lived in Sunnyside, New York, eighteen months, and then moved to LA. That would
be the winter of 1945.
My first memory of
Ted is in LA. For my third birthday, in 1946, my parents bought me a train set.
It was a "Lionel" train set. The best! The engine was about three or
four inches tall, eight to ten inches long, and heavy! It was substantial and,
in that, it felt wonderfully real though it "whirred", rather than "chugged".
Ted played with me, with the train. That is my
earliest recollection of my father, vague as it is, receiving and playing with
the train. I have this feeling that I felt honoured to have his attention. He
was a remote figure. I have just a handful of memories of my early childhood in
LA, but this is the only one where he is directly involved.
And the temper of my parents relationship in those early days? Were they fighting
already? They must have been. My later memories are of them fighting quite regularly.
Perhaps once a month they would have a barney. This "once a month",
it's not PMS thing, it's just that that was roughly the frequency of their warfare.
They'd yell and scream. Usually behind closed doors. It was terrifying.
"I wish I were dead!" she'd scream.
"I wish you were too!" he'd scream back.
I was speaking about this to a recent therapist. I was wondering what they fought
about. "Probably about his infidelities," Dr. Walsh suggested. "That's
usually the cruncher." I thought that not unlikely given what a womanizer
Then a while after this Florence Richler
was in town and we had "tea". Florence was the closest of friends of
both my father and mother. She related a wonderful example of a Ted and Kate tiff.
I had mentioned to Florence this speculation about the source of their strife
being his adulteries.
"Oh," she said.
"I always thought they mostly fought about money. Kate was very insecure
and very careful with her money. And Ted was always spending it so carelessly."
that Florence told took place many years later, after Ted left Kate in 1957. They
got together again briefly in the nineteen sixties. At that time Florence set
out together with them to go to a matinee at the Haymarket Theatre. They were
late. They called a cab. "When we got into the taxi, Ted asked the driver
to hurry because we were late. Kate interrupted to tell Ted that he didn't have
to say that to the cabby because of course he would know that they were in a hurry.
Otherwise they wouldn't have called a taxi. Well, Ted said, he often took taxis,
even when he wasn't in a hurry. And Kate said that she didn't, and they started
arguing." And finally Ted asked the cabby to stop, and got out of the cab.
And Kate and Florence went to the theatre on their own, and that, said Kate, was
a terrible waste - Ted wasting his ticket."
Ted wrote in his analytic notes Jan 24, 1974: ... "My
life with Kate was mostly one of tension. I was able to shut myself up in the
small room I used as a study to work in..."
Of Los Angeles Ted wrote:
I have a memory of Milton Sperling renting me to Carl Foreman, though that must
have been later. The memory is that he offered me a call girl. Said I should do
the whole thing on my first day in Hollywood.
When Eve Ettinger, the story editor at Columbia, introduced me to the head of
the studio, Harry Cohen, Cohen quipped, "Which one of you is Ted Allan?"
Eve pitched to him what a marvelous writer I was, and Cohen responded, "That
door is open to you. Any time you want to see me, phone and come right up."
I never saw him again. The pay off, though, was that Eve invited me round to her
house for dinner. She opened the door wearing a see-through negligee. "Geeze
you're sexy," she told me, and indicated to me that my life in Hollywood
would be great. But I found her unattractive: unappetizing. She said, "You've
made a big mistake. You're going to be sorry for this, you bastard." I can't
describe the crap she put me through. She put everyone through crap, that lady.
Later she spilled everything before the Un-American Activities Committee,
My first days in Hollywood were a confused helter-skelter.
I was hired by Columbia ostensibly to write a movie about Nazi scientists in Spain.
