Sunday, August 07, 2005


Blaine's Brother

Under more conventional circumstances, Blaine would have been marked as "the most popular girl in school." She was blonde, "pert," lively and "fun to be with" -- even when standing around the halls talking about nothing in particular. (A very important quality for any High School girl.) If she "stood out" at all it was only slightly. For Blaine was in many ways exemplified Communist Martyrs High, Class of '64. Yes she was "popular." But then so were a lot of people. There weren't any favorites or ruling cliques. In fact I don't recall any cliques at all-- just loose assemblages of the like-mind, constantly circulating around one another, combining and reconfiguring with mad abandon. Blaine, the Belle of all Balls, embodied the casual sophistication common to the offspring of monied BoHo parents (they, and the house they lived in, had much in common with The Royal Tenenbaums )

If Blaine stood out it was because of her voice. Not so much loud as clear and determined. Yet she wasn't being pushy or overbearing. She was a kind of adolescent "social lion" because she "knew everyone" and her boyfriend Howard went to Bronx Science -- which for some reason was well-respected by all of us. Or maybe that respect came after the party -- THE Party.

Blaine had invited everyone over to her house, a beautiful brownstone on the upper west side. Howard had invited everyone he knew. So that meant on a lovely Spring evening more than half of the student bodies of two New York high schools wer jammed inside this one brownstone. Odinarily it could manage a good number of people. But this was well over that limit. We danced, we drank, we smoked pot, we made out. More important, we all found ourselves suddenly "adult" overnight. Sure we'd danced, drank, smoked and made out before but in a different context -- sneaking off away from our parents to do so in clandestine rendez-vous of our own devise. Here we were in a "real" house -- not some back alley.

Blaine's parents were upstairs - technically "present" in order to "supervise" but far too cool to get in our way. I can't recall what Blaine's father actually did. I think he was "retired" -- like Ozzie Nelson, only hipper. He was definitely a beat of the old school. Something vaguely University of Chicago about him as I recall. Blaine's mother too. Anyway we were having a fine old time. So fine that the neighbors called the cops about the noise. I was just getting up a good head of flirting steam with Nelson (who doubtless was eyeing Steve on the other side of the room at the time) when it all came down. Blaine's father spoke to the cops and they left. Obviously they felt everything was OK if a parent was present. About a half hourlater the real trouble began. Few of us found out until the next day but the party had attracted vandals who tried to break into the basement. Blaine's father confronted them and there was a fight -- which he won. But one of them had hit him with something and there was a cut on his head. He stood at the top of the great stairway, blood dramatically trickling down his face, and told us the party was over. So well all left. But not at all regretfully. Nothing couldtop such drama and THE Party became part of igh School legend. My one regret was that I had just begun to chat up Blaine's brother Jimmy.

Jimmy (a younger, prettier, even livelier male version of Blaine)was more like an Arab street urchin as Irving Rosenthal would imagine him. He'd show up after school at Commie Martyrs from time to time, talking a mile a minute, never settling in one place very long, and seemingly amused by everything and everyone. He dazzled and frustrated me. Jimmy was always laughing, always bounding about like a hyperactive puppy. And always with a knowing smile. Andre Gide would have adored him. Naturally I wanted him (that was my Dirk Bogarde in Victim ), but he moved far too quickly for a sentimental slow-poke like me. Once he did light long enough, however, to give me for my birthday Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks at the Cannes Film Festival, an album that proved as crucial to my literary education as Mike Nichols and Elaine May's Improvisations to Music and Severn Darden's The Sound of My Own Voice.

Would I have "known what to do with him" if I'd had the chance? Certainly not. He was there. He was gone. Of course rumors abounded: he was dealing pot and did jail time, he was hustling and did jail time, and (best of all) he'd run off to Tangier. Were any of the rumors true? Well as Sydney Pollack says to Tim Robbins in The Player, "All rmours are true."

Back in late 80's I ran into Blaine on the IRT. She hadn't changed, though she was just divorced. She was as bubbly as ever.

She didn't know where Jimmy was.

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