November 24, 2010

Harvey Keitel

Harvey Keitel

Last week another buddy, Captain Chuck Pfeiffer, a Special Forces hero in Vietnam (two Silver Stars), Harvey, Willy von Raab, and I attended the Notre Dame/Army game at Yankee Stadium after first getting thoroughly sloshed at Chuck’s place. There is nothing to compete with Yankee razzmatazz—as well as corniness—especially when two storied places of learning like Notre Dame and West Point, both with great traditions, meet on a Saturday evening in storied Yankee Stadium. Nearly sixty thousand people turned out for the game, alas, most of them Fighting Irish fans. What struck me was the size of Notre Dame’s band—over six hundred, and they sure did a good job of it. The spectacle was terrific, the pageantry and tradition reminding one of those careless undergraduate days, especially when Notre Dame’s band played a spirited rendition of “Rhapsody in Blue,” George Gershwin’s immortal ode to youth and romance. Then came “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” with all the West Pointers singing in their long gray uniforms, and for a moment it made one proud to be there, but then came the inevitable schmaltz which is America today.

Afterward, quite gone in liquor and nostalgia, I staggered out of the Waverly Inn, Graydon Carter’s ode to yesteryear New York, when a very old and frail lady addressed me. She was well dressed and her chauffeur was holding her up.

“Are you Taki?”

“Yes.”

“I met you a very long time ago, on the Riviera, you were handsome and you were with Tyrone Power’s wife.”

“Madam, that was a hell of a long time ago, I was not even twenty.”

“Yes, it was long ago, but I recognized you. I bet you have no idea who I am.”

I tortured myself throughout the night, and although at the time I pretended to remember in order not to hurt the lady’s feelings, I now wish I hadn’t. Yes, I was with Tyrone Power’s wife Linda Christian, and yes, I naughtily snuck out of the hotel and went to meet the lady in question at her hotel, and although handsome at the time I returned to my love nest with Linda not so handsome, as the lady’s boyfriend walked in on us and attacked me with a vase as I was leaping out of her bed in my birthday suit. It was not my finest hour and Linda also got pissed off, but I was all of 19 at the time. “Speak, memory,” as old Vladimir Nabokov said, and what wouldn’t I give to be 19 and be attacked by a man with a vase in his hand while I’m on the saddle.


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