I started out as a naïve 19-year-old who escaped the everyday life of my small farm town to see Hollywood. There, I found work with the studios and made friends with some of the great stars of the day. One day, an acting buddy of mine asked me to help him drive to New York where he’d been offered a part in a Broadway play. By the time we had driven across the country on Route 66 and arrived in New York City, I was starting to grow up.
The weather in New York City was beginning to change as the nights were getting colder and the days were not as warm. The colors of the trees and other foliage in Central Park were a myriad of different hues and a wonder to behold. I had been walking to my work each day, but today, I thought, I would have to take a taxi. Being from Southern California, I was not used to the chill that was in the air this time of the year in the City.
I had been on the job just a few days, and each day I noticed this beautiful young gal who came to lunch with the Rockettes. Every day she came in, she stared at me and then winked. One day, I decided that I was going to talk to her and see what her story was. I did know that her name was Lucy and she was the spitting image of Elizabeth Taylor, except for her eyes, which were blue.
As she approached the register, I tried to think of how to start the conversation. I didn’t have a chance! Out of her mouth came the voice of a sailor working on the docks and it was such a shock I didn’t know what to say. All she said was “You must be from California. I can tell by the way you talk, dress, and look.” I asked her what she meant and she told me that a lot of people from California came to the show and then backstage to meet all of them. She seemed to think that we all had an accent and looked like we had just come off the beach. I thought to myself that if anyone had an accent it was she.
By then I decided that I would forgo any ideas of dating her. However, in the long run, it turned out even better as we became friends and she showed me around the City. Lucy and I, on her night off, would go to this neighborhood bar called The 101 Club that was located in the basement of one of the old brownstones.
It was a wonderful, warm and charming place with a piano bar. This was the kind of place that I loved at home in Hollywood. A place where we would all gather around the piano and sing our hearts out as the night wore on. When the 101 Club was not too busy, I would sit down at the piano and play a few tunes for myself, at least until it got busy.
Some nights the bartender would ask me to play for the people and soon they were crowded around the piano. Before long, it became a three or four nights per week thing and I noticed that a tip jar had been added to the piano that was being filled by happy customers. Actually, it helped me to supplement the small wages I was earning at the cafeteria.
One night Mark came in looking so frustrated and upset. He sat on the piano bench next to me and told me that he was going back to Hollywood. I asked him what had happened; why this sudden decision to go home? He said that he hated New York, hated acting, and wanted out of the whole mess. We left the bar and went to our apartment to have a good talk about all of this. Another day, another chapter in the life of me.