By Leonard Bishop, Author of Dare To Be A Great Writer
Everyone, in any profession, wants his/her name to become so well known that the use of their name adds significance and glamour to the conversation. An insurance salesman wants his ‘name’ to represent such selling power that other salespeople will drop it: “I was having a drink with Mark Rogers –Markie-boy was the one who sold President Reagan a $4-million fire policy to cover his warehouse of jelly beans, you know…”
Having been a writer for about 30 years brings you into contact with famous people. I avoid using their names. It is either pushy, or it diminishes the value of my name. Only when my refusal to lie forces me to admit that I know such people will I drop a famous name. “Do you know James Michener?” someone will ask me. I am compelled to answer, “Yes. I used to play volleyball with him. I bumbled about like a tank –he pranced like a gazelle. I always lost.”
“What about William Faulkner?”
“The last time I met Bill he had so much booze in him he should have been labeled.”
I could “drop names” all day long. Let me blurt out a few.
Erskine Caldwell once sneered at me in an elevator, “Put out that damn cigarette and take a bath.” The last time I saw Joseph Heller he tried to recall that we had once been friends. I lost 10,000 francs because of Frank Yerby. He insisted that the casino operators in Monaco open up the crap tables so I could play. At a party given for the ‘artists’ collected by Boston University, Roddy MacDowell snubbed me because my unshined shoes were unlaced. One night Norman Mailer asked me to step outside and fight. “Just for the hell of it.” He was seven inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter. I told him I was afraid he might hurt me and I had diarrhea. We thumb wrestled instead.
One afternoon at the United Nations building I was talking to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. He was a tall man. He leaned over to me and whispered, “Leonard, you are disgracing America. You look like a bum. Get yourself shaved.” At a party in the suburbs of Paris the artist Maurice Utrillo chased me around the room, trying to kill me. The color combination of my clothes was clashy.
Marc Chagall demanded that I leave his patio in Venice because my heavy breathing disturbed his chess game. Phil Silvers tried to tell me how to write a book and I tried to tell him how to tell a joke. We did not get along at all. One night at the Friars Club in New York, I was in the toilet with the singer Tony Martin. We stood at the urinals, chatting. It was most pleasant.
“Dropping” the names of these people means little to me. It is my name I want dropped. When it finally happened, I was over whelmed. I had written two moderate best sellers, but only after my third novel was my name used to impress someone.
I received a telephone call from George Mandel (he had only published one novel at the time) telling me he had to attend an important publishers party. All the baby sitters he and his wife used were busy. Would I come to his apartment and “fill in” for a couple of hours? “You’ll get a dollar an hour, and the refrigerator is yours.” I agreed to help him out.
When he returned he was laughing. He mentioned some of the writers who were at the party. While he was fixing himself a drink, he overheard someone ask Mario Puzo if he knew that “crude but forceful writer Leonard Bishop.” Puzo picked the cigar from his mouth, scratched his large stomach and nodded, “Oh, sure I know Bishop. He’s George Mandel’s babysitter.”
I knew from that time on that my name would become a household word.
(first published July 15, 1984 The Manhattan Mercury)
©by Leonard Bishop