– A kind but candid friend once told me that I was “pathetically undomestic,” which seems about right. Among other things, I can never remember from one bottle to the next how to use a corkscrew (which may be a blessing in disguise), nor have I any other kitchen-related skills beyond the primeval. But my worst moments come at the rare intervals when I feel obliged out of common decency to change the sheets in my loft. Even when I slept in an ordinary bed, I was never capable of correctly aligning a contour sheet without a minimum of three preliminary tries–and that was when I had patterned sheets. Upon moving to my present loft-equipped apartment two years ago, I switched to black sheets, thinking they’d look more stylish. They did and do, but if you were to see me thrashing around up there, trying without success to figure out which corner to grab first, you wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Middle-aged bachelorhood is no joke.
– I got a cardboard tube in the mail the other day containing the official presidential commission appointing me to the National Council on the Arts. No, it’s not calligraphed on sheepskin, but it’s still pretty damned impressive, and wonderfully quaint-looking to boot. I took it straight to my framer, even though I don’t have a proper place to hang it (presidential commissions are a lot bigger than, say, your average college diploma). I want to hang it in plain sight of all my guests, but would I really be willing to take down a piece of art for the sole purpose of assuaging my vanity?
Perhaps this is a character test in disguise.
– A friend of mine writes to tell me that I was “courageous” to have praised
Kathie Lee Gifford’s new musical. This made me laugh. “Courage” is when you stare down a crazy man with a gun in a dark alley. It doesn’t take “courage” to disagree with the conventional critical wisdom, especially when you don’t hang out with theater people, which I mostly don’t. I know a grand total of two actors and three drama critics, none of whom is likely to pull a switchblade on me for having rather liked Kathie Lee’s show. (O.K., maybe John Simon.)
No doubt it helps that my publishers stand so solidly behind me. When Paul Gigot, the editorial-page editor of The Wall Street Journal, asked me to become the paper’s drama critic, I warned him that some of the things I wrote would be likely to bring heat. “That’s what we had in mind,” he replied. From that day to this, I’ve never been asked to water down a review prior to publication, nor has the paper’s management ever criticized me retrospectively for any opinion I’ve seen fit to express on the drama page. That kind of backing makes it easy to be “courageous.”