Manory’s, Troy, NY
I needed Rose. She kept me focused, although she’d probably argue that focus had nothing to do with it and that what I needed, as Mame once advised Miss Gooch, was to Live. Or something else; since she’d become a lawyer after being an actress she’d argue about anything. I liked Rose’s version of me, however; in Rose’s world I was a better person than I gave myself credit for being. To Rose, I was going to write a new chapter in the history of American Theater and if I worked hard and took her advice I would wind up with a best-seller as good as anything by the two Jackie’s (Susann and Collins). Move over, Valley of the Dolls. Look out, Hollywood Husbands.
She even had the title. Stone Canyon. She’d found it in the 1940 census, the name of the street William had lived on in Sherman Oaks from 1935 until after the War when he’d gone back to Troy to live with his sister. Rose had insisted I do a title-search, confirm all the details. It wouldn’t be easy, she warned. “You’ll have to go to the County Records office,” she explained. “You’ll have to do a little leg work, some digging, real research, but it makes a difference whether William owned or was just renting in which case renting from whom? It goes to his financial situation at the time, you see, his state of mind, and don’t forget you need to find out more about that young lodger of his, not sure how you’ll find him.”
A friend of mine with a realtor’s license did all the work.
“It’s interesting,” I told Rose, “because now I know that both William and I owned property in Los Angeles, not at the same time obviously but still, and we both had people live with us, maybe not in quite the same way, I mean, I don’t know what the relationship could have been, Edward Rogers was 18 years old in 1935 and William was 65 when he bought the house from the Title Insurance and Trust Company, so that’s quite an age gap, and then William sold the house to Ruth Rickaby at the end of 1944, Ruth was an actress – I looked her up on IMDB, she was in ‘Smilin’ Through’ with Jeanette MacDonald – ”
“He transferred the Deed of Trust to Ruth,” Rose interrupted, scanning the paperwork, “a deed of trust is a type of secured real-estate transaction used in some states like California (trace of disparaging tone) instead of a mortgage, it involves three parties, a lender, a borrower and a trustee whereas with a mortgage it’s just you and the bank so two parties and thus the mortgage you had on that condo in West Hollywood which I never saw made you more of a home owner than William was with his deed of trust, strictly speaking, less parties involved but let’s not quibble, and yes you need to find out more about young Eddie -”
“I invited you to visit, Rose, I’m certain I did, but -”
“- it’s very Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood, isn’t it,” Rose mused without hearing me, “I wonder if they socialized with William and Eddie, look that up too, and of course James Whale was out there and he had a young man and good grief what is it with old Englishmen and teenaged boys – ”
“William was Irish, so technically -”
“- I suppose it was the only time in their lives they were happy,” Rose continued, “spanked by the Headmaster with a cricket bat, or maybe it was all that California sun went to their heads, or being too far away from home, in any case it’s still a great name for a novel, and you should put a scene like that in your book.”
“Not with a cricket bat surely, ” I asked.
“By the pool.”
“I don’t believe the house had a pool.”
“Add one. Literary license.”
“But really, Rose, I don’t know – maybe it wasn’t just the two of them. There could have been someone else, a third party,” I suggested. “You know, more like a deed of trust than a mortgage, right?”
Rose hesitated for a moment as if trying to grasp what I had in mind, then shook off the attempt and continued. “Stone Canyon,” she recited slowly, savoring the words. “I must say it has a nice ring, winding canyon roads and cannabis, hello, ‘Stoned in Stone Canyon,’ who do you have in mind for playing William in the film version – oh wait, you know what, never mind.” Rose leapt up abruptly, cutting herself off and commencing a ritual flurry of activities – searching for keys, closing windows – which signaled an imminent departure. “Let’s go find him.”
“William. You said he’s not here, let’s go find him. I say we try Manory’s.”
“The oldest restaurant in Troy. Well, one of the oldest at any rate. In continuous operation since 1913, I bet the place is simply teaming with ghosts and I’m sure William knows it and they have the best breakfast special this side of the Catskills.”