Saturday, May 19, 2018

Lenny's Party Excerpts; How You Got Trump

With the passing of Tom Wolfe, his piece "Radical Chic:  That Party at Lenny's" comes up in all the sites.  It is a lengthy profile of the 1970 fundraiser Leonard Bernstein threw for the benefit of the Black Panthers who had been indicted for a variety of serious criminal offenses.  Along the way, Wolfe's observations of New York society clarify much of what we see today

Wolfe's style is legendary.  He captures the .......ahhh.....difficulty.......with having servants.

...But it’s all right. They’re white servants, not Claude and Maude, but white South Americans. Lenny and Felicia are geniuses. After a while, it all comes down to servants. They are the cutting edge in Radical Chic. Obviously, if you are giving a party for the Black Panthers, as Lenny and Felicia are this evening, or as Sidney and Gail Lumet did last week, or as John Simon of Random House and Richard Baron, the publisher, did before that; or for the Chicago Eight, such as the party Jean vanden Heuvel gave; or for the grape workers or Bernadette Devlin, such as the parties Andrew Stein gave; or for the Young Lords, such as the party Ellie Guggenheimer is giving next week in her Park Avenue duplex; or for the Indians or the SDS or the G.I. Coffee Shops or even for the Friends of the Earth—well, then, obviously you can’t have a Negro butler and maid, Claude and Maude, in uniform, circulating through the living room, the library and the main hall serving drinks and canap├ęs. Plenty of people have tried to think it out. They try to picture the Panthers or whoever walking in bristling with electric hair and Cuban shades and leather pieces and the rest of it, and they try to picture Claude and Maude with the black uniforms coming up and saying, “Would you care for a drink, sir?” They close their eyes and try to picture it some way, but there is no way. One simply cannot see that moment. So the current wave of Radical Chic has touched off the most desperate search for white servants. Carter and Amanda Burden have white servants. Sidney Lumet and his wife Gail, who is Lena Horne’s daughter, have three white servants, including a Scottish nurse. Everybody has white servants. And Lenny and Felicia—they had it worked out before Radical Chic even started. Felicia grew up in Chile. Her father, Roy Elwood Cohn, an engineer from San Francisco, worked for the American Smelting and Refining Co. in Santiago. As Felicia Montealegre (her mother’s maiden name), she became an actress in New York and won the Motion Picture Daily critics’ award as the best new television actress of 1949. Anyway, they have a house staff of three white South American servants, including a Chilean cook, plus Lenny’s English chauffeur and dresser, who is also white, of course. Can one comprehend how perfect that is, given . . . the times? Well, many of their friends can, and they ring up the Bernsteins and ask them to get South American servants for them, and the Bernsteins are so generous about it, so obliging, that people refer to them, good-naturedly and gratefully, as “the Spic and Span Employment Agency,” with an easygoing ethnic humor, of course.

The only other thing to do is what Ellie Guggenheimer is doing next week with her party for the Young Lords in her duplex on Park Avenue at 89th Street, just 10 blocks up from Lenny and Felicia. She is giving her party on a Sunday, which is the day off for the maid and the cleaning woman. “Two friends of mine”—she confides on the telephone—“two friends of mine who happen to be . . . not white—that’s what I hate about the times we live in, the terms—well, they’ve agreed to be butler and maid . . . and I’m going to be a maid myself!”...

One of the NOT-jailed Panthers, Don Cox, speaks about the Panthers' platform.

...“The Black Panther Party,” he starts off, “stands for a 10-point program that was handed down in October, 1966, by our Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton . . .” and he starts going through the 10 points . . . “We want an educational system that expresses the true nature of this decadent society” . . . “We want all black men exempt from military service” . . . “We want all black men who are in jail to be set free. We want them to be set free because they have not had fair trials. We’ve been tried by predominantly middle-class, all-white juries” . . . “And most important of all, we want peace . . . see . . . We want peace, but there can be no peace as long as a society is racist and one part of society engages in systematic oppression of another” . . . “We want a plebiscite by the United Nations to be held in black communities, so that we can control our own destiny” . . .

Hmmmm.  Almost as though "white privilege" was invented by these Communists-called-Panthers.  (You should not be surprised if you are half-educated in Marxism.)  And--through the grace of "higher Education" and the Obozo Departments of Justice and Education, some of the Panthers' demands have been granted--fully or partially.  Hmmmmmm, again.....

Wolfe mentions the Society Page Turnover which reminds us of the courts of Babylon, Athens, Rome, Versailles, and Buckingham....but faster.

...By the 1960s yet another new industry had begun to dominate New York life, namely, communications—the media. At the same time the erstwhile “minorities” of the first quarter of the century had begun to come into their own. Jews, especially, but also many Catholics, were eminent in the media and in Culture. So, by 1965—as in 1935, as in 1926, as in 1883, as in 1866, as in 1820—New York had two Societies, “Old New York” and “New Society.” In every era, “Old New York” has taken a horrified look at “New Society” and expressed the devout conviction that a genuine aristocracy, good blood, good bone—themselves—was being defiled by a horde of rank climbers. This has been an all-time favorite number. In the 1960s this quaint belief was magnified by the fact that many members of “New Society,” for the first time, were not Protestant. The names and addresses of “Old New York” were to be found in the Social Register, which even 10 years ago was still confidently spoken of as the Stud Book and the Good Book. It was, and still is, almost exclusively a roster of Protestant families. Today, however, the Social Register’s annual shuffle, in which errant socialites, e.g., John Jacob Astor, are dropped from the Good Book, hardly even rates a yawn. The fact is that “Old New York”—except for those members who also figure in “New Society,” e.g., Nelson Rockefeller, John Hay Whitney, Mrs. Wyatt Cooper—is no longer good copy, and without publicity it has never been easy to rank as a fashionable person in New York City.
The press in New York has tended to favor New Society in every period, and to take it seriously, if only because it provides “news.”...

