Marla.

“I see your brothers, Eliza,” he revealed. “They were with 4 black boys upstairs,” he said.

“Oh, the Moshe Brothers,” answered Eliza. Marla didn’t acknowledge anything, but stood there like a Mahogany statue. She was no beauty, but had a toughness about her that was seriously daunting. Marla was most probably used to “wearing the mean face,” because of her rough environment. Eliza knew that somewhere inside Marla was a nice kid deeply hidden. Her father had told her in many ways that people like Marla felt very little inside.

They got to 23 and walked to Eliza apartment. Marla was secretly in awe, but was poker faced about it as they walked into the gigantic, glamorous apartment.

They walked into the kitchen where Roy and Richard sat with 4 of the Moshe Brothers eating a box of Ritz Crackers and Oreo Cookies and Chocolate Milk Nestles. Marla saw it all and eyed it and smacked her lips but didn’t move. She wanted some of that for sure and had never really had that stuff in her house. She’d seen it on t.v. but that’s about it, and here she was getting ready to chow down…

“Hi guys,” said Eliza.

“Hi Eliza,” the boys said smiling. They were very dark skinned.

“This is Marla,” said Eliza with little fanfare.

Marla just glared and took a seat, as the Moshe’s moved away from her. She grabbed a few Oreo’s and crackers and started eating them. She drank Milk from David’s cup, which didn’t faze anyone too much.

“Why don’t you have a few crackers, Marla?” Said Roy trying to be funny and who didn’t realize who Marla was. Two of the Moshe Brothers did, and so did Richard, who sat transfixed staring at the black girl that wreaked havoc in their hearts every day at school and whose mother was known as Frauline Hamilton, the Nazi.

“I guess so,” Marla said, munching heavily on the Oreo’s and gulping the fresh cold chocolate drink like it was ambrosia. She’d never had a whole one to herself her mother doled it out like small cubes of sugar. It was not good! She felt a mixture of feelings. Jealously of course… But some respect, anger mostly. Wanting to strike out so she didn’t have to feel, just feel the rage that hid the feelings of emotion. It was hard.

Eliza eyed the boys who seemed a bit perplexed at seeing the hated bully of Beekman Hill School standing there.

Eliza gave Marla a grand tour. As they looked at the sixth bathroom Marla couldn’t help herself and started talking about her place in Harlem she lived at with her sister and mother.

“It’s nothin’ like this,” she said almost jealously.

“What’s it like, Marla?” Asked Eliza as they stood in Eliza’s parent’s bedroom.

“It’s bad,” she said honestly. “I went to take a bath and there was a live huge rat in the tub, and there’s tons of cockroaches, but you don’t realize it until you get up in the middle of the night and go in our kitchen! Paint is peeling off the walls too, certainly ain’t like this place!”

“I’m sorry,” Eliza said genuinely, but she figured Marla was making it worse than it was, I mean she did live with the most hated aide at the Beekman Hill School Mrs. Hamilton!!!! That in itself was bad enough, so anything small was magnified. Eliza identified with Marla more than Marla thought. Whatever happened she would call Fern and pray to Jesus for guidance.

“Ain’t no thing, who really cares,” answered Marla trying to downplay it all, like she was a strong girl for living there. But Eliza was starting to see Marla in a deeper light as Jesus felt when he stood before King Herod and understood him! Eliza had a feeling God meant for this to happen, even if Marla was putting on an act to see, be inside of, and experience the UN Plaza.

Nothing more was said between them. They went back in the kitchen when Gemma had arrived from her bedroom. She was not on duty and had decided to spend her day off at the Osberg Apartment. She didn’t pay much attention to things and went back into her bedroom and was centered on watching her soap General Hospital.

So Eliza decided that she would serve Campbell’s ABC Soup and she began making it, using 2 cans with water. Eliza felt like a mother hen when she began doling out the soup in some fancy bowls she’s spotted in the cabinet. Marla played along and sat at the table looking out of place and slightly uncomfortable. If Annie saw her now, the other girl would have beaten the living shit out of her.

Finally Eliza sat down and had her bowl of soup. She was now realizing Marla’s intent – not to be a friend, but more along the lines of a spy. Eliza now wished she’d not fallen for it, but she looked around the kitchen and it was almost comical. Rich and Roy had left so it was just Eliza, the 4 Moshe Brothers and Marla. They began throwing crackers at each other for fun, but then Marla beaned the cracker too hard which nicked the corner of Trey’s left eye.

“Hey, that wasn’t very nice!”

“Oh what a little baby you are black boy!” Said Marla.

“Hey don’t talk to my brother like that, triangle face,” said David, throwing a cracker at Marla, getting her square between her dark vicious eyes. It was at that moment Mrs. Osberg walked in the kitchen dressed up and smelling like Bergdorf Goodman’s!

Eliza froze in her seat and felt the color rise in her cheeks. At that same moment Marla took her soup and hurled it across the table, all 4 brothers getting doused with warm lunch! Little noodle letters were plastered to the ceiling and walls, plus on the glass table made in Italy, as well as on the Moshe’s faces too! It would have been like something out of a comedy sketch if not for the seriousness of it all with Mrs. Osberg standing there about to blow a gasket and faint!

“What’s going on here?” Cried Mrs. Osberg. “Where’s Gemma? Who are all these black children? What are you all doing here?” Mrs. Osberg was becoming quite livid like a sleek Lamborghini going from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds. “Eliza!”

“They’re friends from school,” answered Eliza trying to sound confident.

“How dare you!”

“What mom?” Said Eliza, tears already rolling down.

Meanwhile David and his brothers had gotten up and took the whole box of crackers and threw it at Marla. Marla didn’t hesitate to go after them single handedly and they had jumped up and were running around the kitchen to get away from the angry black girl. They started laughing, all 4 brothers. Marla was shrieking. The known bully knew how to stir up the cauldron.

Mrs. Osberg grabbed Marla by the collar of her jumpsuit.

“Let me go honky white woman,” snarled Marla.

“What the hell are you doing? Who are you?” Mrs. Osberg shook Marla like a rag doll. “I want you out of here right this minute!”

“Ask your daughter,” threw back Marla, pulling herself free long enough to kick Mrs. Osberg square in her stomach making a dirty shoe imprint on the woman’s brand new white coat.

Mrs. Osberg seemed shocked at first, then went into action and hauled off and slapped Marla square in the face!

“White bitch,” screamed Marla.

“Everyone get out of my apartment now,” screamed Mrs. Osberg who was on the verge of having a stroke, her hair coming askew, even breaking one of her peach colored fake nails when she’d hauled off on Marla. “Gemma, Gemma, come here right this minute,” she yelled like she was singing the finale of an opera, minus the music, which Eliza could hear clearly in her own head!

She dialed the front desk downstairs on the small white building phone. “Tom, it’s Lena Osberg,” she stammered while trying to catch Marla. She kicked out at the unruly black girl running a muck of their kitchen.

“Yes Mrs. Osberg,” said Tom, always knowing that if there was a call from the Osbergs, it meant some funny banter with the guys after work! He wondered why someone didn’t write a movie on this family, the way they acted and especially the way Mrs. Osberg was.

“I want you to send security up here right away, please hurry!”

“What’s the problem now?” He asked, hoping none of the kids were hurt. It sounded pretty serious, but it always sounded serious with this raving, yet ravishing broad.

“Never mind, just do it!”

“Yes, I will, right away!”

Mrs. Osberg hung up the phone and by this time Marla was heading for the door just as Gemma had come out of her room hearing the clamor.

“Gemma, Gemma, get that girl!” Screamed Mrs. Osberg.

Gemma went into action, her lithe body reaching out and grabbing Marla in her tracks. Marla thrashed suddenly nailing Gemma in the eye!

The sturdy little housekeeper flinched for a split second. “Ras, Jesus!” She held fast to Marla.

“Gemma, get her out of here!” Commanded Mrs. O. from the sidelines, not wanting to get in the way of the flailing arms and legs of the little black girl from Eliza’s class! How could Eliza have done this!

Gemma started to drag the black girl across to the foyer and to the door. The usually quiet, good natured Jamaican woman was tight fisted and her face was all scrunched up in anger and frustration. Eliza had never seen Gemma so riled up and potent. She actually resembled an Apache Indian warrior like the lady who used to wash Eliza’s family’s clothes back when they lived in another State. Mrs. Lula, who would scrub and scrub the sheets in the laundry room in their house back then. Eliza would watch her face and it would turn into Geronimo or Cochise as they went to battle and were fighting for their freedom!

Roy and Richard ran out and helped Gemma by opening the front door. Marla was yelling and screaming and swearing like a sailor and resembled, believe it or not, Helen Keller type character being hauled out of the room forcibly.

“Dirty girl, ras…”

“What’s going on?” asked Roy. Glinda was at a friend’s house.

“Rich, Roy, get back to your room, Eliza come here!”

Just then 2 security men arrived in the hallway and helped drag Marla to the service elevator and would literally toss her out the back door of the UN Plaza by Riverside Drive to avoid any media circus that might happen due to the Vietnam talks at the General Assembly room with Nixon trying to persuaded them to end the war. If she tried to make more trouble they would call the cops and from there, who knew what would come of it. Just no more news hounds or ketchup bottle protests!!!!

“You’ve gone too far this time, Eliza,” screamed Mrs. Osberg.

“Mom, I didn’t invite the Moshe brothers, Rich did!”

“I don’t care, you had that wretched child here and you have no right! Wait until your father hears! Go to your room now,” she wailed at her daughter. “Look at what that damn girl did to my new coat,” cried Mrs. Osberg, brushing herself off and taking a seat at the table. Gemma came in and calmed her talking soothing and making Mrs. Osberg a cup of hot calming tea. Eliza slinked away and went to her bedroom.

“And stay in your room until your Dad gets home, do you hear me, Eliza,” screamed Mrs. O. down the long hallway. Her opera voice easily reached Eliza’s buzzing ones.

“That’s not fair mom, I didn’t have the Moshe guys here!”

“Rich heard his name and ran to the bedroom and locked himself in. The Moshe Brothers calmed down once Gemma removed Marla. They filed out the door quietly. Eliza was crying and in the doghouse for sure. And what would happen when she got to school tomorrow? Marla would be on a rampage for her, but maybe not.

Eliza got on her hands and knees and prayed as Fern had taught her. She pleaded with Jesus to make things right and she blessed all who were involved even Marla! She had turned the other cheek. Maybe in the end Marla’s heart would soften enough that she would not make waves at school. It was puzzling and that made Eliza stop crying. She would explain to her dad and in the meantime, when Mrs. Osberg went to the living room and was talking to her friends about what had happened. Eliza sneaked into the den and used her father’s private line to call Fern. They talked for a bit and Fern calmed her and said she would talk to Mr. Osberg before he got home and got the news from a raving Mrs. Osberg. Eliza explained it all in great detail and Fern got a picture. “Tell Gemma I’m sorry she was hurt!”

“I will Fern,” said Eliza. “Gotta’ hang up now Fern. I love you so much! I wish you were here, but Gemma was good…”

“Okay sweetie, I’ll talk to your father,” said Fern in her soothing thick New England accent!

“God bless you Fern.”

“Jesus is with you dear.”


By the time Mr. Osberg got the phone call from Fern and got home, a lot of the clamor of Marla and Moshe boys was less jagged. Mrs. Osberg called the Beekman Hills School where Marla's mother worked in the office and they had it out on the phone. Roy and Rich said they had invited the Moshe kids over when Eliza showed up with Marla.

“Eliza, what were you thinking inviting an unruly girl like that here, and a bully at that, to our apartment?” Asked Mr. Osberg. Thank God he had been briefed by Fern. He understood it then, and he just wanted to see how Eliza would respond.

“I honestly don’t know why dad. She was nice to me but she always picked on me, so when she got nice I guess I wanted her to like me and it says in the Bible to love your enemies and you’ll find eventual salvation!”

“What are you talking about now?” Asked Mrs. Osberg, who was sitting in her favorite French chair taking in the other side of the story. One thing about the Osbergs, they did listen when the dust cleared and Eliza had the floor at the moment and made her case excellently, so much so that Mr. Osberg was proud of her and realized she was a special little girl, although a bit hyper, yes, but special and sensitive all the same!

“What happened when you went back to school?” Asked Mrs. Osberg, ready to go to her daughter’s defense and show up at the school which she had done for them all through the years, and would do in the future for as long as the school allowed her to. There was a rumor that Mrs. Marrate was vying to get the principal at the Beekman School to resign to get her own man in there, and there had been light talk of Mrs. Osberg taking a stand.

“She just glared at me, but kept her distance. Then Mom called my guidance counselor and spoke to Marla’s mother!” Said Eliza speaking both to her Dad and Mom.

“Has she threatened you?” Asked Mrs. Osberg. She knew that kind and had seen it in her own childhood growing up in NY in the early 1940’s, especially during the war and after she’d gotten a bad case of polio that had her in an iron lung for almost two years! Her older brother Abraham had died in 1945 of an anorexic condition just after entering Navy School, then Lena had contracted Polio one summer at camp.

“Not lately, since this happened, at least not verbally. But I am sure she would love to beat me up and is waiting until it all dies down, who knows at this point!”

“How do you know?” Asked Mr. Osberg.

“Because she has been picking on me for some many years now, I can see it in her eyes. But when that happened the other day she got scared!”

“Bullies are always scared Eliza,” said Mr. Osberg.

“Your father is right, sweetie,” agreed Mrs. Osberg. She remembered how life changed after she got Polio, and how the other kids avoided her, even her dearest boyfriend of the time there at camp, Mitch Weinbaum. But when she lay in the infirmary in the beginning stages of the disease with some other children before getting transferred to a hospital in New York, Mitch had come to see her and sat with her even holding her hand, which was great taboo back in the early days of the beginnings of the disease that struck down children. Lena had just swam in the camp pool and started feeling stiff. She developed a raging fever as the first stage of the disease started. But thankfully her parents had acted quickly with the camp staff and Eliza was transferred quickly. It might have saved her life along with the little girl’s raging spirit which persevered and overcame the Polio, and when you looked at her standing there screaming about Marla the bully you could not believe she would have had such a wretched disease and had fully recovered.

Eliza explained to them exactly what had happened as she told it to Fern, but didn’t say she’d spoken to Fern. Eliza guessed that Fern had called and spoken to her dad and that is why the heat was lifting. Mr. Osberg understood even more and could see how Lena would be so upset when she came in on the thick of it. He didn’t let on that he’d had the whole scoop from Fern.

“Remember what I told you about bullies Eliza?”

“Yes, sure. No matter how mean and big the bully is, he feels like this,” she said, holding up her fingers like she was holding a small object… “They feel like a little kernel of corn!”

Lena Osberg added. “Is everything okay Bourge?” She asked, using Victor’s nickname.

“Yes, now that I know all the facts,” said Victor.

“I didn’t realize that it would all go crazy and I knew how Marla was, but I didn’t think she would take things so far. I was only trying to help and be her friend,” explained Eliza easily.

Mr. Osberg remembered his conversation with Fern and what she had said. He actually saw a little Fern developing in his daughter. He was not going to ground her on this. But he knew that a very famous movie that her 2nd cousin had written was coming on t.v. and he wanted her to keep her religious enthusiasm but she had to see how Jewish faith works as well.

Eliza was grateful that Mrs. Osberg didn’t get hurt too badly by Marla, but Gemma had a black eye and Mrs. Osberg was not happy about being kicked by the bully.

“What’s going to be done about this Victor?” Mrs. Osberg folded her hands together and then smoothed out her new white organdy dress. She had just gotten a manicure down the street at Amato’s and her hair had just been cut, shaped and dyed. It shone bright and blended well with her makeup and red lipstick. She was a piece of work and wore herself well!

“Well, obviously Eliza isn’t to blame, so I guess it’s up to Marla’s parents to do what they have to do.”

Eliza imagined Mrs. Hamilton taking a coat hanger to Marla, maybe even a leather belt or even a switch she might have bought just for the occasion. Eliza knew very well how Marla’s mother could be and she threw her power around the lunchroom like a prison guard bucking for a promotion! It was scary.

“Well, you won’t see that anytime soon,” said Mrs. Osberg.


“I called Mrs. Hamilton and she gave me an ear full,” said Mrs. Osberg.

“And I’ve seen her in school, she’s the same, both of them, if not worse,” added Eliza.

“Has she tried to get you?” asked Mr. Osberg.

“Well, I have to say that she’s not as bad as she was. So that’s good, but she will get me eventually, somehow in her own way!”

“Okay, enough on Marla. Did you speak to the Moshe brother’s parents?”

“Yes, I did. Both of them could not have been any nicer and more understanding. They grounded the boys indefinitely and said their son’s should have known better,” reported Mrs. O.

“Roy and Rich were not there when it happened,” said Eliza, playing the Jesus role to the hilt.


“No, Glinda wasn’t there either.”

“Where is Glinda?” Asked Mrs. Osberg.

“She had music practice,” said Eliza, wishing they’d allow her to take music lessons too, but she was just too out of control and hyper for that, at least in her parent’s eyes.

“Oh,” Said Mr. Osberg.

“Well, that’s that.”

“Go on and play,” suggested Mrs. Osberg, wanting to be alone with her husband.

So Eliza went on after the event. Rich was hiding behind the door and pulled her to him.

“What’s up in there?” He asked, seeming to b fearful. Rich never had the gumshoe Eliza had so he was always quiet, subdued, and reserved in every way. He retreated into himself and had his own world of protection. It was the essence of Rich!

So Eliza went back to school always wondering when Marla was going to trounce her. One day when Glinda, Rich and Eliza were coming home from school they noticed a ruckus going on across from the United Nations Building in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Park. People of all shapes and sizes were marching. It was Israel vs. the Arabs and people on both sides were getting restless wanting to riot. The riot horses moved in.

“Hey, there’s Preview,” said Eliza, noticing the riot horse she’d petted for years.

“Yea, I see him,” said Rich looking at the brown horse in the distance.

“Oh, look there’s Rosie!” Eliza pointed next to Preview to a lighter brown looking horse.

The children ran through the surly crowd and up to the 2 riot policeman on the curb.

“Hey it’s those kids again, Jim,” said one cop, seeming unfazed about the crowd getting ugly. He liked the kids and they always remembered the horse’s names and to bring a lump of sugar that Preview loved. The Osberg kids smiled up at the cops and loved the whole aura of it… Especially the horses and the cops mixed in together. They fed the animals sugar and even a carrot. Eliza had ridden at summer camp since she was 5! It was an amazing experience and made her love the animal. Of course her love of the American Indians fueled a lot of thing with horses and this was one of them!

A few other policemen on horses were on hand and edged over to the small group. They joined Preview and Rosie and formed a strong line of defense against the backdrop of the UN Building but let the kids continue to pet the horses. It had been this way for many years now and the kids were like fixtures, and you just accepted them, it was strange but few questioned it, and the ones that did, mostly were ignored. Just as though the kids didn’t get unruly or that the demonstration became weapons violent they knew how to handle it.

“Wow, some new recruits?” asked Eliza. She went and begged to pet another horse. “What’s his name, Officer?”

“Donahue like Troy Donahue, the actor,” he said, not expecting the little girl to know who he was, but she did due to her mom’s love of old movies and Broadway.

The kids petted the animals as the 2 sides protested and started to get edgy. Glinda was getting freaked out and she was starting to whimper and cry, looking very frustrated.

For some reason Eliza was not afraid. Rich was just looking around and in awe as the crowd suddenly swelled to hundreds of people. Some man on the Israeli side started a chant. He started to scream this weird high pitched yell. Some women enhanced it by shrilling their little ditty. The women were mimicking the Arab female call, a cross between a yodel and an Indian war whoop!

“We are going to riot,” warned the inciter on the Arab side. “We will break down these barriers and riot!”

The crowd started to push at the barriers. The police went into action immediately. They almost mowed down Eliza who was standing by. The police horses went forward. She jumped out of the way nimbly, not really fazed.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Rich.

After feeding Preview the last carrot, Eliza took charge. “Hold on to me,” said Eliza as both Rich and Glinda grabbed on to her shirt tail and she began to lead them out as Glinda whimpered. They were in the middle of the hurricane of a crowd ready to burst. People were like heated clouds turning into thunderheads. They were acting rowdy. Eliza cut a path through the crowd. Up on the small platform there was an Arab man dressed in traditional garb and Eliza noticed his shoes which were curled in the front. She would love a pair. He was speaking loudly through a megaphone that echoed and bounced against the buildings. News cameras were set up and cameras were snapping and clicking. .

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Park Square is where it was allowed. Eliza looked up at the inscription in stone with a man pushing a plow. “…we shall beat our swords into plows” … But it seemed like the opposite today to Eliza, at least at that moment as little black helicopters and news station copters circled above like little birds!

“Just stay close to me,” instructed Eliza, taking the lead.

The crowd was swelling and billowing and the riot police were trying to restore order which looked far from being contained. Eliza spotted Preview and Rosie in the crowd and headed for those horses. The two animals actually recognized the girls after so many years and caught their scent and came to their rescue and on their own came to the aid of Eliza and her scared stiff sister Glinda. The horses came and surrounded the girls for a split second as to give them time to cross over to the more tamer side of the curb. No one would have believed it if they hadn’t of been there. It was amazing and memorable. Eliza would never forget it, and looked straight into Preview’s large brown eyes and for a split second it seemed to the plucky little girl that horse knew her.

The riot horses were edged back by their riders back into the thick of it, and left their charges on the curb in safety of the headquarters set up there. They did their thing and Eliza noticed the horses before the riders. They had been coming to this corner for years now and had befriended the riot horse brigade.

Eliza wished this had been going on when Marla was there because that whole thing may have been avoided and maybe the Moshe Brothers would be with them now instead of being grounded like they were. Eliza continued to push through the crowd with Rich and Glinda holding on to her for dear life. Eliza wondered what punishment Marla had gotten from her witch of a mother Mrs. Hamilton. She’d seen Mrs. Hamilton in action at school and knew well how that lady was. She had begun working in the cafeteria as a monitor back when Eliza was in 1st grade. She would always separate Eliza and her very best friend Roland who had moved to Germany when Eliza was in 4th grade after he was left back. They were inseparable and Mrs. Hamilton would say “Hey you two, move down,” but it sounded like “moo down,” she always separated Roland and Eliza but Eliza always laughed when Hamilton said, “moo down, moo down,” like a cow.

It became a fever pitch with the crowd, just when it seemed that everything would go totally haywire, Glinda, Rich and Eliza reached the other side of the street. On this side of the street was a circle of people that were sitting down to pray in all ways. The kids ran across the street back to the UN Plaza. From their vantage point it looked like a restless sea of people bobbing on a choppy ocean. The kids had participated in many protests in the past, especially when the Vietnam War made it’s face known by the late 1960s… There was also a protest that got the kids marching on the news and Victor Osberg almost fell off the couch when he saw a fast clip of it the next evening when he was watching his usual news station and sipping his vodka and eating his Herring and Jewish crackers. It was when Taiwan wanted to separate from China.

Eliza remembered, as they ran down the UN Plaza driveway the time this Russian fraction was protesting there. They had a huge black cage and they were chanting over and over, “Let our people go, now, let’ our people go, now!”

So Eliza ran down and joined them after checking with the riot guys who were there via Preview and Rosie! The leader of the protest, a fat, sweaty Russian man, asked Eliza to sit in the cage and she obliged him. They carried her around and chanted the slogan. Even the news trained their many cameras on her in the cage.

Later that evening Mr. Osberg was watching the news when they flashed his daughter in the cage. He was angry at first but later he decided not to say anything. Eliza didn’t mention it so why rock the boat. If she had missed school or lied then that would be a reason. He switched to channel 2 CBS and saw the same tape with Eliza in the cage. He was amused now, but as always he called Fern, who was up late.

“Fern, I just saw Eliza on a news story. She was riding in a cage. It’s on every sobering.”

“Really?” Fern was amazed.

“Yes,” said Victor, sounding like he was losing his mind.

“Victor calm down now! Jesus Mary and Joseph it’s not the end of the world, put your doubts aside…It’s your daughter, your crazy daughter who has the know-how and knowledge and thirst to know things…plus your wife’s genes of showbiz…she’s a natural.”

“My God, she’s just a kid!”

“Now Victor, I want you to go to the bar and get yourself a dry vodka with a dash of lemon juice. Sniff the drink before you sip, then take a big swig and breath out slowly then sniff in the fumes of the lemon and vodka! You will see a difference.”

“Well if she isn’t hurting anyone whey mention it. In fact, if I do mention it, it might become more of a problem. In this case, forget it…Eliza is fine!”

He told her all about what happened with Marla, much of what Fern already knew but she stored it away with the other info and assessed it. She had answers…it takes pray and meditation…. Jesus leads the way…She would teach them this and they would overcome evil and ignorance.

“God is with you Victor Osberg,” said Fern in a low whisper.

“I figured you’d say that Fern. I’ll see you Monday night, okay?

“Okay, God Bless you.”

“You too, bye.”

He hung up and turned on the t.v. just as Johnny started his monologue! During a
commercial break he went into the bathroom and relieved himself and then took a dose of some tranquilizer his doctor has prescribed for him to sleep! He’d turned to meds this time. It wasn’t easy. But business was good and even Lena was trying to get him to slow down and retire early and count his retirement golden egg! He’d been sitting on it for years, and it was time to cash in.


A few weeks after the big protest, Eliza and Glinda were at the UN Park by the UN Rose Gardens. Thankfully Marla had just about stopped her jealous tirade, but she was still “vibing Eliza out” as the other kids had heard them say. Still Marla glared at Eliza from across the classroom and scariest of all was when Marla just by chance passed by the classroom where Eliza was sitting in and “vibed her out” there. No one who saw would admit or stop the torment. People were conditioned and it was known that they wanted to cater to the blacks to make them want to send their kids there, all the way from Harlem or even have a mother of one of them working in the office in a semi important position!

Through the school gossip grapevine, Eliza had found out that Marla wanted her burned at the stake in a sense, literally, same with her mother. Eliza felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and just wished she could use the ruby slippers to get out of the school, but right now she and her sister played at the elegant park, which was usually empty except for am abandoned car outside the gates of he little park nestled between the UN and the UN Plaza Apartments.

Seeing the abandoned car parked in front of the UN looked like a sore thumb with a cast on it.

Eliza and Glinda walked up to the car and riffled through it, finding nothing. They went back to the park and began playing on the swings. A bum showed up and began going around the park and going through the trash cans, but it was the way he was doing it. The disheveled man dumped the cans out and picked through and then moved on to the next basket.

At that moment Eliza had her Dad’s Polaroid camera and began snapping photos of the activity of the bum. She proceeded to photograph him dumping the baskets, and it was all coming out instantly on black and white film. She’d had bought it at the souvenir shop in the Delegates Lobby!

“Look at that bum dumping all that garbage around the park,” said Eliza, bringing Glinda’s attention to it.

“Eliza, stop snapping photos of him like that! He’ll come after us!”

“Oh stop it, he will not,” said Eliza as she snapped more of him doing his dirty work.

Glinda ran away from Eliza and hid in the Rose bushes by the General Assembly Building.

The bum was doing his thing and Eliza snapped some shots of him in various stages of his dirty work. Shots of him dumping it, sifting through it, eating it and sitting in his midday lunch munching. He had retrieved a discarded KFC bag, and at first he seemed happy until he saw what he thought he would. “Awww, coleslaw again damn it!” He ate it though.

The light skinned black man in a tie and rumpled brown suit move his cache over to the abandoned car and proceeded to eat in the auto without a care in the world, so Eliza snapped a few of him eating in the car and he didn’t even noticed Eliza that’s how sly she was in getting him candid. She was a natural in many ways.

So Eliza looked at her instant camera handy work. She was proud of it and wanted to show her father, who encouraged that stuff.

She ran over to Glinda. “Look, look, this is so cool,” said Eliza.

“No, I don’t want to see it,” said Glinda. She was nervously looking over at the bum eying her back suspiciously and trying to act all tough now. He picked up on Glinda’s fear.

Eliza showed the shots to Glinda. Glinda half looked at the photos, but kept looking at the bum who just sat in the abandoned car and ate.

“Okay, I looked, now let’s go,” said Glinda. She wanted to get as far way from the bum as possible. Just as Glinda was about to bolt out of there, a police car cruised by and stopped when they saw the abandoned car. They got out and came up to the curb and saw the car with the bum sitting in it totally obliviously to them being there.

“Hey Mister…”

“Yes, you,” said the second officer.

“What officer… I’m not doin’ nothin’…This ain’t even my car,” said the pitifully dressed man down on his luck…

“We figured that,” said the first officer as he surveyed the area and the car itself checking for bombs or anything a miss. They were doing those things now that the Vietnam War was in full swing.

“No sir, this ain’t my car. I was just sitting in it and havin’ my chicken dinner!”

The cops looked around the UN Park and noticed tons of trash spilled out of the trash cans. They stared back at the bum looking innocent.

“Well, what’s to do here Joe?” asked one officer to his dark haired partner.

“Well, there’s not much, maybe ticket him for loitering and send him on his way.”

One officer started the paperwork. The bum got on his feet, coleslaw bits coming out of his mouth with a half eaten biscuit in his dirty hands.

“So you said you didn’t dump this trash all over the park?”

“That’s right officer sir…. No way. I didn’t do it. Give me my ticket and send me on my way,” said the bum. Maybe you better talk to those two kids over there, I think they wuz’ the ones!”

“Officer, officer, wait a second,” cried Eliza who had been watching from the side lines. “Wait one second,” cried Eliza with the photos in her hands, “Look officer, he’s lying!” Eliza handed the officer the shots she’d taken minutes before they showed up, even a few of when they arrived before she’d run out of film.

The cops were impressed with the work. “Can I have this one?” Asked one of the cops, wanting a black and white clear and crisp of him talking to the suspect with his partner watching on the sidelines.

“Why of course you can…. That’s why I snapped two!” Said Eliza.

“Thanks kid!” The officer took the little photo and slipped it in his coat pocket.

“No problem,” she said.

“Joe, Joe, come here, look at this,” he called to his partner who was watching the bum. The guy was just about to make a quick getaway. “Hold it mister,” said Officer Joe.

The shots clearly showed the bum dumping trash all over the pristine park. Shots of him dumping trash, picking in it and eating it and sitting in the car with his “find”. It was all in the photos.

“So, uh, Mr. Un, Mr. Ulysses," said the cop. “You said you didn’t dump the garbage around the park? Then what are these?”

The bum looked from the two officers to the candid Polaroid’s taken of him dumping and eating the garbage.

“So?” Asked the officer holding the shots.

“I, I, ummmm, I, ummm…” he stammered then deflated defeated.

“Pick it up guy, or we’ll run ya’ in. I knew you was lying!”

“Pick it up now,” commanded the second officer.

“Okay, okay officers, I’s doing it!” The bum looked around and spotted the Osberg girls standing by the slides. Glinda ran out the back door and down the street.

Eliza kept her ground. She wanted the photos back. Officer Joe walked over to her. “Hey, thanks kid, you saved us a lot of grief,” he said. Good work. Glad we came along when we did.”

The bum glared angrily at Eliza. It did not faze her in the least, but now Glinda was far away back up stairs, probably crying to mom or Gemma.

“Hey kid, you better skee-dattle and take these,” he said, handing back the photos to the plucky young girl who he almost mistook for a boy!

“You done a good thing, kid,” said the other officer ruffling her hair.

Eliza took the photos and took one more look at the bum who was sweating and swearing and carrying on. She took one more shot of him and the police to the side. He did pick up the garbage though. The cops left, then Eliza ran as fast as she could to the other side of the street by the other park across the street they labeled The Dog Park. The bum watched her. She screamed, “Sucker,” and ran into the UN Plaza through the revolving doors. If the bum tried to follow he would not be allowed inside, so she was safe and couldn’t wait to tell her father and show him the photos. He would be home on Thursday. It was so exciting. She was intrigued with it and loved the attitude and fun of it. And she surely would show Richard this!

Eliza walked into the apartment after taking more photos of the desk man and even Ching Ling. She walked into the den where Rich, Roy and Glinda watched cartoons and ate lots of candy from Bernie’s Candy store downstairs.

“Look it’s Eliza!” Glinda ran around laughing and joking. “Show them the photos!” Said Glinda triumphantly, now that she was 23 flights up and far from the ugly bum who could have hurt her.

Eliza passed them around and Rich especially loved the photo of the cops. “Cool,” he said.

“You took these?” asked Roy.

“Yes,” said Eliza proudly. She told them the story, with Glinda filling in the parts about running away. Eliza explained everything to them about what happened after Glinda ran like a scared rabbit. “Wow, if you were in the Apache days you would be dead now!”

“God, you were brave,” said Roy.

“I’m going to do a report for school on it,” said Eliza.

“You’re lucky that bum didn’t come after you Eliza,” said Glinda, who even looked out the window with a little fear on her cute face.

“Well, I think I have more to fear from Marla than some stupid bum,” said Eliza.

“Oh yea, that’s right, I forget,” said Glinda.

“What are you going to do, Eliza?” Asked Rich.

“I heard something about it in school, you know that Shadee Moshe is in my math class and he was talking to the other kids about it. Marla really hates you,” said Rich.

“She was the one that wanted to come over, not me!” Said Eliza.

“I don’t know,” said Rich.

“It will all work out. I feel it already starting to fade a bit. She’s not even caught me alone. I am careful and hang around with Gracie’s friends and they like now that they’ve gotten to know me and have sort of taken me under their wing!”

Later on Eliza started putting something together with her pictures and by the time dinner was ready, she’d labeled everything and glued together a nice collage of the event. Her father would be proud. She knew her teacher would flip for it! As for the bum and Marla, well she would pray as she had for the last few weeks for them!


Every Saturday all the kids went to the Bill/Dave Youth Center. It was simply called “Bill-Dave Club, the names of the owners, who were brothers. They also ran a summer camp called Wineko that Roy and Rich first went to, before Camp Skylemar took their hearts. But all 4 kids went to Bill-Dave.

In fact, it was the first time Eliza saw a bowling alley. The first bowling alley she’d been in was in September of 1966, two months after the Osbergs moved to the UN Plaza. Lenny was not driving for Bill/Dave at that time. But it was an older black man name Vic who took about 6 to 7 of kids to an upstairs bowling alley on Broadway, but very shortly the center expanded and hired van drivers and Eliza never saw Vic again. Lenny now drove them to and from the parks, amusement places, museums, bowling alleys and such places like skating rings and now to the End Bowling Alley on the lower East side of New York City. East End Avenue and 1st, or was it York?

The East End Bowl was on the lower East side. It was huge with 3 floors of alleys and lots of vending machines and automats. It was the first time Eliza and her siblings saw a microwave oven. She and her friends Glen and Gary watched it cook food and they even put things not allowed in, sometimes even the taboo forbidden tinfoil just to watch it spark and crackle.

John the Bully threw in a huge cockroach and they watched it explode.

Eliza was fascinated with it. The roach was put in then when they turned the dial and pushed the red button, the roach stopped in its tracks, froze for a split second then exploded with a “splat” right before their eyes.

Soon the management went to Lenny and told him that if it continued with “his kids”, they would be ejected from the bowling alley. Len gave everyone a stern lecture dotted with visions of punishments and non-perks, plus being sent home in a taxi with parents footing the bill.

Dave, who rarely got in on the antics and usually just made sure the invoices and such were being paid and that the liability insurance was intact, plus that the vans had the right registrations, decided to step up to the soap box and haltingly told them all that if the “tomfoolery” didn’t cease, he’d make arrangements for a trip to the New York City Library. Everyone groaned, but promised, scout’s honor, to be good from then on!

Lenny spoke up again after Dave did. “Don’t put anymore shit in those microwaves! Do you realize we’ll be thrown out, and those ovens can kill you!!!”

“What do you mean?” asked a scared Eliza.

“That’s right,” spoke up Bill. “Microwaves are accelerated particles of heat and even a small explosion in the oven could kill you! Read the labels kids, it says that if you have a pacemaker, and you know what those are, or if you are pregnant, do not stand near it!”

Everyone looked around at each other as if to say, “It was you, not me,” but Bill-Dave Youth staff knew the ropes here. Bill and his brothers had run Camp Wineko the same way, so they knew all the ‘kid tricks’.

Lenny added, “If we’re thrown out of this place, I will not be a happy camper kids! I will be very angry if that happens, so take care, okay?”

The kids knew he was serious. No one wanted to cross this guy. Not even John would strike out at him as he would sometimes do to Dave, who was not really a kid kind of guy, and mostly made sure the books were balanced and every parent paid their dues. There was another brother named Alan, but he only seemed to show up when food was being prepared out of a big box of cheese, baloney, mayo, etc. He was the food guy and wasn’t really needed at the bowling alley. But when it came to going to Central Park or Van Cortland Park, or even ice skating, Alan would man the box of food and oversee the food lines! He also wasn’t a kid type of guy either and Eliza found that out last year when they went to the skating ring at Central Park and she had fallen down and someone had skated over her gloved fingers. He overreacted and rushed her to the infirmary at the ring in Central Park's security department. Her parents were in Sardinia at the time, so only Gemma was home that day. Fern and Ginny had gone shopping on Broadway. Gemma handled it and showed up at the ring herself in a taxi cab. It turned out fine though and she just took Eliza home. The person’s skate had run over her left hand, but it was so minor. Eliza had been a bit traumatized because Alan had been nervous!

But even after the big bowling alley lecture the microwave ovens still were be tampered with by the kids. So management got wise and installed a locked timer and moved the bulky machines up to the 3rd floor where the big leagues played and you had to ask permission from the guy at the door to use the ovens or at least be a league member.

But the kids at Bill/Dave got very good and even joined as one of the leagues thanks to Bill pushing them and Lenny talking to management. Eventually Lenny even supervised them for the Bill/Dave league team and they even won trophies, even little Glinda. Roy and Rich ended up on opposite teams as were Glinda and Eliza, but they all had won trophies with winning league teams.

Mr. Osberg was very impressed with all of them. He actually bowled an average near-perfect almost to 300 and had his own bowling ball. Eliza saw it many times and took it out when he was away. It was in his clothes closet and had a nice smelling leather bag as a house for it. The holes were big and measured to her father’s fingers. It was heavy, but one night Eliza had taken a few fake slow shots using their hallway as an alley. It helped her get better at the job. But she never got caught and one day her father even took the ball out, probably having noticed that someone was using it. He was sharp in that way, but figured it was Eliza. He gave her some tips on balance and a certain way to hit the alley and make the pins fall!

He was most proud of Roy and Richard, because even when they went to Wineko they had won trophies and plaques. Rich and Roy were not and never would be star athletes. As Eliza bowled for her team she remembered when her Dad made her brothers play Pop Warner Football. Eliza had watched in the shadows as her brothers bowled, which you could tell they loved to do. Especially when a huge cardboard box filled with fresh hot shoe string French fries and cold drinks of Coke and Root Beer awaited their return to the score table. She remembered the Pop Warner days when she’d watch the tears in their eyes as they slowly put on their whole football uniforms and helmets and filed into my father’s bedroom, helmets and all.

Finally, Eliza mother intervened when Rich went crying to her. So Victor Osberg changed his tactics and tried to get the boys into hunting and fishing, even buying a few items to entice them – hunting knives and a compass, plus promising to take them to Canada on a camping trip he might plan. That got Rich going. Eliza tried to horn in on it too, loving Indians like she did, but her father became aloof with her and held her back. “No Eliza, this is for them!”

He’d relented on the football but actually went out and bought them each a compass and a hunting knife. Rich already had a set of replica models of police guns and German Lugar pistols. They looked so real.

One day Eliza saw the football uniforms and wanted to impress her father. She was a through and through tomboy always. She put on the football gear and ran into her dad’s den. Ironically he was watching pro football on the big color Zenith t.v.

“Daddy, look at me!”

“Eliza, take that off. Put it back now!” He was annoyed.


“No buts, now! You are a girl, not a boy!”

Eliza had been slightly hurt by is remark. But she understood that he was probably disappointed with his first sons and wanted them to show enthusiasm.

But when they started playing in the bowling leagues all four kids at East End Bowl, Mr. Osberg went and bought the boys bowling balls and matching bags. Even though Eliza and Glinda had a few trophies Mrs. Osberg still gave most of the glory to the boys.

They had been going to East End Bowl for weeks and finally they knew it well enough to have a very offbeat game of Cowboys and Indians! By the end of one rough and tumble bowling day and after Eliza and her friends had hamburgers, fries and Cokes, they dared each other to walk down the long alley and look inside the pin machine! No one was around and they were in-between league games and everyone had gone to lunch or left the building or went to visit others on the other floors. The wax guy had finished his stint, and there wasn’t anyone in authority in sight, not even the crafty Lenny, who had laid off as the teams came to fruition! Even the security guards by the microwave ovens were missing from their posts, having long since realized the kids would not fool with the ovens now that they had joined the leagues, so things became suddenly lackadaisical! So the group started daring the stunt, which could be dangerous if someone got caught or hurt.

Believe it or not Casper was the first volunteer. Slowly he walked gingerly down the well lit alley. The buzzer sounded when he stepped over the line. Eliza followed him and pretended to be Geronimo meeting his tribe behind a canyon. When they got to the end, John the Bully actually rolled a ball down the alley and the two had to jump out of the way, Eliza skinning her knee as she jumped away and fell in the gutter! The sound so close of the pins when the ball hit them was staggering and the two jumped back up and ran back to the seats. Eliza could smell the oil from the pin machine and she was curious to look behind the alleys.

Betsy was with Eliza and they started to fight over the balls coming in on the enclosed ball machine. During a particularly rough game of Cowboys and Indians Eliza had let Betsy on her team reluctantly. The spoiled blond girl, whose mother charged you when you made a phone call from their home, started trying to take over as chief and Eliza was having none of that. She remembered when John the Bully tried it and this time Eliza was not going to submit.

She and Betsy stood by the machine opening where the balls were coming out from other bowlers oblivious to the two girls and their private game. In their game the Indians were supposed to grab a ball someone just shot and claim it. Betsy wanted the ball before Eliza and put her hands out in front of Eliza’s. Eliza wanted that ball and just as it was going to come through the round hole, Eliza put her hands at the last minute, further into the mechanism. So her fingers were inside the machine more than they should have been when the ball came up from the shoot.

It was then that the ball crushed Eliza’s left hand. She yelled in pain as the second ball behind the first landed against the first ball. Betsy jumped back when she saw blood pour out. Everyone was screaming when a young French youth center worker who had just started that day came running on the scene. The Frenchman was good looking and loved kids and knew how to deal with a crisis. He was very handsome and sweet, unlike Lenny who was very “New York” and very gruff.

“Help me, Oh God help,” cried Eliza.

The Frenchman and Bill made an effort to pull Eliza’s hand out. “Turn off this alley, please!”

The manager, a portly old man, ran back to the switch and frantically switched things on and off. “Shut down Lane 15,” cried one man. There was an echo of different male voices, some screeching “Shut down Lane 15, by God, shut it down NOW!”

Finally they got a hold and grip and the Frenchman pulled, which released the hand. The Frenchman took his scarf and wrapped Eliza's hand up and directed her over to the eatery tables. At first they thought her fingers were broken because Eliza did have some fingers that were bent oddly, but the wound was on top of Eliza’s hand, not the fingers, once they cleaned the blood off and put an ice pack on it immediately. Even John the Bully looked concerned.

It looked pretty bad, but Bill ran and called the Osbergs, Gemma answering.

“Osberg residence,” she said with a slight hint of her Jamaican accent coming though.

“Hello, this is Bill Axelrod of Bill/Dave Club for Kids! We have Eliza here and she’s been injured.”

“Oh my God,” screamed Gemma, who ran for Ms. Osberg who was in her bedroom getting ready to go to the Plaza with Eve Glass for lunch.

“Tell them to bring her to our doctor and I’ll meet them there!”

“Okay, Mrs. Osberg,” said Gemma, not faltering. She’d been through a few of these lately with the kids and in the end it was going to be okay, just like when Eliza fell and hurt her leg in that pool accident she told Gemma about.

“The address is 5 Park Avenue, I’m calling her now on Mr. Osbergs other line,” said Mrs. Osberg. She sounded panicked, but in control. She was wearing all white, a beautiful fluffy sweater wrap with white pumps and even a long string of pure white pearls. She was smashing and elegant! “Tell Bill I’ll meet him there,” instructed Mrs. Osberg. She called down to the desk and ordered Tom at the desk to get her a cab ASAP!

Bill himself drove Eliza there rather than have Lenny do it. Bill had noted how upset Eliza got when Lenny came up and began to try and tease her. It just was his way to show affection. Bill knew that. But there was a time and place for that, and now isn’t the time, so he gave Len a look that said, “Bug off and go away,” which Lenny did. He’d known the Axelrod brothers for years and they had been very supportive of his steps to improve and stop his drinking, and had given him many jobs through the years.

Eliza had cried harder and became hysterical so Lenny backed off.

Bill pulled up in one of the vans to Eliza’s doctor’s office. She was waiting for them and had stayed open for this. Dr. Shipp was extra tall and lean. She had black hair in a bun on top of her head. She was calm and soft spoken and had a raspy but firm unwavering voice, almost like Fern did! Eliza had to endure their dentist Dr. Vogelstein who had a poster in his office. As he drilled the cavities the poster was in front of the patient on the wall. It read … “Painless Dentist Upstairs” with an arrow pointing to the 2nd floor above, noting that he was on the 1st floor and therefore was not the painless dentist! When he’d find a cavity he would make much dramatics with the flailing of his hands. He’d run out of the room screaming “Lena, Lena, Lena!”

Before that Eliza had Dr. Fine, but he was anything but fine! He was a Dr. Frankenstein as far as Eliza was concerned. Once he’d given her a booster shot and hurt her and from then on she would carry on and cry whenever she had to go to him. He, in turn, didn’t like Eliza one bit and would use scare tactics to shut her up, which never worked and only incensed Eliza, making her scared and unsure of what to do.

But Dr. Shipp had taken all that away. She was a good woman and a good doctor and she was the only one who had suggested they give Eliza a sedative at night so she could sleep better, but the Osbergs had refused.

“What happened?” asked Dr. Shipp. She was her usual calm self. She’d been their doctor for years now. Bill explained as they took Eliza in the examining room. Dr. Shipp gently unwrapped the scarf that was covered in fresh blood.

She cleaned the wound with the help of her nurse. She noticed Bill’s natural calm nature. Eliza seemed to relax even with the injury.

“Well, it’s a deep gash but I think the butterfly stitches will do in this case, Eliza,” said Dr. Shipp.

“That’s a relief,” said Bill as the doctor calmly continued to clean the wound, put the butterflies on it, and wrapped the hand in light soft gauze.

“At that moment Mrs. Osberg rushed in.

Bill explained.

“Who was supervising?” asked Mrs. Osberg, going right over to her daughter and kissing her and hugging her tightly.

“I was there Mrs. Osberg, as well as my staff,” said Bill evenly.

“Well this is inexcusable,” ranted Mrs. Osberg. And Bill knew she was right. She had a right to be angry and upset.

“No stitches, Mrs. Osberg, she’s going to be okay!”

Mrs. Osberg looked deeply in Dr. Shipps' dark grey eyes.

“She’ll be fine Lena,” said Dr. Shipp, taking Mrs. Osberg’s gloved hand.

“It wasn’t Bill’s fault, Mom,” said Eliza.

“I know sweetie.”

“You just take it easy young lady. There will be no bowling for you until I say so, are you clear on that?”

“Yes, Doctor…”

“Of course Dr. Shipp,” agreed Lena.

“I will Doc,” said Eliza.

“Thank you Bill.”

“No problem, Mrs. Osberg. I’m just glad she is okay.”

They all left together, including the doctor and her nurse. The taxi had dutiful waited all that time, meter running. Mrs. Osberg would have it no other way.

As Mrs. Osberg got in with Eliza, she turned to Bill and thanked him profusely.

“My pleasure, Mrs. Osberg!” he said humbly. He was glad he’d not let Lenny come. It was better this way, with as little drama as possible.

“Bill was very good to me, and he truly cares, Mom!”

“Mrs. Osberg, I hope you this incident won’t deter you from continuing to send your kids to my club!”

“Well, you must admit, I’d had some doubts about Eliza, but we’ll see.”

“Mom, remember years ago when we first started coming here I stepped on a peg at the bowling alley and my right foot got really infected?”

“Oh, yes, I do! But this was a bit worse dear.”

“I think they need to make some changes over at East End,” said Dr. Shipp.

“I know.”

“I do remember now how Eliza’s father brought her in when she stepped on that little plastic letter at the bowling alley,” recalled the good doctor as the cab driver waved them in, wanting to get on with the trip.

They all hugged and took off. Bill got into his van and ended up giving Dr. Shipp a ride to her apartment on Fifth Avenue. Then he went back to the club and picked up his brother Dave and they went to a nearby deli for dinner.

“Everything’s okay now,” said Bill to his quiet brother who did the books better than reprimand a kid.

“I’m glad,” said the other man as he munched on a roast beef sandwich.

“She’ll keep all of them in, so we didn’t lose them!”

“Good. We do our best.”

“I know, but if it got out that she was going to pull her kids from our club, people might jump ship too, because of her!”

“She didn’t, so relax and eat your food! I’ve gotta’ pick up and pastrami dinner for Alan. He’s at your apartment.

“It’s always food with that one,” laughed Dave.

They both ate and talked about their day and the outcome of Eliza’s accident. “I’ve got to thank Frenchy for what he did! I’m so glad I found him. He kept his head cool and I like that.”

“Me too!”

A few weeks later when Eliza returned to the East End Bowl she’d noticed that they had removed the tops of the ball return machines which was a very positive move and would cut down on accidents from then on. Signs were posted that if anyone was caught walking down the alleys would be forbidden to ever come back. From then on everything went normally.


In the fall of 1971 a new show called Emergency came on ABC. It was about a firehouse in Los Angeles, CA with a bunch of gorgeous fireman, one in particular the character of John Gage. Randy Mantooth… Eliza had gone head over heels over him! It was love at first site and set off a chain reaction at home.

In a strange way, the American Indian phase she was going through turned into a police and firemen craze. The Osberg kids started going over to the local fire station in their neighborhood by the UN Plaza. It was only down the street.

It all started soon after the show aired on a Saturday night at 8:00 PM right after Adam 12. The Osberg kids fall for the new show just as they had Adam 12. Eliza noticed the dark haired cute boyish looking actor Randy Mantooth right away.

From then on Eliza was totally hooked on Randy, the show, the actor, the plots. The premise of the show became part of Eliza’s lifestyle.

It started with role playing of course. Instead of Cowboys and Indians they just began a light game of Emergency. Eliza played Randy’s character, sometimes a victim, other times she’d play Randy’s sidekick Kevin Tighe. Even John the Bully didn’t give them any grief and loved to play the criminal that gets hurt in the bank robbery scene. To keep him satisfied Eliza knew he’d love that bank robbery episode when the firemen had to treat him. Some customer and himself had to be treated, which he did in the TV show. In the youth club version Glen and Eliza show up. John is standing on a huge rock cave with some kids playing customers who were wounded in the robbery.

John played it to the hilt, swearing and shouting at Eliza and Glen, as Gary Dennis edged his way up behind John as a SWAT team melted in with a few other die-hards pretending to be Swat moving in. The game was more fun when John was happy, and it gave the kids a new game instead of the same old Cowboys and Indians stint, which even Eliza thought was getting tired and old hat.

Lenny and Bill watched this new game with great interest. They were thinking about adding a First Aid class to the program and when they saw Eliza with her Emergency fire hat together with the Bully John as a bank robber and wrapping his fake wounds with toilet paper they began to talk about the new class and having Eliza as the first pupil.

