Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Times Obituary of Adele Mailer, 90, the wife Norman Mailer Stabbed, Nov 23, 2015

Adele Mailer, Artist Who Married Norman Mailer, Dies at 90

(Adele and Norman Mailer in court in 1960, a month after he stabbed and seriously wounded her at a party at their apartment. Credit United Press International)
Adele Mailer, an artist and actress who made headlines in 1960 when her husband, the novelist Norman Mailer, stabbed and seriously wounded her at a drunken party in their apartment, died on Sunday in Manhattan. She was 90.

Her death was confirmed by her daughter Danielle Mailer.

Adele Morales was an aspiring painter in 1951 when she met Mailer, the author of “The Naked and the Dead,” who was on his way to becoming recognized as one of the pre-eminent postwar American novelists. The two began living together and married three years later. It was Norman Mailer’s second marriage.

The relationship, marked by heavy drinking and ancillary love affairs on both sides, was stormy.
“I decided I was going to be that beautiful temptress who ate men alive, flossed her teeth and spit out the bones, wearing an endless supply of costumes by Frederick’s of Hollywood,” she wrote in her memoir “The Last Party: Scenes From My Life with Norman Mailer,” published in 1997. Her notion of romantic life, she wrote, was the opera “Carmen”: “You lived from crisis to crisis, sang love duets and had screaming fights.”

On the verge of announcing his improbable candidacy for mayor of New York, Mailer decided to celebrate with a party at their apartment on the Upper West Side on Nov. 19, 1960. The guest list was unusual. Since the author thought of his natural constituency as the disenfranchised, he invited several strangers off the street.

At the same time, he instructed his friend George Plimpton to summon the city’s power elite, handing him a list that included the police and fire commissioners, the banker David Rockefeller and the Aga Khan. None of them came, but the party could still be described as glittering, with attendees that included the poets Allen Ginsberg and Delmore Schwartz, the editor Norman Podhoretz and the actor Tony Franciosa.

With the liquor flowing, it all made for a volatile mix. Ginsberg and Podhoretz got into a fight and had to be separated. Drunk and belligerent, Mailer, wearing a ruffled matador shirt, repeatedly tangled with his guests. Around 4 a.m., he confronted his wife in an incoherent rage.

In her memoir, Mrs. Mailer recalled having taunted her husband, bluntly deriding his manhood, and making an ugly reference to his mistress. Some guests recalled that the point of no return came when she told her husband that he was not as good as Dostoyevsky.

Mailer stabbed her in the stomach and back with a penknife, puncturing her cardiac sac.
Mrs. Mailer initially told doctors that she had fallen on broken glass. Later, in the intensive care unit of University Hospital, she told the police that her husband had stabbed her.
Mailer was charged with felonious assault and committed to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric observation.

“In my opinion Norman Mailer is having an acute paranoid breakdown with delusional thinking and is both homicidal and suicidal,” Dr. Conrad Rosenberg, the doctor who first treated Mrs. Mailer, wrote in a medical report to the judge.

In court, Norman Mailer argued, “Naturally I have been a little upset, but I have never been out of my mental faculties.

“It is important for me not to be sent to a mental hospital, because my work in the future will be considered that of a disordered mind,” he added. “My pride is that I can explore areas of experience that other men are afraid of. I insist I am sane.”

The judge disagreed. “Your recent history suggests that you cannot distinguish fiction from reality,” he said.

Mailer was released from Bellevue after 17 days and in November 1961, after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of third-degree assault, received a suspended sentence. The couple divorced the next year.

Speaking to The New York Times Magazine in 1979, Mailer said, “A decade’s anger made me do it. After that, I felt better.” In a documentary shown on PBS in 2000 as part of the series “American Masters,” he took a more remorseful tone. “It changed everything in my life,” he said. “It is the one act I can look back on and regret for the rest of my life.”

Adele Carolyn Morales was born on June 12, 1925, in Brooklyn. Her mother, Consuela Rodriguez, known as Mae, was of Spanish descent. Her father, Albert, who came to New York from Peru as a teenager, was a typesetter for The Daily News and a semipro lightweight boxer who taught his son-in-law a good deal of what he knew about the sport. Some lessons were emphatically hands-on, with Norman Mailer going down for the count in one early sparring session.

