Category Archives: history

CELEBRITY RECALLS

Long before it became a song or included in quizzes, “Do you know who you are?” was one of those instantaneous, absurd (yet common) questions most starstruck fans would ask a celebrity encountered on the streets of New York City. Not that I knew it in March of 1973 and not that I’ve made a fool of myself by uttering the question ever again. In fact, I was embarrassed and surprised I did the one time.Scan 2019-3-12 15.14.08

But we were young and giddy and on our way to Julius’ in the West Village to celebrate our anniversary with out-of-town friends when I spotted Lily Tomlin walking towards us on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village.

“Do you know who you are?” The words just gushed out.

“Gee, I think so,” was Lily’s reply, and “sure” to my request to take her photo. The shorter girl with blonde hair accompanying her hurried back out of frame range and, even though I waved her back in, she’d have nothing to do with the invite.

Apparently gaydar was down that day because none of us picked up on the other as being a couple. Or maybe an over abundance of happiness was drowning the frequency out? Because they would have been enjoying their first year together around then to our third. Which means this must be their 47th anniversary year to our 49th.

Oh happy daze!

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I rode in my first limousine on New Year’s Eve, 1973. Our friend, Tom Dale, was a market research specialist and producer of television commercials who lived in a penthouse on East 48th Street and needed to be seen on the town with arm candy as a guise for his closeted true self. Elizabeth and I were his go-to-gal-pals and happily so. It afforded us the luxury to eat at the most trendy restaurants, attend posh events, and always have third row orchestra seats on the aisle at Broadway shows. That New Year’s Eve we’d seen Pippin’ at The Music Box Theater on West 45th Street.

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The show let out to throngs of partygoers who had already gathered in Times Square and beyond anticipating the ball dropping at midnight to welcome the start of 1974. At some point the limo needed to cross Broadway to the east side. When the police separated the crowds enough for traffic from the theater district to pass through the people began to touch the darkened windows, hoping to get a glimpse of a celebrity hidden inside.

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At that moment I realized how much more we identified with those oozing joy on the outside of the limo freezing in the streets than we’d ever be like those presumed to be riding within. I’ve never ceased wondering who’s hidden behind the tinted windows of limousines — but I stopped assuming it was anyone famous long, long ago.

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Three weeks later, after attending Liza Minnelli Live At The Winter Garden, we joined Tom’s chum, Ted, for dinner at his private table in Ted Hook’s Backstage Restaurant next door to the Martin Beck Theater. Besides being a former hoofer in the chorus of more than 400 movies, Ted served as Talulah Bankhead’s personal secretary for five years and regularly entertained friends and customers with intimate stories of the star.

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Seated next to my Liz and directly across from me was Wayland Flowers of Wayland & Madam fame. Madam was a pink wood head-to-waist puppet that looked like the exaggerated character portrayed by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

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Unlike our friend Tom, Wayland Flowers was unabashedly gay and out about it. His act, like his performance at the dinner table with Madam seated to his left, was bewitching. But when dinner was served he stuck Madam head first into a brown paper bag, as if she wasn’t alive to the rest of us. (Oddly enough, I never quite came to terms with that.)

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Wayland Parrott Flowers was a creative genius of natural quick wit. He died October 11, 1988 of AIDS at age 48.

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Ted Hook was a sparking personality who was the personification of instant entertainment. He died July 19, 1995 of AIDS at age 65.

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Thomas Bryon Dale died in 2007. He was 76. I don’t know exactly when, or of what. No notice was placed on his behalf, nor acknowledgement made of his passing. It wasn’t until the publication of his brother’s obituary many years later that Tom was mentioned as having preceded him in death.

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Lisa Minnelli’s show closed after a 20 day run.

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I’ve never been attracted to men but I have always been egocentric about their attraction to me to.

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One afternoon while returning to my job on Fifth Avenue a strikingly handsome man walked by. Certain I knew him, I turned my head after passing, only to spot him looking back at me. We smiled, waved, and continued on.

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Hours later, while scanning books at Barnes & Noble we encountered each other again, both of us demonstratively delighted to see each other.

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“I think we might have gone to school together,” I said, shaking his hand while introducing myself.

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“That’s must be it!” he grinned back. “I’m Hugh O’Brian.”

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Hugh O’Brian (The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) was born in Rochester, New York, 1925. I was born twenty-one years later in Michigan. It was an honest mistake, given the circumstances. After all, at nine years old and for three years thereafter, his was my favorite black and white television western.

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I first met Walter Leyden Brown while temporarily bunking at my brother Michael’s 49 Prince Street, New York City fifty dollar a month, three room with a water closet, 6th floor tenement walk-up. It was one of two such roach infested apartments per floor. Walter lived across the hall. Michael was a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London at the time. I lasted just four terrifying weeks there before finding an apartment and moving uptown.

