Two weeks later was Christmas. I had met several of her friends through the holiday, who all were very suspicious of me, and rightfully so. It was always like a Dark Shadows episode, or that scene in Sunset Boulevard where Gloria Swanson is playing with her old movie star friends, all looking like they had an infant child attached to an IV, draining the blood to keep them going for another day.
I went to Doubles, a club in the basement of The Sherry-Netherland. It was in the same building as Ciprianis, where a bowl of oatmeal and coffee would cost you $20, and A La Vieille Russie, where a Russian grand duchess’s Faberge frame could be purchased. Very, very New York. And The Sherry-Netherland was directly across the street from the General Sherman monument–which I have to admit, when I first moved here, I peed on, thinking of his march to the sea!
Downstairs at Doubles was a Halloween party, and everybody ran around and was acting quite happy. Trinket introduced me to our host, a big Irish man, who was a very important politician in Boston who had married very well into an Episcopalian family. There was something about me being an interior designer that had disturbed her. She told people that I was “Like an architect!”
I remember when we first met, she told me that her first husband had been AC/DC and asked what I thought about that. And I said, “Well, I always thought that was something to do with batteries” and giggled. She then found out about my devotion to Judy Garland, and I told her, honestly, how my father had been fond of her during World War II because the radio would play the song Over the Rainbow, and because my dad’s best friend thought of her as the most glamorous girl in Hollywood. So that didn't raise any eyebrows.
She didn't like the fact that I wore a five carat sapphire, surrounded by perfect white baguettes–which interestingly enough had belonged to James Cagney. And she didn't like bow ties, although she liked ascots. It was because of Trinket that I began wearing neckties again. She found them more masculine. She told me that when she and her first husband had been married they were both young and beautiful. A few sad months later that they realized it wouldn't work because he liked boys. Although she told me he showed up in her life again several years later–several, we're talking 30 or 40 years, and he was married to a little Indonesian woman. Then Trinket laughed and said, “She looked like a boy!”
Her second husband was a man who was domineering. They had the house in Connecticut, loaded with servants and gardeners and cars and chauffeurs and just everything you can imagine. She owned a private jet, a company here, a business there. She once slipped up while tipsy, and let out that she was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But none of it meant anything if she couldn't be happy, because that of course is everyone’s dream, to be happy. Throughout most of it, she had also been running her father's company. After her graduation from school, her father had become ill, so she had taken it over and learned all about rubber. She took the company that was worth approximately five million dollars at that time to over two billion dollars at this time. But she wasn't happy; she had been used, and abused physically and mentally. She did have her friends, but many of her friends were on the grab.
One of my favorites of her friends is a woman I refer to as a “bitch clown” (and I say that jokingly). You can still see her sitting at the entrance of La Grenouille, waiting to have friends come in and hold court. The overly made-up, clownish woman literally is a hundred, but nothing shows that fact, except her mouth, for when she opens it, no teeth. She wears large, vulgar stones that she has convinced everyone are real, but aren't. These include fake sapphires and diamonds and emeralds and rubies, all piled on her like a Christmas tree and topped off with a chinchilla hat. She knows how to accessorize. She was one of Trinket's friends and actually claimed to be her mother. This was all in good fun, but she was there, and of course she was dangerous. Another friend was a man who had been the manager of the place where she lived, and he was AC/DC too, but pretended to have eyes only for Trinket.
The truth is I wanted security, and hoped to get, but I also really liked her and her company. I did not want to be handed checks, I wanted to write them with Trinket at my side!
I also remember going to a Thanksgiving Day Dinner at La Caravelle, now closed, which was the place I first had a Pink Squirrel, the cocktail. Also, we attended an anniversary party in Tribeca, at Chanterelle. In attendance, there was a general from the army, a couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, and Trinket and me. All of them were over 80, I felt like an eighteen year old! The war had just begun in Iraq and was a big topic of conversation. The small crowd in attendance at the party wasn't a mixed bag–all of them were Republicans, all of them pro-war.
Everything that night was attractive, and seemed very nice, but something happened when Trinket and I, and another woman, went outside. I was to light cigarettes, and they would smoke and gossip. When the light shone from the street lamp upon the woman celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary, she looked like a dried prune, powdered white. I thought to myself, “What am I hoping for? What am I trying for? What might I get?”
When you marry for money you earn every cent you get. The truth of the matter was I worked so hard for what I have now, I used to laugh and say I'd make more if I was a hooker on 12th Avenue. That is, if you compared the amount of money I earned for the amount of work I did, and the amount a street prostitute makes for the work they do. Those ladies’ job was hard work. I had people coming back for years complaining about the pins in their draperies or the spot on their lampshade.
If I had been able to get together with Trinket, we had plans that we would have our own firm. You know when you open an old decorating magazine and the pictures and textiles all say “Traditional 1968,” but look comfortable and cozy? That was her style. I could have easily fit right in. Wow, knowing that every bill would be paid, and that every trip would be available, whenever and wherever I wanted to go, and on a private jet. Call me superficial. That's okay, while you call me superficial, I'll call the jet. Take me here, take me there. Take me anywhere.
I had been seeing Trinket for seven months. I was so close, and then the worst thing that could happen, happened.