I recall the director taking something from "Camille", and another script,
and sticking it in our script. The producer, Leonard Goldstein, who hired me told
me to forget about the project and write "something that'll sell". This
was the same cheerful guy who said, "If you don't like what I'm saying, it's
not exactly what I mean." Leonard outlined his Eight-Year Plan to me: shoulder
to the wheel, nose to the grindstone, thinkin about it, sittin on it, and gettin
fired. That's the first year. You move to next studio, shoulder, nose, think,
sit, and get fired. There are eight studios in town. Soon the first studio has
a new boss, and you're back there and can begin all over again. Goldstein did
exactly that. He was popular with many of the big player because he brought his
projects in on budget. "I may not know how to read," he said, "but
I can count."
I wrote my first stage play,
"The Money Makers", based on these two years in Hollywood when I was
"guided" by Leonard Goldstein. One either adjusts to this crazy world,
and/or becomes a raving lunatic oneself. I guess I adjusted, some, and followed
Leonard's advise. By the time my option at Columbia was up, I was hired by Warner
Brothers for another six months.
I sold a few
original stories in Hollywood, but by the time what I had written was transformed
into a screenplay, very little of myself was in it; it was hardly recognizable.
I did earn money, and earning money can be a major problem for writers, particularly
Canadian writers. And as to hackery, if a writer can produce some hack work in
order to make money and hacking does not affect his more serious creative efforts,
then by heck, hack away. Chekhov wrote silly little verses and anecdotes to make
a living, but never forgot his major aim, the penetrating depiction of Russian
I once worked for what would be considered
an ideal producer. He told me to write just what I felt. He wanted something original.
I set to work on a story about Montreal. The producer read it and showed it to
his story editor and another of his assistants. A few days later he called me
into his office. Also present were the story editor and the assistant. The producer
was beaming. "It's a great story. Great! And Pete likes it, and John likes
it. There is just one change we want, and then we'll go straight into script development."
I was pleased.
"There's just one little problem," he repeated.
"What's that," I asked.
set the story in Canada."
yes, that's the idea. It's about people that I know in Montreal." I spoke
"Ah ha! That's the problem. Who's
interested on Montreal? Nobody. We decided to change it to Miami."
I said to him, "Look, Mr. B., I know Montreal. I've never even been to Miami."
"Well, that's great," he said. "You'll
have a fresh approach."
was memorable for other experiences,"
Ted wrote. "Rose Hart was
the landlady who rented us her place on Pontsetta. The rent she charged us was
enormous, but I was in no position to argue when I arrived with my family in this
crazy town. Miss Hart had a caravan that she lived in at the back of the garden
which had no bathroom or toilet. She asked if it was okay to use our bathroom
and toilet and the refrigerator for about a week. I said fine. Three months later,
or four months later, when I realized she was never going to move out of there,
I told her I wanted her to move, and she said, "Well, I'm looking for a place,
and can't find one." I went to the rental authorities to find out about my
rights. They told me what the real rent was because someone said, "What you
are paying is ridiculous." And they didn't punish her, but they made her
give me back the money by an arrangement whereby I didn't have to pay rent for
the next six months. When I told the landlady this she said, "You Jews are
all the same."
this period Ted's family, one by one, followed him to LA. Sadie had married Ralph
Chester. Ted wrote somewhere in his personal notes that that marriage worked fine
during the war while Ralph was away in the army in Europe, but was problematic
later. It lasted long enough to bring the Chesters to Los Angeles where Sadie
bore her only child, a daughter, Susan.
George also moved down to LA. He met, through Ted, a young actress, Nina Klaus,
whom he courted and married.
Mama came to LA,
but just for a visit. In Hollywood mama wanted to see the Eddie Canter Radio Show.
She never missed an airing of Eddie Cantor's show. "He is my favourite."
In "Eight Stories of Annie" Ted
wrote of his mother's visit to the broadcasting studio. Ted got hold of two tickets
for the show. Annie went with her sister-in-law, Sarah. After the show Ted picked
them up from the studio:
open the car doors for Mama and Sarah. Sarah was smiling. Mama was grim. I went
round and got into the drivers seat. "How was it?" I asked.
"It was very good," said Sarah.
studied my silent mother. "What's wrong?"
"You don't seem very
Mama did not immediately reply.