After graduating from Washington Irving High School in Manhattan, Ms. Morales moved to a cold-water flat in Manhattan and earned a living making papier-mâché models for department store windows.

She took art classes with Hans Hofmann, studied literature at the New School for Social Research and threw herself into downtown cultural life, frequenting artists’ hangouts like the San Remo and the Cedar Tavern. She had a romance with Jack Kerouac and, before meeting Mailer, was in a relationship with Edwin Fancher, who later founded The Village Voice with Mailer and Dan Wolf.
It was Wolf who introduced Ms. Morales to Mailer, calling her late one night and putting Mailer on the phone.

“I started to object but then he quoted a beautiful line from Scott Fitzgerald — I wish I could remember it exactly — something about adventure and getting up and going out into the night, and that did it,” she told Peter Manso for his book “Mailer: His Life and Times.”

After the divorce, Mrs. Mailer, who had studied at the Actors Studio, appeared in several Off Broadway productions, including Mailer’s theatrical adaptation of his novel “The Deer Park” in 1967. She also appeared in a small role in his 1970 film “Maidstone.”

She continued to paint in an abstract expressionist style and in later years made box assemblages reminiscent of Joseph Cornell. After their two daughters went to college, payments from her ex-husband were reduced sharply, and she lived precariously in a rent-stabilized one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side.

Besides her daughter Danielle, she is survived by her other daughter, Elizabeth Mailer, and two granddaughters. Norman Mailer died in 2007.

Elizabeth Mailer said of her parents, “She admired him and loved him and enjoyed him, but there were periods when she could only say things that were bitter and angry.”

“After he died,” she said in a telephone interview, “all she could say was, ‘He was a monster.’ ”

On a walk around her neighborhood in 2007 with a writer on assignment for The Times, Mrs. Mailer said, to no one in particular: “This is Norman Mailer’s wife. It’s riches to rags, honey.”
Her daughter Danielle said, “I see her as a tragic figure, but an artist to the core.”

“That was her identity,” she said in a telephone interview. “That is who she was.”

Monday, November 30, 2015

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling: Ex-Nude Model, Lover, Memoirist. The Long-Form Interview, March 10, 2008

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(Barbara Sohmers, Susan Sontag and Harriet Sohmers in Paris, 1950s)

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling was born in New York City in 1928 and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. At the age of 17, she started attending Washington Square College, which is part of New York University. Harriet immersed herself in the bohemian Village, hanging out in the San Remo Café and fending off advances from the famously ugly crime photographer Weegee.

Harriet transferred to the avant-garde Black Mountain College, near Ashville, North Carolina. The faculty included Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg. She left Black Mountain and drove across the country to Berkeley, California with the husband of her first lesbian lover in a Model A Ford. She enrolled at Berkeley, and while she was working at the school bookstore in 1949, she met and later seduced a 16-year-old Susan Sontag.
In 1950, Harriet moved to Paris, where she lived with a Swedish painter, worked for the International Herald Tribune as a clerk-typist, translated a book by the Marquis de Sade and kept a diary of her prolific sexual adventures with both men and women. Excerpts from Harriet’s frank and scandalous diaries were published in 2014 as Abroad: An Expatriate’s Diaries, 1950 to 1959. Her lovers included Susan Sontag and and the future playwright Irene Fornes.
 (Harriet's Facebook photo)
Harriet returned to New York at the end of 1959. After a sudden brutal break up with Susan Sontag, where Susan left her for Irene, Harriet flew up to Provincetown, Mass., and wound up dating Bill Ward, the editor of the Provincetown Review, where she became an editor.
Back living in New York, Harriet frequented the fabled Cedar Tavern, where she was friends with the painter Larry Rivers, and often got into public fights with Bill Ward and various women.
Bill Ward was close friends with the writer Norman Mailer, who was married through the early 1960’s to the firebrand Adele Morales Mailer. In the summer of 1960 in Provincetown, Adele Mailer attacked Harriet, provoking a legendary fistfight. Several months later, Norman stabbed Adele multiple times in front of horrified partygoers at their apartment on West End Avenue. Norman was not indicted in the stabbing. Norman and Adele divorced shortly after the stabbing.
In the 1960’s, to support herself, Harriet worked as a nude model at Cooper Union and the Art Students League. Very briefly, she also worked as a “Rent-a-Beatnik,” where Beatniks from the Village were sent to parties and paid to perform, read poetry and play the bongos.
In 1962, Harriet met her future husband and merchant seaman Louie Zwerling at the Cedar Tavern, when he tried to pick her up as a hooker, offering to pay for sex, which she laughed off. They had their son Milo in 1963.
For 28 years, Harriet taught elementary school in the Irish and Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Years after she retired, she published a collection of autobiographical stories called Notes of a Nude Model, detailing her wild days in Greenwich Village, from being an artist’s model to doing heroin once. The collection brought new attention to Harriet’s life and writing. She has since been featured in documentaries like “Still Doing It,” on older women and sex, was interviewed for the film “Norman Mailer: The American” and was in 2014’s “Regarding Susan Sontag,” where she stole the movie by regaling viewers with stories of her love affair with Sontag.

