Thursday, August 10, 2006


My close friend Vincent treated me to a trip to New Orleans for Thanksgiving week in 1981. He booked separate rooms for us in a charming old Victorian guesthouse at the very end of Bourbon street. When he first told me this, I thought “hell we’ll never sleep,” but I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet it actually was, all the action was further south on the street. The ride in from the airport was nothing special as the outskirts of the city could have been in New Jersey, but as soon as we arrived in the French Quarter I knew I was in a special place. Even from the cab I was totally charmed by the architecture and the exotic feel to the Quarter and the wonderful smells of food and foliage that gently assaulted my olfactory organs. Vincent met me at the guesthouse with a big hug and kiss and we were off and running. This was about an hour before AIDS and sex in The Big Easy was very easy and very everywhere. So was great food and booze. Vincent loved all three and partook in them even more liberally than his politics. I was a bit more conservative than him, I didn’t like booze all that much and besides I could never keep up with him when it came to drinking. Not only did he drink me under the table but he could also drink me over and sideways all the furniture in the room. Once in New York he took me to have drinks at the old O’Henry restaurant on 6th ave in the Village, and he insisted that I try a Brandy Alexander. We sat at a table outside the bar in the cool spring night, and he promised me that I would love the cocktail. What he didn’t tell me that they were also lethal. Well to me it was like drinking chocolate milk and after the 3rd or 4th one I became so drunk from the sweet stuff that I had to leave the bar and try to make my way home. Vincent was also bombed, so much so that he didn’t even realize that I had left. He simply went on drinking and for all I know sat there having a wonderful conversation with himself. Back in the Big Easy I wound up spending quite a bit of time by myself. We would begin the evening together in some bar but as Vincent drank and drank a glazed look would appear on his face and I knew from past experiences that I would soon disappear from his consciousness as he zeroed in on some pretty southern boy and eventually went off into the atmospheric New Orleans night with him. In the morning I would head down to the garden for my morning coffee and crossoints and there would be Vincent with his conquest from the night before. Every morning there would be a new lad, each one charming and sweet to be sure but I felt like the maiden aunt along for the ride. One morning Vincent came down for his tea alone and I exclaimed in my best Edith Evans imitation. “You’re alone? What happened? Did All The gay boys leave New Orleans”. He let out one of his wonderful laughs and after breakfast we went on to spend a lovely day together visiting some of the museums & shopping for postcards and souvenirs. I had met Vincent in 1971 when he was teaching theatre courses at a small southern university and he had arranged for “M” to fly down to give a lecture on African-American women playwrights before 1950. Because I had never flown before “M” thought that this would be a good trip for me to take with him since he knew Vincent was a member of the tribe and felt comfortable bringing me along so to speak for the ride. He also wanted me to see what it was like to fly. Vincent and his boyfriend who he was living with in a beautiful Moderne house on a hill overlooking a still and peaceful lake met us at the airport and me and Vincent liked each other right off the bat. I was about to turn 24 and would be having my first exhibition that fall at the Fischbach Gallery. I had already been included in the Whitney sculpture annual the previous winter, but Vincent had no idea who I was nor was he familiar with my work. I forgot how he finally saw my sculpture, maybe I had brought along slides with me, and when he finally did see my art he loved it and promptly offered to buy one of my sculptures the next time he came up to New York. I didn’t care much for his boyfriend Albert though, I thought him unattractive, humorless, cold and secretive. He also taught at the university I think in the English Dept. We stayed in their guest room, which was tasteful and nicely decorated with Art Deco objects and furniture. “M” & me adored Art Deco and had slowly and fugally started to acquire a few pieces of pottery and furniture here and there. At this early date it was still possible to pick up some stuff on the cheap. Both Vincent and Albert were very gracious and nice to be around, but I especially enjoyed talking to Vincent about movies and some of our favorite stars. He would put some wonderful blues or jazz singer on the stero and showed me some of his scrapbooks that he had kept when he was a kid which were full of movie star clippings and photos along with his adolescent comments which were pretty funny. He also owned lots of books, which immediately drew me to him, and I spent some time alone browsing through them. There were also many signed photos of movie stars and writers lining the walls of the house. Vincent was and is a swell cook and would serve up lovely candle lit dinners for us on the concrete & wood patio overlooking the lake. I still remember the veal and potatoes dish he threw together and the big chocolate cake that he whipped up for us, because I had spoken to him about when I was a kid in Brooklyn I used to love Ebingers Bakerys’ Blackout Cake which to this day was the richest chocolate cake I had ever eaten. After getting back to New York, I dropped him a line thanking him for his hospitality and inviting him to visit us when he came to New York. What followed was a long and rich correspondence that really only stopped when they “invented” the internet, but our 35 year friendship is still going strong..


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