“My own life has been much more than a fairy tale. I’ve had my share of difficult moments, but whatever difficulties I’ve gone through, I’ve always gotten the prize at the end.”
- Audrey Hepburn
New York City
1. The Look of Love
2. A Foggy Day
3. Autumn in New York
4. For Sentimental Reasons
5. Too Marvelous For Words
6. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
7. You Call it Madness
8. Send For Me
9. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
10. Someone To Watch Over Me
11. Put Your Dreams Away
12. The Lady is a Tramp
13. Isn’t It A Pity
14. Guess I’ll Hang My Tears out to Dry
15. Pick Yourself Up
17. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
18. I Still Get Jealous
19.Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
20. I’ve Got the World on a String
21. It Ain’t Necessarily So
22. Fools Rush In
23. Just One of Those Things
24. Anything Goes
25. Why Can’t You Behave
Turkey and Greece
1. Come Fly With Me
2. I Will Wait For You
3. Call Me Irresponsible
4. ‘Til There Was You
5. Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You?
6. Love For Sale
7. Too Marvelous For Words
8. The Best Is Yet To Come
9. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered
10. Stormy Weather
11. Let’s Kiss and Make Up
12. I Get a Kick Out Of You
13. The Way You Look Tonight
14. Isn’t It Romantic?
15. Blue Skies
16.You Make Me Feel So Young
17. High Hopes
18. The Man That Got Away
19. Tea For Two
20. How Long Has This Been Going On?
21. Just In Time
22. Peel Me a Grape
23. Puttin’ On The Ritz
24. Who Can I Turn To?
25. Too Darn Hot
26. I’ll Be Seeing You
27. Prelude To A Kiss
28. I’m Just A Lucky So and So
29. If I Had You
1. Fly Me To The Moon
2. Mad About The Boy
3. I Got a Right To Sing The Blues
4. Think Pink
5. With A Little Bit O’ Luck
6. I’m Getting Married In The Morning
7. He Loves and She Loves
8. Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)
9. The Shadow Of Your Smile
10. Love And Marriage
11. I’ve Been Down For So Long (It Looks Like Up To Me)
12. Three Coins In The Fountain
13. Thanks For The Memory
New York City
1. The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
2. Let’s Face The Music and Dance
3. It Had To Be You
4. Rags To Riches
5. (I Did It) My Way
6. I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face
Once upon a time, on the upper east side of Manhattan, there lived a little girl in a spacious apartment on Park Avenue, in the most desirable building in New York City, if not the world.
The apartment was very enormous indeed, and had many servants. There was a maid to dust the Picassos, a chef to cook seven-course dinners, and a landscape architect on retainer to tend to the terrace and roof gardens.
There were specialists to service the indoor pool, the indoor racquetball court, the rooftop pool and rooftop tennis court.
There was a chauffer of considerable polish who had been imported from England to drive the family and care for their eight shiny automobiles.
Also among the staff was a man of no particular title who took care of the family’s cat called Noodle.
This man of no particular title had a daughter by the name of Holly. The two of them lived in the servant’s wing of the grand apartment on Park Avenue.
As it happened, the mistress of the mansion, a woman of considerable taste, had a deep admiration for romance films of the 1950′s, and most especially for a certain actress named Audrey. For her viewing pleasure, she had assembled a collection of Hepburn films, along with her other favorite classics from the golden age of cinema.
When her father was off brushing, bathing, or exercising the cat, Holly was allowed to amuse herself by watching any movie she desired. Every day after school, she would eagerly visit the media room where she would lose herself in a simpler time when the clothes were beautiful, the men debonair, and the women unforgettable.
There was Sabrina, the awkward daughter of a chauffeur, who after going off to Europe and returning an elegant and sophisticated woman, was sought after by two brothers of great wealth and charm.
There was a shy, funny-faced book clerk in New York named Jo who became the toast of Paris where she was transformed from caterpillar to butterfly by discovering her gift in the world of high fashion.
There was a princess named Ann who rebelled against the duties of her station by escaping her luxurious shackles for a Roman holiday with a newspaperman whose true motives were less than pure.
For the little girl who lived with her father in the sprawling Park Avenue apartment, life was as close to heaven as one could get on the island of Manhattan.