In 2009, Sontag's early diaries were published, edited by her son David Reiff, who made the decision to refer to Harriet as "H" in the diaries and not by her name. Harriet confronted Reiff on the censorship, and later editions included Harriet's name.
Harriet Sohmers Zwerling and I also have a history. I was introduced to her by Edward Field in 2005, when I interviewed her for “The Last Bohemians” project my photo-and-text exhibit about writers and artists who came up in the 1950’s, which was shown at the Westbeth Gallery in January 2006. With her frank stories of her personal history and opinions (“Being married to a seaman was great for affairs,” and “Kids today, they don’t fuck.”), Harriet became the star of the exhibit. She became the center of a New Yorker “Talk of the Town” piece on the exhibit, referred to by the writer Lauren Collins as a grande horizontale for her many love affairs.
We spoke at Harriet’s orderly apartment on the East Side of Manhattan. Harriet stands almost six feet tall and wears her white-blonde hair long with bangs, a look that Edward Field calls her  “Prince Valiant Haircut.” Over her dining table hangs a nude oil portrait of Harriet, painted by one of the students she modeled for in the 1960’s. On the bookshelf are bound copies of the long-defunct Provincetown Review. This interview took place in March 2008, when Harriet was 80.
 (A recent picture of Harriet Sohmers Zwerling)
Q. How did you know you were sexually free in the 1940s?

A. It started during World War II. I was still in high school when I decided I was free. I can’t tell you where it came from.  It certainly didn’t come from my parents, who were in business, kind of. My father was artistic. He had been a singer in vaudeville.

I had bohemian friends in high school.. We went to French movies. We were too young to go to bars, but we saw ourselves as bohemians. We hung out in the Village in high school. I was so taken by the lifestyle. There was this guy Jimmy Cucciarra, a painter with a limp who was a few years older than I was. He had a place on Cherry Street, an apartment that went for $14 a month. He was living someplace else, so he rented it to me and my sister. That was our hideout. We were both virgins. There were boys, but we weren’t doing anything yet. It lasted a couple of months.

Q. When did you start going to the San Remo?

A. I went to NYU for my first two years of college. The San Remo was where people hung. It was a mix of people. Max Bodenheim was there. Bill Manville was there. Did you ever hear of him? He had a gossip column in the Village Voice. He was slick. He had a girlfriend named Rosemarie Santini. She was Manville’s girl at the time. She writes detective novels now. This was all before I went to Europe.

The Village was a big thing for me. As soon as I started going to Washington Square College, I started hanging out on MacDougal Street. Our campus was Washington Square. It was my dream to be part of the Village, the whole bohemian thing, so I started hanging out in bars. I was too young to drink, but they didn’t care.

