Blogging a Dead Horse

john blumenthal

john blumenthal
January 05
john_blumenthal (On Twitter)
Curmudgeon. Formidable braggart. Comedy writer. Eight books, 2 movies. Former associate editor at Playboy Magazine. Movies include "Short Time," (major flop), and "Blue Streak" (huge hit, no idea why.) Last three novels were "What's Wrong With Dorfman?" (St. Martin's Press), "Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour," (St. Martin's Press) and "Three and a Half Virgins" (Finalist, International Book Awards.) Latest book -- a spoof of romance novels called "Passing Wind of Love."


Editor’s Pick
JUNE 28, 2012 2:04PM

Hanging Out with Nora in 1973

Rate: 66 Flag

Nora and I worked at Esquire at the same time, she as a columnist, me as a lowly fact-checker. It was 1973. We'd passed each other in the halls occasionally, perhaps rode an elevator together, but she had no idea who I was and I wasn't quite bold enough to tell her, not that she would have cared.

Esquire was my first editorial job and I was lucky enough to serve under the magazine's legendary editor, Harold Hayes, who plucked me out of obscurity from a job as a house painter and whale's tooth polisher on Nantucket Island. Esquire paid me exactly $65 a week which, even in those days, was chump change.

Anyway, one day Nora stalked into the fact-checking area -- a large room containing the four of us who made up the overworked department.  It was not hard to discern that she was not happy. For some reason, she chose me to snap at. I forget what it was about, but I snapped back and she strode angrily out of the room.

Of course, I thought I was going to get fired. I didn't. Instead, Nora asked me to accompany her to a literary party. Needless to say, I was a little bewildered, given out first frosty meeting, but of course I said yes. Neverthless, I wondered why she'd chosen me; perhaps she respected the fact that I -- a peon -- had not taken her guff lying down. I would find out the real reason years later.

Anyway, Nora and I hung out for a while.  It wasn't a dating thing -- she was married at the time. We'd go to gallery openings and literary parties together on occasion. One thing that impressed me about her -- she never abandoned me at any of those parties, even though she knew everyone there, everyone being the likes of Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Gay Talese, to name a few. 

Unfortunately, I don't remember a lot of details. It was a long time ago and, when you're young and self-absorbed, things are a blur. But I do remember that she was smart, sarcastic, mischievous, sensitive and ballsy -- Dorothy Parker minus the mean streak.

A few months later, Harold Hayes, who had been grooming me to be an editor, left the magazine and was replaced  Don Ericson, who didn't have any particular career-advancement plans for me. I had to leave, but I had nowhere to go.

Nora, sensing my dissatisfaction, corralled me in the office one day and said, "How would you feel about being an editor at Playboy?" I wasn't sure. I had never been a big fan of Playboy. But living in New York on $65 a week was getting tiresome. I needed a new job so I said yes. "The editor will call you tomorrow morning," she said. He did. I got the job. 

Ten or so years later, I bumped into Nora at a party.We reminisced for a few minutes, exchanged small talk. I was still curious as to why she had chosen me to accompany her to parties and why she'd gotten me the job at Playboy. I figured perhaps she saw something in me -- humor, intelligence, ambition. So I asked her. Why me?

She gave me that toothy smile and said, "Because you were cute."





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You literary pool boy, you!
From "cute" top blogging a dead horse, we still love ya, John, and your stories.
So you were her arm candy boy toy??? Great post about a great writer and very cool lady... thanks.
@jmac1949. Boy toy? Nah. I was 24. She was 31.
Great story, John. Those really were the days! Could be a plot for one of her movies. Wait - were you Harry to her Sally...?

Great story, John! Playboy, no less?!
Okay--now I'm really jealous.
John, great story and given she was married should not have stopped you from having her drop her husband and becoming the next Mrs. John Blumenthal. Think of the nice initials on the monogrammed towels that could have come into your home as a result of this: N.E.B.
Well, everyone can be mistaken once. I did hear she had bad eyesight!:-) Great post, great memories~
You've made me like her even more. Great story.
It's all about the cute! :D
Yay!! I was waiting for you to write this!
John, beautiful story, and you are right she was a good hearted one.

This quality is what I admire in one also the ..

""One thing that impressed me about her -- she never abandoned
me at any of those parties, even though she knew everyone there..""

A great story and memory, but... just cute? I think she could do better than this... Rated, with thank you for sharing !!!
Great post John...obviously a very talented woman even if she couldn't judge "cute." Oh heck, you still are, you big lug...
You're still cute, from what I hear. Sounds a bit like you were called upon to be a "walker," a time-honored position of non-threatening male arm-candy. Makes for great stories much later on, that's for sure.
I'm sure you were very cute lol
Wonderful story. I guessed "cute" had to be in there somewhere.
Great story, John!
Oh, this is terrific, John. Loved it. That last line sounds like something from one of her screenplays (not that you weren't and aren't still cute!).
What an amazing real-life connection - and Nora's response to your question at the end seems like something right out of one of her movies! Thanks so much for sharing this with us!
Well,ARE YOU...I mean,CUTE???
I am sure,you are.
You introduced her to me,posthumously.
Now,that is CUTE.(per fortunate coincidence)

I have looked at a news report,and there she was referred to as "Grand Dame".You can consider yourself to be lucky to have known her personally.In a few years from now,we can see you in a movie.
Good luck,CUTIE

Rated for a fine tribute to Norma Ephron
This is my 3rd attempt to leave my comment.
Is this comedy a la Norma Ephron?

