NEWSLETTER JUNE 2008 Mexico, L.A. San Diego, New York
I am honored to announce that I have been invited to attend the Philadelphia Independent Documentary Festival on June 27 to launch my own documentary produced by Robert Dunlap: Xaviera Hollander , the Happy Hooker , portrait of a sexual revolutionary.
As usual round the coldest month of the year, Philip and I took off in February 2008 for a 5 week vacation to warmer countries than Holland. Mexico - where I have been coming for the last 30 years now - is like a home away from home. We moved into the usual cabana, right at the beach of Zihuatenejo; The beaches are clean and golden and there are still very few tourists during our daily morning beach walks. We do get greeted warmly by the familiar people like the author Clifford Irving, whom I have known since my Happy Hooker days.
Only in the old fishing village is it bustling with freshly arrived tourists from the many cruise ships that come by twice or three times a week. So many new bars and restaurants are booming. The Coconut bar is still the most lovely and romantic spot in town and there we are always greeted by Ana de la Marina, an American eccentric writer/poet who spends most of her winters in a tiny hotel opposite the Coconut Bar.
The cruise ship guests are neither the offensive loudmouth people nor the very old and decrepit ones you expect to come off these boats. They in fact don’t bother us too much and make the city prosper; tourism is about the only industry they have in Zihuatenejo. There were my steady friends: Juan Carlos, who used to love his booze and drugs (still looking like an ageing Rastafarian with his long dreadlock hair and squinted eyes, he just reached forty).
We go back to his teenage years when he was a wild young Mexican boy living in a tree house, making jewelry and selling some of the best ganga around. Now he does not touch the marijuana anymore and even gave up drinking as it made him too paranoid. His gorgeous daughter of 18 is the vivacious spitting image of her dad in his younger years. She knows how to manipulate every young man she sets her mind on and is quite a talented photographer. Ernest Balmer, from Toronto, now mid-seventies, is still healthy and fit as a fiddle and one of the most pleasant and generous hosts I know. He and his girlfriend Barbara ( 20 years his junior ), are spending their winters in his divine house in Barra de Potosi, about half an hour away from Zihuatenejo. We meet once or twice during each visit and catch up on the latest world tours we each have made. I know him from when I first moved to Toronto Canada about 49 years ago and ever since, we never lost touch.
Our charming very temperamental Mexican friend and fine wine merchant Raul still grumbles about the decline of clients and the competition of some of the major new supermarkets, but he seems to keep his head above water. He stores some of our belongings in the period we are abroad. Elsa Ramirez, a feisty Mexican lady friend of mine, still spends most of her time in her spacious de luxe villa in Ixtapa , where she owns an expensive and great restaurant in which she does not exploit herself any more. Recently she has purchased a large brand-new flat in Santa Fe, the latest jet set area of Mexico City. Here her sons will live while they go to university, but Elsa herself intends to spend a lot more time there herself as well.
After two weeks in Zihuatenejo and a few desperate emails from Roberto Schlosser ( the man who has been my lover for the last 40 years whenever I used to come to Mexico), Philip and I reached Mexico City just in time to meet up with him and his ex wife Alexandra. This was the saddest moment of my entire trip. Roberto had informed us during our previous visit to Mexico, when he looked extremely gray and frail, that he suffered from a rare form of leukemia and would soon need blood transfusions.
Well, as it happens in his inimitable style as a part Hungarian and Transylvanian citizen he was to survive the past year on the blood of not only his ex-wives and children but also of various donors. Like a true Vampire they kept him alive. I had noticed from various phone calls I had made with him to the different hospitals, where he spent his last few months, that he was rapidly reaching the end of his rope.
The encounter with him was heartbreaking. Alexandra managed to prop him up in the car in blankets and Philip helped him, ( frail and light weight like a ballerina ) into the restaurant, where he could barely sit up and soon after we started our meal and he barely could touch some tea
… he asked permission to lay down on my lap. We had picked a place with a big couch for us to sit on. Like a helpless little bird I felt his thinning hair and saw his hollow eyes stare at me, while his head weighed much less than in the days we were holding each others faces as lovers. While I stroked his hair he whispered to me:
“I have waited for you to come and see me for the last time. My son is flying in tomorrow from London and then I just want to go. This is no life anymore. ” With tears in my eyes, Philip, myself and Alexandra helped him to his bed, undressed him and I was shocked to look at his skinny legs, that once used to be the most gorgeous part of his body. As I kissed his forehead it was icy cold. It was like I was kissing a corpse already.