It was a great scene. I hung out with artists I knew, like the painter  George Morrison. He was Native American. He died a few years ago. I also hung out with Al Kresch, a very sweet guy.

We went to Provincetown when I was 17 and my sister was 15. My parents, it was dumb of them, but they let us go. No chaperone. My sister was friends with Beryl Oppenheimer. Her family had a house in Provincetown. Her grandparents were artists. She reassured our parents that her grandparents would be watching us. We rented a room at Bryant’s Rooming house. Bryant’s was a famous market. My sister and I got a room there. We ended up having all these hippie guys, like Larry Rivers, hang out with us. They were all junkies. Buddy Wirtschafter, who called himself Jay Worth, was there. He was one of my first lovers. He was a painter, but at the time he was a jazz musician. They were all jazz musicians. There was a guy named Charlie Leeds. He was my special boyfriend. I was still a virgin, but he was the one who would take me out. My mother couldn’t stand him. He was a skinny, blonde bass player. He was a junkie, too. My mother know there was something off about the guy and he wasn’t Jewish. She disliked him intensely. We all slept in this one room. Anne Tabachnick. Did you ever hear of her? She was my buddy at Julia Richmond High School. She was an early bohemian. She became a very famous painter. She was a very hot number, a very beautiful girl with great tits. Anne was sleeping with black guys before anyone else. She showed up in Provincetown and knew all these guys who were playing in a club there--Larry, Buddy, Charlie. Larry Rivers played sax. Anne Tabachnick came up. She was fucking everyone. They were sneaking up to the rooming house to sleep in my sister and my room. That’s how I met all these people. I never slept with Larry Rivers, but we were friends. He was great. I saw more of him in Paris. He was AC-DC. He was lovers with Frank O’Hara, then he went straight, married and had kids. I was also AC-DC in those days. He met me in Paris when I was with Susan [Sontag]. Susan and I were living in Stan Wolfenstein’s apartment. He said to me, “Which part of the clock are you on?” He had gone straight by then. I was gay, because I was living with Susan. In Paris, he was still shooting up. They were all junkies and living on the G.I. Bill. We were all back in the Village together. The story that I wrote, “Night Out,” was when I shot heroin and that was with Larry Rivers.

(The cover of Harriet's first book...a 1960's portrait of her.)

Q. Did you know Sheri Martinelli and Anatole Broyard?

A. Sheri was Anatole Broyard’s girl. Everybody knew them as a couple. They were at the Remo. He was gorgeous. I took a writing course with him at NYU. With those looks, he could be whatever he wanted. Of course, everybody knew he was black. He supposedly was passing, but everybody knew it. It was bizarre, especially because he didn’t look very African-American.

My sister wrote a story years ago. It’s about me at the San Remo, when I was having my first lesbian affair with Peggy Tolk-Watkins from Black Mountain. She ended up in San Francisco, famous on the lesbian scene. She was a friend of Lenny Bruce. In my sister’s story, Howard Mitchum was this deaf guy, an artist and brilliant, but he talked really loud. I walked into the San Remo with my sister. Howard was sitting with Marty Bloom, also a painter on the scene. Marty was a friend of mine. When we walked in, Howard said at the top of his lungs, “Hey Mar-ty, is that girl a LES-BIAN?” The whole bar looked at us. It was pretty embarrassing.

