07/10/06 - alan jay lerner

In today's excerpt - Alan Jay Lerner's parents divorce. Lerner was the lyricist and librettist who teamed with Frederick Loewe to write My Fair Lady, Camelot, Gigi and other musicals. His father had become wealthy by founding and building Lerners Department Stores. The setting is New York City in the 1930s:

"My Pappy was rich and my Ma was good lookin', but by the time I was born my father no longer thought so. As far back as I can remember, their life was a familiar symphony in three movements: arguing, separating, reuniting. They played it over and over again, but each time the second movement became longer and the third shorter, until finally one day it stopped after the second movement. This was how it happened.

"Every Friday night my father went to the prize fights at Madison Square Garden ... the patrons had season tickets and the ringside was always sprinkled with the faces of the great and famous.

"When I said my father went every Friday night, I should have said almost every Friday night, for on many occasions his taste for combat drew him to other, more quilted arenas.

"In those days people worked on Saturdays and one Saturday morning, my father told me, as he was preparing to go to the office, two things happened that had not happened before during his entire married life. The first was that while he was dressing my mother woke up. The second was that as she opened her eyes she said: 'Who won the fight?' Alas, that Friday happened to have been one of the nights that my father's ringside seat was empty. I do not remember who fought the main bout, but will call them Smith and Jones. My father, taking a chance, said: 'Smith.' My mother turned over and went back to sleep. My father went into the dining room and opened the New York Times to the sports page. Jones had won.

He methodically finished his breakfast and went downtown to his office. Once there he called the house. There was one maid specifically assigned to looking after his clothes. He told her to pack everything and the chauffeur would call for his luggage shortly. By the time my mother fully awakened, my father and all that was his were gone. As he later explained to me, it seemed the only sensible thing to do. He realized that it deprived my mother of her innings, but it avoided a great deal of noise and he would have ended up at the Waldorf anyhow."


Alan Jay Lerner


The Street Where I Live


W.W. Norton & Company


Copyright 1978 by Alan Jay Lerner


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