Then one day, everything changed. Holly’s father, the chef, the driver, the maid, and the landscape architect were all told to pack their bags and leave, for the owner of the apartment had suffered a reversal of monumental proportion and would no longer be able to keep the staff in the style to which they had become accustomed.
With great sadness, Holly and her father gathered their belongings and journeyed on to another place. In time, Holly’s father found a home for himself and his little girl in a one-room studio with a window facing a wall in Astoria, Queens, some ten miles from the upper east side of Manhattan. Her father found work as a taxi driver and musician, while Holly went to school, then came home to cook, clean, sew and run the tiny household.
Holly’s father drove his cab all day, then played piano in jazz clubs at night. He rarely got to see his little girl anymore. Their life that had once seemed so fine, was now hard and lonely. To remind them both that life could be as wondrous as a fairy tale, Holly’s father bought a set of Audrey Hepburn’s most romantic films. Each night, after finishing her chores, Holly would play one and transport herself on a wondrous cloud of romance and style to an enchanted world where endings were forever happy and dreams almost always came true.
(Note from Karen: In case you didn’t know, this opening was inspired by the opening of Sabrina)
The Look of Love
I had one foot out the door, late as usual.
“You should see yourself right now,” Alessandro said. He wore loose cotton yoga pants and no shirt.
“Why? What’s the matter?”
“I should have said something before,” he said. “But, and don’t take this wrong, that skirt’s too short. It makes you look cheap, which you’re not. If you want to be a curator, you’ve got to dress up more.”
I took a deep, centering breath. “How cheap do you mean? Hooker cheap?”
Alessandro cocked his head thoughtfully. “I’d say…”
I interrupted him mid-cock. “Never mind, I’m changing.” Alessandro followed as I scurried to the bedroom, leaving a trail of clothes in my wake, throwing on the Versace linen suit I’d snagged for sixty bucks at the Lucky Shops charity sale last year. “There, now what do you think?”
He reached out and pulled me toward him until his head rested on my shoulder. “Mmm pretty! You know, the only reason I told you is because I love you and I want you to get that promotion.”
Alessandro moved his hands up my back and then around the front, cupping my breasts in his palms.
My organs went all aflutter. Sex on a school day?
He stroked my breasts, let out a sort of moan-sigh, and pressed his morning protuberance into my groin. “Do you remember when I first met you?”
“Mmmm,” I murmured, meaning, yes, of course I do, my love.
“That was before your boobs drooped.”
I pushed him away.
“Holly, I’m just saying. If you don’t wear a bra, your tits will be to your knees by the time you’re fifty.”
I ran back to the bedroom and whipped off my jacket and shirt. Glancing at my boyish figure, I knew my boobs wouldn’t sag if I hung clothespins from my nipples. Still, I put on a bra to be sure.
My friends sometimes wondered, why in the name of Earl did she agree to marry Alessandro Vercelli? It wasn’t so hard to understand. Six-feet tall, slim, messy brown hair, dark brooding eyes, he resembled a Latin Gregory Peck, one of my favorite actors. If I scrunched my eyes just right, he looked exactly like Gregory Peck, and then I’d imagine that was who he was, and I’d be smitten all over again.
One of his most endearing features was his faithfulness – Alessandro Vercelli was the St. Bernard of boyfriends. He was always by my side whether I wanted him to be or not.
There was also his rent-controlled apartment in the East Village. Like many rent-controlled tenants, Alessandro was there illegally, but who was I to judge? The flat was small yet comfortable: pressed tin ceilings, a marble fireplace, plank wood floors. If you overlooked the fact that it had mice, airshaft views, and a toilet that flushed at random, the place was a gem.
Unlike other boyfriends I’d had, Alessandro cared deeply about my professional success. Clothing had always been my passion. Growing up, I’d first been inspired by the sumptuous costumes created by designers during the glamour years of Hollywood – Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn, Valentina for Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel for Katherine Hepburn, Irene for Doris Day. Later, I discovered a knack for making my own clothes.