“Who thought that a stupid game could be a good thing, Bill,” said Lenny, as he watched the kids go through the process.

Some even played policemen who tumbled all over John, tackling him to the ground and using shoe laces as handcuffs. John loved it and was thoroughly energized, but as a boy would be, not a bully. It was different. Bill saw that, as did some of the staff there.

“Whose idea was this Len?”

“Ask Eliza,” answered Lenny.

“What do you think?”


“Got it.”



“Tell Eliza I want to see her,” said Bill.


Eliza thought she was in trouble. “Hi Bill,” said Eliza casually as she took a seat in a folding chair by his desk. She’d not spoken to him much since the bowling alley incident months back…

“How is your hand, Eliza?”

“Great,” she said, holding it out to him… just a very thin scar that was
dissolving into a white lines.

“Eliza, let’s go outside out on the grass,” he said leading her outside to the courtyard on the inviting fresh smelling patch of grass.

“What’s up Bill?” asked Eliza, taking a seat. She liked his calm, sweet demeanor.

“Eliza, I noticed you are playing a new game and it gave me an idea. I’d like to start a class in First Aid, and I’d appreciate it if you would spread the word to the other kids. I saw you and the way you handled John!”

“Yes,” she said, relieved she wasn’t in trouble.

“What gave you this new idea?” he asked.

“I watch this show on television called Emergency!”

“Oh yes, the firemen!”

“Yes! I love it. I love the one that plays John Gage, Randy Mantooth!” admitted Eliza. She got a faraway look in her eyes, like she could reach out and touch Randy one day in the future, or at least brush his life path in some weird way.

“Well, well that is good timing,” said Bill.


“Imagine if you took the First Aid class you’d be just like Randy as Gage! He’d be proud of you, Eliza! I would even write to him and tell him as a youth director, that you are doing great things because of his show and his acting!”

Eliza’s eyes lit up like Christmas trees. She couldn’t believe her luck. She loved Emergency. Even the walls in her bedroom she shared with little sister Glinda was filling up wall to wall Randy Mantooth from Emergency! She had even used cement glue to paste up Randy in all areas and angles of the bedroom with the orange wall to wall shag carpet and white walls, with the Halloween-ish looking upper molding of orange, white and black lines… It was a sight, but interesting and different.

“Wow, really neat, Bill!”

“But you must have to give up a few games and then you can learn real First Aid for real,” explained Bill lightly.


“Of course,” said Bill realistically. “Just for a few weeks, then you can go back to that, if you want!” If she did it, everyone would follow, he knew that. “I’ll even get a real fireman to come in and do a demonstration for you all!”

“Wow, that’s great!”

“Of course… How does that sound, Eliza?”

“It sounds good, but I don’t think the other kids would give up their play time. They’re not as nuts over Emergency and firemen as I am, or my sister or brother!”

“Well, I thought you could help me make it fun for them, like when you kids role play…like John the Bully liking to play the bank robber! I want that same energy he puts into playing the bad guy at the bank, to maybe putting his energy into doing First Aid!”

“I’ll have to see, it’s a pretty big order for me to fill, Bill…” said Eliza honestly! She looked toward the kids who were winding down on the bank robbery game due to her absence.

“Eliza, you have a great enthusiasm and you could really help us here at the center to draw kids to the real deal, the First Aid and other educational skills they need and should be getting,” preached Bill, trying not to sound like he was lecturing. “You can make it as fun for them as you do the other games you kids play, and we’ve been watching…,” he admitted, trying to open his kind heart to her.

“I’ll have to see” she looked toward the kids again, who were winding the game down even more….It was down to a crawl, half hearted as they saw her sitting on the grass with Bill deep in a conversation. It looked serious.

“Think about it,” asked Bill.

“I will… Can I go now?”

“Yes, of course. Go…”

Eliza ran back to the game. John the Bully had become restless and was playing a game of forced tag football, everyone was hyped up on that as John showed his strength by throwing some kids into a muddy patch he’d found in the bushes. He’d taken the bank robber role too far, but no one really stopped him except for Lenny, who dove into the fray and rescued everyone and dragged John into the van to have him cool off for the 3rd time that day!

“Hey Eliza, come over here,” said Glen Harris, her usual sidekick. Another boy had written “Randy and Leslie Marry, it’s a blow to the country” in the dirt.

She told Richard about the First Aid class and he jumped at the chance to take the class. He ran up to Bill and was so out of character for his shy self. He wanted to take the First Aid class. Bill looked toward Eliza and winked at her, and smiled brightly.

Richard and Eliza were the first to sign up. Others slowly signed up, but not as many as Bill had wanted. But he would hold it off for one week then see.

Eliza’s brother Rich has been into First Aid, the Police and Rescue Operations on
a quiet level. He didn’t verbalize it top much, but also had a very high interest in oceanography! He and Mr. Osberg worked on his fresh water fish tank and boasted at least 12 different types of fresh water fish.

Richard had books on Oceanography and ocean life, in fact that was the one thing he and his father talked about and gelled over. They were both in heaven at Sea World!

But when it came to police or firefighters, Rich went wild and was always hyper over it. This new game they played really got him up and talkative. He played a police officer who kicks down an old door of the fort they were using as a bank. He loved it more or just as much as Eliza did!

Randy Mantooth was a turning point in Eliza’s lifecycle.

In fact Randy seemed to take over the essence of what was left of Roland before he left with his family to Germany, and Eliza missed him, but she had just discovered Randy Mantooth. She reflected for a moment while standing by Lenny’s van. In fact, Roland was standing at the same spot by the van the last time they spoke or saw each other. They were talking through the van window.

“I’m leaving for Germany tomorrow,” he said. He was holding back tears. So was Eliza, but she was distracted by someone in the van trying to talk to her, a new kid.

“Here, take this Eliza,” said Roland, handing the girl a German Mark with his handwritten message that read: ‘I love you always and 4-ever and I’ll come back for you one day’ in black ink! He signed it RD + EO… There was a picture of a German king on the bill.

They talked a bit more. “Let me see the bill one more time,” Roland asked. Eliza handed him the German Mark through the van window as Lenny revved the engine.

Roland quickly wrote something more then threw it back into the small van portal window as Lenny screeched away from the curb. It would be the last time Eliza would ever see Roland again! She clutched the bill tightly then read what he’d written, “Ich Liebe Dich!” “I love you”, said the boy softly, barely audible, but Eliza caught the way he said ‘German’ and it was said with his most heaviest accent, almost not hearing the “G” as it rolled off his tongue and Eliza looked up at him through the portal window in the back and a single tear made its way down his pal face. His blue eyes were watery but strong.

Eliza remembered that moment and wished it was Randy Mantooth writing it or standing there. And why wouldn’t Roland take her to Germany with him and they could marry now? Unfortunately that was the last time she’d see Roland. His family left that week for Cologne Germany only to return once in a while to visit their father who lived in the upper New England area with a companion.

The school year droned on. Roland’s absence only seemed to make Mrs. Hamilton happy and she never let Eliza forget it. But Eliza did have Randy and she made it known to anyone who’d listen she started pasting poster sized pictures of her idol all over her locker at school just like in her bedroom. She used cement in the locker to do it as well. She was thinking that she’d never stop loving Randy Mantooth.

She and Glinda wrote loads of letters to him and Eliza even found the number of Universal Studios where they filmed Emergency. They began to call non stop until a man’s voice came on and pretended to be Randy Mantooth on the set. Eliza’s imagination ran wild.

But nothing would top Darien Marks’ joke saying a man’s shirt was Randy’s and that her father knew Randy Mantooth and personally had him give the shirt to Eliza when Mantooth supposedly stayed over Darien’s duplex apartment at the Astoria House on 70th & Park Avenue. Eliza took it like a big fish on the hook. She wore the shirt every day and even added her father’s cologne, never laundering it, and even sleeping in it. She believed it for a long time until maybe 8th grade when someone had finally told her it was a joke and she said she’d known all the time, but the truth was she wanted so much to believe it was Randy’s. It could have been.

Eliza recalled when Roland had told her he was going back to Germany with his family. His family spent their last weekend on Fire Island, but this would be it! In fact, Roland’s mother would take her sons and go straight back to their homeland and his father ended up mysteriously moving to Rutland, Vermont and living with an older man there. But now Eliza had Randy Mantooth!


It wasn’t your typical Bar Mitzvah. The Osbergs were not even close to full bloom practicing Judaism. Certainly not Orthodox, nor even near being Conservative Jews. If there was something under the radar of the Reformed Jew wire, that was where the Osbergs were situated.

When oldest Roy turned 13 in December of 1970, instead of a normal Jewish ceremony (there was so much memorizing, not Roy’s forte) and the family didn’t practice as many of the other families at the UN Plaza, they were giving Roy a big birthday bash instead.

“Why can’t you give your son a real Bar Mitzvah?” asked Mrs. Glass to Lena as the two sat in the Garden Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

“We’re having a party because it’s too much trouble for Roy, you know that!” said Lena. “…. and it’s already set!”

“For Godssake, where?” Mrs. Glass sipped her drink, seeming a bit more interested in the Osberg kids than most of Lena’s other friends in the building. Specifically Roy and Eliza seemed to be on Eva’s lips lately as the 2 grew up.

Lena got that beautiful twinkle in her playful hazel eyes, a cross between Lana Turner & Carol Channing, but all her own! “Ready to laugh?”

“What?” asked Eva, almost afraid to hear what it was… In a funny way Lena was like a beautiful Lucille Ball, with her funny natural antics and just how different she really was from the rest of the women they associated with. She had class and knew how to handle herself. Lena, like Eva exuded confidence, elegance and social grace, plus the ability to raise money didn’t hurt them a bit. Being amongst the money makers didn’t bother them at all. They were quite comfortable with it, always had been. But the choice of how the Osberg children were being taught the Jewish religion always left a craw in Eva’s chest. She didn’t want it wasted and Eliza seemed to show more interest than Roy, which was normal. These days everyone was breaking the traditions just to get some sort of congregation going.

“Well, you know that movie that came out last year about Gertrude Lawrence, you know Victor always says and thinks I remind him of the Julie Andrews character playing Lawrence!”

“Go on,” baited Eva, as she sat memorized by Lena Osberg…

“You know that movie ‘Star!’, and how she hired a double-decker English bus to take her friends driving around the city and, well, you know the movie, right?”


Lena’s eyes danced with excitement. “It was sort of Victor’s idea really Eva. He loved it and I did too!”

“But Lena, it’s not a real Bar Mitzvah, you are telling everyone that it is!”

“I know, but it makes Roy so happy, he’s very sensitive, special, well, you know what I am talking about Eva!”

Eva nodded knowingly. “Yes.” She continued. “I don’t mean to lecture you, but don’t say it’s a Bar Mitzvah when it isn’t. It’s a party…”

“Okay, okay, don’t be so uptight. It’s the Sixties, remember? Everything is done all mixed up and wacky!”

“Lena, you know what I mean and not religion, just everything else!”

“Of course, but he’s turning 13, so what, big deal so we say it’s a Bar Mitzvah, he’s going to get all the presents and money, so what’s the difference?

“I’m talking to the wife of a family living at the most exclusive building in the city and Jewish to boot! And you have a Christmas tree, Lena, and Victor allows it!”

“It’s his idea,” defended Lena… “He doesn’t want things to be religious! You know, Eva darling, there is a way to celebrate Christmas in a more ‘commercial’

“I know what you’re saying dear, but maybe you should just cool it a bit, okay?”

“It’s a free country!”

“I know, but why even mention it in mixed company, Lena?” Eva sipped her scotch and nibbled on gourmet peanuts.

“The whole family and our close friends will be getting on that double-decker bus just like in ‘Star’, and I am excited for Roy and for everyone involved… You will be missed Eva!” Lena ignored the comments on cooling it.

Both women laughed because the Glass’ were heading for the French Riviera and would be gone until after Christmas.

“We’ll come see you before you all leave. And you can show us the pictures, you are hiring a photographer?”

“Well, of course, only the best!”

“That sounds like it’s going to be great…” said Eva, putting her hand on top of Lena’s little piano fingers. “I don’t mean to be hard on you or mettle, I just want the best for ‘them’, and if we can give them something, let’s do it right, that’s all I’m saying.”

“I get you loud and clear! You are a good friend Eva.”

“So, is the double-decker going to just pull right up to the front of the building?” asked Eva.

“No, they won’t allow it to park in front so we’re meeting the bus behind the East Tower by the big service area to the back near the delegates lobby!

“It sounds so fun, I wish we could go, but well, you know that we already have our tickets and hotel,” she said.

“I know Eva. And don’t give me that condescending look, I can’t take it right now,” said Lena, downing her drink and ordering up another, the young waiter at her side in a split second move.

“This isn’t about some zany but well intentioned Bar Mitzvah party, or a double-decker bus… It’s about your Catholic governess teaching Eliza about the New Testament and about Jesus Christ!”

“What are you talking about Eva?”

“Eliza told me Fern is teaching her about Jesus and God and the Holy Ghost!”


“She should be hearing about it from a real Rabbi, and it should be about King David, Moses and the Holocaust.”

“Oh Eva, please!” Lena sipped her drink and looked around.

Eva drank the rest of her scotch and signaled the waiter for another.

“It’s going to be great, Eva. I told you we hired a professional photographer. It’s all set and even Victor’s family is going to be there … his sister, husband and her children.”

“And they went for it?

“Yes and why not?”

“Well, I guess Roy will be thrilled.”

“We all are thrilled, Eva! Think about it, it’s not about us, it’s about Roy!
And don’t worry about Fern. She’s the best governess I’ve hired in many years. She’s great with the children and has been with us so long."

“Of course, Sweetie, I know that! And Roy is a darling boy, but you must have a chat with Fern.”

“Okay I will, and at least Roy doesn’t have to memorize all that Hebrew!”

“Eliza told me that her friend Valerie Stein’s brother had one!” said Eva. “A real one,” she stressed. “Now why would you want to confuse this child Lena?”

“Minus the ‘double-decker bus’, I’m sure,” joked Lena. “And we are not confusing our kids Eve! I know how it looks, but these kids are going to turn out fine, I promise you and myself!”

“Oh, but of course Lena, but you know Eliza. She can memorize and learn the words and prayers. I showed her a few for a Bat Mitzvah”

“I don’t mind it really, I don’t Eva, but please do me a favor and don’t mention it to Victor. You know how he is! The next thing you know Victor will have her reading the Torah or talking her into going to Israel on a Kibbutz!”

“Oh, okay, I won’t!”

“Remember this too Eva, Eliza is a ‘girl’! In a weird way, it’s a man’s world there!”

Eva shrugged, wanting to change the subject! She was feeling a nice scotch buzz, but didn’t want to dwell on religion and God!

“I’m going to say this last thing and then we should drop it, Lena.”


“Why not when Eliza turns 16 you and Victor give her a real Bat Mitzvah. She’d love it, and get a real Rabbi, and I’ll help her!”

“No,” said Lena with finality.


“You know why Eva, she’s too hyper, out of control, that’s why!”

“But she loves it, and I think it would give her something to feel more grounded then maybe she won’t be so hyper and out of control!”

“I know you mean well, Eve, but we just don’t want it, at least right now.”

“Such a pity,” said Eva tapping her well manicured fingers against the table almost like she was counting.

“No, not a pity, it’s the way ‘I’ want it, and you know as well as I that it would make us look so fake and hypocritical.”

“Herb always said you have always been that way, especially with religion and being Jewish!”

“Hey remember Victor started the first Jewish frat in college so I think you are barking up the wrong tree.”

Eve knew why Lena was that way, and it really didn’t have anything to do with being Jewish. It moved along the lines in her own mind of whether it was pressure her children could handle. Eve was sure Lena and Victor saw their children’s free spirits and didn’t want to force them to memorize all the words, maybe that was it.

Eve and Lena finished and left a hefty tip. They both shared a cab back to the UN Plaza chatting about the latest fashions and jewelry lines. Eve drifted back to the double-decker bus fiasco.

“So you’re really doing the double-decker bus thing!”

“Yes, Eve, we are and that’s that.”

They reached the UN Plaza, Lena paid, Eve tipped the driver.

Both women wore beautiful, well made clothes and shoes. No expense spared.

Mrs. Rose was coming out the door to walk her two poodles – Sassy & Gucci.

“Hello Gigi!” Mrs. Osberg ran up to Mrs. Rose who was dressed in all black with a huge black fur coat to the floor. Her snot-nosed ‘bitches’ yapped and snapped at each other and anyone walking within range. But the distinct odor of ‘doggie perfume’ was in the air around the pooches.

“Hey girls,” said Gigi, who kissed both women and held the leashes in one hand. As the dogs barked and carried on she looked to Sam for rescue, and found it. “Here, take them will you Sammy.”

Sam rushed over in an instant and grabbed the leashes. Mrs. Rose handed him a $10 tip. He smiled brightly and the still ravishing woman who was a bit older than her other friends.

Across the street was Pete the official Dog Walker eyeing the tip that passed between Sammy and Mrs. Rose. Pete was angry that Sam got the tip, but there was little he could do being on the bottom of the totem pole at the UN Plaza.

Pete remembered another time that the Osberg kids wanted extra money (Like they need it!) so they posted a big sign in the mailroom lending their services as dog walkers too. Rich did land a plum dog walking job from Eve & Herb Glass whose son Barry had just gotten a black purebred Labrador retriever just like Tiffy at Sunningdale, but much wilder, younger, a male and not so laid back and tame.

Pete knew Poco was strong and unruly, untrained and pissed anywhere he damn well pleased! They fed him 2 cans of Alpo and he’d eat it up in a few gulps. Pete the Dog Walker watched Rich and Eliza walking, or should it be said that Poco was walking them? All went fine up until the dog broke its chain and ran down 49th Street and almost got stuck by a bread truck. Pete knew that soon he’d have that one back in the bag, once the Osberg kids tired of it. He was vigilant and would take over when they were either fired or told to bug off.

Sure enough as he had predicted, he’d been told by one of the maid up at the Glass’ that what ended the Osberg dog walking stint was one evening Eliza and Rich were babysitting the rambunctious dog. There was a special on television a live broadcast of Eisenhower’s funeral procession. The ex president had died the week before and the kids were watching it carried on all stations when Poco went into full erection and Eliza ran into where the Glass’ were having a dinner party in full swing.

Eliza ran in frantically. “Something’s wrong with Poco. He’s hurt!”

When Mr. Glass went to investigate he came back laughing his head off about it. “It’s okay Eliza,” he said to the wide eyed girl. “It’s a natural thing dogs do when they are excited. So calm down, Poco is fine! In fact, I can assure you he is better than fine!”

“Were you petting him more than usual?” asked one man at the other end of the large dining room table.

“Yes, we always pet him. He likes it!”

Everyone cracked up then. “Well, I think Poco is fine. Listen, why don’t you and your brother go back home now. We’ll watch Poco,” said Mr. Glass, as he sat back down at the table and took a sip of red wine.

“Okay. Are you sure?”

“Yes, now Eliza go home and don’t worry!” Said Mrs. Glass getting up from the table and prodding the kids to the front door. At that moment Poco had followed the kids out into the hallway when they had left the bedroom door wide open, a strict rule that was broken. Poco ran into the dining room with a full hard on.

“See kids, he’s fine!” said one young lady, an executive for an ad agency trying to suppress a laugh and keep a serious poker face about the incident.

They went home and found their mother and father planning for the party for Roy. It wasn’t a real Bar Mitzvah with the Jewish trappings and prayers and Rabbi standing by and in Eliza’s opinion that wasn’t quite right. Mrs. Glass had told Eliza that. It was more like a 13 year old little boy’s party event where guests brought gifts and money in honor of the birthday boy just like a Bar Mitzvah. Lena was promoting it like it was a full fledged one, but everyone knew it wasn’t. They all knew Lena would do anything to make her kids happy and content.

The double-decker bus bar mitzvah was to be held at the Plaza Hotel were Eloise from the books lives and roams the halls.

But the double-decker bus ride was at first a bit scary for Eliza. The red and blue two level bus pulled up in back of the building where deliveries were made. It, like the ketchup bottle in the window of the Osberg kitchen was an eye sore and only showed how the Osbergs were different. Mrs. Osberg loved the movie with Julie Andrews ‘Star’ so that was contingent on this bus tonight. Victor really thought of Lena when they saw that movie loosely based on the life of Gertrude Lawrence, who would shuttle her friends to parties in a double-decker bus and reminded Victor of his wife! They could have been one in the same! He also wanted his wife to sing opera at the top her lungs when they rode down Madison Avenue.

Victor’s sister, husband and kids were there, as well as Gemma and Fern. For once the boys were not dressed like twins, except their mackinaw jackets. The girls were not dressed the same either. Eliza loved the coat she had. It was a fake fur camel hair coat with a cute little winter Russian hat that she liked to wear.

“Wow, you look like Fern,” said Glinda as they made their way to the bus.

They took the usual banks of elevators down to the lobby, but instead of boarding the bus in front, they went around to the back of the Delegates Lobby and got in from there. High heels clicked on a shiny marble floor echoing against the ceiling and walls of the lobby that was still crowded with delegates from all over the world. Eliza saw an Arab man with full garb walking with a woman from India wearing an emerald green sari and cute thin slippers and Eliza didn’t miss the dark red dot in the middle of her forehead. Then a Japanese man walked by wrapped in orange monk robes and wearing sandals with special socks that allowed the big toe and second toe to rest against a wooden separator. The driver helped them board the bus once they were all assembled outside.

Eliza and her cousin Dina sat side by side on the top level. Before the bus went on 1st Avenue, Mr. Osberg asked the driver, who was dressed in formal English bus outfit, to drive around the block of the UN Building, then go into the main driveway of the UN Plaza. This was so the photographer could take a shot of them all in front of the UN Plaza. It was just getting dusk out. Sammy was on duty as Victor and the driver got off the bus as did all the Osberg family. Fern and Gemma came outside dressed in formal white uniforms. The photographer took a few shots as the family all stood by the double-decker bus. Cars, taxis and limos started backing up like at a snowy airport. The air was crisp and chilly and a taxi’s headlights shone against Eliza’s coat and she all of a sudden got scared that they would be hit by the taxi. In the photo you see her “deer in head lights” eyes popping out of her head. After a bit of light arguing Sammy asked them to kindly “shove off!”

Mr. Osberg handed Sammy a $100 bill, but soon Tom the desk man came out and gruffly put hands on hips and even the elusive Mrs. Williamson joined him. “A ketchup bottle in the window this is not!” said the stuffy manager who always sided with the dreaded ‘Lady M’s’!

Tom was not laughing. He rarely did! “It’s really despicable,” he said returning stiffly to his large desk and proceeded to call his ally Mrs. Carson to gossip with her about this upset. Sam laughed then as the group got back on the bus. Honks and swears were ignored by everyone. All eyes were on Mrs. Osberg decked out in her usual gorgeous white gown with a grey mink coat and fox hat with ears dripping diamonds and sparkling brightly in the fading dusk.

It was at that second that Truman Capote walked out with Maggie.

Eliza spotted him and yelled, “Hey Santa Claus!”

Capote at first didn’t recognize Eliza, but then his eyes got bright and he smiled at her. “Hello Dirty Toenails although I didn’t recognize you in your little girl’s outfit and coat,” he easily bantered to her, to the perplexed looks of Mr. and Mrs. Osberg. “I honestly thought all this time you were a boy,” he laughed uproarishly and continued on down the driveway.

“Eliza, do you know who that is?”

“Yes, it’s Truman Capote!”

“Please folks, please get on the bus and clear the way before someone out there blows a gasket,” cried Sam. He gave them a pleading look as the traffic started to pile up.

“Mrs. Osberg, you look ravishing,” screamed Capote as he made his way down the street with Maggie in tow!

“Thanks,” she screamed back, her face rosy and bright, her demeanor so up and galmoured out. Victor took it all in and loved it. It was like being on a rapid river ride with Lena at the stern steering.

In fact, they all looked great standing here. It was obvious that Victor’s family was mostly dark-haired with oval faces and cute genes. Eliza looked like her mothers side of the family with curly hair and light looks. Glinda resembled her father’s side. The boys were a little of both, but definitely like Victor’s side of the family too. But they all made a handsome spectacle.

Even Fern and Gemma were in some of the shots and when you looked closely, Eliza did indeed resemble Fern in facial features, but it was subtle, especially with the Russian hat the girl wore. Finally they all got back on the bus and took off down 2nd Avenue. The driver put on festive music. It was December 2nd, 1970.

The bus skirted down 2nd Avenue as everyone became happy and fell into a party mode once drinks on the first level where most of the adults sat were passed around. Champagne, wine, whiskey shots and even a few tequila drinkers in the family crowd downed their shots with gusto.

Eliza lost her initial fear and sat with her cousin Dina.

“Uncle Victor is so great to set this up, where did he get the idea?” asked Dina, who was a striking looking girl the same age as Eliza. She had a sultry look and was well built and smart.

Eliza answered honestly. “Well, it came to him when some movie with Julie Andrews came on; some movie called ‘Star’, about the life of some old lady actress
from the 1930’s Gertrude Lawrence.”

“Wow, cool!”

My dad saw it but it was really my mom that liked it.”

Offhandedly, Lena planted the idea in Victor’s head of what she’d like to see. She must have fashioned herself after the actress Gertrude Lawrence, but the seed had taken and Victor began the process of trying to put it all together. It had come together nicely, he thought. His whole family was here as well as his kids and other in-laws, minus Hazel who was down in Florida and couldn’t make it. Some were secretly glad, others just a tad bit disappointed Lena’s mother couldn’t be there. Victor could go either way. Just as though Lena and his kids were happy, he was happy!

At this point everyone was getting rather rowdy, including Uncle Kelley and a few others who had been drinking martinis. Roy had brought his Nerf football and was tossing it around. Stan and Roy played ‘keep away’ from Glinda who began to whine out of drama.

It was the kids on the second level, and the adults on the first. They weren’t stopping at a temple.

Eliza’s Uncle Kelley looked a lot like the actor Kirk Douglas. Everyone said so who saw him in family photos and in real life. He even had a cleft in his chin. He was funny.

“Hey Kids,” he yelled from the entrance to the second level! In no time at all in a few steps he was right with them. “I’m Santa Claus,” he joked easily. He even told a few dirty jokes and had them all laughing and hooting. Soon Mr. Osberg joined them up front on the second level as Uncle Kelley told the last of a very dirty joke that he knew would crack up his nieces and nephews.

“So the man goes into the outhouse and there wasn’t any toilet paper. How do you suppose he wiped himself?”

“How?” roared the kids and Victor.

“There was a sign on the wall that said ‘put finger in hole to clean’, so the man cleaned his butt with his finger and stuck it in the hole. On the other side was a little Chinese man with 2 bricks, so the guy sticks his finger out and the Chinaman guy slams together the bricks between his finger and he pulls out in pain and says, ‘ouch’, and sticks his finger into his mouth!”

“Daddy, that is so bad…yuck!” cried Dina, cringing.

Eliza’s image of her uncle faded a bit with that joke and she could not imagine him actually having patients come to see him, even though she knew it was the physically sick ones, but the ones that were not quite right in their heads! But she was sure her Uncle was competent. Why would a doctor want to drink so much like she saw him doing?

But everyone roared with laughter even though they’d heard it before. But Uncle Kelley had a million of them and each was as dirty as the next, if not worse, but he was very good at telling them, and because he was so handsome like Kirk Douglas, it was fun watching him tell it. It just was. But at the same time, you could have an intelligent conversation with the doctor. Kelley was an M.D. and more! He’d written books and was a genius and aside from all of it, he was so good with the kids.

The bus drove down Madison Avenue and 5th toward the Plaza Hotel. They traveled through Central Park and old snow lay on the ground. People walking by noticed the bus and waved at it! It was very exciting. It was something different to see a double-decker bus whizzing by.

As they got closer to The Plaza Hotel, Mr. Osberg pointed out all the horse and carriages on the sidelines. “Look Eliza, horses,” said Mr. Osberg. Then somewhere along the line, between the restaurant and the UN Plaza someone had slipped Roy a Yamukah! He wore it proudly on his head like a true boy coming to manhood!

Roy, every bit the birthday boy now wearing the traditional Jewish hat men wore,
looked in his element as he played host and head of the party man like he’d seen his dad do many times.

It would have almost been comical if they’d pulled up to a Jewish temple in that double-decker bus. Eliza remembered her friend’s brother’s Bar Mitzvah and it was totally different than this. And his uncle certainly wasn’t telling dirty jokes. Eliza remembered Eric’s uncle as he helped his nephew say the powerful prayers which were really difficult and hard to memorize. Eliza wanted a real Bat Mitzvah.

“Why can’t I have one?” She asked.

“You’re a girl,” said Richard.

“Well Eliza, they have one for girls,” said Aunt Dorothy.

“Dad, can I?” asked Eliza.

“We’ll see,” he said skeptically,

By that time Rich, Roy and Cousin Stan were playing football. The view out the windows turned into shiny jewels of colorful lights of the city. The bus was attracting a lot of attention, which was the intention in the first place and Roy loved every minute of it.

The bus was drawing all of the attention and the kids began waving at people watching from the busy streets. Christmas decorations had gone up and on every corner was a Santa Claus clanging away on their bells; Macys, Saks, Bloomindales and other stores were window decorated to a tee with colors and sparkle shone out to the curb so inviting. FAO Schwartz beckoned those with cash and credit to indulge their kids, which Lena and Victor didn’t do. Except maybe to their youngest Glinda who bordered on being spoiled. But to throw more salt to the wind, instead of full blown Chanukah, the Osbergs gave gifts on Christmas, in Victor’s mind, a commercial Christmas and then the girls were spending Christmas with Fern and her family while the boys were carted off with the parents to South America and St. Martin. But now they were all together, the whole family. Aunt Dorothy came up and sat with her niece Eliza and daughter Dina who was a few months younger than Eliza.

Aunt Dorothy, Victor’s younger sister, was very loving and fun. She could have been a sculptress and loved owls like Lena adored Ketchup and Eliza loved Indians. Dorothy had a special affection for Eliza. So bright, alive and warm. Carefree and light, she wished Victor would relent and do more for Eliza, like give her a Bat Mitzvah. Maybe by the time she turned 16 Eliza would be calmer and more able to have more. She certainly was intelligent. At least from what she asked for Christmas, usually Indian related, but in a secret way Dorothy wished Eliza was the star tonight. She put her arm around Eliza and Dina. They sat laughing and joking as the bus with the English advertising cruised through Central Park and down Central Park West to Fifth Avenue, ending up at the front entrance to The Plaza Hotel. The doorman looked like he’d seen it all and didn’t react to the big oversized double-decker bus pulling up.

They all left the bus laughing and carrying on. It was a large group as the bus driver parked the huge boat nearby. They all went inside the Plaza lobby and headed to the huge restaurant. It wasn’t long before everyone was seated and had drinks and little gourmet food trays of many types of breads. It was no fewer than 3 waiters that came around and took food orders from steak to lobster to Squab, even a cob salad, shrimp cocktails. All that was missing were the Rabbi and the Torah. As usual the family was a spectacle and all eyes were milling around them in the restaurant. They were who they were and made no airs of who they were.

At the table there were no gaps or silences with Roy sitting at the head easily conversing with Stan and Uncle Kelley about the football teams or sports, especially basketball. And they all indulged Roy. It was his birthday.

Aunt Dorothy, Dina and Eliza were talking about them having a Bat Mitzvah, as Glinda, Lena, Lauren and Roz were discussing fashion trends, and Victor got wind of that one and joined in.

As Mr. Osberg lit up a cigarette, he was rearing to get into a political discussion about the war in Vietnam other issues which he’d been in discussion with Uncle Kelley on the bus. As for Eliza and her having a Bat Mitzvah, he felt a tad bit guilty over it and therefore tried to avoid it all together.

By then the food started arriving in droves, waiters bursting in and out, wine being poured, shrimp cocktails for everyone, salads, and before long they started toasting Roy, who even wanted to make a speech saying he was proud to be there. He thanked everyone for the party as Uncle Kelley screamed, “You’ll get the bill Victor!” It was attention for Roy and he had it in him, having inherited his mother’s showbiz bug.

“Thank you wonderful family,” he droned on, trying to emanate Dean Martin when he was roasted on NBS last month. Roy held a wine glass up and tired to act suave and with it like Martin did. “This party is greatly appreciated,” he said, being prompted by Lena who went into to stage mama mode, as her mother probably did way back when! He droned on thanking everyone from his sisters to John McGrath for the football pins and even thanking Tom the Desk man! After the speech everyone applauded loudly and with energy for his sake. It took a brave kid to go up there and talk like Roy did. This is his night! Rich was proud of his older brother but he was so glad it wasn't him up there.

Finally he ended it with a few bows. Even those families at other tables were silent and listening to the strange little boy with the Jewish hat on making a speech like Dean Martin. Everyone clapped though, very enthusiastically. With Lena’s encouragement it looked like all the families were one big applause and it was like the president had arrived for dinner.

The meal was in Eliza’s ballpark… Scrumptious and elegant. She passed on the shrimp cocktail, always shunning anything odd or raw, especially Chinese food.

But tonight was Roy’s night and thank God no Oriental food in sight. Roy was a meat and potatoes type of kid anyways. Eliza ordered a hamburger and French fries with a Shirley Temple. In the meantime they all munched on breadsticks dipped in garlic butter, gourmet warm bread in little baskets lined the long rectangular table that accommodated everyone.

Eliza and Glinda began their antics. After sipping their Shirley Temples and filling up on the warm buttered bread, they headed for the ladies room which had an adjoining powder room with an intricate French sofa like in the Roman baths. There was a black woman attendant standing by the marble sink filled with baskets with napkins, lotions, soaps, even a little jar of expensive peppermint candy with a little tip jar beside that. The tip jar was filled half, mostly silver. This fascinated both Osberg girls who peppered the poor lady attendant with question after question and kept at it.

‘Why do you do this?”

“Because I do it, that's why.”

“Do you like it?” asked Glinda.

“Would you?”

“Why?” Asked Eliza putting on some lotion. The attendant shrugged nonchalantly and looked toward the floor.

“Do you see anyone famous?” Asked Eliza.


“Wow, cool,” said Eliza. “Who?”

“Oh, I saw Liza Minnelli once when I worked over at Studio 54,” said the sweet looking black woman, who realized the girls meant no harm. They didn’t make her feel bad or guilty for what she did and seemed intrigued. All the same, they should get back to their table.

“Maybe you girls better scat…”

“Okay…bye,” they said, leaving the bathroom.

“Hey, wait kids,” said the attendant. She handed them fancy mints with Plaza Hotel written on them.


They went into the hallway leading back to the restaurant but decided to explore
the hotel. There was a roppd off section and of course Eliza led the way in, Glinda following her older sister. Both girls were dressed up nicely and Eliza wore her coveted Russian hat. They walked down an empty cavernous hallway that led to an enormous banquet room all done up like the Arabian Nights with a huge oil painting of Henry the 8th in the middle of the room. The girls began running up and down the rows of round tables laden with party favors and gifts and loot. Fancy napkins and silverware was set. It was actually for a big Iranian wedding reception.

A head waiter walked by stiffly and did a double take as he saw Eliza get up on a chair to stick her little fingers in a fondue chocolate fountain that had just been turned on. It reminded Eliza of the movie “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” with Gene Wilder.

“What are you kids doing in here?” he yelled stiffly.

“Nothing,” said Glinda, as she jumped up like a guilty kitten.

“Young lady, get down from there now!” he commanded, his face turning a bright red.

“Okay,” said Eliza, who nimbly jumped down and came up to him.

“Where are your parents?”

“At the restaurant.”

“What’s your name?”

Eliza thought for a second and came up with … “El…Eli…Eloise!”

“Very funny, ha, ha, right and I’m the president of Caesars Palace, get out of here now,” he screamed.

By this time a few other waiters and servers heard the commotion and someone called the Captain. He showed up hands on hips. Eliza jumped back bit and faced the man in all his fury.

“I’m Eloise of the Plaza,” she said strongly. She started acting and emanating what she thought Eloise would do. It halfway worked.

With a hint of humor, the head waiter broke out in jolly laughter. Eliza was off the hook.

“Okay, okay Mademoiselle Eloise,” said the head guy playing along.

“Wee,” said Eliza. “Polly Vu Fiancées?” she asked to everyone. Everyone did laugh over the joke. The crowd of waiters and servers found Eliza and Glinda delightful little girls, especially Eliza. The Osberg children had treated the staff at the UN Plaza so well, that it bled over to any staff at any building. Eliza was able to wiggle out of trouble because of her knack. She and Glinda left them with a final curtain bow.

In a funny way she was Eloise of the UN Plaza, an alter ego, she thought, as they ran down the long hallway. Eloise posters were up on all sides of the hallway in different poses. One in particular caught Eliza’s eye. It was of Eloise with a French coat and a very familiar looking Russian cap that was almost identical to the one Eliza wore with her brown camelhair coat, at least in Eliza’s mind.

As she and Glinda walked back to where their family was, Eliza looked closely at every poster of Eloise. The little icon wore different clothes in every photo, and that reminded Eliza of a few years ago when her mother had taken them to a fashion show right here at the Plaza and they actually got to participate because Lena knew the lady running it, Mrs. Piasqualli. She even got to hold a little toy poodle and walk up and down the runway.

That was 3 years ago and now here they were having their brother’s Bah Mitzvah that Eliza very well knew wasn’t really one at all! She loved Eric Stein’s Bar Mitzvah and really wanted to have one too. For although it really wasn’t a Bah Mitzvah, Roy did get many presents and cash at a small reception at their apartment. Besides receiving $10,000 and many gifts, he got savings bonds and stocks, even something for college. But in all of the hoopla not one prayer or stop at the Jewish temple for Roy.

But he did get an interesting sculpture of Moses holding the ten commandants, but it was such an abstract looking piece like something Eliza would make in Art classes they would not let her take. She was just too darn hyper which squashed anything that could have made her more under control. She looked at the paintings of Eloise and touched it with her fingers, which was also not allowed. She knew she could be able to draw characters but she didn’t get a class to go to like her friend Val Stein. Seems as if Val got everything. Yet, as Eliza ran back to her table to her family, she was glad Val’s parents weren’t her parents. They were so stuffy and strict. But more restrained and quiet. When Eliza told her Jewish friend about the double-decker bus fiasco Val was not laughing and didn’t get the fun of it.

“Is it a Bar Mitzvah or a party?” asked Val when Mrs. Osberg told her one afternoon, making it seem like a real Bar Mitzvah which was starting to get on Val’s nerves. She knew Eliza’s parents were a bit flamboyant, but when Val told her father about the double-decker bus, she and her dad didn’t like the idea of it.

“Whatever you do, Val, do not tell Grandma!”

“Ever!” added Mrs. Stein.

“They rented a double-decker bus and are going to the Plaza Hotel and Mrs. Osberg has been saying it’s a Bar Mitzvah party!”

“Oh Gosh,” said Mrs. Stein.

“Can I go Mommy?” asked Val. For what it was worth, it sounded like fun.

“No!” said Mr. Stein. “No way!”

“Under no circumstances, it’s sacrilegious Val!”

The next day Val told Eliza what her parents had said.

“Oh that’s too bad, but I’ll tell you all about it,” said Eliza.

Eliza couldn’t believe how strict the Steins were as she returned to her table at the Plaza. She was glad they weren’t her family.

“Where have you been, your food is getting cold,” said Mrs. Osberg.

“She was where she shouldn’t have been,” snitched Glinda like clockwork!

“I was not!”

“Was too!”

Eliza glared at her little sister and began to eat her dinner, which was delicious. The burger was certainly no McDonalds, it was huge and had a strange tasting dressing mixed in that just didn’t belong there. Eliza took a butter knife and scraped off the dressing and continued to eat her food. The French fries were huge steak fries and weren’t cooked crispy, but were rather almost raw. But the Shirley Temple made it all taste good going down.

Everyone started talking about different subjects as the dinner progressed. Roy wanted to know why this wasn’t a real Bar Mitzvah.

“It’s complicated kids,” said Mr. Osberg in his calm public speaking way he had about him.

“What do you mean Dad?”

“There’s a side to it that we just don’t practice. And I know a few of our friends like Eve and Harry Glass don’t like the idea of you children getting snips of religion from here or there, like Eliza and Fern!”

“But I love what Fern has taught me, Daddy!”

“And I’m not denying that. But to the best of my ability, I’m trying to show you a little bit of everything. So your mother likes to call it a Bar Mitzvah.

“But Dad, I want to have one when I’m 16!”

“You’ll never follow through,” said Mrs. Osberg, knowing her daughter.

“I will too, and Mrs. Glass said I would. She said I’d be great!”

“Well, Eve Glass isn’t your mother!” answered Mrs. Osberg.

“Mom, it’s not like that!”

“Well then, why don’t you ask Mrs. Glass if she wants to help you and while you are at it, ask her to foot the bill too!”

“Now Lena, there’s no need for that!”

“Sorry Eliza… I didn’t mean it. I just want the best for you. Why do you want to weigh yourself down with the priorities of this?”

“I don’t know, I just do!”

“Decisions can be made when she gets older,” said Aunt Dorothy! “She’s so young!”

“I agree, don’t push it!”

“We’ll look into it!”

“Listen, if Eve Glass wants to help, I know her well, she’d pay too!”

“She’s not paying for it, I will,” said Victor! “If it happens at all!”

Dina came over and sat down next to them, which ended the conversation.

Eliza watched Stan and Uncle Kelley give Roy a very interesting gift, a talking book of all the basketball stats from the NBA since its inception and sports stars from A to Z. Roy’s eyes busted open and he loved it. Everyone started giving him their gifts and checks and he excitedly ripped them open. He accumulated quite a pile of things as dessert was rolled out. It was a huge chocolate (Roy’s favorite) cake with vanilla icing with 13 candles and 1 stuck on top for luck and to erase the “13” stigma.

Lauren and Aunt Dorothy gave him other gifts too and then Victor handed Roy an envelope with a check from their grandfather who had died a few months before, which is the reason for Grandma Hazel not showing up for this. She was, believe it or not, sitting ‘Shiva’, the Jewish term for a year of mourning. In fact, she was not happy that they were celebrating this party and asked that they wait, but it couldn’t and wouldn’t. Besides, this is the way Pop would have wanted it anyways for his favorite grandson.

Roy opened his now deceased Grandfather’s envelope to reveal a check for $10,000 cash to which he passed right to Victor.

“He won’t see a dime of that anytime soon,” said Dina to Eliza.

Then Roy opened more envelopes from loads of friends of the Osbergs. Checks and cash fell out, but Roy was allowed to keep that. He’d accumulated almost $700.00 for himself alone, not counting the gifts he’d received so far. But out of it all, even the money, he loved that sports book that his aunt and uncle and cousins had given him. Even some of the elevator guys got Roy a gift from the UN Plaza staff. The word spread and Roy really had hit the jackpot this year. The party was a success and Eliza sat there soaking it all in sipping on her Shirley Temple she spilled a little bit. Waiters from all sides came out of the woodwork smelling a tip to wipe it away and smile, wishing the little girl would do it again. After dessert they even invited the bus driver for coffee.

Dina and Eliza ran with Glinda and Rich through the halls of the Plaza Hotel like wild Indians. They had been also drinking Coca Colas and were hyped up from the big slices of chocolate cake, especially Eliza. But Mr. Osberg and Lena just sat at the table unconcerned. Victor was on his 4th Dewar’s by this time of the evening and Lena had another Long Island Iced Tea with Roz and Aunt Dorothy in tow. The evening ended with Roy and the men lighting up and smoking a huge Cuban Cigar.

“You are a man now, Roy… Here!”

Kelly put the long cigar in Roy’s mouth and lit it up. Roy puffed lightly and coughed then Mr. Osberg and Kelley took a hit from it, even passing it around the table. “No thanks,” said Lena. “Not my cup of tea!”

Roz took a big hit of the cigar, than passed it on. Everyone was laughing by the time it got back to Uncle Kelley, who handed the last part of it to the bus driver, who took a huge puff. “Thanks.” They all broke out in serious laughter and whooped it up for the next hour.

Finally, the Captain came over with the bill, ceremoniously handing it to Mr. Osberg who took it and handed the head waiter his charge plate. They took it and ran it through. Everyone was all together again and the bus driver went outside to warm up the double-decker which was ready to roll with heat and all, with Christmas music playing. The family entered the bus and the driver had the addresses of those who lived in the city and they took a whole 1 ½ hours to drop off everyone. It was like a real live tour. It felt good and everyone had fun. Glinda fell asleep in her mother’s lap. Dina and Eliza talked and stared out the windows marveling at the people still walking the streets. They even saw bums and bag ladies walking around and wondered if they’d be okay.

Finally, the bus pulled up to the front of 860 UN Plaza and the family came out. There was a late night graveyard shift doorman none of them really knew well. He helped them to the doors and was tipped nicely. He smiled at them and almost wanted to salute. They went upstairs and put the kids to bed, then retired, not forgetting to kiss Roy and Richard too.


Yes, ‘Emergency’ had been Eliza’s obsession and was all in good fun. Randy Mantooth was foremost in her mind always. Then one Fall evening, the night of her parent’s usual big bash to bring in the winter, Eliza sat in her brother’s room watching a new TV show. It was a new fall scheduled add on called Kung Fu starring David Carradine! Almost overnight as Eliza watched the show in her brother’s bedroom while her parents partied away the evening in all good fun and cheer. That’s the way they were, and many, if not all their friends, even the Osberg children’s play pals, were up and fun and full of mischievous and jokes! The girl was smitten and hooked as soon as the intro song played and the sun rose on the screen and David Carradine comes over the desert mountains playing a flute. School had not started up yet, it was between holidays so this new thing had time to take root! And take root it did!

Eliza had returned from another summer at Camp Sunningdale and had been crying herself to sleep for many nights. That is how it always was with when she returned from summer camp in Maine. But this time, when she saw the first episode pilot of Kung Fu Eliza became intrigued. It was at that moment that she had, after three years, fallen in love with a new TV cult figure. She’d even stopped wearing the Randy Mantooth shirt Darian had given her, which by this time was lack luster. In fact, a few stories had trickled into her favorite fan magazine Tiger Beat, that was starting to hint that Randy Mantooth was a recluse and not fan friendly or interested. She’d always wrote him letters and had sometimes received an obvious copy signature with a lame photo for her wallet. So now this new show came on … Kung Fu!

She watched the show with great interest endearing herself immediately to the character of Kwai Chang Caine played by Carrdadine. She especially loved the flashbacks and as she was sitting in her brother’s bedroom watching it, she tried some of the Karate moves with a fake plastic African spear from the gift shop across the street at the United Nations Building.

Her father walked in. He was dressed immaculately in a fine black tie and tail tux with black Gucci shores. He’d even put on his toupee, mustache and bronzing crème making him look so much like Burt Reynolds. He watched his oldest daughter. During the commercials they talked.

“What’ s on?” He asked curiously. He had noticed that she’d began to get wound up in this new show he’d read about in TV Guide.

“Oh, Dad, it’s a new show called Kung Fu. And it’s so cool. I love it. Can I take Karate?”

“What?” He watched her.


David Carradine as Caine was surrounded by about ten cowboys and was sure to get beat up. But suddenly strange flute music came on. Victor sat on Roy’s bed and watched as the flashback came on.

Eliza realized she wanted to take Karate.

“Dad, can I take Karate?”

“Hmmmm?” He was into the show, and lit a cigarette distantly.

“Dad, can I take Karate like that?”

She related to the boy on Kung Fu, Caine as a kid in the temple in China studying Buddhism, meditating and learning the secret fighting art of Karate. Victor could almost see the ‘sugar plums dancing in Eliza’s head’ …



“You know why, we’ve already been over this Eliza. Don’t ask questions you already know the answers too,” he scolded puffing on the cigarette and side-glancing the show on TV.

“But Dad, I could do it, and the philosophy is really about peace and maybe I can learn balance and poise! Yoga and meditation!”

“Okay, sure, but keep in mind it’s just a TV show Eliza,” said Victor.

They both looked at the small TV screen. Kwai Chang was trying to stop some bad cowboys from raping a lady on the road.


“Look Eliza, you are a girl, not a boy! Stop this! I don’t mind you watching TV, doing art projects, even decorating your room, but no Karate! Think, think!”

He finished his cigarette and walked out, but not forgetting to pat Eliza’s curly had and give her hug and kiss!

“I should have been born a boy, Daddy,” she said into his wonderful smelling jacket.

“None of that Eliza,” he said half wishing the same.

She went back to watching the show and her father returned to his party guests. Eliza tried some of the moves again with good success. She was flexible too, but except for her fingers, all else would fit. She had wide shoulders, strong legs, big feet, potential ballet dancing skills, even though she spilled things at the table and seemed a bit of a klutz. It also could easily be an ‘ugly ducking’ thing. Or in her head!

“Karate, if anything, would help me get centered,” she said.

Afterwards, the show ended. But they showed scenes for the next show airing Thursday night at 9PM.

Eliza could hardly wait. Then she could watch it in the den in color and its on way after dinner unlike ‘Happy Days’ & ‘Laverne & Shirley’ which usually ran through the Osberg’s dinner. Victor didn’t want to eat until 7:45, and that meant only being able to catch the last 5 minutes of Laverne & Shirley and then Eliza would have to get it third hand at school and they’d act it out for her. Gracie Berg made a great Shirley!

The next day at school they were talking about Happy Days, but they were talking about Kung Fu, mostly the boys. Eliza ran to a bunch of them and joined in on the excitement on the terrace at recess.

"Yea, did you see that guy kick butt!” said Tommy Brown.

“Yup, exciting how did he do it?” asked another kid.

“I can do what he does,” said Eliza.

“Sure, Eliza, sure,” they all murmured.

“I can…Watch me!”

The boys half heartedly watch her as Eliza began doing the moves she’d been practicing at night. At first it looked a bit awkward, but after a few kicks and “hahs” the boys gathered around Eliza almost reminiscent of the day Roland and Eliza were kissing and Eliza rolled up into a ball!

From across the yard Marla and her friends saw the commotion and started to try and make it a real fight. Marla ran straight for the crowd watching Eliza and smashed into them very hard. One boy fell and cracked his head on the pavement. Mrs. Hamilton saw the commotion too, but didn’t want her daughter in trouble, so she ran in and grabbed one boy and Eliza who had fallen down after being pushed.

Another boy saw Marla and went for her and knocked her to the ground. Eliza pulled away from Mrs. Hamilton who was so angry that she took a wild swing at Eliza as the boy on the ground cried and held his head. Blood trickled on the pavement. Mrs. Hamilton tired to slap Eliza several times and many saw this, some turning away toward the back of the terrace which was out of the line of fire.

Then as they were in the thick of it, Mrs. Hamilton kicked out at Eliza and Eliza deflected the kick with a block she’d been practicing on while watching Kung Fu. Mean Monster Hamilton, the lithe small boned black woman went down for the count in a heap, but it was obvious to all that Mrs. Hamilton was at fault, not Eliza. By this time, everyone knew that Hamilton had it out for the curly headed offbeat Osberg girl since she had hooked up with Roland … who by now was far away in Germany with his family.

By this time, the kids over at the High School of Art & Design which had separate terraces fenced off in the middle, were looking over and coming up to the fence like spectators in a wrestling match. It was a real melee as Eliza looked over at them, mostly dressed in hippy attire and wearing floppy hats and Levis with paint stains and bleach splotches on them.

It was a real knock down drag out mess! Mr. Averberg with a few security guards from the High School of Art and Design rushed in and started breaking it up. The little boy lay bleeding on the ground. Eliza slowly distanced herself from it all as one of the guards came up and helped Mrs. Hamilton who was not hurt, just shaken.

“Marla was the one who started the whole thing, Mr. Averberg,” said one sixth grader. Everybody agreed and nodded.

