Whaddya Know Note:
Cawn’t Cawn’t Cawn’t
26 June 2019

¶ Sigourney Weaver is a great actress and film star, of course, and I am second to none in my admiration for her performance as Gwen DeMarco, but it is other things about her that interest me. I think that I’d really like to hear what she remembers of her father’s dreams for the then-new medium of television, if only to parse what Wikipedia, in its entry on “Sylvester Weaver (executive)” describes as the NBC chief’s belief “that broadcasting should educate as well as entertain.” In the course of his long life, how did he come to feel about how that worked out? (It’s always possible that I might not like having heard what his daughter would have to say, but somehow I doubt it.)

And now, all of a sudden, I wonder if Ms Weaver would find my Randy Paar stories amusing. I call them my “Randy Paar stories,” but they are really about Miss Rogers, the sometime ambulance-driving babysitter whom my family and Jack Paar’s both employed, and who never tired of making invidious comparisons at my expense. 

The thought of sharing my Randy Paar stories with Sigourney Weaver — now I think of it, maybe she has some Randy Paar stories, real ones — was occasioned by reading, on page 126 of Julie Satow’s The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel, that Susan Alexandra (the actress’s given name) was one of three principal sources of inspiration — the others being Liza Minelli and Yasmin Khan — for Kay Thompson’s Eloise, the heroine of four books, indelibly illustrated by Hilary Knight: the iconic EloiseEloise in ParisEloise at Christmastime, and Eloise in Moscow. Not to mention the subject of a portrait that, last time I looked, hangs in the hotel’s lobby. 

I have to say that, as a boy, I was terrified of Eloise. Endlessly naughty, Eloise nonetheless ended each day safely in her room, not, as would have happened to me (I was sure), in a reform-school cell. Not only that, but she lived to repeat her repertoire of nuisances every day! Misbehaved and as constantly “in trouble” as I was, I blanched at the things Eloise got up to. At the end of the first book, she thinks about pouring a pitcher of water down the mail chute; I was sure that she’d have got me to do it, because I was taller and could reach, &c.

The most dangerous thing about Eloise was precisely what she announced at the start: “I am a city child.” My fear of city children was probably the main reason why I could never bring myself to claim that I came “from New York,” even though Bronxville is only three miles or so from the Bronx border. The few city children with whom I came into contact — I have no distinct memories, only blurs — all seemed to be about thirty years old, sophisticated and blasé and completely in charge of themselves. I was a Mexican jumping bean in comparison, unruly and barely literate. I bore no resemblance to the man I am today and really did live in a tree (not very bravely, I might add). Had I met the city child who became my wife in those days, I would have filled her with unalterable disgust. Good thing we didn’t cross paths until we were both marooned in Indiana!   

Even then, though, I had one thing in common with Eloise (and this hasn’t changed): I absolutely love Room Service. 

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