Memories I Should Have Had
New York, Toots Shor’s, Hotel Elysée
Walking down 51st St. past midnight, after a long dinner at Toots Shor’s with Joe DiMaggio, Marianne Moore, and Jackie Gleason, who passes out midway through, with his head on my shoulder.
A cab pulls over with Cobina Wright, Sr. and Elsa Maxwell. Elsa rolls down the window and says, “Hop in, party at Tallulah’s.” It’s a tight fit. Elsa enjoys being squeezed next to Cobina.
They resume their conversation. Elsa asks Cobina, “Has Cobina, Jr. gotten over Prince Philip marrying Princess Elizabeth?” Cobina takes out a thin silver flask and says, “Have a drink, Elsa.” Elsa accepts the flask, but hands it to me.
As we pull up, Elsa chirps, “Thank God, I can just be a guest tonight.” I say, “Nice internal rhyme, Elsa.” They both stare blankly. Cobina asks, “I forget. Is it a bridge night?” Elsa replies, “Who knows with Tallulah?”
We go up. Total uproar. Eddie Duchin is playing the piano, and Mabel Mercer is singing, but I can’t hear her over the din.
In the middle of the crowded room sits Tallulah, stark naked, huskily demanding: “Doesn’t anyone else feel a draft?”
As I come into her view, her eyes drill a hole below my waist. She turns to a lithe young man at her elbow, who has a waxy complexion and lacquered blonde hair. Points to me and whispers, “Make sure he doesn’t leave early.”
I wake up, my face tickled by thick tresses. The inside of my nose is burning. I inhale and start choking on the strands of hair that’ve gotten in my mouth. I pull them out and slip off of the bed. I find a bathroom. In the mirror I see powder on my nose. I wash it off. There are teeth marks on my arms. Then I hear a groan.
“What time is it? What day is it?” Tallulah’s customary contralto, now sounding basso. I return, cough, and she mutters, “Who are you, darling?” She opens her eyes and they slowly focus between my legs, “Oh! I don’t know your name, but your fuck is familiar.” She laughs, and stops abruptly, rubbing her head. “Get over here and give me something for breakfast.” I go to her and put my hand on her cheek. “Not that, darling!” She laughs again. “Bring me a glass of bourbon, a pack of cigarettes, and the bottle of blue pills on the dresser.”
Then there’s a light tapping on the door. “Oh darling, never mind all that. Patsy will take care of everything. You run along.” While I get dressed, she falls back to sleep. I tiptoe out.