“We weren’t doing anything but playing and then Marla just acted like she was in a game of ‘Ride ‘a Buck’, but you said we can’t play that anymore!”

“Marla, Mrs. Hamilton, please come with me,” said Mr. Averberg.

“My daughter didn’t do nothin’,” screamed Mrs. Hamilton, her words mixed with spit. “It was that little Eliza Osberg. She was jumping and pushing and doing whatever fool thing she does,” said Mrs. Hamilton, her steel grey eyes scanning the gathering crowd of kids and teachers. Eliza was long gone from there, and that was thanks to her new knowledge. She pretended she was a mixture of Geronimo and Caine from Kung Fu, her new show hero! It seemed to help her pluck up the courage to get away before she was fingered by the irate Mrs. Hamilton.

“Yea, it was Eliza too,” said Marla, sweat gracing her dark brow, her cornrow braids in disarray.

But Eliza had quietly been spirited away by the boys and hid in the little playhouse on the other side of the terrace.

“I don’t see Eliza anywhere.”

“She’s the one Mr. Averberg!”

“Never mind, both of you to my office now,” he said adamantly.

The school nurse ran to the stricken boy.

“Marla pushed him,” said Marilyn Kerr. “Hard!”

The boy was tended to then taken off the terrace quickly.

Eliza’s heart was beating like a mad hornet that Mrs. Hamilton was being escorted off with her daughter Marla.

“You’re safe now Eliza,” said Gracie Berg climbing into the playhouse.

“Everyone saw Marla causing it and Mrs. Hamilton backed it up, so you are in the clear ‘Cochise’,” said Paul Bruchard, a Puerto Rican kid who lived 3 blocks away from Eliza off 51st Street.

“Wow, they really went off!”

“I know. All I was trying to do was show some kicks and have fun,” said Eliza.

“That kid didn’t look so hot. Do you suppose they’ll fire Mrs. Hamilton? Expel Marla?”

“Who knows,” said Eliza. “We can only pray for them,” she added.

“What? Are you crazy?”

“No, let’s do it right now, form a circle!” instructed Eliza.

Gracie, Eliza and some others stood in a circle, even a few of the rough and tumble looking boys. Across the way, in the high school yard many hippies with funky hats stood in praying mode too, and were chanting “Peace, Peace, Peace!”

Eliza began. “Lord Jesus Christ! Please bless Marla Hamilton and her mother Mrs. Hamilton. Help us understand and see your path for us and them!

Mrs. Greenberg crept up and listened in, but didn’t interfere.

“Lord Jesus, help us cope,” said Eliza softly, but with strength. “Repeat after me! Our Father…”

“Our Father,” said the group.

“Who Art in Heaven…”

“Who Art in Heaven…”

“Hallow Be Thy Name…”

“Hallow Be Thy Name…”

The prayer went on slowly and after that Eliza thought it best to end it when she spotted Mrs. Greenberg talking to Mr. Averberg on his balcony beyond the terrace where his office sat like a perch in a ship… The Crow’s nest!

Later that evening, just to please her mother, Eliza wrote a quick essay entitled, “The #1 Person in my Life Is Really My Mother!” It turned out to be easy to write and actually took some time and thinking on Eliza’s part, but it was truthful, thoughtful and very well written, but cryptic too…

She went to Fern who was staying in the den.

“Hi Sweetie, you okay?”

“No, not really Fern.” Eliza sat on the couch that served as a bed at night.

Fern lit up a cigarette, her standard Marlboro brand and stirred her coffee as usual.

“Is this about your mom?”

“They all get so upset with me, especially her, about my praying and Jesus,” Eliza stated solemnly.

“Remember, Jesus was ridiculed for his beliefs and actions.”

“I know.”

Eliza read the new essay to Fern and it was excellently written and done, at least in Fern’s opinion.

“Don’t hand it in, just show your mom. That’s what Jesus would do and then he would pray for them all. I can’t believe their making such a stink,” said Fern taking a full hit off the cigarette and sipping her coffee in between.

“And it was pretty embarrassing. I felt like Kwai…I mean, Jesus,” said Eliza. Fern easily caught the beginnings of another name before the young girl said Jesus!

“Who did you say before Jesus?” asked Fern.

“Kwai Chang Caine, a new TV show called Kung Fu. A man of peace who fights like 10 tigers,” quoted Eliza easily from the cowboy western show on NBC.


“In fact, it’s on tonight and you can watch it with me.”

“We’ll see. It sounds violent,” said Fern, taking a puff of her cigarette.

“No, it’s philosophical about peace and the main character Caine is really calm and silent.”

“I see…”

“He’s a Buddhist!”

“A Buddhist!!!” Fern almost dropped her cup of coffee and her hands shook a bit.

“Yes, they talk about Taoism,” explained Eliza, getting caught up in the flashbacks. “Listen…” She stood up and recited a line from the show she was so taken with. “…To know the World is Great, but to know oneself is ‘Tao’!”

“Hmmmm. Stick to Jesus and the Bible Honey. It’s a television show and there’s much more to it than you think.”

Fern got up, put her cigarette in the ashtray, took a large sip of coffee and said, “You know to have no other graven images other than God!”

“Of course, Fern.”

“Get the Buddhism out of your head. Jesus is the only teacher and Lord,” said Fern sternly and with a bit of Italian fire in her low, husky sounding voice with a slight hint of a New England accent.

“There was an incident at school!”

“What? Are they riding you about your essay again? That Mrs. Greenberg has got to stop.”

“Oh no, not this time. I think it was Mrs. Hamilton and her daughter Marla.
Remember when I told you about the time Marla came here and caused all the trouble?”

“Yes, I do. I said you should pray for them and you have, haven’t you?”

“Yes… All the time!”

“So what’s wrong now?”

“Well, this time I was showing off some of the Karate routines I saw on Kung Fu last week,” said Eliza truthfully. She never lied to Fern, ever! “It was during recess on the terrace and everyone was watching me, so Marla got threatened and ended up crashing into the crowd that was watching me. A little kid fell down and got really hurt bad!”

“Eliza, Jesus told us not to make a display of ourselves. You have to be humble. I’m not blaming you for the fracas,” explained Fern quietly, almost at a whisper. “You are very different from the rest out there, and Jesus has plans for you. Don’t fall prey to temptation and what the Devil wants you to think is right!”

“But I was having fun and not being mean and you know me!”

“I know you Eliza. They walked with and gave to and laughed with and finally laughed at Jesus too so use this as a lesson. Knowledge and peace, plus good intentions can be very misconstrued and there are a lot of people out there that fall into the category as your nemesis Marla!”

“Of course Fern, but here’s the worst part. During the upset Mrs. Hamilton ran in and grabbed me. Then she raised her hand to me and took a few swings so purely on instinct I blocked her hand with a Karate move and she fell down too!”

“My Lord, for Godssake… Jesus Mary and Joseph Eliza!

“Wait, before ‘ye’ judge, said Eliza holding up her hand.

“Okay, well, that was impressive!”

After everything happened and then everything calmed down, I made everyone take hands and come into circle to pray to Jesus for Marla and Mrs. Hamilton!’” Eliza took a breath. It was a moment she would never forget. “They all listened to me and everyone, even Mrs. Greenberg didn’t interfere. Although, out of the corner of my eye I could see her wanting to, but she didn’t move, Fern!” said Eliza with awe.

“I see,” noted Fern, filling her coffee cup with a fresh brew. She also lit up another Marlboro and listened intently to Eliza. “God works in very mysterious ways so that you come to him willingly and truly.”

“So that’s what happened today, Fern.”

“Eliza, God makes Jesus a prophet. You did very well in praying. He softened your teacher’s hearts and they allowed you to do the circle prayer.”

“Yes, I can see that Fern.”

“And, when your teachers went to the principal and got your mother involved, that was the devil hardening her heart!”

“Yes! I see that,” acknowledged Eliza. “But why did God allow that to happen to me in the first place?” asked the astute young girl, feeling like ‘Young Caine’ from Kung Fu asking the bald master a question. Lately Eliza had been role-playing like she was ‘Young Caine’ in the temple in China!

“That’s the way God tests us!”


“Now young lady, that Karate show you’re into, I’m worried about it. Don’t give up on Jesus, Eliza. Don’t go to the Devil!”

“It’s on tonight. We can watch it together and you’ll see,” said Eliza excitedly.

“Okay, but I’m not expecting Disney here,” said Fern.

“Fern, thanks! I love you so much,” Eliza embraced Fern and hugged her. Fern hugged back. “God bless you Eliza, God Bless!”

Later that evening Fern made her specialty – Spaghetti and Meatballs and Italian Garlic bread and eggplant. Everyone loved her dinners! They were like Sardis Italian restaurant without the loud crowd and celebrities. Well, Fern was full blooded Italian!

Glinda walked into the bedroom before dinner. “Fern isn’t going to like Kung Fu and then you won’t be allowed to watch it,” said the little girl plopping down on her frilly bed.

“Fern would see after she saw Kung Fu how good it was and how un-evil it was!”

“We’ll see,” said Glinda.

After dinner Fern cleaned up the kitchen and listened to her religious radio show. Eliza sat with her listening too. Glinda was playing with her doll collection and Richard and Roy were in the den watching TV. Dinner was over and the Osberg parents went up to visit with the Glass’ for awhile, but Victor wouldn’t be back for Kung Fu at 9PM. Eliza was already parked in the den in her dad’s favorite chair. Roy had made a big bowl of popcorn. Glinda stayed in her bedroom, having no interest in Kung Fu and had no intention of watching the show Eliza seemed to be jumping through hoops for. First Emergency, now this. Even Fern was sitting expectantly in the den waiting for the color set to begin showing Kung Fu.

The show started, credits and Oriental flute music played as usual on the large color set. The show began and Eliza’s heart beat wildly. She was really loving this show and wished that one day she could actually go to such a place in China, because they really existed, she had checked. She was making a full on effort to find out more and maybe instead of going to Sunningdale in Maine she could go to one of the temples just for the summer in China as some sort of offbeat exchange program. She’d heard her school had a student exchange program but it was only for the extremely gifted, not the most gifted but so hyped out students like Eliza!

Eliza stared at Fern sitting on the couch as the show started to unroll. Eliza knew that Fern would be livid if she decided and her parents agreed to send her to China! This particular episode had all the elements Eliza loved … American Indians, more flashbacks and the Old West backdrop. A young Indian wanted revenge against some bad cowboys who had interrupted his vision quest. He’s met Caine who taught the Indian about peace. But Caine did teach the Indian how to defend himself without weapons which totally intrigued Eliza. Everyone in the den was riveted, even Roy cheered when Caine knocked out the cowboys Eliza saw a slight reaction to the ‘poker faced’ Fern when Caine asked one of the cowboys about honor and being a man and a flashback came on about honor as a man and how some on the outside are cruel. The bald Master Lu seemed so very professional and it also affected Eliza. But Fern would not budge on Jesus vs. Buddha.

After the show Victor and Lena had arrived from upstairs. Lena checked on her youngest daughter and ended up reading to her in the bedroom. Roy and Rich went to the kitchen and had a snack.

“It’s got good points Eliza, but still to violent for television,” said Fern.

“Well that’s TV nowadays,” Victor defended.

“I love it,” said Eliza. She really had been taken with it.

Fern was torn. The show was really good for Eliza. But the violence was still apparent. We would just have to watch and see,” said Fern. Victor agreed.

“It’s not just how he bests his enemies, but how he deals with the adventure of the Old West and he has a peacefulness I want to achieve.”

“Yes, Eliza, I agree,” said Victor.

“It help me really deal with what the kids at school do to me. Especially Marla Hamilton!”

“Yes, he did deal with it more differently than I had expected,” admitted Fern. “In fact, I was impressed with the show Eliza.”

“Wow, coming from you Fern, that’s great!”

“I like it too. You have my permission to watch it Eliza!”

“Dad, if I have permission to watch the show, can I please take Karate? I’ll be sooooo careful,” she begged.



“You know why! I don’t want you in trouble. You could get hurt, break a bone, any number of things. Karate is for boys,” said Victor putting his foot down on the subject. He looked toward Fern and shrugged. “Now it’s late, so come over here, give your dad a kiss and Fern a hug and all of you kids are off to bed now!”

“Awwww,” crowed the kids.

“But I want to watch ‘Laugh-In!” Said Eliza.

“No, Eliza, bed now,” he said like a Navy Petty Officer.

“Okay.” She went to her dad like her other siblings and kissed him like on an assembly line, then moving to Fern whom she hugged deeply.

Fern came and tucked them in.

“Say your prayers,” whispered Fern.

Eliza did and loved it. “Our Father, who Art In Heaven, Hallow be thy name….

When Eliza was tucked in and quiet, Fern said, “Eliza, stop asking your father about taking Karate. It’s upsetting him.”

“I’m sorry,” said Eliza genuinely.

“If you want to practice, buy a book on it and read up on it first.”

“Okay,” said Eliza not getting discouraged. Fern never did discourage them, only re-wired their paths.

“Good night girls,” said Fern.

Fern went to Rich and Roy’s room. Roy always pretended to sleep. She hugged Rich and went back to her den room where Mr. Osberg was watching TV. Laugh-In was coming on and Fern sat down.

Mrs. Osberg was in her bedroom talking on the hone to Farrah Acres, a very close friend of hers whom she’d known since the early Sixties. Farrah was hip and had two kids Donny and Stevie Acres.

One day, as Eliza lay in bed, she know one day she’d meet David Carradine. She fantasized about it day in and day out. Especially at night. She lay on her pillow wide awake with her eyes closed as Glinda snored like a lioness in the next bed. She imagined meeting David by hanging around with Don Acres, who was always talking about becoming a big producer in Hollywood. Somehow she instinctively knew that he would make it happen for her. Donny would drive her there in his sports car and she would simply knock on David’s door and say she was a friend of the family. She’d began learning a lot about David Carradine who was gaining a rep as a party hippy living in Malibu CA and Eliza could easily imagine being part of it one day soon.

She began watching the show religiously which changed things at school and at the youth center. It changed from role playing EMT firemen to her practicing and showing kids Kung Fu moves. She was Caine as an Indian now. In fact, once the class saw her love of David Carradine they teased her about not loving Randy Mantooth any longer. “Hey Eli, what happened to that Randy Mantooth shirt?” asked one girl, Marilyn.

“Oh, I think I realized now that it was not really Randy’s shirt,” she said as she showed some second graders a few kicks and blocks she’d seen on the show and in the book she had in her hand on Bruce Lee.

Things got really strange when she organized an all girls football team and challenged the boys on the recess terrace to a game of touch football. It was ‘The Caines’ vs. ‘007’s’ and even the Swedish girl got in on it, and she was really shy.

It was weird to watch but not violent. It was better than seeing the kids getting hurt in a fracas or that old ‘Ride A Buck’ game. By this time Mrs. Greenberg didn’t interfere and Mrs. Hamilton was told to keep her distance and stay clear away from Eliza. Marla and her bunch glared at Eliza basing herself in the lime light but backed off finally. Eliza believed, truly believed that the praying Fern taught her worked. Time would tell.


Halloween at the UN Plaza was a split decision with the tenants and building board members. Some opted to hold smaller parties for the kids to attend rather than have the rabble rousing groups of children practically panhandling for candy and monies around the buildings.

But, it was no secret that the Osbergs loved Halloween, especially Victor. He was the one that escorted his kids when they were younger and it was a blast for all of them even before the UN Plaza.

Halloween led into the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas… But this year the girls were going to Fern’s house in East Providence and the rest of the Osbergs were heading to St. Martin in the Caribbean. They were sure Roy would not attempt to broil himself in the hot sun like he did in Aruba!

And the girl’s didn’t’ really seem to mind except maybe Glinda, who cried that she’d miss Mommy and Daddy so much. But before they left, Eliza was to “pull a fast one” as they were saying of late of the little curly-headed, sometimes misguided daughter!

Eliza was in fifth grade, Mrs. Greenberg’s class.

“So, I’ve decided to have you all write essays on who is the most important person in your life,” said the short, stout redheaded tough talking teacher. But Mrs. Greenberg was worldly. She loved children and she especially loved teaching them. But lately she’d noticed something special in Eliza Osberg. Misguided, but special all the same, the offbeat girl was smart, and Mrs. Greenberg had the whole class tested by mid year and Eliza had surprisingly scored better than most. Enough to consider moving her up a grade.

The class had turned in some half hearted essays, some with merit, most forced, but none like Eliza’s piece!

“Now would anyone want to read their essay out loud?”

Mrs. Greenberg ignored Eliza’s hand waving frantically. After she chose a few “C” students to read their essays Mrs. Greenberg asked for one of the brighter children to come up front and watch them as the class started getting ‘buzzy” and whispery about where Mrs. Greenberg was going. No one had missed the fact that Eliza was raising her hand, nor that Mrs. Greenberg had Eliza’s essay right there in front of her and had taken that essay with her when she left the class. “Now I’ll be right back.”

“Where is she going?” Asked Gracie Berg out loud to no one in particular.

Everyone looked at Eliza. They knew that Eliza’s essay was different and riveting, she had read it to some of them, and Gracie had told them about it too. All of a sudden over the P.A. system, “Eliza Osberg, please report to the principal’s office. Eliza Osberg to the principal’s office immediately!”

“Oh, Eliza’s in trouble,” screamed some kid that usually didn’t say much. The class mumbled amongst themselves.

“I’m not in trouble!” Eliza got up and circled the classroom like a ‘duck, duck, goose’ game. No one really made fun of her this time. Gracie Berg had seen to that. Gracie was rather a normal, but bossy girl and she’d made it her duty to swear off those who didn’t like Eliza and just campaign for positive stuff in relation to her friend. It seemed to work.

As a sidetrack she suggested, “Hey, let’s see who she’s given demerits and stars to,” said Eliza running up front to the big brown desk!

“No don’t do it,” cried Alberto, whom Mrs. Greenberg left in charge.

“Let’s,” said Eliza now at the front of the class.

“You go to the principal’s office like they said,” said Marilyn, a sour puss Park Avenue cry baby.

“I wanna’ see it before I go,” said Eliza opening the presumably locked desk drawer with the notebook in it.

The rest of the class sneaked up to the little black notebook Mrs. Greenberg had hastily thrown back into the desk. Everyone knew what it was and were curious to see it!

“She makes such a production out of it,” said Eliza about to open it.

Just then, Katy Rodriquez, an unruly Latin girl ran up and grabbed it and went through the notebook, roughly turning the pages and scanning it while breathing heavily, then a look of humor crossed her stern features and she closed the book fast.

“What’s in there, K?” Asked one of Katy’s pals from the back of the room!

Next Katy moved to the locked drawer which wasn’t locked at all. “She’s been fooling us all semester,” said Katy, reaching in and pulling out the grade books for the class. Katy sometimes bullied Eliza, so Eliza usually stepped aside and let the tough girl do her thing. In a funny way, it made them work together more!

Soon all the unruly bad ones were asking Katy to change their grades. “She ain’t writing nothin’ in those notebooks! It’s just scribbling green and red lines, look for yourselves,” said another brazen boy who hung around with Katy. He opened the notebook for all to see. Most of the class didn’t move an inch and stayed planted where they were. It was a shock that Mrs. Greenberg would lie and there wasn’t even a lock on the desk. She had them fooled.

They began changing a few grades. “She’ll never know,” said Katy.

Everyone looked in the book that struck fear into their hearts for months! Little squiggly lines ran throughout the whole book. Everyone laughed when a blond boy from Texas named Scott held up the little book and said, “This is how we are punished. Who wants to know?” Everyone broke out in serious light laughter.

Eliza started imitating Mrs. Greenberg by taking the notebook and over dramatizing it by looking at each and everyone and jotting down with the “red pen”, “It’s just a scare thing!”

“Eliza you imitate her so funny,” said Gracie Berg.

Just then, the P.A. cracked… “Eliza Osberg to the Principal’s office!” It was Mrs. Hamilton and she made the announcement like it was time for Eliza to walk ‘The Long Green Mile’! Eliza ran out of the class and into the hallway.

The buzzing and whispering increased, and even in other classes as Eliza passed by she could hear it resounding like the humming of curious bees! “…did you hear Eliza Osberg’s name called twice,” whispered one girl sitting close to the door.

Eliza’s heart beat wildly. What had she done now!?

“Go Eliza Go,” some kids yelled. “Run Eliza Run,” they screamed as she passed by the gifted classes and began to understand the joke … It seemed those screaming it were making fun of the scene from “The King & I” when the British come to see a play put on by the king’s palace, a parallel of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the chorus is singing it as the actress in the movie is running away!

“Nah, nah, nah, nah, Eliza’s in trouble,” some students yelled.

“I am not!”

“Yes you are,” came voices from nowhere as Eliza began to spook herself. Her imagination began running wild.

“Sit down everyone,” said whomever was controlling that particular class Eliza passed on her way to Mr. Averberg’s office way down a dark and grey hallway.

Finally she reached the end of the hall in the dark corridor of the offices occupied by upper staff at the school. She’d not ventured here since her and Roland had sat on the same wooden bench years ago (eons in Eliza’s mind)! But Roland had long left for Germany, never heard from again! Eliza remembered how the kid who shot the rubber band was expelled and never seen again either. When Eliza turned the corner to sit on that bench for bad kids, there sat her mother Lena Osberg glaring up at her daughter.

“…mmmm Mom…” stuttered Eliza startled to see her mother.

Lena wore, as usual, designer white and a very expensive cologne as spiffy smelling as the outfit was.

“Why are you here?” asked Eliza trying to remain calm.

“Your teacher called me in!”

“Am I in trouble?” she asked her mother.

Her mother shrugged impatiently. She wished it was a good thing as to the reasons for being there. Lena remembered when Eliza was in 4th grade and they’d asked her to co-produce and direct a special presentation of ‘Hansel & Gretel’ where even Eliza played a role and participated and didn’t seem to mind her mother around.

This time it wasn’t a social or business call.

Eliza would have expected something like this from Mrs. Folger, her 3rd grade teacher, even maybe in the beginning of her 4th grade class, her teacher Mr. Koppleheim maybe … but not Mrs. Greenberg!

At that moment Mr. Averberg came out with Mrs. Greenberg. He didn’t look up,
just greeted Lena. Then he, Mrs. Osberg and Mrs. Greenberg went into a huddle in front of his office.

“Now Eliza, you are not in trouble,” he said calmly.

“Then what?”

“Mrs. Greenberg thought that perhaps your essay was a bit controversial. And your choice of Halloween costume!”

Mrs. Greenberg broke in with, “Are you ashamed to be Jewish, Eliza?”

“No, of course not!”

“Then are you ashamed of me, your mother?” asked Mrs. Osberg.

“No not that either! I don’t know. It’s all so confusing now,” said Eliza looking from adult to adult. She shook her curly hair. Mrs. Osberg pranced around, her high heels clicking against the old wood of the school floor. She was nervous and looked on the verge of tears, her face becoming as red as her lipstick.

Mrs. Greenberg spoke up. “Your essay is rather odd, but well written of course. But the topic! There’s just a little question?”

“Jesus is the most influential person in your world Eliza?” Lena ranted. “Jesus? Why Jesus? I thought ‘I’ was the most important person in your life? Eliza, how could you?”

“Now Mrs. Osberg, calm down… I only called you in to discuss it, not point fingers at anyone!” Mrs. Greenberg regretted calling Mrs. Osberg and causing a scene which followed Lena everywhere she went! “I wanted to make you aware of things here,” said Mrs. Greenberg.

“Your daughter didn’t do anything wrong! It’s just that mixing religion at school … well, I just hope I did the right thing in letting your mother know, Eliza,” said Averberg directly to the girl.

“An Arab Terrorist?” asked Mrs. Osberg.

Eliza began to cry. It was obvious that both Osbergs were upset.

Mr. Averberg looked a little embarrassed too, seeing as usually kids who were unruly or bad were presented to him. Now he wished he’d understood more about why Mrs. Greenberg had done this.

“Mrs. Osberg, Eliza,” said Mr. Averberg in earnest. “I’m sure Mrs. Greenberg meant no harm!”

“I wrote what first came to my head,” said Eliza honestly. “Jesus has always been close to me. I pray!”

“That’s your problem Eliza,” said Mrs. Osberg. “You didn’t ‘think’!”

“I’m sorry Mom!”

“And what about being an Arab Terrorist on Halloween?” asked Mrs. Greenberg.

Eliza turned her tear streaked face to her teacher. “Well, it was just an idea, for fun, it’s supposed to be something scary, and an Arab terrorist is just about the scariest thing in the world right now, that’s all,” said Eliza.

All adults looked at each other as if a light bulb went off over each of their heads. “I see….”

“I mean, a witch is a witch, a ghost is a ghost, no big deal!”

“I see your point Eliza,” said Mr. Averberg.

“So, an Arab Terrorist got scary attention. I didn’t mean anything by it,” the little girl explained easily, but with a whirling dervish tail to it!

“I know Dear, but you may be misjudged, and we can’t have that can we?”

“No, but I could explain!”

“I just don’t know!”

“I can write another essay too,” Eliza said brightening up. “About my mother…I will!” offered Eliza.

“Well, I’d like to see that,” said Mrs. Osberg. “Who could be more important than your mother?” blasted Lena, her heavy Brooklyn accent coming out more pronounced due to her anger and confusion over the situation with Eliza. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.

By then Eliza was in full bloom tears and doubted they’d let her even go out trick or treating. It was traumatizing to have her teacher, her mother and the principal mad at her for writing an essay on Jesus and dressing as an Arab Terrorist for Halloween!

“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, Mrs. Greenberg.”

“I know dear, don’t worry.” She turned to Mrs. Osberg. “Please come into Mr. Averberg’s office and we’ll talk. Eliza wait here.”

“Just sit and wait here! You are not in trouble!”

“Okay,” sniffed Eliza sitting on the bench. They went in to Mr. Averberg’s office.

Mrs. Hamilton came out of the shadows and she roughly walked up to Eliza.

“So, in trouble again,” sneered Mrs. H. crossing her bony arms like a scolding teacher. “That’ll learn ya’,” she said bitingly. “…Humph…” She grunted.

Eliza ignored the woman and looked straight ahead and prayed silently to Jesus, almost feeling like he must have felt.

As if on cue, Mrs. Hamilton said, “A Jewish girl loving Jesus … You are plum crazy girl, plum crazy. I can’t wait to see you dressin’ like an Arab Terrorist,” she laughed evil-like.

“Jesus is for all peoples,” quoted Eliza to Mrs. Hamilton as Fern had taught her … Stand up to your enemies, face them square on and look them in the eye! Fern’s words rose up in Eliza’s soul and heart.

“And being a dumb terrorist on Halloween? Girl, you is just out there. If you wuz’ my daughter and thank the Lord you ain’t,” she spat while edging closer into Eliza’s personal space, too close. “I’d slap you silly … that’s the only way to knock sense into you kids!”

Eliza just started crying again.

“That’s it, cry, cry, that’s all you is good for! Boo-hoo, boo-hoo,” she scathed at the little girl. Her high pitched voice bounced against the tiled walls almost sounding like a Halloween figure scaring the wits out of you!

Eliza thought it almost comical that Mrs. Hamilton said ‘boo-hoo’ like when she would tell everyone in the lunchroom to ‘moo down, moo down’, like a cow!

“Oh, just stop yer’ cryin’ girl,” yelled Mrs. Hamilton, her surly voice cackling and echoing across the hallway. Eliza felt like Dorothy in the Wicked Witch’s castle, but suddenly she remembered the scene from “King of Kings”, a movie about Christ where the Roman soldier looks into Jesus’ eyes and is awed! Eliza didn’t miss the look in Mrs. Hamilton’s dark eyes as she shrunk away from the little girl when Eliza stared up at her and pretended she was Jesus gazing into the eyes of the Roman guards who gambled for his robe! Mrs. Hamilton turned away and spotted two first graders trying to sneak into the larger area of the school below the recess terrace.

“Hey you two, stop,” shrieked Mrs. Hamilton sounding like a wicked bird. She ran down the hall and disappeared around the corner and the area going dark and quiet again.

At that moment, after Eliza said a prayer again to Jesus, they all came out of Mr. Averberg’s office as if on cue.

Eliza wanted to tell them about Mrs. Hamilton’ harassment, but she was crying too hard.

“Oh, Eliza, don’t cry Dear,” said Mrs. Osberg. “I know now and I know you are a smart little girl!”

“Thanks,” stammered Eliza.

Mrs. Greenberg came up and put her strong arm around Eliza.

“Listen Eliza, I gave you an A- on the essay, but can you please reconsider the Halloween costume you’ve chosen?” She handed the essay to Mrs. Osberg.

Mr. Averberg spoke up. “Now I know Mrs. Greenberg has to get back to her class and I now understand the circumstances, we’ll let you go home with your mother now, Eliza.”

“Mr. Averberg, I’d like to get my other daughter Glinda while I’m here. I don’t want her coming home alone!”

“Of course, I’ll get Mrs. Hamilton to call her here!”

“Mr. Averberg,” said Eliza, hearing Mrs. Hamilton’ name.

“Yes Eliza,” said the principal kneeling down to Eliza.

“Mrs. Hamilton scares me! She is always scaring me!”

“Oh? Yes, Yes, there has been some trouble between you two.”

“Remember Roland?” asked Eliza squeaking out his name.

“Yes, the little German boy. Your err, friend,” said Averberg, knowing the problems and oddities it caused.

“Well, he stood up for me a few years ago when Mrs. Hamilton was after me. Then just now she came up to me and was harassing me,” explained Eliza, tears flowing.

Now Averberg was thinking. He couldn’t have Hamilton doing that even though the woman was loyal to the school. He knew Marla was not very smart and honestly, he really thought the whole essay fiasco was ridiculous when there’s people like Marla Hamilton running around causing havoc! She should be the one being reprimanded, but it always seemed kids like Eliza, the ones that fall through the cracks, get the brunt end of the stick at a public school. So unless the Osbergs wanted to send their gifted but misunderstood daughter to a magnet school, incidents like this one would follow Eliza throughout all the days of her life. It was unfortunate.

Eliza was down the hallway with her mother. As the two walked slowly to Glinda’s last class, kids in rooms and some roaming the halls looked longer than necessary at Lena and Eliza.

“Look, it’s Eliza Osberg’s mother!”

They said ‘mother’ almost with a mystical awe and sarcasm evenly mixed. The constant aroma of extreme expensive perfume wafted in a swirl, for once choking Eliza in all her embarrassment. In fact, she actually felt just like Jesus on his way to receive his judgment. She followed behind her mother, sort of role-playing Jesus as she heard the snickers and light scales of whispering bantering when they passed each classroom.

“Class, class, look at me, not out in the hall,” shouted some teachers.

Then Eliza got a funny thought. “Wow, I should dress up as Jesus!” It’s ironic because Halloween is short for Hallow Evening!

They reached the front office first where Alba the secretary worked. Lena and Alba really hit it off and Alba still could not believe Mrs. Osberg had the Barbra Streisand seal mink coat!

“Alba,” greeted Mrs. Osberg, coming up to the head assistant of the school office where there were 6 other lay-secretaries working at the desk.

Mr. Averberg was ‘acting principal’ for many years up until one year when some parents found out that he might be gay. But, of course in all the district of parents, Mrs. Osberg showed up in court and fought for his job and won it for him. Mr. Averberg was now the Principal. So because of what Lena had done, stepping up to the plate for him, the whole school was indebted to her because the truth was that Billy Averberg was a great principal and everyone loved him except Lena’s nemesis Mrs. Marrate.

Marrate was the one who had started the failed coop to put another candidate in the position. But once the word got out that Lena was on the case, most of the other parents united with Mrs. Osberg, who was a born leader and champion for the oppressed.

Now Lena stood in all her white finery in their office like Cleopatra. “Can you page my other daughter Glinda Osberg?”

Alba and a few of the others jumped to do it seeing as Mrs. Hamilton wasn’t around and sitting on her perch by the P.A. ‘horn’ as they nicknamed it. Thanks God for that! Someone in the ‘Hamilton Camp’ had warned the mean attendant lady to stay clear, that Lena Osberg was at the school.

Out of the corner of her eye Eliza spied Mrs. Hamilton standing quietly out on the recess terrace talking to Mrs. DuSmonis, the multipurpose room aide. Hamilton never spoke to the other woman, but there she was talking like they were the best of friends as the Kindergarteners played on the swings and jungle gyms, their teacher Mrs. Philobosian watching over them like a hawk.

“Glinda Osberg, please report to the office, your mother is here,” said a soothing voice, one of the lucky assistants to grab the microphone first!

With Glinda it was always exciting seeing her mother and the same went for Lena. Glinda was Lena’s favorite, although she loved all her children desperately. No one made fun of Glinda, nor teased her, especially about her mother! Glinda ran lightning fast when she saw Lena! Who could miss the pretty lady standing in the ancient school hallway?

“Mommy,” cried Glinda happy to see her.

“Hello sweetheart,” said Mrs. Osberg hugging her daughter tightly.

“Why are you here, Mom?”

“I had to see Eliza’s teacher.”

Mrs. Osberg shook the essay about Jesus at Eliza. “Eliza, I’m not angry with you about this!”

“You’re a bright girl and you really are very talented, just a bit mis-directed,” said Lena honestly.

“Okay,” agreed Eliza.

“I mean writing that screwy essay about Jesus Christ and now your father is allowing you to dress like an Arab terrorist on Halloween?”

“So what?”

“I think it’s neat,” said Glinda impressionably, trying to side with her older sister.

They walked out of the school where a big yellow cab waited, meter running. They drove down 3rd Avenue then cut across to 1st Avenue, pulling up to the UN Plaza in no time at all.

“Eliza, don’t forget, what matters is I love you very much. Don’t ever think otherwise,” said Mrs. Osberg with over dramatic affection and some tears showing in her hazel eyes that only wavered for a split second. Mrs. Osberg held her daughter and hugged her tightly. A few tears escaped and stained Eliza’s flowered print shirt. “I do care and just want the best for all my children, you know that!”

“Yes Mommy, I do,” answered Eliza reverently.

“Good, then let’s go up, but if you girls want to stop at Bernie’s Candystore….”

Both children ran for the revolving doors. Darrin was on duty.

“Hello Mrs. Osberg,” he said tipping his hat and opening the door for her. She smiled and acknowledged him as always.

“Hi Darrin.”

He opened the door for her and took a long whiff of her. “Boy, she smells so good!”

Halloween was a few days away. At dinner everyone talked about the events of the day. Then conversation drifted to Lena’s visit to the school.

“How’s Mr. Averberg,” asked Victor.

“Oh, he’s fine as always.”

“Good, and what happened with Eliza?”

“I talked to her teacher and we worked it out. But Bourge, I can live with the essay, but what about your daughter dressing as an Arab terrorist?”

“Oh Lena, don’t worry, it’s nothing. It’s really no big deal,” said Mr. Osberg, as he took a bite out of the roast Gemma had made for them. “Even the hoopla about the essay on Jesus Eliza wrote is no big whoop,” he said.

“Thanks Dad, I knew you would understand!”

“Eliza means no harm. She’s an oddball, I’ll say that much!” He patted Eliza’s head.

Lena nodded, no comment.

Everyone discussed more Halloween business. Roy wasn’t dressing up ‘that’s for kids’!

Rich was going to be a skeleton, same as always. Glinda was going to be Malibu Barbie and she ran and put on her costume and paraded around the dining room. Eliza, as they all knew, was going to be the Arab terrorist and they accepted it. The UN Plaza was another matter altogether!

But the big evening came. It was October 31, 1972. Eliza had returned to school after her mother had come, but when Mrs. Greenberg went into her doting mode, the whole class knew she wasn’t putting any names in her notebook, just green and red lines. Scott looked over at Eliza and they both laughed and watched.

Mrs. Greenberg went into action as Donald, a black kid from Harlem, kicked Michelle, a shy Swedish girl, in the back of her chair.

“Oh, you get a demerit, and you too Joan, class, stop it,” said Mrs. Greenberg.

But Eliza and the others knew the truth now. Only when Mrs. Greenberg threatened to bring Mrs. Hamilton in did the class start to calm down. Before speaking Mrs. Greenberg had it all under control. She had many other teaching tricks and talents and had been teaching for decades. Some snickering and light whispering persisted, but Mrs. Greenberg waited in her usual commandant stance.

“OK class, we have a surprise for you all!”

The class immediately calmed down and listened intently.

Mrs. Greenberg continued, knowing what to do and say to get their attention. “Mr. Averberg has asked us all to go to an assembly at the High School of Art & Design next door. So put your books in order and file out,” she said suddenly spurring the kids on and out the door.

Everyone got up and Mrs. Greenberg led them to a huge assembly room at the High School of Art & Design which was connected to Beekman Hill School. They walked along quietly in a line as other classes started merging with them! Even the smell changed as they made their way to the high school through many corridors, doors and causeways. First, as they were led through the cellar area of the school through a small passageway between the schools, Eliza caught the scent of cockroach poison, boiler room oil, and old wooden desks; the oily scents of rusty steel with the slight hint of musty old textbooks.

Those odors began fading when they took a long staircase up to the high school lobby. It now smelled like paper, books and ink from the mimeographing machine. The caressing, almost mouth watering dry smell of papier-mâché permeated the large colorful lobby. They were led to the assembly auditorium that was already packed to the rafters with students of all shapes and sizes from the whole facility! It was electric and alive as young hippy looking ushers led the class to a row in the theater-like room. Everyone sat down feeling at ease and excited because of the psychedelic music playing Mozart and Beethoven.

The assembly turned out to be very bright and alive with everything. The high school put on the show every year. It was little skits with Santa Claus, even shorts about the police, Vietnam, Nixon, and even Yassar Arafat. There was just about every aspect of Halloween woven into the skits, which leaned on political messages. Then toward the end of the show, an Arab terrorist ran on stage with a trick or treat bag. Eliza and her classmates, including Mrs. Greenberg, and even Mr. Averberg, probably others too, stared at Eliza with open amazement. By this time everyone knew about Eliza’s mother and the hoopla of Eliza’s costume choice and her love of Jesus.

The student actor playing the Arab terrorist pulled off his garb and became Santa Claus and instead of bullets shot from his large machine gun, candy spewed out into the audience and he even threw his Arabian hat into the audience and it landed at Eliza’s feet.

Santa Claus said, “Remember, love all races, don’t see things so badly and know that you can have fun with it like I just did! We turned something negative like a terrorist on stage and turned it inside out and we all laughed! Happy Halloween everybody!”

Mrs. Greenberg made a motion to ignore the hat which Eliza did.

“How weird,” whispered Gracie, who was sitting next to Eliza. “That’s really strange,” she said looking at Eliza, who stared straight ahead! She was praying to Jesus thanking him for the message!

“Jesus works in strange ways,” said Eliza.

Glinda was there and ran up to them after the show was over.

“Wow, did you see that?” The little girl was darling in a sweet sailor dress and ribbons tied in her bone straight brown hair.

“Yes, of course!” Eliza said.

“Wow, I wish Mommy could hear!”

“Really, I know what you mean,” said Eliza. She was relieved her mother was not there.

“I’m going to tell her,” said Glinda.

“Maybe now I can feel better about it,” said Eliza.

“Hey, for sure you should definitely be the Arab terrorist,” said Gracie in awe
over it.

And Eliza did just that. It was evening when she began making her costume. She
had stopped by the toy store and picked up a plastic machine gun. Then she took a few terry cloth towels from the huge linen closet in the hallway. There were all sorts of shapes and sizes and colors of towels she could pick from. She made a turban to cover her face. As she made the final touches, Victor walked in her bedroom and sat on the rocking chair. Glinda was with Lena borrowing her makeup and jewels for her costume.

“Not bad Eliza,” said Victor.

“Thanks Dad,” said Eliza as she spun around so he’d get the full effect. “I hope I’m not causing too much trouble with this.”

“Well, you know we are always open minded with you Eliza.”

“I know,” said Eliza.

“Your sister told us about the assembly at school today.”

“Pretty interesting huh?”

“Yes, very.”

“I almost jumped out of my seat and you wouldn’t have believed it!”

“I’m sure it was pretty interesting, just don’t get carried away.”

“Love ya’ Dad!”

“You too Eliza,’ he got up and kissed her on the forehead. One thing about Victor Osberg is that he never hit or reprimanded his kids unless it was for a good reason!

Lena walked in with Glinda.

“Look at my little girl,” cried Lena going all ‘gushy’. She hugged and kissed sweet faced Glinda like a china doll.

Victor pointed to Eliza. “There’s our little terrorist Lena!” He teased.

She made a face. “Very nice,” she said sarcastically.

“Mom, look at me,” said Rich as he ran into the room. This year he suddenly changed over to being a fireman and had borrowed most of the costume from Eliza, due to her firm love of Emergency and Randy Mantooth!

Roy walked in, just looking. In all the years he’d not showed any interest in Halloween, but he loved basketball and knew every player on the NBA. That counted for something and the John McGrath pins were piling up and he loved collecting them.

And Rich was starting to take a keen interest in Oceanography and police work. Eliza, of course would be some kind of journalist or writer, and Glinda was destined to be a performer, or so they all thought at the time. They had encouraged Glinda to take special music classes. Glinda would come home with a trumpet one day, then a flute the next week, or maybe a clarinet the following month. She finally settled on a small easy instrument … a piccolo.

Now the kids left the apartment unattended. Other kids rang the bell and Gemma was there handing out gourmet candy and mints from Bloomingdales to them as they were accompanied quietly by their parents. Little was said as they made their way down the hall to the next duplex. Gemma looked down the hall and noticed that they had ‘normal’ costumes. They also ignored the Osberg kids when they came outside in the hallway too, even grabbing some mints on the way.

In fact, besides David Susskind’s (t.v. show interviewer) daughter Sandy, the Osberg kids had their friends outside of the UN Plaza. Most of the children at the UN Plaza were standoffish and snooty. And with the Marrate kids probably spreading the word about the weird Oberg kids (especially Eliza) most didn’t talk to them, even with Lena’s aggressive play date scheduling that already had fallen through.

But the Osberg kids never let that get them down. They always had the staff of the UN Plaza, and they were much ore interesting and had more interesting gossipy things to say and reveal.

Now the kids left the apartment and started on the 8th Floor evening knocked on the Marrate’s door. They began the trek to each floor one by one with Rich as a Fireman, and Glinda as Barbie and Eliza blending in, a fast take making her look like a ghost or goblin. But many doors that opened to other kids, didn’t budge for the Osberg kids and Glinda noticed.

“Hey, I’m going on my own. You’re making them not answer the door, Eliza…you are so weird,” said Glinda. She stomped away in frustration.

“That’s not why,” said Eliza.

“Then why did they open it for those kids and not us?”

“I don’t know, maybe they ran out of candy! We did get a late start,” deducted Eliza, but she knew better.

“Yea, sure, right…Rich let’s just meet up on the 12th floor, okay… She pressed her little cute normal looking fingers against the elevator panel and made both the up and down arrow keys light up. The elevator operators hated that, but Glinda always seemed to get away with it. She was whisked away in seconds.

Rich stayed with Eliza, loyal brother to the end! Together, as they walked from door to door, they figured out a better plan. Rich pretended he was holding her as a prisoner, that he’d found her hiding in a warehouse ready to do something bad. People started to answer the door after that. Rich would say, “I have this Arab terrorist taken prisoner and I am taking him to jail …ha-ha!” Then Eliza came to her knees and put on a great show … It totally worked and they started to perform as a skit, like Eliza had seen at the High School. Even Glinda, by this time, pretended to be held captive by the Arab and then Rich the Fireman comes to the rescue! The 3 siblings put on quite a show. Doors were opening and they were on a roll as the Tootsie Rolls fell into their bags.

“Wow, this is really fun,” said Eliza, totally getting into it. Then their little show got very loud with Eliza preferring to get carried away by shooting off the loud machine gun. “….cack, cack, cack, cack, cack,” went the gun, twice in the lobby, once in the elevator and 3 times on the 20th floor. Then Glinda started screaming at the top of her lungs in the hallways as doors swung open. But no one realized that Dum-Dum the service elevator operator called as many of the tenants as he could and pretended to be Tom the deskman. He said that the kids would be coming through, but it was all in fun and part of their school training! It worked well. Not only were tenants throwing in candy, but they also started adding dollars to the bags. One woman wrote out a check to the kids with a note to the school thanking them for the creative flair of the Halloween assignment for the kids!

“Very good children,” said a very reclusive banker at Chase. “How did you ever think this up?”

“My sister Eliza did it!”


Eliza took a bow loving, as her mother did, the center of attention and performing. It was in their blood!

By the time they hit the Penthouses in the East Tower, they were screaming and sweating and practically foaming at the mouth over the attention they were receiving with the new act.

“You kids have got to calm down, or ya’ better take it on the road,” said John McGrath as the kids rode his elevator up to 38.

Everyone laughed and the Arab terrorist costume was accepted. They reached 38 and the kids ran out screaming and pumped up, maybe due to all the candy they were eating between the shows. It didn't take Glinda long to fit into the act too. She was a nature like they were.

They kept it up until eventually Ching Ling the elevator operator in the West Tower heard from some of the tenants.

But, then there were the stuffy ones that kept up a barrage of calls (thanks to both Mrs. Marrate and Mrs. Morralt) and that pulled the plug. As the girls knocked on Johnny Carson’s door, 2 security men came off the service elevator as the kids were about to go into their little role-playing act.

“Okay kids, the jig is up!”

“Huh, what?” They were perplexed.

“That’s right, show is over kids,” said one guard.

The Osbergs stood frozen in place, for the first time quiet.

“We’re getting too many complaints.”

“Go on home kids, okay, please.”

“Ohhhhh,” the kids moaned in unison.

“Now, now, move on, move along,” said one guard. Just then Johnny Carson’s door
opened a crack, and then shut very quickly when whoever spotted the Osberg kids and slammed the door. A slight smell of good Marijuana wafted into the hallway, coming from the direction of Truman’s apartment next door.

“Darn it, I wanted to knock on Truman’s door,” said Eliza disappointedly. She stamped her foot in frustration.

“Now no more of that kids, Halloween is officially over,” said the second guard.

One guard lightly pushed the kids toward the service elevator. “Take this now,” he said with a slight hint of an Irish accent.

The service elevator came quickly. Dum-Dum was running it all night and the kids were relieved to see him.

“Dum-Dum,” all three kids yelled happily.

“Hey kids, look at you!”

They smiled brightly at the friendly guy with the big heart and hands.

“Hey Charlie, take ‘em down to their place, will ya?”

“Yes sir,” said Dum-Dum, his name sound strange to the kids.

“Then take a break in the basement and continue as scheduled for the rest of the evening, okay?”

Dum-Dum nodded like a soldier. The elevator door shut. Suddenly Dum-Dum lost his cold look and smiled brightly at the children. “What are you supposed to be?” He asked the kids.

“I’m a fireman!”

“I’m a Malibu Barbie!”

“I’m an Arab terrorist,” said Eliza pointing her machine gun at him. She knew he wouldn’t mind. He didn’t.

“Oh, ha, ha, interesting.”

“Charlie?” questioned Eliza curiously. She knew he had a real name, but Dum-Dum just fit him so well and it wasn’t like he was stupid, it was just a cute nickname they’d always called him.

“Do you think they’re mad at us?” asked Rich.

“No reason I can think of kids, but, well, you know how ‘they’ are,” answered Dum-Dum sagely. They looked up to him like a friend. He had a big heart and big hands, but no real answers. “Maybe you did get just a tad bit out of control,” he said knowingly.

So Dum-Dum took them back to 23.

“Thanks!” They all said together.

“Kids,” he said, coming down on one knee to their level. “Don’t give none of this any trouble in your heads, you gotta’ act like you don’t know what’s going on, but inside you really do…get me?” He smiled brightly and they smiled back knowing what he meant, thus the nickname Dum-Dum.

“We got you,” said Eliza winking.

“Are we in trouble?” Asked Glinda, who was confused about the whole mess, and was simply going to block it out and forget it.

“Nah, just ruffling things up a bit around here, as usual… It’ll pass, just lay low, and you’ll see,” he said to them in coarse sounding whispery tones he wasn’t used to saying.

“Okay,” they said.

“Smile, be kids, have fun and don’t end up like me…Ol’ Dum-Dum here!”

“Oh, don’t say that,” said Eliza.

“Can’t you see my costume? I wear it every day! Ha, ha,” he laughed. They all hooted and got rowdy for a split second. He let them out of the elevator and soon was coasting back to down to the basement for a Marlboro.

Gemma was at the door and let them in.

“Cha, you kids are causing a lot of trouble tonight… Git, git, git, to ya’ beds,” she admonished, not knowing exactly how to deal with it all.

“Gemma, we weren’t doing anything bad,” protested Eliza.

“Ras…you kids are running off the hook here,” said Maggie. Gemma’s older sister stood with hands on hips. She wasn’t upset or negative, but just trying to deal with the situation. Jamaicans were so gentle and had a gentle way about child rearing. “You kids shouldn’t be running all over this place.”

“We weren’t running around,” Eliza lied.

“If your daddy were here, you’d be in your bedrooms quiet,” said Gemma.

“You’all should be like Roy. He so good.

“He’s an angel,” agreed Madge.

“Just clean up and git,” said Gemma to the other 3.

“Okay,” they agreed easily.

“And don’t get any candy stains in the rugs. Your mother will have your hide,”
said Maggie, trying to take control.

Eliza went to her room with Glinda. Glinda had taken her candy and poured it on her bed. It was like gold. Eliza hung her candy bag on the bed post.

She began taking off her costume and went to the bathroom and washed up. Glinda did the same. But soon Gemma was behind her helping her to remove the makeup she’d used to transform into Malibu Barbie. It was fun.

After that the kids began settling down. It didn’t take a brute to control them, just loving care and a dash of kid understanding as Gemma and Maggie seemed to have. Soon Rich came in the girl’s room and sat on Eliza’s bed. They were all talking and laughing, even Marge and Gemma were upbeat and lighthearted. In fact, Marge was hovering around the girl's candy bags and they were throwing her treats of chocolate kisses and little Kit Kat bars. Marge loved sweets and acted like a little girl! She called them "Pebbles" ... Roy was in the den and soon Glinda drifted in there and watched scary movies. She soon fell asleep as she always did. Gemma carried the little girl into her bedroom and tucked Glinda in.

Mrs. Osberg had gone upstairs to some wild costume party having dug up some pretty outrageous things right from her closet and soon she’d return. Mr. Osberg hadn’t called all evening. Who knows where he was on this Halloween night and frankly, Gemma was sure he was safe and having fun somewhere.

Gemma was correct. Lena had heard about the fracas and everyone there, including the president of the tenants association and a few board members didn’t seem too upset, so for now the matter was made light of.

The next day everyone had a story to tell and even Mrs. Greenberg was open-minded. “Eliza, you took something negative and made it fun and educational.”

“The assembly did it,” said Eliza. “It gave me the idea I needed to make it right, not evil.”

“Very good Eliza,” praised Mrs. Greenberg going for her notebook in the ‘locked’ drawer. She made a big production out of it as usual and most of the class tried very hard to keep straight faces. Eliza smirked, but it looked like she was soaking in the teacher’s praise. “And what did you learn from all this?”

“I am not the only one with troubles. I learned not to be close minded and not to give up in what I wanted to do.”

Mrs. Greenberg took her notebook out and opened it to a fresh page and jotted something with a green pen. “You get a big gold star, a big commendation,” said Mrs. Greenberg scribbling more supposed words or whatever it was she wrote in there. Maybe it was a code. Who knew? She shut the book as Eliza broke out in serious laughter, which made the class giggle and carry on too. But Mrs. Greenberg let it go for the moment. It was a good thing to let out tension and stress. Even she began laughing and jumping around and mimicking them. From the hallway it sounded funny, but Mrs. Greenberg knew better than to break the spell. Soon they would calm down and be open to learning something more.