I went to Black Mountain for the summer of 1947. I was 19. That’s where I met Peggy. Peggy seduced me. She was a wonderfully exciting person, and very famous. Peggy seduced me by asking if I’d read “Nightwood.” She had a bar in San Francisco called the Tin Angel, a famous jazz bar. She was at Black Mountain. I was 19. She was 26. Peggy was bi. Everybody was mad for her. She married this guy at Black Mountain named Rags Watkins, a very aristocratic Southerner, also bisexual. She was pregnant by Rags. We all decided to go to San Francisco. Peggy had a Model A Ford. She didn’t want to drive because she was pregnant. We didn’t have any money, but Peggy raised money by scamming people and took a plane. Rags and I drove to San Francisco with hardly any money. We had this girl Ginny that we found somewhere. Peggy had probably seduced her. She was a rich girl and she paid for the gas and everything. Ginny sat in the rumble seat. We drove all the way across the country, sleeping in barns. My parents had no idea where I was. I just split. It was my first adventure. We were living together in San Francisco, Peggy, Rags and me. We were living off Blanche Phillips, a painter and former lover of Peggy’s. We all moved in with her. Peggy introduced me to a bunch of dykes and one of them asked me to move in with her. I started going to Berkeley so I could get support from my parents. They started sending me money. I moved to Berkeley, got a room and that’s where I met Susan. I was working in a bookstore and she came in. I was Susan’s first lover. I used the line, “Have you read Nightwood?” That was the same line that Peggy used on me when she seduced me at Black Mountain. Susan and I lasted about six months, then I went to New York for the summer. My sister came down with TB. Instead of going back to Berkeley, I felt I had to stay with her. I took a leave of absence from Berkeley and never went back. Susan came to New York. I worked at the Partisan Review. That’s when I hung out at the Remo more. That was 1949. I was a receptionist and worked on subscriptions. I met Delmore Schwartz and I met his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth and I took a course at NYU in 1947 with Anatole Broyard. Elizabeth was in my class. I had a big crush on her.

Q. What was the Partisan Review like?

There was a woman there named Eve Gassler. She and I became friends. She was the editorial assistant. There was Phillip Rahv and William Phillips. Delmore was around, but I didn’t really know him. He was psychotic.

I was just the girl at the front desk, but I was able to save up the money to go to Paris. I saved $500, which was a good sum in those days. I bought my boat ticket, which was one way and got to Paris with $200. Susan came to see me before I left. That was it.

Susan got married when she was 18 to her professor, Phillip Reiff. They came to Paris on their honeymoon. I was living with a Swedish painter. We were in Italy. When we got back, I went to get my mail from the old AmEx office in Paris. There was a letter from Susan saying she was coming to Paris on her honeymoon, but she could not see me with her husband’s knowledge, so would I meet her at Notre Dame on August? I didn’t get the letter in time, because I was in Italy at the time. I use the letter in my diary. She then wrote this letter to me, or maybe she said this to me—she was this character from the George Eliot novel Middlemarch, who had married an awful person, a sexless, nasty man.
I came back from Paris to New York because my mother was very ill. I met this young man, Peter, who was my first really great fuck.  The Swedish guy I was living with was not. Do you know who Sam Menasche was? He got an award recently for being the best unknown poet. Edward hates him. He is one of the people I slept with in Paris who ended up being gay. He’s at the San Remo in my sister’s story. Peter, this fellow, I met him at the San Remo.
The bars were all around MacDougal Street. There was the Kettle of Fish. It was a nice little bar then. I hate it now. The Kettle of Fish was a macho bar. That was part of its charm. Alfred Chester used to go there. We went there when he lived on Sullivan Street.
I remember the San Remo because Weegee came on to me there. It was the glamorous place, but I was too young. Weegee was a little, short fat Jewish guy. He asked me if he could take me home and massage me with baby oil. Of course, I was not interested.
The Cedar, that was a great scene.
When I came back in ’59, I was living with Susan on West End Avenue. She went off with Irene Fornes. Irene took her. Irene was my great love in this lesbian thing. She was the only really sexual lesbian affair I had. I had a lot of affairs with women, but I really preferred men sexually. We had a very hot relationship.
I met Irene in New York in 1952. It was madly passionate. She came to live with me in Paris. We were together for about 3 years. She was incapable of being faithful. She was a terrible Don Juan and a flirt. She was adorable and everybody fell in love with her.
 (Irene Fornes and Harriet Sohmers. Irene was one of Harriet's great lovers.)
Susan referred to Irene as that “dumb spic.” Irene never read a book in her life.  Her plays are wonderful, but she’s a primitive. In Paris, she was being a painter.
I came back to New York because my mother was dying, then she wouldn’t die, I had to make two trips, then I went back to Paris. On my first trip to see my mother, that was in 1952, that is when I met Irene. I was living with a man in Paris, but it was mad passion with Irene. I was mostly in love. I went down to Florida to stay with my father. Irene came down to stay with us. He caught us making love in the bedroom. He heard something and we had the door locked. It was a big crisis. He said, “Get that woman out of the house.” It was bad, but we were madly in love. I went back to Europe and I broke up with Sven, this guy I was living with. Then Irene came to live with me, six months later. It must be 1953. We were together until 1956 or ’57. After Irene went to the States, Susan came.