"Did you know," said Mama, at last, as I start to drive away, "that
he reads his jokes from a paper?"
puzzled. "What do you mean?"
reads his jokes from a paper! Writers write them for him! Did you know that?"
I waited a moment, rather surprised. "Are
you trying to tell me that you've been listening to Eddie Cantor for five years
and you thought that it was spontaneous jokes on the spur of the moment?"
"Yes, that's what I thought."
"Oh, Annie," said Sarah.
we make each other laugh, we're not reading from a paper," said Mama righteously.
"Mom, every comedian you hear on the radio
has his material written for him by comedy writers."
"So what's so funny?" said Mama.
is another story of an earlier visit to New York by Ted's mother which was published
in the New Yorker: "Looking for Bessie":...
"I hadn't seen
my mother in a few years. In the interim I'd gotten married, had a child, and
lived in New York. My parents still lived in Montreal, and my mother hadn't met
my wife or my child, so when I sold a story to the movies for a lot of money,
I telephoned her and said, "I've just sold a movie. I'm rich. I'd like you
to come and visit us. I'll send you the plane ticket. When can you come?"
My mother said she wouldn't take an airplane. She
didn't believe in airplanes.
you a return train ticket," I told her.
So finally she agreed. We all met her at the station. She said the pictures didn't
do justice to either my wife or baby. They were really beautiful. As soon as we
got into the taxi, she said, "Give me the money to put in the bank for you.
You'll pee it all away."
After she had
spent time cooing over the baby, and we'd had our supper together (Kate was a
great cook), I asked, "Ma, please tell me what you want to do first."
"First I'd like to see Bessie."
remember Bessie. She knitted you a sweater when you were born. I'd like to see
her. Would you phone her?"
I'll phone her. Do you have her number?"
"No. You'll have to get it from Information," my mother said.
"What's her name?"
name is Max. They live in the Bronx.
her husband's second name?"
not sure. Zaratsky, Zatetsky, Zapitsky, something like that. Just ask Information."
"Which is it: Zatetsky, Zapitsky, or Zaratsky?"
"I don't know," my mother said. "Just
ask information and don't make me nervous."
The attempt to find the phone number proved futile. Then my mother asked if I
knew where Union Square was. "Next door to Union Square," she said,
"is a department store called Klein's. When Bessie took me shopping, we went
to Klein's and we got off the subway at Union Square. If you took me to Union
Square, I'd find where she lives because we got off at a station with Point in
"Point in it?"
"Yes. I can't remember the name, but I remember it had Point in it."
"That's it," my mother said excitedly. "Huntspoint!"
Next morning we made our way towards Union Square. "I just remembered the
name of the street Bessie lives on," my mother announced. "Vine Street."
"That'll make it easier."
"Don't worry. We'll find her. I have a good head for these things. Once I
found Jersey City all by myself."
We got off at Huntspoint Station. There were not two streets crossing one another,
but three, so that there were six different streets intersecting. "This is
it," my mother announced. We walked down one block looking for Vine Street.
We retraced our steps to go down another street. And another. "You think
you'll remember the house?" I asked.
she said ignoring my question and pushing onward. The heat was murderous. "To
be so close," my mother sighed. "If Bessie knew I was so close..."
She stopped someone, a woman, to ask. "Bessie lives in her own home with
her two unmarried sister-in-laws who live upstairs," my mother told her.
"Her husband's name is Max." The woman looked at her as though she were
crazy, and hurried off. "They're not a friendly people here," said my
Next Annie went into a grocery story
to ask after Bessie and Vine Street. "I know it's around here somewhere."
The shopkeeper looked up as if he had not heard.
"Vine Street. Could you please tell me where
"Lady," he growled,
"I've lived in this neighbourhood all my live and I never heard of Vine Street."
We left the shop. "In Montreal everybody knows
me. Especially where I shop. Bessie and I used to come to that grocery store every
day, and now they don't even remember her."
We finally exhausted
my mother's optimism and were making our way back to the subway station, when
she stopped in the middle of the street. "Wait, I have a feeling..."
