Category Archives: memories

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!

~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~

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.”

~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~

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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IT’S A DATE!

With uncompromising bursts of bittersweet joy this candid, effervescent chronicle reveals how the nature of thinking and depth of emotions between homosexual women is instinctively incompatible with the male dominant ideologies of a patriarch society. Through lyrically warmed words engendering benevolence these forty-nine relatable narratives shed insight on the valiant dignity of an endangered female culture vanishing-by-assimilation into an age of partial equality.

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A veritable feast of gilded memories
seasoned with silver linings.

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Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?

With uncompromising bursts of bittersweet joy this candid, effervescent chronicle reveals
how the nature of thinking and depth of emotions between homosexual women is
instinctively incompatible with the male dominant ideologies of a patriarch society.

Through lyrically warmed words engendering benevolence
these forty-nine relatable narratives shed insight on the valiant dignity
of an endangered female culture vanishing-by-assimilation
into this age of artificial equality.

Front Cover 4 FB

A veritable feast of gilded memories
seasoned with silver linings.

~

FOR RELEASE APRIL 13,  2019

Paperback • Kindle • Bookstores • Special Order

~

Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?

by Marguerite Quantaine

~

Find Her On Amazon

Friend Her On Facebook

Follow Her On Twitter

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Sign Up Via Email Here

http://www.margueritequanatine.com

For Automatic Notice Of

Pre-Order  Date  Confirmation

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Thank you!

 

 

C H R I S T M A S T I D E

A Merry Christmas
Cleone’s favorite holiday song was Joy To The World directed by the Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She’d begin playing it as a daybreak reveille on December 12th and continued through the morning of her birthday, December 27th. We were reminded of the fifteen day musical salute while driving Elizabeth’s mother back to Arkansas in November 1990.
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“How come I don’t remember this tradition, Mom?”

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“You’re never home for the holidays more than a day or two, Elizabeth Ann. Besides, your daddy and I only began it after you left home.”

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During those long gone 30 years, Elizabeth’s father died and Cleone remarried several times. As a southern lady born and bred in Montgomery, Alabama, she was raised to believe a woman’s life wasn’t complete without a man in hand. Her current husband, Bill, was confined to a nursing home, diagnosed with violent hysterical dementia. He hadn’t recognized her (or anyone) for six months and never would again, but that didn’t stop Cleone from visiting him daily, ignoring his foul-mouthed curses and dodging food flung in her direction.

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We promised to stay with her through Thanksgiving, but those plans changed after she asked me to sort through stacks of personal papers to determine if any needed keeping.

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The first item of interest I came across was Bill’s membership in a local white supremacist group. He kept propaganda, recruitment paraphernalia and a loaded .38 in his desk drawer next to a box of hollow point bullets. I immediately disposed of everything burnable and buried the gun in his asparagus garden. Other discoveries were as serious.
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“Mom,” I tiptoed, “it says here Bill used your Certificates of Deposit and savings as collateral to purchase this house.”
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“He promised they’d be safe until the house is paid off.”
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“You’re 83 and he’s older. The mortgage is for 30 years.”
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“I guess.”
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“Who pays the mortgage?”
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“It’s automatically deducted from my social security check each month.”
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“You have your own direct deposit checking account?”
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“Yes. Mine pays the car loan, utilities, and property taxes, too.”
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Why isn’t it all deducted from his account?”
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“He pays the insurance, charge cards, grocery account, and incidentals.” I hesitated just long enough for her to ask, “Why?”
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“Well, what’s important is, I can tell you how to fix what I’ve found, so there’s nothing for you to get upset about. Since you have his health proxy and financial power of attorney — over his very sizable bank accounts, I must say — it’s merely a matter of shuffling funds.”
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“Meaning?”
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“You have the authority to write checks.”
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By then both Cleone and Elizabeth were eager for details and had pulled chairs up to the table where I was working.
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“Mom, your name isn’t on the mortgage, deed to the house, or car title. If Bill should suddenly die, the house and car go directly to his son. His Will leaves his savings and all his belongings to his son. The executor to his estate is his son. His life insurance policy names only his son.”
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“What about me?” Cleone asked, matter-of-factly.
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“He made no provisions for you, Mom.”
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“Do you think his son knows any of this?”
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“According to these letters, he does.”
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I let that sink in between mother and daughter while I ran some figures and finalized a plan.
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After breakfast, the three of us dressed for success in matching hot pink sweatsuits and strings of vintage pearls before descending on the bank where Cleone paid off the mortgage and car loan from Bill’s savings account. Once her CD’s were released and there was no longer a lien on her savings, she transferred all automatic deductions from her checking account to his. Finally, she removed his name as survivor from her checking and savings accounts and left the bank, unencumbered.
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“How do you feel, Mom?” Elizabeth asked.
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“Free,” she answered.
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We stayed on until the 9th of December, gadding about town, buying and wrapping Christmas presents, lighting her ceramic tree, delivering frosted cookies, addressing cards, and confirming plans for Cleone’s move to Florida to forever share our home after the first of the year.
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“Are you sure you don’t want to drive back with us now,” Elizabeth hoped.
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“No, dear. I want to spend the holidays here with my Bridge club and church group. It gives me time to say a more leisurely goodbye.”
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“Are you okay?”
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“Better than okay, Elizabeth. I’m having fun.”
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It took us three days to drive home. We arrived on Cleone’s birthday to a cheerful message from her, left on our answering machine. I immediately dialed her up, putting the phone on speaker.
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Cleone’s next door neighbor answered.
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“Your mom called for an ambulance. The driver swore he got here within a minute. He knew her from church and around town. Everyone loved your mom.”
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Knew.
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Loved.
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We sped back to Arkansas, arranged for her funeral, and hosted a large reception before having Cleone’s casket returned to Montgomery where a second funeral was attended by 135 of her friends and remaining relatives. Internment was next to Elizabeth’s father in a small, historic burial ground where all their ancestors also rested. A second reception followed.
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The next morning, Elizabeth and I returned to the cemetery a final time.
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It was a quiet, cool, sunny December day with no breeze blowing nor snow on the ground. We marveled at the height and width of a mountain of fresh flowers left on Cleone’s grave, in stark contrast to the other 300 tombstones, void of any signs of recent visitors, decorated with weatherworn plastic plants, faded flags, or no remembrance at all.
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Instinctively, we began to take fresh flowers from her mother’s final resting place to adorn surrounding graves, one-by-one, until every site in the cemetery had a bouquet.
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Then we rolled down all the windows in the car, popped in a cassette, pumped up the volume to maximum, and slowly drove up and down each pathway playing — and replaying —