I arrived at Trinket’s Christmas dinner, already very tired. I drank red wine like water, and went down to the Bull and the Bear, the steak restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. On occasion Trinket and I would have our Sunday night meals in the hotel at her table. We would walk thought the restaurant, and the crowd would part because we were dressed as expected when the restaurant had opened, she in a lovely ensemble of silk, fur, jewels, her hair perfect, a little bag containing a shawl if she became chilly. I wore a suit or blazer, a crisply ironed shirt and silk tie, and polished shoes. The rest of the people in the place were dressed in clothes that one would wear to a polite barbeque. That is what Trinket loved about me. I was always well groomed and respectful, yet able to deliver a zinger of a joke at a moment’s notice. Once when Trinket told me that she was too old for our friendship, I laughed and told her she was ridiculous. This put the fear of God into me, obviously someone had been plying her with ideas that befriending me wasn’t a good move on her part.
I worked fast. A friend of mine, Betty, a lovely and very pretty woman, had herself just married a guy she was in love with, who happened to be loaded. I was introduced to him before their wedding, and he asked if I would come to San Francisco for the wedding. He assured me that it would be a blast, and I told him that yes, of course I would come, because all of Betty’s weddings were a blast! He wasn’t too pleased to hear that, but then I’d known Betty through all of the husbands she’d dated, and the weddings were always fun. Betty had purchased a fabulous piece of jewelry from me, a brooch in the shape of a spider, rubies and diamonds set into a gorgeous mount. She had given me a down payment and had paid on time, and owed another twelve hundred dollars. She happened to be in New York, and I asked her if she wanted to clear her bill by doing a favor for me. She excitedly said “Sure!”
The next evening, as Trinket and I promenaded into and through The Bull and The Bear, I was approached by an extra-lovely looking Betty. She had a pouty look on her face and a knockout diamond necklace around her neck. I said “Hello Betty.”
She responded by saying “Hello Marc. I think of you often.” I showed slight discomfort and introduced Trinket, who said hello, rather stiffly. Betty said hello and walked away in a slow sad step.
On our way to our table Trinket, rather upset, asked “Who was that?” I replied that Betty was a girl who I had dated (we actually had, as best friends) but that it did not work out. Trinket asked why. I told her that Betty was far too immature, that I liked a woman who knew what she wanted and that was why I loved her company. Well, Trinket beamed!
On that Christmas night at dinner, I was seated with some interesting people. There was a Brazilian industrialist and a countess from some area in Bavaria. She was very flirty and found me entertaining. The industrialist enjoyed my conversation about my industrialist clients. There was a little queen who was spoiled and rich and was suspicious of who and what I was. All of the wine, all of the food, all the laughing.
That night, I called Trinket after the dinner to thank her for such a lovely Christmas meal. She wouldn't answer my calls.
The next morning I woke up, and looked at my clothes laying on my floor. There was a wine stain on the right side of the collar of my shirt. Not a stain, a splash. I wondered. I must have lifted the glass and literally poured the wine down the side of my face, and I had no memory of that. When I finally reached her on the phone, she said, “You were bombed.”
“Was I?” I said, “I was calling to thank you for a wonderful evening.”
“You ruined my evening.” she interrupted, “you embarrassed me in front of my friends.”
I didn't know what to say. The only defense I had was that the industrialist to my right had invited me to dinner, and the countess across the table had very sensually slipped her card to me. It was so chic. No number, no address, just a little crown and the word “The Countess D-.” That only seemed to enrage her more. She said she didn't know what she would do for New Year's Eve. She didn't know what she would do now that she had accepted an invitation for the both of us. I became angry and aggravated and said to her that perhaps we shouldn't see each other on New Year's Eve. With that, she hung up on me. And I huffed and thought to myself, “I'll let her stew.” Well, that was a huge mistake because I never heard from her again. And when I finally did have an opportunity to run into her, she told me not to call her anymore.
“You told me I was the light of your life.” I said to her.
“I never told you that.” she replied.
That was the great disappointment. The great failing. I remember calling a friend of mine, Harry, and saying, “This is awful. What will I do?”
“What will you do?” he said, “What will WE do? We all had plans. We all wanted to have a good time.” And Trinket would have gone along for the ride and enjoyed the company and the fresh new friends she may have met through me.
I saw her a few years later in New Orleans, at the New Orleans Country Club. She was with friends, and looked very ill. I approached, and gave her a kiss. She looked me up and down rather bitterly. I said, “What a coincidence, Trinket, I'm wearing one of the ties you gave me.”
She said, “You look thin.”
Later, when leaving, my aunt who had accompanied me imitated Trinket's up-and-down glance and said, “I'm sorry, Marc, but it doesn't look like there's any love lost there.”
About four months later, I heard that she had passed away. She was alone, and that was sad.
Judge me if you will. Yes, I longed for security. I longed for company. I remember a friend once said, “One day, the best you could hope for would be to have a live-in couple who would take care of you, and that at nighttime you could call them on the phone and ask them what they did during the day.”
We had wonderful late night talks, Trinket and I. She woke up at one and went to bed at two. I would call and we would talk. We would have fun conversations about dogs and cars and visits and trips and where we would eat and what we would enjoy. I really liked her. I liked everything about her except those damn cigarettes. And now she's gone, and Sunday nights, for the most part, are back to 60 Minutes and The Simpsons. My good friend, the TV. Occasionally a movie, occasionally a dinner. Well, if life can't be grand it may as well be fun.
But I do so miss those lovely evenings when we would meet in her home, stroll through the space, sit and chat, me putting up with that cigarette smoke while I had a divine vintage and slowly sniffed and drank my wine until the chauffeur called from the garage to let us know it was time for us to come down.
Whether it was my week or her week to treat, Sunday was always a treat for us both. Wicked as I may sound, I'm truly saddened that I disappointed her. And I'm really sad that I disappointed myself, for what could have been really grand turned out to be fun. A fun chat with good friends about the girl that got away.