The signs and portents aren't very good. If the nearing holiday season limps along the way it has started, this will not be the season when I am soignee, poised, charming and composed.
Every year, I plan to be like the ladies in Town and Country who are photographed with their immaculate children, all of them dressed in emerald velvet. Or perhaps in the stables with their favorite hunter, feeding him bits of pate on pumpernickel wafers.
The fact that I have never had any of the props or locales necessary for this foolish dream has never deterred me until now. I, like Tom Swift, have not been dismayed, and each year I think Christmas will be like the magazines show it; the hostess, regally slim and wearing a hostess gown with just the hint of a train. I always see a silver punch bowl big enough to bathe a pony in, filled with foamy golden egg nog and wreathed with holly. The fact that a great deal of egg nog tastes like bath powder and is murderously fattening does not even dim my dream. That's the way I would like it to be. But I don't think this is the year.
It all started a couple of weeks ago when I was going to a marvelous 40th anniversary party given by the adult children of Richard and Mary Rogan. He is an attorney and she is a retired Superior Court judge. This was going to be an elegant party with a 17-piece orchestra. It was to be at the Castaway on top of a mountain in Burbank with the lights of the San Fernando Valley spread below like a meadow full of fireflies.
A noteworthy company of guests were to be in attendance, among them my distinguished and witty friends, Judge Jack Tenner and his elegantly funny wife, actress Georgeann Johnson. She's a tall, slender lady who wears her elegance as easily as a favorite sweater. She's the one I resemble in my Town and Country fantasy.
I should have declined with a gracious note when I got the invitation. I get lost in the Valley. Always. I have many dear friends who live there and adore it but I can't find my way. It all kind of sluices together in my mind. Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Van Nuys, Woodland Hills, Encino. It isn't what Gertrude Stein said about Oakland and there being no there there. My problem is that it's all there and I can't get out of it. I'm all right near the edge of the hills around Coldwater and Laurel and those places. But in the middle where it's flat, I despair.
But I felt confident about the Castaway because the invitation said it was in Burbank and I can get to KNBC in eight minutes, portal to portal, as a result of trundling office holders and dignitaries to the television studios when I had my piece-work job in politics.
I wanted to be as elegant as Georgeann, so I dieted for a week and after seven days of water and gray gruel, I had lost five pounds and could get in the dress I had planned to wear.
It is hardly necessary to tell you that I turned the wrong way in Burbank. I was almost to the Hollywood Freeway when I realized I would soon fetch up at the Hollywood Bowl, which would be dark for another eight months or so.
I reversed my course and headed for the other range of mountains. I remained lost for quite a while, wandering through residential areas. I really think my reason was unseated because I was half-crazed with hunger, but skinny, baby, skinny.
To cut to the chase, I finally found a sign that said Castaway with an arrow pointing into the side of a black, steep mountain. I wound around mountain roads and at last came to the restaurant, sprawled grandly across the top.
As soon as I drove up, I knew I was in trouble. The parking lot was swarming with young people, all elegantly dressed. A young man took my car and I walked into the restaurant where all of the young men were dressed in dove-gray tail coats and pink cummerbunds. I felt as if I had wandered into a roadshow company of "Sunday in the Park With George."
Then the lady at the desk told me the Rogan Party had been the previous evening and that it had been quite the grandest event of the early holiday season.
I came home and had a martini and a scrambled egg and totally relinquished the Town and Country dream.
I wrote a note of apology to the Rogans and he replied that he had received a copy of a column I wrote on March 17 this year. The column told of the Rogans buying John Huston's wonderful country house called St. Clerans in Ireland. Someone had sent it to them addressed to "Rogan, St. Clerans, 18 miles from Galway City and three miles from the village of Craugwell."
Dick went on: "That was taken right from your column. And the Irish post office had mailed your column, which had appeared in a Florida newspaper, and sent it back to my residence here. Can you imagine getting a letter addressed to, 'Thompson, Pasadena, nine miles from Los Angeles and three miles from the village of Santa Anita?' "
Actually, no. But it wouldn't make any difference anyway. I'll probably be wandering around the San Fernando Valley and I don't think they forward mail that far.