In which the vengeance of God is justly meted out on earthPosted: April 15, 2011
I can barely credit that they have made a movie from that turgid nonsense by Ayn Rand.
I have about eighteen copies of “Atlas Shrugged” – all signed in that self-consciously spiky handwriting of hers.
Every Christmas from 1957 onwards, a present would arrive from Ayn by ordinary post. It would be wrapped in festive newspaper, usually with a gift-tag recycled from last year, and every fucking time it would be a fucking copy of fucking Atlas fucking Shrugged.
They’re good for weighting down decoupage projects, although when it comes to slugging a nurse over the head when I want to sneak out to buy booze, nothing beats my signed first edition of “The Fountainhead”. Mind you, it might be easier just to read it to them. Whoo, what a stinker it is. Temazepam in libric form.
I do remember one year, however, when Ayn delivered the obligatory copy in person. It was 1959, or perhaps 1960. Frankly, I don’t care – I have found it’s better to leave the 50s and early 60s as an undifferentiated blur in my memory anyway.
My husband Keith and I were on a trip to New York for Christmas. We were staying with dear Bitsy and Freddy Trump, of course. Bitsy had organized her usual pre-Christmas dinner at the Four Seasons.
She was never content with just the Pool Room or just the Grill Room, so she always booked the whole place. Whenever she did, she’d pay the staff extra to leave the doors open, and then when people came in to ask for a table they had to say, “Yes, we are open, but there is no table for you. Off you fuck.” It did wonders for that place’s reputation. Two weeks after Bitsy’s first Christmas party, the Four Seasons was shooing the punters off with sticks, and there was a two week waiting list just to be sneered at by the maître d’.
Anyhow, there were just 20 of us for dinner sitting at a big table in the middle of the Pool Room. Bitsy had seated me next to her, which was fine, but bloody Ayn Rand was on the other side of me, with the usual pinched expression she always had in the company of the genuinely rich or the genuinely talented, dressed as usual like a marxist lesbian librarian, and clutching this year’s copies of that fucking book.
I had rolled my eyes at Bitsy when she told me about the seating plan. However, Bitsy explained that she couldn’t sit Ayn anywhere near Norman Mailer or he might go off with his penknife and that Jackie Kennedy had sworn to punch Ayn in the face next time she saw her after Ayn made that unfortunate quip about Gore Vidal and a torpedo boat captain. As a result it fell to me to sit next to her, if only because Bitsy knew I could distract Jackie with an oxycodone bottle if she got too close to our end of the table.
It was a lovely night.
Mailer was in good form and didn’t stab anyone, although I noticed him giving Gore the stink eye after the soup course. Capote got really annoyed and walked out after Gore managed to pick up a particularly cute, blond waiter and have him in the cloakroom, and Jack Kennedy smacked Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. in the eye during dessert, but then made it up to Bitsy by doing his famous elephant imitation. He used to… well, let’s just say that Jack was never shy of waving his prehensile trunk around.
Ayn was pretty quiet all night. She was too busy stuffing everything she could reach into that enormous handbag of hers. That night, by my count, she managed to snaffle five or six spoons, two bread plates, a salt shaker and a gold lighter that Jackie took her eyes off for a moment too long.
After coffee, Gloria Vanderbilt brought out the really good blow and the party took off. Robert Frost read a frightfully dirty version of “The Road Not Taken”, then Gore persuaded his waiter friend to take off his underwear and give it to Keith, and then the rest of the dinner is eclipsed by a discreet and attractive transition effect, probably accompanied by some quiet tinkling music or a nice swooshing sound.
At the end of each Christmas party, Bitsy always used to leave her tips in a pile of little envelopes on the table, one for every staff member and with their name handwritten on the front. Waiters liked working Bitsy’s parties – she was a good tipper, and sometimes you got to sleep with Gore Vidal.
Anyway, Gloria and I had said our goodbyes and had wandered off to the restroom to re-powder our noses before setting off into the night. After about three lines each, we bounced out of the stall, bounced over Gore who was huddled in a corner with what was either waiter number three or Jack Kennedy in half a busboy’s outfit, and strolled back into the restaurant.
Everyone had gone home except Ayn. She didn’t see us come back in and, right in the view of all the staff who were cleaning up, she sidled over to the table, grabbed the little bundle of tips and stuffed them into her pocket.
Ayn looked around, and then gasped when she saw us right behind her. She started to say something but got cut off when Gloria punched her right in the stomach. She fell straight down like Teddy Kennedy on a vodka bender, and I managed to get her in the head with my knee as she fell.
We left her lying there for the waiters to pick over as they pleased.
I hope they all wore gloves.