June 06, 2015
The last week in Gotham was exceptional fun. A Broadway play—compliments of the producer, my NBF Harvey Weinstein—Finding Neverland, had me clapping with one hand due to the operation and standing with the packed theatre for the ovation. Shows how much the critics know, who panned it. The audience loved it, as did I. It’s an uplifting, wonderful play about J.M. Barrie and the children. Then there was the blind black guy in Brooklyn who told me, “You’re too pale for this neighborhood.” Go figure, as they say in that part of town.
I’m always sad to leave the city—especially with the end of spring—its vast mixture of glitz and grit, of races and colors, of violence and pleasures, of misfits and millionaires, but most of all seeing from up close a culture in decline. Someone called Gotham a vast ornithology, and that it certainly is. Not many writers take it on nowadays. But they sure used to, with elegance and economy, starting with E.B. White and Joseph Mitchell. I suppose political correctness inhibits scribes, a bit like touch boxing. One goes through the moves but is very careful not to hurt. In a self-help column in The New York Times, a reader asks for advice concerning household help. The help apparently is restricted to using service lifts. (Nothing unusual, as far as I’m concerned.) The answer from the “expert” is PC at its most egregious. It describes the building as white-glove, a modern-day Downton Abbey. It calls “household help” a poor choice of words, a euphemism for language used “even earlier, like servants.” It suggests that “personal assistants” would be less distasteful.
See what I mean about writers being afraid to take the city on? When one can’t call a spade a spade, one calls him or her—I don’t know—a buddy, Your Grace? Yet turn on the idiot box and all you will see is porn, violence, and bad white guys killing minorities. During commencement week, speakers told thousands of students that they should listen to themselves, that the Big Me is the most important thing to know, and to keep promoting themselves on social media. Tom Wolfe predicted all this thirty years ago, but even he didn’t realize how bad things would become. Character building has become a no-no, one’s weaknesses make him or her strong. Amazing! Self-glorification is the be-all and end-all. Again, go figure.
Every time a crime is committed, the mother of the perpetrator claims their little boy suffers from bipolar disorder. The hacks are very eager to report this in case the brutish cops give him a rough ride. By reading the newspapers the last two weeks I marked down the various diseases claimed by criminals with very long rap sheets: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, polysubstance dependency, attention deficit disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and one that even made the perpetrator laugh: intermittent explosive disorder.
One of the pleasures of living in New York City used to be Central Park. Central Park West’s beautiful beaux arts and art deco apartment towers were the backdrop to my vision of urban glamour. Walking by them I always imagine hearing the music of Cole Porter and faintly see Fred Astaire in his white tie and tails. Since last year things have changed dramatically. No more dreaming while crossing the park. It’s now much too dangerous. Crime, shootings, murders, and muggings have shot up, no pun intended. The new mayor, one Bill de Blasio, has ordered no more stop-and-frisk, hence criminals are out shooting at each other and muggings and murders in Central Park have quadrupled in one year. The worst news was the grisly murder and torture in D.C. of a Greek-American couple and their 10-year-old son, as well as their lady housekeeper, by an ex-con from Guyana. Savvas Savopoulos paid $40,000 dollars to the monster—who was torturing his son—by having a driver bring the money to his house, but was murdered along with the rest by the ex-con. An ambulance-chasing lawyer claimed the cops had the wrong man. He was discovered with 10,000 greenbacks in cash having traveled to New York City to see his girlfriend. His DNA matched that on a pizza box he had ordered before the murders. The lawyer’s defense was that the monster did not like pizza. The reporting was fair, but it did point out time and again that the Greek-American couple were affluent, as if affluence at times deserves what it gets. (They were successful and hardworking and self-made and hardly as rich as, say, the Clintons.)