It was one Halloween that the UN Plaza would never forget. It was the Halloween after Eliza’s Arab Terrorist fiasco. This time Eliza was watching television, of all things, The Johnny Carson Show. There was a skit with Carol Wayne again and this time they had a costumed horse prancing around the stage as Johnny jumps into Ed’s arms and Carol Wayne jiggles around the horse. The audience was in serious laughter, as well as Johnny.

“A horse?” Gracie Berg was sitting at her desk in math class at school.

“Yes, why not? I saw it on Johnny Carson last night. It would be a riot Gracie,” exclaimed Eliza excitedly. They were taking notes in their 7th grade math class.

The girls now attended P.S. 167, a.k.a. Wagner Junior High School on 76th Street and 3rd Avenue, a very rough and tumble junior high where all the kids were bused in from Harlem and the Spanish Barrio. They had just banned “Rookie Day” where the new students were methodically beaten up or hazed as her brother Rich was when he started two years prior.

Gracie and Eliza ended up in the same classes now. Only Rich and Eliza attended the junior high. Glinda was in her last year at P.S. 59, 6th grade. Of course Roy attended his same school across town.

“We can make the costume!” said Eliza.

“And who will be the ‘butt’ of the horse?” asked Gracie.

“I don’t know we’ll figure it out. Come on Grace, please!”

“Well, it’s kind of weird, but I love trick or treating in your building…”

“Oh let’s, it would be so fun to knock on Johnny Carson’s door,” said Eliza, remembering the skit and how Johnny laughed even after it was over.

“Okay, I’ll do it even if I am the butt!”

“Don’t worry, we’ll take turns… I’ll be the butt too!”

Both girls laughed. Eliza had a way with getting excitement levels up in so many ways. Her enthusiasm seemed to spread to the other kids at other tables, and they all of a sudden were discussing their costumes.

“Girls, girls, we’re trying to do Algebra here,” said Mr. Scheckel, a frumpy nerd of a math teacher whom everyone made fun of, including his nifty name!

“Mr. Heckle, or is it Jackal … Or Jackal and Hyde?” asked the class bully David Weiner! David was no ordinary bully. He bullied Eliza constantly. She was sad when looking at all the photos she’d taken and in every single when he was in it, the Jewish good looking kid hid his face with his large beautiful, delicate hand!

Then Mrs. S. walked over to the girls. “Is there something you want to share with the rest of the class?” he asked cliché?

Someone in back hissed and someone burped, the whole class cracking up, as if Mr. Sheckel’s timing was meant to make them laugh. Tommy threw a wad of paper.

“You girls are trouble,” he said, ignoring the class, but taking it out on the two girls.

At that second, the bell rang and everyone got up and ran out of the class. Gracie and Eliza ran with the rest and ignored Mrs. Sheckel’s cries to “halt, halt, now!” No one ever listened to him because he always acted like a substitute teacher so everyone acted up. It was, in Eliza’s opinion, something called psychology of the mind!

As Gracie and Eliza ran to their next class they talked about the costume more.

“I have an old sheet,” said Gracie.

“And I can start on the cardboard face of the horse. I’ll show you later, okay?”

“Hey, we have Mr. Morris now, right?” Asked Gracie, pulling Eliza back a bit as the rest of the class filtered in.

“Yup, mmmmm, we do,” said Eliza getting slightly flustered.

“Uh oh, here she goes! You really love Mr. Morris, you are turning so red now, girl!”

“So? He’s gorgeous!” And he was good looking. They entered his history class and took seats in the back. Mr. Morris was short and well built with blond hair and striking blue eyes and had a nice disposition. He was riveting! He was good looking; he was very smart and knew how to teach. To Eliza he was the ultimate ‘super hero’ teacher and she did have a huge crush on him.

Before class began he walked up to Eliza and smiled.

“Hi Eliza, how are you?” he asked nonchalantly, but he could tell.

“Good,” said Eliza flustered.

“Listen, we’re reading some ‘Beowulf’ today and I’d like you to read. You really read well, Eliza,” he said with a smooth voice and demeanor that almost made Eliza swoon!

“OK, Mr. Morris. I will.”


“Hi Mr. Morris,” said Gracie, but not as dreamy as Eliza had.

“Hi Grace, what are you girls up to today, I see something written all over your faces,” he deducted easily.

“Nothing, really, but Eliza thought up the best costume!”

“Oh, what?” He seemed genuinely interested and he seemed to perk up when Grace said Eliza’s name. Both girls noticed.

They explained how they would make the costume.

“Get a photo for me,” he said.


“Class, attention,” he said with authority.

Eliza stared at him. He really was a cutie and really was so sweet and gentle and handsome. All qualities Eliza loved.

“Eli?” Gracie whispered to her friend. “Eli!”

“Oh, yes?”

“Geez, Eli, wake up and come to reality kid!”

“I think he is so cute,” said Eliza in a daze.

“I think he’s pansy looking Eli.”

“What? Pansy looking, you’re crazy!”

“He’s probably got a girlfriend.”

Eliza never gave up hope. “Maybe.”

“You think?”

Both shrugged.

“All I know is that you turn all shades of red when you talk to the guy.”

“I know,” said Eliza. “I can’t help it!”

“You are so funny. Guess Roland has finally taken a back seat to Randy, David and Mr. Morris!” joked Gracie.

“Hey, let’s follow him today,” said Eliza.

“What do you mean?

“Let’s follow him and see what he does and where he goes!”

“What if he catches us?”

“Hey, the J.J. Newberry is nearby where I’ve seen him go, so we can just say
we’re going there!”

“Yea, right… Man, you are really falling for him.”

“No, I’m not. But I’ve seen him walk that way to the five and dime store, so he does walk by there!”

“Well, okay, but we could get in trouble,” warned Gracie.

“How? For walking in the same direction as our history teacher?”

“Well, since we do need the horse stuff, okay.”

“It’ll be fun like spies!”

“Oh, alright already,” answered Gracie surrendering easily.

Their next few classes flew by. Eliza sat in Social Studies class as Mrs. Semotas droned on about the government in Siberia. Eliza doodled the horse design on a notebook page. Later she would type it up on her brother’s Corona. It would be a large king sized white sheet they’d dye brown. Construction paper fashioned into a mask and then painted. Gracie was very good at painting in the lines and she drew great animal faces. Then they’d staple it all together and presto, costume done!

Eliza easily saw it in her mind’s eye. It would be a brown horse, with spots on its back and a cute brown face with an old Barbie doll’s hair added as main. They had a million and one dolls stuffed in their toy closet.

That afternoon they waited until Mr. Morris came out of the teacher’s entrance. He was walking slowly and wearing cool cowboy boots, tight blue jeans and an emerald green cable-stitched sweater with a gold coin hanging on a necklace. He looked tanned and firm, even his biceps were bulging, he wasn’t tall either, but there was a certain something about him, a down to Earth intelligence, his gentle voice so firm and right. Worldly, dreamy, as Eliza fell into those brilliant aqua eyes. In a very slight way he reminded Eliza of Roland, who now had been gone almost 5 years. In that time Eliza had Randy Mantooth, then David Carradine and even a gangly kid who wore braces on his legs – Stevie Ryder who taught her how to play a good mean game of chess.

The girls passed Tavey’s Restaurant where they were the Osberg kids were the only kids that had a running tab that was always paid at the end of the week. It was a teacher’s hangout and no one could fathom why the Osberg kids out of all the children there, were at Tavey’s, when they should have either been in the large noisy lunchroom, or maybe the pizza place they all hang out at during lunch, which unbeknownst to the teachers, had been a ‘no man’s zone’ to especially the Osbergs (off limits to whites). The most radical black students set it up, and they enforced it. The only whites to really get in were kids like Gracie Berg who fell in between. But the Osberg kids were barred, like a reverse Jim Crow law. So Mrs. Osberg had decided to let her kids eat at Tavey’s, a Greek styled greasy hamburger joint up on 57th Street. It was run by a loud mouthed Greek man and his family.

Gracie and Eliza walked by Tavey’s when they saw Mr. Morris walking out of the school. They watched him cross over to 73rd Street and followed him like Indian scouts, which is what Eliza felt like.

Mr. Morris walked briskly with his hands in his pockets, oh so dapper. The girls watched him make his way down 72nd Street, then shoot over to 2nd Avenue. He carried a large brown leather hippy looking bag and reached in and put on his colored sunglasses. The girls drew closer and braver when he didn’t turn around.

“I can’t believe we are doing this,” whispered Gracie.

“I know, it’s so fun, said Eliza keeping her eye on Morris.

Mr. Morris ventured to the corner of 72nd and 2nd Avenue and waited at the light. He looked ahead as if scanning for someone.

“Oh, oh, I think this may be his girlfriend or wife, Eli,” said Gracie, breaking the spell over Eliza about Mr. Morris.


They watched him wave to someone across the street but couldn’t tell who it was.

“Hey, maybe it’s the blond or that dark haired lady over there,” said Gracie pointing to various pretty ladies in the crowd waiting to cross.

“They’re not waving back!” Eliza was almost relieved, although he was waving and smiling at someone! At that moment, Morris crossed the street, almost against the light in his eagerness to get to whomever he was smiling at. He seemed excited and animated like he was talking about the Egyptian Pyramids in class, except this time he didn’t even see them watching him.

He went through a big cluster of people and the girls watched like hawks.

“Oh, no, Eliza, don't look,” said Gracie!

“No, no, I have to look, I can’t bare it,” said Eliza ready to shed tears over Morris having some other girl to love.

“Wow, maybe you better look, Eli!" said Gracie. "Brace yourself, you will be shocked!”

“Eliza slowly turned and looked. She saw Mr. Morris hugging another man! They hugged and even kissed on the lips intimately. The girls stared open mouthed and shocked.


The men held each other totally oblivious to those around them who openly stared at the couple. They held hands, kissed again and then walked hand and hand down 2nd Avenue in bliss.

“No!” screamed Eliza, on the verge of tears and hysteria. At that moment she felt herself going into tantrum mode, and Gracie grabbed her friend and pulled her away into a dark alleyway.

“I can’t believe this!” Eliza stamped her foot as Morris and pal became little dots in a sea of suits, ties and shirts; swallowed up by the City, going who knows where!

“Oh, I’m sorry Eliza.”


Gracie took Eliza in her arms as the tomboy cried.

“Oh, don’t cry,” cooed Gracie. “You shall have Randy, David and even Steve,” said the pretty girl to her best friend. She felt for her.

“It’s just not the same, Grace!”

“Oh my God, don’t do this to yourself.”

“I’m just a klutz to him!”

“No, you’re not. He likes you. I can tell. He’s just playing it off ‘cause he’s a teacher and you are just his student.”

“How?” She looked up.

“Don’t you see what he is trying to do? He always loved your ways, he loves your enthusiasm. Remember that weird Egyptian thing. He kept calling on you and you always knew the right answer.”

“Yes,” sniffed Eliza.

“And he loves your ideas about things!”

“Yea, you’re right.”

“So cheer up. He likes you. Who cares if he has a…a…a boyfriend,” said Gracie.

“I do.”

“Well, don’t we have better things to do?”


They walked a few blocks to J.J. Newberry and started piecing it all together. Mrs. Osberg loved the idea and gave them monies and encouragement… At least it wasn’t some Arab terrorist this year…

They bought thick staples, tape, thick magic markers, brown dye and even the paints to bring the face and body to life after they dyed the sheet Gracie’s mother gave them.

“Hey this is going to be fun,” said Gracie.

“Yea, I guess so.”

“Hey, stop it, he’s taken and we always knew it!”

“I know, but…”

“Hey, how about Stevie?” Gracie paid for the staples and other things.

“He’s a loser!” said Eliza, who paid for everything else.

“Yea, he is, isn’t he,” agreed Gracie.

“First Roland and now this,” said Eliza. She really was feeling mixed emotions, sort of glad it wasn’t a lady he was involved with. That was of some solace.

They got on the bus and took it down 1st Avenue and got off across from the UN Plaza. They went directly upstairs, not even stopping to talk to Darrin as he let a few ladies out of a taxi, sort of expecting more conversation on one of the more subdued days before the holiday rush.

They went upstairs and started on the costume right away. Mr. Osberg was home and wandered into Eliza’s room as the girl’s worked on the costume.

“Well, what’s doing in here?” he asked.

“We’re making a costume, a horse!”

“It was Eliza’s idea,” said Gracie smiling.

“Well that’s great kids,” he said. Victor kneeled down and helped with the seams. After all, he was into textiles and what the girls were doing was pretty much what he did with women’s underwear “It’s a bit tamer than your Arab terrorist from last year,” he chuckled. All 3 of them laughed over that one. “Actually, I wasn’t really that concerned with your mother, but I did have the Oxygen on hand just in case Gemma and her sister Madge needed it.”

“Dad, you are so funny!

Victor sat with the girls and Glinda walked in.

“Hi Daddy,” said Glinda already floating around the room looking for attention. “So what are you guys going to be this year for Halloween?” she asked. “Is it going to upset everybody again?”

“Now Glinda, stop. No one was upset last year. It’s over and done with,” scolded Mr. Osberg as he finished folding the seams on the sheet for the horse body.

“Sorry.” She twirled around in little circles. “I’m going to be a fairy princess,” she said, going for her own costume she’d laid out on her bed.

“Hmmm, very nice,” said Victor distractedly. He was watching Eliza working on the horse… It was a good project. He wished he could go and have fun with them too, but he had to fly out to the factory to look over the new apparel lace designs. “I’m sure you’ll take pictures.”

“Oh, yes, for sure, we will,” said Eliza as she started painting in the horse face where Gracie had traced it perfectly.

Victor looked at it and came forward. “Wow, that’s a great sketch Eliza!”

“It was Gracie’s work, but I’m painting it in!”

“Not bad kids.”

“What about me Daddy?” Glinda was doing a little of her own ‘chomping at the bit’ routine trying to get noticed too.

“Oh, Glinda you are going to be a great little fairy,” he said getting up and dusting off his dark expensive suit. The metal designs of his shoes clicked and jingled.

“Can Gracie stay for dinner?” asked Eliza.

“Of course she can,” said Victor as he made his way around a pile of fabric.

“Thanks Dad.”

“When the costume is finished let me see kids,” he said, taking one last look.


Victor left down the hallway to his den to watch the early news.

Soon, as usual, Gemma rang a very cute crystal bell knowing that guests were present, things were somewhat formal.

During dinner in the dining room, Eliza and Grace explained the costume and they were really excited. The Osbergs noticed right away that if Eliza had a good mentor like Gracie she could really come up with some great stuff. Her mind was always going off in different directions, so it was hard to pin her down sometimes to sticking with one thing. This time they’d hit the mark with the horse costume. Even Gemma lingered by the dining room doorway to hear about the costume and how the girls were progressing. She thought that it would be a great idea for her kids to try it.

It wouldn’t be as strange as that terrorist costume from last year that they still whispered about in the laundry room and down in the park where the black women maids gathered to talk while waiting for their paychecks. There was even a suite of maid’s and servants quarters on the 7th floor that were used a lot.

Glinda got jealous and tired several times to change the conversation to her, but failed, except for Lena who always indulged Glinda. The boys loved the idea of being a horse, but they were like spectators at a tennis match as conversation batted back and forth between Victor, Lena, Eliza, Gracie and little Glinda! Their little heads were going back and forth and it was almost comical to watch.

“I’m not doing it this year,” said Rich.

“It’s dumb,” agreed Roy.

“It is not,” said Eliza.

“Is too,” shot back Roy.

“Children, please, not at the table!” cried Mrs. Osberg.

They were served a marvelous dessert of little mini chocolate mousses in
intricate little cups from the Éclair Bakery on 1st Avenue next door to where Lena got her hair styled at Amato’s Salon.

“Let’s see the costume girls,” prodded Victor.

The girls ran in the bedroom and put the completed horse costume on. They walked into the dining room and went into their little dancing act and for some odd reason, Gracie did the best imitation of a horse neigh anyone had ever heard! Everyone loved it, even Glinda.

“Fantastic girls,” said Lena, getting up to clear the dishes even though Gemma had come to do just that, but was just memorized by the costume.

“Yes, love it kids,” said Victor.

“Me too, I like it,” said Roy smiling brightly.

“Yea, not bad Eliza,” agreed Rich.

“It’s okay,” said Glinda, not giving an inch. She turned her attention to the chocolate mousse in front of her.

“Now children, that’s not nice,” said Victor, but not singling out Glinda in any real way. It was neutral, and to get Victor upset, you really had to have done something pretty bad like the time Eliza scratched up the pool table of Mr. Glass. Now that was something.

But Eliza remembered the years at Camp Sunningdale in Maine how Glinda was the total center of attention during Color War, so maybe now it was Eliza’s turn to have a little glory!

As she and Gracie got ready with the costume Eliza said. “I wish I could invite Mr. Morris over for dinner!”

“Oh God, you’ve got it bad! Hey, Eli, 72nd and 3rd Avenue? Get real!” said Gracie.

“I just want him to praise me and say I’m great!”

“Oh come on, wake up!”

“I know, I know, then I get that image of him running across 3rd Avenue into the arms of another man!” Lamented Eliza as they slipped into the horse costume and walked into the dining room.

“Just try not to think about it… him!”

“I’ll try.”

They paraded around the dining room table and everyone laughed and carried on, even Glinda eventually. Victor saw his youngest pouting over in the corner by the Venus Di Milo and gave her a look that prompted her to get a bit more in sync. Mr. Osberg had that way about him. Photos were taken too! It was a happy time and everyone was up and happy, maybe except Glinda.

But Halloween always came and the girls were ready. It was a Friday night when they got into the horse costume and Glinda reluctantly followed them.

Anyone who saw them screamed with happiness and jovialness. They went to every floor and the usual holdouts actually, to their wonder and surprise, opened the door when they saw the horse in the peek hole.

Slowly they made their way up to the 38th floor. They knocked on Cliff Robertson and Dina Merrill’s door. The handsome, dashing actor seemed shorter to Eliza in real life than he looked in his movies. It was odd. But it was him. He gave them gourmet cookies in fancy foil wrapping as if there were only a few for the ‘chosen ones’, which this year were the Osbergs.

After that they moved on to Truman Capote’s apartment who wasn’t home. His bulldog Maggie was barking a very weak ‘get out, get out’ sound, more like an old man whispering to get away from the door!

“He’s probably at some wild Halloween party in Greenwich Village,” said Eliza. They all agreed and shrugged. Gracie didn’t even know who Truman Capote was, nor did really any of the kids at Eliza’s school. Glinda and her friends were just too young to grasp Truman’s work. But Eliza knew Truman, he had been the first person to actually get her drunk on some expensive Vodka! Her father had allowed her a few sips of his, but Truman actually handed the young girl his flask and that was years ago by this Halloween.

They knocked on a few other doors and most answered, some didn’t. Eliza even had the gall to knock on Mrs. Morralt's door with no success of course. When no one was looking, Eliza crammed a few Hershey kisses in the bottom cracks of the door and smashed a Three Musketeers Bar into the peek hole.

“Now to the big Kahuna himself, Gracie!”

“Who?” she asked as they changed positions and Eliza was the head.

“Johnny Carson himself!”

“But he’s never opened the door ever,” said Glinda, who was trying to get into the spirit of things.

They walked up to his door and just listened first, making sure someone was home.

“Hey, it sounds like a big party inside,” said Gracie.

“Yea, lots of music and voices,” agreed Eliza.

“Maybe we shouldn’t,” said Glinda, who was feeling left out.

“Are you kidding, I’m knocking,” said Eliza with zest. She knocked and at a first no one answered. They knocked again much louder, and Gracie did a great horse
cry. A shadow fell across the peep hole, then light man’s laughter, obviously Johnny’s.

The door suddenly slowly opened and there stood the man himself – Johnny Carson with a putter in his hands and a smirk on his well-known face as if someone put the girls up to it. So he played along. “Probably some studio gag.”

“Now this is wild,” he said, just like on the show when something strange was about to occur.

“Hey Johnny,” said Eliza in a low horse voice.

“What are you?”

“Hello Johnny, I’m Mister Ed!” Eliza did it perfectly, even sounding a little like the t.v. series horse.

“Oh, funny, very funny and now I suppose your going to ask me to grease your hoof with hay!”

Although Eliza didn’t totally understand the joke, she neighed horse laughter, as did Gracie, who really did sound like a horse, which surprised Johnny. He came out into the hallway, which was rare for him, and circled the horse, totally ignoring Glinda who looked on the verge of crying. She didn’t even know who he was, and she didn’t even care, but he wasn’t paying her any attention and now she cared!

“Hi, I’m a fairy princess,” said Glinda lamely.

“Were you put up to this?” he asked the horse, still not acknowledging the little girl in the blue fairy outfit.

“No,” said both girls.

“It was her idea,” said Gracie from behind.

“Her?” asked the perplexed Carson, but intrigued.

A finger came out of the horse’s rear and pointed to the head of the horse where Eliza was. Johnny got it right away and laughed deeply, the type of laugh a man does right before naked ladies jump out of cakes!

“Wow, a double-voiced horse … in stereo,” he quipped easily.

Another man stood behind Johnny’s door out of sight. “Woooo, it a horse and oh, it’s little Lady Godiva,” he said drunkenly, pointing to little Glinda, who’d been ignored up until now.

“Hey, let ‘em in, they’re a hoot!”

The horse clopped in, the girls having the animal moves down pat. Eliza had told Gracie about the horse skit on the show she’d seen that gave her the idea. It worked.

They danced into Johnny’s cavernous living room. Believe it or not Johnny’s sidekick Ed McMahon was there, as well as Carol Wayne and even the awfully mean Mrs. Morralt sat on the exquisite couch along side Joanna Carson. They didn’t give the horse a second glance and went on talking as if nothing was astray or different. Mrs. Morralt had a big martini in her large elegant, painted finger nailed hand. She looked so hard though, so unlike when she was a young model for Vogue. Once Mrs. Carson had even called Mrs. Osberg to complain about the Osberg children, especially Eliza.

Now none of them even knew who the kids were and most were well past the inebriated stage anyways so the kids pulled it off and the timing was so right.

Even Johnny didn’t recognize Eliza and Glinda was so quiet and insignificant she was easily mistaken for the normal UN Plaza kids that roamed the halls on Halloween. Somehow she must have slipped in. Who knew at this point. No one paid Glinda much attention except the very drunk man from the doorway who gave Glinda candy and then announced: “We’re going to have a live show folks,” he kidded. “Lady Godiva is going to ride that horse. Come on sweetie, take off your clothes,” he coaxed jokingly. “Now get on that horsy and play Lady Godiva.”

Glinda looked on the verge of bolting out of there and seemed like a frozen deer in headlights, but said nothing as Eliza and Gracie got all the ‘kudos’ from Johnny and his guests. Morralt and Joanne ignored the whole fiasco. “Oh droll, we should have joined Truman at that party downtown,” said Mrs. Carson.

Mrs. Morralt seemed even more bored. “Ho, hum Darling, this party bites!”

Eliza wondered if Carson remembered the skit the other night on his show seeing as Carol Wayne was there. If he did, he never mentioned it. But Carol was laughing and when Eliza heard the booming laugh of Ed McMahon, she knew she’d done all the right things. She’d even prayed for success this year. It was, after all, Hallow Evening!

“Can we be on our next show Mr. Carson?” asked Gracie in horse talk.

“Let’s see what you can do,” Johnny answered honestly.


The girls danced like a horse and even stood up on two back legs. They had rehearsed and played the game of the horse for so long, that it was second nature. They had the attention of some very important celebrities and it tickled Eliza to know this and recognize it. Now it just wasn’t a fake shirt of Randy Mantooth. This was real. This was Johnny Carson’s apartment and they were in it!

“I wish my mother could see us, she’d be so proud!”

“I know she would, so would mine. I can’t wait to tell them,” whispered Gracie back to her friend. This was exciting for Gracie. Eliza was so much fun and she could not understand why so many of the other children at school didn’t like Eliza! Jealousy was the culprit.

Grace was in hysterics as well as Eliza, and almost everyone at the party, except of course, Mrs. Carson, Mrs. Morralt and Glinda, all looking bored and petulant and used to being the center of attention. Finally Mrs. Carson got up.

“Okay, okay, this show is officially over!” With delicate hands on hips, the striking, dark haired woman added seriously, “…Make your pick Johnny … the horse or me?”

Everyone stopped what they were doing and listened. “Hey, don’t ask me to make the decision in front of the company, especially the horse…You’ll hurt its feelings!” He went for his wife hugging her and then slinging the startled woman over his broad shoulders. “Hey, how ‘bout a ride on the horsy, J!”

“Put me down now, please, Johnny, I think I’m going to be sick!”

He quickly put her down, and she just as fast recovered as the woman grabbed Johnny around the waist and kissed his lips, and he was a little embarrassed. He wasn’t used to that kind of impromptu, and he pulled away with a nervous laugh, but with a cute comeback that saved the evening… “Okay, I’m taking the horse, bye!” He came up to the horse and led it away, and the girls followed along as a gag.

Meanwhile guests, most of them plastered at this point in the evening, including Ed, started stuffing the trick or treat bags with candy, caviar and even $5 bills. One man jokingly tried to throw in an 18K gold lighter on the coffee table, but someone stopped him.

It was like a dream for Eliza. Her father and mother loved Johnny Carson and she wanted to ask him for an autograph, but didn’t. Johnny usually never made himself open to that, just like Paul Newman hadn’t, but in the end Paul did come up to the table and did give mom the autograph.

Eliza knew how to treat celebrities, it was in her blood and her mother always taught her to remain nonchalant like you didn’t have any idea who they were and that’s what they did here at Johnny’s and that’s why Mrs. Carson and her friend didn’t notice them.

Then suddenly, just as it had a whirlwind beginning, the horse thing started getting old fast and some of the party goers went to refill drinks. Laughter in other parts of the room filtered in and the distinct odor of marijuana again wafted around like a swirling bitter fog throughout the airy large duplex Penthouse in the East Tower usually like the Berlin Wall to the Osberg kids! But not tonight!

“Okay kids, out, get out,” said Mrs. Carson, suddenly recognizing that it was not a studio gag as she got closer to the horse.

By this time Eliza started laughing. She didn’t like Mrs. Morralt and that’s when Mrs. Morralt, as if turning her radar on, noticed who it was. Some of the staples in the mask part of the horse face came loose and curly hair now stuck out between the cracks of the sheet and mask.

“My God, it’s the Osberg kids,” cried Mrs. Morralt! She was aghast and said it like a “C” horror actress queen.

By that time, they were leaving. The maid had started herding them out the door. It was no commotion, and the kids didn’t protest, just wanted to get out. Glinda was sniffing and tears flowing as if they’d done so wrong, but Carol Wayne came up to them and kissed Glinda and hugged the girls. “It was so nice kids!”

“Yes, we enjoyed your show. I’ll make sure to tell your parents at the next board meeting,” said Mrs. Morralt meanly and folding her slender arms that hadn’t a trace of her age in them yet. “The nerve!”

The kids left as they had come. As the door shut, no one said a word for a few moments, and the kids always had the habit of listening on doors at home so this was no different.

“Those kids!” cried Mrs. Carson.

“I know, can you believe they got by me?” asked Johnny. But he didn’t sound upset, just perplexed. “Kids.”

“Well they certainly didn’t have me fooled!” said Mrs. Morralt. “Not for one second!”

“Sure. sure, tell it to your therapist,” quipped Johnny.

“Oh, all of you shut the hell up. It was fun, let’s have another drink,” said McMahon! The kids smiled as they headed back down the hall and rang the elevators. They got back to their apartment with no bad incidents. In fact, the whole evening for the first time since they moved in years ago, there were no complaints. But soon the Osberg kids would grow out of Halloween too. It was a matter of time. For now they were enjoying the freedom of living at the UN Plaza and hoped life would carry them as it had.

That night as Eliza’s candy bag hung on her bedpost as always, and Glinda slept fitfully, her bag dumped on the floor, the girl said a prayer to Jesus and thanked him for all. “Amen,” said Eliza as she rolled over and went to sleep quickly even with Dad’s TV tuned to scary movies!


One week after Halloween Eliza awoke to a rare event. No, not a Blackhawk helicopter landing by the UN, but even better. A snow storm had floated in during the night from the Great Lakes region.

It was a even a bigger event and for the first time since the blackout of 1968, Eliza saw the city close down and that included the schools. It was Friday and that meant a three day weekend! The Osberg kids were cheering and jumping around. Glinda awoke to the clamor. “What’s going on?” she asked all cute and sleepy eyed!

“There’s no school today!” cried Eliza, jumping on her sister’s ruffled bed.

Glinda’s big round baby eyes took it all in. She got up and looked outside. “Wow, Wow, Yippee!”

Gemma came in. “But you kids have got to sit down and have your breakfast.”

“Okay,” they all said.

“Wow, today feels like Saturday!” said Eliza. “Even Roy’s school is closed.”

Once in the kitchen they turned on the TV on the countertop and watched the morning news to see what schools were affected and what the situation was around the city. Of course Eliza avidly watched the news and was keenly interested. She loved watching David Brinkley or Roger Grimsby on ABC Eyewitness News, or Walter Cronkite and Harry Reasoner. Her father would sit in his den before dinner and they’d watch together.

Now the kids were all riveted to the little t.v. set. Even Gemma watched as she made them the standard breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, juice and chocolate milk.

Eliza and her siblings ate quickly, then took their baths and dressed in warm clothes. Eliza was so happy there wasn’t any school. She really had begun to despise Wagner Junior High school. The kids, mostly black and Puerto Rican, called her “Boy” and chased her out of the girl’s gym. Everyone picked on her there, more than when she was at PS 59.

It had been a fulfilling 6th grade graduation and to everyone’s surprise, Eliza was awarded many educational certificates, and special pins for reading, math and science and one very special ‘Excellence in Current Events’ certificate. The curly headed mostly misunderstood girl was the only one on stage who said her speech without having it written down. After the big ceremony the Osbergs ate at Maxwell’s Plum, not one of Eliza’s favorite restaurants. They had huge hamburgers, but the meat was spiced gourmet and it didn’t taste quite right almost like they added sugar to the meat. The fries were over sized and not crispy. The only thing that tasted good was the tall glass of coke that Eliza drank a lot of! She was wearing a wonderful white short sleeved dress with red flowers on the collar, with a pair of lady-like white paten leather shoes, her feet a large size 8!

And 2 weeks later she’d gone to Camp Sunningdale again and had a wonderful summer even though but Annie the counselor never returned! It still was a fairly nice summer with the 14 other girls in her cabin. She’d gotten Gina who was a lot like Annie, but more Indian looking. Robin was their other counselor and she started at Sunningdale as a cook and server. This was her first year as a counselor.

Glinda too had a wonderful time and was still cute and a pixy, but because of the fighting that rose among the other younger kids over who would be the camp mascot, Havi Gold banned the practice that usually was with Glinda, so there would be no more “Come up and see me sometime” antics. It was an end of an era, but a lean summer for Eliza. She had not eaten well and her stomach shrunk to the size of a peanut. She was put on a special list called “Nutrition Cookies” and given sweets and starches to try and compensate.

It was at the banquet at the end of the summer, Eliza’s last at Sunningdale, that she felt the pangs of starvation. She had picked up a lot of awards that summer too, including a plaque for Art and Fencing. At the banquet table Havi had gone all out on the food and there was corn on the cob and fresh baked bread with barbequed chicken, even pot roast and chopped steak which Eliza stuffed herself with like a hungry orphan from the musical Oliver! The baked potatoes were awesome and butter dripped down her lips as Havi passed her and whispered, “Nice Eliza…”

But Eliza was so hungry. Soon her stomach filled up and she felt sick, so her counselor Gina walked with her around the camp grounds knowing full well what was going on. They walked to the outer camp ground where Lyn had reprimanded Eliza years before about being Tiffy the dog.

“How do you feel?”

“I’m feeling better now that things are quiet,” said Eliza. She walked around the camp site area. “This was the site I had my first camp out at in 1967!”

“Wow, now it’s 1973!” Gina sat on a log. She really enjoyed Eliza Osberg and thought the little girl was fascinating.

“Hear the sounds around us?” asked Eliza like a little Indian.

“Look, fireflies….” said Gina, pointing out the flickering in the nearby forest. The wind was sweet and cool against Eliza’s face. She walked around and around the campfire pit until her stomach began to digest the food.

“Ahhh, poor kid,” said Gina. The tall lean riding counselor watched Eliza. “God, you have such a high energy!”


“It’s good and it’s not so good,” said Gina.

“What do you mean?”

“You have this creative surge but you are a bit hyper and out of control, at least that is how others see you sometimes…”

“Yea, I guess.”

“Don’t worry Kid, you are great! Stay the way you are…just mellow out a bit, maybe ask your parents if you can have a…a…a…”


“Where did you hear that?”

“On Emergency, the t.v. show!”

“Oh…But yes, I guess that’s what I mean,” said Gina.

“They won’t give it to me.”

“Okay, case closed.”

“Let’s head back now,” said Eliza.

Both walked back to the banquet and enjoyed the rest of the evening. The next morning buses arrived to take the kids back to the Natural History Museum in New York where their parents were waiting after almost 9 weeks of summer fun.

That summer the Osbergs were in Sardinia and toured the Greek Islands, and Roy and Richard were attending Camp Skylemar having out grown Camp Wineko wild west living.

By September Eliza was off to PS 167 Wagner Junior High on 76th and 3rd. It was downhill from there from the moment Eliza and her brother Richard joined the line in front of the school. They did not fit in right from the start. Eliza looked around, tears forming in her eyes and she tried so hard not to cry. Some rough looking Spanish girls noticed them and began heckling them, but it seemed Richard was used to it.

“I already hate this school so much,” said Eliza, eyeing the other girls in line with them. The kids were pretty much black, Spanish and a few tumble looking whites mixed in.

Then as the school year progressed things didn’t improve. The black guys were humping her in the halls; you needed a pass to go the bathroom and there was a lot of riff raff running a muck. Mr. Witchick, the disciplinarian, otherwise known as ‘Sarge at Arms’ was an ex prison guard and acted as such, and even he teased Eliza!

Even most of the non-Afro Americans were out for Osberg blood, especially when they found out where the Osbergs Lived at the UN Plaza, but today Eliza was going to hang around her sister and brothers and they always got along and loved each other.

Glinda walked in from her bath and dressed. Eliza sat on her bed and watched her sister dress. Thanks to Camp Sunningdale Glinda was dressing herself well for the past few years and she was no longer having bathroom issues. In fact, she was taking an interest in modern finer clothing and shoes as well as wearing her hair stylishly as opposed to Eliza who still wore the tomboy clothes and looked and acted like a boy still, her naturally curly hair unruly and out of control. Lately she had begun shunning anything frilly or girlish, unlike Glinda who embraced it. But Eliza had other talents like writing, imagination and art. Her parents saw that and encouraged her, but refused to send the hyper girl to a gifted school and opted to simply send her to PS 167, not fully realizing the ramifications.

Although Eliza was bright, she was put in the second to last class on the totem pole of intelligence. There was another 8th grade class full of total rejects who wouldn’t learn and Eliza, the bright girl, was stuck in the second to last class to that one, and there was talk amongst her new teachers (except Mr. Morris) to put her in the last class because of her hyperness and nervous energy prototype The girl could just not sit still!

There was a plus in all this for Eliza. Since Marla was left back, she was still at PS 59! And finally Eliza was out of the clutches of Mrs. Hamilton which was a relief, although there seemed to be more black girls like Marla and her mother at this new school and they liked her even less than Marla did! It got down right dangerous. But Eliza did her praying and Fern helped her though it all.

“So Jesus made it snow and gave you a break from that horrible school Eliza?” Fern spoke in reverent tones which made Eliza believe and have more faith.

“Yes. But I’ve been praying to Jesus every day at school. They don’t like me there, Fern. They’re all mean black girls and the guys are worse, and I don’t even want to go into what they do to me in the hallways!”

“So sorry Honey, but you know your father has the best in mind for you, so think about what Jesus would do, and follow your soul and bare down and continue to pray. It will pass!”

“I love you Fern. I’m so glad we can talk. Is it snowing over there?”

“Yes, Sweetheart, it is… What a blessing. So quiet and calm!”

“I can’t wait to go outside… Well, I’ll be talking to you soon,” said Eliza as her brothers came in the bedroom looking for something to do. “Fern says hello!” she said to Rich and Roy.

“Hi Fern,” they both yelled in unison. Those two could have been twins. Richard was so shy, quiet and sweet. Roy was loud, slightly obnoxious and a tease, but all in fun ways.

The 4 of them were together. They walked up instinctively to the window and looked out at the vast expanse of the city. No cars moved, just a few snow trucks trying to plow out the mess.

“Hey, why don’t we go to Times Square and Playland Arcade!” suggested Eliza while looking out up First Avenue. It was dead out there.

“In this snow? No buses are running,” said Roy who looked out up the street all the way to the Twin Towers in the distance. Not a bus or taxi in sight. In fact, everything was at a temporary and standstill, that’s what they were saying on the news.

“How are we going to get there?”

“We’ll walk,” said Richard, just like Caine said in Kung Fu and that urged Eliza on.

Roy and Glinda made faces.

“Walk all the way there?” the 2 said.

“Yes, why not?” Eliza loved the idea.

“I don’t’ know,” said Roy.

“I’m up for it,” said Rich, who always went for things like that. When they rode
their bikes it was usually just Eliza, Rich and Glinda, but sometimes just Rich and Eliza. This was no different.

“I’m not going,” said Roy. He left and headed for the den to watch cartoons.

“Well, you guys going?” asked Glinda, sitting on her bed and picking up one of her favorite dolls.


“Great, let’s get going,” said Rich, eager to start the trek to Broadway!

They all went to the pantry closet and got out their winter coats and boots.

Gemma came over to them.

“Where are you going?”

“Times Square,” said Eliza.

“I’ll go with you,” she said, surprising them.

“Okay,” said the kids. They loved Gemma and wanted her to come along. She may even have some extra cash and would buy them something, maybe McDonalds!

Gemma went to her bedroom closet and put on her boots and coat.

They didn’t mind at all. Mrs. Osberg was fast asleep; Mr. Osberg was stuck at
his apartment near his lace factory in New England snowed in, and Roy would be fine watching TV.

Eliza was surprised Gemma wanted to go. She had a natural childlike enthusiasm and she had grown to love them so much like her own kids. The kind Jamaican lady even allowed them to stay at her house in Brooklyn where she lived. Her kids Norma, Pat, Chris and oldest Bernard all lived at home and were very close knit. Their ages just about matched the Osberg children, although Norma was a bit older than Roy. They had a lot of fun when all of them got together.

Today it would be just the Osberg kids and Gemma. She’d called her home and Lev couldn’t even get out of the driveway. Chris was shoveling snow and loving it. Pat and Norma were cleaning out their bedrooms. Bernard was at this friend’s house, a bass player somewhere deep in the Bronx. In fact, Bernard was a Rasta musician through and through. He was, at the time, playing in a band called ‘The 7 Seals’, a play on ‘The Seventh Seal’ from a Jamaican based religion called the Coptic Church where they smoked marijuana and prayed to Jesus and played Rasta music. The band would be recording several songs in the coming weeks.

Before they left for Times Square Gemma had Eliza write a note to Mrs. Osberg saying where they were going and when they would be back.

“Bye Roy, we’ll be back,” said Eliza. Roy half looked up from his cartoon watching…

“Yea, mmmmm, okay…” he drifted off to Tom and Jerry and Space Ghost.

They left and headed for the bank of elevators. Eliza wondered who would be on duty and made a bet with Rich about who would come. Rich thought it would be Adolfo, but Eliza said it would be Juan. This blizzard might have impacted travel for the UN Plaza staff, although there were several quarters on the 2nd through 7th floors for maids and staff.

The doors opened and they walked in to see the midget running the elevator. They had always shared a good laugh over him, but not to his face, and they were good kids and didn’t want to hurt anyone. Eliza and Glinda had to really stifle their laughing. They’d seen the midget vacuuming the huge lobby and due to the noise of the contraption he used, the Osberg kids could easily make fun of his height from a distance without him hearing them. Now here he was in close quarters.

The kids looked at the floor snickering. Rich turned bright red as if embarrassed. They tried so hard to hold in the laugh, like holding it until you got to the toilet which could be a real toil for those Osberg kids.

The midget whose name tag said his name was “Alexander Napoleon” stared at them openly. He was used to this type of thing. Suddenly Eliza lost it when she spotted his little shiny white shoes, size 2.

“Something wrong little, uh, little ummm, girl?” he asked Eliza, not bating an eye nor backing down.

“Where’s Ching Ling?” asked Eliza trying to stifle her laugh. She was trying very hard at suppressing a huge grin as she looked down at the little guy in his little uniform and shoes.

“Well, you realize there’s a snow storm, but I made it in,” he said.

Gemma only smiled because the girls and Rich were. She then realized what it was and lightly tapped Eliza on the head. “Ras Child, stop it!” But the woman could barely contain her own wide grin over the little man.

Then little Glinda began to lose it and laughed silly. That got Eliza going, then Rich and finally even the midget was roaring with laughter along with Gemma. Eliza could feel tears streaming down her cheeks and her jaw began to ache from all the hoopla. Even her chest began to hurt over it all.

They all tried to hold in the giggles over the midget standing so much closer to them. It was easy to spy on him and laughing behind a corner wall, but this was just too intense for all of them.

Kids made fun of him all though school and he was mercifully teased all his life and to this day! Starting with his own family and even the staff here at the UN Plaza and new tenants like the Osberg kids.

The elevator ride seemed to go in slow motion, and suddenly Eliza thought that she couldn’t catch her breath. Gemma put her delicate brown hand on Eliza’s shoulder and soothed her. They wanted out of that elevator before they burst! Like a balloon in high altitude.

“I know you are all laughing at me,” said Alexander, speaking directly to Eliza.

“We are not,” lied Eliza.

“You think because I’m short that I’m stupid?”

“No way!” Eliza tried to keep a straight serious face, failing badly.

After that he started to say more because he knew about the Osberg kids, how they ran wild through the lobby and caused such a ruckus, so he knew he would not get in any trouble. They needed to be taken down a notch and he just figured Mr. Williamson was sucking up to Victor Osberg. It was all about money and power.

He was about to rant on when he thought better of it and just ignored them from then on. The door opened finally and they raced out of the elevator, even Gemma in her child-like way in her crisp white uniform and white shoes jogged along side the kids who were laughing and hooting all through the lobby.

“Hey kids, Eliza, Glinda, Rich, Ras!” Gemma ran after them. She raced head on through the lobby to catch up with them. She wore her heavy camel haired coat and gloves Mrs. Osberg had given her.

“The kids sailed through the revolving doors when Gemma caught up with them finally.

“You kids are very mean to that man, that was not nice, cha,” said Gemma half heartedly.

“We couldn’t help it!” said Eliza.

“Cha, Ras…I’ll box yer’ ears if I see you do it again to him!”

“We’re sorry Gemma,” said Rich.

“You better be.”

“We are Gemma,” said Glinda.

They walked up the driveway into a winter wonderland. Sammy lived in Astoria Queens so was stuck.

"Hey, look over there," spied Richard pointing across the street at Beekman Place. Kids were actually snow sledding some riding huge sleds and others riding down on cardboard, and even some had those strange looking saucer sleds that went crazy. "Maybe we can do that later!"

"We don't have a sled!" said Glinda.

"I saw one in the bike room against the wall, we'll use that," suggested Eliza.

“See, you kids have got to learn how to act better, cha’,” said Gemma. “Don’t make fun of someone who is different and don't take another person's sled!”

“Eliza started it,” said Glinda. She started laughing.”

“I couldn’t help it.” She was still sort of snickering about it.

“I know you are teased at your school, Eliza,” said Gemma.

“They tease her about her fingers,” said Rich quietly.

“So Eliza, you as the oldest girl must know better to set the example, Ras!”

“Yes, I know,” said Eliza hanging her head.

“What if Fern knew you did that to that poor man? She would not like it one bit!”

“Oh, I know. But you won’t tell her will you Gemma?”

“I don’t know,” answered Gemma vaguely. “Maybe I just might. And if you kids act up anymore like that, I won't let you go sledding," said Gemma.

“Please don’t do it!”

“I have a good mind to tell her, and your father too.”

“Oh, Gemma, don’t do it! We won’t make fun of him anymore!”

“Okay,” said Gemma. “But if I catch you, Ras…”

They reached 1st Avenue and started walking down 51st Street, a pretty tree-lined street of brownstones and antique stores. They had to push aside snow drifts left by snowplows that were passing them in the morning light. They did see a few people out and they said hello to them as they made there way to Broadway.

The snow had finally stopped and the sun came out with fluffy white clouds crowing it. It was clear and crisp smelling as they walked at an even pace toward 42nd Street and Times Square!

They talked and joked about things even discussing what caused the snowstorm in the first place. Glinda always ran a little ahead and looked back just to make sure they were still following her. Rich had not said a word though. He didn’t want Gemma to tell their father anything. Evening in the elevator he was quiet as a mouse like he wasn’t even there.

“Rich, look at that!” Eliza point.

“Wow, Cool!”

It was a police car stranded in the middle of the street with tons of snow piled up, but the red lights were blinking and it looked so surreal. Rich went up to it and looked, sticking out his gloved hand and rubbing snow off the roof. He seemed hypnotized by the blinking red and blue lights going nowhere.

Then they started walking faster. 2nd Avenue, 3rd Avenue, Lexington Avenue, 5th Avenue, Madison, Park Avenue, 6th Avenue and finally 7th Avenue and 51st Street.

They threw snowballs at each other and ran their mittened hands over all the snow on cars and trucks, even taxi cabs. Street vendors were starting to set up and Gemma bought them all hot peanuts and roasted chestnuts and each got a steaming cup of hot chocolate. They walked down 7th venue to 45th Street, and then cut over to Broadway and 45th Street where there was a new McDonalds next door to Playland Arcade. As they passed the Burlesque Theater, Reich and Eliza tried to look inside the peep door, but a fat guy chased t hem away.

It was the same fat man as had always been there at the door. As time passed the guy began to recognize them. They laughed at him as always and went into their haven Playland Arcade. The man who ran it resembled a mobster and through the years he began to grow Warts on his face and a gut to match, plus hair loss and how he wore a bad toupee.

Gemma gave them each a $5 bill to play games and skeet ball for prize tickets. The place was practically empty except a few other diehards that were feeding quarters to the machines. Eliza’s favorite was Pole Position and d tempest, which were new video games. They had old and new there, but were starting to re stock with better video games as the years passed. They all played Skeet ball and were winning tickets. Gemma gave her tickets to Glinda, who was not doing so well as Eliza and Rich were. They played air hockey and shooting gallery. Eliza loved when she’d aim for the bear and he’d howl in pain when her gun hit it. They played for over 2 hours.

“I’m hungry,” said Glinda after she’d cashed in her tickets for a plastic purse with Barbie on it.

“Me too,” said Rich. He’d used his last quarter on pinball.

“Okay, let’s go to McDonalds, Kids,” said Gemma.

“Yea!” They were excited.

The McDonalds was almost empty as well. They went in and Gemma ordered hamburgers, fries and shakes for them all. They ate it up quickly.

Afterwards they walked around Times Square which was filing with snow and few people and cars. It was like they ere the only ones left in the city. Eliza and Rich ran into the street and were chasing each other. It looked very weird not to see traffic and people! It was like the world was on a big white ice age period.

“Get, git, git, out of the street now,” Gemma ordered. They didn’t heed her and continued to play in the street as the famed Billboard of the Kent Cigarette man puffed smoke out of his mouth. They began imitating him and puffing smoke from the cold out of their mouths.

“Hey watch this,” said Eliza.

Gemma prayed that Eliza wasn’t going to roll up into a ball! Eliza didn’t. Instead she dropped down on her back and made an angel in the snow. Rich and Glinda followed suite and soon all up and down the street were little angels in the snow.

“Ya’all gonna’ get sick,” shouted Gemma.

But seeing there weren’t any cars or traffic she let them do it.

“Hey, look over there,” said Eliza. “That’s the theater Grandma Hazel took me to see 2001 Space Odyssey. That was weird,” said Eliza, looking up at Radio City Music Hall in the distance.

“There?” asked Rich.

“Yes, remember? She took me in 1968 and during the really scary parts she’d look over at me to see if I was afraid.”

“Were you?” asked Rich.

“Well, sort of, but more so that night, and when that monolith was humming and then that astronaut sees himself as an old man laying in bed dying, God I was afraid to go to sleep. Even at camp. I thought I’d wake up an old lady,” admitted Eliza who was still affected by it to this day and probably the rest of her life. It was slightly traumatic.

“Wow, Grandma Hazel likes to get you scared a lot,” said Rich. Why did she do it?”

“I don’t know, maybe I look like mom so much and she couldn’t control mom anymore,” deducted the girl.

“What are you talking about?” asked Rich a bit perplexed.

“Psychologically,” began Eliza. “…Grandma Hazel sees me as mom!”

“What? That’s nuts, you are not mom. How can Grandma Hazel see you as mom if you’re Eliza?” Rich was confused.

By that time they were walking back to the UN Plaza. It was quite chilly and snow was piled in huge drifts on either side of the street. Some of the snow was dirty and became slushy and more people, mostly children were out running in it. Also, lots of residents were skiing down the street which made the street go back in time 100 years, looking at the old brownstones and tenements. Kids ran by with sleds and pieces of plastic to join the others sliding down Beekman Place, which was a sight to see and never happened.

“What were you saying about Grandma Hazel?” asked Glinda.

“I said that she just wants to control me and scare me like she used to do to mom!” said Eliza.

“I’m sure she meant well and just wanted to educate you,” said Gemma.

“Yea, sure, educate me,” said Eliza sarcastically.

“Ras Child, don’t say that about your mama’s mother, God doesn't like that!”

“Well, I know how she was Gemma!”


“I talked to Fern about it and she explained. I prayed for Grandma Hazel too.”

“Ras, put that out of your mind, you’re just too young to be thinking about things like that,” said Gemma.

“It comes to me sometimes.”

“Your Grandma didn’t take you to the movies to scare you,” said Gemma.

“Yes she did.”

“Listen Child, don’t talk this stuff around your mother ever,” said Gemma, taking Eliza in her arms and hugging her tightly. “You are a smart girl.”

“I won’t because mom is very sensitive about it,” said Eliza.

“Cha, yes, just be a girl and have fun!”

“Thanks Gemma, I love you.”

“And I love you child.”

“What’s for dinner tonight Gemma?”

“Hmmm, probably Spaghetti and meatballs, how does that sound?”

“Yes, great.” The kids agreed and cheered.

The all headed back, but took 48th Street all the way to the entrance of the UN Building.

“We had fun today Gemma, thanks.”

“Hey, thanks Gemma for walking with us.”

“Ras, no big deal kids. Let’s get on home now, no more trouble!”

They all ran to the UN Plaza and into the building. It was a great day and they felt good. Roy was there about to make some popcorn. The smell of buttered popcorn and expensive perfume floated around the apartment as Mrs. Osberg got ready to have dinner upstairs at Eva Glass’ apartment.


Indian Summer in New York City was spectacular. Early October progressed quickly into absolutely perfect weather, not a cloud in the clear blue sky. Thousands of trees were turning colors and Fall was approaching.

Central Park was burning with color and plumage. Of course Eliza wondered why they called it Indian Summer. Anything on Indians got Eliza’s attention.

Glinda ran into the living room where Eliza was actually meditating. She had learned it on her new favorite TV show Kung Fu. She had related right away with the flashbacks of the oriental mystical temple in China. She identified with that little bald kid!

