Once upon a Time a Dancer – “The ‘Hell’s Angels’ Letters”

The collage was made by Geoffrey Smith in  Belgium in 2000 or 2001. We sat there in his apartment as he started building my first website (he was a friend and an Oracle expert). So I laid out photos and he said, Ah. Have to use this. It was a Fred Astaire of Park Avenue, New York, photo of me with my legs wrapped around my professional male partner’s waist. He was holding on to me only by his thumbs! And I was like the masthead of a ship. It was for a competition. I had characteristically kept the dancer photos in a drawer. My Belgian boyfriend, Willy  Van Luyten, had hung them on the walls. Now, Geoff was making them even more public.

In The Hell’s Angels Letters, I interview Hunter Thompson’s Random House editor, the editor-in-chief Jim Silberman. I ask him if he remembers why I left Random House to teach briefly at the Fred Astaire studio:

Transcriptions of Telephone
interview with Jim Silberman
Early in February 2011—only my side of the
conversation is on the tape

I start by telling him I have a publisher/editor for Keep This Quiet! My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert who pleases me and this publisher wants me to turn the narrative about my leaving Random House into a scene.

That’s not, you know, the only reason I called. But I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to mention that to you, to see if you have any reaction. I remember that it was just after Robert Kennedy was assassinated; that prompted me to think how life could change at any moment, and you know I was working on [my own book] and I was just spurred and triggered to put all my intention onto it. That was my motivation—his assassination. So I think it was without any real warning that I went in and said this to you. Do you remember it that way or differently?

JS [bringing the scene into his mind, recalls how I spent time at the dance studio] I thought you were getting ready to move on to whatever would be the next part of your life.

MAH: [Laughs] You sound like the very wisest man in the world, to me.

I want to ask one more question about that and then move on to Hunter. Can you describe your office to me? I think there were windows behind you and a desk, with the back to the windows. Is that even right?

JS [Correct]

MAH: And was it a kind of big desk or what?

JS: I inherited a formal, old-style office desk.

MAH: What exactly—what was it made of?

JS [mentions a leather top on a wood desk, “as I remember”]

The interview of course goes on. Jim and I had last had contact probably in the 1980s. This was about 25 years later. He was approaching over 80. (Don’t ask about me.) One of the riches the Letters book bestowed on me was the walks down memory lane. If you want to read on, go to the Norfolk Press of San Francisco website (I think Firefox works best, as Norfolk is updating its software that Apple discontinued). Or buy directly from me, signed.