Fashion awakened my senses like nothing else – the splash of color, the smell of silk, the caress of velvet, the dazzle of rhinestones. Anytime I felt stressed, I’d jump on the subway and go to Bergdorf’s. It calmed me right down. In the hallowed reverence of the store, I’d take in the aroma of designer gowns and unapologetic overpricing. It felt like nothing bad could happen to you there. With Alessandro’s encouragement (and savings), I enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology, majoring in Hollywood and theater costumes. When I needed him, Alessandro was there for me.
Last year, after spending nine months as Motel, the tailor, in an off Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, Alessandro was cast as the beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It was a huge step up for him and I brought all our friends to his opening night to cheer him on.
After five years of living together, Alessandro proposed. It was time. At thirty-five, the expiration date on my egg carton was nearly past. Marrying him made sense.
A famous Hollywood writer once said that in the 1950′s you wrote your scripts for Cary Grant, but you ended up with Rock Hudson. My life script was written for Gregory Peck, but I got Alessandro.
After replacing my jacket and shirt, I slipped my palatial expander (a.k.a. headgear) over my face and inserted the protraction hooks into the molar grips. Alessandro surprised me with an orthodontic gift certificate to repair my maxillary deficiency last Valentine’s Day. Romantic, yet practical. That’s my Alessandro! The doctor told me if I wanted my teeth perfect by the time I walked down the aisle, I should wear it twelve hours a day, so I commuted in it.
“Have you seen my glasses?” I asked, squinting.
“Try the fridge.”
“The fridge?” I thought, worried for my sanity.
“Why aren’t you wearing your contacts?”
“I need solution. I’ll pick some up on the way to work. Oh, and don’t eat too much at lunch. At six-thirty, we’re supposed to meet with the caterers; They’re giving us a tasting of everything I picked for the wedding. Can you make it?”
“Oh, sorry, I can’t. It’s too close to my call time. But go without me; whatever you choose will be fine,” he said, retrieving the glasses, “here, and take this. It’ll bring you luck.” He handed me his two-dollar bill, the one he credited with getting him the part in Beauty and the Beast.
I folded the money into my bra. “Oh, but how sweet. Thank you. You won’t need it?”
“Nope,” he said. “Today’s your day.” He kissed me on the lips (well, really on the metal face-bow of my headgear).
I looked around for Kitty, the three-legged Maine Coon I’d rescued from the Con-Edison softball fields.
“There you are, you sneak,” I said, picking him up, holding him to my face where I could feel the vibration of his purring. Squeezing him lightly, I kissed him goodbye.
“I made you lunch,” Alessandro said, handing me a turkey sandwich wrapped in foil.
“Thanks. Break a leg tonight,” I said, flitting out the door, into the muggy air.
“No, you break a leg at the meeting,” he yelled. “I love you.”
A Foggy Day
Hustling down Avenue A, I stopped to pick up breakfast for my father (better known as Pops), and coffee for me. I love Dunkin’ Donuts, especially those chocolate glazed munchkins, but boy do I take issue with them (the company, not the donuts). Every time a local store goes out of business in Manhattan, a bank or a Dunkin’ Donut shop takes its place. It’s ruining the character of our neighborhoods.
I spotted Pops, with his naturally curly beard, wavy silver locks, clear blue eyes and grizzled face. He was puffing away on a cigarette, clenched between two knobby fingers. Part Jed Clampett, part Cary Grant, he presided over the stoop in front of Muttropolis Groom and Board, next to his shopping cart full of street treasures. Pops was a jazz musician slash panhandler who drove a taxi until he was fired last year. It was a blessing really – he barely made enough to lease his cab and cover gas. Plus, he always got lost, even on the way to places he’d been to a thousand times.
Six months ago, he was evicted from the one room apartment in Queens where he’d lived for years and I’d grown up. It was a rent issue (he’d stopped paying it). I helped him arrange temporary quarters in Muttropolis’ basement as a trade for walking the dogs. My friend Barbara Lou (“BL”) Ochman owns the shop. She had been looking for someone to mind the canine guests staying at her “Club Bow Wow” and Pops had a knack with animals. A scruffy, quasi-homeless, dog-minder wouldn’t go over so well uptown, but East Village liberals loved the idea.
“You look fetching today, Princess,” Pops said. Raindrops were starting to plink on the sidewalk and the air was ripe with the scent of rotting trash.
