I was this depraved. When it emerged that the two editors of a music magazine for which I wrote regarded as very hot stuff a movie studio publicist of our mutual acquaintance, and that she’d recently had a…thing with another writer, whom I thought myself better than, I set out to seduce her even though she wasn’t really my type. She had a very pretty face, the centerpiece of which was a tiny nose of the sort popular with the daughters of rich Jewish families, but thickish legs, and I could never understand why my friends, classmates and enemies were obsessed with breasts when there were lovely slender long stems to admire.
I will admit also to not liking her Jewishness, not because I was self-loathing, but rather because my religious indoctrination had been overseen by Rabbi Mordecai I. Soloff, the petty tyrant who ran Temple Israel of Westchester. A week after my comically underattended bar mitzvah, I advised him that I regarded my religious education as over, largely because I never wanted to spend another moment around him. He roared at me that I was betraying My People, and I, in defiance, promised myself never even to date a Jewish girl, though of course the idea of my dating anybody at the time seemed as far-fetched as that of my being hired as an astronaut.
Ruthanne’s office was in the same building on Hollywood Blvd. as the music magazine. Once having dropped off my latest manuscript with them in those days before email or even carrier pigeons, I headed upstairs to her, conspiring to look irresistibly gorgeous. She seemed unimpressed. I turned the charm up. She succumbed, a little warily.
I accompanied her to one of her press screenings, and then took her home. As I’ll say so often during these reminiscences, it was neither awful nor sensational, but let’s not forget that, in my depravity, I was doing it mostly to show my editors that I could get that of which they could only dream.
She stayed over. I thought the gentlemanly thing was to pick up moments after waking where we’d left off the night before. In my arrogance and stupidity, I’d given no thought to my first-thing-in-the-morning smokers’ breath being anything other than just peachy. I was terribly embarrassed by her pointing out that was anything but. I tried to deliver an especially good performnce after excusing myself to brush my teeth with baking soda.
She asked me to accompany her to some big movie-biz gala event. She paid for my tuxedo out of her expense account. I was barely 28, and got ogled a lot. Someone slipped a phone number on a napkin. I think Ruthanne fell a little bit in love with me when she realized that other women were looking at her with envy. I felt like a male trophy wife. She might have been a little depraved herself.
She went from zero to 60 in a wink. From having seemed slightly wary and standoffish in the beginning, she now became voracious, leaving a dozen messages — most of them about how disappointed she was that I wasn’t calling her often enough, or something — per day on my weird British answering machine, which i bought from a neighbor for $25 ($36,450 in 2015 money), and which of course stopped working after around 96 hours. The more messages she left, the less inclined I was ever to see her again. She finally stopped leaving them.
A part of me was so depraved that I thought of shrugging and saying, “Ruthanne? Oh, I’ve stopped seeing her,” when my editors finally asked if it were true we were going out. But they never asked.