Q. You and Susan resumed your relationship?

A. Yeah.

Q. That’s when the party with Ginsberg took place?

A. Yeah.

[Editor’s Note: Harriet and Susan had had a fistfight the night before they were going to host Allen Ginsberg and other American writers at their apartment in Paris. Susan had a big bruise on her face. Ginsberg said something to Harriet like, “You hit her because she is better looking than you.”]

Q. What happened when you went back to New York?

A. When I came back to New York, I was living with Susan. She took up with Irene and kicked me out of her apartment.  I was working as a temp-typist. I had no money. I was really fucked up and shattered by this thing. I was still in love with Irene. The problem was the betrayal from Irene’s side. That was the rough one. I was never in love with Susan.

A friend of mine lent me $25. I went to Provincetown. It was May when this happened. I had to get away. I had no place to stay in New York. Somebody suggested Provincetown. I had loved Provincetown when I was a kid. Twenty-five dollars was the airfare to Provincetown. I flew to Provincetown, thinking that I could stay with Marty Bloom from the San Remo. I walked with my little duffel bag from the airport into town. Marty was gone. He had broken up with his wife. The wife was a darling. I stayed with her until I met Bill Ward. Bill Ward is the one that took me to the Cedar Tavern. He knew that crowd already. The Cedar was great.

I was with Bill for three years. It wasn’t totally an open relationship. It started falling apart. He started sleeping with other people and I was, too. We started having fistfights. I got very violent at times. I met Lou at the Cedar while I was still dating Bill.

I met Lou in ’61 or ’62, when I was still living with Bill. We went to Europe together. Milo was born in ’63.

Q. Was the Cedar a macho bar?

A. It was those guys. They were the stars…Pollock, the sculptor John Chamberlain, Franz Kline, de Kooning. I talk about the “old ladies,” the girlfriends. Joyce Johnson was Kerouac’s girlfriend.
There was Mira, this black woman, who had an affair with deKooning. Her kid was supposed to be deKooning’s, a beautiful little girl. She and I became very friendly. She’s an addict. I am sure she’s dead by now.
Then there was Ruth Kligman, Jackson Pollock’s girl, the “death car” girl.

Q. What was the sexual vibe at the Cedar?
A. Everyone was fucking everyone. It was very heterosexual. The Cedar was very straight and there was a real sex vibe, a lot of flirtations, and a lot of interesting people. That’s where I met Lou.

The painter Emilio Cruz was a friend from the Provincetown crowd. The Provincetown crowd connected with the Cedar. There were a lot of Provincetown people. Franz Kline went to Provincetown.

Q. Did you sleep with any of the Abstract Expressionists?

A. I don’t think I interested them. I was living with Bill Ward, so I was known as Bill Ward’s girl. We picked up people. There was a famous night when I was with Bill and a group of people at the Cedar. I was seeing Louie Zwerling on the side. Louie was a great lover. Bill was not. There was a blizzard. I struggled over to Lou’s apartment. He stood me up. That night, we all wound up at the Cedar. Louie was living above the 55 Bar on Christopher Street. When the Cedar closed, we were all stoned out of our minds on reefer. (We were all heavily into pot.) We were walking down the street yelling. I snuck off and went to Louie’s apartment.

It was 4 in the morning. I went into Louie’s bedroom and jumped on him. I was wearing a fur coat. He said it was like being attacked by an animal. I leapt on him, cursing him and beating him up.  We had great sex. Soon after, my father died and left me some money. Louie and I went to Europe together. Bill didn’t know about it. I told him I was going alone. Somebody must have told Bill about it. I got a sad letter from Bill at the American Express office in Paris telling me how much he loved me. I was crazy about Louie then. I went back to New York and broke up with Bill.

