And every third thought is my grave . . .
Wednesday 11/15/06. DJ and I go to BAM to see La Tempete, a French-Canadian multimedia production of The Tempest with four real actors and six virtual actors. Literally. Half the play is done holographically, which makes for some brilliant visuals which are consistently ten levels above the live acting. It’s like watching a science fiction movie where the special effects are more intelligent than the script, and it prompts me (later in the night) to share my Law of FX, which states that, since (a) all films only contain a certain amount of intelligence in them, and (b) special effects count just as much as a script does, then (c) the smarter the effects, which means the more the effects, the dumber the script is. Which is why a movie with, say, 30% special effects has a script that feels like it’s really smart, while a movie that has a ton of effects (I’m looking at you, second Star Wars trilogy) has a script that feels like it was typed by a studio monkey. This production is like that. The effects are so smart, it makes Shakespeare’s text sound dumb, and the live actors delivering it even dumber. DJ drops off here and there, but I am mesmerized. Probably because reading the English supertitles, which translate the French back into the play’s original lines, is like reading a book with excellent illustrations and an annoying but dismissible soundtrack.
As we walk into the upstairs bar, Dave is yelling at Jynah:
DAVE: Jynah—do you know how to rim a glass?
Me: Dave, there are at least ten states in this country where a line like that can land you in jail.
DAVE: Pan is smiling at you, Mister Wells—you just missed Ketel Mike.
Marita’s friend Michelle (who used to work with Marita and now has a new job) is at the bar with some of her new workmates, as well as her current boyfriend. She and her husband are splitting up after three years of marriage and six or seven years of being together. I have no idea if the boyfriend is the cause or the effect of the break-up, and I’m not asking, mostly because, after last night’s bout of self-pity, the last thing I need right now is to volunteer to be Father Confessor. I already walk around with a sign that says “Good Listener” taped to my back— I don’t need to hand out cards that say “The Listener Is In.”
It’s an Irish wake tonight. We do half a dozen toasts to the Professor, and trade stories about him. Michelle and her work-buds are doing flaming shots at one end of the bar, and at the other end, DJ is working on questions for her offsite with Jonathan. Jonathan is a regular whom I first met one night over a year ago when he came in with a very pretty and incredibly smashed woman on his arm, a woman who took one look at my Good Listener sign when Jonathan went into the men’s room and unloaded a trunk full of baggage on me in less than 90 seconds. Then broke off, and instead of asking me the usual question (“So what are you writing, do you mind if I ask?”) pointed to my pint of Guinness and said, “So you come here to write.”
ME: It helps the ideas come.
WOMAN: And after that?
ME: After that I read it tomorrow and see if it’s any good.
WOMAN: Maybe half? Less?
ME: On average.
WOMAN: I’d like to read it some time.
ME: My play?
WOMAN: Your notes.
And the way she wrapped her lips around those two words made my notes sound like the sexiest thing since Rita Hayworth in Gilda. Needless to say, I never saw her again.
DJ: I need ice-breaker questions for this offsite!
JONATHAN: Playstation or X-Box. Yankees or Mets. Ginger or Mary Anne.
DJ: No, these kids aren’t old enough to know Ginger and Mary Anne.
JONATHAN: Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. Britney or Christina.
ME: What cellphone service do you hate the most?
DJ & JONATHAN: Perfect!
The Scotch of Women
At about 11, Samantha Seaton’s daughter Chase, aka Dahlia Delon, walks up from downstairs with a flute of champagne in her left hand and a beautiful specimen of male Eurotrash on her right arm. She’s a downstairs regular, who does and doesn’t play into her famous parentage—which means that she wants everyone to know exactly who she is so they can all stare at her while she pretends to be normal. Which she is not and never will be, because from her looks to the clothes she wears she might as well be wearing a neon sign that says ROYALTY. Jynah, who could win a gold medal in Olympic social climbing, gloms onto her and immediately fawns all over her like she’s Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution; the rest of us glance at her and roll our eyes at each other, except for Katie, who starts clacking a set of chopsticks back and forth like Madame Defarge and her knitting needles. “Her mother is rolling over in her grave,” she says. “If she even has one,” I reply.
And who is Samantha Seaton? A bright exhalation in the darkest years of the last century. Her mother was the original runaway bride, Dinah Lord, who walked down the aisle in July of 1944 with Hank Lannigan’s boring brother Nick, only to grab the hand of Nick’s best man, Ned Seaton, and run off with him to the waiting yacht of gangster Joe Bascopoulos, aka Joe The Greek, a drinking buddy of Seaton’s. The yacht sailed from Newport to the Outer Banks, where Dinah and Ned were married by a local justice of the peace, after which (with the help of Dinah’s brother-in-law) the yacht was rebuilt, overhauled and renamed the True Love III, and then set off on the round-the-world voyage during which Samantha Lord Seaton was born. When the war ended in 1945, the family split their time between Paris, London, and Berlin, only rarely returning to the United States. Ned Seaton died in 1952 of liver failure, and young Samantha was sent to school in Switzerland, and emerged in 1962 as a 17-year-old who was inhumanly beautiful in real life, but only marginally attractive in photographs. There are some people whom the camera diminishes; Samantha Seaton was one of them. She later said that the failure of her modeling career was the making of her, because she learned not to rely on her looks to get ahead. Even though her looks were legendary. (There’s a book to be written on how the beautiful people of this world always believe that their beauty never opens a single door for them. It’s pretty much the same book as the one about how white males don’t think they’re privileged, except with prettier pictures.)