“What are you doing? You better not let mom catch you in here,” said Glinda, pointing to the incense burning quietly beside Eliza in a brass holder just like on the show. It sat up on the window sill.

“I’m mediating,” said Eliza. She went into Lotus Position so easily it was amazing, but just something Glinda took for granted.

“It just looks strange,” said Glinda.

“Well, it’s different, so what?”

“That's what that place smells like ... strawberry. Like Gemma burned a cake!”

“So, mom will think Gemma burned a cake then, okay!” Eliza went into meditating mode, just basically going through the motions.

“You aren’t doing anything, that’s stupid!”

“Shut up, Glinda,” said Eliza putting out the incense and getting out of Lotus
Position. She got up and stretched.

“You’ve been acting so weird since that show came on,” said Glinda.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been doing weird stuff like this, and sort of out there!”

“It’s that show Kung Fu, I love it!”

“I think it’s a dumb show, I like Emergency better. What about Randy?” asked Glinda in earnest.

“Hey, you think it’s dumb because you don’t understand the Oriental philosophy behind it.”

“God, you are starting to sound like Dad!” said Glinda in frustration.

Rich came in. “Hey what are you guys doing in her?”

“She’s acting weird,” said Glinda.

“Shut up Glinda, I’m mediating.”

Rich liked the show and the first thing he did was bow. He began imitating the cheater that had taken the place of Randy Mantooth … Caine! “I am Caine, I wish you no harm!” said Rich bowing to Eliza.

“Please,” said Eliza, joining right in with him. “I do not ride the horse.” Eliza bowed back at Rich.

“Well then what do you do?” said Rich changing his voice into a menacing cynical cowboy type.

Eliza answered like Caine would have. “I walk,” said at a near whisper.

“I walk,” repeated Rich bowing. They both cracked up laughing.

“You two are just strange. I don’t get it. What about Randy? No more Emergency?” cried Glinda.

Eliza shrugged and Rich stood silent.

The 3 ran into the den where Roy watch the color set, his pudgy two knuckled fingers (like his sister Eliza) ready to click the remote at the turn of the dime.

It was Saturday afternoon. Lena waked in and said, “Girls, boys, a good friend of mine is coining over today and I want you all looking nice! Your father is shaving now and I’ve ordered form Star Deli.

All the kids cheered. They loved deli, with cold vegetarian beans and all sorts of cold meats like tongue, roast beef, corn beef, turkey and all sorts of sandwiches smeared with mustard, onions, tomatoes, mayo, dill pickles that made your mouth water, even Swiss cheese slices too all topped off with slightly hard rye bread!

“Who is it Mom?”

“It a surprise,” she answered them cryptically her hazel eyes dancing with joy and mischief.

“Oh, mom, who is it, who is it,” they all yelled at her at once.

“Now kids, you’ll see soon enough.”

Eliza remembered the party they had when all the famous people were there. Miss USA too. It all was so exciting to them. If Eliza knew her mom (and she did), than chances are this person was semi famous, especially the way Mrs. Osberg was acting about it.

“Mom, can I were my blue taffeta dress?” asked Glinda.

“Yes, Sweetie, you can,” answered Mrs. Osberg to her youngest, so proud she’d made that fashion decision on her own.

“I’ll wear my nice pants suit, with a tie,” said Roy.

“Good, you boys can handle it.”

She turned to Eliza.

“Now, Eliza, I want you to look nice, so come on, let’s see what we can find in your closet.”

“OK,” Eliza followed her mom from through the large apartment down the long hallway to where their bedroom was situated. Mrs. Osberg started going through Eliza’s closet of mostly boy clothes. She did finally find an old style blue navy dress, a little sailor suit with white trim and gold buttons on the sleeves. She hoped it still fit Eliza.

“And where your ‘Mary Jane’s’?”, asked Lena. “Your paten leathers, okay?” She reached in and grabbed everything.

“What about Glinda?” asked Eliza.

“Glinda knows what to wear, Eliza,” said Mrs. Osberg handing her oldest daughter a pair of stockings, then underwear and shoes.

“Okay,” said Eliza. “So, who’s coming?” asked Eliza, trying to act casual, but failing badly.

“Let’s put it this way, she is well known and you know her from television.”


“Yes, really,” said Lena imitating her daughter’s high pitch excitement tone, but adding a bit of opera sound to it. “I want you to be surprised!”

“Wow, cool,” said Eliza, as she slipped on the blue dress and slid the stockings up and over her father’s brand of underwear, then slipped on her Mary Jane’s, and her mother fussed with Eliza’s curly, out of control hair!

“I’ve got to tell them to cut your hair like a little page boy, get it away from your face,” said Lena, pushing at the curly locks falling in front of Eliza’s round James Dean looking face. She did look and act like a boy, but when she was all dressed up like that, Lena saw her oldest daughter emerge as a woman one day in her mind. “Now, put on your dress and look pretty!”

Lena made sure the brothers were aptly dressing. Things would be just right. This would be the first time Tia Louis was visiting at the UN Plaza. Her college roommate and fellow Broadway castmate hopeful was beautiful and exotic and the kids would really get a kick out of meeting the actress who they will instantly know from t.v. They’d known each other since their college days of the late 1940’s on u p to the early 1950’s when Lena was in the business on Broadway singing and performing, well as Tia Louis. Her friend had landed a t.v. series and have a very good Career. Lena thought back to their days in Teaneck New Jersey. Tia had been around long before the UN Plaza. “Her first time here,” said Lena as she adjusted her hair in the hall mirror. Lena was excited to see Tia and show off the apartment. The kids waited in the living room as Victor joined them all. He looked very dapper as usual.

“What is that strange smell?” asked Roy, looking Eliza’s way.

Lena walked in dressed as usual for her --- White silk, etc. Usual elegance and style. It was great.

“What is that odor?”

“Smells like incense,” said Victor.

Mrs. O. opened a few of the small rectangular windows. “Who is lighting the incense, kids?”

Glinda piped up, "Eliza, who else?”

“Why?” asked Mrs. O.

“Because I meditate and incense helps you focus on being calm and quiet in inward,” explained Eliza easily and confidently, trying to act like nothing was wrong.

“Well, from now on you do that the park, that’s a fire hazard,’ scolded Mr. Osberg.

“I can’t believe you would light it in our living room, that’s just not good, Eliza,” said Mrs. Osberg shaking her blond head. Her cherry red lips went into a frown and her hazel eyes seemed to flash a brilliant green more than blue when she was stressed.

“Eliza, give me the pack of incense,” said Victor.

“Where on Earth did you get it?” asked Lena.

“They call it ‘punk’ in school,” said Richard shyly.

“I got it at a little Chinese store in Times Square,” said Eliza.

“She has weapons too,” snitched Roy.


“It isn’t weapons, it’s like Richards replica gun models, fakes,” said Eliza, so hoping they would not take those away from her, what she sees in every beginning episode of Kung Fu as the young bald wanna’ be Shaolin Priests threw the dart-like stars into a dummy made of bamboo! They played the scene in slow motion and Eliza loved to reenact it.

“Let me see what it is, Eliza, go get it,” ordered Victor, but not in a mean way, more concerned.

“Daddy?” Eliza stamped her foot. The strap on her left black leather Mary Jane broke.

Now look,” screamed Mrs. Osberg. “You’ll have to wear your white ones from the graduation,” she said. Lena ran down the hallway and got Eliza’s white Mary Janes which were one size too large for the girl.

The rest of the kids sat quietly and looked on, as if it was a normal everyday thing that Eliza was in a bit of trouble.

Eliza put on her white shoes then brought the little metal colored spiky stars to her father. She was on the verge of tears and red faced, but not totally breaking

“What’s with her today?” asked Mrs. Osberg, as she went around straightening everything and moving some sculptures around. “First this Jesus thing, then an Arab Terrorist, then Randy Mantooth!”

“Now calm down Lena, it’s all part of growing up,” said Victor.

“Have you seen what she did it on the walls in her bedroom?”

“What?” asked Victor evenly. He disliked having to be the King Solomon and wanted things to go smoothly. It wasn’t his fault that he was away 3 days out of the week. Things with the kids has to be handled, and he loved them so much and wanted to give Lena a good life like she always dreamed of. Victor was achieving it too.

“She used your cement epoxy and glued her Randy Mantooth posters all over the walls,” said Lena, on the verge of tears herself as Eliza came in and handed the stars to her dad.

“You can’t get them…him off. The wallpaper is ruined,” said Mrs. O.

“I helped her do it Daddy, it wasn’t all her fault,” said Richard stepping up to bat. Roy didn’t say a word and backed off.

“I saw her do it, Daddy!”

Then Roy piped up finally from the corner “I told her not to do it Dad!”

Eliza watched Victor handling the stars.

“This is a Chinese weapon!” explained Victor. A star shaped metal star you throw at a wooden target. These were not sharp and had neat red designs running along the base. “It isn’t that sharp, but for now, let me keep it and we’ll talk about this later, okay Eliza?” said Victor. But unbeknownst to everyone Eliza had gotten a knife stone and oil to sharpen it later on. Thank God she didn’t sharpen it.

Victor played with the two stars gingerly, bringing him briefly back to his Navy days in Pusan, Korea.

“Eliza, you can take somebody’s eye out with this, do you realize that!” Victor knew how clumsy his oldest daughter could be.

“But Dad, it’s not for that! It’s to focus and mediate on ‘self’,” said Eliza quoting lines directly from Kung Fu! She had learned that one must be humble and through the humbleness you will gain knowledge and power. She looked over at Glinda who could be very fickle flitting in and out of love, betrayal and sibling rivalry!

Suddenly, the apartment phone rang, the ‘pax phone’ as it was called.

“And what about the posters?” asked Victor.

“Mom said she could put up the posters, but not glue them up,” said Glinda.

Mrs. O. was on the phone staring daggers at Victor, getting him in motion. “OK, enough, your mom’s friend is here, so come on kids, we’ll talk about everything later,” he said dropping the stars on the living room table amongst costly statues, sculptures antique coasters and even a bowl of Faberge Eggs!

“Never mind Bouge,” said Mrs. Osberg.”

“Okay kids, everyone in the living room and sit down, okay!” He patted Eliza on the shoulder assuring her she was not in trouble. He doubted she had a violent bone in her body, except occasional tantrums, but even that was staving off lately. He just wished Lena would get off her high horse and see that Eliza was growing.

The doorbell rang and Lena ran to open it. “That’s Tia,” she shouted sounding like a little girl.

“Helloooooo!” She exclaimed with exciting bubbling out of her high soprano voice.

“Lena,” shouted the strikingly beautiful red head. Even without her costume and t.v. series role, she looked like a movie star…

Lena came in, “She’s here!”

“Obviously,” said Victor sarcastically but with fun.

Lena threw him a cool, pouty look, still ravishing to him after almost 20 years of marriage. She certainly had color and pizzazz!

“Gemma, Marge, quickly now, she’s here, bring out the drinks and other things.”

The two Jamaican sisters jumped to it and laid many small goodies on silver trays out on the table. Marge went to the day bar in the den and was on stand by there. Tia was led into the living room by Lena like an entourage and Tia thought it endearing of Lena. Due to Lena’s excitement level, even Richard was bubbling with excitement. All the kids were like holding their breath before presents are opened.

The very athletic looking red head walked in smiling brightly and for a split second Eliza felt embarrassed and actually wanted to run and hide and mediate in her room alone.

“Hello,” said Gemma. “You must be Tia Louis, Ras,” she said in awe.

Tia was used to it. “Hello, yes.” She was wearing a red turtle neck sweater with a nice sun dress underneath hugging her skinny tall shapeliness. The stylish Chanel skirt complimented her sweater and hair and she wore gold earrings and mostly gold jewelry which really accented her pretty features. Tia Louis walked in with Lena. “Oh Tia, it’s great to have you here, Darling!” They were holding hands like school girls. “Welcome to the Osberg Estate,” said Lena in a thick Jewish Brooklyn accent. Everyone laughed.

“Lena, you look great!” said Tia looking her friend up and down approvingly.

“Thank you Darlink,” she said in her best Joan Crawford. “You remember Victor over there with our children?”

“Of course,” said Tia, sauntering up to Victor and planting a nice kiss on his lips. He didn’t mind and neither did Lena. The kids were in shock. One of their favorite t.v. show stars came to life right before their eyes, although Eliza would have loved it to be David Carradine, or even Randy Mantooth at this point.

“Wow, kids, I’ve not seen you since Teaneck, and at that time Eliza was in a crib, and Glinda was in your mom’s tummy, and well, you boys were so little!” she said circling the kids like some beautiful bird with plumage and class.

All the Osberg children stared transfixed at Tia Louis standing there in the flesh, not on her usual t.v. show they’d watched after school.

“Are you still doing the show?” blurted out Roy.

Tia’s laugh sounded like crystals dropping into a glass bowl. “Oh, that was years ago, Kids, no, we don’t film it anymore,” she said, getting a faraway look in her eye, almost not wanting to breach it or talk about with the children.

They walked into the living room where everyone settled in and the two Jamaican sisters came in with drinks and goodies.

“Well, you remember my Victor,” said Mrs. Osberg still holding that weird Jewish accent. Victor walked up and took Tia into his strong arms and gave her a big bear hug.

“Tia, nice to see you!”

“You too Victor,” she answered trying to right herself and whipping out a small compact to fix herself up. Attention then turned to the children.

“Hi kids,” said Tia smiling knowingly at them. These fans she could take, they were like family to her.

Glinda couldn’t get over it. “Your, your, … you’re the lady on that show!”

“Yea, on t hat show,” said Roy.

“Yes, very good kids,” said Tia.

“Yea, you are so pretty on there,” said Glinda sweetly.

Tia seemed touched. “Thank you Sweetie,” she said, planting a red lipstick kiss on Glinda’s cheek. Glinda laughed and hooted, amazed at seeing someone on t.v. come to life which always seem to happen with the Osbergs, seeing as they did live at UN Plaza and there were tons of celebrity types roaming around.

“We love that show!” exclaimed Richard.

“Yes, you’d really on so good on it!”

“It’s so funny!” added Glinda. She felt the urge to curtsy and felt like her mother’s friend was royalty.

Mrs. Osberg broke in. “Let the woman breath, kids!”

“Sit down all of you,” said Victor. “Can we get you anything Tia?”

“OK, I’ll have a scotch and soda please,” she said

Marge made drinks for everyone. Victor had his standard vodka on the rocks, the kids drinking soda; Tia had her scotch and Lena had a brandy. Everyone settled in and relaxed.

Glenda sidled up to Tia trying to look cute and adorable. “Come here darling, sit on my lap,” said Tia. “You are such a cutie!” she added taking Glinda into her embrace.

“You smell like roses,” said Glinda, which to Eliza sounded like the ‘Come up and See me sometime’ routine at Sunningdale that Glinda seemed to coin.

They seemed to gel together Glinda and ‘the movie star’!

After drinks they took Tia on the grand tour of the place. They slowly made their way from the large living room with the windows to die for, to the far end of the apartment. Tia 'oh-ed and ah-ed’ and loved it all.

“Lena, I’m impressed!”

“Thanks Tia, coming from you, I’m honored!”

“This even tops that apartment you and Victor lived at on 52nd Street!”

Lena went back to 1956, over ten years ago and remembered that glorious apartment they shared before marrying. Her father had paid the rent and secured her very well. Victor would take over and did it well. They paired to well. They looked like the grand dame couple in Tia’s mind and party of the actress was just a little bit jealous. “It's simply beautiful and elegant, I love what you‘ve done with the wallpaper and columns. It’s just drop dead gorgeous!”

“Like you,” said Victor actually lightly patting Tia’s taunt butt. It didn’t bother Lena in the slightest she knew her husband and had been with him long enough to know what he felt and did.

“Oh Victor, stop it,” said Lena… She came up to him and tried to put her arms around him and get him to kiss her, but he pretended to not want too and made a very funny clown like face, and Eliza could detect a small blush rise up on Victor’s cheeks.

“Okay, okay, stop the display,” said Victor. He reached for a cigarette and lit it up, playing indifference, even though it was so obvious he loved Lena with all his heart, and wanted to give her the world. That is why he moved here.

“Yes, it is quite the pad, hey?” said Lena walking over to the large windows with views of the UN Building and East River, First Avenue and Tudor City in the distance. Straight ahead about 15 blocks down, were the just now finished Twin Towers and they rose up darkly and mysteriously. It was such a place and such a view and Lena and Victor and family had it all at that moment.

“Indeed this is a pad,” said Tia, mirroring her friend and joining her at the window.

“We should take her up to the sun deck Victor!”

“Honey, really, it’s a bit much.”

“She’ll love it. But not the kids….too dangerous!”

“Ahhh Mom,” protested Roy and Rich.

“I want to go too,” said Eliza.

“Everyone relax, just relax,” said Victor.

They all settled again in the living room and Gemma came in with fresh drinks and more snacks. “Lunch will be served in about 30 minutes,” said the Jamaican woman dressed in all white.

“Thank you,” said Tia.

Gemma stared at the beautiful actress and had seen the show too with the kids. They never hesitated in pointing out Tia whenever the show was on, which was like every day after school after Magilla Gorilla and Yogi Bear.

“You know, I’ve always wanted a place here,” said Tia absentmindedly staring off into the distance at the twin towers. “What a view,” she added. “Lena, you should sing!”

“Really?” asked Lena, wanting to, but not at the moment.

“Yes, you could do a light opera selection,” said Victor. “That is, if you want to Len!”

“We’ll see. Not now though.”

“Could you put a word in the president of the board for me Victor?”

“I could, if there is something available that suits you. These are pretty huge units, mostly 3 and 4 bedrooms, like this one, some duplex types, but I’ll see.”


Meanwhile, Eliza and Glinda wanted so much to ask Tia questions about the show on t.v. They were sort of squirming and moving around in their chairs wanting to burst.

When Victor left for the restroom and Lena went to see if Gemma was ready to serve lunch in the dining room.

Each girl sat on either side of Ta. Roy and Richard were shy and didn’t say much. They mostly looked out at the view or at their shoes, but Tia asked Rich a question and he turned bright red. Roy, who never at a loss for words, was rendered speechless.

Eliza just wanted interview Tia for something later on.

Tia looked around at the 4 adorable children and got that pang of envy, but she loved how they looked like their mother and father…but Eliza really resembled Lena, although Glinda had her father’s family jaw line, she was ‘her mother’s daughter’ for sure! It was all so endearing to Tia, where on the norm, she hated talking about that show! It did mark her in the t.v. history books, but she wished typecast hadn’t been part of the picture, but she was working on new projects that put her in serious roles, even if it was guest starring on hit cops shows and the like.

Of course they knew the show had been in reruns for years, but all the kids knew the show and most loved the humor and slapstick of it.

But Eliza was the brave one. “So what was it like on the t.v. show?”

“It was fun!” said Tia non-enthusiastically. It was always like this, people asking her about that crazy, goofy show she did years ago, would she ever shake it? But the kids, oh, the kids of Lena and Victor were so sweet she couldn’t be mean so she just let go!

“We always watch it after school,” said Eliza. “What was the cast like?”

The kids edged forward now, because Eliza hacked the path to Tia so easily.

“The cast,” explained Tia as plainly as she could, “were very nice to work with. Good people!”

They were all so curious. If they were not Lena and Victor’s kids, she doubt she would have spoken to them.

“I knew they were, they seem so nice,” said Richard.

“Very nice,” said Tia sipping her second scotch.

Lena came in like a whirlwind. “Kids, stop it.”

“Ohhhh mom,” they protested.

“You didn’t react like that when Warner Klempner came over last year,” said Lena. “What’s so different than that?”

“Oh, do you know him?”

“Who?” asked Tia.

“The guy who plays Colonel Klink on this show called Hogan’s Heroes!”

“No, can’t say I have met him or even heard of the show. Believe it or not, I don’t watch much television. I’m too busy,” said Tia.

That was a bit hard for the children to swallow because t.v. was such a staple in their lives and they could not imagine Tia Louis not watching it or even her own series.

“Gosh, if I had a show I was on, I’d want to see it,” stated Eliza.

“Well, you’re just a child Dear. It’s different when you are older like me and looking for better things.”

Lena and Tia exchanged knowing looks and both mouthed the bad word in the industry … “Typecast”!

“Kid’s, I want you to stop now,” said Lena breaking in to the little circle of the 'paparazzis' that her kids seemed to become when she has some celebrity over to the apartment. But it was endearing and Tia didn’t seem to mind.

“Ohhhhh Mom!”

“You hear me,” she said trying to sound tough. Turning to Tia Lena admitted, “They did the same when Warner came over.”

“It’s normal, Lena, I didn’t mind, really I don’t, said Tia, shaking her handsome head back and forth sincerely. They both smiled at each being taken back to that Broadway musical they first were in together even though they were roommates in college too! Of course, at the time, Tia had a bigger part than Lena, but that was and that was in 1952, just about 20 years ago! And they were still friends to this day!

“Well then, fine, but don’t let them wear you down!” Lena said ‘wear you down’ almost like a black woman who had it with the children causing a ruckus!

“Lena, I’ve never heard you talk like that … I like it… ‘wear you down,” She said also taking on a black woman’s voice. Everyone started laughing.

Victor lit a cigarette and tried to start a normal conversation, more tempered. It worked and everyone settled in. Even Lena, who didn’t even smoke lit up one of her husband’s More brown cigarettes, feeling young again!

“You don’t smoke,” said Eliza.

“Be quiet Eliza,” said Lena, take a little puff.

Tia laugh. “I never have this with my own daughter, but she’s only 3!”

Just then Gemma and Marge came to announce dinner!

They all went to the dining room. Mrs. Osberg with the help of her maids had every under control and flowing. There was shiny china plates and crystal glasses, minus Eliza’s plastic fake. There was a light wonderful view of the outside through a big picture window, which greeted them like a butler. They all looked at the view first of the United Nations Building and the East River but in the living room the view of First Avenue was more secular and artistic looking.

Tia stayed all day and finally told the kids little funny white lie secrets she told little kids. “How did you get all the clothes?” they asked her artfully.

She would close her eyes and state seriously, but sounding like a Mickey Mouse Club member “Oh, we wished for them Darling!”

After lunch they the women went down to the park next door the the UN Plaza and sat by the old chess tables. The red head stood out right away in her summer dress with flowers and flowing hair. Others in the park stared openly trying to place her face. The Osberg kids ended up playing with a few of their friends from the other buildings they had met at the part. A young boy came up to them. It was the one kid they’d met on the day of the big gas explosion down the street. He was the one that encouraged Eliza to buy the Chinese star weapon. When they told him Tia Louis was there with them he couldn’t believe it. As soon as he walked up he knew it was her. He said he had to go home and ran away sort of scared.

“What happened to that little boy?” asked Tia as she sunned herself and chatted with Lena and Gemma. The kids ran around playing tag for a bit as the sun slanted in the New York sky. It had been a great day for everyone and in a funny way Tia was touched by their love of her old show that she loathed by this time. She loved them, and they respected her.

This is would be for the kids for many years. It was an interesting life to meet celebrity types through their mother or from someone at school. Times were exciting and the Osbergs lived it to the fullest.

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People Who Live in Glass Houses
Posted Friday, Apr. 25, 1969

"The United Nations Plaza is a building of high achievers," says Joanne Carson. "People who live here are not climbing. They have arrived." The building is United Nations Plaza, a 32-story cooperative apartment complex that hovers above Manhattan and the East River, across the way from U.N. headquarters. The "high achievers" certainly include Joanne's husband Johnny, along with Author Truman Capote, TV Producer David Susskind, Actor Cliff Robertson, Dress Designer Bonnie Cashin and assorted corporation executives. Robert F. Kennedy had a six-room pied-a-terre on the 14th floor. Secretary of State William Rogers' one regret about his duties in Washington is that they keep him away from his six-room suite in U.N. Plaza. "Gee, how I miss that apartment," he says.

As well he might. For 336 families who can afford the price of admission, the U.N. Plaza's twin towers offer the best views in Manhattan. From behind its huge windows (when the wind blows the smog away), residents of "the Compound," as they affectionately call it, can see north to Westchester County, south to New York Harbor and the open ocean beyond, east to Kennedy Airport, and west to the New Jersey Palisades.

Prices range from $75,000 for a one-bedroom apartment up to $275,000 for a nine-room duplex—plus maintenance charges of as much as $2,000 a month. A U.N. Plaza apartment can be a profitable investment; a three-bedroom suite that cost $65,000 in 1966 was sold two years later for $155,000—a profit of 140%.

Services provided for residents are spectacular. Valets, seamstresses, luggage handlers and caterers are on call, and six uniformed security guards patrol the building's hallways and entrances to keep away thieves and party crashers. Tom Shelley, the day desk captain in the cavernous, cathedral-like main lobby, has been described as "a college housemother" and "the equal of the concierge at the Ritz"; he forwards mail and halts newspaper deliveries for absent tenants, and he knows where to rustle up a singing waiter on short notice.

For residents who have their own live-in maids, the seventh floor of each tower is mostly devoted to servants' quarters. There is also a bank, a brokerage house, a playground, a restaurant, doctors', dentists' and lawyers' offices. "It's your own private little Utopia," sighs Joanne Carson. Truman Capote says: "My theory is that you can stay in this building and never leave it. You can go from one dinner to another for a month without duplicating."

Raspberry Tart. Money is the main tie that binds U.N. Plaza residents. Considering the variety of their taste in decor, it seems to be the only tie. An exporter and his wife inhabit an eight-room West Tower penthouse whose walls are completely covered with dark green Vermont marble—giving their apartment a curiously tomblike atmosphere. Capote's apartment features a red-on-red dining room ("Like a hot raspberry tart," he says), and a prominently displayed pink china jar labeled "Opium," which was a housewarming gift from Jacqueline Kennedy.






Leslie Siegel once lived at:

860 UN Plaza
Apt. 23E (Once occupied by Price Albert of Monaco)
New York, NY 10017

Since Truman Capote's death in 1984, Joanne Carson has preserved a treasure trove of the author's belongings at her Californian home. "They were just kind of waiting for him to return," she says. Twenty- two years on, and Capote is back in a big way. Hot on the heels of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning turn in Capote comes another biopic, Infamous, starring the British actor Toby Jones, which is winning rave reviews in America.

Now, 40 years after the publication of Capote's In Cold Blood, Carson has decided to sell her collection of Capotiana, allowing fans of the diminutive, squeaky-voiced writer to buy into his newly restored cult of personality.

Carson, a former model and the second wife of the television entertainer Johnny Carson, met Capote at a dinner party hosted by his publisher, Bennett Cerf, in 1966. "It was love at first sight. We were joined at the hip for the next 18 years," she recalls. Capote adopted Carson's Bel Air home as his West Coast residence from 1971, spending six months of every year holed up in the hills in idyllic seclusion. He died there, aged 59, from complications caused by alcohol and drug abuse.

The Bonhams auction consists of 337 lots that reveal every aspect of Capote's life. Capote the author is represented by his extensive library, including first editions of his own works, a well-thumbed dictionary and books given and signed by celebrated friends.


Truman Capote, one of the postwar era's leading American writers, whose prose shimmered with clarity and quality, died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 59.

Mr. Capote died at the home of Joanna Carson, former wife of the entertainer Johnny Carson, in the Bel-Air section, according to Comdr. William Booth of the Los Angeles Police Department. ''There is no indication of foul play,'' he said, adding that the county coroner's office would investigate the cause of death.

The novelist, short story writer and literary celebrity pioneered a genre he called ''the nonfiction novel,'' exemplified by his immensely popular ''In Cold Blood.'' He died apparently without having completed his long- promised ''masterwork,'' an extensive novel called ''Answered Prayers.''

Mr. Capote's first story was published while he was still in his teens, but his work totaled only 13 volumes, most of them slim collections, and in the view of many of his critics, notably his old friend John Malcolm Brinnin, he failed to join the ranks of the truly great American writers because he squandered his time, talent and health on the pursuit of celebrity, riches and pleasure.

''I had to be successful, and I had to be successful early,'' Mr. Capote said in 1978. ''The thing about people like me is that we always knew what we were going to do. Many people spend half their lives not knowing. But I was a very special person, and I had to have a very special life. I was not meant to work in an office or something, though I would have been successful at whatever I did. But I always knew that I wanted to be a writer and that I wanted to be rich and famous.'' Success, both as a writer and as a celebrity, came early, when he was 23 years old and published his first novel, ''Other Voices, Other Rooms.'' It was a critical and financial success, and so were most of the volumes of short stories, reportage and novellas that followed, including ''Breakfast at Tiffany's,'' ''The Muses Are Heard,'' ''The Grass Harp,'' ''Local Color,'' ''The Dogs Bark'' and ''Music for Chameleons.''

Claim to Literary Fame
But the book that perhaps solidified his claim to literary fame was ''In Cold Blood,'' his detailed, painstakingly researched and chilling account of the 1959 slaying of a Kansas farm family and the capture, trial and execution of the two killers.

Published serially in The New Yorker and then as a book in 1965, ''In Cold Blood'' consumed more than six years of his life. But it won him enthusiastic praise, mountains of publicity, millions of dollars and the luxury of time to work on ''Answered Prayers.''

But he accelerated the speed of his journey to celebrity, appearing on television talk shows and, in his languid accent, which retained its Southern intonation, indulged a gift for purveying viperish wit and scandalous gossip. He continued to cultivate scores of the famous as his friends and confidants, all the while publishing little and, he said later, developing a formidable ''writer's block'' that delayed completion of ''Answered Prayers.''

To keep alive the public's interest in the promised work, in 1975 he decided to allow the magazine Esquire to print portions of the unfinished novel. The decision was catastrophic to the grand social life he had cultivated because, in one of the excerpts, ''La C^ote Basque,'' Mr. Capote told apparently true and mostly scandalous stories about his famous friends, naming names, and in so doing forever lost their friendship and many other friendships as well.

Alcohol and Drug Problems
Soon his long-simmering problems with alcohol and drugs grew into addictions, and his general health deteriorated alarmingly. The once sylphlike and youthful Mr. Capote grew paunchy and bald, and in the late 1970's he underwent treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse, had prostate surgery and suffered from a painful facial nerve condition, a tic doloreux.

In ''Music for Chameleons,'' a collection of short nonfiction pieces published in 1980, Mr. Capote, in a ''self-interview,'' asked himself whether, at that point in his life, God had helped him. His answer: ''Yes. More and more. But I'm not a saint yet. I'm an alcoholic. I'm a drug addict. I'm homosexual. I'm a genius. Of course, I could be all four of these dubious things and still be a saint.''

Named Truman Streckfus Persons after his birth in New Orleans on Sept. 30, 1924, he was the son of Archulus Persons, a nonpracticing lawyer and member of an old Alabama family, and of the former Lillie Mae Faulk, of Monroeville, Ala. Years later he adopted the surname of his stepfather, Joe Capote, a Cuban-born New York businessman.

Mr. Capote's mother, who eventually committed suicide, liked to be called Nina and was not, according to her own testimony as well as her son's, temperamentally suited to motherhood. Living with her husband in a New Orleans hotel, she sent Truman to live with relatives in Monroeville when he was barely able to walk, and for the first nine years of his life he lived mostly in Alabama under the supervision of female cousins and aunts.

'A Spiritual Orphan'
In that period, he said years later, he felt like ''a spiritual orphan, like a turtle on its back.''

''You see,'' he said, ''I was so different from everyone, so much more intelligent and sensitive and perceptive. I was having fifty perceptions a minute to everyone else's five. I always felt that nobody was going to understand me, going to understand what I felt about things. I guess that's why I started writing. At least on paper I could put down what I thought.''

Most summers the boy returned to New Orleans for a month or so, and accompanied his father on trips up and down the Mississippi aboard the riverboat on which Mr. Persons worked as a purser. Truman learned to tap dance, he said, and was proud of the fact that he once danced for the passengers accompanied by Louis Armstrong, whose band was playing on the steamboat.

Many of his stories, notably ''A Christmas Memory,'' which paid loving tribute to his old cousin, Miss Sook Faulk, who succored him in his childhood loneliness, were based on his recollections of life in and around Monroeville. So were his first published novel, ''Other Voices, Other Rooms,'' his second, ''The Grass Harp,'' and the collection of stories, ''A Tree of Night.''

Character in 'Mockingbird'
The young Truman's best friend in Monroeville was the little girl next door, Nelle Harper Lee, who many years later put him into her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ''To Kill a Mockingbird,'' in the character of the precocious Dill Harris. (He had earlier used Miss Lee as the prototype for the character of Idabel Tompkins in ''Other Voices, Other Rooms.'') After his mother's divorce from Mr. Persons and her marriage to Joe Capote, she brought her son to live with them in New York. He was sent to several private schools, including Trinity School and St. John's Academy in New York, but he disliked schools and did poorly in his courses, including English, although he had taught himself to read and write when he was 5 years old.

Having been told by many teachers that the precocious child was probably mentally backward, the Capotes sent him to a psychiatrist who, Truman Capote said triumphantly some years later, ''naturally classified me as a genius.''

He later credited Catherine Woods, an English teacher at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, with being the first person to recognize his writing talent and to give him guidance. With her encouragement he wrote poems and stories for the school paper, The Green Witch. He did not complete high school and had no further formal education.

At the age of 17, Mr. Capote wangled a job at The New Yorker. ''Not a very grand job, for all it really involved was sorting cartoons and clipping newspapers,'' he wrote years later. ''Still, I was fortunate to have it, especially since I was determined never to set a studious foot inside a college classroom. I felt that either one was or wasn't a writer, and no combination of professors could influence the outcome. I still think I was correct, at least in my own case.''

First Stories and Novel
In a two-year stay at The New Yorker, Mr. Capote had several short stories published in minor magazines. ''Several of them were submitted to my employers, and none accepted,'' he wrote later. In the same period, he wrote his first, never-published novel, ''Summer Crossing.''

Mr. Capote made his first major magazine sale, of the haunting short story ''Miriam,'' to Mademoiselle in 1945, and in 1946 it won an O. Henry Memorial Award. (There were to be three more O. Henry awards.)

The award led to a contract and a $1,500 advance from Random House to write a novel. Mr. Capote returned to Monroeville and began ''Other Voices, Other Rooms,'' and he worked on the slim volume in New Orleans, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and in North Carolina, finally completing it on Nantucket. It was published in 1948.

The novel, a sensitively written account of a teen-age boy's coming to grips with maturity and accepting his world as it is, achieved wide popularity and critical acclaim and was hailed as a remarkable achievement for a writer only 23 years old.

In 1969, when ''Other Voices, Other Rooms'' was reprinted, Mr. Capote said the novel was ''an attempt to exorcise demons: an unconscious, altogether intuitive attempt, for I was not aware, except for a few incidents and descriptions, of its being in any serious degree autobiographical. Rereading it now, I find such self-deception unpardonable.''

Famous Dust-Cover Photograph
The book's back dust cover received almost as much comment as the novel itself, and for years was the talk of the literary set. The jacket was a photogragh of an androgynously pretty Mr. Capote, big eyes looking up from under blond bangs, and wearing a tattersall vest, reclining sensually on a sofa. The striking, now-famous dust-jacket photograph may have been prophetic, because Mr. Capote, for the remainder of his life, assiduously sought personal publicity and celebrity and said he had ''a love affair with cameras - all cameras.''

In the pursuit of literary celebrity in succeeding years, the writer was photographed in his homes in the Hamptons on Long Island, in Switzerland and at United Nations Plaza. He was photographed escorting well- dressed society women who seemed always to tower over Mr. Capote, who was only 5 feet 4 inches tall. He was also photographed, for dozens of magazines and newspapers, when he gave a much-publicized masked ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York in 1966 for some 500 of his ''very closest friends.''

For many of the postwar years Mr. Capote traveled widely and lived abroad much of the time with Jack Dunphy, his companion of more than a quarter-century. He turned out short- story collections and nonfiction for Vogue, Mademoiselle, Esquire and The New Yorker, which first published ''The Muses Are Heard,'' a 1956 book chronicling a tour of the Soviet Union by a company of black Americans in ''Porgy and Bess.''

''I conceived the whole adventure as a short comic 'nonfiction novel,' the first,'' Mr. Capote said. ''That book was an important event for me. While writing it, I realized I just might have found a solution to what had always been my greatest creative quandary. I wanted to produce a journalistic novel, something on a large scale that would have the credibility of fact, the immediacy of film, the depth and freedom of prose, and the precision of poetry.''

Praise for 'In Cold Blood'
The result of Mr. Capote's discovery was ''In Cold Blood,'' which was almost universally praised. John Hersey called it ''a remarkable book,'' for example, but there were dissenters. Stanley Kauffmann, in The New Republic, sniped at ''In Cold Blood,'' saying ''this isn't writing, it's research'' - a sly borrowing from Mr. Capote's witty thumbnail critique, years earlier, of the rambling books of the late Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac: ''This isn't writing, it's typing.''

The critic Kenneth Tynan took Mr. Capote to task for being too strictly a reporter and not making an effort to have the killers' lives spared.

Many readers were struck by Mr. Capote's verbatim quotations of long, involved conversations and incidents in his book. He explained that this came from ''a talent for mentally recording lengthy conversations, an ability I had worked to achieve while researching 'The Muses Are Heard,' for I devoutly believe that the taking of notes, much less the use of a tape recorder, creates artifice and distorts or even destroys any naturalness that might exist between the observer and the observed, the nervous hummingbird and its would-be captor.'' He said his trick was to rush away from an interview and immmediately write down everything he had been told.

Mr. Capote was co-author of the movie ''Beat the Devil'' with John Huston and wrote the screenplay for a film of Henry James's ''The Innocents.'' Mr. Capote turned his second novel, ''The Grass Harp,'' into an unsuccessful Broadway play and, with Harold Arlen, wrote the 1954 musical, also unsuccessful, ''House of Flowers.'' Mr. Capote also adapted a number of his stories, including ''A Christmas Memory'' and ''The Thanksgiving Visitor,'' for television.

Critics noted his deft handling of children as characters in his work, his ability to move from the real to the surreal, and his use of lush words and images. In 1963, the critic Mark Schorer wrote of Mr. Capote: ''Perhaps the single constant in his prose is style, and the emphasis he himself places upon the importance of style.''

What would Truman think of "Capote" - The film?



860 United Nations Plaza, located between First Avenue & East River Drive

To obtain pricing information for 860 United Nations Plaza, please call us at 212-755-5544.

This twin-towered, 38-story apartment and office complex commands impressive views of the United Nations to the south, midtown to the west and the East River to the east.

The six-story base of the large development contains about 300,000 square feet of office space and the cooperative apartments share an expansive, corporate-style lobby overlooking an enclosed garden court.

The full-block project has its own block-long driveway that makes for an impressive entrance. It was designed by Harrison, Abramovitz & Harris and erected in 1966.

The towers are huge and a bit ungainly and the apartments are notable mostly for their large and tall windows and views. The tower facades are in the Miesian tradition of crisp rectilinearity and are reminiscent of, but inferior to, the Seagram Building and the former Union Carbide Building, both on Park Avenue.

For more information about buying an apartment in 860 United Nations Plaza, please call us at 212-755-5544, or contact us by email


Built in 1966
Located in Turtle Bay/United Nations
167 Apartments
39 Floors
50% Down
36% tax deductable
Full-time Doorman
Full Service Garage
Health Club
Wonderful views
Large, impressive lobby
Proximity to United Nations and its gardens


DOUG RUSSELL | Senior Vice President, Managing Director printer friendly page
655 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Tel: (212) 906-9247
Fax: (212) 303-3633



Price: $1,350,000
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 2.0
Listing ID: 489156

Doug Russell is a Senior Vice-President and Managing Director of Brown Harris Stevens, one of New York's most prestigious and successful real estate firms. A specialist in luxury properties, he has brokered the sale of over half a billion dollars of luxury condominiums, co-ops and townhouses since becoming a real estate broker in 1987. He has sold over 190 apartments in Trump International Hotel & Tower, 51 in the Galleria, 53 in the Belaire and numerous other condominiums, including both towers in the new Time Warner Condominiums at Columbus Circle and 15 Central Park West. Doug has also sold over 50 cooperative apartments in 860/870 United Nation Plaza and over 30 co-op apartments at 880 Fifth Avenue.

Doug is the founder of the Russell Condominium Group (RCG). He realized the need for a centralized way to view the new and current condominium projects. He has hired a team and together they have developed a sophisticated, personalized presentation that highlights the best condominiums for their clients personal or investment needs.

With a financial background of five years as a Merrill Lynch stockbroker and 20 years in the Manhattan real estate business, Doug has gained a wealth of knowledge with which to guide his customers. Before joining Brown Harris Stevens, he was a Vice President for both the Corcoran Group and Gumley-Haft New York real estate firms. During his time with Gumley-Haft he was the top sales broker every year and is consistently in the Brown Harris Stevens top 10.

Doug was a founding member of the Board of Directors for Trump International Hotel and Tower (1 CPW) along with Mr. Donald Trump, in 1997. He has served continuously on both the Hotel Board and Tower Board since its inception. In 2003 he was hired as a consultant for the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. The building has become a fabulous financial success and will be opening in 2008.

During his leisure time, Doug enjoys playing platform tennis, tennis, and squash. He holds over 20 national and international platform tennis titles. He is currently the National Champion in his age group. Throughout his career in platform tennis, Doug authored and marketed several books, designed platform tennis paddles and shoes, and was owner and manager of two clubs in Manhattan.

Doug received his undergraduate degree in Business from the University of Georgia. For six years, he served as a member of the Real Estate Board of New York's (REBNY) education committee. He was Board President and treasurer of his co-op for seven years. Doug resides on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He used his expert knowledge and experience to create a superb home by purchasing, combining and completely renovating three co-op apartments.

Doug loves the challenge of finding the right property and excellent value for his clients. He has happily been a broker with Brown Harris Stevens for over 10 years.



Price: $1,350,000
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 2.0



2109 BROADWAY, 10-137


Exploring Turtle Bay
Residents and visitors alike can always find something to do in Turtle Bay. Stroll among the sculptures of the United Nations. Duck into a friendly pub and watch the game. Jog through Turtle Bay's parks. Take a yoga class or pump iron at the Vanderbilt Y. Attend an exhibit at the Japan Society or a concert at the Turtle Bay Music School. Tour Turtle Bay's sites. For a panoramic view of the environs, slip away to the penthouse lounge of the Beekman Tower Hotel, an Art Deco landmark.

The following sites are our Top Picks. Know any others? Send us an email or postcard of your favorite spot in Turtle Bay.

Address note: UN Plaza
The area of First Avenue between 42nd and 49th Street, site of the United Nations complex, is officially known as UN Plaza.

Ford Foundation
321 East 42nd Street (through to 43rd Street)
Considered to be among the City's finest works of architecture, the offices of this building surround a soaring atrium of lush plantings. The 12-story glassed in area shelters a terraced garden with full-grown trees and a pool.

Tudor City
A self-contained neighborhood with its own post office and park, this residential enclave hovers on abutments over First Avenue and UN Plaza. Tudor City can be approached by walking up the hill from Second Avenue or by climbing up the steps in Ralph Bunche Park (First Avenue at UN Plaza). Built between 1925 and 1928, the private renewal effort transformed a shantytown once known as Goat Hill into genteel apartment buildings in the Tudor style. Tudor City's park is maintained by a nonprofit tenants' group, Tudor City Greens. A favorite with joggers, its tranquil setting makes the park a nice place to read and reflect. Two small public playgrounds are located on adjacent city property.

A staircase known as the Scharansky Steps (named for the Soviet dissident) at the northeast end of Tudor City leads down to UN Plaza and Ralph J. Bunche Park, just opposite the United Nations.

Ralph J. Bunche Park
UN Plaza at East 42nd Street

This small public space with benches and ivy-clad trees was named after the first black UN official, who served as secretary to the Palestine Peace Commission and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three years later.

The park's vertical aluminum sculpture, Peace Form One, is by a contemporary black artist, Daniel LaRue Johnson. The Isaiah Wall, given by New York City to the United Nations, bears a quotation from the book of Isaiah: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares." With its proximity to the UN, the park is frequently the site of demonstrations.

United Nations Headquarters
United Nations Plaza, (First Avenue)
between East 42nd and East 48th Streets

John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s donation of the $8.5 million site, assembled by real estate tycoon William Zeckendorf for a private development, secured the location for this international institution dedicated to world peace. The UN complex contains three main buildings: the Secretariat, completed in 1950, the General Assembly building (1952) and the Dag Hammarskjold Library (1963) in a park-like setting. An international team of renowned architects led by America's Wallace K. Harrison drew up the designs. Every major nation has donated some work of art to the headquarters.

The General Assembly lobby and outdoor promenade are open to the public. Tours of the United Nations are offered daily (9 AM to 4:45 PM). Access to the grounds during the same hours is free. The promenade contains wide expanses of manicured lawn, magnificent sculptures, an esplanade overlooking the East River, cherry trees, and rose gardens. A monument to Eleanor Roosevelt offers a quiet place to sit and reflect. The words inscribed there are worth noting: "Rather than curse the darkness, she lit a candle, and her light has warmed the world."

The Delegates Dining Room, on the top floor of the Conference Building is open to the public and though the buffet lunch is pricey, it affords a sweeping view of the East River among impressive surroundings. For reservations, call (212) 963-7626.

One of the most arresting sculptures, visible for blocks, is Tsereteli Zurab's contemporary representation of Saint George killing the dragon. The mammoth monument was presented by the Soviet Union to commemorate the 1987 signing with the U.S. of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. The dragon's body consists of parts of a Russian intercontinental ballistic missile and an American Pershing missile.

United Nations Plaza Hotel
NW corner of East 44th Street at First Avenue

Built in 1976, this sleek building of aluminum and blue-green reflective glass houses an elegant Hyatt hotel, inviting public spaces and offices. Its irregular shape presents an interesting visual effect. The hotel's Ambassador Grill, with its mirrored skylights creating the illusion of a night sky, is a favorite among the diplomatic crowd.

Beaux-Arts Apartment Hotel
307 and 310 East 44th Street
between UN Plaza and Second Avenue

Named for the adjacent Beaux Arts Institute, these two cubistic compositions face each other on opposite sides of the street. Built in 1930, they bear the hallmarks of the Art Deco period.

Beaux-Arts Institute of Design
304 East 44th Street
between UN Plaza and Second Avenue

Built in 1928, the principles of the Beaux-Arts school of architecture can be readily seen in this structure, which embodies the Art Deco style. The building now houses a mission to the UN.

James P. Grant Plaza & UNICEF House
East 44th Street
between UN Plaza and Second Avenue

This vest-pocket park next to UNICEF House bears the name of UNICEF's executive director from 1980-1995. The park is open to the public 24 hours and its chairs and cafe tables provide a convenient spot for bag lunches. Free lunchtime jazz concerts are featured during June and July.

Next door the UNICEF House provides exhibits of the UN agency's work for children around the world with a gift shop that offers a diverse selection of Unicef greeting cards by international artists.

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Park
East 47th Street
between First and Second Avenue

This block-long public space leading to the United Nations traditionally served as a staging area for demonstrations. In 1995, an ambitious landscape renovation by the city was undertaken, transforming the barren plaza into a magnificent park befitting its location as a Gateway to the UN. In May, 1997, the park's extensive border planting was dedicated as the Katharine Hepburn Garden. In July, 1999, the entire reconstruction was completed and the park's official opening was celebrated August 18, 1999. Six fountains enclosed by iron-latticed pergolas grace the garden area, which is bounded by granite seating walls. The center promenade features two rows of facing benches and an entrance pavilion. The park has proven popular with office workers and tourists as a lunch spot while neighborhood residents enjoy the well lit benches and glimmering fountains in the evening.
Noteworthy also is the park's Holocaust Memorial and the adjacent Wallenberg Memorial, located on the traffic island of UN Plaza.

Membership in Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a nonprofit community organization, is open to all who wish to play a role in the conservancy of the park.

Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, Hammarskjold Plaza
web site

This organization, dedicated to understanding and appreciation of the Japanese culture, presents numerous programs and exhibits. The building, funded by John D. Rockefeller III and erected in the early 1970s, provides a striking example of modern Japanese architecture. It also houses a lovely Zen garden.
(See Events listing.)

Holy Family Roman Catholic Church
315 East 47th Street, Hammarskjold Plaza

The present church, built on the site of a stable, was dedicated in 1965 to serve the needs of the UN community, as well as the Turtle Bay parish. Particular concern for the plight of refugees throughout the world is portrayed in the stained glass windows, which dominate the west wall. The word "hope" in various languages is worked into the design. A large aluminum statue of the risen Christ above the altar provides a focus for this spirit of hope.

Enjoy a moment of tranquility in St. Mary's Garden, the church's lovely courtyard with a statue of St. Mary, a bridge over a pond, benches, and lush plantings.

Sutton Place Synagogue
225 East 51st Street

The Sutton Place Synagogue has a fascinating history going back to the late 1800's, when an orthodox synagogue was established on the second floor of a building at East 50th Street and Second Avenue. The present Synagogue (now conservative) opened in 1976 and was built on the site of a former Con Edison building that the congregation had used for a number of years. An addition is now planned, to be used as a community center.

Under the direction of Rabbi Allan Schranz and Executive Director Harriet Janover, the Synagogue now offers numerous programs for the congregation and community. Daily services are held at 8 AM and 5:30 PM Monday through Thursday, Fridays at 8 AM and 6:45 PM, and Saturday mornings at 9:00.

Salvation Army
221 East East 52nd Street

The Salvation Army operates a Community Center that offers many services for the elderly and is open to all who seek fellowship and assistance. Members carry on their traditional service of accepting donations of clothing and furniture for the needy. As a church (in the Evangelical tradition) Sunday services are held at 11:00 AM, followed by a hot lunch. Bible study is offered on Tuesdays at noon. Counseling services are provided for persons with personal or family problems. The hours for receiving donations are variable, so call 758-0763 before dropping off clothing. For furniture and larger items, call 757-2311 for pickup.

First Reformed Episcopal Church
317 East 50th Street
212 755.0995
The "First Church" is the mother church of the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United States and Canada. The REC holds to the traditional Anglican faith and practice of the English Reformation. The Rev. Dr. Matthew P. Harrington, Rector

Sunday Services
9.00 am Holy Communion
11.00 am Morning Prayer

Church of St. Agnes
143 East 43rd Street

The Church of St. Agnes is a phoenix, risen from the ashes of a devestating fire in December of 1992. Now rebuilt from the ground up, the Church is back in its traditional role as a landmark for Catholics throughout the New York area. It has for many years been best known for its weekly Latin Tridentine Mass (11:00 AM every Sunday). Under the stewardship of Msgr. Eugene V. Clark, Pastor, and no less than ten assistant priests, the Church has numerous daily Masses and offers a veritable smorgasbord of services, from novenas to a Community Club to a well-attended soup kitchen for the homeless.

Vanderbilt YMCA
224 East 47th Street

Once a hotel for railroad conductors, today this well managed facility offers budget-priced accommodations (bunk beds and small rooms) to many youth groups and frugal European tourists. If you want to stay in shape and avoid the steep fees of Manhattan's health clubs, check out the Y's modern fitness center. It has all the essentials, including an Olympic-size swimming pool, basketball courts, gyms, and steam rooms, plus a full roster of fitness classes led by expert instructors.

In addition to its array of adult fitness classes, the Y offers special programs for teens, as well as seniors, and a calendar of seasonal outings and events.

The Vanderbilt YMCA also provides the Turtle Bay Association with a small office and the use of its conference room for scheduled meetings.

Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District
226-246 East 49th Street
between Second and Third Avenues

During the 1920s, this group of brownstones was restored, and the yards of two rows of town houses set back-to-back on 48th and 49th street were turned into a communal garden by taking a six-foot strip from each plot to form a common path. Low walls and individual plantings mark the private yards.