Q. You had a fight with Adele Mailer?

Adele, oh yeah. The fight was either ’59 or ’60. You know Lenny Green? He’s like that extra single man that people want to have at the party.

Lenny said to me recently, “I remember you as clear as day in  1959, when you arrived in Provincetown.”

I told you about the guy at the Jefferson Market, who came up to me and said, “The Cedar Tavern. Franz Kline. DeKooning.” He looked like a bum but he shops at the Jefferson Market. He must have money. {Editor’s note: The Jefferson Market was on 6th Avenue. It was a West Village institution. It closed for the last time several years ago.]

Q. How did you know Adele and Norman Mailer?

They were in Provincetown and the Upper West Side. They had had a three-way with Irene. In my diaries, there is a nice passage about Norman and Adele coming to Paris. I was living with Irene and hanging out with Alfred Chester. Irene and Alfred had become friends in Ibiza. When Norman and Adele came to Paris, they looked up Irene. They had an affair with Irene before Paris.  She dropped them when she started living with me, which they resented. That, apparently, was the reason for the fistfight. That’s when Adele said to me, “This is for Irene.”

They went to Paris. They knew me from Provincetown. They were staying at this very fancy hotel. They invited us over to watch the fireworks for July 14th, Bastille Day. The fireworks were over the river and beautiful. We watched the fireworks from their room. In my diary, I wrote that “Norman is hostile, I guess because I am twice his height, and Adele is just a dumb fat cow.” I wrote it in my diary…I did not say it to his face. I wrote, “I would have rather been on the quay with the people, watching the fireworks.”

Irene was one of the most seductive people I have ever known. She’s not now, but she is still flirtatious. [After a long career as a playwright, Irene Fornes is at the end stages of Alzheimer’s and is living in a nursing home near Columbia.]

Q. Did you know Susan Sontag’s son David Reiff?

A. I knew him as a child. He probably hates me. I lived with David and Susan when I came back to New York. David was six years old, a very neurotic and very unhappy child. She was a really nasty mother. She came to visit when Milo was a baby. We were very happy. She came up to Provincetown when David was 9 or 10 years old. We went out to the dock. She wanted David to go into the water. He was scared and didn’t want to go. She picked him up and threw him in he water. He was panicked, screaming and terrified. She was mean to him, and of course, he adored her.

Q. What was the Cedar Tavern like?

A. The bar was wonderful. There were these two guys. John was the big Polish bartender. His partner was this nice, bright and charming guy. John was a real blue-collar Polish guy. The atmosphere was very BAR. Everybody was drinking a lot. If you smoked pot, you went to the bathroom. It wasn’t encouraged at all. At the good old 55 on Christopher Street, they encouraged it. The 55 was a great bar. It was a hot scene. David Burnett was the son of Whit Burnett, who had a magazine called Story in the 1930s and 1940s, which was an important journal. David had a magazine called New Story in Paris. That was my first real publication. They published three of my stories. They published Jimmy Baldwin and Alison Lurie in New Story. David Burnett hung out at the 55, and died of an overdose of methadone there in the bathroom.

The 55 was a bar with a lot of black guys and a lot of sex going on. The bathroom was always occupied by more than one person at a time. There were a lot of older white women at the bar and I was one of them. I was in my thirties when I started hanging out there. Milo was a baby. I picked up black guys and had a great time. It is so dead now. It is a jazz bar.

The Cedar died. The building was sold and they moved to 12th Street. It’s lost its cache. I was at the opening night. I threw a glass at someone. Lester was the name of John’s partner.  There was a whole literary crowd there, too. Did you ever hear of a woman named Mary Grant? She was the wife or mistress of Newton Arvin, the critic. A whole lot of the Commentary crowd were hanging at the Cedar at the time. Some of them came to the opening. I was very drunk and threw up on someone, but they never 86ed me. I was one of their pets at the Cedar. I had affairs with the bartenders. It became a food place and it lost its charm. Dillon’s was the place up the street from the old Cedar. That was a much hardier kind of scene, much more working class.

