Friday, June 08, 2007

Young for your age

Phoebe Cates was somewhat of a dangerous dish in middle school.

Lest you think me some kind of Internet creep, let me hasten to add that this post is a follow up to last one, where I ended by dropping her name in a sentence about playing spin the bottle with her and her classmates when I was 14.

This is true.

We are the same age and, yes, she must admit if asked to being 44. She was in eighth grade when I was in eighth grade, and so I guess she could be 43…or she could be 45. Which makes husband Kevin Kline about 92.

Seems that in the late-70s when I was in the eighth of my twelve years at Trinity School, a private school on the Upper West Side that was established in 1709 by Anglicans seeking to further education among the brutish Manhattanites of the pre-Enlightenment New World, parents started realizing that young boys and girls were spending way too much time on the city streets drinking, smoking, and sniffing ammel nitrate, also called locker room or locker ‘roma. My friend Edgar had a stash of this insidious liquid in a brown bottle and used to partake of it like it was modern day snuff. Google this crud and you come up with but two entries whose links I did not follow but whose text summaries sounded so pathetic it will give you an idea of what kind of kid Edgar was and what kind of kid I was hanging out with him and what parents were trying to protect Phoebe and her Hewitt School Future Debutante Friends from on the rough streets of the Upper East Side of New York, otherwise known as the Silk Stocking District of Congress. Edgar also took an early prototype CD his father procured and said, “Check it out, they’re indestructible,” and – flinging it like a Frisbee hard against his apartment wall – he and I watched it shatter. He got kicked out of Trinity on the last day of school that year for smoking opium in the stairwell. Last day of school.

Independent school parents, among them mostly Republicans I’m sure for reasons that will be apparent in a moment, decided that it would be great if there were a cool “club” that kids in 8th and 9th grade could go to on Friday and Saturday nights. They called it “Bandwagon,” and we met in the New York City Republican headquarters offices on East 84th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. Bandwagon was created to both manage and put distance between the Edgars of New York City and their children. The building was a brownstone that had only a small placard on the fa├žade telling pedestrians what it was, and on weekend nights some 200 kids would pile in for ping pong, music and dancing, drama, and – in upper floor rooms where there was probably a lot of strategizing during the week about how to ensure that Congressional delegates kept the pork coming to New York – there was spin the bottle.

Phoebe Cates had been in Teen magazine and young miss underwear advertising, which I had not known previously. At 14, she was simply dark brunette and gorgeous. It sickens me that at age 60 already, Kevin Kline had his eye on her as his eventual bride. (This is a joke; I wish not to be sued for it. He was only 40-something at the time anyway.) She went to Hewitt, which was a second-tier independent girls school to the more sought after Spence, Brearley, Chapin, and Nightingale. (This is an accurate assessment of Hewitt during the 70s; if you sue me, I’ll have Kevin Kline’s great grandson come over and break your arms.) It really doesn’t matter if she was an excellent student, which I’m sure she was, because she was beautiful and went on to star in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” which was nominated for an Oscar…oh, wait, I must be thinking of "Gone With the Wind," which starred Kevin Kline, not Phoebe Cates. (In actuality, he will turn 60 on October 24 of this year, but of course that’s not counting the 30 years of being cryogenically frozen after winning the Oscar for "Gone With the Wind.")

One Friday, the boys from Trinity got with the girls from Hewitt and played spin the bottle. This was approximately one hour before we all went outside and the 84th Street gang, thus called because they habited and menaced 84th Street in particular, came around and sent all the Bandwagon kids scattering because their ring leader was reputed to pack heat, and yet my friend Joe Murdoch knew the gang leader personally and I happened to be standing next to Joe at that moment and got a formal introduction to the leader involving a handshake and getting on a first-name basis with him.

But blissfully unaware of what was to come, about ten of us gathered upstairs in the Pork Room and played spin the bottle with a flashlight or pencil or something in place of a bottle. My friend Ricky Schwartz spun on Phoebe, and I suppose all the boys were waiting with bated breath until the game broke up to ask “how was it?!” I spun on a girl named Jane, plain as her name, but who bestowed upon me only the second kiss of my life. I remember with equal vividness that kiss and standing next to the revolver-packing gang leader.

Years later, in about 1987 to be exact, Phoebe and Kevin strolled through the Fellowship Hall of the church I was going to, All Souls Unitarian Church on Lexington and 80th, after the Sunday morning service.

She did not recognize me. And Kevin recognized no one so far as I could tell.

photo: danzo08

1 comment:

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

I like this essay a lot. So what if Kevin Kline sues you for being a clever essayist; it can only help generate publicity for your new book, Lullabye.