Your Pal, Clayton

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

August 16, 1966, 3 p.m.
Blackstone Theatre, Chicago

Dear Pal Frank:

Well, I’m here at work and just finished reading your letter which I enjoyed tremendously and was glad to get. Life is dull here and sometimes the days pass slowly and it’s great to have a letter to answer!

I know too well that feeling of just “yetch” and being alone, and it is funny how a small thing like a letter can pick you right up. Funny and kind of wonderful too! Sure you miss your girlfriend and you’d be an idiot not to do so, but I’m glad that it doesn’t cloud the mind or louse up your life … she would be the last one to want to do that and I know you feel the same way about her.

Glad that Annie Get Your Gun is there for it helps to have a wonderful show around to pick up laggin spirits. If the manager is Milton Pollack please send him my best. He is a fine gentleman and was so loved by the How to Succeed Co. that I took over for. Also he was wonderfully kind to me when I needed it and I can’t say enough good things about him. Glad that you are meeting some interesting girls there too. You see, life is beginning not ending!

Hope you get to go to New York, but before you go, hope you patch up that quarrel with your mother. Maybe she is difficult but try to understand that being a parent isn’t the easiest job in the world and try and roll with it a little. She may have problems you know nothing about. Glad you enjoy talking to me and yes, I do listen, it’s easy if you care. I think I make a fine older brother.

Now for the exciting, tremendous & sensational report from the Windy City concerning the reports in the life of the handsome, rich and legendary Manager … here goes:::::: it’s dull!

The show did great last week and we are off this week. That picnic on Sunday was sort of fun but the weather wasn’t—hot, muggy, etc. That evening I went with Dan [Dailey] and [his girlfriend] Carol, Paula & Dick Benjamin to Drury Lane to see Jane Russell in Catch Me If You Can. It was just unbelievable. The place is furnished as if you gave Jayne Mansfield a million and told her to indulge her taste. The show was so bad and I saw the worst actor I’ve ever seen in my life that night. After the show we had drinks with the Company and we all were so embarrassed (spelling?) for it was so bad there wasn’t a “hook” to hang a compliment on. We left quickly and arrived back here and ate at a wonderful Italian place and didn’t leave the table until 2:30 a.m. The talk was stimulating and fun and very enjoyable. I shall be so sorry to see the talented and nice Dick Benjamin leave us. He is going to N.Y. to do the new Simon play with Anthony Perkins (our favorite) and maybe Jane Fonda. Elliott Reid arrives here the 4th to start rehearsals and will open the 19th of September, and if he isn’t as good as you said he was … watch out! It will cost about 5 thousand to make the changes in ads, billboards and extra salaries and I’ll send you a bill.

I splurged and bought a copy of the Gala Fledermaus performance they had at the Vienna Opera last year with guest chorus and special appearances by Leontyne Price, Jusse Björling, Luba Welitsch, and on and on. It’s so beautiful and it has even the dialogue which is still funny even though outdated. I played the aria that Rosalinda (Hilda Guden) sings called “Strains of the Homeland” (Klange der Heimat) and cried. Oh how bad can Saturday nights be when you are alone on the road.

Pat opened up last night Succeed and said it went well, but not great. She is considering murdering the conductor but they have stiff laws against such action. We talked for about an hour last night and I really can’t wait for her visit. We’ll have a ball. Also she is flying out here the end of October to be here when the great Helen DeWit shows up so it sort of cheers me up.

As for me, personally, I sort of don’t know how I feel. I guess mainly all right, but in a way, unquiet and sort of sad and I don’t know why. Chicago is fine and the money that comes in is wonderful, but I know in my heart this is not what I’ll end up doing. Frank it’s funny, I tell you things I’ve told no one, but maybe you understand. It’s as if I know that I will spend the greatest part of my life back in Europe and I’m just marking time until I finish up life here and leave, never to return. Happily, I am well adjusted to life enough to keep cheerful and “up” but there are times I’m not and I get terribly lonely as I am today. The theatre is dark, it’s cold and empty and I come here for there is not anywhere else to go. Then I come here and thoughts of the past come back and although they don’t get to me as they used to do, they still can cause a “twinge” or two. Like a scar that is perfectly healed but nonetheless acts up when the weather changes.