[Editor’s note: The Cedar moved from 8th Street to 12th Street in 1963. It became an upscale hamburger joint, long ago losing the reputation as an artists’ bar. The bar closed after Thanksgiving 2006 for the last time.]

Dan Wolf had an affair with Irene Fornes. Ed Fancher was Adele’s boyfriend. Adele wants to be my friend. She comes to my New Year’s Eve parties. Adele was at Mary [Dearborn’s] party. That’s why Beverly Mailer [another ex-wife} didn’t go. Since Norman died, she’s gone into deep mourning, which is ridiculous because Norman couldn’t stand her.

Norman had a lot of girlfriends. I met Lady Jane. I met her when I was still with Bill Ward then. We were up in Provincetown. Seymour Krim was around. We were very good friends. I slept with Seymour actually. I felt bad about that because he was close friends with Bill Ward.

Seymour was a loveable guy. He published me in Nugget and Swank, two girlie magazines.  He put my “Notes of a Nude Model” in Swank. He was the literary editor of Swank. He was very generous as a writer. He liked me and he liked my writing, and he pushed me. He got my piece about the abortion into an anthology called Bold New Women. He was fired for some reason and the job went to Barbara, Norman Mailer’s sister. She hated me. I’m the one who put the lit cigar down her decollage. That was in Provincetown. I was living with Bill. I was crazy. That was my early incarnation. I was drinking heavily. I was very violent and crazy. I was always getting into fights. Bill fucked her[Barbara]. Alson was her name in those days. That was the name of her first husband. She had this low-cut dress on. For some reason, I was smoking a cigar. She came over and for some reason, I stuffed it down her dress. I was always getting into fights with women. They were throwing beers at me.  I was hitting them.

I don’t think I ever had any fights at the Cedar. I did get into fights with Bill, that ended up at the Cedar. where he’d knock me down, punch me on the chin, on the way to the Cedar or at a party before going to the Cedar.

Bill was shorter than me. Norman and he were good friends When I saw Norman two summers ago [in 2006], when he was already ill, Bill had just died. I saw Norman at a gallery opening and told him about Bill. He said, “Bill Ward had more integrity than any man I ever knew.” It was nice to hear him say it.

Norman had mellowed. He was such a shit when he was young. He hated me. “Cancer hole,” that was his favorite insult. After my fight with Adele, we were both staggering down the hill, weeping profusely with our different entourages. The party was on a hill in the back of town. Norman was shouting at me, “You cancer hole, fuck you, cancer hole.” It was so ironic. Norman was obsessed with cancer. He had this Reichian idea that you get cancer because you don’t have the right orgasms. He was insulting me, when years later his beloved wife Norris came down with ovarian cancer. It sort of came back at him.

Q. I had heard the men were betting. Is that true?

A. No, they weren’t. They were cheering us on. I don’t know about bets. They were encouraging us. In Adele’s book, she refers to me as Angelina or something stupid. She says I’m a lesbian schoolteacher. I wasn’t a lesbian at the time, nor was I  teacher then. Everybody was bombed out of their minds at the time.  Everybody was high or drunk. It was ridiculous. The next day we met at a party. We were all covered in bruises, Adele and I.

You know the story at the party, where he stabbed her? She told me that he made her do that[start the fight.]  She took me into the bathroom. He used it as part of his excuse.

The stabbing was after the summer. The fight was in August. The stabbing was in the fall. He invited Bill to the party because Bill was his pal. I was living with Bill, so I came along. I was so provocative in those days. If I was drunk, I was looking for trouble. Did you ever hear of Richard Olney? There is a quote from his book Reflections, where he talks about his lover Eliot Stein going to orgies with this tall, handsome American girl Harriet Sohmers, who was always looking for trouble.

I don’t know where Olney got that from. I did go to orgies, but not with Eliot Stein. I have a story about an orgy that no one wants to publish. I was la vedette, the star of the orgy. The story’s called “The Gift of Eros.”