On what to adopt as a nouveau riche in need of a cause:

...One rule is that nostalgie de la boue—i.e., the styles of romantic, raw-vital, Low Rent primitives—are good; and middle class, whether black or white, is bad. Therefore, Radical Chic invariably favors radicals who seem primitive, exotic and romantic, such as the grape workers, who are not merely radical and “of the soil,” but also Latin; the Panthers, with their leather pieces, Afros, shades, and shoot-outs; and the Red Indians, who, of course, had always seemed primitive, exotic and romantic. At the outset, at least, all three groups had something else to recommend them, as well: they were headquartered 3,000 miles away from the East Side of Manhattan, in places like Delano (the grape workers), Oakland (the Panthers) and Arizona and New Mexico (the Indians). They weren’t likely to become too much . . . underfoot, as it were. Exotic, Romantic, Far Off . . . as we shall soon see, other favorite creatures of Radical Chic had the same attractive qualities; namely, the ocelots, jaguars, cheetahs and Somali leopards....

*Cough* THAT is how you got Trump.

The party at Lenny's goes a bit off-track when Cox begins to talk about 'justifiable violence' on the part of the Panthers, toward shop-keepers of a certain ethnic strain and to 'establishment' blacks.  Otto Preminger is taken aback--and argues--when one Panther refers to the USA as 'the most repressive country on earth.'  Bernstein presses Cox for 'the plan' for reforming the country; Cox confesses that there IS no 'plan,' and Bernstein is nonplussed.

Oh, my, oy, veh...

Then follows a somewhat tense round-robin between Cox, BabaWawa (Tosa's contribution to the muck) and Otto Preminger, wherein BabaWawa and Preminger make it pretty damn clear that Cox's Panthers' threats to BURN IT ALL DOWN are not really welcome, even here with the Radical Chic...

Preminger hits the Trifecta question:   “Is it all right for a Jew to leave Russia and settle in Israel?”

OMG!!  Don't get into that Zionist stuff, Otto!!!  The Panthers' lawyer, Quat, intervenes.

...Most people in the room don’t know what the hell Preminger is driving at, but Leon Quat and the little gray man know right away. They’re trying to wedge into the argument. The hell with that little number, that Israel and Al Fatah and U.A.R. and MIGS and USSR and Zionist imperialist number—not in this room you don’t—

Quat stands up with a terrific one-big-happy-family smile on and says: “I think we’re all ready to agree that the crisis in this country today comes not from the Black Panthers but from the war in Vietnam, and—”

But there is a commotion right down front. Barbara Walters is saying something to one of the Panther wives, Mrs. Lee Berry, in the front row.

“What did she say to you?” says Lenny.

“I was talking to this very nice lady,” says Barbara Walters, “and she said, ‘You sound like you’re afraid.’”

Mrs. Berry laughs softly and shakes her head.

“I’m not afraid of you,” Barbara Walters says to her, “but maybe I am about the idea of the death of my children!”

“Please!” says Quat.

“All I’m asking is if we can work together to create justice without violence and destruction!”
“Please!” says Quat.

“He never answered her kvestion!” says Preminger.


“I can answer the question—”

“You dun’t eefen listen—”

 This is what's called an Enormous Bowl of Not Good.

What came next is impossible to believe in 2018, and was a surprise even in 1970.  The New York Times did not approve.  You read that right...

 “Emergence of the Black Panthers as the romanticized darlings of the politico-cultural jet set is an affront to the majority of black Americans. This so-called party, with its confusion of Mao-Marxist ideology and Fascist paramilitarism, is fully entitled to protection of its members’ constitutional rights.... the group therapy plus fund-raising soiree at the home of Leonard Bernstein, as reported in this newspaper yesterday, represents the sort of elegant slumming that degrades patrons and patronized alike. It might be dismissed as guilt-relieving fun spiked with social consciousness, except for its impact on those blacks and whites seriously working for complete equality and social justice. It mocked the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday was solemnly observed throughout the nation yesterday....


Then came the Jewish Defense League.  Lenny, a Platinum-Card Member of the Establishment, had no clue about the simmering--and sometimes violent--relations between street-level Jewish people and revolutionary blacks.

 ...A controversy they were apparently oblivious of suddenly erupted around them. Namely, the bitterness between Jews and blacks over an issue that had been building for three years, ever since Black Power became important. The first inkling the Bernsteins had was when they started getting hate mail, some of it apparently from Jews of the Queens-Brooklyn Jewish Defense League variety. Then the League’s national chairman, Rabbi Meir Kahane, blasted Lenny publicly for joining a “trend in liberal and intellectual circles to lionize the Black Panthers . . . We defend the right of blacks to form defense groups, but they’ve gone beyond this to a group which hates other people. That’s not nationalism, that’s Naziism. And if Bernstein and other such intellectuals do not know this, they know nothing.”...


That was pretty much the end of Black Panther Parties.  Thank God!

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