That hotel is great if there’s somebody around, but that room can be depressing alone. What a strange business. So many people every day, so much to do, and so many lonely moments and it isn’t just me, it’s that way for everybody in it. Please don’t get mad because I’m writing of trouble to you, but these are things you don’t tell just anyone. Also, I’m sort of a legend around here, and I’m always Happy and with it and this is a side you don’t show to just anyone. When you are a manager, your troubles come last and it’s the company that needs you and you owe them that. Anyway, these moments don’t last and there is no truth to the rumor that I intend to leap from the balcony some night.

Also, it’s great to have someone to unburden yourself to or just to talk of things that aren’t general chit chat. That’s probably the reason this letter is so long. Anyway, I don’t know when I’ll wind up in Europe and I’m content to wait until I hear the call. Meanwhile, I am grateful and cognizant of the good things in life and my work.

My movies this week are awful—be glad you’re not here. They aren’t bad enough to laugh at and certainly not worth watching. By the way you didn’t mention the Goldfinger lyrics—weren’t they a gas? Last night Mae West was on the late show but I spent the time talking with Pat so didn’t hear much but a few funny lines.

By now you are probably bored and this is turning into a dull book so I’ll just sign off. I feel better for having put on paper what I feel, many thanks for listening. Let me know what you decide about college. I’m truly interested. Hope this reached you happy and healthy and in general good spirits.

All the best to you, really.

Your pal–

November 8, 1966
Blackstone Theatre, Chicago

Dear Pal Frank:

It rains. It’s about noon at the theater. The rain comes down in big fat drops and makes lots of noise—it’s sort of nice to sit here and listen to it. After I finish this, I think I shall practice the piano for awhile. I don’t really want to work today cause I have the performance tonight to do my work in. After the show Mort Zolotov, his wife, and I shall go see Julie Wilson at the Drake.

Your letter, as all of them, was very welcome. You life sounded a little better and it’s great that you met someone nice that you enjoy being with. You know that your “big brother” will be glad to listen to whatever you want to talk over. We will find some time to talk. During the day I have much time, or before dinner some night—you name it, I’ll be there.

Life here is fairly routine but it goes, as the French say. I’ve sent all my gifts out to friends in Europe so that’s out of the way and now I can concentrate on stuff for here. Boy, it gets expensive. At the moment it looks like I’ll be in N.Y. on the 20th for sure, but it only “looks” that way. The Halloween Party was a gas. Bill Pierson came dressed up as me as a boy. He had short pants on, a dinner coat, a formal shirt with gumdrop studs, large gumdrops for cuff links and he and Diane Aubrey got a blond wig and cut it to look like my hair and he carried a black cigarette holder with a chocolate cigarette and a brandy snifter. Really funny. I would like to see Mame or Cabaret but I never go out when I have those brief hours in NYC. All I want to do is sit in my home and forget that I live in a hotel room in Chicago, and that it’s brown and dull and empty. That’s what I enjoy doing. Friends come over for drinks and it’s very pleasant. Yesterday was so beautiful here—warm and misty and fine. I went to the beach with my javelin and threw it for about an hour and then just watched the waves for a while. It was so good and one of those rare moments when I stopped running and truly felt at peace for a while.

This week the Daily News is going to run a picture of me in those Pierre Cardin clothes. They called and asked if I’d mind and then came down and took about 30 of them. What a laugh, but I did make 20 bucks on it.

Don’t worry too much about feeling confused about things. Frank, being 17 is just about the toughest thing in the world. Compound that with brains and sensitivity and it’s absolute hell at times. That’s something you’ll get over. But I do know how you feel and I do understand. Things will be all right. Honest they will, you’ll see. After you talk it out it doesn’t seem so difficult anymore.

Now I shall go play for awhile and try and forget where, who, and what I am. Stay well, keep studying, and don’t worry about anything.

Always the best from your friend and pal

Your Pal, Clayton