Popular with the literati, the block was immortalized by E. B. White in his book The Second Tree from the Corner. Other residents included Dorothy Thompson (1941-1957), Julian Bach (1960s), and Max Perkins (1930s). In the late 40s, two adjoining houses (221 and 223 East 48 St.) were connected by designers Russell and Mary Wright to form the studio, showroom and living space for their post-war industrial design, which included the enormously popular American Modern dinnerware. Stephen Sondheim has been a long-time resident of the Gardens, as was Katharine Hepburn until recently.

Efrem Zimbalist House
225-227 East 49th Street

Built in 1926 for the violinist, his wife, diva Alma Gluck, and her daughter, novelist Marcia Davenport. Later Henry Luce lived here, but in the 1950s the house became the 17th Precinct Station House and later still was divided into apartments. Look for the violin carved over the doorway!

Greenacre Park
East 51st Street
between Second and Third Avenues

With its 25-foot-high waterfall cascading over the rear wall and artfully landscaped trees and plantings, this is truly an oasis of serenity for residents and those who work in the area. Built in 1970-71 by the Greenacre Foundation (founded by Mrs. Jean Mauze, the former Abby Rockefeller), the park was dedicated to Laurance Rockefeller and the late Allston Boyer in recognition of their invaluable assistance in its creation. The park owes its award-winning design to Hideo Sasaki, former chairman of Harvard's Landscape Architecture Department, and Harmon Goldstone, who served as consultant. The park is open to the public during daylight hours from March through December. Attendants are on duty at all times, and there is a small concession that serves food.

The Greenacre Foundation, which owns and masterfully maintains the park, also operates a reference center at 457 Madison Avenue (51st Street) in conjunction with The Municipal Arts Society. With its exhibit space, reference desk, and specialty book store, this center serves as a clearinghouse of information on urban open space, including the design and management of urban parks.

Turtle Bay Music School
224 East 52nd Street

One of Turtle Bay's oldest institutions, TBMS celebrates its 75th anniversary in the year 2000. Since its modest beginning with six students, this academy has provided music instruction for thousands of active music lovers. The school offers private instruction, workshops and classes, as well as an active community outreach program. For more information, call 753-8811.

The Norwegian Seamen's Church
317 East 52nd Street

Built in 1992, the present church continues a long tradition of providing a home away from home for seamen and other travelers from Norway. It has now become a religious, social, and cultural center offering shows, exhibits, concerts, and a library of Nordic literature. Check Events listing for programs.

Beekman Tower Hotel
East 49th Street (3 Mitchell Place)

Originally the Pan Hellenic hotel for women sorority members, the hotel has been renovated and today offers more spacious accommodations than the dormitory style rooms of the original. A fine example of Art Deco architecture, the building was recently awarded landmark status. The rooftop lounge offers a sweeping view of the East River and environs.

Beekman Place
The two blocks east of First Avenue (49th and 50th Streets) rise up to a bluff that overlooks the East River. This hill originally included the property of James Beekman's colonial mansion, Mount Pleasant, built in 1763. Walking tours point out the distinctive row of town houses remodeled in the 1920s.

Since the early development of Manhattan, Beekman Place has enjoyed a quiet elegance that makes it one of Manhattan's most sought after addresses. An enclave of old money, the hill was home to members of the Rockefeller family and Huntington Hartford. Theatrical personalities also enjoyed the high life on Beekman Place, among them Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Ethel Barrymore, Katharine Cornell and Irving Berlin.

Several famous people lived at the large apartment building, 1 Beekman Place, which is at the corner of Beekman and Mitchell Place, including novelists Mary McCarthy and John P. Marquand. Remember the novel and subsequent film Auntie Mame? This was where Patrick Dennis's real Aunt Mame lived!

Peter Detmold Park
between 49th and 51st Street, along FDR Drive

From 51st Street, a staircase leads down to Peter Detmold Park, a charming public park featuring the wisteria-covered James Amster Pavilion, a small garden and a dog run, which is maintained by the community (PDP-ARF). Peter Detmold and James Amster served as past presidents of the Turtle Bay Association, and both were known for their tireless service to the community. There is also an entrance (handicap access) at 49th Street, a few steps before FDR Drive.

A footbridge leading from the staircase (north end of park) crosses over Detmold Park and FDR Drive to a short esplanade built along the East River. From here, you can watch the barges and sailboats. Across the river, the ruins of an old building are visible. This fortress was a hospital once used to quarantine smallpox patients.
MacArthur Playground, entrance on 49th Street just before FDR Drive
Tucked behind the luxury residential and office building 860/870 UN Plaza, this children's playground features swings, slides, a modular play system, sandbox, sprinkler and water fountain. There are chess tables and benches, and a constant breeze from the East River. A pay telephone is conveniently located just outside the entrance gate.

931 First Avenue

On the northwest corner of 51st Street and First Avenue is an historic building erected in 1892 as a primary school, on the site that was once James Beekman's mansion, Mount Pleasant. The present structure, Romanesque Revival in style, has served as the UN International School, as a community center, a nursery school, and a shelter for homeless women. Currently it is being renovated for luxury condominiums and ground-floor stores.

Across First Avenue (No. 940) is the Pisacane Mid-Town Seafood shop, a fish market that replaced one which had been operating on the site since the building was built, ca. 1860.
Other Famous Haunts
Thomas Wolfe lived at 865 First Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets in 1935 and Truman Capote at 870 United Nations Plaza, at 49th Street, for some years before his death in 1984. The luxury building of 860/870 has been the New York home (past and present) of quite a few celebrities and socialites, among them Johnny Carson and his wife, Joanna, and the late philanthropist Mary Lasker, who is fondly remembered for her donation of cherry trees and thousands of daffodils to the United Nations lawn.

Legendary residents of the East 50s have included the writers Alexander Woollcott, John Steinbeck (330 East 51st St.), and John O'Hara, who stayed at the Pickwick Arms Hotel (230 East 51st St.) while writing Appointment in Samarra.

In the mid-1800s, before the grid system transformed the area's once bucolic farmland, Edgar Allan Poe, reformist Margaret Fuller, and publisher Horace Greeley (New York Tribune) lived in Turtle Bay, which still had a bay. Poe wrote fondly of rowing a skiff over to Blackwell (now Roosevelt) island. For quotes from their writings on the property and surroundings, see History of Turtle Bay.


US Book Tour
by South African Hero
Ahmed Kathrada

October 14 - November 22, 2005

Artists for a New South Africa is honored to be coordinating Ahmed Kathrada's US Tour, in conjunction with our allies at South Africa Partners.

Ahmed "Kathy" Kathrada played a pivotal role in ending apartheid, building a new democracy, and achieving reconciliation in South Africa. One of the earliest advocates of a multiracial movement to fight apartheid, in 1964, he was convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment, along with Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. Fellow prisoners for 26 years, these men were also the closest colleagues and friends, sharing the unshakable belief that truth, justice, and democracy would ultimately triumph over oppression and racism.

Released from prison in 1989, at the age of 60, Mr. Kathrada was at the center of dramatic changes in South Africa and went on to serve as a member of South Africa's first freely elected Parliament, Parliamentary Counsellor to the Office of President Mandela, and Chair of the Robben Island Museum. His latest book, Memoirs, affords a rare glimpse into his and other activists' lives during the years of struggle and imprisonment and sketches poignant cameos of those who became South Africa's post-apartheid leaders.

To read a more extensive biographical sketch of Ahmed Kathrada, click here.

"Ahmed Kathrada has been so much part of my life over such a long period that it is inconceivable that I could allow him to write his memoirs without me contributing something, even if only through a brief foreword. Our stories have become so interwoven that the telling of one without the voice of the other being heard somewhere would have led to an incomplete narrative."
~ Nelson Mandela, in his foreword to Memoirs

"This is the long-awaited story of one of the most remarkable and most modest of the heroes of the South African resistance. Ahmed Kathrada has been a key figure for over fifty years in both bringing down apartheid, and achieving reconciliation between old enemies. As one of Mandela's closest friends, he shared his sufferings through a quarter-century in prison, and his ordeals afterwards. With typical honesty, humour and insights he tells an intensely human story behind the great events he witnessed at first hand. It is both a moving personal record, and a great document of crucial historical importance."
~ Anthony Sampson, Noted journalist, historian and author of Mandela: The Authorized Biography

"Ahmed Kathrada is a real hero, who walks his talk and teaches by example. He is a humble man, who possesses great courage, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to equality and justice. His Memoirs give people around the world an invaluable view into South Africa's recent history and enable us to better understand how one person's goodness can impact a nation."
~ Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson

To read additional quotes about Ahmed Kathrada, click here.

Thursday, October 20
Medford, MA
6:00-7:30 pm
Tufts University
Africa in the New World Program
Rabb Room, Lincoln Filene Hall

Friday, October 21
Waltham, MA
5:30-8:30 pm
Lecture and discussion
Brandeis University
Center for International Development
Heller Lounge
415 South Street

Wednesday, October 26
New Haven, CT
2:00 pm
Lecture and book signing
Yale University Law School
Room 120

Thursday, October 27
Philadelphia, PA
6:30 pm
Book Launch
National Constitution Center
International House
525 Arch Street

Saturday, October 29
Durham, NC
1:00 pm
Bookstore Appearance and Signing
The Know
2520 Fayetteville Street

Sunday, October 30
Durham, NC
4:00 pm
Bookstore Appearance and Signing
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth Street

Tuesday, November 1
New York, NY
4:30 - 6:00 pm
Book Signing
Hue-Man Book Store & Cafe
2319 Frederick Douglas Boulevard

Thursday, November 3
New York, NY
12:00 - 1:30 pm
Lecture and brown bag lunch
Columbia University
Main Campus, near entrance at 115th and Broadway
Journalism Building, Room 601B (6th Floor)

Thursday, November 3
New York, NY
6:00-8:00 pm
Major Book Launch and Reception
Church Center at the United Nations
777 U.N. Plaza
RSVP required:

Tuesday, November 8
Los Angeles, CA
7:00-9:00 pm
Bookstore Signing, with special guest Jurnee Smollett
Esowan Books
3655 South LaBrea Avenue

Thursday, November 10
Los Angeles, CA
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Lecture and Q&A, with special guest Malcolm-Jamal Warner
University of California, Los Angeles
10383 Bunche Hall (10th Floor)

Monday, November 14
San Francisco, CA
4:00 pm
Lecture, Q&A, and reception
University of San Francisco
Lone Mountain 148

Saturday, November 19
Washington, DC
1:30 - 3:00 pm
*please note, the date and time of this event have changed
Book Signing
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
Museum Store
National Mall
950 Independence Avenue SW

Sunday, November 20
Washington, DC
5:30 - 7:30 pm
Remarks and Book Signing
The Washington College of Law at American University
The Mooers-Morella Ceremonial Courtroom
4801 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., 6th floor

Monday, November 21
Washington, DC
6:00 - 8:00 pm
Lecture, Reception, and Book Signing
Howard University
Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center
2218 6th Street NW


LESLIE SIEGEL doesn't exactly know what this next reference to UN PLAZA is, but here goes:

* Memoirs of Childhood and Youth. Translated from Aus Meiner Kindheit und Jugendzeit by C.T. Campion. New York: The Macmillan Co. 1949.

* On the Edge of the Primeval Forest and More from the Primeval Forest. Translated from Zwishen Wasser und Urwald und Das Spittal im Urwald by C.T. Campion. New York: The Macmillan Co. 1956.

* Out of My Life and Thought. Translated from Aus Meinen Leben und Denken by C.T. Campion. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 1949.

* The Philosophy of Civilization (Kulturphilosophie) Part 1, Decay and Restoration of Civilization (Verfall und Weideraufbau) and Part II, Civilization and Ethics (Kultur und Ethik) both translated by C.T. Campion. London: A & C Black, 1946, 1949; New York: The Macmillan Co., 1949; paperback reprint edition, Macmillan 1949 by permission of Rhena Schweitzer Miller, Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1981. Part II, Civilization and Ethics, translated by John Naish. London: A & C Black, 1923.

Author left mark on state
Book garnered Truman Capote the attention he so craved

By Crystal K. Wiebe - Special to the Journal-World

Sunday, April 3, 2005

In mid-December 1959, an eccentric writer from New York arrived on the rolling plains of western Kansas. Although Truman Capote had never been to the tiny town called Holcomb, he brought lofty intentions and ended up writing a book that defined himself and the town to the rest of the world forever.

Holcomb is home to what's described as the world's largest meat-packing plant and an impressive school system, but Capote's book, "In Cold Blood," is the main reason the town's name is widely known.

Twenty years after Capote's death and 45 years

after the murders that inspired the best-selling narrative, people are still reading "In Cold Blood." The book has been translated into more than 30 languages and made into a movie twice. Every year, visitors trickle into Holcomb, hoping to catch a glimpse of what Capote so eloquently described.

Although the notoriety has not been entirely welcome in a town whose residents wish to forget the four grisly murders, attention was something Capote yearned for all his life. He reveled in the success of "In Cold Blood," which allowed him to fully assume the high-society lifestyle that he craved. Notables from that world would turn on him, however, when he tried to top "In Cold Blood" with "Answered Prayers," a scathing, true-to-life account of high-society life. Stung by rejection following the critical reception of a 13,000-word excerpt in Esquire magazine, Capote never finished "Answered Prayers," and "In Cold Blood" remained his most recognized achievement.

In many ways, Capote was denied the attention that he craved from an early age. Born Sept. 30, 1924, he spent his formative years in Monroeville, Ala., where aunts and women cousins raised him while his mother, Lillie Mae "Nina" Faulk, flitted about with and without her son's salesman father, Arch Persons, whom she eventually divorced. Capote got his name from Joseph Garcia Capote, the businessman stepfather Faulk made a home with in New York City.

Capote turned to writing when he was very young for comfort and occasional attention.

Unlikely alliances
By the time he arrived in Kansas at age 35, Capote had experienced some success. He was a regular contributor to the New Yorker magazine. His books, "Other Voices, Other Rooms" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" were both critically acclaimed, and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" later was made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn.

Author Truman Capote, left, wanted to be the center of attention at parties such as this one at the Odd Williams home in Lawrence in 1966. To the right are KBI agent Alvin Dewey Jr. and his wife, Marie.
See slide show »
"In Cold Blood" was his attempt at creating a new form of writing -- the nonfiction novel, a blend of journalistic accuracy with the narrative style of fiction.

No matter how renowned he was on the East Coast, to residents of rural Kansas, Capote was hardly a household name, much less one the Kansans could pronounce, when he showed up on their doorsteps in 1959. But that would soon change, as Capote began to ingratiate himself with the locals, and they, in turn, sought acceptance from him.

"I don't think too many people knew much about him. Various people called him Cappuchi," said Delores Hope, a former reporter for the Garden City Telegram. Garden City, the seat and social center of Finney County, was where the Clutters' murderers would be tried.

Capote's flamboyant style was just a small part of what set him apart in Kansas. His 5-foot-4-inch frame, squeaky voice and shock of white hair attracted stares everywhere. And, in the conservative heart of the country, he didn't hide his homosexuality.

In the paranoid atmosphere brought on by the murders, Capote could even be frightening. Bob Ashida, whose family lived near the Clutters, said his mother was afraid to open the door when Capote, a stranger, came knocking for an interview: "She wouldn't let him in the house until she called the high school and asked who he was."

Capote used a variety of methods, including money, to warm the wary Midwesterners to his person and mission. Ashida and others said he willingly paid for interviews. To grease his squeaky wheel, Capote used his childhood pal, Nelle Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," to relax interview subjects who could more easily relate to her mild-mannered and unassuming presence. Today, many residents of Holcomb and Garden City remember Lee more fondly than they do Capote.

Thinking Lee and Capote probably didn't have anywhere else to go for Christmas dinner in 1959, Delores Hope and her husband, Clifford, the attorney for the murdered family, invited the writers to their home.

The Hopes said Capote arrived late, a bottle of Scotch in hand, his demeanor pleasant but demanding. True to his character, he gabbed for the whole evening and forced all attention on himself.

"He was always center stage. There wasn't much (other) conversation," Delores Hope said, speaking of that night and nearly every other experience she had with Capote.

Some of the friendships Capote made in Kansas lasted the rest of his life. His correspondence with the family of Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent Alvin Dewey Jr. is charted in "Too Brief a Treat," a book of his letters, edited by Gerald Clarke, that was released last October.

In Lawrence, Capote met the Williams family, who also were friends of the Deweys. Evan Williams, who was in elementary school at the time, talked about late nights when Capote arrived immediately after flying in from New York City.

Evan's parents, Odd, an influential businessman, and Jonell, a housewife, would "hunker down" at the bottom of the stairs with Capote, whom Evan Williams recalls laughing and talking the whole time in his natural, self-important manner. "It seemed as if he was doing all the talking," she said.

Williams' older sister, Kimberly Kirkendoll, said Capote "always had his boyfriend with him." Whether that was his longtime partner, Jack Dunphy, is not certain, but the knowledge of Capote's sexuality kept the more conservative Odd Williams -- and others -- on constant guard. Yet it didn't stop Odd or his wife, who would be among a handful of Kansas guests at an elite party Capote threw in New York years later, from developing a friendship with him.

Despite his tendency to dominate discussions and his general quirkiness, Capote could have a charming effect. And, in an interview setting, his refusal to take notes, even on a tape recorder, contributed to his unexpected ability to disarm.

"He knocked people off their mark because he was so unusual," Kirkendoll said.

Longtime friend Joanne Carson, former wife of Johnny Carson, said she was not surprised that he was able to curry favor in Kansas. "There was a very childlike quality to Truman that was appealing," she said. "They dropped their guard ... and would have told him the most incredible things."

Confident with the outcome of his rapport-building, Capote had this to say about Holcomb, when asked at a 1960 Manhattan party: "At first it was hard. But now I'm practically the mayor."

Success and the dark side
In the fall of 1965, the four issues of the New Yorker that featured a serialization of "In Cold Blood" broke the magazine's newsstand sales records. The book, released soon after, was an almost instant hit, favored among most critics as well as readers. According to a 1965 New York Times article, Capote almost immediately earned $2 million in magazine, book and film payments.

He would later tell Lawrence Grobel, who wrote "Conversations with Capote" in 1985, that he had no regrets about the way the book turned out: "Every time I pick up "In Cold Blood" I read it all the way through, as if I didn't write it. It's really quite a perfect book, you know. I wouldn't change anything in it."

According to biographer John Malcolm Brinnin, Capote used the money from the book to buy "an apartment (adjoining that of Johnny Carson) in New York's United Nations Plaza; a small estate with two houses, one for himself, one for Dunphy, in the Hamptons of Long Island; another house in Palm Springs, Calif., all the while retaining a chalet in Verbier, Switzerland, where much of that book was written."

Having spent most of the actual writing period of "In Cold Blood" (about two years) holed up in Switzerland, it's no wonder Capote wanted to party when he finished.

In 1966, he threw the party of the decade, a massive Black and White Ball where the "in" crowd of New York City mingled with his friends from Kansas, including the Williamses and the Deweys.

The years in Kansas had almost as great an effect on Capote emotionally as they did professionally. He told George Plimpton that he wouldn't have begun the project if he'd realized the immense work it would involve: "I would have driven straight on. Like a bat out of hell."

From great success the road started downward.

Garson reports that Capote consumed increasing amounts of tranquilizers with alcohol in the years after "In Cold Blood." By the mid-1970s, she continued, "He was doing almost no writing."

Capote was maintaining his status as a celebrity, though, and a wily one at that, one who would do or say anything. He made headlines when he fell off a stage drunk during a speaking engagement at Towson University in Maryland in 1977.

On the topic of Capote's overriding sense of self, Brinnin wrote: "By now a household word, Truman's name was associated no longer with the parochial distinctions of literary assessment but with the hard glitter of success and, soon enough, the careless bravado of self-exploitation. Observing the public figure as it grew ever more into a caricature of itself, I began to surrender to an image that floated, like a Macy's balloon on Thanksgiving Day, over the watching multitude, and to lose sight of the man I knew."

To write again
When Capote did write, he primarily produced short stories and journalistic profiles rather than more involved projects. "I don't think he wanted to go back into something like that again because ["In Cold Blood"] just took over his life," Joanne Carson said.

Brinnin wrote: "Supposedly a trailblazing start into new territory that was his to explore, the book was actually both the high point and dead end of his career. Thereafter, collected pieces of ephemera, provided with titles and contained between covers, would do no more than mark the time until he was ready to deliver the most heralded masterwork of the century, ‘Answered Prayers.' "

After Capote's high hopes for that book were destroyed by the cool reception to the excerpt in Esquire, Capote failed to finish the book, retiring to a quieter life.

The catty high society characters he depicted in "Answered Prayers" were blatantly based on some of his socialite friends. Their conversations and likenesses were recreated and thinly veiled as fiction. Like some of the characters of "In Cold Blood," not everyone whose image showed up in "Answered Prayers was satisfied with Capote's frank portrayal. In fact, they felt betrayed.

Joanne Carson was one of the few friends who stood by Capote to the end. He died at her house in 1984 from liver disease complicated by phlebitis, an inflammation of the veins, and multiple drug intoxication.

Twenty years after his death, she maintains that he was justified in writing "Answered Prayers" and bitterly disappointed when his friends rejected him.

In his final years, Joanne Carson said, Capote had mellowed, focusing more energy on friendships than socializing. He preferred to spend time with the members of his ever-shrinking inner circle one-on-one. "He became more reflective, a little deeper," she said.

During a particularly reflective moment with friends in 1975 reported by Brinnin, Capote acknowledged that his reputation was overshadowing his career. Obviously bitter, he seemed unashamed of his behavior, yet frustrated all the same by people's perception of him.

"People think my reputation is my career," he said. "Let them. Myself, if I had any doubts about the difference I sure as hell learned it those six years I gave to "Cold Blood." That's the difference I live with, I mean today and tomorrow. God knows, I'm not the sort to confine myself in a cork-lined room to do what I do. But I've got a room like that all the same. I take it with me and hand out the Do Not Disturb sign in five languages."

The legacy
As trustee of Capote's estate, his lawyer, Alan Schwartz has the most say over Capote's work, controlling to some extent the author's image and the way he's remembered.

Schwartz said he's cautious about allowing adaptations of the writings into other forms. He said he was recently contacted about turning "Breakfast at Tiffany's" into a Broadway show but said he would have to be certain the play would catch the essence of the printed word.

"I'm the one that has to decide all these things," he said.

He's generous when it comes to readings at churches, where the short story, "A Christmas Memory," is popular, but he requires the text to be read in its entirety. Schwartz said he likes the fact that his friend's work can be passed around in that way, orally, the way Capote used to enjoy telling stories.

If he were alive today, it's "A Christmas Memory" that Capote would want to be remembered for, Joanne Carson said.

Yet Capote's book published in 1965 remains his best-selling work, filtering thousands of dollars annually into the estate Schwartz looks after. Whether "In Cold Blood" wrongfully overshadows the rest of Capote's body of work is unimportant to Schwartz, whose main interest is building his friend's reputation as "one of the great American writers of all time."

In 2004, at least two Capote-themed books were published: a collection of his short stories and Clarke's collection of letters. A film, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, is set for release soon. A second film, "Every Word is True," starring Gwyneth Paltrow, also is in preproduction.

To Schwartz, the flurry of activity is proof that Capote will continue for a long time to receive in death the favorable attention he craved and deserved in life.

"I think he's holding his own in all respects right now," Schwartz said.


The full-block project has its own block-long driveway that makes for an impressive entrance. It was designed by Harrison, Abramovitz & Harris and erected in 1966.

The towers are huge and a bit ungainly and the apartments are notable mostly for their large and tall windows and views. The tower facades are in the Miesian tradition of crisp rectilinearity and are reminiscent of, but inferior to, the Seagram Building and the former Union Carbide Building, both on Park Avenue.

The towers are slightly lower than the United Nations Secretariat Building, as was mandated by zoning, and clearly its glass facades were also in deference to that tower, although they are black rather than blue-green. Almost four decades later, however, Donald Trump erected a much taller apartment tower across First Avenue from this complex and one block to the south, breaking through the skyline ceiling of the United Nations (see The City Review article).

Entrance to 860 United Nations Plaza viewed from Mitchell Place

Despite its lack of fine architectural detail, this enormous complex has always attracted an impressive roster of affluent or famous tenants, attracted presumably to its great views, the large gardens and park of the United Nations to the south, and the surrounding Beekman Place neighborhood rather than any thought of exclusivity.

The two towers contain a total of 334 apartments, of which 56 are duplexes on the top eight floors.

While its scale and proportions are rather cumbersome, the complex nevertheless makes a handsome, if not distinguished, foil to the U. N. complex, which, after all, is the most important consideration. The project was the first on the East Side to follow the pioneering lead of twin-towered residential projects on Central Park West. It was also influential in helping to bolster the residential attractiveness of the area for subsequent high-rise development nearby and major mixed-use development elsewhere in the city.

In their excellent book, "New York 1960, Architecture and Urbanism Between The Second World War and the Bicentennial," (The Monacelli Press, 1995), Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman provide the following commentary relating to the project's design by Wallace Harrison, who was very active in the design of the United Nations complex:

"In 1963 Harrison's vision of towers at the north end of the U.N. site, dating back to his X City proposal of 1946, was at last realized when ground was broken for the two towers that would become 860-870 United Nations Plaza (1966). The two thirty-two-story apartment towers were placed on a six-story base containing 336,000 square feet of office space, with a terrace floor atop the offices marking the transition between the two. (This terrace was initially proposed as a sun deck but was never used as such because it was felt that the sight of semiclad sunbathers would have an adverse effect on the value of the apartments on the towers' lower floors.) The apartments were entered through a common lobby off Forty-ninth Street, while access to the offices was from two lobby entrances on Forty-eighth Street. Set on 2.3 acres of land, the building housed 334 apartments, including fifty-six duplexes on the top eight floors, some as large as nine rooms and many with wood-burning fireplaces; their lavish size and logical plans represented a level of accommodation that was extremely rare in the postwar era....Despite its hulking mass and the slightly brooding quality of its dark-tinted glassy facades, so much more like commercial ofice buildings than like the palazzoesque prewar apartment buildings that had set the standard of fashion along Fifth and Park avenues, the U. N. Plaza, as the development was commonly referred to, quickly became a fashionable address for the power elite, including many high-level corporate executives....the first wave of reisdents included the lawyer Christian Herter Jr., the novelist Trumon Capote, the philanthropist Mary Lasker, the former Attorney General William Rogers and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Mrs. Lasker's apartment in the east tower was to serve not as her home - she was quite happy in her townhouse on Beekman Place - but as a kind of private art gallery for her growing collection of contemporary art! But besides those listed other celebrities lived there too: Johnny Carson Cliff Robertson Dina Merrill Prince Albert of Monaco (Who ended up buying the Osberg apartment)!

Millennium UN Plaza Hotel New York
One United Nations Plaza, 44th Street between First and Second Avenue, New York,NY, USA 10017-3575
tel: +1 212 758 1234 fax: +1 212 702 5051 reservation: +1 866 866 8086

The Millennium UN Plaza is more than a hotel, it is truly a New York experience.

A place for those who expect the highest standards of personal service. Our luxury, European-style hotel, with guest rooms located on floors 28 through 40, provides spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and East River.

Here, serenity is customary and is enhanced by the contemporary decor highlighting marble, chrome and glass while incorporating vibrant colors and fresh flowers.
Attraction/Transport Locator

Empire State Building - One of the city's tallest and most elegant buildings. The view from the deck is spectacular. 1.4 Miles

Fifth Avenue Shopping - From Tiffany's to Sak's, Fifth Avenue offers some of the finest shopping in the world. 2.1 Miles

Grand Central Station - The hub of New York City. The breathtaking terminal is worth the visit, even if you are not catching a train. 4 Blocks

From JFK Airport:
Van Wyck Expressway North to Long Island Expressway (LIE) (I-495) West. Take the LIE to the Queens Midtown Tunnel (toll). When you exit the Tunnel, take 37th Street West to 3rd Avenue. Turn right on on 3rd Avenue and continue North to 44th Street. Turn right on 44th Street and continue 1-1/2 blocks. The hotel is located on 44th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, on the left-hand side of the street.

From La Guardia Airport:
Follow signs to Long Island Expressway (LIE) (I-495) West. Take LIE to Queens Midtown Tunnel (toll). When you exit the Tunnel, take 37th Street West to 3rd Avenue. Turn right on 3rd Avenue and continue North to 44th Street. Turn right on 44th Street and continue 1-1/2 blocks. The hotel is located on 44th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, on the left hand side of the street.

JFK International Airport - 16 miles
$60-65 Taxi, $16 Bus

Newark Airport - 18 miles
$80 Taxi, $18 Bus

La Guardia Airport - 8 miles
$30 Taxi, $13 Bus
Ambassador Grill


Dag Hammarskjöld
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Dag Hammarskjöld


2nd Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
April 10, 1953 – September 18, 1961
Preceded by Trygve Lie
Succeeded by U Thant


Born July 29, 1905
Jönköping, Sweden
Died September 18, 1961
Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, current Republic of Zambia
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (Dag Hammarskjöld (help·info)) (July 29, 1905 – September 18, 1961) was a Swedish diplomat and the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. He served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961.

Contents [hide]
1 Early life
2 UN Secretary General
3 Death
4 Nobel Peace Prize
5 Legacy
6 See also
7 External links

[edit] Early life
Dag Hammarskjöld was born in Jönköping, although he lived most of his childhood in Uppsala. He was the fourth and youngest son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, Prime Minister of Sweden (1914–1917), and Agnes Almquist. His ancestors had served the Swedish Crown since the 17th century. He studied at Uppsala University where he graduated with a Master's degree in political economy and a Bachelor of Law degree. He then moved to Stockholm.

From 1930 to 1934 he was a secretary of a governmental committee on unemployment. He also wrote his economics thesis Konjunkturspridningen (The Spread of the Business Cycle) and received his Doctorate from Stockholm University in 1933. In 1936 Hammarskjöld became a secretary in the Bank of Sweden and soon he was an undersecretary of finance. From 1941 to 1948 he served as a chairman of the Bank of Sweden.

Early in 1945, he was appointed as adviser to the cabinet on financial and economic problems, and coordinated government plans to alleviate the economic problems of the post-war period.

In 1947 Hammarskjöld was appointed to Sweden's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and in 1949 he became the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He was a delegate in the Paris conference that established the Marshall Plan. In 1948 he was again in Paris to attend conference for the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. In 1950 he became a head of Sweden delegation to UNISCAN. In 1951, he became a cabinet minister without portfolio and in effect Deputy Foreign Minister. Although Hammarskjöld served with a cabinet dominated by the Social Democrats, he never officially joined any political party. On December 20, 1954, he was elected to take his father's vacated seat in the Swedish Academy. In 1951 Hammarskjöld became vice chairman of Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. He became the chairman of the Swedish delegation to the General Assembly in New York in 1952.

[edit] UN Secretary General

Hammarskjöld outside the UN headquarters in New York.When Trygve Lie resigned from his post as UN Secretary General in 1953, the Security Council decided to recommend Hammarskjöld to the post. It came as a surprise to him. He was selected on March 31 with the majority of 10 out of eleven states. The UN General Assembly elected him in the April 7–10 session, by 57 votes out of 60. In 1957 he was re-elected.

Hammarskjöld started his term by establishing his own secretariat of 4,000 administrators. He set up regulations that defined their responsibilities. He insisted that the secretary-general should be able to take emergency action without the prior approval of the Security Council or the General Assembly.

During his terms, Hammarskjöld tried to soothe relations between Israel and the Arab states. In 1955 he went to mainland China to negotiate the release of 15 US pilots who had served in the Korean War and been captured by the Chinese. In 1956 he established the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). In 1957 he intervened in the Suez Crisis.

In 1960 the former Belgian colony and now newly-independent Congo asked for UN aid in defusing the escalating civil strife. See Congo Crisis. Hammarskjöld made four trips to the Congo republic. However, his efforts towards the decolonisation of Africa were considered insufficient by the USSR. In September 1960 the Soviet Union denounced his decision to send a UN emergency force to keep the peace. They demanded his resignation, and the replacement of the office of secretary-general by a three-man directorate with a built-in veto, the "troika". The objective was, citing the memoirs of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, to "equally represent interests of three groups of countries: capitalist, socialist and recently independent" [1].

Like his predecessor Trygve Lie, Hammarskjöld ended his term a lame duck, no longer on speaking terms with one of the UN's most important members, the Soviet Union. His bad relations with both the Soviets and the French led directly to financial crisis and the looming threat to bankruptcy, as both these governments refused to pay their peacekeeping dues. It would be up to his successor, U Thant, to rehabiliate the office of Secretary-General.

[edit] Death
In September 1961, Hammarskjöld found out about the fighting between non-combatant UN forces and Katanga troops of Moise Tshombe. He was en route to negotiate a cease-fire on the night of September 17-18 when his plane crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He and fifteen others perished. There is still speculation as to the cause of the crash.

The explanation of investigators at the time is that Hammarskjöld's aircraft descended too low on its approach to Ndola's airport at night. The crew had filed no flight plan for security reasons. No evidence of a bomb, surface-to-air missile or hijacking has ever been presented. It has been speculated that the crew of the DC-6 incorrectly used altitude data for Ndolo (915 ft, 279 m), which is in Congo and at lower altitude, rather than Ndola ( 4167ft, 1270 m) in Northern Rhodesia.

On August 19, 1998, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), revealed that recently-uncovered letters had implicated British MI5, American CIA and South African intelligence services in the 1961 crash of Dag Hammarskjöld's plane. One TRC letter said that a bomb in the aircraft's wheel-bay was set to detonate when the wheels came down for landing. [2]

On July 29, 2005, exactly 100 years after Hammarskjöld's birth, the Norwegian Major General Bjørn Egge gave an interview to the newspaper Aftenposten on the events surrounding his death. According to Egge, who was the first UN officer to see the body, Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead, and this hole was subsequently airbrushed from photos taken of the body. It appeared to Egge that Hammarskjöld had been thrown from the plane, and grass and leaves in his hands might indicate that he survived the crash, and had tried to scramble away from the wreckage. Egge's statement does not, however, align with Archbishop Tutu's information. [3]

A less conspiratorial theory holds that Hammarskjöld's plane struck some treetops as it was preparing for landing. Hammarskjöld was the only person whose body was separate from the wreckage and therefore not burnt due to his aversion to seatbelts. He was thrown from the crash able to crawl away from the plane, but his injuries were severe enough that he was already dead by the time the plane was found.

His only book Vägmärken (Markings) was published in 1963. A collection of his diary reflections, the book starts in 1925, when he was 20 years old, and ends at his death in 1961. [4] In the book Hammarskjöld reveals himself as a Christian Mysticist and describes his diplomat deed in the way of a ”inner journey”; the book became popular with U.S. students and also with the former Swedish archbishop K.G. Hammar.

[edit] Nobel Peace Prize
Hammarskjöld received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, having been nominated before his death.

[edit] Legacy
Today Hammarskjöld is viewed perhaps as the greatest Secretary-General because of his ability to shape events in contrast to his successors. This view is one that is commonly shared by intellectuals around the world, such as the historian Paul Kennedy, who hailed Hammarskjöld in his book The Parliament of Man.[citation needed]

A Manhattan park near the United Nations headquarters is called Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, and nearby buildings use it as a vanity address.[citation needed]

[edit] See also
Olof Palme
Bernt Carlsson

[edit] External links
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Dag HammarskjöldKofi Annan, Dag Hammarskjöld and the 21st century, The Fourth Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture 6th September 2001, Uppsala University (pdf)
Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General: the official website of the UN
Markings - "the spiritual diary of Dag Hammarskjöld"
The Nobel Prize
Letters say Hammarskjöld's death Western plot
UN assassination plot denied
Plot to kill Hammarskjöld
Media briefing by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
18 September 1961 UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld is killed
Preceded by
Trygve Lie UN Secretary-General
1953-1961 Succeeded by
U Thant
Preceded by
Hjalmar Hammarskjöld Swedish Academy,
Seat No.17
1954-1961 Succeeded by
Erik Lindegren

Nobel Peace Prize: Laureates (1951–1975)[hide]
1951: Jouhaux | 1952: Schweitzer | 1953: Marshall | 1954: UNHRC | 1957: Pearson | 1958: Pire | 1959: Noel‑Baker | 1960: Lutuli | 1961: Hammarskjöld | 1962: Pauling | 1963: Red Cross | 1964: King | 1965: UNICEF | 1968: Cassin | 1969: ILO | 1970: Borlaug | 1971: Brandt | 1973: Kissinger, Le | 1974: MacBride, Sato | 1975: Sakharov


Complete List | Laureates (1901–1925) | Laureates (1926–1950) | Laureates (1976–2000) | Laureates (2001—)

v • d • e United Nations Secretaries-General [hide]
Gladwyn Jebb (acting) · Trygve Lie · Dag Hammarskjöld · U Thant · Kurt Waldheim · Javier Pérez de Cuéllar · Boutros Boutros-Ghali · Kofi Annan · Ban Ki-moon

Retrieved from ""
Categories: Articles with unsourced statements | United Nations Secretaries-General | Nobel Peace Prize laureates | Swedish diplomats | Swedish economists | Members of the Swedish Academy | Uppsala University alumni | Stockholm University alumni | People from Jönköping | Plane crash victims | 1905 births | 1961 deaths | Cold War diplomats

For a truly extraordinary dining experience, savor critically acclaimed fare and exceptional wines at the Ambassador Grill. The ambiance is casually elegant, and the menu features an international selection. Open daily serving breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Operating Hours
07:00 AM - 11:00 AM (Mon-Sat)
07:30 AM - 10:30 AM (Sun)

12:00 PM - 03:00 PM (Mon-Sat)

05:00 PM - 10:30 PM (Mon-Sun)

12:00 PM - 03:00 PM (Sun)

Price Guide
Breakfast 15.0 - 22.0 USD
Lunch 18.0 - 28.0 USD
Dinner 24.0 - 34.0 USD

Other Information
Champagne Brunch
Treat the family to “The most international brunch in town.”

Start off with a complimentary Bottomless Glass of Champagne, enjoy our signature Ambassador Grill Lobster, Shrimp and Crab Cocktail, then wander through our lavish buffet, resplendent delectables, such as Eggs Benedict with Black Truffle Hollandaise, Beef Stroganoff with homemade Spaetzle, Austrian Cider Braised Chicken and Hibachi Salmon with Sake-soy Baby Bok Choi. These delicacies will be nestled between our Chefs hard at work carving Roast Prime Rib au Jus with Horseradish Cream, filling steamed Chinese Buns with Peking Duck and preparing Omelets and Mini Waffles to order and an array of desserts including a full selection of Pastries, Cakes, Cookies surrounding our renowned Bananas Foster and a Make Your Own Sundae Bar.

Brunch at the Ambassador Grill is an ideal event for the entire family featuring special amenities and dishes for children.

Our buffet is priced at $54 per adult, and $19 for children under 12. We will be seating at 12:00 to 3:00 PM.

Please call 212-702-5014 for reservations and more information.

To make a reservation online, go to Open Table or call 212-702-5014.
Latest Hotel News


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Maximum Room Capacities
Ballroom 200 120 300 200 70 -
Dag Hammarskjold A 70 30 80 50 25 -
Dag Hammarskjold A & B 125 65 125 110 50 -
Dag Hammarskjold B 40 24 50 40 20 -
Ralph Bunche 43 24 43 32 - -
Javier Perez de Cuellar 80 40 120 60 - -
Trygve Lie A & B 112 60 150 110 50 -
Trygve Lie A or B 50 25 56 50 20 -
U Thant 40 30 50 48 24 -
Regal Club - - 50 - - 24

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New York City
Millennium UN Plaza Hotel
One United Nations Plaza
44th Street (Between First and Second Avenue)
New York City, New York 10017-3575
United States

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Millennium UN Plaza Hotel

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One United Nations Plaza, 44th Street (Between First and Second Avenue), New York City, NY 10017-3575
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Contemporary international hotel occupying the 11 and 13 floors of 40-story glass towers on the East Side. This description is based on information provided by the hotel.

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Dec 19, 2006 "Best Night Ever!!!!!"
limacnovember, Suffolk County, NY
I had the best hotel stay ever at the Millennium last night. My significant other and I went to the city for a night and chose a Superior room at the Millennium. The door man was incredibly kind and...

Dec 18, 2006 "The views were great!"
Aonghas, Skye, Scotland
We stayed at the UN plaza ( floor 36, west tower) for 8 nights and the views of the Chrysler, Empire State, MetLife, Rockafeller, UN and Trump Tower buildings were breathtaking and made our holiday unforgetable....

Dec 10, 2006 "Great Experience!"
BradyFan, Columbus, OH
We booked this hotel on Priceline one day before going to New York and weren't sure what to expect. We had read the reviews on this site and were a little worried about the location of the hotel, as well...

Dec 9, 2006 "First visit to NY, NY - A great hotel!"
pinkies, Yorkshire, England
First visit to the Big Apple! Wanted a hotel with style and good position. We got both and more. Wonderful welcoming staff, and asked and received corner room with spellbinding views of NYC and river....

Dec 2, 2006 "Good Value for NYC"
M.Remi, Sarasota, FL
As we had never visited the UN before, we chose the UN location for this hotel. However, it was 3 or 4 blocks to Grand Central, the closest subway stop. In general, it was an above average hotel for...

Nov 20, 2006 "Not very good."
Cinraeoh, Cleveland, OH
I stayed here while traveling on business and I am very glad I wasn't paying my own money for it. The elevators were under construction and VERY slow. There was no wireless access in the entire hotel....

Nov 7, 2006 "YIKES!!!! Beware of mold, mildew, filth and creepy staff!!!"
lnw, Michigan
Don't be fooled into staying at this hotel! I can't believe others reviewing this hotel were staying at the same place! Even though I requested a refurbished room and was assured that's what I got, I was...

Oct 26, 2006 "Great place to stay"
Gav55, Leighton Buzzard, UK
Stayed there with my wife for our Silver Wedding anniversary. We booked through a travel agent in the UK. It was superb. We stayed on the 39th floor and had an awesome view of the UN and East River. The...

Sep 26, 2006 "Too high a price for a good view"
soj0urner, Earth
The hotel room had a superb view. My room was on the 29th floor and I had the view of the empire states building, the chrysler building, the UN and all the way across midtown. The view from the swimming...

Sep 16, 2006 "Lovely room, great view but shame about the bathroom"
iloveholidaylots, Milton Keynes
My husband and I stayed here for one night and paid £130 via a travel agent in the UK. The hotel is in a good location for shopping and sightseeing and the rooms start on the 28th floor so you are almost...

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Dec 11, 2006: "Marriott was the Marriott (of course its not the Ritz)!!"
Nov 26, 2006: "Nice hotel"
Nov 1, 2006: "My second fantastic stay"

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Ranks #34 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Hilton Garden Inn Times Square, New York City
790 Eighth Avenue
New York City, NY 10019

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Description: 367 rooms
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 128 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 27, 2006: "Nice place to stay..."
Dec 27, 2006: "Great value for NYC"
Dec 25, 2006: "Everything great except check-in"

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Ranks #35 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Hotel 41 At Times Square, New York City
206 W 41st St
New York City, NY 10036

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Description: 47 rooms
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 189 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 19, 2006: "Great Location!"
Dec 8, 2006: "Very kind Staff"
Dec 6, 2006: "Great place for a quick trip to New York"

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Ranks #36 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel, New York City
141 East 44th Street
New York City, NY 10017

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Description: 155 rooms
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 89 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 27, 2006: "Fantastic"
Dec 25, 2006: "Great NYC hotel, low rates to boot"
Dec 21, 2006: "Look no further for your NYC hotel!"

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Ranks #37 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
The Sherry-Netherland Hotel, New York City
781 Fifth Avenue
At 59th Street
New York City, NY 10022

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Description: 50 rooms
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 13 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Sep 6, 2006: "What a hotel!"
May 7, 2006: "Great location, fine room, beautifully painted elevators, nice folks"
Mar 29, 2006: "Perfect Location"

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Ranks #38 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Hotel QT, New York City
125 West 45 Street
New York City, NY 10036

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Description: 140 rooms
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 162 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Nov 25, 2006: "Failsafe choice"
Nov 23, 2006: "Great Value"
Nov 17, 2006: "Amazing hotel"

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Ranks #39 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Hotel Gansevoort, New York City
18 9th Avenue
At 13th Street
New York City, NY 10014

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Description: 187 rooms
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 148 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 14, 2006: "awesome hotel with great service"
Dec 11, 2006: "Luxurious, overrated and somewhat pretentious"
Dec 10, 2006: "Hotel Gansevoort was worth it"

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Ranks #40 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
The St. Regis Hotel New York, New York City
2 East 55th Street
At Fifth Avenue
New York City, NY 10022

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Description: 256 rooms
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 45 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 6, 2006: "Wonderful hotel"
Oct 23, 2006: "Nice Hotel"
Oct 18, 2006: "Wonderful St Regis"

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Ranks #41 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Courtyard New York Manhattan / Midtown East, New York City
866 Third Avenue
New York City, NY 10022

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Description: 307 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 60 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 5, 2006: "Our Birthday Gift"
Nov 29, 2006: "Fantastic Hotel"
Nov 16, 2006: "Great Hotel"

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Ranks #42 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, New York City
Two West Street
New York City, NY 10004

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Description: 298 rooms
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 114 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 13, 2006: "Service Below Expectations/Great Property/Tough Location"
Nov 19, 2006: "Can't Wait to Go Back"
Nov 12, 2006: "Loved it!"

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Ranks #43 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Four Seasons Hotel New York, New York City
57 East 57th Street
New York City, NY 10022

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Description: 372 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 50 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 21, 2006: "Still a Ritz fan......"
Nov 5, 2006: "The very best in NYC"
Oct 30, 2006: "Disappointing!"

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Ranks #44 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, New York City
One United Nations Plaza
44th Street (Between First and Second Avenue)
New York City, NY 10017-3575

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Description: 426 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 198 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 19, 2006: "Best Night Ever!!!!!"
Dec 18, 2006: "The views were great!"
Dec 10, 2006: "Great Experience!"

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Ranks #45 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
The Westin New York at Times Square, New York City
270 West 43rd Street
At 8th Avenue
New York City, NY 10036

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Description: 863 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 469 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 27, 2006: "Loved the Westin"
Dec 27, 2006: "great location"
Dec 27, 2006: "Good, but not amazing."

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Ranks #46 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Carlton on Madison Avenue, New York City
88 Madison Avenue
22 East 29th
New York City, NY 10016

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Description: 316 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 195 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 19, 2006: "Great hotel with problems"
Dec 8, 2006: "Nice enough, but would try somewhere different next time..."
Dec 7, 2006: "really clean hotel, but not the best location in NYC"

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Ranks #68 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
The New York Helmsley, New York City
212 E 42nd St
New York City, NY 10017

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Description: 788 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 198 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 20, 2006: "Great hotel Great location"
Dec 12, 2006: "Great Location"
Dec 11, 2006: "Tell all your friends"

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Ranks #69 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
Omni Berkshire Place, New York City
21 East 52nd Street
At Madison Avenue
New York City, NY 10022

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Description: 396 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 106 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 21, 2006: "Tired"
Dec 19, 2006: "Omni Berkshire was Great!"
Dec 13, 2006: "Fantastic hotel dont think me and the previous person were in the same hotel!!!"

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Ranks #70 of 328 hotels in New York City in TripAdvisor's popularity index
InterContinental The Barclay New York, New York City
111 East 48th Street
New York City, NY 10017-1222

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Description: 686 rooms
Hotel class:
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating (based on 270 reviews)
Traveler Reviews:
Dec 16, 2006: "absolutely amazing!"
Nov 28, 2006: "Nice Hotel Nice Location but exspenisve!"
Nov 21, 2006: "Dissapointing stay"

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Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale
by Kenneth Tynan
Issue of 1978-02-20
Posted 2005-01-24

Johnny Carson, whose easygoing wit and self-deprecating charm helped make the “Tonight Show” a mainstay of network television, died this week, of emphysema. This Profile of Carson, by Kenneth Tynan, appeared in The New Yorker in 1978.

July 14, 1977: There is a dinner party tonight at the Beverly Hills home of Irving Lazar, doyen of agents and agent of doyens. The host is a diminutive potentate, as bald as a doorknob, who was likened by the late screenwriter Harry Kurnitz to “a very expensive rubber beach toy.” He has represented many of the top-grossing movie directors and best-selling novelists of the past four decades, not always with their prior knowledge, since speed is of the essence in such transactions; and Lazar’s flair for fleet-footed deal-clinching—sometimes on behalf of people who had never met him—has earned him the nickname of Swifty. On this occasion, at his behest and that of his wife, Mary (a sleek and catlike sorceress, deceptively demure, who could pass for her husband’s ward), some fifty friends have gathered to mourn the departure of Fred de Cordova, who has been the producer of NBC’s “Tonight Show” since 1970; he is about to leave for Europe on two weeks’ vacation. A flimsy pretext, you may think, for a wingding; but, according to Beverly Hills protocol, anyone who quits the state of California for more than a long weekend qualifies for a farewell party, unless he is going to Las Vegas or New York, each of which counts as a colonial suburb of Los Angeles. Most of the Lazars’ guests tonight are theatre and/or movie people; e.g., Elizabeth Ashley, Tony Curtis, Gregory Peck, Sammy Cahn, Ray Stark, Richard Brooks. And even Fred de Cordova spent twenty years working for the Shuberts, Warner Brothers, and Universal before he moved into television. The senior media still take social precedence in the upper and elder reaches of these costly hills.

One of the rare exceptions to this rule is the male latecomer who now enters, lean and dapper in an indigo blazer, white slacks, and a pale-blue open-necked shirt. Apart from two months in the late nineteen-fifties (when he replaced Tom Ewell in a Broadway comedy called “The Tunnel of Love”), Johnny Carson has never been seen on the legitimate stage; and, despite a multitude of offers, he has yet to appear in his first film. He does not, in fact, much like appearing anywhere except (a) in the audience at the Wimbledon tennis championships, which he and his wife recently attended, (b) at his home in Bel Air, and (c) before the NBC cameras in Burbank, which act on him like an addictive and galvanic drug. Just how the drug works is not known to science, but its effect is witnessed—ninety minutes per night, four nights per week, thirty-seven weeks per year—by upward of fourteen million viewers; and it provoked the actor Robert Blake, while he was being interviewed by Carson on the “Tonight Show” in 1976, to describe him with honest adulation as “the ace comedian top-dog talk artist of the universe.” I once asked a bright young Manhattan journalist whether he could define in a single word what made television different from theatre or cinema. “For good or ill,” he said, “Carson.”

This pure and archetypal product of the box shuns large parties. Invitations from the Lazars are among the few he accepts. Tonight, he arrives alone (his wife, Joanna, has stopped off in New York for a few days’ shopping), greets his host with the familiar smile, cordially wry, and scans the assembly, his eyes twinkling like icicles. Hard to believe, despite the pewter-colored hair, that he is fifty-one: he holds himself like the midshipman he once was, chin well tucked in, back as straight as a poker. (Carson claims to be five feet ten and a half inches in height. His pedantic insistence on that extra half inch betokens a man who suspects he looks small.) In repose, he resembles a king-sized ventriloquist’s dummy. After winking impassively at de Cordova, he threads his way across the crowded living room and out through the ceiling-high sliding windows to the deserted swimming pool. Heads discreetly turn. Even in this posh peer group, Carson has cynosure status. Arms folded, he surveys Los Angeles by night—”glittering jewel of the Southland, gossamer web of loveliness,” as Abe Burrows ironically called it. A waiter brings him a soft drink. “He looks like Gatsby,” a young actress whispers to me. On the face of it, this is nonsense. Fitzgerald’s hero suffers from star-crossed love, his wealth has criminal origins, and he loves to give flamboyant parties. But the simile is not without elements of truth. Gatsby, like Carson, is a Midwesterner, a self-made millionaire, and a habitual loner, armored against all attempts to invade his emotional privacy. “He had come a long way to this blue lawn,” Fitzgerald wrote of Gatsby—as far as Carson has come to these blue pools, from which steam rises on even the warmest nights.

