Losing the occasional friend along the way goes with the writer's territory, especially if the writer travels in the same rarefied circles he writes about, as I do. In time, some people come back. Pauline Mendelson did. She was a very good sport about the whole thing. Mona Berg did, sort of. Cecilia Lesky did. Maisie Verdurin adored being a character in one of my books and bought fifty copies to give as Christmas presents. Others didn't, of course. Justine Altemus, my great friend Lil Altemus's daughter, never spoke to me again. Only recently, Justine and I were seated side by side at a dinner dance at the Colony Club, celebrating Sandy Winslow's ninetieth birthday, and we never so much as looked in each other's direction for the hour and a half we were table companions.
Not too long ago I had intended to give myself a party on the occasion of my upcoming birthday, a milestone birthday, which I must confess I never thought I would reach, especially in the last two years of stress and high anxiety. This was all caused by a monstrously unpleasant experience involving some monstrously unpleasant people, who had no place in my life and took up far too much time in it, particularly when the years left to me are dwindling down to a precious few, as Walter Huston used to sing.
But it is a fact that the fault was mine. I fell hook, line, and sinker for a fake story from an unreliable source. I thought I had the scoop of my career, and I made the fatal mistake of repeating it on a radio show of no importance, and the consequences were dire. If you must know, I accused a congressman, former congressman Kyle Cramden, of knowing more than he was admitting about the case of the famous missing intern, Diandra Lomax. I made a mess, I tell you.
I tried to distract myself from my troubles by focusing on party planning. When my birthday party guest list grew to over three hundred, and I was only at the P's, I realized I would have to rethink things. I know entirely too many people. Although I have several very serious enemies in important positions, I hope not to appear immodest when I say that I am a popular fellow, who gets asked to the best parties in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris, and goes to most of them.
I decided to limit my party to eighty-five people, which is the age that I will soon be. It was so difficult to hone my friends to eighty-five. It doesn't even scratch the surface. Eighty-five, in fact, really means forty-something, with wives, husbands, lovers, and partners making up the other forty or so. There would be hurt feelings, to be sure. That's why I don't like to give parties. I go about a great deal in social life, but I never reciprocate. The spacious terrace of my penthouse in the Turtle Bay section of New York City, where I have lived for twenty-five years, has a view of the East River, and could easily hold a hundred people or more without much of a squeeze, but I have never once entertained there.
I felt, however, as if I deserved a party. But it was not to be, as you will find. Things happen. Everything changes.