The date on the Cable addressed to Playboy editor Ken Purdy was May 10, 1957; the place of origin was Brescia, Italy. The message read: Are you interested Story Sundays Mille Miglia could have it in New York Wednesday stop all the Best=Portago. Purdy didn't have to think twice about that one: an article on the world-famous sports car race written by the Marquis de Portago? A natural. He sent off an affirmative cable. But two days later the Marquis was dead, killed in the race he had planned to cover for the magazine. This month, one year after the tragic accident, Ken Purdy writes about the philosophy and personality of the late Alfonso de Portago in The Life and Death of a Spanish Grandee.
In The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Sloan Wilson had something to say about a Fifties phenomenon -- the war veteran turned Organization Man -- and it won him both cash and kudos. Now comes his Opus 2, A Summer Place (Simon & Schuster, $4.50), and for those who wonder whether he can repeat, the title is the tip-off. It's a perfectly OK title, but it just doesn't say very much. Neither does the book. This Summer Place is on a Maine island restricted to those who can pass a blueblood test, and here, in the Thirties, Ken Jorgenson, a solid, stolid young lifeguard from the wrong side of the Mississippi, meets Sylvia Raymond, a teenage tease ("there was that about her which immediately made people interested in knowing whether or not she was chaste"), who goads him till he rapes her. They go their separate ways, but They Can't Forget. Ken marries a sniveling Buffalo girl, invents a plastic which makes him rich at 35. Sylvia snags Bart Hunter, who bats 1.000 in the Ivy League but can only field highballs. He turns his paternal pad on the island into a summer hotel -- and up show the Jorgensons as paying guests. This time it's love; divorces are arranged; Ken and Sylvia get hitched. But is that the end? Uh-uh. The whole business is now reprised, though in mellower tones, between Ken's daughter and Sylvia's son. Parental understanding gives them a better shake, even though young Molly gets pregnant -- and this is probably Mr. Wilson's point. The latter half of the book generates some genuine heart-pull, but the total effect is right out of Redbook.
Readers who got a belt out of last month's The Little World of Orville K. Snav should turn handsprings over a new gadget we've uncovered, a sort of electronic BunaB. In appearance, it's rather impressive and businesslike-looking: a 6" x 5" x 4" steel box with gray baked enamel finish, a chromium carrying handle on top, two banks of four signal lights on the front -- the sort of device you'd expect to see in the labs where they put together digital computers. The signal lights blink, on and off, in no discernible pattern; if you stare long and hard you may think you can detect a kind of order in the blinking, then you find you're wrong. There are no directions on the mechanism, none come with it, there are no switches to turn it on or off. The day ours arrived in the mail, it was blinking its patternless patterns and it has been doing so, 24 hours a day, for the 10 weeks since. Jim Moran, press agent extraordinary and perennial TV guest, dropped by our offices and saw it -- and wanted it immediately. We offered to help him get one of his own, but wouldn't part with ours -- too useful for discombobulating patternless, random visitors. Once, we carried the machine on a flight to New York and set it down -- blinking -- on the empty seat next to us. Stewardesses, then the captain, eyed it -- then us -- warily, retired to the back of the plane and had a conference in muffled tones. We didn't look up from our newspaper. This portable, self-powered marvel would seem to be truly The Ultimate Machine, for it does nothing whatever, except blink. The inventor-genius of this remarkable device informs us that he personally assembles each one and loses 73¢ when he sells it (for $20). Fortunately, he adds, he's only sold around 50 so far.
After all the folderol about coming up with a fresh face and figure for the title role of Marjorie Morningstar, whom did Hollywood unearth but Natalie Wood, a home product. Natalie gets through her lines Ok, firms her chin and expresses mild perplexity, or maybe mild despair, at her failure (after a two-hour, three-minute search) to locate and lasso Mr. Right. Now, the success of Herman Wouk's long narrative wasn't due to the originality of the plot, but rather to the author's sharp insight into the behavior of a specific socio-economic-religious group: the Jewish population of Central Park West. Wouk's acid analyses have been, for the most part, lopped from a patty-cake screenplay by Everett Freeman. Gene Kelly is definitely a misfit for the role of the erratic songwriter Noel Airman, who turns out much less devilish on screen than he was in the book. The picture really belongs to three vets: Claire Trevor as Marjorie's propriety-conscious mother, Everett Sloane as her doting dad, and Ed Wynn as uninhibited Uncle Samson, all of whom remind one of The Goldbergs, except that Marjorie's folks prefer a stinger to a glass of tea. Ed Wynn is pretty lucky. He escapes from the proceedings before the second hour's footage begins. You may be even luckier.
Stan the Man has a brand-new plan. In Rendezvous with Kenton (Capitol T932), released since Stan took control of the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, Cal., we are granted a listen to (a) the orchestra's revamped personnel, (b) the ballroom's acoustics (this and all future releases, Stanley declares, will be taped in their Pacific pied-à-terre). The present band doesn't go as far out as earlier incarnations, but it does boast a gifted new discovery in one Joe Coccia, who wrote two originals for this set and arranged the 10 standards. Several holdover horns, including Bill Perkins' muscular tenor, the notable Sam Noto's trumpet, Lennie Niehaus' alto; and one striking new soloist named Kenny Shroyer, whose improbable piece of plumbing is the bass trombone, are engagingly featured.
The phrase "no entertainment" applies only in its narrowest, most literal sense to Michael's Pub, a drinkery-dinery just east of Fifth Avenue in New York (3 East 48th). For, from luncheon through closing around two in the A.M., a special kind of entertainment holds sway. This consists, for the visitor, in spotting "unknown" celebrities of stage, screen, radio, TV, books, magazines, newspapers and advertising -- unknown in the sense that they are, for the most part, the creative powers behind public façades. Trade talk, quips and table-hopping dominate the scene, which otherwise has the solid and quiet charm of a chop house -- a good, modern chop house without "decorator" gimmicks. Fact is, some five years ago, Michael Pearman -- who'd been maître de of a dark and fancy dining parlor -- cannily decided that a clean, neat, comfortable place, with a short and simple menu of superb chop-house fare and a good bar-type bar with good man-sized drinks, might be just what New York needed. Since opening day, he has been proved overwhelmingly right: It's SRO at Michael's all day long, so make your reservations well in advance.
A profound philosophy of life is reflected in the reply of a no-longer-wealthy roué who, when asked what he had done with all his money, said: "Part of it went for liquor and fast automobiles, and part of it went for women. The rest I spent foolishly."
On the Southern Slopes of the Pyrenees, the Running of the Bulls will be held in Pamplona July 7-13. Everyone and his third cousin is free to hop into the ring with the big bad bulls, just like Errol Flynn did in The Sun Also Rises. Or, if that isn't your cup of tea, you can tote your fino to your hotel balcony when the six A.M. rocket signals the loosing of the huge black Miuras, and watch them rage through the narrow streets, hot on the heels of the local daredevils. Later, with sash, Basque beret, wineskin and your own version of Lady Brett, you can mingle with the crowds and participate in the dancing, jousting, clowning and what have you.