“He doesn’t drink now.” I turn to find Lazar beside me, also peeking at the man outside. He continues, “But I remember Johnny when he was a blackout drunk.” That was before the “Tonight Show” moved from New York to Los Angeles, in 1972. “A couple of drinks was all it took. He could get very hostile.”

I point out to Lazar that Carson’s family tree has deep Irish roots on the maternal side. Was there something atavistic in his drinking? Or am I glibly casting him as an ethnic (“black Irish”) stereotype? At all events, I now begin to see in him—still immobile by the pool—the lineaments of a magnified leprechaun.

“Like a lot of people in our business,” Lazar goes on, “he’s a mixture of extreme ego and extreme cowardice.” In Lazar’s lexicon, a coward is one who turns down starring roles suggested to him by Lazar.

Since Carson already does what nobody has ever done better, I reply, why should he risk his reputation by plunging into movies or TV specials?

Lazar concedes that I may be right. “But I’ll tell you something else about him,’’ he says, with italicized wonder. “He’s celibate.” He means “chaste.” “In his position, he could have all the girls he wants. It wouldn’t be difficult. But he never cheats.”

It is thirty minutes later. Carson is sitting at a table by the pool, where four or five people have joined him. He chats with impersonal affability, making no effort to dominate, charm, or amuse. I recall something that George Axelrod, the dramatist and screenwriter, once said to me about him: “Socially, he doesn’t exist. The reason is that there are no television cameras in living rooms. If human beings had little-red lights in the middle of their foreheads, Carson would be the greatest conversationalist on earth.”

One of the guests is a girl whose hobby is numerology. Taking Carson as her subject, she works out a series of arcane sums and then offers her interpretation of his character. “You are an enormously mercurial person,” she says, “who swings between very high highs and very low lows.”

His eyebrows rise, the corners of his lips turn down: this is the mock-affronted expression he presents to the camera when a baby armadillo from some local zoo declines to respond to his caresses. “This girl is great,” he says to de Cordova. “She makes me sound like a cross between Spring Byington and Adolf Hitler.”

Before long, he parts as unobtrusively as he came.

Meeting him a few days afterward, I inquire what he thought of the party. He half grins, half winces. “Torturous?” he says.

Within a month, however, I note that he is back in the same torture chamber. Characteristically, although he is surrounded by the likes of Jack Lemmon, Roger Vadim, Michael Caine, James Stewart, and Gene Kelly, he spends most of the evening locked in NBC shoptalk with Fred de Cordova. De Cordova has just returned from his European safari, which has taken him through four countries in half as many weeks. The high point of the trip, de Cordova tells me, was a visit to Munich, where his old friend Billy Wilder was making a film. This brings to mind a recent conversation I had with Wilder in this very living room. He is a master of acerbic put-downs who has little time for TV pseudostars, and when I mentioned the name of Carson I expected Wilder to dismiss him with a mordant one-liner. What he actually said surprised me. It evolved in the form of a speech. “By the simple law of survival, Carson is the best,” he said. “He enchants the invalids and the insomniacs as well as the people who have to get up at dawn. He is the Valium and the Nembutal of a nation. No matter what kind of dead-asses are on the show, he has to make them funny and exciting. He has to be their nurse and their surgeon. He has no conceit. He does his work and he comes prepared. If he’s talking to an author, he has read the book. Even his rehearsed routines sound improvised. He’s the cream of middle-class elegance, yet he’s not a mannequin. He has captivated the American bourgeoisie without ever offending the highbrows, and he has never said anything that wasn’t liberal or progressive. Every night, in front of millions of people, he has to do the salto mortale”—circus parlance for an aerial somersault performed on the tightrope. “What’s more”—and here Wilder leaned forward, tapping my knee for emphasis—”he does it without a net. No rewrites. No retakes. The jokes must work tonight.”

Since a good deal of what follows consists of excerpts from the journal of a Carson-watcher, I feel bound to declare a financial interest, and to admit that I have derived pecuniary benefit from his activities. During the nineteen-sixties, I was twice interviewed on the “Tonight Show.” For each appearance I received three hundred and twenty dollars, which was then the minimum payment authorized by aftra, the TV and radio performers’ union. (The figure has since risen to four hundred and twenty-seven dollars.) No guest on the show, even if he or she does a solo spot in addition to just chatting, is paid more than the basement-level fee. On two vertiginous occasions, therefore, my earning power has equalled that of Frank Sinatra, who in November, 1976, occupied the hot seat on Carson’s right for the first time. (A strange and revealing encounter, to which we’ll return.) Actually, “hot” is a misnomer. To judge from my own experience, “glacial” would be nearer the mark. The other talk shows in which I have taken part were all saunas by comparison with Carson’s. Merv Griffin is the most disarming of ego strokers; Mike Douglas runs him a close second in the ingratiation stakes; and Dick Cavett creates the illusion that he is your guest, enjoying a slightly subversive private chat. Carson, on the other hand, operates on a level of high, freewheeling, centrifugal banter that is well above the snow line. Which is not to say that he is hostile. Carson treats you with deference and genuine curiosity. But the air is chill; you are definitely on probation.

Mort Sahl, who was last seen on the “Tonight Show” in 1968, described to me not long ago what happens when a guest fails to deliver the goods. “The producer is crouching just off camera,” he said, “and he holds up a card that says, ‘Go to commercial.’ So Carson goes to a commercial, and the whole team rushes up to his desk to discuss what went wrong. It’s like a pit stop at Le Mans. Then the next guest comes in, and—I promise you this is true—she’s a girl who says straight out that she’s a practicing lesbian. The card goes up again, only this time it means, ‘Come in at once, your right rear wheel is on fire.’ So we go to another commercial. . . .” Sahl is one of the few performers who are willing to be quoted in dispraise of Carson. Except for a handful of really big names, people in show business need Carson more than he needs them; they hate to jeopardize their chance of appearing on the program that pays greater dividends in publicity than any other. “Carson’s assumption is that the audience is dumb, so you mustn’t do difficult things,” Sahl continued. “He never takes serious risks. His staff will only book people who’ll make him look artistically potent. They won’t give him anyone who’ll take him for fifteen rounds. The whole operation has got lazy.”

When an interviewer from Playboy asked Robert Blake whether he enjoyed doing the “Tonight Show,” he gave a vivid account of how it feels to face Carson. He began by confessing that “there’s a certain enjoyment in facing death, periodically.” He went on:

There’s no experience I can describe to you that would compare with doing the “Tonight Show” when he’s on it. It is so wired, and so hyped, and so up. It’s like Broadway on opening night. There’s nothing casual about it. And it’s not a talk show. It’s some other kind of show. I mean, he has such energy, you got like six minutes to do your thing. . . . And you better be good. Or they’ll go to the commercial after two minutes. . . . They are highly professional, highly successful, highly dedicated people. . . . The producer, all the federales are sittin’ like six feet away from that couch. And they’re right on top of you, man, just watchin’ ya. And when they go to a break, they get on the phone. They talk upstairs, they talk to—Christ, who knows? They talk all over the place about how this person’s going over, how that person’s going over. They whisper in John’s ear. John gets on the phone and he talks. And you’re sittin’ there watchin’, thinkin’, What, are they gonna hang somebody? . . . And then the camera comes back again. And John will ask you somethin’ else or he’ll say, “Our next guest is. . .”

Carson’s office Suite at Burbank is above the studio in which, between 5:30 and 7 p.m., the show is taped. Except for his secretary, the rest of the production team occupies a crowded bungalow more than two hundred yards away, outside the main building. “In the past couple of months,” a receptionist in the bungalow said to me not long ago, “I’ve seen Mr. Carson in here just once.” Thus the king keeps his distance—not merely from his colleagues but from his guests, with whom he never fraternizes either before or after the taping. Or hardly ever: he may decide, if a major celebrity is on hand, to bend the rule and grant him or her the supreme privilege of prior contact. But such occasions are rare. As Orson Welles said to me, “he’s the only invisible talk host.” A Carson guest of long standing, Welles continued, “Once, before the show, he put his head into my dressing room and said hello. The effect was cataclysmic. The production staff behaved the way the stagehands did at the St. James’s Theatre in London twenty-five years ago when Princess Margaret came backstage to visit me. They were in awe! One of Carson’s people stared at me and said, ‘He actually came to see you!’ “ (Gust of Wellesian laughter.) Newcomers like me are interviewed several days in advance by one of Carson’s “talent coördinators,” who makes a list of the subjects on which you are likely to be eloquent or funny. This list is in Carson’s head as you plunge through the rainbow-hued curtains, take a sharp right turn, and just avoid tripping over the cunningly placed step that leads up to the desk where you meet, for the first time, your host, interrogator, and judge. The studio is his native habitat. Like a character in a Harold Pinter play, or any living creature in a Robert Ardrey book, you have invaded his territory. Once you are on Carson’s turf, the onus is on you to demonstrate your right to stay there; if you fail, you will decorously get the boot. You feel like the tourist who on entering the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, was greeted by a guide with the minatory remark “Remember, Signore, that here it is not the pictures that are on trial.” Other talk hosts flatter their visitors with artificial guffaws; Carson laughs only when he is amused. All I recall of my first exposure to the Carson ordeal is that (a) I had come to discuss a controversial play about Winston Churchill, (b) the act I had to follow was the TV début of Tiny Tim, who sang “Tip Toe Through the Tulips,” (c) Carson froze my marrow by suddenly asking my opinion not of Churchill but of General de Gaulle, and (d) from that moment on, fear robbed me of saliva, so that my lips clove to my gums, rendering coherent speech impossible. The fault was mine, for not being the sort of person who can rise to Carson’s challenge—i.e., a professional performer. There is abundant evidence that comedians, when they are spurred by Carson, take off and fly as they cannot in any other company. David Brenner, who has been a regular Carson guest since 1971, speaks for many young entertainers when he says, “Nowhere is where I’d be without the ‘Tonight Show.’ It’s a necessary ingredient. . . . TV excels in two areas—sports and Carson. The show made my career.”

October 1, 1977, marked Carson’s fifteenth anniversary as the star of a program he recently called “NBC’s answer to foreplay.” For purposes of comparison, it may be noted that Steve Allen, who was the show’s host when it was launched, in September, 1954, lasted only two years and four months. The mercurial and thin-skinned Jack (Slugger) Paar took over from Allen in the summer of 1957, after a six-month interregnum during which doomed attempts were made to turn the “Tonight Show” into a nocturnal TV magazine held together by live contributions from journalists in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Paar’s tenure of office seems in retrospect longer than it was, perhaps because of the emotional outbursts that kept his name constantly in the headlines; it actually ended after four years and eight months. On March 29, 1962, having resigned for positively the last time, he took his final bow on the program, his face a cascade of tears. “Après le déluge, moi” is the thought that should have passed through Carson’s mind, though there is no evidence that it did. He was then in his fifth year as m.c. of “Who Do You Trust?,” an ABC quiz show that had become, largely because of his verbal dexterity, the hottest item on daytime television. A few months before Paar’s farewell, Carson had turned down a firm offer from NBC to replace its top banana. The gulf between chatting with unknown contestants for half an hour every afternoon and matching wits with celebrities for what was then an hour and forty-five minutes every night seemed unnervingly wide, and he doubted his ability to bridge it. However, when the job had been rejected by a number of possible candidates—among them Bob Newhart, Jackie Gleason, Joey Bishop, and Groucho Marx—either because they wanted too much money or because they were chary of following Paar, NBC came back in desperation to Carson. This time, he asked for two weeks to consider the proposition. Coolly, he weighed the size of his talent against the size of his ambition, decided that the scales approximately balanced, and told NBC that his answer was yes. The only snag was that his contract with ABC did not run out until September. Undismayed, NBC agreed to keep the “Tonight Show” supplied with guest hosts (they included Merv Griffin, Mort Sahl, and Groucho) throughout the summer. On October 1, 1962, Carson took command. His announcer and second banana, transplanted from “Who Do You Trust?,” was Ed McMahon, who was already in great demand as the owner of the most robust and contagious laugh in television. The guests were Rudy Vallée, Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks (then a mere comedy writer, though he nowadays insists that he gave a dazzling impersonation of Fred Astaire on that October evening), and Joan Crawford.

Any qualms that NBC may have had about its new acquisition were soon allayed. Star performers lined up to appear with Carson. Even his fellow comedians, a notoriously paranoid species, found that working with him was a stimulus rather than a threat. “He loves it when you score,” Woody Allen said, “and he’s witty enough to score himself.” Mel Brooks has explained to me, “From the word go, Carson could tell when you’d hit comic gold, and he’d help you to mine it. He always knew pay dirt when he saw it. The guys on other talk shows didn’t. There were one or two dissenters. Jackie Mason enjoyed his first session with Carson but reported that during his second appearance he was treated with “undisguised alienation and contempt,” and went on to say, “I’d never go back again, even if he asked me.” The press reaction to Carson was enthusiastic, except for a blast of puritanism from John Horn of the Herald Tribune, who wrote of Carson, “He exhibits all the charm of a snickering small boy scribbling graffiti on a public wall.” He added, in one of those phrases that return to haunt critics in their declining years, that Carson had “no apparent gift for the performing arts.”

With the public, Carson’s triumph was immediate and nonpareil. Under the Paar regime, the show had very seldom been seen by more than seven and a half million viewers. (One such occasion was March 7, 1960, when the unruly star came back to his post after walking out in a fit of pique, brought on by the network’s decision to delete a mildly scatological joke and protracted for several well-publicized weeks.) Under Carson, the program averaged seven million four hundred and fifty-eight thousand viewers per night during its first six months. The comparable figure for the same period in 1971-72 was eleven million four hundred and forty-one thousand, and it is currently being seen by seventeen million three hundred thousand. Over fifteen years, therefore, Carson has more than doubled his audience—a feat that, in its blend of staying power and mounting popularity, is without precedent in the history of television. (Between April and September, the numbers dip, but this reflects a seasonal pattern by which all TV shows are affected. A top NBC executive explained to me, with heartless candor, “People who can afford vacations go away in the summer. It’s only the poor people who watch us all the year round.”) By network standards, the ultimate test is not so much the size of the audience as the share it represents of the total viewing public in the show’s time slot. Here, after some early ups and downs, the Carson trend has been consistently upward; for example, from twenty-eight per cent in the third quarter of 1976 to thirty per cent in the second quarter of 1977. Moreover, his percentage seems to rise with the temperature; for example, in the four weeks that ended on July 15, 1977—a period during which guest hosts frequently stood in for Carson, whose absence from the show normally cuts the audience by about one-sixth—NBC chalked up thirty-two per cent of the late-night viewers, against twenty-four per cent registered by CBS and twenty-three per cent by ABC. These, of course, are national figures. The happiness of Fred de Cordova, as producer, is incomplete unless Carson not only leads the field nationwide but beats the combined opposition (ABC plus CBS) in the big cities, especially New York and Los Angeles. He is seldom unhappy for long. On peak nights, when Carson rakes in a percentage of fifty or more from the key urban centers, de Cordova is said to emit an unearthly glow, visible clear across the Burbank parking lot.

For his first year on the show, making five appearances per week, Carson was paid just over a hundred thousand dollars. His present contract (the latest of many), which comes into force this spring, guarantees him an annual salary of two and a half million dollars. For twenty-five weeks of the year, his performances, which were long since reduced from five to four, will further dwindle, to three; and his vacation period will stay at fifteen weeks—its duration under several previous contracts. These details, which were announced by NBC last December, leave no doubt that Carson qualifies for admission to what the late Lucius Beebe called “the mink-dustcloth set.” Whether they tell the whole story is less certain. Carson’s earlier agreements with NBC contained clauses that both parties were forbidden to disclose, reportedly relating to such additional rewards as large holdings in RCA stock and a million-dollar life-insurance policy at the network’s expense. Concerning Carson’s total earnings, I cannot do better than quote from one of his employers, who told me, months before the new contract was signed, “If someone were to say in print that Johnny takes home around four million a year, I doubt whether anyone at NBC would feel an overpowering urge to issue a statement denying it.” And even this figure excludes the vast amounts he makes from appearances at resort centers—preëminently Las Vegas—and from Johnny Carson Apparel, Inc., a thriving menswear business, founded in 1970, whose products he models on the show. David Tebet, the senior vice-president of NBC, who is revered in the trade as a finder, keeper, and cosseter of talent, and is described in his publicity handout as being “solely in charge of the Johnny Carson show,” said to me recently, “For the past four or five years, Johnny has made more money per annum than any other television performer ever has. And he has also made more money per week than anyone else—except, maybe, for a very rare case like Sinatra, where you can’t be sure, because Sinatra will sell you a special through his own company and you don’t know how much he’s personally taking out of the deal.” Despite the high cost of Carson, he remains a bargain. The network’s yearly income from the show is at present between fifty and sixty million dollars. “As a money-maker,” de Cordova says, “there’s nothing in television close to it.” In 1975, a sixty-second commercial on the program cost twenty-six thousand dollars. In 1977, that sum had risen by half.

I dwell on these statistics because they are unique in show business. Yet there is a weird disproportion between the facts and figures of Carson’s success and the kind of fame he enjoys. To illustrate what I mean, let me cite a few analogies. Star tennis players are renowned in every country on earth outside China, and the same is true of top heavyweight boxers. (A probable exception in the latter category is Muhammad Ali, who must surely be known inside China as well.) At least fifty living cricketers are household names throughout the United Kingdom, the West Indies, Australia, South Africa, India, and Pakistan. Movie stars and pop singers command international celebrity; and Kojak, Starsky, Hutch, Columbo, and dozens more are acclaimed (or, at any rate, recognized) wherever the TV programs that bear their names are bought and transmitted. Outside North America, by contrast, Johnny Carson is a nonentity: the general public has never heard of him. The reason for his obscurity is that the job at which he excels is virtually unexportable. (O. J. Simpson is a parallel case, illustrious at home and nada abroad; and if the empire of baseball had not reached out and annexed Japan, Reggie Jackson would be in the same plight.) The TV talk show as it is practiced by Carson is topical in subject matter and local in appeal. To watch it is like dropping in on a nightly family party, a conversational serial, full of private jokes, in which a relatively small and regularly rotated cast of characters, drawn mainly from show business, turn up to air their egos, but which has absolutely no plot. Sometimes the visitors sing. Sometimes, though less often nowadays than in the past, they are people of such worldwide distinction that their slightest hiccup is riveting. But otherwise most of what happens on the show would be incomprehensible or irrelevant to foreign audiences, even if they were English-speaking. This drives yet another nail into the coffin lid, already well hammered down, of Marshall McLuhan’s theory that TV has transformed the world into a global village. (Radio is, as it has long been, the only medium that gives us immediate access to what the rest of the planet is doing and thinking, simply because every country of any size operates a foreign-language service.) Only for such events as moon landings and Olympiads does TV provide live coverage that spans the globe. The rest of the time, it is obstinately provincial, addressing itself to a village no bigger than a nation. Carson, in his own way, is what Gertrude Stein called Ezra Pound—a village explainer.

He has spent almost all his life confined, like his fame, to his country of origin. He served in the Navy for three years, beginning in 1943, and was shipped as far west as Guam. Thereafter, his travels abroad indicate no overwhelming curiosity about the world outside his homeland. Apart from brief vacations in Mexico, and a flying visit to London in 1961, when he appeared in a TV special starring Paul Anka, he has left the United States only on three trips: in 1975, to the ultrasmart Hôtel du Cap in Antibes (at the instigation of his wife, Joanna, who had been there before); in 1976, to see the tennis at Wimbledon; and in 1977, when he threw caution to the winds and went to both Wimbledon and the Hôtel du Cap. He was recognized in neither place, except by a handful of fellow-Americans. This, of course, was the purpose of the exercise. Carson goes to foreign parts for the solace of anonymity. But enough is enough: he is soon impatient to return to the cavernous Burbank Studio, where his personality burgeons in high definition and where he publicly discloses as much of his private self as he has ever revealed to anyone, except (I assume, though even here I would not care to bet) his parents, siblings, sons, and wives.

“Johnny Carson on TV,” one of his colleagues confided to me, “is the visible eighth of an iceberg called Johnny Carson.” The remark took me back to something that Carson said of himself ten years ago, when, in the course of a question-and-answer session with viewers, he was asked, “What made you a star?” He replied, “I started out in a gaseous state, and then I cooled.” Meeting him tête-à-tête is, as we shall see later, a curious experience. In 1966, writing for Look, Betty Rollin described Carson off camera as “testy, defensive, preoccupied, withdrawn, and wondrously inept and uncomfortable with people.” Nowadays, his off-camera manner is friendly and impeccably diplomatic. Even so, you get the impression that you are addressing an elaborately wired security system. If the conversation edges toward areas in which he feels ill at ease or unwilling to commit himself, burglar alarms are triggered off, defensive reflexes rise around him like an invisible stockade, and you hear the distant baying of guard dogs. In addition to his childhood, his private life, and his income, these no-trespassing zones include all subjects of political controversy, any form of sexual behavior uncountenanced by the law, and such matters of social concern as abortion and the legalization of marijuana. His smile as he steers you away from forbidden territory is genial and unfading. It is only fair to remember that he does not pretend to be a pundit, employed to express his own opinions; rather, he is a professional explorer of other people’s egos. In a magazine article that was published with annotations by Carson, Fred de Cordova wrote, “He’s reluctant to talk much about himself because he is essentially a private person.” To this Carson added a marginal gloss, intended as a gag, that had an eerie ring of truth: “I will not even talk to myself without an appointment.” He has asked all the questions and knows all the evasive, equivocal answers. When he first signed to appear on the “Tonight Show,” he was quizzed by the press so relentlessly that he refused after a while to submit to further interrogation. Instead, he issued a list of replies that journalists could append to any questions of their choice:

1. Yes, I did.
2. Not a bit of truth in that rumor.
3. Only twice in my life, both times on Saturday.
4. I can do either, but I prefer the first.
5. No. Kumquats.
6. I can’t answer that question.
7. Toads and tarantulas.
8. Turkestan, Denmark, Chile, and the Komandorskie Islands.
9. As often as possible, but I’m not very good at it yet. I need much more practice.
10. It happened to some old friends of mine, and it’s a story I’ll never forget.

Extract from Carson-watching journal, January, 1976:

There is such a thing as the pleasure of the expected. Opening routine of “Tonight Show” provides it; millions would feel cheated if the ceremony were changed. The close shot of Big Ed McMahon as his unctuous baritone takes off on its steeply ascending glissando “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” Stagehands create gap in curtain. Carson enters in his ritual Apparel, style of which is Casual Square. Typical outfit: checked sports coat with two vents, tan trousers, pale-blue shirt with neat but ungaudy tie. Not for him the bluejeaned, open-necked, safari-jacketed Hollywood ensemble: that would be too Casual, too Californian. On the other hand, no dark suits with vests: that would be too Square, too Eastern Seaboard. Carson must reflect what de Cordova possessively calls “our bread-basket belt”—the Midwest, which bore him (on October 23, 1925, in Corning, Iowa), and which he must never bore.

On his lips as he walks toward applauding audience is the only unassuming smirk in show business. He halts and swivels to the right (upper part of body turning as rigid vertical unit, like that of man in plaster cast) to acknowledge Big Ed’s traditional act of obeisance, a quasi-Hindu bow with fingertips reverently joined. Then the leftward rotation, to accept homage from Doc Severinsen—lead trumpet and musical director, hieratically clad in something skintight and ragingly vulgar—which takes more bizarrely Oriental form: the head humbly bowed while the hands orbit each other. Music stops; applause persists. In no hurry, Carson lets it ride, facially responding to every nuance of audience behavior; e.g., shouts of greeting, cries of “Hi-yo!” When the ecstasy subsides, the exordium is over, and Carson begins the monologue, or address to the faithful, which must contain (according to one of his writers) between sixteen and twenty-two surefire jokes.

Tone of monologue is skeptical, tongue-in-cheek, ironic. Manner: totally relaxed, hitting bull’s-eyes without seeming to take aim, TV’s embodiment of “Zen in the Art of Archery.” In words uttered to me by the late screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, “Carson has a delivery like a Winchester rifle.” Theme: implicitly liberal, but careful to avoid the stigma of leftism. The unexpected impromptus with which he rescues himself from gags that bomb, thereby plucking triumph from disaster, are also part of the expected pleasure. “When it comes to saving a bad line, he is the master”—to quote a tribute paid in my presence by George Burns. Carson registers a gag’s impact with instant, seismographical finesse. If the laugh is five per cent less than he counted on, he notes the failure and reacts to it (“Did they clear the hall? Did they have a drill?”) before any critic could, usually garnering a double-strength guffaw as reward. Whatever spoils a line—ambiguous phrasing, botched timing, faulty enunciation—he is the first to expose it. Nobody spots flaws in his own work more swiftly than Carson, or capitalizes on them more effectively. Query: Is this becoming a dangerous expertise? In other words, out from under how many collapsed jokes can you successfully climb?

This evening’s main attraction is Don (The Enforcer) Rickles, not so much the court jester of TV as the court hit man. Carson can cope superbly with garrulous guests who tell interminable stories (whether ponderously, owing to drink or downers, or manically, owing to uppers or illicit inhalations). Instead of quickly changing the subject, as many hosts would, he slaughters the offenders with pure politesse. Often, he will give them enough rope to hang themselves, allowing them to ramble on while he affects attentive interest. Now and then, however, he will let the camera catch him in the act of half-stifling a yawn, or raising a baffled eyebrow, or aiming straight at the lens a stare of frozen, I-think-I-am-going-mad incredulity. He prevents us from being bored by making his own boredom funny—a daring feat of comic one-upmanship. The way in which he uses the camera as a silent conspirator is probably Carson’s most original contribution to TV technique. There is a lens permanently trained on him alone—a private pipeline through which he transmits visual asides directly to the viewer, who thus becomes his flattered accomplice. Once, talking to me on a somewhat tattered theme, the difference between stage and screen acting, Paul Newman made a remark that seemed obvious at the time but grows in wisdom the more I ponder it. “On the stage, you have to seek the focus of the audience,” he said. “In movies, it’s given to you by the camera.” Among the marks of a star on television, as in the cinema, is his or her ability to grasp this truth and act on it. Seek, and you shall not find; grab, and it shall not be given unto you. Carson learned these rules early and is now their master practitioner.

Even the best-planned talk shows, however, run into doldrums; e.g., the guest who suffers from incontinent sycophancy, or whose third marriage has brought into his life a new sense of wonder plus three gratingly cute anecdotes about the joys of paternity, or who is a British comedian on his first, tongue-tied trip to the States, or whose conversational range is confined to plugging an upcoming appearance at Lake Tahoe. On such occasions, the ideal solution is: Bring on Rickles, king of icebreakers, whose chosen weapon is the verbal hand grenade. Rickles is an unrivalled catalyst (though I can already hear him roaring, “What do you mean, I’m a catalyst? I’m a Jew!”). Squatly built, rather less bald than Mussolini, his bulbous face running the gamut from jovial contempt to outright nausea, he looks like an extra in a crowd scene by Hieronymus Bosch. No one is immune from his misanthropy; he exudes his venom at host and guests alike. In a medium ruled by the censorious Superego, Rickles is the unchained Id. At his best, he breaks through the bad-taste barrier into a world of sheer outrage where no forbidden thought goes unspoken and where everything spoken is anarchically liberating. More deftly than anyone else, Carson knows how to play matador to Rickles’ bull, inciting him to charge, and sometimes getting gored himself. At one point during this program, Rickles interrupts a question from Carson with an authentic conversation-stopper. “Your left eye is dancing!” he bellows, leaning forward and pointing a stubby finger. “That means you’re self-conscious. Ever since you stopped drinking, your left eye dances.” Even Carson is momentarily silenced. (I did not fully understand why until, at a subsequent meeting, Carson told me that there was one symptom by which he could infallibly recognize a guest who was on the brink of collapse, whether from fear, stimulants, or physical exhaustion. He called it “the dancing-eyeball syndrome.” A famous example from the early nineteen-sixties: Peter O’Toole appeared on the show after forty-eight sleepless hours, spent filming and flying, and could not utter a coherent sentence. Carson ushered him offstage during the first commercial. “The moment he sat down, I could see his eyeballs were twitching,” Carson said to me. “I recognized the syndrome at once. He was going to bomb.”)

Testimony of a Carson colleague:

My witness is Pat McCormick, who has been supplying Carson with material on and off for eighteen years and was a staff writer on the show from 1972 to 1977. Regarded as one of the most inventive gagmen in the business, he has also worked for Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, and others of note. McCormick, at forty-seven, is a burly, diffident man with hair of many colors: a reddish thatch on top, a gray mustache, and patches of various intermediate tints sprouting elsewhere on his head and face. Suitably resprayed, he might resemble a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and Zero Mostel. I have it on Ed McMahon’s authority that McCormick takes the occasional drink, and that he once turned up at a script conference declaring, “I have lost my car, but I have tire marks on my hands.” He gives me his account of a typical day on the “Tonight Show.” “The writers—there are usually five of us—arrive at the studio around 9:30 a.m.,” he says. “We’ve read the morning papers and the latest magazines. Once a week, we all get together for an ideas meeting, but most days we work separately, starting out with the monologue. I tend to specialize in fairly weird, uninhibited stuff. Johnny enjoys that kind of thing, and I just let it pour out. Like a line I came up with not long ago: ‘If you want to clear your system out, sit on a piece of cheese and swallow a mouse.’ Johnny finds his own ways of handling bum gags. When he’s in a bad situation, I always wonder how the hell he’ll get out of it, and he always surprises me.”

Always? I remind McCormick of an occasion two days earlier, when a series of jokes had died like flies, and Carson had got a situation-saving laugh by remarking, “I now believe in reincarnation. Tonight’s monologue is going to come back as a dog.” That sounded to me like echt McCormick.

With a blush matching some of his hair, he admits to authorship of the line. He continues, “All the monologue material has to be on Johnny’s desk by three o’clock. He makes the final selection himself. One of his rules is: Never tell three jokes running on the same subject. And, of course, he adds ideas of his own. He’s a darned good comedy writer, you know.”

One sometimes detects a vindictive glint in Carson’s eye when a number of gags sink without risible trace, but McCormick assures me that this is all part of the act and causes no outbreaks of cold sweat among the writing team. “After the monologue,” he goes on, “we work on the desk spot with Ed McMahon, which comes next in the show, or on sketches that need polishing, or on material for one of Johnny’s characters.”

Accustomed to thinking of Carson the host, we forget the range of Carson the actor-comedian. His current incarnations include the talkative crone Aunt Blabby (Whistler’s mother on speed); the bungling turbanned clairvoyant named Carnac the Magnificent; Art Fern, described by McCormick as “the matinee-movie m.c. with patent-leather hair who’ll sell anything;” and—a newer acquisition—Floyd Turbo, the man in the red shirt who speaks for the silent majority, rebutting liberal editorials with a vehemence perceptibly impaired by his inability to read from a TelePrompTer at more than dictation speed. Fans will recall Turbo’s halting diatribe against the anti-gun lobby: “If God didn’t want man to hunt, he wouldn’t have given us plaid shirts. . . . I only kill in self-defense. What would you do if a rabbit pulled a knife on you? . . . Always remember: you can get more with a smile and a gun than you can with just a smile.”

Everything for the evening’s show must be rehearsed and ready for taping by five-thirty, apart from the central, imponderable element, on which all else depends: Carson’s handling of the guests. Briefed by his aides, he knows the visitors’ backgrounds, recent achievements, and immediate plans, and during the commercials he will listen to tactical suggestions from confreres like Fred de Cordova; but when the tape is running, he is the field commander, and his intuitions dictate the course of events. As he awaits his entrance cue, he is entitled to reflect, like Henry V on a more earthshaking occasion, “The day, my friends, and all things stay for me.” McCormick, who now and then appears as a guest on the show, has this to say of Carson the interviewer: “He leans right in and goes with you, instead of leaning back and worrying about what the viewers are thinking. He never patronizes you or shows off at your expense. If you’re getting a few pockets of laughter from the studio audience, he’ll encourage you and feed you. He’s an ideal straight man as well as a first-rate comedian, and that’s a unique combination. Above all, there’s a strand of his personality that is quite wild. He can do good bread-and-butter comedy any day of the week—like his Vegas routines or his banquet speeches—but he has this crazy streak that keeps coming through on the show, and when it does it’s infectious. You feel anything could happen.”

Example of Carson when the spirit of pure, eccentric play descends upon him and he obeys its bidding, wherever it may lead: During the monologue on May 11, 1977, he finds, as sometimes happens, that certain words are emerging from his mouth in slightly garbled form. He wrinkles his brow in mock alarm, shrugs, and presses on to the next sentence: “Yetserday, U.S. Steel announced. . .” He pauses, realizing what he has said, turns quizzically to McMahon, and observes, “ ‘Yesterday’ is not a hard word to say.” Facing the camera again, he goes on, “Yesterday—all my troubles seemed so far away . . .” Only now he is singing—singing, unaccompanied, the celebrated standard by John Lennon and Paul McCartney: “Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.” By this time, the band, which was clearly taken by surprise, has begun to join in, at first raggedly but soon improvising a respectable accompaniment. Warming to his berserk task, Carson does not stop until he has reached the end of the chorus. He resumes the monologue: “Now, what was I talking about? Oh, yes. Yesterday . . .” But no sooner has the word passed his lips than Doc’s combo, determined not to let him off the hook, strikes up the melody again. Undaunted, Carson plunges into the second chorus. Having completed it, he silences the musicians with a karate chop. There is loud applause, followed by an extended pause. Where can he go from here? Cautiously feeling his way, he continues, “about twelve hours ago, U.S. Steel announced . . .” And successfully finishes the gag. Everyone in the studio is laughing, not so much at the joke as at the sight of Carson on the wing. Grinning, he addresses McMahon.

Carson: That’s what makes this job what it is.

McMahon: What is it?

Carson: (frowning, genuinely puzzled): I don’t know.

McCormick on Carson the private man: “Don’t believe those iceberg stories. Once, when I was going through a bad divorce and feeling pretty low, I was eating alone in a restaurant and Johnny came in with a bunch of people. I’m not one of his intimate friends, but as soon as he saw me he left his guests and sat with me for more than half an hour, giving me all kinds of comfort and advice.”

Further notes of a Carson watcher (random samplings from October and November, 1976):

Where other performers go home to relax after the show, Carson goes to the show to relax. The studio is his den, his living space—the equivalent in the show-business world of an exclusive salon in the world of literature. He instantly reacts to any untoward off-camera occurrence—a script inadvertently dropped, a guitar string accidentally plucked, a sneeze from a far corner of the room—as most of us would react to comparably abnormal events in the privacy of our homes. Mutatis very much mutandis, the show could be seen as a TV version of “The Conning Tower,” Franklin P. Adams’ famous column in the Tribune, which was launched in 1914 and consisted mainly of anecdotes, aphorisms, and verses contributed by F.P.A.’s friends and correspondents. “The Conning Tower,” like the “Tonight Show,” was a testing ground for new talents, and many of the people it introduced to the public went on to become celebrities.

October 1st: Traditional two-hour retrospective to mark the fourteenth anniversary of Carson’s enthronement as NBC’s emperor of causerie. Choice of material is limited to the period since 1970, for, with self-destructive improvidence, the company erased all the earlier Carson tapes, including Barbra Streisand’s first appearance as his guest and Judy Garland’s last. Host’s debonair entry is hailed with fifty-second ovation, which sounds unforced. I note the digital mannerisms (befitting one who began his career as a conjurer) that he uses to hold our attention during his patter. The right index finger is particularly active, now stabbing downward as if pressing computer buttons, now rising to flick at his ear, to tickle or scratch one side of his nose: constantly in motion, never letting our eyes wander. Thus he stresses and punctuates the gags, backed always by Big Ed’s antiphonal laughter.

Well-loved bits are rerun. The portly comic Dom DeLuise attempts a feat of legerdemain in which three eggs are at risk, and carries it off without breakage. But the sight of unbroken eggs—and others on standby—provokes Carson to a spell of riot. He tosses the original trio at DeLuise, who adroitly juggles with them and throws them back; Carson retaliates with more eggs, aiming a few at McMahon for good measure. Before long, in classic slapstick style, he has expressionlessly cracked an egg over DeLuise’s head and dropped another inside the front of his trousers, smashing it as it falls with a kindly pat on the belly. “You’re insane!” the victim cries. “You guys are bananas!” He gives Carson the same treatment; McMahon joins in; and by the end the floor and the three combatants are awash with what Falstaff would have called “pullet-sperm.” Looking back on the clip, Carson puckishly observes, “There’s something about eggs. I went ape.” The whole impromptu outburst would not have been funny if it had been initiated by someone like Buddy Hackett; it worked because of its incongruity with Carson’s persona—that of a well-nurtured Midwestern lad, playful but not vulgar. (“Even though he’s over fifty,” Fred de Cordova once said to me, “there’s a Peck’s Bad Boy quality that works for Johnny, never against him.”)

Other oddities from the program’s past: Carson diving onto a mattress from a height of twenty feet; splitting a block of wood with his head on instructions from a karate champion; tangling with a sumo wrestler; cuddling a cheetah cub; permitting a tarantula to crawl up his sleeve. We also see Carson confronted by guests with peculiar skills—the bird mimic whose big items are the mallard in distress and the cry of the loon, for instance, and the obsessive specialist whose act (one of the most memorable stunts ever recorded in a single take) consists of seven thousand dominoes arranged on end in a convoluted, interwoven pattern, involving ramps and tunnels, so that the first, when it is pushed, sets off a chain reaction that fells the remaining six thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine, which spell out—among other things—the DNA symbol and Carson’s name. In addition, we get the parody of “Dragnet,” that triumph of alliterative tongue-twisting in which Jack Webb, investigating the theft of a school bell, sombrely elicits from Carson the information that kleptomaniac Claude Cooper copped the clean copper clappers kept in the clothes closet. Best of all are the snippets from Carson’s interviews with people aged ninety and upward, whom he addresses as exact equals, with care and without condescension, never patronizing them, and never afraid to laugh when they get a sentence back to front or forget the punch line of a joke; one such encounter is with a woman of a hundred and three years, who is still a licensed driver. (Paul Morrissey, the movie director, who is watching the program with me, remarks, “Nobody else on TV treats old people with the perfect tact and affection of Carson. He must have a very loving relationship with his parents.”) An NBC spokesman chips in with a resounding but meretricious statistic. The Carson show, he says, has already been seen by more than four times the population of our planet. This presumably means that one person who has watched the program a hundred times counts as a hundred people. Either that or NBC is laying claim to extraterrestrial viewers. The ratings war being what it is, anything is possible.

November 12th: After days of spot announcements and years of coaxing by the network, Frank Sinatra makes his debut on the show. Received like visiting royalty, he gives the impression of swaggering even when seated. For once, the host seems uneasy, overawed, too ready to laugh. Don Rickles is hurried on unannounced to dissipate the atmosphere of obsequiousness, which he does by talking to the singer like Mafia subaltern reporting to Godfather; at least this is better than treating him as God. (I get memory flash of cable sent to me by Gore Vidal when he agreed to accept my younger daughter as godchild: “Always a godfather, never a god.” For many people in entertainment business, Sinatra is both.) When conversation again falters, Rickles declares to world at large, “I’m a Jew, and he’s an Italian, and here”—he thrusts at Carson a face contorted with distaste, like diner finding insect in soup—”here we have . . . what?” Rickles wraps up interview by saying that he truly admires Sinatra, because “he stimulates excitement, he stimulates our industry, and”—fixing Carson with glare of malign relish—”he . . . makes . . . you . . . nervous.”

Not long afterward, Carson had his revenge. While acting as guest host on the show, Rickles broke the cigarette box on Carson’s desk by striking it with his clenched fist when a gag fell flat. The next night, Carson returned. As soon as he sat down, he noticed the damage. “That’s an heirloom,” he said. “I’ve had it for nine years.” Informed that Rickles was the culprit, he picked up the debris and rose, telling one of the cameras to follow him. (None of this was rehearsed.) He then left the “Tonight Show” studio, crossed the corridor outside, and, ignoring the red warning lights, marched into the studio opposite, where Rickles was at that moment halfway through taping the next episode of his comedy series “CPO Sharkey.” Walking straight into the middle of a shot, Carson held out his splintered treasure to Rickles and sternly demanded both restitution and an apology. The Enforcer was flabbergasted, as were his supporting cast, his producer, and his director. Carson was impenitent. “I really shook him,” he said to me later, with quiet satisfaction. “He was speechless.”

Testimony from the two NBC associates who are closest to Carson:

These are Fred de Cordova and Ed McMahon De Cordova, who has been Carson’s producer for the past seven years, talks to me in the “Tonight Show” bungalow at Burbank. He is a large, looming, beaming man with horn-rimmed glasses, an Acapulcan tan, and an engulfing handshake that is a contract in itself, complete with small print and an option for renewal on both sides. Now in his mid-sixties, he looks like a cartoon of a West Coast producer in his early fifties. His professional record, dating back to 1933, is exceptional: Ten years in theatre with the Shubert organization, followed by a decade making movies in Hollywood. Thence into TV, where he worked (directing and/or producing) with Burns and Allen, George Gobel, Jack Benny, and the Smothers Brothers. In the magazine piece he wrote which appeared with notations by Carson, he said he now had “the last great job in show business,” because the Carson program was “spontaneous” and “instantaneous.” He explained that it wasn’t technically live, in that taping preceded transmission; nevertheless, “practically speaking, we are the only continuing live show left.” (For accuracy’s sake, this phrase should be amended to read, “the only continuing nationwide nighttime quasi-live talk show left, apart from Merv Griffin’s.”) He went on to compare the program to a ballgame, played “in front of a jammed grandstand night after night.” “To me,” Carson noted in the margin, “it’s like a salmon going up the Columbia River.” Trying to define Carson’s appeal, de Cordova wrote, “He’s somebody’s son, somebody’s husband, somebody’s father. He combines them all.” Which sounds very impressive until you reflect that it applies to most of the adult male population. Carson circled this passage and made it slightly narrower in scope by adding to the first sentence, “and several people’s ex-husband.” De Cordova’s most telling point, at which no one could cavil, came later in the article. “We have no laugh track,” he said. “We’re naked.” In an age when canned hilarity has all but usurped the viewer’s right to an autonomous sense of humor, it is reassuring to read a statement like that.

On the wall behind de Cordova’s desk hangs a chart showing the lineup of guests for weeks, and even months, ahead. Perennial absentees, long sought, never snared, include Elton John and Robert Redford. When de Cordova is asked why the list is so sparsely dotted with people of much intellectual firepower, he reacts with bewilderment: “That just isn’t true. We’ve had some of the finest minds I know—Carl Sagan, Paul Ehrlich, Margaret Mead, Gore Vidal, Shana Alexander, Madalyn Murray O’Hair.” This odd aggregation of names sprang from the lips of many other “Tonight Show” employees to whom I put that question, almost as if they were contractually bound to commit it to memory. Nobody, however, denied that there have been few latter-day guests with the political weight of Nelson Rockefeller, Hubert Humphrey, and John and Robert Kennedy, all of whom appeared with Carson in his earlier years. De Cordova continues, “I’ve heard it said that Johnny is intimidated by witty, intellectual women. Well, just who are these women? Apart from people like Shana, who’ve had a lot of TV experience, they tend to freeze on camera. We’ve so often been fooled by witty cocktail talkers who simply didn’t transfer to television.” Carson, he points out, is no numbskull; he reads extensively, with special emphasis on politics, and has more than an amateur knowledge of astronomy. Also of sports: “Ike Nastase, Chris Evert, and Dwight Stones have all been very effective guests.” But there are, he admits, certain categories of people who are unlikely to receive the summons to Burbank: “We don’t have an official blacklist, but Johnny wouldn’t have Linda Lovelace on the show, for example. Or anyone mixed up in a sexual scandal, like Elizabeth Ray. And no criminals, except reformed criminals—we turned down Clifford Irving, the guy who forged the Howard Hughes memoirs. Johnny prefers to look for non-celebrities who’ll make human-interest stories. We subscribe to fifty-seven newspapers from small towns and cities all over the country, and that’s where we find some of our best material.” He goes on to say, “In the monologue, Johnny will attack malfeasance, illiberal behavior, Constitutional abuses. But then compassion sets in. He was the first person to stop doing anti-Nixon jokes.” (Ten years ago, Henry Morgan said of Carson, “He believes that justice is some kind of entity that is palpable. He talks about it as if he were talking about a chair.”) Does the monologue suffer from network censorship? “The problem doesn’t come up, because Johnny has an in-built sense of what his audience will take,” de Cordova says. “He’s the best self-editor I’ve ever known.” This, as we shall see, was a somewhat disingenuous reply.

Lunch with the bulky, eternally clubbable McMahon in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Born in Detroit, Big Ed is now in his mid-fifties, and has worked with Carson for two decades, including five years as his announcer on “Who Do You Trust?” NBC gives him eight weeks’ annual vacation with full pay, and he makes a great deal of money on the side from night-club appearances, real-estate investments, and commercials for a variety of products, chief among them beer and dog food. Even so, he is well aware that, as he says to me, “the ‘Tonight Show’ is my staple diet, my meat and potatoes—I’m realistic enough to know that everything else stems from that.” In 1972, when the show moved from New York to Los Angeles, McMahon left his wife and four children, after twenty-seven years of marriage, to go with it. (Divorce followed soon afterward; McMahon remarried in 1976.) He has known his place, and kept to it without visible resentment, since 1965, when the notorious Incident of the Insect Repellent showed him exactly where he stood. “Johnny was demonstrating an anti-mosquito spray,” he says, “and just before using it he said he’d heard that mosquitoes only went for really passionate people. Acting on instinct, I stuck out my arm and slapped it. It wrecked Johnny’s gag, and I had to apologize to him during the next break. That taught me never to go where he’s going. I have to get my comedy in other areas. Before the show, I do the audience warmup, and even there I have to avoid any topical material he might be using in the monologue.”

This being a show day, McMahon eats and drinks frugally (cold cuts and beer). Both he and Carson have drastically reduced their alcoholic intake over the past few years. On camera, Carson sips coffee and cream (no sugar), and McMahon makes do with iced tea. McMahon denies the rumor that Carson has become anti-social because of his abstinence: “If it’s a big affair, you’ll maybe find him in a corner, talking one to one, but in a small group he can be the life of the party, doing tricks, killing everybody.” One of the unauthorized biographies of Carson contains a story about a surprise birthday party to which his second wife, Joanne, invited all his close friends. “There were about eight people there,” an unnamed guest is quoted as saying, “and I think it was a shock to all of us.” Pooh-poohing this yarn, McMahon counters by telling me about a surprise party he gave for Carson in 1962: “I built it up by pretending it was being held in his honor by TV Guide and he really had to go. He finally gave in. I said I’d drive him down there, and he began bitching as soon as he got in the car. So I suggested stopping off at my place for a preliminary drink, and he agreed. I’d arranged for the other cars to be parked out of sight, in case he recognized them. What happened was that he walked straight into the arms of about fifty friends and relatives who’d come from all over to see him. He had tears in his eyes. That was the first time I saw him touched.”

Professionally, McMahon most enjoys the tête-à-tête at Carson’s desk which follows the monologue: “Sometimes he develops a real resistance to bringing out the first guest. I see something goofy in his eyes. It means that he wants us to go on rapping together, so we play back and forth, getting wilder and wilder, until maybe the guest has gone home and it’s time for the first commercial.”

I read to him some remarks made by the columnist Rex Reed, who described Carson as “the most over-rated amateur since Evelyn and her magic violin” and continued, “The most annoying thing about Carson is his unwillingness to swing, to trust himself or his guests. . . . He never looks at you; he’s too busy (1) watching the audience to see if they are responding, and (2) searching the face of his producer for reassurance.”

McMahon finds these comments inexplicable. “Johnny can get absolutely spellbound by his guests,” he says. “You’ll see him lean his chin on his hand and really drink them in. And as for that stuff about not swinging—did the guy ever watch him with Tony Randall or Buck Henry or Orson Bean? He’s always going off into unplanned areas and uncharted places. Other people have clipboards full of questions and use them like crutches. Johnny never uses any. And he loves meeting new comics and feeding them lines, the way he did with Steve Martin and Rodney Dangerfield when hardly anyone had heard of them. Naturally, he likes to get laughs himself. That’s part of the job. A few nights ago, Tony Bennett was on the show, talking about his childhood and how his family hoped he’d achieve fabulous things when he grew up. Johnny listened for a long while and then said, quite deadpan, ‘My parents wanted me to be a sniper.’ Another time, he asked Fernando Lamas why he’d gone into movies, and Lamas said, ‘Because it was a great way to meet broads.’ I loved Johnny’s comeback. He just nodded and said, ‘Nietzsche couldn’t have put it more succinctly.’ And, of course, there are the famous ad-libs that everyone remembers, like when Mr. Universe was telling him how important it was to keep fit—’Don’t forget, Mr. Carson, your body is the only home you’ll ever have’—and Johnny said, ‘Yes, my home is pretty messy. But I have a woman who comes in once a week.’ “ McMahon confirms my impression that Carson was daunted by Sinatra. He adds, ‘And he’s always a little bit overawed by Orson Welles. But there was one time when we were both nervous. I came on as a guest to plug a film I’d just made, and we had a rather edgy conversation. When the interview was over, Johnny came out from behind his desk to shake hands and revealed to the world that he had no pants on. I was so anxious to get off that I didn’t even notice.” How long, I ask, will Carson stay with the show? “He’ll still be there in 1980,” says McMahon confidently.

The year 1977, for Carson-watchers, was one in which the “Tonight Show,” while retaining all its sparkle and caprice, gained not an inch in intellectual stature. It is one thing to say as Carson often does, that he is not a professional controversialist. It is quite another to avoid controversy altogether.

February 2nd: Appearance of Alex Haley to talk about “Roots.” (During the previous night’s monologue, Carson used a curiously barbed phrase to account for the success of ABC’s televised adaptation of Haley’s best-seller. “Give the people what they want,” he said. “Hatred, violence, and sex.” It was difficult to tell whether the gibe was aimed at the rival network or at the book itself. One wondered, too, why he thought it amusing to add, “My great-great- great-great-grandfather was a runaway comedian from Bangladesh.”) In 1967, when Haley was working for Playboy, he conducted a lengthy interview with Carson. In the course of it, Carson attacked the C.I.A. for hiring students to compile secret reports on campus subversives, condemned “the kind of corporate espionage and financial hanky-panky that goes on in business,” supported the newly insurgent blacks in demanding “equality for all,” and said, “It’s ludicrous to declare that it’s wrong to have sex with anyone you’re not married to.” Moreover, he summed up the war in Vietnam as “stupid and pointless.” He seldom voiced these opinions with much vehemence on the show. Ten years later, with the war safely over, he welcomed Jane Fonda as his guest and congratulated her on having lived to see her views on Vietnam fully justified by history. With considerable tact, Ms. Fonda not only resisted the temptation to address her host as Johnny-come-lately but refrained from reminding him that when she most needed a television outlet for her ideas the doors of the “Tonight Show” studio were closed to her.

