L. Arnold Weissberger!
I am very proud to say that he had been the first and unquestionably finest “representative” within my entire career.
I hesitate to use the title of his profession … lawyer … since, indeed, its implications are, and just by mentioning the word, not what I’m here to convey.
Since I’m in retirement from the theatrical, film and television careers I did have, I can speak quite categorically and with my own, aging and well-earned crankiness.
I am known as “Grumpy Grampy” to my grandchildren.
There aren’t really many things in my professional life that were ever quite as clear as Arnold Weissberger’s nobility.
At his memorial service, with shining new lights of talent and legendary mountains of genius such as Meryl Streep and Orson Welles in attendance, I had the opportunity to quietly “stick it” to some of the superstars there by saying that I had met many great artists in my life but very few great men and women.
Undoubtedly, L. Arnold Weissberger was one of those few great men I have known.
This classic barrister hovered over the flock of artists he represented like the American Eagle he was, defending them fiercely, both publicly and privately, from verbal assassins such as John Simon, Manhattan journalism’s grandest scion of sadists.
Arnold’s letters to the New York Times, again both public and private, commenting forcefully upon its many theater critics and all the News On The Rialto, remain indelible memories of both his eloquence and his courage.
He would gather his international clientele from all over the English-speaking world in a monthly soiree on Sutton Place, that neighborhood for numerous lions and lionesses of the privileged set.
Was there a major name of any sort within the performing, literary and, if you’ll oblige me, history-laden arts – meaning not-so-well-known members of legendarily history-making families – that was not in attendance? Nor did not appear eventually in Arnold’s book of Famous Faces?
The only giant I met elsewhere, Leonard Bernstein, had, of course, been in attendance at some time, since Arnold had a photo of him in his collection.
I personally owned a Weissberger photo of myself, my son Matthew and one of the English Theater’s greatest servants of the spoken word, Sir John Gielgud.
On the main stage of Arnold’s living room were the giantess of Progressive Dance, Martha Graham and that angriest of Progressive playwrights, John Osborne.
Where do these Beacons of Progress, these well-known cheerleaders to the Progressive Dive of English-speaking Decline into Maoist, World Imperialism … where do they think they’re going now … if, indeed, they’re still alive to enjoy the America-hating, New World Order they’ve waited so long for?
To that “best of all possible, worlds.”
The Obama Nation.
A pipe dream that even Bernstein helped ridicule in his brilliant setting of Voltaire’s Candide.
For an all-too-brief brief yet very contemporary overview of Voltaire’s prophetic worries about the revolutionary fervor within France, that search for Utopia, and the monster it might ultimately lead to, please read.
If we suddenly jump, from staring out at the East River from Arnold’s apartment, over all of Manhattan’s brief Island, we could well be with all of Arnold’s guests, on the deck of the Titanic, looking out at the New Jersey shore, bon voyage cocktails in hand!
Yes, a virtual ship of fools singing Bernstein’s “Make your garden grow!”
The essential cover photo for Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic!
The great floating contradiction-in-terms!!
Life-loving death merchants.
Arnold was, I say with all joyous recollection, a cut above most of them, including Orson Welles.
He was like the anonymous, string quartet on the deck of Cameron’s Titanic.
His business was not in combat but in counseling and he did so in the finest tradition of his craft.
Arnold was one of the few lawyers, in my understanding of that horrid profession, that made an art and, yes, a music of that normally discordant shell game profession.
“Michael,” he would sing over lunch at Le Chantilly, drawing the vowels out in an intense commitment to putting forth a decidedly unpopular opinion among his more elite friends and clients, “I do not understand what the world sees …. in Pa-blo Pi-cas-so!”
Legends of any size were not the least bit intimidating to my late and greatest of consiglieres.
Arnold was the man who had, at one time, sat quite patiently, a carnation always well placed in his svelte jacket’s button hole, while the impresario Billy Rose tried to sell one of Arnold’s clients on writing the Rose idea of a great musical.
That hopeful new inhabitant of Tin Pan Alley, had he taken the job, would have been Igor Stravinsky.
Every unwritten note of Goldiggers ’73 … or some such title … songs by Broadway’s new Gershwin brothers: Billy Rose and Igor Stravinsky!
I recall Arnold telling me, while we were both in attendance at the White House for the Presidential awards to artistic legends … in this case, Tennessee Williams for whom I was there as part of the tribute … that someday I would also be honored.
With Al Gore now owning a Nobel Peace Prize, who would want an award from anyone connected to the Progressive New World Order?!
I’m not sure I want my own name in the company of this Third Millennium’s versions of Leni Riefenstahl.
I might end this look back in nostalgic anger with one of the first tribute articles I have done here, that to Elia Kazan and his On The Waterfront.
No, Arnold and Mr. Kazan, though I’m certain they crossed paths, would not have been drinking partners, nor shared lunch at Le Chantilly.
However, each had their own, individual integrity which they both adhered to fiercely.
Both arise within my memories of them as great men.
Great at what they did for a living … but, more importantly, they were simply great men of extraordinary integrity.
For a major American lawyer of the 20th Century, that is a major achievement.
Almost as courageous as a great film director’s decision to testify against the largely Communist backbone within many of Manhattan’s most legendarily and radically chic Lords and Ladies Who Lunch.