"A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost." -- Henry James
My good friend Ralph Graves departed this earth recently and I made mention of it. But then I found a divine photograph of the two of us whooping it up, back in 2001, over the days when we were working for Time, Inc. (We had just scored a SRO speaking engagement at the Dutch Treat Club in NYC.) Ralph was a moving force behind Time, Inc's history-making, burgeoning and all-important Life magazine. He was a lovely guy and a crusading journalist.
I was just a lowly contract writer for Sports Illustrated when employed by Time, Inc., in the late '50s/early '60s but I made a little name for myself writing the first article on nudity on American beaches. It went with the then-outrageous first "swimsuit edition." (People canceled subscriptions right and left over this, but it was a part of the "making" of the magazine.) I thought in those pre-women's lib days that I had died and gone to heaven. I was only one of three women then employed in this venue of world sports, about which I knew zilch, absolutely nothing. (Those were the days when Time, Inc. could wait 11 years for Sports Illustrated to move into the profit column.) I wasn't a sports fan but traveled the world first class on Time, Inc.'s dime and was always accompanied by helpful talented males who carried the tickets, bags, passports, cash, opened doors for me and took me out at night in the Caribbean, Spain, etc. before helping me with my copy.
I was luckily recruited for my unlikely job by the late George Trescher in an Italian restaurant where he sent over a note: "You are a wonderful writer; I want you to come work for Sports Illustrated."
I laughed. "I don't know from sports -- I'm from Texas where football is king and I've already been married to one "right end" hero. ... Except for the enjoyment of seeing those guys bend over in a huddle and pat each other's behinds. ... I'd be no use!" But Trescher persevered. (He was such a pro when it came to creating good PR for S.I. that he had a copy of the magazine on every congressional desk when it carried issues of national interest.)
I WAS in Essex, Conn., recently and Alexandra Isles, the documentary filmmaker, came up and decried our mutual loss of George, since he had introduced us both to that part of the Nutmeg State.
My time at Time, Inc. produced many happy moments. I covered the new Robert Trent golf course in Marbella where no actor was allowed to tee off or join the club, mule racing in the posh suburbs of Cleveland, how people entertained at the Kentucky Derby, worked for the outrageous Frenchman Andre Laguerre, who kept telling me that my suggestions of "rodeo" were pointless since "Rodeo is not a sport!" and became real friends with Mr. Trescher who introduced me around to the likes of Brooke Astor and her crowd.
George is gone now but while he existed, the Metropolitan Museum, the New York Public Library and many other institutions were the better for it.
While Ms. Isles and I were exchanging memories, this led to our late friend Dominick Dunne. It reminded me to look back over the flood of mail, email and comments occasioned by writing about the novelist not long ago. I can't respond properly to all of this but Dominick would be thrilled by the positive aspects of those who remember him fondly. Many deplored having no Dominick to cover the latest murders, trials and high- and low-society malfeasance. But it's a different world nowadays. (I see that in the New York Observer cartoon of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, both disgraced but re-entering politics, half-nude under a headline "The Boxer Rebellion." How might Dominick have handled this, one wonders?)
WELL I STARTED this reminiscence paying tribute to Ralph Graves and have rambled on. While deep in nostalgia (which we are advised is a psychological "downer" or "upper," depending on how you look at it) I will add one more thing about Time, Inc.
Not the least of these was becoming friends with the late great editor of Time, Henry Grunwald. And so, on Oct. 1, I will emcee the Metropolitan Club lunch that his widow, Louise, masterminds in his name, raising money for The Lighthouse.
This year we salute Henry Kissinger and I am considering how far I can go in sending up the former secretary of state/national security dynamo with some fun. This lunch is usually a sellout so call Kelly Boyle at 212-821-9428 for ticket information.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)