To return to February 2nd: Haley takes the initiative by asking Carson how far back he can trace his own roots. He replies that he knows who his grandparents were, and was personally very close to his father’s parents, both of whom survived into their nineties. Of his pedigree before that, he confesses total ignorance. Haley thereupon shakes him by producing a heavy, leatherbound volume with a golden inscription on the cover: “Roots of Johnny Carson—A Tribute to a Great American Entertainer.” Haley has signed the fly-leaf, “With warm best wishes to you and your family from the family of Kunta Kinte.” Carson is obviously stirred. “I was tremendously moved that Alex had found time to do all this research in the middle of his success,” he said to me afterward, and I learned from McMahon that this was only the second occasion on which he had seen the boss tearful. Although Haley was the instigator, the work was in fact carried out by the Institute of Family Research, in Salt Lake City. The people there first heard of the project on the evening of Saturday, January 29th, when Haley called them up and told them that the finished book had to be ready for presentation to Carson in Los Angeles the following Wednesday. “That gave us two working days to do a job that would normally take us two months,” a spokesman for the Institute told me. “What’s more, we had to do it in absolute secrecy, without any access to the person involved.” A task force of fifteen investigators toiling round the clock for forty-eight hours just managed to beat the deadline. The result of their labors—consisting of genealogical charts going back to the sixteenth century, biographical sketches of Carson’s more prominent forebears, and anecdotes from the family’s history—ran to more than four hundred pages. The gesture cost Haley (or his publishers) approximately five thousand dollars. Carson lent me the book, a massive quarry of data, from which I offer a few chippings:

(1) Earliest known Carson ancestor: Thomas Kellogg, on the paternal side of the family, born c. 1521 in the English village of Debdon, Essex. The first Kelloggs to cross the Atlantic were Daniel (born 1630) and his wife, Bridget, who settled in Connecticut. By the early nineteenth century, we find offshoots of the clan widely dispersed in Indiana and Nebraska, and it was Emiline, of the Nebraska Kelloggs, who married Marshall Carson, great-grandfather of Johnny. Marshall (born c. 1833) was allured by gold, and staked a profitless claim in the western part of Nebraska. Along with Emiline, he moved to Iowa, where by dying in 1922 he narrowly failed to become a nonagenarian. That was the year in which his grandson Homer Loyd Carson married a girl named Ruth Hook. John William Carson (born 1925) was the second child of this union, flanked by an elder sister, Catherine, and a younger brother, Dick.

(2) On his mother’s side, Carson’s first authenticated forebear is Thomas Hooke, a seventh great-grandfather, who sailed from London to Maryland in 1668. Most of his maternal roots, however, lead back to Ireland, whence two of his fifth great-grandfathers embarked for the States in the middle years of the eighteenth century.

(3) His family tree is laden with hardworking farmers. Decennial census sheets from 1840 to 1900 show Carson progenitors tilling the land in Maine, Ohio, Indiana, Nebraska, and Iowa.

(4) As far as anyone knows, Johnny and Kit Carson are no more closely related than Edward and Bonwit Teller. Johnny’s background nonetheless contains two figures of some regional celebrity. One is Captain James Hook (maternal branch), who is reputed, but not proved, to have served with Washington at Valley Forge. In a private quarrel, Captain Hook lost a sliver of his ear to a man who pulled a knife on him. Being unarmed, Hook riposted by tearing off a much larger piece of his assailant’s ear with his teeth. The other Carson ancestor of note is Judge James Hardy (paternal branch), a whimsical but beloved dispenser of justice in mid-nineteenth-century Iowa.

(5) Judge Hardy’s son Samuel, who died in 1933, at the age of eighty-five, was a skilled amateur violinist. Otherwise, in all the four previous centuries of the Carson family saga there is no sign of anyone with an interest in the arts or a talent for entertainment.

February 10th: Significant how many of the failed gags in Carson’s monologues miss their target because they are based on the naïve assumption that the studio audience has read the morning papers. One often gets the feeling that Carson is doubly insulated against reality. Events in the world outside Burbank and Bel Air impinge on him only when they have been filtered through magazines and newspapers and then subjected to a second screening by his writers and researchers. Hence his uncanny detachment, as of a man sequestered from the everyday problems with which most of us grapple. In fifteen years, barely a ripple of emotional commitment has disturbed the fishpond smoothness of his professional style. We are watching an immaculate machine. Some find the spectacle inhuman. “He looks plastic,” said Dorothy Parker in 1966. On the other hand, Shana Alexander told me with genuine admiration, “He’s like an astronaut, a Venusian, a visitor from another planet, someone out of ‘Star Trek.’ ”

Two reflections on tonight’s monologue. First, drawing on the latest Nielsen report, Carson informs us that during the icebound month of January the average American family watched television for seven hours and sixteen minutes per day A fearsome statistic. No wonder they have so little time for newspapers. Second, he knocks the Senate for allowing its members’ salaries to be raised to fifty-seven thousand five hundred dollars a year. The joke gives off a whiff of bad taste, coming, as it does, from a man who earns more than that every week. Whatever Carson’s failings may be, they do not include a lack of chutzpah.

April 1st: Nice to hear Ethel Merman on the show, blasting out “Ridin’ High” as if calling the cattle home across the sands of D flat major. But I wonder whether Carson would (or could) have done what Merv Griffin, of all people, did earlier in the evening; namely, devoted most of a ninety-minute program to a conversation with Orson Welles, which was conducted on what by talk-show standards was a respectably serious level. In 1962, when Carson took over the stewardship of the “Tonight Show,” America was about to enter one of the grimmest and most divisive periods in its history, marked by the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, the ghetto insurrections, the campus riots, the Vietnam war. Is it arguable that during this bad time Carson became the nation’s chosen joker because, in Madison Avenue terms, he was guaranteed to relieve nervous strain and anxiety more swiftly and safely (ask your doctor) than any competing brand of wag? Now that the country’s headaches have ceased to throb so painfully, its viewers may be ready for a more substantial diet than any that Carson, at the moment, cares to provide.

When Carson was twelve, he picked up, at a friend’s house, a conjuring manual for beginners called “Hoffman’s Book of Magic.” Its effect on him has been compared to the impact on the youthful Keats of Chapman’s Homer. (“Chapman hit it in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game against Milwaukee,” said the man who made the comparison, a former Carson writer. “Little Johnny Keats was standing behind the center-field fence and the ball landed smack on his head.”) Carson immediately wrote off for a junior magician’s kit. He worked hard to master the basic skills of the trade, and, having tried out his tricks on his mother’s bridge club, he made his professional début, billed as The Great Carsoni, before a gathering of Norfolk Rotarians. For this he received three dollars—the first of many such fees, for the kid illusionist was soon in demand at a variety of local functions, from firemen’s picnics to county fairs. As a student at Norfolk High, he branched out into acting and also wrote a comic column for the school newspaper.

Digressive flash forward: In 1976, Carson was invited back to Norfolk to give the commencement address. Immensely gratified, he accepted at once. He took great pains over his speech, and when he delivered it, on May 23rd, the school auditorium was packed to the roof. In the front row, alongside his wife, brother, and sister, sat his parents, to whom he paid tribute for having “backed me up and let me go in my own direction.” He also thanked one of his teachers, Miss Jenny Walker, who had prophetically said of him in 1943, “You have a fine sense of humor and I think you will go far in the entertainment world.” In case anyone wondered why he had returned to Norfolk, he explained, “I’ve come to find out what’s on the seniors’ minds and, more important, to see if they’ve changed the movie at the Granada Theatre” (where, I have since discovered, Carson was working as a part-time usher when the manager interrupted the double feature to announce that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor). He went on to recall that he had been chosen to lead the school’s scrap-metal drive: “Unfortunately, in our zeal to help the war effort, we sometimes appropriated metal and brass from people who did not know they were parting with it.” He continued, “I was also a member of the Thespians. I joined because I thought it meant something else. Then I found out it had to do with acting.” In the manner expected of commencement speakers, he offered a little advice on coping with life in the adult world. Though his precepts were homespun to the point of platitude, they were transparently sincere and devoid of conventional pomposity. The main tenets of the Carson credo were these: (1) Learn to laugh at yourself. (2) Never lose the curiosity of childhood: “Go on asking questions about the nature of things and how they work, and don’t stop until you get the answers.” (3) Study the art of compromise, which implies a willingness to be convinced by other people’s arguments: “Stay loose. In marriage, above all, compromise is the name of the game. Although”—and here he cast a glance at his third wife—”you may think that my giving advice on marriage is like the captain of the Titanic giving lessons on navigation.” (4) Having picked a profession, feel no compulsion to stick to it: “If you don’t like it, stop doing it. Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy.” (On the evidence, it would be hard to fault Carson for failing to practice what he preached.) A question-and-answer session then took place, from which I append a few excerpts:

Q: How do you feel about Norfolk nowadays?

Carson: I’m very glad I grew up in a small community. Big cities are where alienation sets in.

Q: Has success made you happy?

Carson: I have very high ups and very low downs. I can all of a sudden be depressed, sometimes without knowing why. But on the whole I think I’m relatively happy.

Q: Who do you admire most, of all the guests you’ve interviewed?

Carson: People like Carl Sagan, Paul Ehrlich, Margaret Mead . . . (He recites the official list, already quoted, of Most Valued Performers.)

Q: In all your life, what are you proudest of?

Carson: Giving a commencement address like this has made me as proud as anything I’ve ever done.

The applause at the end was so clamorous that Carson felt compelled to improvise a postscript. “If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself,” he said. “And if you like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined. I thank you all very much.” He left the stage to a further outburst of cheers, having established what may be a record for speakers on such occasions: throughout the evening, he had made no reference to the deity, the flag, or the permissive society; nor had he used the phrase “this great country of ours.”

After graduating from Norfolk, in 1943, Carson enrolled in the Navy’s V-12 program, but training did not start until the fall, so he filled in time by hitchhiking to California. There, in order to gain access to the many entertainments that were offered free of charge to servicemen, he stopped off at an Army-Navy store and prematurely bought himself a naval cadet’s uniform. Thus attired, he danced with Marlene Dietrich at the Hollywood Stage Door Canteen. Later, he travelled south to see Orson Welles give a display of magic in San Diego, where he responded to the maestro’s request for a volunteer from the audience and ecstatically permitted himself to be sawed in half. That night, he was arrested by two M.P.s and charged with impersonating a member of the armed forces—an offense that cost him fifty dollars in bail. After induction, he attended the midshipmen’s school at Columbia University and served in the Pacific aboard the battleship Pennsylvania. Never exposed to combat, he had plenty of time to polish his conjuring skills. In 1946, discharged from the Navy, he entered the University of Nebraska, where he majored in English and moonlighted as a magician, by now earning twenty-five dollars per appearance. In need of an assistant, he hired a girl student named Jody Wolcott; he married her in 1948. (To dispose, as briefly as possible, of Carson’s marital history: The liaison with Jody produced three sons—Chris, Ricky, and Cory—and was finally dissolved, after four years of separation, in 1963. “My greatest personal failure,” Carson has said, “was when I was divorced from my first wife.” In August, 1963, he married Joanne Copeland, aged thirty, a diminutive, dark-haired model and occasional actress. They parted company in 1970 but were not legally sundered until two years later, when the second Mrs. Carson was awarded a settlement of nearly half a million dollars, in addition to an annual hundred thousand in alimony. She had by then moved from New York to Los Angeles. Shortly afterward, Carson migrated to the West Coast, bringing the show with him. Between these two events she discerns a causal connection. She has also declared that when, at a Hollywood party, Carson first met his next wife-to-be, “she was standing with her back to him, and he went right up to her, thinking it was me.” On matters such as this, Carson’s lips are meticulously sealed. All we know—or need to know—is that on September 30, 1972, during a gaudy celebration at the Beverly Hills Hotel in honor of his tenth anniversary on the “Tonight Show,” he stepped up to the microphone and announced that at one-thirty that afternoon he had married Joanna Holland. Of Italian lineage, and a model by profession, she was thirty-two years old. They are still together. It is difficult to see how Carson could have mistaken her, even from behind, for her predecessor. She could not be sanely described as diminutive. Dark-haired, yes; but of medium height and voluptuous build. The third Mrs. Carson is the kind of woman, bright and molto simpatica, whom you would expect to meet not in Bel Air but at a cultural soiree in Rome, where—as like as not—she would be more than holding her own against the earnest platonic advances of Michelangelo Antonioni.)

Carson’s post-college career follows the route to success traditionally laid down for a television—What? Personality-cum-comedian-cum-interviewer? No single word yet exists to epitomize his function, though it has had many practitioners, from Steve Allen, the archetypal pioneer, to the hosts of the latest and grisliest giveaway shows. In Carson’s case, there are ten steps to stardom. (1) A multi-purpose job (at forty-seven dollars and fifty cents a week) as disc jockey, weather reporter, and reader of commercials on an Omaha radio station, where he breaks a precedent or two; e.g., when he is required to conduct pseudo-interviews, consisting of answers prerecorded by minor celebrities and distributed to small-town d.j.s with a list of matching questions, he flouts custom by ignoring the script. Instead of asking Patti Page how she began performing, he says, “I understand you’re hitting the bottle pretty good, Patti—when did you start?,” which elicits the taped reply “When I was six, I used to get up at church socials and do it.” (2) A work-hunting foray, in 1951, to San Francisco and Los Angeles, which gets him nowhere except back to Omaha. (3) A sudden summons, later in the same year, from a Los Angeles television station, KNXT, offering him a post as staff announcer, which he accepts, at a hundred and thirty-five dollars a week. (4) A Sunday-afternoon show of his own (“KNXT cautiously presents ‘Carson’s Cellar’ “), produced on a weekly budget of twenty-five dollars, plus fifty for Carson. It becomes what is known as a cult success (a golden phrase, which unlocks many high-level doors), numbering among its fans—and subsequently its guests—such people as Fred Allen, Jack Benny, and Red Skelton. (5) Employment, after thirty weeks of “Carson’s Cellar,” as a writer and supporting player on Skelton’s CBS-TV show. (6) The Breakthrough, which occurs in 1954 and is brought about, in strict adherence to the “Forty-second Street” formula, by an injury to the star: Skelton literally knocks himself out while rehearsing a slapstick routine, and Carson, at roughly an hour’s notice, triumphantly replaces him. (7) The Breakdown: CBS launches “The Johnny Carson Show,” a half-hour program that goes through seven directors, eight writers, and thirty-nine weeks of worsening health before expiring, in the spring of 1956. (8) Carson picks self up, dusts self off, starts all over again. On money borrowed from his father, he moves from the West Coast to New York, where he joins the Friars Club, impresses its show-business membership with his cobra-swift one-liners, makes guest appearances on TV and generally repairs his damaged reputation until (9) he is hired by ABC, in 1957, to run its quiz program “Who Do You Trust?,” on which he spends the five increasingly prosperous years that lead him to (10) the “Tonight Show,” and thence to the best table in the Polo Lounge, where he has been waiting for several minutes when I arrive, precisely on time.

He is making copious notes on a pad. I ask what he is writing. He says he has had an idea for tonight’s monologue. In Utah, yesterday, the convicted murderer Gary Gilmore, who had aroused national interest by his refusal to appeal against the death sentence passed upon him, got his wish by facing a firing squad—Utah being a state where the law allows condemned criminals to select the method by which society will rid itself of them. Thus, the keepers of the peace have shot a man to death at his own urgent request. Carson’s comment on this macabre situation takes the form of black comedy. Since justice must be seen to be done, why not let the viewing public in on the process of choice? Carson proposes a new TV show, to be called “The Execution Game.” It would work something like this: Curtains part to reveal the death chamber, in the middle of which is an enormous wheel, equipped with glittering lights and a large golden arrow, to be spun by the condemned man to decide the nature of his fate. For mouth-watering prizes—ranging from a holiday for two in the lovely Munich suburb of Dachau to a pair of front-row seats at the victim’s terminal throes—members of the audience vie with one another to guess whether the arrow will come to rest on the electric chair, the gas chamber, the firing squad, the garrote, or the noose.

High on his list of favorite guests is Don Rickles, though he feels that Rickles has sadly mishandled his own TV career: “He went in for situation comedy and tried to be lovable. And he failed every time. What he needed—and I’ve told him this over and over again—was a game show called something like ‘Meet Don Rickles,’ where he could be himself and insult the audience, the way Groucho did on ‘You Bet Your Life.’ “ Although Carson himself is less acid than he used to be, he is still capable of slapping down visitors who get uppish with him. “There was one time,” he recalls, “when we had Tuesday Weld on the program, and she started behaving rather snottily. I finally asked her something innocuous about her future plans, and she said she’d let me know ‘when I’m back on the show next year.’ I was very polite. I just said that I hadn’t scheduled her again quite that soon.” Beyond doubt, Carson’s least beloved subjects are British comedians, of whom he says, “I find them unfunny, infantile, and obsessed with toilet jokes. They’re lavatory-minded.” (It is true that British comics sometimes indulge, on TV, in scatological—and sexual—humor that would not be permitted on any American network; but this kind of liberty, however it may be abused, seems to me infinitely preferable to the restrictiveness that prevented Buddy Hackett, Carson’s principal guest on February 1, 1977, from completing a single punch line without being bleeped.) I throw into the conversation my own opinion, which is that to shrink from referring to basic physical functions is to be truly infantile; to make good jokes about them, as about anything else, is evidence of maturity. It is depressing to reflect that if Rabelais were alive today he would not be advised to appear on the “Tonight Show.”

Carson once said, “I’ve never seen it chiselled in stone tablets that TV must be uplifting.” I ask him how he feels about his talk-show competitor Dick Cavett. His answer is brisk: “The trouble with Dick is that he’s never decided what he wants to be—whether he’s going for the sophisticated, intellectual viewer or for the wider audience. He falls between two stools. It gets so that you feel he’s apologizing if he makes a joke.” In reply to the accusation that his own show is intellectually jejune, Carson has this to say: “I don’t want to get into big debates about abortion, homosexuality, prostitution, and so forth. Not because I’m afraid of them but because we all know the arguments on both sides, and they’re circular. The fact is that TV is probably not the ideal place to discuss serious issues. It’s much better to read about them.” With this thought—self-serving but not easily refutable—he takes his leave.

February 10, 1977: The Hasty Pudding Club at Harvard has elected Carson its Man of the Year. There have been ten previous holders of the title, among them Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, James Stewart, Dustin Hoffman, and Warren Beatty. Delighted by the honor, because it is untainted by either lobbying or commercialism, Carson will fly to Harvard in two weeks’ time to receive his trophy. While he is there, he will attend the opening night of “Cardinal Knowledge,” the hundred-and-twenty-ninth in the series of all-male musicals presented by Hasty Pudding Theatricals, which claims to be the oldest dramatic society in the United States. I am to travel with Carson on what will be his first trip to Harvard. To give me details of the program of events that the Pudding people have prepared for him, he asks me to his home in Bel Air, where I present myself at 11 a.m. It is roughly five minutes by car from the Beverly Hills Hotel, and was built in 1950 for the director Mervyn LeRoy. Carson bought it five years ago, and, like many places where West Coast nabobs dwell, it is about as grand as a house can be that has no staircase. When you turn in at the driveway, a voice issuing from the wall sternly inquires your name and business; if your reply pacifies it, iron gates swing open to admit you.

I am welcomed by Joanna Carson’s secretary, a lively young woman named Sherry Fleiner, part of whose job consists of working with Mrs. C. for a charitable organization known as share—Share Happily And Reap Endlessly—which raises funds for the mentally retarded. (Other than a married couple who act as housekeepers, the Carsons have no live-in servants.) Proffering Carson’s apologies, Miss Fleiner says that he is out on the tennis court behind the house, halfway through a closely fought third set. While awaiting match point, I discreetly case the joint, which has (I learn from Miss Fleiner) six bedrooms. Except where privacy is essential, the walls are mainly of glass, and there is window-to-window carpeting with a zebra-stripe motif. Doors are infrequent. In accordance with local architectural custom, you do not leave one room to enter another, you move from one living area to the next. In the reading area (or “library”) I spot a photograph of four generations of Carsons, the eldest being my host’s grandfather Christopher Carson, who died two years ago at the age of ninety-eight, and I recall Carson’s saying to me, in that steely, survivor’s voice of his, “One thing about my family—we have good genes.” On a wall nearby hangs a portrait of Carson by Norman Rockwell, the perfect artist for this model product of Middle American upbringing. Other works of art, scattered through the relaxing, ingesting, and greeting areas, reveal an eclectic, opulent, but not barbarously spendthrift taste; e.g., a well-chosen group of paintings by minor Impressionists; a camel made out of automobile bumpers by John Kearney and (an authentic rarity) a piece of sculpture by Rube Goldberg; together with statues and graphic art from the Orient and Africa. Over the fireplace in the relaxing area, a facile portrait of Mrs. Carson, who deserves more eloquent brushwork, smilingly surveys the swimming pool.

Having won his match, Carson joins me, his white sporting gear undarkened by sweat, and leads me out of the house to a spacious octagonal office he has built alongside the tennis court. This is his command module. It contains machinery for large-screen TV projection, and a desk of Presidential dimensions, bristling with gadgets. On a built-in sofa lies a cushion that bears the embroidered inscription “it’s all in the timing.” Coffee is served, and Carson offers me one of his cigarettes, which I refuse. He says that most people, even hardened smokers, do the same, and I do not find this surprising, since the brand he favors is more virulent and ferociously unfiltered than any other on the market. He briefs me on the impending Harvard visit—a day and a half of sightseeing, speechmaking, banquets, conferences, seminars, and receptions that would tax the combined energies of Mencken, Mailer, and Milton Berle—and then throws himself open to me for further questioning.

Q: When you’re at home, whom do you entertain?

Carson: My lawyer, Henry Bushkin, who’s probably my best friend. A few doctors. One or two poker players. Some people I’ve met through tennis, which is my biggest hobby right now—though I’m still interested in astronomy and scuba diving. And, of course, a couple of people who work on the show. But the point is that not many of my friends are exclusively show-business.

Q: Why do you dislike going to parties?

Carson: Because I get embarrassed by attention and adulation. I don’t know how to react to them in private. Swifty Lazar, for instance, sometimes embarrasses me when he praises me in front of his friends. I feel much more comfortable with a studio audience. On the show, I’m in control. Socially, I’m not in control.

Q: On the show, one of the things you control most strictly is the expression of your own opinions. Why do you keep them a secret from the viewers?

Carson: I hate to be pinned down. Take the case of Larry Flynt, for example. [Flynt, the publisher of the sex magazine Hustler, had recently been convicted on obscenity charges.] Now, I think Hustler is tawdry, but I also think that if the First Amendment means what it says, then it protects Flynt as much as anyone else, and that includes the American Nazi movement. As far as I’m concerned, people should be allowed to read and see whatever they like, provided it doesn’t injure others. If they want to read pornography until it comes out of their ears, then let them. But if I go on the “Tonight Show” and defend Hustler, the viewers are going to tag me as that guy who’s into pornography. And that’s going to hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am.

Q: In private life, who’s the wittiest man you’ve ever known?

Carson: The wittiest would have to be Fred Allen. He appeared on a show I had in the fifties, called “Carson’s Cellar,” and I knew him for a while after that—until he died, in 1956. But there’s an old vaudeville proverb—”A comic is a man who says funny things, and a comedian is a man who says things funny.” If that’s a valid distinction, then Fred was a comic, whereas Jonathan Winters and Mel Brooks are comedians. But they make me laugh just as much.

Before I go, Carson takes me down to a small gymnasium beneath the module. It is filled with gleaming steel devices, pulleys and springs and counterweights, which, together with tennis, keep the star’s body trim. In one corner stands a drum kit at which Buddy Rich might cast an envious eye. “That’s where I work off my hostilities,” Carson explains. He escorts me to my car, and notices that it is fitted with a citizens-band radio. “I had one of those damned things, but I ripped it out after a couple of weeks,” he says. “I just couldn’t bear it—all those sick anonymous maniacs shooting off their mouths.”

I understand what he means. Most of what you hear on CB radio is either tedious (truck drivers warning one another about speed traps) or banal (schoolgirls exchanging notes on homework), but at its occasional—and illegal—worst it sinks a pipeline to the depths of the American unconscious. Your ears are assaulted by the sound of racism at its most rampant, and by masturbation fantasies that are the aural equivalent of rape. The sleep of reason, to quote Goya’s phrase, brings forth monsters, and the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge. Not often, of course; but when they do, CB radio becomes the dark underside of a TV talk show. No wonder Carson loathes it.

February 24, 1977: Morning departure from Los Angeles Airport of flight bearing Boston-bound Carson party, which consists of Mr. and Mrs. C., Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bushkin, and me. Boyish-looking, with an easy smile, a soft voice, and a modest manner, Bushkin, to whom I talked a few days earlier, is a key figure in Carson’s private and professional life. “Other stars have an agent, a personal manager, a business manager, a P.R. man, and a lawyer,” he told me. “I serve all those functions for Johnny.” Bushkin was born in the Bronx in 1942. He moved to the West Coast five years ago and swiftly absorbed the ground rules of life in Beverly Hills; e.g., he is likely to turn up at his desk in a cardigan and an open-necked shirt, thus obeying the precept that casualness of office attire increases in direct ratio to grandeur of status. He first met Carson through a common friend in 1970, when he was working for a small Manhattan law firm that specialized in show-business clients. At that time, Carson lived at the United Nations Plaza, where one of his neighbors was David (Sonny) Werblin, formerly the driving force behind the Music Corporation of America and (until 1968) the president of the New York Jets. In 1969, Werblin had drawn up a plan whereby he and Carson would form a corporation, called Raritan Enterprises, to take over the entire production of the “Tonight Show,” which would then be rented out to NBC for a vast weekly fee. Rather than risk losing Carson, the network caved in and agreed to Raritan’s terms. “As the tax laws were in the late sixties, when you could pay up to ninety per cent on earned income, the Raritan scheme had certain advantages,” Bushkin explained to me. “But there were handicaps that Johnny hadn’t foreseen. Werblin had too many outside interests—for one thing, he owned a good-sized racing stable—and Johnny found himself managing the company as well as starring in the show, because his partner wasn’t always there. When a major problem came up, he’d suddenly discover that Werblin had taken off for a month in Europe and couldn’t be reached. Around 1972, Johnny decided that the plan wasn’t working, and that’s when he asked me to represent him. Not to go into details, let’s just say that Werblin was painlessly eliminated from the setup. By that time, the maximum tax on earned income was down to fifty per cent, and that removed the basic motive for the corporate arrangement. So the show reverted to being an NBC operation. But Johnny went back with a much better financial deal than he had in 1969.” When Bushkin came to Beverly Hills, in 1973, his life already revolved around Carson’s. “It took about three years for our relationship to get comfortable, because Johnny isn’t easy to know,” he went on. “But now we’re the best of friends, and so are our wives. The unwritten rule for lawyers is: Don’t get too friendly with clients. But this is an unusual situation. This is Carson, and Carson’s my priority.”

Ed McMahon, I remarked, had predicted that Carson would stay with the “Tonight Show” until 1980. “I’ll bet you that he’s still there in 1984,” Bushkin said.

If Carson can hold on as long as that, it would be churlish of NBC to unseat him before he reaches retiring age, in 1990.

5:30 p.m.: We land at Boston. Frost underfoot. Carson, following his new President’s example, totes his suit (presumably the tuxedo required for tomorrow’s festivities) off the plane. He murmurs to me, “If someone could get Billy Carter to sponsor a carry-off suitcase, they’d make a fortune.” He walks through popping flashbulbs and a fair amount of hand-held-camera work to be greeted by Richard Palmer and Barry Sloane, undergraduate co-producers of the Hasty Pudding show, who look bland, businesslike, and utterly untheatrical; i.e., like co-producers. Waiting limos take Carsons and Bushkins to the Master’s Residence at Eliot House, where they are to spend the night. I repair to my hotel.

8:30 p.m.: Pudding people give dinner for Carson and his entourage at waterfront restaurant called Anthony’s Pier 4. When I announce destination, my cabdriver says, “That’s the big Republican place. Gold tablecloths. Democrats like checked tablecloths. They go to Jimmy’s Harbor Side.” Décor at Anthony’s features rustic beamery and period prints. Tablecloths definitely straw-colored, though cannot confirm that this has political resonance. Carson (in blue sports jacket, white shirt, and discreetly striped tie) sits beside wife (in brown woollen two-piece, with ring like searchlight on left hand) at round table with Bushkins, Pudding officials, and short, heavily tanned man with vestigial hair, dark silk suit, smoke-tinted glasses, and general aspect of semi-simian elegance. This, I learn, is David Tebet, the senior vice-president of NBC, whose suzerainty covers the Carson show, and who in May, 1977, will celebrate his twenty-first anniversary with the network. Of the three men who wield influence over Carson (the others being Bushkin and Fred de Cordova), Tebet is ultimately the most powerful. “It’s a terrible thing to wish on him,” Frank Sinatra once said of Tebet, “but it’s too bad he’s not in government today.” In 1975, Robert D. Wood, then president of CBS-TV, described Tebet as “the ambassador of all NBC’s good will—he sprinkles it around like ruby dust.” With characteristic effusiveness, de Cordova has declared that the dust-sprinkler’s real title should be “vice-president in charge of caring.” In 1965, Carson came to the conclusion that he had to quit the “Tonight Show,” because the daily strain was too great, but Tebet persuaded him to stay; what tipped the scale was the offer of an annual paid vacation of six weeks. Ten years later, Carson said he had a feeling that when he died a color TV set would be delivered to his graveside and “on it will be a ribbon and a note that says, ‘Have a nice trip. Love, David.’ “

During dinner, although wine is served, Carson drinks only coffee. He talks about “Seeds.” a Wasp parody of “Roots,” dealing with history of orthodox Midwestern family, which was recently broadcast on the “Tonight Show.” Concept was his, and he is pleased with how it came out, though he regrets loss of one idea that was cut; viz., scene depicting primitive tribal ceremony at which the hyphen is ritually removed from Farrah Fawcett-Majors.

“He looks so mechanical, “ mutters a Pudding person on my right. “Like a talking propelling pencil.” Same fellow explains to me that the club is divided into social and theatrical compartments. Former was founded in 1795; latter did not develop until 1844, when first show was presented, establishing an annual tradition that has persisted—apart from two inactive years in each of the World Wars—ever since. Pudding performers have included Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Randolph Hearst, Robert Benchley (star of “Below Zero,” 1912), and Jack Lemmon. Tomorrow’s production, which is to play a month at Pudding theatre, followed by quick tour to New York, Washington, and Bermuda, will cost a hundred thousand dollars. Revenue from box office and from program advertising, plus aid from wealthy patrons, will insure that it breaks even. (Undergraduates provide words, music, and cast; direction, choreography, and design are by professionals.) Publicity accruing from Carson’s presence will boost ticket sales; thus, his visit amounts to unpaid commercial for show.

Another Pudding functionary tells me that club also bestows award on Woman of the Year—has, in fact, been doing so since 1951. First recipient was Gertrude Lawrence, Bette Midler got the nod in 1976, and last week Elizabeth Taylor turned up to collect the trophy for 1977. “She is genuinely humble,” my informant gravely whispers. After dinner, Carson and wife are interviewed in banqueting salon of restaurant by local TV station. Mrs. C. is asked, “Did you fall in love with the private or the public Johnny Carson?” She replies, “I fell in love with both.” Before further secrets of the confessional can be extracted, camera runs out of tape, to her evident relief.

February 25, 1977: Dining hall of Eliot House is crowded at 8:45 a.m. University band, with brass section predominant, lines up and plays “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard” as Carson (black-and-white checked sports jacket) leads his party in to breakfast. His every move is followed, as it will be all day, by television units, undergraduate film crew, and assorted press photographers. Asked by TV director whether sound system is to his liking, Carson says he has no complaints, “except I thought the microphone under the bed was pushing it a bit.” Member of Harvard band achieves minor triumph of one-upmanship by conning Carson into inscribing and autographing autobiography of Dick Cavett.

Fast duly broken, party embarks on walking tour of Harvard Yard and university museums. Hundreds of undergraduates join media people in the crush around Carson, and police cars prowl in their wake to protect the star from terrorist assaults or kidnap attempts. Weather is slate-clouded and icy; Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Bushkin both wear mink coats. Climax of tour is meeting with John Finley, internationally eminent classical scholar and treasure of Harvard campus, Eliot Professor of Greek Literature Emeritus and Master of Eliot House Emeritus, whose study is in the Widener Library. (During previous week, I called Professor Finley to find out how he felt about forthcoming encounter with Carson. “At first, I thought it was an asinine idea,” he said. “I’ve never seen the man on television—as a matter of fact, I’ve spent most of my life with my nose plunged into classical texts. But, after all, how important is one’s time anyway?”) Carson is properly deferential in the presence of this agile septuagenarian. Eavesdropping on their conversation, I hear Professor Finley say, “Writing is like an artesian well that we sink to find the truth.” He talks about Aristotle, getting little response, and then tries to clarify for Carson the distinction drawn by Lionel Trilling between sincerity and authenticity, in literature and in life. “President Carter is an example of sincerity,” he explains. “But whether he has authenticity—well, that’s another matter. I’m not sure that Trilling would have been much impressed.” Cannot imagine what Carson is making of all this.

12:30 p.m.: Luncheon in Carson’s honor at the A.D. Club, described to me by reliable source as “the second-stuffiest in Harvard.” (First prize goes, by general consent, if not by acclamation, to the Porcellian Club. Choice of venue today is dictated by fact that co-producers of Pudding show are members of A.D. and not of Porcellian.) Atmosphere is robustly patrician enough to warm heart of late Evelyn Waugh: sprigs of Back Bay dynasties sprawl in leather armchairs beneath group photographs of their forebears. Club clearly deserves title of No. 2; it could not conceivably try harder. Members cheer as Carson enters, flanked by Bushkin and Tebet. (This is a strictly stag sodality.) About twenty guests present, among them Professor Finley and Robert Peabody, son of former governor of Massachusetts and vice-president of Pudding Theatricals—a bouncing two-hundred-and-fifty-pound lad much cherished by Pudding enthusiasts for his comic talent in drag. Carson, still rejecting grape in favor of bean, wears blue sweater, dark slacks, and burgundy patent-leather shoes. When meal is consumed, he makes charming speech of thanks, in which he regrets that life denied him the opportunity of studying under Prof. Finley. (Later, rather less lovably, he is to tell drama students at Pudding Club that from his lunchtime chat with Finley “I learned a hell of a lot more about Aristotle than I wanted to know.”)

2 p.m.: Carson is driven to Pudding H.Q. on Holyoke Street—narrow thoroughfare jammed with fans, through whom club officials have to force a way to the entrance. Upstairs, in red-curtained reception room, Carson is to hold seminar with thirty handpicked undergraduates who are studying the performing arts. This select bunch of initiates sits in circle of red armchairs. Carson takes his place among them and awaits interrogation. Standard of questions, dismal for allegedly high-powered assembly, seldom rises above gossip level; e.g.:

Q: As a regular viewer, may I ask why you have switched from wearing a Windsor knot to a four-in-hand?

Carson: Well, I guess that’s about all we have time for. [Questioner presses for reply.] Just between ourselves, it’s a defense mechanism.

Q: Did Jack Paar have someone like Ed McMahon to work with?

Carson: No. A psychiatrist worked with Jack Paar. The last time I saw Paar was in Philadelphia. He was sitting on a curb and he had a swizzle stick embedded in his hand. I removed it.

Q: I’ve noticed that people don’t always laugh at your monologue. Why is that?

Carson: Well, we don’t actually structure it to go down the toilet. But we work from the morning papers and sometimes the audience isn’t yet aware of what’s happened in the news.

Q: How do you really feel about Jimmy Carter?

Carson: The Carter Administration is perfect comedy material. And I think he rented the family. I don’t believe Lillian is his mother. I don’t believe Billy is his brother. They’re all from Central Casting.

Q: Do you normally watch the show when you get home?

Carson: No. I’d get worn out from seeing it all over again. If we’re breaking in a new character, I’ll watch.

Q [first of any substance]: Has the “Tonight Show” done anything more important than just brighten up the end of the day?

Carson: I’d say it was quite important to let people hear the opinions of people like Paul Ehrlich, Carl Sagan, Gore Vidal, Margaret Mead. . . [Vide supra, passim.] We’ve also taken an interest in local politics. One year, there were eleven candidates for Mayor of Burbank, and we had to give them all equal time. That was pretty public-spirited. But what’s important? I think it’s important to show ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Like we once had a Japanese guy from Cleveland who wanted to be a cop but he was too short, so his wife had been hanging him up every night by his heels. And it’s important to help people live out their fantasies, like when I pitched to Mickey Mantle on the show, or when I played quarterback for the New York Jets. But a lot of the time TV is judged by the wrong standards. If Broadway comes up with two first-rate new plays in a season, the critics are delighted. That’s a good season. But on TV they expect that every week. It’s a very visible medium to jump on. And there’s another thing that isn’t generally realized. If you’re selling hard goods—like soap or dog food—you simply can’t afford to put on culture. Exxon, the Bank of America—organizations like that can afford to do it. But they aren’t selling hard goods, and that’s what the “Tonight Show” has to do. [Applause for candor. This is the nearest approach to hard eloquence I have heard from Carson, and he sells it to great effect.]

Q: What is Charo really like?

This reduces Carson to silence, bringing the seminar to a close.

4:30 p.m.: Cocktail party for Carson at Club Casablanca, local haunt crowded to point just short of asphyxiation. Star and companions have changed into evening dress. Carson tells me how Prof. Finley sought to explain to him eternal simplicities of Aristotle’s view of life, and adds, “He’s out of touch with the real world.” Subject for debate: By what criteria can Carson’s world be said to be closer to reality than Aristotle’s? Or, for that matter, than Professor Finley’s? Carson group and non-acting Pudding dignitaries then proceed on foot to nearby bistro called Ferdinand’s for early dinner. Eating quite exceptional soft-shell crabs, I sit next to Joanna C., who has flashing eyes and a quill- shaped Renaissance nose. Her mother’s parents came from northern Italy; her father’s family background is Sicilian. She introduced Carson to what is now his favorite Manhattan restaurant, an Italian place named Patsy’s, and her immediate ambition is to coax him to visit Italy. Eying her husband (who must be well into his second gallon of coffee since breakfast), she tells me that the only time she has seen him cry was at the funeral of Jack Benny, who befriended and helped him from his earliest days in TV. She doesn’t think he will still be on the “Tonight Show” when he’s sixty (i.e., in 1985). “Of course, everybody wants him to act,” she continues. “He was offered the Steve McQueen part in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ and Mel Brooks begged him to play the Gene Wilder part in ‘Blazing Saddles.’ He read the script twice. Then he called Mel from Acapulco and said, ‘I read it in L.A. and it wasn’t funny, and it’s even less funny in Mexico.’ “

David Tebet, seated opposite, leans across table and tells me what he does. His voice is a serrated baritone growl. From what I gather, he is a combination of talent detector, ego masseur (of NBC stars), and thief (of other networks’ stars). Has been quoted as saying that he judges performers by “a thing called gut reaction,” and that he understands “their soft underbellies.” To a thing called my surprise, he adds that these qualities of intestinal intuition help to keep stars reassured. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a two-thousand-year-old samurai sword hangs over the door of his New York office. Am not certain that this would have reassuring effect on me. It may, however, explain enigmatic remark of Bob Hope, who once referred to Tebet as “my Band-Aid.” Razor-edged weapon is part of huge Tebet art collection (mainly Oriental but also including numerous prints and lithographs by Mucha, Klimt, Schiele, Munch, et al.), much of which adorns his NBC suite. Tebet claims this makes actors feel at home. But at whose home?

7 p.m.: Back to Pudding Club for pre-performance press conference. I count five movie and/or TV cameras, eight microphones, about thirty photographers, and several dozen reporters, all being jostled by roughly a hundred and fifty guests, gate-crashers, and ticket-holders diverted from route to auditorium by irresistible surge of Carson-watchers. Bar serves body-temperature champagne in plastic glasses; Carson requests slug of water.

Reporter asks what he thinks of Barbara Walters’ million-dollar contract with ABC News.

He replies, “I think Harry Reasoner has a contract out for Barbara Walters.”

Press grilling is routine stuff, except for:

Q: What would you like your epitaph to be?

CARSON [after pause for thought]: I’ll be right back.

Laughter and applause for this line, the traditional cliché with which talk-show hosts segue into commercial break. Subsequent research reveals that Carson has used it before in answer to same question. Fact increases my respect for his acting ability. That pause for thought would have fooled Lee Strasberg.

8 p.m.: Join expectant crowd in Pudding theatre, attractive little blue auditorium with three hundred and sixty-three seats. Standees line walls. In fat program I read tribute to “that performer who has made the most outstanding contribution to the entertainment profession during the past years—Johnny Carson.” Article also states that in the fifties he wrote for “The Red Skeleton Show”—ideal title, I reflect, for Vincent Price Special—and concludes by summing up Carson’s gifts in a burst of baroque alliteration: “Outspoken yet disciplined, he is a pool of profanity, a pit of profundity.” Audience by now buzzing with impatience to hear from pool (or pit) in person.

Co-producer Palmer takes the stage and, reading from notes, pays brief homage to “a performer whose wit, humor, and showmanship rank him among America’s greatest—ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Johnny Carson!” Band plays “Tonight Show” theme as Carson walks down the aisle and clambers up to shake Palmer’s hand. Standing ovation greets him. Co-producer Sloane emerges from wings and solemnly presents him with small golden pudding pot. Ovation persists—three hundred and sixty-three seats are empty. When it and the spectators have subsided, Carson holds up his hands for silence and then makes speech precisely right for occasion. (Without notes, of course, as befits man who, if program is to be believed, has “liberated the airwaves from scripted domination.”) He begins by saying that it is gratifying to hear so much applause without anyone’s brandishing a sign marked “Applause.” He thanks the club for the honor bestowed on him, even though (he adds) “I understand that this year the short list for the award was me, Idi Amin, and Larry Flynt.” He expresses special gratitude for the hospitality extended to his wife and to him by Eliot House: “It’s the first time I’ve scored with a chick on campus since 1949.” He has never visited the university before. However, it has played a small but significant role in his family history: “My Great-Uncle Orville was here at Harvard. Unfortunately, he was in a jar in the biology lab.” Widening his focus, he throws in a couple of comments on the state of the nation. Apropos of the recent and groundless panic over immunizing the population against a rumored epidemic of swine flu: “Our government has finally come up with a cure for which there is no known disease.” And a nostalgic shot at a familiar target: “I hear that whenever anyone in the White House tells a lie, Nixon gets a royalty.” End of address. Sustained cheers, through which Carson returns, blinking in a manner not wholly explicable by the glare of the spotlights, to his seat.

“Cardinal Knowledge,” the Pudding musical, at last gets under way. It’s a farrago of melodramatic intrigue, with seventeenth-century setting and plethora of puns; e.g., characters called Barry de Hatchet and Viscount Hugh Behave. (How far can a farrago go?) Am pleased by high standard of performance, slightly dismayed by lack of obscenity in text. No need to dwell on show except to praise Robert Peabody, mountainously flirtatious as Lady Della Tory, and Mark Szpak, president of Pudding Theatricals, who plays the heroine, Juana deBoise, with a raven-haired Latin vivacity that puts me in mind of the youthful Lea Padovani. Or the present Mrs. Carson.

10:15 p.m.: Intermission not yet over. Carson at bar, still on caffeine, besieged by mass of undergraduates, all of whom receive bright and civil answers to their questions. He has now been talking to strangers for thirteen hours (interrupted only by Act I of show) with no loss of buoyancy. “For the first time in my life,” he remarks to me, “I know what it’s like to be a politician.”

Midnight has passed before the curtain falls and he makes his exit, to renewed acclamation. One gets the impression that the audience is applauding not just an admired performer but—why shun simplicities?—a decent and magnanimous man.

Two thoughts in conclusion:

(1) If the most we ask of live television is entertainment within the limits set by commercial sponsorship, then Carson, week in, week out, is the very best we shall get. If, on the other hand, we ask to be challenged, disturbed, or provoked at the same time that we are entertained, Carson must inevitably disappoint us. But to blame him for that would be to accuse him of breaking a promise he never made.

(2) Though the written and rehearsed portions of what Carson does can be edited together into an extremely effective cabaret act, the skill that makes him unique—the ability to run a talk show as he does—is intrinsically, exclusively televisual. Singers, actors, and dancers all have multiple choices: they can exercise their talents in the theatre, on TV, or in the movies. But a talk-show host can only become a more successful talk-show host. There is no place in the other media for the gifts that distinguish him—most specifically, for the gift of re-inventing himself, night after night, without rehearsal or repetition. Carson, in other words, is a grand master of the one show-business art that leads nowhere. He has painted himself not into a corner but onto the top of a mountain.





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Tila Tequila has done it all on her own, and definitely on her own terms. She's an internationally known star who has built her network of fans literally, one friend at a time. What's more, she has the email addresses of all of her friends, who wouldn't want that sort of access to their fans and crew?

It wasn't always so easy for Tila though, growing up in Houston, she actually lived in a Buddhist Temple with a gated community of few. By age 16, her tomboyish attitude got her kicked out of school and eventually landed in a boarding school. She had already been in a adult relationship for a few years, and was using her sister's ID to break into the club scene.

Eventually tiring of Houston, she made her rounds to New York, where she experimented with drugs and a hardcore lifestyle. Tired of her all female mnage et trois relationship, she headed to Los Angeles where at 18, she was scouted by Playboy, and eventually became their first ever Asian Cyber Girl of the Month.

Never more than now has celebrity been celebrated so unbrokenly, no unabashedly, and so much without merit. Being famous now has become it's own reward. Consider American Idol, and ridiculous and addictive shows that somehow instantly translate stardom into celebrity. Tila Tequila has used simple, and some might agree Punk DIY ethics to create her stardom, one fan at a time.

Not only is she the hottest property in MySpace, which means she's one of the hottest women in the world, but she's almost finished her debut album, and on the crest of an ever rising wave. She is featured on the new My Space compilation album alongside AFI, Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional and Weezer amongst others. Surely this risings starlet is going to soon to take over the fan at a time.........



TILA FASHION mailing list" alt="Link to this page">

ok what the hell man? I know I have lots of friends on here but it's not like I can help it ok? I didn't join this thing thinking, "OMG I SOOOO HAVE TO GET A MILLION FRIENDS ON HERE!" Yea right! It was more like someone invited me to join and I was like k wutever....another stupid lame online community. Who would've known that my profile would turn into some kind of weird "Tila Phenomenon!" hahaha! What I'm trying to say is.....just because I have lots of friends on here and blah blah blah...that doesn't mean that I'm not a normal girl who wants to meet normal and down to earth people....BECAUSE I AM AND DO!

So don't be afraid to write me...I will read them all, HOWEVER I may not write back to everyone because I honestly get a billion notes a day. If you are just writing to say..."ohohohoh fuck me you're hot!" I won't be able to write back ok? And don&..39;t get all bitter if I can't write you back....I'm not mad at your nor do I hate you ok?? All I'm asking is for some understanding...that's all....ummm what else?? OH YEA....AND PLEASE....I AM NOT SOME KIND OF ADVERTISING TOOL! DON'T FUCKEN TRY TO USE ME OK? Like I always have people writing me asking me to post up advertising bulletins for them since I can reach lots of people....dude...fuck off! I feel so fucken used! Also people keep asking me how to put music on their page, if they can use my server to put music up and blah blah know what?? I AM NOT A WEBMASTER NOR IS MY OFFICIAL WEBSITE A HOST FOR YOUR MUSIC FOR ONLINE COMMUNITIES! *breaths* Jesus....I think that is all for now...other than that...I love you guys. You gimme something to do when I am bored at 4 in the guys totally rock....just stop using me for stuff ok? Thanks...xoxoxoxox

I love it how some people that don't know me personally have all these different views and opinions on me. People really love to judge a book by it's cover and it makes me laugh at how some people have that whole I'm-so-hardcore-and-so-much-more-punk-than-you image down to a tee, yet they are really only a little wimp. People love to judge me only from the photos they see, but let me tell you something about photos....they don't say much about a person at all.

I am who I am and I'm not a poser. I'm not going to get a mowhawk and start punching walls just to prove to everyone how hardcore I am...Anyway... I'm not gonna sit here and babble about my whole life and the shit I've been through however I will tell you this.....I like to have fun and I like to stay away from violence cuz I grew up with nothing but violence. That's all I knew. That's what was in my blood and I moved away to start a new life for myself...violence is retarded....HOWEVER, I don't let people step on my toes either. So that's all I gotta say...don't ever, ever judge a book by it's cover. I never do. You never know what's out there and if people really are who they say they are.... P.S.-I hate to say this but I will fucken slam you if you fuck with me. Give me respect, I give you it? let's go have a cigarette.....xox


I am very happy to announce that I have been working very, very hard these past few months for the re-launching of my OFFICIAL WEBSITE at: So please make sure to keep that link in your favorites list would mean a lot to me...hehehe....

By reading everyone's comments on my page everyday I realized that, with so many people on my friendslist here on myspace, it's a little hard for me to get to know my fans personally or get back to EVERYONE, however at I will be able to chat with you guys constantly and be able to get back with EVERYONE and give everyone a chance to get to know me personally!!! YAYYY! So please come back to check for updates on the re-launching of my new website! It is gonna be HOT and I worked really hard on I hope you will all like it! Coming sooon! Love ya!!!

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Dr. Luke

Lil Jon

Ya Boy

Stu Stone


Linda Strawberry



Toby One

fuckoff clothing




Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:56P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add


Jan 1 2007 1:56P

Hope you Had a wonderful New Year Weekend!

Jan 1 2007 1:55P

hey whats up =]

Jan 1 2007 1:55P

hey whats up =]

Jan 1 2007 1:55P

hey tila looking verry fine love to have you just for one night

Jan 1 2007 1:54P


Jan 1 2007 1:53P


Jan 1 2007 1:53P

yooo!!! your my hero..crazy ass, beautiful, straight up, great style! hope this year brings you lots of happiness, success and good luck!! love you lil mama!!! btw, you can pull off any hair color!

Jan 1 2007 1:53P

TILA TEQUILA Happy New Years
i dont know what to call myself

Jan 1 2007 1:53P

hey thanks for tha add n happy new years

Jan 1 2007 1:52P


Sup T... it's been a while since i dropped by to say hi or anything so you know i had to drop by for the new year and hit you up to make sure all the drinking was done at a safe spot (lol...) Well... i know you have a million other fans on here that needs some of your attention too so hit me bac when you get the chance iight?
Have A Happy New Year!!!

Jan 1 2007 1:52P

I love you as a brunette!! Hottie!!

Jan 1 2007 1:51P



the new song is already available, hear it!

Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:51P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add

Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:51P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add

Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:51P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add


Jan 1 2007 1:51P

Thanks for the crazy party last night Tila.

TrypsysClothingCo CO

Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:51P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add

Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:51P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add

Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:51P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add

Sue Ellen

Jan 1 2007 1:50P

add me its simple!!!!

click my pic then click add


Jan 1 2007 1:49P

yo happy new years tila!! 2007! cant wait for wutz in store for this year! but yea so u were sighted at melrose drivin ur mercedez. lolz. hope u had fun shoppin or wutever u were doin out there. take care.

Jan 1 2007 1:49P

i aint tryna fuck ya man lookin at my myspace lotion in his hand!aha that go...well thankz for da add myzz_tila_tequila!!!!

Jan 1 2007 1:48P

check my music out...its fire!!!!!!!

Jan 1 2007 1:48P

check my music out...its fire!!!!!!!
Benedict Bush

Jan 1 2007 1:47P

check out some true hip hop

<--------------------- br="">Multi

Jan 1 2007 1:46P


Jan 1 2007 1:46P