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  • Brian Keller

Where I've Lived: Three Men and a Little Debutante

Three Men and a Little Debutante cleaned up just a bit. It’s a long one:

So, in New York City (alone), later

out east on the island, mid-island, Ossining, the Mid-Hudson Valley, etc.,

I’ve lived in many places like

  1. Cornelia Street, the West Village

  2. Barrow Street, the West Village

  3. Sullivan Street, the West Village

  4. Sullivan Street, SoHo

  5. Greenwich Street, Financial District

  6. Greenwich Avenue, the West Village

  7. Sherman Avenue, Inwood

  8. 78th and York, the Upper East Side

  9. 18th Street, Grammercy Park

  10. Christopher Street, the West Village

And more, but none so fun-packed and girl-filled as 16th Street. The place was off 6th Avenue and between the village and Chelsea. I don’t call it Chelsea – who cares, but it is very cool. So, I shared it with my friend and a fabulous chick, one of New York’s top casting directors. Her father, by the way, invented (Howdy Doody – like really that’s true). It was a two-story, two-bathroom, one cool garden, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, and two people). I would always return to it for years (10, I think) as I wandered around having adventures. It was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals. I had a little bedroom, but it had 14-foot ceilings, so I built a loft bed and shelving around the loft and put in a TV, a stereo, etc. It was wonderful. I had a sofa, another TV, and a desk on the ground floor.

After I returned from a (year-long) Memphis and touring the south adventure to work in NYC (at DMB&B) on Crest Toothpaste. I came to 16th Street full time. One night, I’m in my room (unusual as most evenings I was out after work) at around 10 PM, and the phone rang. I hear a

“Haaaah,” which is Alabamaeese for Hi. It was the world’s prettiest and most funny Debutante from the great state of Alabama and the city of Montgomery. She is the daughter of the former head of the Alabama State Senate, daughter of Val, sister of Arch, a Foxcroft girl, a descendant of Light Horse Harry Lee and Robert E Lee, and talker to everyone who’d listen; when she talked, everyone listened. I’d describe her voice as Foghorn Leghorn (the Warner Brothers, Rooster) as a girl. You know, when I first asked her about her famous descendant, she said this: “Yesssss it IS ahl tru, AH- AM a Dye-rect Dee-send – Dant buht must CAW-shun Light Horse Harry Lee was a SCOWN-drel.” Yes, she said that. Really she talked/talked like that. She opens her mouth, and three hours later, you’re still there listening. Why Alabama women have not conquered the world, I don’t know. They are 24-hour entertainment, and this one was also brilliant, could shoot a gun and ride a horse.

I hadn’t seen or heard from her since Memphis ( a whole other year of nonsense that included Naval bases, a fake marriage for me, and other accomplishments) when she had first gotten married. She came to visit for a day or so after nuptiualizing in Alabama. Anyway, back to the story, she was living on a mountain in California in a national park next to Academy Award-nominated actress Susan Tyrell (Fat City). That was the only good part. Her hubby was a rigging Grip who worked shows (movies) like Batman and other large “Features.” Nutshell, he had sold her car and would leave for weeks at a time, leaving her alone on the mountain with food and nothing much else. There was nowhere to go. Anyway, she, being convivial, decided maybe she didn’t like being up there as no more than a prisoner. She got Susan’s phone and called me up and said, “Haaah,” which is Alabamaeese for Hi. She launched into a two-and-a-half-hour story, which included sidebars by Susan. I just told you the story in a paragraph. We decided she needed to get out of there. She had no money, no credit card, and no car, but she did have her dog and her cat (Tucker and Phoebe), which were of great value to her, and had to make the trip. So, we communicated over the next few weeks on Susan’s phone (Foghorn didn’t have one), and I sent a credit card and a Shell gas card, and I arranged a U-Haul for her. I convinced her to drive to NYC with nothing and told her don’t worry; she’d find something. The Steel Magnolia drove a truck with her belongings, her pets, my Shell gas card, and some money I wired, and absolutely nothing else but my word and wound up at 16th street two weeks after our first conversation.

Now, my great place was too small for both of us all the time, so I approached the great Uncle Barry and Ricky Pags with the dilemma, and they joined in. They did not know her, didn’t know about her, and had never heard her name until I asked them if they wanted to share custody. Ricky agreed to take the dog, Tucker, full-time and the Debutante for two days a week. Uncle Barry took the Magnolia for two days a week, and I think the cat, Phoebe, too. I took the Little Debutante three days a week and, yes, holidays; she came to my parent’s house (they loved her) in Baltimore with me and Ricky Pags for Christmas and New Year. We took her to church etc.

For about two months, we three men shared custody of the Debutante between Chelsea, Grammercy Park, 16th Street, and Maryland. 16th Street became southern belle central, as I occasionally hosted one or two of her friends from the great state of Alabama. I also spent many hours on the phone with her mom, Val, a story on her own.

Within two months, Magnolia got a job, numerous boyfriends, an apartment, not just any apartment, a great one, and, coincidentally, a few doors down from one of my previous abodes.

And another escape, this time from New Jersey, and a stay in our apartment on Sullivan Street and Greenwich Street.

I left for San Francisco with my girlfriend, who became my wife, to work at McCann, returned to 16th Street a year later for another NYC gig, and somehow managed to house an aspiring actress in the 16th Street place almost immediately upon my return. But unfortunately, Uncle Barry and Ricky Pags didn’t return phone calls.

Next in, Where I’ve Lived,” “Magnolia Becomes Conflicted, and Returns After My Baby Was Born and My Girlfriend Who Became My Wife Who Had the Baby Wasn’t Happy, But Then Saw the Light and the Best Agency Ever, Massacre.

The above may be an epilogue or a preview: I’m not sure what an epilogue is, but I think this is one.

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