“Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down.” – – Jimmy Durante
My life was the column.
There was no time for a night out in torn-jeans with friends, or a romantic recharge.
While the world of “society” is appealing to many, the insiders who are the cogs of society columns aren’t exactly the pedigree of finesse that our parents had chosen for us.
“We raise our children to be ladies and gentlemen, then expect them to go out into the world with the hearts of firemen and policeman,” lamented one well known member of society, then married to a major heiress.
I was working out of home now.
I woke up early, read the competition in our paper and others (yes, there was competition even within), made a few calls, answered many, shuffled through press releases and began to write. I could not be even one minute late for my deadline of 1:30.
Lou, who drove for the editor-in-chief, would come by to pick up my copy and deliver it to the paper. We were on the cutting edge of computers, and the big news was that I had a key with a magical “x” on it, that erased mistakes.
Then there was white out.
Goodbye carbon copies and smudges that defied to be dry-cleaned.
If there was a V.I.P luncheon to attend, I was there, dressed in a lady-like façade.
Nighttime was usually black-tie, beginning with back to back cocktail parties, oozing to be immortalized in New York newsprint.
Many of the old guard were loquaciously loyal to my competition (what ever happened to loyalty to Eugenia Sheppard?), but coolly warmed to me, cozying up to a column that was on the up and up.
“Miss Penn,” said a new and nasal male voice on the end of the phone.
“Yes?” I replied with a question mark.
“I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Gary Zotlin.”
I knew who he was: confidante to many a lady, especially the current First Lady.
“I know who you are,” I volleyed back. “I grew up across the street from you.”
He wanted to know from whence I came, so there it was.
As quickly as he had wriggled into my world, he hastened out.
“Gary Zotlin called me today. I was surprised to hear from him,” I told my friend, Budd Calisch, a society publicist who once was my boss.
“Wonder why?” I asked Budd.
“Because he doesn’t want anyone else to call him the ‘social caterpillar’ like another columnist does,” he replied. “A walker is one thing,” said Budd. “There are plenty of those. But only one ‘social caterpillar.’”
Zotlin didn’t particularly interest me, so I moved on into the world of who’s who, and who you didn’t want to mess with.
Eugenia had set me up as a white-gloved student who could box without breaking a nail.
She told me how Sally Hart had lassoed her column.
It was simple. Sally was writing a book about Wanda Lane, the cosmetics queen. Wanda did not want the book to come out; no way, no how. So, she upped her advertising in the paper. She called her lawyer, powerhouse Ray Goode, and had him negotiate a contract for a column for Sally, in exchange for a shredded biography.
Next on the “beware” list.
Eugenia warned me about a publicist, Ronny Wells, who had threatened a major columnist by spreading the word that she had actually murdered someone. He sort of apologized later.
Note to self: Make nice to Mr. Wells…very, very nice.
Welcome to my world. All glamorous and seductive, you say?
Read my Chanel pink mouth. Maybe, just maybe, not.
To be continued…