Two days later, while Philip and I had just landed in Los Angeles, I received the email from Alexandra with the message that Roberto had died while choking on a yogurt after he and his son had just entered the hospital for another blood transfusion. His mind apparently had never wondered and he was fully conscious when he died. Apparently it was a most horrible moment for all. Shortly after his death I sent a beautiful film of Barbara Streisand singing the AVINU MALKAN KAYNU song in the Budapest synagogue as a souvenir of Roberto's Jewish heritage, something his own family was never quite aware of. At least may they think of their ancestors as Jews rather than Mexican Catholics.
In Los Angeles my cousin Dr. Patti Britton and her man and documentary maker Robert Dunlap took us after a few days on a weeks trip to Ocean Bay Side , between San Diego and Los Angeles. They had arranged a spacious time sharing apartment for all four of us and we toured up and down the coast, meeting with more family members we had not seen in ages. There were Pat van Midde and her brother Ted, who had flown in from San Francisco. They were our gracious hosts at a fabulous luncheon and dinner a.o. at the famous Coronado Hotel with a spectacular view of the Bay.
On our way back we stopped off at Encinitas where a divine little street market offered us several lovely surprises, like really cute old watches for Philip and velours/lacey dresses and blouses for Patti. In La Joja, a small village BIG on ART we had a fancy luncheon in a gorgeous Italian restaurant and enjoyed a window shopping spree; seeing some of the greatest contemporary fine arts galleries with incredible paintings and glass figurines. Philip and Robert stared for a while at a woody, (an old fashioned car from the fifties) while Patty and I checked out the arts and crafts.
In Los Angeles John Patti, who is Robert's co producer of our documentary (that is about to enter various international film festivals) invited us for dinner to a charming well known soap star's private home. The place was tastefully decorated, our host charming and a great cook and entertainer. Everywhere there were large homoerotic paintings and statues. I will not reveal the name of our host as one thing I have noticed in the USA, specially in Los Angeles, is that people who are involved in the film industry, don’t really dare to expose to the rest of the world their true sexual desires.
Nobody will outright admit to being gay, but in fact many of the actors are. Shortly after our arrival in Los Angeles my dear friend Victor Migenes, owner of a fancy cigar shop/annex art gallery in down town Los Angeles, invited us for a screening party of the documentary. In this new version Philip shows up at the final footage. There were about 30 of our mutual friends, obviously Robert Dunlap and John Patti and also Thomas Ellis and his dear friend Jimmy. Thomas is a very talented artist and Jimmy a sweetheart and lifelong friend. Those two people at least openly admit to being gay and Thomas had invited a small group of my friends, including my private chauffeuse and Hillary Clinton representative Ashley Oliver for a final soiree at his doll-like house full of his own gorgeous paintings.
One afternoon I had arranged for my girlfriends Norma Jean Almodovar , Ashley and Renata Bielecki to all have luncheon at the Marmalade restaurant. We chatted and giggled for hours. Philip took the afternoon off to enjoy the Farmers Market near our hotel in Hollywood Grove.We also had a delightful luncheon with Rebecca Varon and her angelic little daughter in a trendy restaurant cum designer shop in Hollywood.
Rebecca had on two occasions performed in Amsterdam in a fabulous one woman cabaret show a.o. for the Millennium celebration I produced. She now seems to devote most of her time to her clever little child, who instantly stole the hearts of the many guests that saw her dance into the place. Too bad our dear friend and theatrical producer Paul Lucas had to leave for Australia to attend a major international theatre festival. He was still mourning over the death of his beloved father a few days earlier.