Joy To The World.
.

# # #
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist, author, and animal rescue activist.
Friend her of Facebook. Find her on Amazon. Follow her here.
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Thank you for reading CHRISTMASTIDE
by Marguerite Quantaine © 2018.
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WITH GRACE AND GRATITUDE

Won't You Be My Honey

The first time I spotted the alligator in the murky waters of a man-made lake framing luxurious condos on one side and a city park on the other, I worried aloud for the safety of the mallards, Muscovy, and white, waddling ducks, the snapping turtles, giant goldfish, flock of pristine egrets, and wading blue heron, making their homes in the marshes there.

“And, the kids who play in this park,” my sweetheart added.

I didn’t respond. Not that I would ever want a person of any age to be harmed by an alligator, but there was no imminent danger in that. Only the nature-preying-nature lurked.

The lake is more for show and tell by realtors looking to justify pricey units with a view. There’s no swimming allowed, and since it’s illegal to feed wildlife in Florida outside of a reserve, observing nature in this park is mostly done from a deck built 15 feet above, and stretching 20 feet out over the water, where picnic tables are placed for brown baggers wondering what so many thieving sea gulls are doing there, some sixty miles inland.

At first, all I saw were the mammoth marble shaped alligator eyes, trolling the lake’s surface, leaving innocent ripples of water in his wake.

“Or,” she said when I pointed out the marauding eyeballs, “it’s a submarine.”

“No, hon, I’m pretty certain it’s an alligator.”

“But, I’m thinking…”

“It’s a gator, okay?”

“I’m just saying what it could be,” she persists, as the tire-like tracks on it’s back emerges. “Or, maybe one in camouflage to look like an alligator, so no one would suspect.”

Really, who am I to say otherwise? I thought.

We only visit this particular park once a year, in September or October, depending on what date the High Holy Days fall.

I won’t expound on the significance of these 10 days for those of you who aren’t Jewish, but I will share the custom of casting bread upon the water (tashlikh) as a symbol of one’s transgressions being disposed of. Unlike other religions, Jews don’t believe in original sin. Instead, we’re born pure, acquiring our indiscretions with age, intent, or ignorance along the way.

But, if we’re sincere in saying “I’m sorry” to those we’ve wronged, and have done good without expectation in return, and made an earnest effort to mend fences, the sin slate gets wiped clean on Yom Kippur, giving each of us another chance to get life right, and do it better.

The disclaimer appears in the setting of the sun, symbolizing the closing of the Book of Life, when even skeptics (secretly) want their names, and those of their loved ones inscribed therein — although no one learns who makes the cut until the High Holy Days roll around again the following year. (Because only those remaining in the here and now know if they were inscribed back in the then and there.)

