Screvane waited. He waited while Wagner came out of the 21, walked slowly down the sidewalk to Shor’s, stopped and chatted with somebody in front of Shor’s, nodded to Shor’s doorman, probably looked through the doors and saw Screvane inside, and then ambled off.
“That’s a real nice guy,” I said to Screvane.
He said nothing. A few minutes later, the headwaiter handed him the phone. Screvane came back muttering, “Wagner just had his secretary call me. ‘Where will you be at seven and at nine tonight in case Mr. Wagner wants to get in touch with you?’ How do you like that?”
“Why don’t you just say the hell with this guy and go ahead and announce you’re in it?” I said.
Shor slapped his hand on the table. “Go ahead,” he said.
“The hell with it,” Screvane said. He got up and went to the phone. He came back smiling. “All right, I called my secretary and told her to start calling the papers and television for a press conference tomorrow morning at eleven o’clock.”
“Terrific,” I said.
“Are you going to be there?” Screvane said.
“Absolutely,” I said.
Well, what happened was, I walked out of the place feeling so good about Paul Screvane standing up and not letting somebody push him around, and this is the way it should be because Screvane is a tough, extremely competent man and nobody should try to take advantage of him. Well, I felt so good about all of this that two hours later I called up Norman Mailer and I said, “Norman, the hell with it. Let’s make up our minds right now.”
“We’re doing it,” he said.
The Village Voice promptly came out with pictures of Mailer and myself on the front page. The type underneath the pictures said that we were “thinking” of running for office.
I don’t know about the rest of the paper’s circulation, but I know of two people who looked at the front page very closely.
One was Paul Screvane.
The other was my wife. “This is a joke, of course,” she said.
“Oh, sure,” I said.
“Well, if you’re that sick for publicity,” she said.
There were a couple of calls at the house in the next day or so and my wife handled them, although not too well. “The publicity stunt is tying up our phones,” she said. “I don’t want these phones tied up. I have real-estate people calling me from the Hamptons. We’re going away on a vacation this year. We haven’t had one in three years.”
“Uh huh,” I said. I was looking over the messages she had taken during the day. One was from Gloria Steinem. I knew what that was about. She had a meeting scheduled with some good, young Puerto Rican guys who were interested in politics and wanted to see what Mailer and I looked like. There would be no warm, friendly vibrations from them. These guys would snarl and snap a little, particularly if I said something stupid. So what? I’d learn something from them while I was at it.
So now here we come to this one morning, and this is how I got into what I am into, and I am in bed with my face in the pillows and I am trying very hard to forget Joe Ferris’ phone number, and the phone rings again and my wife answers it.
“Yes,” she says.
“Oh, I don’t know if he’s doing that.”
“You know that he’s doing that? How do you know?”
“Gloria Steinem said what?
“You’re going to write a story? Here, you better talk to him.”
She handed me the phone. “This is Sarah Davidson from the Boston Globe and she is going to write a nice big story for the first page about you and Mailer running for office. Tell her to make sure she puts in that you’re a dirty bastard.”
I take the phone and I say hello to Sarah Davidson. A gentle, restrained, cautious politician’s hello.
“Sarah, dear, how are you, baby? When are we going to get together for a drink?”
Ten minutes later, the call that makes the whole thing official comes.
“Gabe Pressman,” my wife muttered.
“Oh, he’s just a friend of mine, you know,” I said.
“Hello, Gabe, how are you, baby?” I said.
“Running? Well, we have been talking about it. You know what I mean, Gabe. How many times did we speak about this over a drink? You know how thin the talent is in this city. Look at the names, Scheuer. He says he’s going to spend a million dollars for his primary campaign. Well, let me tell you, Gabe. Scheuer has to spend a million-two, just to get known in his own neighborhood. And look at these other guys. Mario Procaccino. How do you like it? How do you like the Democratic party going with Mario Procaccino for mayor in an election? Mario for waiter, yes. For mayor? Good Lord. And the guys they got running in my column, the City Council president, hell, we can’t afford to have a thing like this.