Memories I Should Have Had

Part Three

Toots Shor’s the original New York sports bar. Jackie Gleason’s HQ. Joe DiMaggio’s tab is still open. Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali collaborate on a poem. Mostly a male preserve though — note the woman in the upper right corner being ignored: Marilyn Monroe

10 October

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.

Elsa Maxwell always had her ladder at the ready. (It’s up or out for social climbers).

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.

Cobina Wright, Sr. wanted to be Elsa Maxwell, but was never more than her miniature, in more ways than one!

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?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaXnmLDlJog

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.

Tallulah Bankhead was the ultimate party girl.