And,ARE YOU???...I mean CUTE?
Thank you for introducing her to me,posthum.

You can consider yourself lucky to have known her personally.

In a few years,we can see you in a movie.

Rated for a fine tribute to a "Grand Dame" as she has been referred to in a news report.
Sweet memory. ~r
" ... she had no idea who I was and I wasn't quite bold enough to tell her ..."
I love that.
Terrific snapshot, John.
Great story. Lucky you.
Probably the best of the "Nora Ephram stories" on OS. This was a delightful reminiscence as opposed to "How Harry Met Sally changed my life around". Thanks John. Cool
How cute could you be if she sent you to Chicago? Or isn't Playboy published in its home town?

Cute works well for me too. It and $2.25 gets me a large coffee every morning! Us felines is lucky that way.......

Let's just try that rate thingie again.....
That is a movie. Definitely. Arm Candy. I can see it now. Loved this.
You shoulda known she wouldn't love you for your mind. Cute piece.
what a great story to have in your repertoire. lucky guy.
Haha - not your wit, not your charm, not your intelligence, but you were cute. This makes you a man who knows how women feel.
Wonderful story, and congrats on the crossover to the big house!
What a great anecdote. A really nice character sketch of a terrific, you too John. R
I was cute once, too...
Wonderful, John! Love hearing the inside scoop.

That's only one of the reasons you're still on my crush list. :)
Aww, John, just the BEST story!!!!!
You know theres something honest and sexy about that fact, but aside of that I find that Nora Ephorn had a strange and unusual talent for telling stories with an aire of humility, which most people do not like admitting is something they do quite well.
That is a fine walk down memory lane, blu. Always good to see you, my friend. R
No! Please tell me she wasn't that shallow! ... You must have been pretty cute, though. :)
Certainly good enough. Enjoyed this John.
I was hoping you'd tell us your Nora story!
This was great, so glad you posted - I got to hang out with you AND Nora, in the glam literary world!
Rubbing elbows with the great ones...And all because you wouldn't take any crap. I like that.
This piece gives me courage at a time when the universe has seen fit to take Nora Ephron and leave us the Kardashians. Thank you.
And you thought she saw your inner genius....
Nice piece, John. You live (have lived, continue to live) a remarkable life.
What a great story. And what a time you had.
Just a heads up that John's piece was crossposted at big Salon. You can check it out here:
oh that was just great! a lovely reminiscence. I feel as if I met Ms Ephron through you. You're a wonderful writer John, and reading you is always a pleasure.

ps. you're still a cutie.
Cruising down through Big Salon I found that you've not only got the OSEP but that this post has made it's way to Big Salon as well... hope the big bucks come rolling in soon. Maybe Esquire or Playboy?
So I guess she wasn't one of the inspirations for "Three and a Half Virgins."
You are one lucky SOB! Loved this.
What a great story from someone who knew her. I could see you smile from ear to ear when she told you you were cute..:)
Nice read
Wonderful story and a great lady. She will be missed.
What a lifetime intermezzo! We meet so many people, they offer us so many things. We are changed and shaped by the experiences, and sometimes, sometimes, they end up being somebody, and so do we.
Enjoyed this very much. That you included this: "One thing that impressed me about her -- she never abandoned me at any of those parties..." I find a telling characteristic of you both -- she didn't abandon and you remember.
RIP Ms. Ephron.
ah dude, great story man, but as an editor Im sure you understand the significance of that past tense.... ouch haha
Totally different perspective from mine, but also totally spot on about Nora. You captured her perfectly. You don't do a lot of memoir writing and I wish you would. I bet you have great stories I couldn't possibly match. Like this one.
Gongratulations John, I have just read you in Salon, too!!! Bravo!!
I know who John Blumenthal is, but I'm going to have to google Nora Ephron. Did she have something to do with the Ephron-Barr Virus?
You know John, I've always had a lot of respect for you, your life and all but now? Man, I am just beyond words.
You were probably as engaging and witty then as you are in your posts now. I remember her radio days on WETA in DC.
All my comment s are in this song...
Well, I could have told you that! LOL! How did it feel to know she was hot for your bod?

Congratulations on your EP and Big Salon cross-post!

Great story of life in an earlier time! Thanks for sharing!
Youre the mac daddy John!!
John - next time you are in the mood to post, try the alternate site lorianne set up for us - Our Salon. You don't have to fight the spam for attention.
hI John, Great Nora story. I think of her daily. So sudden, hmm?

tonight i was trying to find your email, which is missing from my computer to suggest an article in the Times called Book Reviewers for Hire. I cannot link but it's right there, and I SO thought of you, and to be truthful, of me too. lots of love, cutie pie.
Rated for the truth of nora ephron coming out so perfectly!!