“I do? You’re not just saying that?” I handed him a cup of black coffee and an egg cheese bagel sandwich with a side of Munchkins.
“Are you kidding?” He gave me the once over. “Darlin’, you may be skinny but you got all the right curves for a woman if you’ll pardon me saying. And that messy hairdo makes you look like a saucy French shop girl.”
“Oh Pops,” I said, blushing. Since I was a kid, I’d worn my hair cropped, like my favorite film star, Audrey Hepburn. Some people said we looked alike – both brunette, tall and thin, big eyes, ballerina necks. But our faces were entirely different. My nose was thinner, my lips fuller, my brown eyes darker than hers. Audrey’s features combined to make her a dazzling beauty. My features combined to make me, well, let’s just say my face is slightly funny. Alessandro said I’d be gorgeous when the orthodontist got through with me.
“Holly, you’re a vision,” he said, stubbing his cigarette out on the step. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Ha! Take that Alessandro. Pops thinks I’m a vision. Of course, he’s wearing plastic garbage bags tied around his shoes.
“If you’d take that Martian wire and those coke bottles off your face, you’d be even lovelier.”
Touching my headgear, I giggled. “It all comes off at work.”
“Nice suit,” he said. “Something special today?”
“Remember, I told you. My promotion’s being announced. Send good thoughts my way.”
Pops smiled, baring his tobacco stained teeth. “I’ll say a little prayer for you,” he sang. “Forever, and ever, you’ll stay in my heart…”
“That’s good, Pops. You should sing professionally. Oh yeah, you do.” I noticed his crumpled brown suit and thin white dress shirt. “Why are you so fancy?”
“Job interview at Whole Foods on Canal Street. They pay benefits.”
I chucked his arm lightly. “Knock’em dead.”
“If I do, breakfast is on me tomorrow, from Whole Foods. You think they’ll make me wear one of those beard hair nets?”
“Shave it off,” I suggested.
Pops rubbed his chin and then dismissed the idea. “Facial hair increases panhandling proceeds by at least twenty percent. Learned that the hard way last time I tried to clean up my act.”
The gentle spit suddenly morphed into pelting rain. We scrambled up the stairs, beneath the green awning. Pops threw a dirty yellow poncho over his head.
“Shoot,” I said, glaring at the black sky.
“You need an umbrella?” Pops said.
“You got one?”
A steady stream of cabs whizzed by, all with their headlights on, all full. I checked my watch. 8:25. Thirty-five minutes until the staff meeting. I dug around in my purse. “Rats, forgot my cell.”
“Use mine,” Pops offered.
“You have a cell phone?” I said. “Not that you shouldn’t, it’s just…”
“Darlin’,” Pops said, handing me the phone, “what do you think I do with the money I earn? Buy booze?”
“Pops, Of course not,” I said, in my most offended voice, although I’d seen him chugging the cheap stuff more times than I could count. The rain was hammering down like we were in a car wash. We huddled next to the doorway as sheets of water poured from the sky. Pops’ poncho billowed in the wind.
“Tanya, I’m stuck downtown, but I’ll get there as fast as I can,” I said to my boss’s voice mail. I couldn’t afford to be late. Not today.
“Your shoes are getting wet,” Pops said.
I jumped back, then stuffed the shoes in my purse. These were my real Jimmy Choos, the ones I kept forgetting to return to HBO from the ‘Fashionistas in Pop Culture Exhibition’ we’d held at the Museum where I worked. Sarah Jessica Parker wore them in the episode where Carrie tells Big she loves him and then he gives her an ugly Judith Leiber bag. I felt guilty every time I looked at those shoes, but not too guilty to wear them.
“You can’t go barefoot. Here.” Pops knelt down and held open a double grocery bag he pulled out of his cart. I stepped into it and he wrapped a rubber band around my ankle. “Give me your other foot, Cinderella,” he said, grinning. “Hold this over your head for an umbrella.” He handed me a black Hefty bags. I was good to go.
“Thanks,” I said. “Do good on your interview. Oh I almost forgot, I’m going to a tasting tonight of all the food they’re serving at our wedding. Want to come?”
“I feel bad I can’t pay for your wedding,” Pops said.
“But not so terrible that you’d turn down a free meal tonight, right?”