We only had a chance to meet for a quick cup of coffee in Soho. Veronica Vera, my yearlong friend and organizer of some great get togethers like the unforgettable dinner at the trendy Manhattan Kitchen Club (owned by an eccentric Dutch lady and her artsy staff) introduced us to her new lover, Stu, (sweet and witty), who also happens to be a sometime transvestite. Veronica is known for her school for boys who wanna be girls. The group of people we got together at this Kitchen Club consisted of Lesley Barany, who just published a magnificent book with pictures and paintings of different artists and their unusual fantasy cars, Ruth Lapin and her boyfriend Brent, Roger Rabbit, an artist from West Virginia who flew all the way to Manhattan to come and join us for a few days of fun and parties. Funny wordplay Ruth Lapin – the French bunny and Roger, the American rabbit.
Then there was of course my lifelong slave girl Franny, who won’t miss any opportunity to see her mistress when she is in New York, even though I am with Philip she still adores me. Another girlfriend Angela Works, a lawyer joined us with an unexpected guest Jimmy, who came into the restaurant and handed me an enlarged photograph of us on the beach in St. Tropez in 1975. He was a very handsome young boy then and still is most attractive now at 55.
On the picture I am being lifted up by him and his younger brother, when they carried me effortlessly on their shoulders, something I would not recommend anyone to do now!! We spent an entire afternoon at the huge book shop Barnes and Noble to extend our library. Amazing how diversified their collection of books is. The shop is as big as our main department store the Bijenkorf in Amsterdam. What amazed us was the area where fanatic readers were sitting on the floor, leaning against the walls, or in the middle of the store: reading frantically all sorts of books and newspapers.
A few days before we left for Holland we had lunch with my ex lover Clyde, the teacher from Scarsdale at Rockefeller Plaza's Brasserie . He had suffered a stroke about two years ago. The one time strong and muscular man was still attractive and tall, his once long hair now neatly cropped, but he now walked much slower and his right hand was still partially paralyzed. It was odd to see how this Adonis of a few years ago was now struggling to eat his food, hold his drink or even put on his glove or button up his coat. His mind was still functioning well, but even his speech had slowed down. When asked what most annoyed him about having suffered this stroke, he said that he had to learn how to be much more patient and one could never be in a hurry any more after a stroke. There were still definitely a lot of emotional feelings between us. Philip and Clyde got along quite well, something I had had my doubts about before I introduced the two men together.
I must not forget to mention our visit to the Guggenheim Museum, which is built in a spiral way and every few hundred meters there were new things to see: from paintings by Kandinsky or Paul Klee to the most bizarre paper mache tigers and wolves covered with fur; they looked stunningly realistic. What was most fascinating were the Maostic sculptures of soldiers and peasants by Chinese artists made right on the spot under our eyes. At the end of each week they destroyed their own work to create new statues the following day for their curious audience.
The famous Chinese artist CAI GUO QIAN , who had given the entire museum its special look (title of the exhibition: I WANT TO BELIEVE), had created the nine cars hanging in the air with sequinced multichannel light tubes of various dimensions.The most fun part of the wedding was the dinner/dance party at the hotel which was coincidentally just around the corner of our hotel. Small world: a city with 16 million inhabitants, and then the wedding part is a mere 3 minute walk away.
Shannon and Bryan , our two friends who are like our social director whenever we come to New York as they arrange our theatre tickets for the four of us. They graciously threw a lovely party for us at their cozy town house in Brooklyn , which was full of Bryans collection of carved heads from Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Honduras, Peru, Egypt, Tunisia...and swords from Japan , Mexico, China., Vietnam, Korea, Honduras, Peru and Egypt. Not to forget the bizarre ornamented monkey skull from Thailand Bryan and his father had collected during their trips around the world. Shannon looked delightfully cute and feminine, especially now that she is expecting her first child in a couple of months.
I was allowed to invite almost all my friends I could gather and specially their neighbor Ruth Lapin was most helpful with the pastrami and several other delicious dishes. It was a kind of pot luck party and the food kept on coming. So did the booze and the birds. A one time actress, Cyndi Freeman, who had performed a fun comedy in Holland for my audience, gave a sexy burlesque show with her girlfriend and colleague Rosie.. It was done in a most elegant and yet naughty way and got all the boys clicking away with their cameras. There were Lisa Lipkin the Jewish storyteller, my co author from Happy Hooker days Yvonne Dunleavy and her husband, Veronica and Stu, Lesley Barany with a seductive young dominatrix, to which Franny instantly flocked, and not to forget new sex author Ilona Paris and many other birds of different feathers. The party went on until the early hours.
