It all started at 3 in the morning with Evertt Sloane.
I was listening to Roy of Hollywood's Dynamite Radio For Night People and he was playing a program from 1955 that featured Sloane reading passages from The Great Gatsby, part of the old "Biography in Sound" series from NBC Radio.
The readings made me sit up in bed and turn the volume up. I had never heard Fitzgerald come so alive.
So the next day I downloaded the audio book of Gatsby, not read by Sloane, but by the actor Anthony Heald. I went right for the “party scene” that made me sit up in bed and played it for my sister.
Now I have to step back a few days to mention a wine tasting I went to with my sister Donna featuring the wines of Marchesi Di Barolo. I ended the night by buying a few bottles. So now jump back to Saturday afternoon when I downloaded Gatsby and was playing it for Donna… I had made cheesesteaks for lunch with Steak-umms, half-assed French rolls from Albertsons, but I had fried onions and hot cherry pepper hoagie spread to put on them. We were two bottles of the Barbera d’Alba Ravera in… and I decided it would be a great idea to do a five minute writing assignment in which we would both write for five minutes; a party scene in the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
We set a timer...
Here is my entry:
Our sky was turning red as the sun set over the Pacific and the cool sea breeze kept the sweat off the party-goers’ necks. Italian comedy movie music was playing in the background with too much throbbing bass.
An obese rabbit sat in the corner of the yard, not frightened at all by the crowd of people walking around it. The rabbit was nibbling on a celery stalk that had fallen out of a women’s bloody Mary.
There was the muffled sound of someone vomiting from inside the house that blended with the heavy base of the comdedia del art soundtrack.
A woman I didn’t know came swaying out of the house into the yard wearing a dark purple velvet cape and no shoes. She had a drink in one hand and a stick of pepperoni in the other; suddenly making chaine turns like Stevie Nicks into the tent with her velvet aura spinning out in a blurring blanket of purple.
Here is Donna’s entry:
Music was playing a marimba as the humans moved amongst the pastel paper lanterns and flickering candles. She knew how to flicker herself. She had been buzzing all day among the greenery.
She was hungry and had been away all day quickly visiting the gardens of the Avenue E, her wings fluttering to a beat 5 times faster than the owner's hearts.
She attacked each bush and shrub looking for the sweet sustenance that was her life blood. She spotted some potted plants with blooms rich in golds, reds, and purples but the sweet nectar had been cultivated out of them. How did these creatures grow so large with so little of nature in their homes?
Worms did not entice her. The honeysuckle had been trimmed every week so that nothing remained but the leaves. A frosty cocktail sat unattended on the concrete wall. It was sweet but heady. She felt tipsy.
Here is the original party scene from Fitzgerald that started it all:
By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.
The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.
Suddenly one of the gypsies, in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform. A momentary hush; the orchestra leader varies his rhythm obligingly for her, and there is a burst of chatter as the erroneous news goes around that she is Gilda Gray’s understudy from the Follies. The party has begun.