For the record, I’m very disorganized about organized religion, to the point of anti-it.

But I do like everything about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the culmination of 10 days of introspection, taking stock of one’s life, offering amends, being grateful for whatever cards have been dealt, making promises and looking forward while witnessing the sun sink behind the trees, or beneath the ocean, or into the hills.

Of course, I’m pulling for more than family and friends. I want my pets to be included in that Book of Life, too, and mercy shown for all the animals on earth. I want children to be protected, and hurts healed. I want every woman to fall in love with the person who has fallen in love with her. My list is long. I ask a lot. It takes me the full 10 days to catalog all the hope in my heart.

“Watch out,” we were warned by a couple dawdling nearby. “The flora and fauna police are on duty.”

I glance over at the retiree in khaki shirt and shorts, feeling powerful on his unpaid patrol.

“I’m prepared,” I assured them. “I filled my pocket with stale bread, pre-pulverized in my Cuisinart to melt any evidence upon impact. Would you like a some?”

They showed me their cut up crusts of kosher rye. “No thanks. We’re good.”

As the sun began its steady decline, I confidently hurled a handful of crumbs to flutter like tiny confetti into the water below — forgetting that the brass ring  containing the keys to the car, our home, my sister’s home, the metal license tags of our dogs, and a silver kitty charm carried for good luck was also in that pocket.

It went with.

“I’ll be,” she said, looking down at the unintended snack. “It is an alligator!”

~

To paraphrase a verse in a song from the original, Broadway cast album of The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Your prayer was answered, the answer was ‘no’ — She heard you all right.

Most of you who follow me here, or are a friend to me on Facebook know that I lost my kid sister in May of 2015, 77 days after she was first diagnosed with everywhere-cancer.

What I haven’t shared as much is, in that brief period (and since) I’ve also lost both of my dogs, Buzzbee and Sparky, and a Russian Blue, tamed-to-my-touch, feral cat, Sneaky, twin brother to Pete.

When the last loss happened, I recalled the words attributed to Virginia Woolf upon being asked by her niece why the bird she’d found had to die. Woolf answered, “To make us appreciate life more.”

I’m not sure I concur. I don’t think I could appreciate life any more than I do.  My gratitude is fierce and deep and never falters — even when the answer is, indeed, ‘no’.

Because I see, and hear, and recognize the loss most others endure, daily, is so much greater than my own; the worldwide despair and hunger of millions in the dark of every night, the destruction of homes by flood and fire, the assault on nature by ignorance and greed, the ongoing slaughter of innocent and innocence, the intentional harm inflicted on the undeserving.

It doesn’t lessen the depth of loss I feel, but it does lessen the length of time I spend, struggling.

The High Holy Days come earlier this year and I’m on tenterhooks about it, to the point of being mindful of the fact that the ritual of tashlikh is to happen on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, not on Yom Kippur as I’ve always chosen to observe it.

We’ll be returning to the man-made lake, regardless — this time with an entire loaf of challah for the alligator.

We hope the reptile was written into the Book of Life.

We hope we all were.

#     #     #

This essay was first published entitled See Ya Later Alligator in 2015 and continues to be revisited each year at this time in memory of those who have passed, and with hopes we all continue to be written into The Book of Life. ~ 

Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.  Copyright, © 2015-2018

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IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (TOO)

Birthday Greetings - Woman in White Dress, FlowersWere I to write my epitaph, it would read, “She lived a charmed life.” Those who have only known of me might not agree — but those who’ve known me well, would.

Consider this as evidence of that.

August often stifles New York, as it did forty years ago, with temperatures so high and rain so scarce a brownout swept over all five boroughs, leaving the city sweltering in virtual darkness from dusk until dawn.

We were living in Bensonhurst by then, renting the upper two floors of a 1925 three story duplex; a stucco, fort-like house located on a tree-lined street between Avenues O and P, not far from a rumored underboss residence. It was a neighborhood where no one locked their doors at night and old-country madonnas garbed in basic-black sat in fold-out lawn chairs on cement sidewalks, waiting for the intense fragrances of Sicilian sausage, fennel seed biscotti, and basil-based sauces to waft through their kitchen windows, signaling meals had simmered to perfection and were ready for serving.

Our home’s private entrance had four steps up to the front door. Once inside there was another seven steps up to the hallway landing leading to a bedroom, living room, dining room, and bathroom, with a second flight of stairs to two more bedrooms. A doorway leading off the dining room opened to an eat-in kitchen. Another opened from the living room onto a second floor veranda stretching 25 feet long and 15 feet deep, with a 4-foot high wall leveling off just below the treetops.

