"Excuse me! excuse me!" Marlo Thomas sticks her arm into the kitchen and waves it around. She is clenching something in her fist. The kitchen is a zone for servants in her mind, so she refuses to step foot into it.
I go over to help her. I open my hand to receive whatever it is she seems to want to get rid of. Marlo squashes a piece of used gum squarely into my palm and says "trash".
I don't feel to badly because I'm already aware that nobody at this party actually likes her. People sometimes forget the help has ears... an a mouth it seems.
Marlo Thomas and Elaine May
Before this party started, a birthday party for Elaine May, who starred in "A New Leaf" with Walter Matheau, I over-heard some choice nuggets. I was setting up the buffet and couldn't help listening to the conversation between the hosts and some of the early guests.
"She's a bitch. We only put up with her because we love Phil".
I notice she never makes eye contact with the help. Food just magically appears out of the air for her, as we are just food receptacles for Marlo. Food that she generally waves away and dismisses with disgust.
Marlo's husband at the time, Phil Donahue, is the complete opposite. The first thing Phil does when arriving at the party is run to the kitchen to tease and flirt with Shirley. Shirley, who is almost 70, adores Phil. Next Phil sits down and asks Shirley about her life. He usually spends as much time in the kitchen, laughing with us,as he does at the party.
Phil and Marlo always arrive by yacht, as this party is at a sea-side home. Walter Cronkite does the same thing. One other person arrived via the ocean on this particular year, and that person is me.
Shirley called me the day before and asked me if I could work. I agreed and said I'd see her tomorrow. Then a horrible thought occurred to me. My sailing dragon raft, that my then-husband and I lived on, was anchored directly in front of the house where the party was going to be. I called Shirley back. "Should we move it?" I asked Shirley. "No, leave it right where it is, Gretchen", and so it was.
The day was one of those gray, drizzling New England days. The party was held on the front lawn under a large white tent. The guest list was the same as always... Carly Simon, Walter Cronkite, The Styrons, Mike Wallace, Diane Sawyer, Art Buchwald, Kitty Carlyle, Mike Nicols,etc. No one seemed to notice, as they sipped their cocktails, chatted and nibbled on h'orderves, a brightly painted, psychedelic, dragon raft bobbing merrily in the ocean directly in front of their eyes. No one, that is, except Phil Donahue.
To be continued.....
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10 months ago