“Hell no. Oh wait, I can’t,” Pops said, slapping his craggy forehead. “It’s Monday. I’m busy.” On Sundays and Mondays, he played piano at the Jazz Factory with Bongo Hererra’s Latin infusion big band. It was his one steady job. The pay sucked, but the regular gig was its own reward. Pops was fond of saying, “Jazz, the gift that keeps on taking.”
“That’s okay; I’ll reschedule,” I said, taking a deep breath, holding my Hefty bag overhead, and stepping into the deluge. “Love ya.”
Autumn in New York
I moved up the street deliberately, head low, garbage bag high. May nobody I know, and I mean nobody, see me like this. Alessandro would have a fit. My boss would read me the riot act, I thought.
A torrent of water swooshed down the street, flooding the corners where the drains always back up. Just as I traversed a pool at First and Fourteenth, an ivory Maybach sailed by, shooting a heavy stream in its wake – and bulls-eye. “Oh crrrr-aaap shoot,” I wailed, shaking the water off my jacket and skirt. Passersby regarded me with pity, but no one offered to help. Bastards.
A block ahead, the Maybach pulled over, stopped, then backed up when the traffic cleared, its motor whirring. The door swung open. A gentleman stuck his head out and shouted, “Are you alright?”
I looked down at my champagne-colored suit, which was now soaked with muddy water. “What do you think? Do I look alright?”
“Why don’t you get in,” he said. “I don’t bite…”
I planted my grocery bag covered feet firmly on the sidewalk.
“…unless it’s called for.”
Cute, I thought. Mr. Fancy Car is a comedian. I did an emergency assessment. Outside: rainy, sticky-hot, and blocks to go before a subway station. Inside: dry, air-conditioned, clean, well-heeled middle-aged guy with chauffeur. What were the odds that the car that happened to splash me contained a rapist or serial murderer? Infinitesimal. I dove in the back seat, but not before asking the man to produce identification.
He pulled out a slim Gucci wallet and showed me his driver’s license. Sweet Jeezus of Nantucket, I thought, glancing at the ID and then him. It was Denis King.
Denis King was a forty-something mogul, masculine in a dorky but appealing way. He wore a simple navy pinstriped suit; this season’s Armani. His neck was red where he kept tugging at his French collar. His body was neither thin nor fat. He had a cleft in his chin, and dancing kohl eyes. It was the eyes that dominated his face – they were penetrating, with lines radiating from the corners that bespoke of laughter, wisdom, and experience. His brows were thick and his wavy brown hair faded to gray at the temples. In front of him was a tray that came out of the seat (like in an airplane). A laptop with spreadsheets on the screen sat on it. I looked down, then glanced up beneath my batting eyelashes, giving him a shy smile through my headgear.
He smiled back and there were dimples, deep adorable dimples. I don’t know why I’d never noticed them before. I’d seen his picture in the paper a thousand times and we’d met more than once at the Museum. Each time, he’d reintroduce himself. Sadly, the man didn’t know I existed, although I was chummy with his assistant, Elvira.
Denis was the next big benefactor my boss was looking to bag. He was underwriting our upcoming tiara show. That was how Tanya lured them in before capturing an even bigger pile of their net worth. First, she invited them to join the Board. Then, she named them underwriter of an important exhibit. Finally, after they enjoyed the publicity and prestige associated with a high-profile retrospective, she went for the kill. She had secured millions in pledges this way.
As I pulled the door shut, his chauffer took off. Inside, the car smelled like success. There was enough legroom to set up a kiddie pool.
“Which way you going?” Denis asked, closing his computer.
“The subway station at Fourteenth. I’m headed to Eighty-fourth.”
His chauffer silently passed back a roll of paper towels. Denis tore off several squares and watched as I patted myself down. “Thanks,” I said. “Oh lordy, I’m getting water all over your fine Corinthian leather.”
Denis smiled. “Lordy?” he said, raising one eyebrow in Jack Black fashion.
I could tell he thought I was cute.
Denis took a few more towels and dried the seat as best he could. “Don’t worry. We’ll drive you. We’re going uptown.”
The car made its way west, then turned north on Union Square as rain pounded the windshield, wipers whipping back and fourth to little avail. The traffic was crawling and a cacophony of horns blared.