The 22nd of April Philip and I left for Marbella, hoping that this time we would be able to enjoy warmer weather than last year round that time. For two weeks the weather was glorious and we had a lovely family with three kids staying in the back of our villa, all having a great time. Then the weather turned out to be cooler than in Holland where there was apparently some sort of heat wave. Dave Surie and I had met in Amsterdam, when he came by to ask me to sign one of my books for him. He's a sweet and talented Indonesian photographer with three handsome kids. The youngest daughter Milou of three stole everyone’s heart.
His wife Saskia was adorable and cooked us a divine Indonesian meal the night before they left for Holland That afternoon they were all lingering around the almost clean pool…when suddenly the youngest brother Nicky , who was reading a book on the side of the pool, while the rest was either sleeping or laying back in the sun… noticed that his little sister was in the deep end of the pool without her rubber wings and was about to drown. He jumped to his feet and managed to pull her out of the water just in time. The entire family was shocked and happy she survived.
Another horror story was to follow, and happened the day after the Suries left. Harry and his wife Birgit Blommesteijn, two really good friends of ours, showed up for a two week vacation with their two pretty old cocker spaniels: Johnny and Cheever. Birgit was keeping them most of the time on a leash as she was worried the oldest one, Cheever, who was thirteen, blind and not in good health, would walk into the pool. I was worried from the moment they walked in with their two dogs that this would be a complicated vacation and would have suggested them to put the dogs with friends or in a doggy pension in Holland.
They had taken all this into consideration, but had decided to bring them along anyway in two expensive new kennels they had specially purchased for the journey.When they went to sleep totally exhausted Birgit thanked us for the opportunity to stay in this wonderful paradise in Paris as soon as they had picked up the urn. In Paris they intended to spend some time with a dear friend of theirs, Eric, and then go back to Amsterdam. I have meanwhile decided to donate Cheever’s kennel to a dog rescue organization in Marbella, that is more than happy with Johnny’s bed and will probably use it to have dog lovers carry little puppies that were found in litter boxes or even tied to a tree , often more dead than alive, then being fixed up by the vet and healthy once more, were put up for adoption with Dutch people in Amsterdam.. who would meet the dog carriers at Schiphol airport, as happy with their little bundle of animal as others would be when they would meet an adopted child from some far away country.
Little did we know that it would all turn into a nightmare for them and all of us. The following morning Harry came into the kitchen, while Birgit was still asleep and he was having a cup of coffee with Philip when our gardener Theo rushed into the house and yelled: “There is a dead dog in the pool.” Never have I seen Harry so heart broken and pale when he fished out of the water his beloved Cheever who had apparently drowned a few hours earlier in the pretty cold water. He must have escaped the closed doors of their bedroom… which he could easily have pushed open with his paws or nose.. and walked right into to the pool. He probably died of a heart attack right away. The poor animal was totally stiff when he was carried onto their terrace.
