Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Cold Comfort?

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Cold Comfort?

Article excerpt

The following was written to be included in a book of essays in tribute to Arthur Laurents in 2002. Originally he approved it for inclusion, but then his lover of many years, Tom Hatcher, read it and told him not to - understandably. I know what I was trying to accomplish in writing it: I hoped it would bring him to his senses. Two of his oldest friends, Pucky Violet and Tommy Thomas, had just at that moment told him they'd had enough of him and never wanted to see him again.

I hoped my essay coming on the heels of their cutting him off would somehow hit home. While it did not appear, he read it and others - Mary Rodgers and, of course, Steve - read it, and it was passed around quite a bit, including to Pucky and Tommy, all of whom conveyed to me their approval and thanks. They thought I had captured Arthur well.

He did call me and say something along the lines of "You don't like me very much, do you?", and I replied something along the lines of "Not at all, and just the reverse." But it was obvious I'd failed in my desire to bring him and his old friends back together. When Tom died in 2006, I sent Arthur my condolences. I knew what a great loss this was for him.

I saw him only once after this, in the lobby of the St. James Theatre, where his production of Gypsy with Patti LuPone was playing. He gave one of his aggrieved harrumphs (see below), and I congratulated him on the show. He told me about his plans to incorporate Spanish lyrics in West Side Story, which had been Tom's idea, and how he would dedicate this production to him. He said we should get together again, being Village neighbors as we were. I agreed. But I never called, nor did he.

I should say in closing that many of the things I'm not being very specific about (and that Arthur expected his friends to bear) were insulting, harsh and rude and hurtful and painful beyond what I feel comfortable in elucidating further, here or anywhere else.

- Larry Kramer

I am currently a friend of Arthur Laurents. I can't remember the first time someone said to me, "Be careful, Larry. Arthur will fight with you sooner or later and stop being your friend." The list of people Arthur has fought with over the years is very, very, very long. It is a veritable Who's Who of our time and place. It is hard to love Arthur, though many people have tried and want to.

I have known Arthur for many years. I can't remember when we met or how long our knowing each other has gone on for. I hesitate to use the word "friendship" or even "relationship," not because I currently have both with Arthur and would like it to stay that way, but because I don't want to jinx anything. You never know how Arthur is going to react to anything you say. It's not that he takes things the wrong way. No, Arthur takes things Arthur's way. And that is a highly individualistic and not necessarily understandable or comprehensible way. Arthur has firm convictions about everything, and they come before anything else - including friendships and relationships. I guess you could call this highly principled. Others, who call this just a difference of opinion and try to reason with him, most often find themselves left at the wayside. "You never know when you are going to be in or out of his book.

Others, of course, use less polite descriptions of Arthur. He is a mean, ornery son of a bitch wants to hurt you.

I don't think Arthur ever believes he's wrong. It takes a very highly principled person indeed to be so certain about matters in what is, at best, this most uncertain of worlds. I am pretty highly principled, too, so I am often in awe of Arthur's strength of moral fiber, for want of better words to describe his stubbornness. "He calls them as he sees them" is the slang for what he does. There is never any politesse involved. If he is mad at you, you know it. Boy, do you know it. And fast. There is rarely time to take a breath, to pause and reconnoiter or reconsider. …

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