As Warhol said about her, Samantha Seaton WAS the Sixties. She was Errol Flynn’s second-to-last lover and Sean Flynn’s final one. Like everyone in the Sixties, she slept with Alain Delon and Marcello Mastroianni. Unlike everyone else, she never once hooked up with Warren Beatty (she called him a little boy who only slept around because he didn’t want to use his hand to masturbate), but she did have flings with George Jackson, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Jimi Hendrix, and JFK. She was Henry Kissinger's girlfriend for all of five minutes, and famously remarked “He was charming, but his ego never left the room, and I don't do threesomes.” She did heroin with Nico and dropped acid with Timothy Leary. She had a bit part in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. She was the last Western person to see Sean Flynn and Dana Stone alive, kissing them both goodbye in April of 1970 before they rode their motorcycles into Communist-held Cambodia. And she was present during the fall of Saigon five years later, which is the last time anyone saw her alive. Her mother had her legally declared dead in 1984, three months before she herself passed away, leaving her entire estate to her granddaughter Dahlia, who changed her name to Chase in 1995.
And what's the Naughty Pine connection? Well, remember Nick Lannigan, the guy Dinah Lord left at the altar? He was a Naughty Pine regular in the Fifties and Sixties, and a writer who worked under three pseudonyms: Blind Pew, the self-styled Blind Bard of Bleecker Street, who produced present-tense dialogue-based stories about Village characters not unlike Damon Runyon at his best; LeRoy Decker, who appropriately enough, wrote love sonnets (the name was Lannigan's Anglicization of Le Roi De Coeurs, the king of hearts); and Nick Cromwell, who dashed off Gold Key thrillers at the rate of four a year, and whose smart-talking female detective Charity Lane was (a) second only to Douglas Prather's Shell Scott when it came to sales figures, and (b) generally recognized as one of the pioneering portrayals of women in crime fiction. Not like Lannigan needed the money. When his brother Hank and his nephew Jack died in a plane crash in 1952, just as Jack was gearing up for a New York Senate run, Nick Lannigan inherited the family fortune, and instead of squandering it as everyone expected, managed to double it by the time he died in 1979 of a heart attack. In his will, he left it to the ACLU, "as penance for the fascist leanings of my brother," as he put it. (Hank Lannigan was a notorious Nazi sympathizer who sold Albert Speer petroleum and metals through several Swiss shell companies during World War II.) Nick Lannigan was married three times, and all three wives fought over his estate when he died. But his true love was—you guessed it—Samantha Seaton, the daughter of the woman who jilted him, who first slept with him in 1964, and pretty much left his penthouse bed to fly to Saigon in 1975. “The scotch of women,” as he called her.
Chase-ing our own tails
“The corked wine of women,” as David Bowie called Chase Seaton, is known as Chasey in the tabloids, and she spends the next hour dissing the upstairs bar and its regulars. “I keep forgetting how ugly this place is,” she says over and over again, so we won’t forget that she’s used to and expects First Class Treatment All The Way. “And tiny! No wonder nobody’s up here!” And she looks around at the regulars and randoms, and I have to admit, this woman has the amazing ability to act like she wouldn’t be caught dead up here even while she’s angling for the attention of everyone else on the floor. Dave puts up with this until she says that the upstairs bar is “like some crap bar in the Port Authority Bus Terminal,” and while I’m totally willing to give her points for the vivid image, it’s the last straw for Dave, who starts spitting in every fresh Tequila Sunrise she orders. “Now we know why Alain Delon disowned her,” I say. DJ says, “Wait—I thought her father was Mastroianni.” I shrug. “For all we know, it could have ben Nick Lannigan. Hah! Maybe we ought to start that as a rumor and watch her entire career go down the toilet! Chase Lannigan!” And that is how we refer to her, till she leaves around midnight.
The evening becomes a blur of passionate conversations, loud laughter, and fast-forward memories pretty quickly. One of Michelle’s friends, a woman named Trinity, starts talking to me about wines, and in the middle of our conversation Jynah gives her a piece of cake with a candle on it and everyone sings “Happy Birthday.” Trish shows up just before 12, and hard on her heels comes one of the long-time upstairs regulars, Ethan, with a girl he refers to as Blondie McBlonde on his arm.
It's a loud wet happy night, and I stop writing and mentally recording the evening long before I leave. I stagger home around 2, and am haunted by the last line in my notebook, something somebody at the bar said after 1 AM but I can’t remember who said it or when. The only evidence that it ever happened is the scrawled line itself:
They can get my blood, and they can get my sweat, but nobody will ever get my tears.
The screwy thing is, I've seen samples of Samantha Seaton's handwriting, and this looks just like it.
Alcohol: Guinness (6), Patron (2), Jameson (1)
Copyright 2016 Matthew J Wells