Never in my life did I hear such a long and haunting screaming howl from anyone, as when Birgit awoke suddenly and found her favorite son-like animal dead on their terrace. They sat there motionless for hours, held the poor animal in their arms and just cried. Then round midday Philip suggested we would take them to our local veterinarian and have Johnny cremated. Harry and Birgit then decided to linger around Spain for a week; which is how long it took for the urn with the ashes of their dog to come back to Marbella. Birgit and Harry never set foot in our house, nor dared to look at our pool anymore after that horrid incident. They packed their things, took off with their rented car and one dog left still with them to tour around the area where we live in Andalucia. They ended up in the artistic quaint mountain village of Mijas and only came back to pick up one kennel for the one dog they still had with them and left us the other kennel. Then they decided to take the train to
Last year Xaviera met Sherry Midas, who has produced many a play in England as well as on the Costa del Sol. She has moved from London to Spain and is trying to introduce a cultural exchange between Spain and anywhere else in the world to promote art in all forms: music , dance and theatre. Well…the inevitable happened , these two most energetic and dynamic ladies, who both love the “spoken word “so much, have decided to team up and bring some exciting and top quality theater to Marbella. Nijinsky’s Last Dance by Norman Allen is a one-man drama featuring an outstanding tour-de-force performance by the mesmerizing Ricardo Melendez as the tortured dance great, Vaslav Nijinsky
Vaslav Nijinsky, one of the greatest male tortured dancers of all time, was discovered at the tender age of 9. As with many child protégées, the pressure of living in a whirlwind of fame and excitement proved too much for the young star. In less than 90 minutes, the play moves in and out of the dark mind of Nijinsky to tell the story of his rise from obscurity to fame as a young dancer with the Russian Ballet; his innovative dance style that changed the face of modern dance; and his ultimate and tragic descent into madness.Ricardo Melendez is utterly believable as the unstable and slightly crazed Nijinsky. Creating a sense of incredible vulnerability, he encapsulates the audience as he tumbles back on a journey retelling the colorful tale through the dancer’s eyes. “I am Nijinksky, I am Nijinsky, I am…”. This recurring statement evokes a feeling of pity and sorrow as the dancer moves the audience through his extraordinary life with the view that the world makes greater demands than simply the talent that is given by God. Melendez powers on through the difficult tale, moving swiftly from one character to the next, creating an easily identifiable persona for each. His rippling body tackles this intense piece of physical theatre with ease, and his talent as both dancer and actor leads to an unforgettable performance. One would believe that they are in the presence of the troubled man himself. Melendez is Nijinksky. The life and career of Vaslav Nijinsky was as tragic as it was brilliant. Born in 1890, the Russian dancer blazed a trail across Europe, leaping higher and moving quicker than anyone before. Behind the glamorous parties and regal premieres, however, lay a fragile ego and caged artistic genius.
Climbing under the skin of this most complex of men is no mean feat, but Ricardo Melendez spends an hour immersed in Nijinsky's life. On a simple stage, draped with white linen cloths, Melendez takes us from Nijinsky's childhood in St Petersburg to his glory days in Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe. He starts and ends with the tragic vision of this once great dancer, broken and near hysterical in a psychiatric hospital. It's a life story filled with passion and longing. Desperate to hold and, more crucially, be held by the beautiful women who surrounded him, Nijinsky had to forgo such pleasures for the sake of his career. Instead his nights were spent pleasuring Diaghilev and his "saggy bottom". All of the main players in Nijinsky's life are brought to life by Melendez, with a simple change in stance or voice. It's a script which demands much of its performer - not least the Russian accent - but Melendez rises to the challenge admirably. A former dancer himself, with Alvin Ailey among others, he moves beautifully, albeit in a rather restricted space.Posing to have his picture painted, Melendez strips down to reveal a statuesque body. It is a moving scene which epitomizes Nijinsky's entire personality - well- founded conceit mixed with an almost pathetic vulnerability. Melendez brilliantly portrays Nijinsky as well as nearly a dozen others who populated the great dancer’s life. The characters include Nijinsky’s lover Sergei Diaghilev, prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina, and artistic champion Auguste Rodin. Through the passionate telling of his own rise and fall, Nijinsky offers his audience a glimpse into a world descending into the chaos of World War I and the challenges facing an artist during this turbulent time.
And this dear friends is where I would like to end this lengthy newsletter on a very high note. For the first time in the 35 years I have been living in Marbella, Spain have I managed to conquer the English speaking population of this culturally extremely bored public by producing this incredible one man show at the brand-new Black Box Theatre in Marbella: two nights only and each night a sell out with standing ovation and an elated public. In my usual speech I give shortly before the new show starts I mentioned that for years I had produced plays in Holland, which caused me two suffer two heart attacks and a lot of financial losses due to too much competition but that it appeared that HERE in Marbella I was on “virgin” territory as people seemed hungry for English top quality theatre and there is virtually NO competition at all. More reactions about the play can be found on my theatre page.
For your information, Ricardo wrote me the day after he came back to Dublin that he was awarded the price as BEST ACTOR in the U.K with his Nijinsky performance. What an honor it was for all of us to have him amidst us. So here are some of the raving emails people sent me, which makes me now plan yet another smashing production mid January 2009 with David Benson: Starstruck.