We loved that place and porch, especially in August when sleeping outside beat the heat of the house by thirty degrees, and the starlit sky with its dreamsicle moon overhead was about as romantic as any heart could wish for, or mind could imagine.

It was after 10 one night when we were out there, lying on army surplus canvas and wood framed cots, listening to the neighbors battery operated radios synchronized to Casey Kasem naming, And I Love You So, by America’s favorite barber as “holding at 38” on the Top 40 charts when we heard a knock on the door and Liz called out, “Who’s there?”

“I’m looking for Marge,” came a baritone response.

“Who are you?”

“Mike Kelly.”

“Are you Irish?”

“I am.”

“Then the door’s open. Come on up.”

At the time, I was still recovering from a crash that left me chronically disabled the year before. As predicted, I’d regained my ability to walk, but still needed a wheelchair or walker, occasionally, and a cane, always. As I struggled up and into a lightweight, summer robe, Liz donned hers and, with a Coleman lantern in tow, greeted the fellow, leading him out onto the porch, and offering him a seat at the fold-out card table stationed there for Canasta and Hearts competitions whenever family or friends visited. Then she excused herself to get us all some iced lemonade while I tried to read his face by candlelight.

I liked what I saw. Mike Kelly had a crinkle-eyed smile plastered to his super-sized mug, with a pencil mustache complementing his noggin of silky grey hair.

“I’m sorry to bother you so late,” he began, “but you never contacted us. I had to take the Long Island Railroad from Port Washington after work and two subways — then got lost while walking here from the El.

“Why should I have contacted you, Mr. Kelly?”

“Mike, please.”

“Mike.”

“Didn’t you get our telegram about winning Publisher’s Clearing House?”

I laughed out loud. “Come now. You can do better. Although, I must admit, I’ve never heard that line before.”

He grinned. “Darn. I wish I’d thought of it before I got too old and too happily married for come-ons to matter anymore.”

“What’s so funny,” Liz chimed in, sliding a tin tray of refreshments onto the table.

“I was just telling Mike here about my last encounter with Publisher’s Clearing House.”

“You had one?”

“Sort of. While I was partially paralyzed for a few months last summer I passed the time by answering all those ridiculous Cosmos questionnaires before playing wastebasket wad-ball. I confess. One of the wads was a Publishers Clearing House entry.”

“She’d ordered a photography and a camping magazine,” added Liz.

“True, but I figured I’d never be going camping again, and wouldn’t be anywhere interesting to shoot photographs for a while — so I wadded it up and made the basket.”

“Well, that explains that,” chuckled Mike.

“What?”

“Your wrinkled entry.”

“But I didn’t . . .”

“I did,” Liz interjected. We both turned towards her. “I took it out of the wastebasket and smoothed it out the best I could and mailed it in. Whenever a magazine came in the mail I hid it. I thought I’d give them all to you on your birthday. I guess I was hoping, by then, maybe, you’d feel like camping and taking pictures again.”

I turned to syrup inside.

Mike Kelly beamed. “This is where I tell you – again – you’ve won Publisher’s Clearing House.”

I’ll end this on that high note — but not because there isn’t more to tell about the trip around Manhattan included with the monetary prize; our suite at the Waldorf Astoria, the nights on the town, dinner at the Rainbow Room, orchestra seats to A Little Night Music, the yacht ride to Port Washington, the catered brunch, a tour of the PCH facility, the awards ceremony, the photographer and limousine at our disposal for the weekend, the parties, the clubs we closed, the new friends made, the fun and the fanfare. It’s just because — you really had to be there. (And I’d rather not ruin the surprise.)

Receiving the 1973 Mystery Prize check from the President of PCH.

Receiving the 1973 Mystery Prize check from the President of PCH.

The following year I agreed to make (what I was told was) the first televised commercial for PCH. It ran between 11:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on all three of the only networks back then. If you were watching television in December of 1974 and saw a news program, soap opera, game show, sports event, or family favorite like The Rockford Files, The Waltons, Kojak, Medical Center, Mash, and Chico And The Man — yep. That was me saying it could happen to you (too).

There’s no drawback to the entire Publisher’s Clearing House experience except in one, small respect, and that is — no matter what I’ve done with my life, who I am, where I live, whom I love, what I’ve accomplished, or contributed — each time I meet those from my very distant past, the first thing they mention is that I won Publisher’s Clearing House, followed by the implication that my life has been “easy” because of it.

And, I always let it pass.

Because — even though the $17,500.00 was before taxes were deducted, and the balance went in one lump sum to pay off past-due medical bills — I’ve led a charmed life.

I know it.

And for this I am, truly, grateful.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2013.
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I’m all eyes and heart.

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