Simon & Schuster's Carolyn Reidy and Jack Romanos were giving a party for their editor in chief, Michael Korda, whose splendid book about prostate cancer and his battle with it, "Man To Man," had just been published. And since this is the world of book publishing, which is occasionally mystifying if not downright opaque, Mr. Korda's book was being put out by rival publisher Random House, whose own top man, Harry Evans, would also be at the party.
It was a Monday evening as I made my way over to the West Side near Lincoln Center. All things considered, I would just as soon be in Chicago with Dennis Rodman and the booksellers as on the West Side of Manhattan. But never mind. In the lobby I encountered music man Marvin Hamlisch, which made me feel better about things, and then was directed to an elevator to whisk me to the 59th floor apartment of Warner LeRoy, who was co-hosting the event. Mr. LeRoy created long ago what was the first and maybe the greatest of all the East Side singles bars, a joint called Maxwell's Plum. He went on from there to buy and operate the sublime Tavern on the Green and is, as we speak, busily renovating and expanding the great Russian Tea Room, run for so long by Faith Stewart Gordon.
Mr. Korda and his wife Margaret (she very tanned) greeted me. He was quite chirpy and looking fine though he admitted to some diminution of energy in the wake of his successful surgery. And he was enormously peppy discussing his deal of that very week with the Duchess of York for her memoirs (a $1.3 million deal for Fergie it was said, though certainly not by Mr. Korda who is a gentleman and does not discuss what ladies charge).
The book would be out for Christmas selling, which is tremendously fast. And probably means they have two typists going night & day with Fergie & ghost huddling by candlelight over her diaries in the east wing of some palace or other.
Mr. LeRoy's apartment is a stunner. With views in one direction to the Hudson River and the Palisades beyond, and in another to the entire green scope of Central Park. A woman came up who said, "Have you seen the view from his tub? It's extraordinary." Since I am not in the habit of standing in people's tubs for the view, I said rather shirtily that I had not. But it did occur that if Mr. LeRoy has a smashing view out from his tub, there may be those New Yorkers who in turn have an excellent view of him looking in.
To the left of the great hallway Warner has a small screening room, sloping floor and all, with actual movie theater chairs. Everything but the popcorn. His daddy was a director called Mervyn LeRoy and on the screen in this little movie theater a Jean Harlow film was rolling. Just across the apartment a white Yamaha piano was playing. By itself. Amazing. Hamlisch is in the building and they have a player piano.
I got Warner aside. Did he and Korda meet through movie connections (Korda's father and uncle Sir Alexander being filmmakers)? No, said Warner, they met in the infirmary of Le Rosey, the Swiss prep school. Warner had bronchitis and Michael a broken arm. And who else was a classmate? "Well, the Aga Khan and a son of the king of Belgium."
I tell you, we are not talking P.S. 254 here.