I took in his fancy set of wheels. “Wait a minute. Is this the kind of car where the seats turn into beds?”
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Denis said. “Why, you tired?”
“Are you being fresh?”
He laughed. “I was kidding. Anyway, you’re not my type.”
I shot him a hurt look. “Just because I’m wearing grocery bag shoes, you think you’re too good for me?”
“No, not at all,” he said, looking concerned.
Snapping off the rubber bands from my ankles, I said, “I’ll have you know, these are Manolo Bagnicks.”
Denis laughed, revealing those 24-karot dimples once again. Handing me his business card, he said, “Let me pay to get your suit cleaned. Will you send me the bill?”
“That’s okay,” I said, stuffing his card in my bag anyway.
“Seriously, I want to take care of you.”
I sighed. If only he meant that personally and not dry cleaning-wise. I glanced up. He was staring at me. Mesmerized. Was it possible he was interested in me? Why shouldn’t he be? Pops did say I looked fetching today. Oh Lord! My headgear. Reaching in my purse, I took out a compact and checked my reflection. Gaaah! Glasses too. My under-eyes were stained with ink-gel eyeliner and mascara, my skin looked splotchy, and my hair – don’t get me started. I was a walking “Don’t.”
“Seriously,” I whispered, “just drop me at the next subway station.”
Denis’ mouth crinkled into an amused smile. “It’s raining like a son-of-a-bitch. We’re almost in the Thirties. Here.” He handed me a box of Kleenex.
“Okay, thanks.” I started to remove my appliance and glasses, but stopped when I realized that if I put myself back together, there was an ever-so-slight chance he would recognize me. God forbid he associate this monstress in his Maybach with the woman he’d met and was bound to meet again at the Fashion Museum. I ceased all recovery efforts, but did replace the grocery bags with my Jimmy Choos.
“Those are unusual,” Denis said when he saw them. They were black, from the tips of the soles to the bottom of the sculpted three-inch heels. The leather toe-straps were two tones of green – olive and ivy. The matching satin lacing, adorned by hand-made leaves and pink soft sculptured cherry blossoms, tied like ballet slippers around my ankles. I called them my cherry tree Choos. “They’re designer, one of a kind, priceless,” I said in a sort of braggy tone, letting him know there was more to me than meets the eye.
“Priceless, huh?” he said, doing the one eyebrow raise again. “Where’d you get a pair of priceless, one-of-a-kind shoes?”
“I’ll never tell,” I said mysteriously. Drat, he probably thinks I stole them. Technically I did, but still. “Look, thanks for picking me up. Usually I’m not such a mess.”
“You look perfect…” he started.
I melted like butter. Alessandro was quick to find fault with my imperfections while Denis found perfection with my faults. That felt nice. Still, I held my hand up in protest. “Please, I know I’m a sight.”
“Well, we nailed you pretty good back there. I’m really sorry.”
I felt something digging into my thigh, lifted my butt cheek, and unpeeled some pages from my skin. “Oh geez, I sat on your book.”
“It’s only a catalog,” he said, flipping through the soaked pages. “My family’s doing Athens to Rome in a few weeks.”
The catalog was for Tiffany Cruises, the creme de la creme of luxury liners, no connection to the jewelry company as far as I knew (except for the fancy pricing). From what I’d heard, their trips started at $30,000 per person and went as high as $250,000 for just a week. Even movie stars and people with their own yachts sailed the Tiffany Line because their ships were so spectacular. “Lucky you. Sounds like fun,” I said.
“Right side or left?” The chauffeur asked.
We were approaching Eighty-fourth, a block from my office. “Right side, far corner. By Duane Reade.” No way would I let him drop me in front of the Fashion Museum. I wondered if Elvira would blow my cover if I sent him the cleaning bill.
“Take care of yourself,” Denis said, with a grin.
I wished I could stay with him longer. Forever would be nice.
Reaching behind the seat, Denis produced an enormous black umbrella, the professional kind, and escorted me to the drugstore. I could see the top of his head as we walked.
“Thanks,” I said.
He nodded and silently retreated into the rainy mist.
(Note from Karen: this scene is inspired by That Touch of Mink with Cary Grant and Doris Day)