She closed her eyes, then opened them. "Those doors," she said, pointing
to a nearby red garage. "Max used to keep his car in that garage!"
My mother headed passed the red garage, and I followed.
We came to a corner where the sign read, "Irving Street."
"This is it!" my mother shouted, walking with authority.
"I thought you said Vine Street."
"So I made a mistake."
you remember the house?"
she said impatiently.
It was almost dusk. People,
trying to escape the heat, were sitting out on stairways and porches. Out of the
twilight came a woman's surprised voice. "Annie?"
My mother turned.
They ran into each other's arms.
Then my mother
turned and said, "You see?"
That night, after we got home from Bessie's, and we had told the story a dozen
times, the family went to sleep and I remained in the kitchen to type out this
Next morning when I came for breakfast,
my mother was sitting at the table reading these pages. She looked puzzled as
I walked in. "This is what we did yesterday," she said.
I nodded and poured some coffee.
did you write it down?"
"It's a funny
story," I said.
"All right, but why
did you write it down? It's just what we did yesterday."
"I'll send it to a magazine and perhaps they'll buy it," I said.
"Buy it?" She stared at me. "They
pay money for such things?"
"If that's the case," she said, "sit
down and I'll tell you what I did the day before yesterday."
Back in Hollywood in 1946 (a few
years beyond these events) Ted wrote:
Buckman brought me into his office after he had read "Looking for Bessie"
in The New Yorker, and told me, "You don't want to be in this town. You're
really a good writer. You ought not to be here. After this option's up, after
six months, go back and write."
"I'd like to make some money."
was true, though, that Ted was not comfortable in Hollywood. Already in 1946,
'47, the anti-red scare was putting its chill and its heat on the industry. Ted's
play, "The Money Makers" documents the era of the Black List. Ted's
open identification with the left wing was a major handicap.
Part of Ted's movement away from Hollywood was back through Spain. I947.
"I kept telling
myself I had to go back to Spain. I didn't enjoy the thought of returning there
while Franco and his authoritarian Falangist were still in power, but I kept thinking
that I had to go back. I had to go or die. I arranged to write a series of articles
for Colliers exposing the Nazi scientists in Spain.
So there I was in Madrid, ten years on - 1947 - walking along the same street
in the warm evening air. Now, however, the street lights, the neon lights, decorated
the city, whereas back then there was a "black out". I walked slowly,
looking at people, feeling I was in a dream. The people looked well dressed and
walked, promenaded, along the Gran Via in a leisurely, unhurried fashion. Fascism
had fattened them. Fattened the rich, but on the side streets, off the main thoroughfares,
it had swollen the bellies of hungry children.
I looked up at the Telefonica Building to the fourth floor where the shell marks
had been. They were not there. I felt disorientated. Standing by the Telefonica
Building I looked across the street at the Gran Via Hotel. Gerda had stayed there
for a while, but I made no connection with her memory. I didn't want to remember
anything about her. "It is 1947," I told myself. But I slipped in and
out of the past. Across the street the marquee of the Capitol Cinema was advertising
"Charlot Chaplin en Tempos Modernos". In 1937 "Tempos Modernos"
had played in this very same theatre, and Gerda and I had seen it three times.
I walked across the street, not daring to look to the right or left, fearing the
appearance of ghosts. I walked into the theatre, sat down, and saw Modern Times
again. As I watched the Chaplin film unfold the feeling of being caught in a dream
deepened and enfolded me until the realization that they had cut a favourite scene
woke me. The censors had expunged the scene where Chaplin picked up the red warning
flag which had fallen off a truck and inadvertently became the leader of an unemployed
demonstration. In 1937 the scene had brought Gerda and me and the Spanish militiamen
to our feet cheering and applauding and insisting that the Projectionist rewind
the film and show that scene again. He did, and we cheered and applauded again,
laughing fit to burst. The omission made it clear I was not dreaming, and that
it was 1947 not 1937.
