Saturday, December 11, 2010

Author Bumping - Cleveland Amory

Let’s see… at this point I’ve shared my Stephen King, James Michener, and Robert B. Parker Author Bumpings.  One of the quirkiest bumpings I ever had has to be that of Cleveland Amory and …
I’ll first explain who Cleveland was – for those too young to remember him. He was a social commentator on the Today Show, the youngest ever editor at the Saturday Evening Post, chief critic for TV Guide, wrote a weekly column for the Saturday Review and credited himself with originating the word “curmudgeon.”  He was senior contributing editor of Parade Magazine, and he wrote three books about his cat, Polar Bear including The Cat Who Came for Christmas.
In 1967, he founded The Fund for Animals, an organization dedicated to the protection and care of wildlife.  The Fund established Black Beauty Ranch, a 1,620 –acre refuge which is home to many abused and abandoned animals from chimpanzees to burros to elephants.  When he passed away at the age of 81, he was buried next to his beloved Polar Bear, at Black Beauty Ranch in Texas.
His most famous works are The Proper Bostonians, The Last Resorts, Who Killed Society? Man Kind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife.  He had been the president of the Harvard Crimson and  was a product of Boston high society. He hung with the Kennedys, Katherine Hepburn, and the like. His tales of misadventure kept me in stitches.
Our initial bumping occurred in an elevator during a writer’s conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. Cleveland began chatting me up, and the next thing I knew I had invited him to a home-cooked meal at my house on the bay just north of St. Pete. I shared a lovely house with my young daughter. She did not know what to make of this big bear of a man (Cleveland was 6’ 4” and portly.) He strutted back and forth as I prepared beef stroganoff.  He was reading the writers’ guidelines I had just received from a nameless publisher. I had briefly entertained the thought of writing romances.
“What?” he boomed. “The heroine must be a virgin? The hero cannot be older than 35?” My daughter cringed as he continued his funny tirade. “Who forces a writer to write this drivel?” He asked. Cleveland had the most unruly hair. It has been described as having been combed by an egg beater. That’s an under-description.  As he stomped about, he looked like a demented lion. The evening was a laugh-fest.
We soon adopted Cleveland as our honorary grandfather. A few nights later, I found myself responding to an urgent call from his room at a local hotel. “I need a ride to the TV station in Tampa, right now! They want my opinion on this baboon heart transplant scandal!”  I wondered – once again – at the surreal turns my life could take as I sat off-camera and watched Cleveland pontificate at the immortality of sacrificing a baboon for the sake of an experiment. Thanks to those early pioneers, so many lives have been saved, but at the time, I bit my lip and returned him - all blustery - to his hotel.
Cleveland invited my daughter and me to Manhattan for a visit. I booked us into the Parklane Hotel on Central Park South… near his apartment.  Our newly adopted grandfather greeted us at the door of his place, cautioning that Polar Bear didn’t like strangers and was a one-man cat. My daughter scooted down on the floor and Polar Bear – a beautiful pure white cat - climbed into her lap and didn’t leave the entire morning.  Polar Bear’s daddy had constructed the most interesting cage that enclosed his balcony and allowed “Bear” to sit out over Central Park South and safely watch the crowds below.
Later that day, we went to watch Cleveland play chess against ten different opponents, simultaneously. I love playing chess, but could never imagine playing against more than one person at a time. It boggled my mind. That evening Cleveland wanted to take us to a special restaurant… one of his favorites.  He would pick us up at our hotel.
Picture this… he drove an old Checker cab as his personal car. It was one of those huge old taxis. He sat high in the driver’s seat looking like the cab was built around him.  His wild hair screwed up even more than usual from brushing the roof of the cab.  It was late by the time we had dinner, and everyone he ever knew stopped by our table for introductions and quips. The main streets in Manhattan were pretty quiet. I sat in the middle, next to Cleveland and my daughter leaned against me.  We were on Madison Avenue when I noticed a woman in short shorts leaning into a Cadillac talking to the driver.  
I whispered to our host, “Is that a –”
 “A hooker,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“I’ve never seen one before,” I whispered.
Just then the lady of the night got into the Cadillac.
“Let’s follow them!” Cleveland said.
“Yikes… no!”
But it was too late. The big bear of a man was tailing the Cadillac in a very obvious way.
“Please don’t” I whispered. “My daughter… this could be dangerous.”
The Cadillac made an illegal u-turn. Cleveland swung the big old cab in the same “u”.
“This isn’t funny,” I mumbled.
The Caddy slipped down a dead end alley. We were hot on his tail. I put my arm around my daughter and pleaded with our host to stop being silly. Just then the Caddy kicked into reverse and came at us as if to smash into us.
“Oh, Oh!” Cleveland said as he slammed the cab into reverse. He backed out of the alley at lightning speed, spun around and headed back to the Parklane.  As the doorman came to our assistance, Cleveland said to me… “If you ever tell anyone Cleveland Amory was following a hooker for fun… ”
I never answered. I never promised. So now you have the story of Cleveland Amory and the great hooker chase.


More Author Bumpings to follow.

6 comments:

  1. I love this. I used to read his columns and stories. You are so lucky to have been his friend.

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  2. Another fun story! I think my favorite item was that he drove an old Checker cab! How cool is that? :-)

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  3. Karen, You had to see it to appreciate the utter silliness of it. He was soooo big and sat sooo high in the seat. The car was huge. There we were driving down Madison Ave in hot pursuit of a hooker and her john. God has a real sense of humor. I swear when I was born... he said... this one ... we're gonna test. Dump every silly thing we have on her.

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  4. what a fun story, thanks for sharing.

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