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Several months later, Walter began the staging of a three night production of his play, No Way In, at the La Mama Theater. The day before opening night the actress cast as Character Number One got a paying role elsewhere and quit Walter’s show. Desperate, he asked me to take over the non-speaking role of the pole-swirling-woman. I was a student at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts then so eagerly accepted.

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Although he directed (and we’d rehearsed) a one circle spin with cry of a lady in distress, on opening night I swung wide and long screaming like a banshee. A critic for The Village Voice was in the audience. The next day his review panned the director, the play and the cast except for my performance which he applauded for scaring the bejesus out of him.

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Because his only child was starring in the play, Claude Rains (The Invisible Man, Casablanca, Notorious, Mr. Skeffington) was in the audience with his friends, Roscoe Lee Brown (The Cowboys, Uptown Saturday Night, Jumping’ Jack Flash), and Butterfly McQueen, (Gone With The Wind, Duel In The Sun). He motioned me over for introductions and they graciously complimented me on my performance.

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The next night the audience was given notice that Character Number One would be played by an understudy.

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Walter Leyden Brown, 49, of 49 Prince Street, New York City died August 23, 1988. Before returning to his family home during his final days he’d confided to friends he had AIDS.

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Prior to being cast in No Way In, I’d worked as a volunteer at the lower east side off-off Broadway La Mama Theater. One grease-grill-hot summer day I helped remove, drag, and reinstall chairs from the old location to the new one. It left me conspicuously grimy, unkempt and eager to catch subway connections to my upper west side apartment.

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While crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into a rush hour crowd on a street corner waiting for the WALK sign to free us, I spotted a limousine with a swarm of people catty-corner from me. Turning my head to see if the woman on my right noticed the commotion, I was so stupefied by her beauty that I could barely mumble to the man on my left, “That’s Elizabeth Taylor next to me.”

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He leaned discreetly forward to check. “Why yes,” said Richard Burton. “Yes it is.”

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Alice Demovic was the sister of a good friend who (like me) was living foot-loose-and-fancy-free in Manhattan, albeit she resided in a tonier upper east side neighborhood and hobnobbed with a much more affluent crowd. Nevertheless, I was her instant late-late night wing-woman when absolutely no one else was available and she needed a person to go on the blind side of a double date with her and her current love-interest.

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One morning just at after midnight I was awakened and told a limo was waiting for me downstairs in front of my apartment on West 85th Street and to chop-chop.

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“How shall I dress?” I asked.

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“Cute and quickly.”

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I cannot remember the name of her dinner companion, nor the occasion, but we were all seated stage-side to catch the last set at Rodney (“I don’t get no respect.”) Dangerfield’s. Afterward, Rodney joined us at his table for a late night supper. He was exactly the same person as the characters he played in Caddyshack and Easy Money.

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Jacob Rodney Cohen (Rodney Dangerfield) was born on the same date as my not-yet-met sweetheart’s father, Rufus, and he died on the date of my long-gone father, LaVerne.

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During the 1960’s and early 1970’s I was street-treated as an attractive young executive working in the 666 Fifth Avenue building bordering New York City’s historic 21 Club. Over the years I’d pivoted heads of Frank Sinatra (heavier set, mid-50’s, and balding Ol’ Blue Eyes period), George Hamilton (By Love Possessed, Zorro, The Godfather III, and easily twenty times better looking in person than portrayed on the silver screen), John Lindsey (NYC Mayor photographed kissing me on Page 2 of  the New York Post during a campaign re-election rally), and others.

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One day while on my way to lunch with my assistant, Scott, who was obsessed with men’s fashion, said (way too loudly) about the diminutive fellow walking a mere foot in front of us, “That man’s suit is so wrinkled it looks like he sleeps in the cargo holds of planes.”

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Aristotle Onassis’ head turned back to glare at us. While they kept walking I ground to a halt, grateful to lose them in the passing of pedestrians.

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Later that same week I was within inches of Onassis again. I’d been visiting Terry, the wife of Michael at their exquisite Madison Avenue store, M. Comer of London Antiques, when Onassis entered and zeroed in on the small table situated next to me.

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“How much is this?” he inquired of Michael.

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“Three thousand dollars.”

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“Not expensive enough,” he waved off.

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I’ve often wondered, if Michael had answered “thirty thousand dollars,” would Onassis have bought the table, regardless of the actual value?

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Years later, as an animal lover en route to becoming an animal activist, I was walking behind a woman wearing (what appeared to be) genuine leather pants. I was focused so intently on determining the fabric and planning a reprimand that I didn’t noticed she’d stopped — causing me to bump into her and knock her off her feet.

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“Oh!, excuse me, I’m so sorry, Mrs. Kennedy!” I rattled, mortified, as private security agents rushed to her rescue.

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She was married to Onassis at the time.

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This post represents an excerpt from

Seriously, Mom, you didn’t Know? by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2019

due for release on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle, April 13, 2019.

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