When I got back to my
room in the Palace Hotel I found myself shivering. I was staring at the ceiling,
feeling uneasy. It occurred to me that I was lying in a room directly under the
room where I'd been brought after getting my leg smashed at Brunete, after spending
that one night in the hospital near El Escorial. In 1937 the Palace Hotel had
been converted into a hospital.
By day I worked
as a journalist. I had a fascinating encounter with a prominent Falangist who
regretted the incompletion of Hitler's grand work with Judaism. At a prison I
observed the frustration of the political prisoners and the obvious hypocrisy
of the warden's claim that they were free to speak to me about their condition.
I chased phantom Nazi scientists (little did I know that they were all already
hard at work in Moscow and in Washington). And for the rest, I was in a dream.
There is no question but that I was suicidal. I made no effort to take care of
myself. I had not got an anti-typhoid vaccination, although I had been urged to
do so. I allowed myself to eat vegetable washed in Madrid's plague-ridden water.
I contracted typhoid, and became deathly ill.
was repatriated to the U.S., and hospitalised in New York. Kate, with Julie and
I in tow, crossed the continent from L.A. to be on hand. I recall the train journey,
the sleeping car and endless hours, looking out the window, with my cheek to the
glass to look ahead at the front of our train as we round a bend, and an illusion
that an on-coming train across the wide salt flats was leaning over round a bend
so far it seemed it was coming off the tracks. I remember the crowds on the platform
changing trains in Chicago, and fearing being lost; and the being taking to cousins
in New Jersey, chicken farmers, poor farm houses and rickety stairs, and the wringing
of chicken's necks. I remember learning to sort eggs into different sizes, and
feeling... I don't remember feelings.
recalls Kate standing by his bed and the doctor telling her to be brave, for the
doctors did not expect him to survive the night. And that was fine by Ted. He
had no particular complaint, and no different expectation. He was tired. But survive
he did, again.
Ted recovered, and the family returned for a short while to California, but it
was time to leave, and soon we drove back across America in one of those late
forties humpbacked cars. A Dodge. I remember sleeping on the shelf in the back
window. And I remember leaving a motel in the desert. A police car chased after
us, flagged us down, searched the trunk. My mother, Kate, had taken one of the
motel pillows for our additional comfort. I, the youngest kid, was blamed for
the mix up.
Among the most poignant of my childhood
memories are long cross country car rides with the family. Both parents loved
to drive. Kate was a little more patient. Ted would take the occasional risk in
passing. Highways were two and three lanes. Roads that dipped over hills had wonderful
optical foreshortening and lengthening that shortened time and space. My sister,
Julie, and I would quarrel. But the road had such romance.
We moved back to the east coast.
Ted wrote, "From New York City, Sam Shaw and I moved to Yorktown Heights,
an hour north of NYC. Sam's family (Larry 11, Matta 8, and Adie 3) and our family
(Julie 7, Norman 4) shared a lovely old farmhouse on Kelly's Farm. Twelve bedrooms
and eight bathrooms. $100 bucks a month. There was a peach orchard and apple orchards
and a lake on the property. We had a marvelous dog and some cats. The dog was
a Dalmatian named Duchess. There was a kitten that used to ride on the dog's back."
Duchess had belonged to one of Kate's relatives. Kate had a large extended family.
There were a sister and three brothers in Boston, Rose, Georgie, Mackie, and Johnny,
and cousins galore, many in New Jersey, chicken farming. Duchess, the Dalmatian,
was I think an acquisition of Kate's brother, George, and his wife, Flora. They
had a television too, and it there was at their house that I first saw that wonder.
Hoody Doody. Duchess, however, jumped from their second story balcony, breaking
a leg, and it was felt she would do better in the country. So she came to live
with us on Kelly's Farm. A year later, when we left Yorktown Heights, Duchess
was given to relatives, chicken farmer, in New Jersey.
Yorktown Heights is the era from which my memories first are somewhat full, though
for me memory is a misty screen, and the Kelly's Farm is from young childhood
and fifty years ago. My clearest recall of Ted is when he would come to my bed
side when I was sad and had difficulty sleeping. I felt very alienated and isolated,
cut off from the other children. I think Julie had earlier been a closer friend
to me, and now she had a contemporary friend in Matta, and I felt abandoned. So
I would cry in the evenings and weep to my parents, "Why did you born me?"
