"What do you think
of the Royal Family?" Larry asked me once. I thought they were alright. "I knew you'd say that, dammit!"
he said. He was blaming me for not giving a damn either way. For Larry you
had to be committed and concerned and sometimes ready to march.
When he first moved into our flat after working as a student activist and
pamphleteer during the
Berkeley campus riots and then
on Robert Kennedy's staff, I upset him by declining conversation while I was working.
"I really hated you for that," he told
me months later when he had
his feet up on my desk. There he was, a young penniless American writer
alone in London, the promise of a post-graduate job in Fleet Street had
melted and he was forced into a room service job at the Hilton, always
explaining the PO tower.
"Young mayan!" Larry would mimic his compatriots. "Could yuh ahdentifah a
kinda well landmark - rarket or war-relic - what's that Daddy? It wasn't there last
night? Oh, my Gard!"
Recognising trouble, that is somebody you're going to enjoy
more than working, I had soon
introduced him to all my vast body of friends (3), shown him East Anglia,
taught him how to catch and prepare bubble-and-squeak and swapped my
British police atrocity anecdotes for his American ones. He ruined our
flat-iron by spilling his whisky-sours on the board, shocked Maggie by
shaving naked without locking the bathroom door and finally involved
me and Michael Foot and the
Home Office in a suggested combined operation to rescue him from war-torn
Ulster. The SOS appeared to be written with a burnt match in a shell-hole.
Jack: Please get help. Press, radio, television. Rush this to Mr Foot.
(Then straight on). Dear Mr Foot: We are four foreign journalists being
harassed, victimised, threatened by the British military...
A week later at six in the
morning our coin-box telephone rang in the hall with the shock
effect of an alarm in a fire-station, dead eyes watching
my face through door-cracks to
see who'd died. It was rollicking, swash-buckling, early-morning Larry,
now at London airport and awaiting his Los Angeles flight.
"Hi! Did I get you up? You should be over there. We just got out one jump
ahead of the red-coats..."
Some people think writers know what they're talking about and
Larry was one of these. He would tap the door, come
in, sit down, cross-examine me about Harold Wilson, get up, go out, shut
"Who decided to take over the
I thought it was Anthony Eden.
Larry would thumb through his note-book,
muttering Edie, Ethel,
Einstein - Eden! Ah, sure. Go on. Why did he do it? Was he nuts or somep'n?
What's this about hats? "He invented the Anthony Eden hat." Bully for him.
And who invented the Windsor nut? "The word is knot. The Duke of Windsor."
No wonder Britain became a world Power. Wow. Larry also considered the
monarchy simply a tourist attraction. With Bill Johnson's help he drew up
plans for turning Buckingham Palace into
a Royal Disneyland. "I would make it a condition of their contract they
always wore their crowns," he said. "Bet they'd go on strike," Bill said.
By royal association I was reminded of Larry when Haidee was talking about the Queen Mother's visit to her
college this week. Conducting a rehearsal at
Westfield College principle
Doctor Bryan Thwaites cast his secretary Jill Adams in the visitor's role. "I find it very interesting. Most
interesting." Extremely interesting, people kept prompting
Like all people with a
mission Larry had no time for politeness. Marooned with him
one black night in the fens he threw a stone at a farmer's window and got
the dogs barking. "We need gas," he shouted. Then stomping up and down
clapping his arms against the cold, he muttered: "C'marn, c'marn, move
your ass, feller..."
I will walk twenty miles rather than ask for help, clear
my throat if somebody stamps
on my foot. Larry never detected my deficiencies or if he did he thought,
knowing my writing, which is always so brave, that I was being satirical.
That underneath my quiet pre-occupations with sex and the countryside,
literature, jazz and model aeroplanes, there lay a power-house of
anarchistic thought. If he found me out at the butcher's or walking the
dog, he assumed I was pursuing underground alliances.
"Okay, don't tell me where you've been. The less I know the longer I keep
my work permit. What's that
you're smoking?" I smoke Peter Stuyvesant for a longer life. "Oh yeah?
You're so cool." Another expression of derision was "Kissinger
my ass!" which I believe is political. He could never understand why
the English are so little
moved by the daily status quo;
why bar talk never touches on social revolution, hawks and doves,
injustice, brutality and the rest of the environmental diseases.
"Our policemen seldom actually kill anybody, that's why," Haidee told him.
It's not quite as simple as that; it has to do with the British character.
The day Robert Kennedy was shot in California and while he was still
barely surviving as a cabbage, the talk in the Coach and Horses was about
the comparative strengths of British beers. Faced with an evening of
my friends and relations
Larry would slump with a
glassy, stoned expression and a bottle of whatever was going.
"What was all that about buying an apple tree?" he asked me one night.
"Did they mean apples? They always mean apples. I explained about
buying a tree's crop from a farmer and doing the picking yourself, thirty bob the lot. "And do they
really think there's going to be a next year, the way they've got their
priorities?" Larry asked.
Sitting in this big room (Marty Feldman just phoned
me and I sold him the idea of doing a Love Story for ATV adapted from
my heartbreak at losing Maggie) with its white marble Adam fireplace, now
used as a tele-books-plants arbour, where Daniel George the critic once
entertained the literati, I hear the voices. I hear also, inter-cutting,
the kids from LA, from San Francisco, from New York and Cincinnati, who
were Larry's friends.
"The Customs officers phone up the American
Embassy and they don't want to know. If they're carrying dope they're
yours, they're stateless. They made them dig a ditch to bury their own
bodies. The youngest was a girl of seventeen. I know one of the fellows.
His mother came over after it'd been in Time-Life."
"Didn't anybody do anything about it?"
"Sure. They put it in Time-Life. What else is there?
Washington Post for Easy Rider
"Right" Right, right, right.
"I'm as sick of this bloody matter as you are," says Scott Fitzgerald. "I
can just see people pointing at you at New York dances and saying 'That's
Scott Fitzgerald's daughter. She likes her champagne young. Why doesn't he
do something about it?'"
Virginia Woolf says: "Sorrow, such as I feel now for father, is soothing
and natural and makes life more worth having, of sadder."
"The dive-bomber pilots in
Vietnam are really bombing their parents..."
And "The noo!" says Maggie, all the time.
Surprising then that somebody as militantly liberal as
Larry should keep his visiting
parents from San Bernardino from meeting me and Maggie because we weren't
married. "If you had two rooms, or if your room was a bit bigger, they
could just about take it."
"If the room had been an inch smaller it would have been adultery," says Dorothy Parker.
The Yank in Hampstead
today is depressed at the British public's unawareness of the growing
despotism. Look with a clearer eye at America and don't be lulled to sleep
by decent old Alistair Cooke. When Commissioner
Robert Mark or Lord Hailsham scream for more tanks, remember they are used
not only to fight crime but also, in the hands of coppers who never get a
sniff of the big-time, to steam-roller the innocent
minor offender. Heartening for
Larry to read that the Queen's young relatives, James and Jeremy Lascelles
have been brought up for obstruction after a cheerful street pop-barbecue
in Kentish Town. But alarming is the thought the fuzz, thrown into another
knicker-tearing mood at Westfield College on
Wednesday - by the obstructing crowds or a bit of bad parking -
might also fail to recognise the Queen
"Did you see Larry in the Belfast street fighting on television news?" asked Derek, by way of
a tailpiece long after the event. "Was he caught up in the rioting?" I
asked. Derek said: "He was leading it!"
Well, Hemingway wasn't built in a day, dammit.
(The Guardian, Saturday 1 July, 1972)