Actually, it was a little more sinister then that. I think the older kids not
only isolated me, but also humiliated me. So at night, at bed time, my parents
would take turns in the task of comforting me. They shared the same strategy in
this. They'd lie on the bed beside me and sing me folk songs and spirituals. And
Ted might tell stories. The story of Willie the Squowse was created at this time,
though Julie is quick to point out that it was told to her first.
"We were very happy,
and very poor," Ted wrote. "It was an idyllic life for the kids and
a harrowing life for Sam and me scrounging around for the rent each month. His
fifty and my fifty. We were both blacklisted. American's have totally forgotten
the horrors of the witch-hunting that went on before McCarthyism peaked in the
Un-American Activities Committee. I sold aluminium pots and pans from door to
door. I sold a few. I sold encyclopedia Britannica's. And then I began, on the
sly, to write captions for Elsie the cow, Bordon's milk.
I don't know how we did it but we managed to make enough to make rent and eat.
And we had a good time. There were some desperate moments though.
Ted's father, Harry, came to
stay with us. I recall a wonderful wooden windmill he built. And playing checkers,
and pinochle in the small room under the eaves that was for a while his bedroom.
Ted's notes speak of,
"The encounter with Anne
Shaw in the garage when we kissed each other. She said, "My God, you're Sam's
best friend." And my surprise at her reaction because although the kiss was
a sexy one, it never occurred to me that it would go any further than that. Both
of us were amazed that we should kiss passionately with any sexual feeling involved.
Someone asked me how we could have done this and I tried to explain, in retrospect,
Anne and I were probably attracted to one another, and it came out that afternoon."
As usual, Ted had several irons
in the fire. I'm thinking primarily of work projects as I write this. At this
time he was writing for the Friday Magazine, and he was trying to sell a pilot
for a game show, a word-game that he called The Boner Game. In Ted's notes we
find the following:
Mendelson, her husband who delivered the paper (The Friday Magazine), her affair
with Fred, my affair with her. She was so fat that I never knew when I was inside
her vagina or legs. Once after I had come she said, "Okay come in me now."
She turned out to be a total bitch who told Dan Gilmore that I was in the States
illegally so that he could not have me work on the paper and dropped the Boner
Game. I was flabbergasted, could not believe her venom, but she was very righteous
about it saying she was a responsible comrade who did not want to jeopardize Friday
Magazine. She died young.
wrote, "Don't forget the experiences
with the FBI when we lived near Yorktown Heights on our own, and how I'd have
to sneak back through the border." Ted told the story of how he would
go to dinner at his agent's, Frances Pyndyck, and regale those assembled with
tales from his days in the young communist league. Later he got a call from Frances'
bother, Sylvester, who suggested it was time Ted came down and visited him in
his office. Ted followed instructions to the address and found himself in the
FBI building. Sylvester Pyndyck was the head of the FBI's immigration service
branch in New York. "We've just got round to your file," he told Ted.
"It's probably a good time to leave."
Ted was reluctant, and played cat and mouse. The FBI would come round to the house,
and usually Ted managed to avoid them. On one occasion, though, they picked him
up and deported him.
had moved to nearby Peekskill. I had started kindergarten. Ted moved to Montreal
and would sneak back across the border. He traveled on a passport in his old name,
Alan Herman. The one time he was stopped on the border it was because they had
an Alan Herman on record as a Mafioso. "We know who you are, Mr. Herman."
And so in these hesitant stages the family made
ready to move to Montreal. We, Kate and the children, moved first to Boston for
some months where we stayed with Kate's sister, Rose, while Ted established himself
in Montreal. In Boston I had my tonsils and adenoids removed and developed pneumonia.
Ted traveled down to be with me. I felt rescued. This would be the theme of our
relationship: abandonment and rescue.
moved to Canada.