Thursday, March 20, 2014

Harvey Orkin's letters to SJ Perelman and others appear here: as well as below.  The wordpress site has a few pdf letters that can't be copied here.

Harvey Orkin was a writer for the Emmy Award winning Sergeant Bilko show, the sitcom of choice in the 1950's.  (If one described it as the MASH of its day, which one considered doing, even that reference would now be greeted with bewilderment by the younger generation who, at least in the area of entertainment, reign supreme among the peoples of the world.)  Later, he became an agent for Creative Management Associates (CMA) which evolved into the monolithic ICM.  During that period, we moved to London where David Frost and other rising stars of satire such as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore started a Saturday night talk show called Not So Much a Program; More a Way of Life.  With its sketches and wry commentary, it functioned as the Jon Stewart of its day.  When commentator Bert Shevalov was unavailable, (with MASH's Larry Gelbart, he had written for Bob Hope, Red Buttons and that God of comedy, Sid Caesar, also working with Steve Sondheim on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,) he recommended Harvey as his replacement.  The rest is a footnote to a blip of TV history.  

Not So Much a Program was yanked off the air when theater critic Kenneth Tynan said, "Fuck," only to reappear several weeks later under a new name:  BBC 3.  (At that time, the Beeb had only two actual stations.)   A set change, new theme song and a few other bits of window dressing completed the disguise.  And now, at last, I get to clarify that in recounting this incident in Harvey's online bio, I did not use the phrase, "The F- word," this demure locution having been furnished by some God-and-internet-censor-fearing webmaster at IMDB. 

Harvey was born January 12, 1918, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.  What little I heard about his father is that he had started out as a street vendor of pins and needles, a job he performed successfully enough to open his own shop which grew into a department store on 34th Street.  He married Rose Raphael, a buyer at the store, who used to describe watching from her office window as the Empire State building went up.  She'd come a long way, this girl from Sioux City, Iowa, where photographs of her childhood home showed her neighbors' tepees in the background.

Jacob was a juvenile diabetic who had had a leg amputated.  In what was surely the watershed experience of Harvey's life, before Jacob was to lose an arm as well, he hanged himself in the basement of the house, where he was found by his 21-year-old daughter, Theresa.  Harvey was sixteen.  (I was once told by a journalist at an ultra-right-wing publication, who was looking for dirt on me to publish in an exposee on 9/11 activists, that Jacob had not only lost a fortune in the Depression; he and Rose had also racked up enormous debts.)

Harvey's uncle Charlie came to Harvey's school saying, "I'm sorry to tell you that your father has died."

Harvey replied, "He killed himself, didn't he?"

Charlie, a charming scoundrel who made a living cheating unwitting marks at poker on ocean liners, then took Harvey under his wing.  (Please note that this sequence of events is pieced together from family lore, a notoriously unreliable source, at least in our family, but all we have to go on.)  Perhaps this sowed the seeds of Harvey's life-long gambling habit as well as of his friendships with guys who skirted the law.  (People used to refer to Harvey and another social charmer, Columbia Pictures President David Begelman, as "the Corsican brothers."  Begelman met his undoing, - after Harvey's death - forging Cliff Robertson's name on a check, and would also succumb to suicide.)  More obviously, it provided the source for Scuffler, Harvey's picaresque comic novel published, with exquisitely torturous timing, as his inoperable brain tumor rendered him unable to reap any pleasure from the occasion.  (To write a comic novel, without regard for the commercial exigencies of the studio, had been his lifelong dream.) 

Most deeply, I believe it was his father's suicide, followed by Charlie's influence, that determined Harvey's career as a comedy writer,  theatrical agent and TV personality.  For he was almost compulsively funny, as though to slow down and be real was to court the void. 
People who live with professional comics will tell you how exhausting that can be.  The comic is always trying out material on you.  What's more, he may consider ordinary conversation a form of failure.

Never once did I hear my father ask someone, "How are you?"  It always had to be, "Top o' the mornin' to ya," in an Irish brogue or he'd do some shtick which would reveal the persona he'd donned for the moment to be a pompous fool.

In his twenties, he entered the army, serving as an administrator of a hospital in one of the Dakotas.  This surely provided material for the Sergeant Bilko show.  I thought I recognized his imprint in the scene where Bilko announces self-importantly, "I'll follow with two feet on the ground."  A private calls, "Hey, 'Two Feet on the Ground!'"  "What?"  "Your shoes."  Cut to a shot of Bilko's toes wiggling inside his stockinged feet.  Harvey had a recurrent dream of going to a party decked out in a black tie and tux, but barefoot.

When he was thirty-four, he married Gisella Svetlik, who had left school at fourteen to dance on Broadway.  Cole Porter told her, "You sing well, for a dancer," before casting her as Venus in Out of This World.  They had two kids, me and my brother Anthony. 

It was a marriage not without conflict as described in this memoir of my mother's last years, which suggests that Gisella's Alzheimer's or dementia may have sprung from her need, decades earlier, not to see Harvey's numerous "indiscretions" and to forget those she'd been compelled to confront (one of which had resulted in a third bundle of joy in Harvey's life, if not hers.) 

In May, 1974, Harvey was diagnosed, as mentioned above, with an inoperable brain tumor.  His doctors asked my mother whether or not to tell him and she said No.  My brother was too young to be trusted with such a secret so for a while, only she, his sister's family and I knew the whole truth.

When he came home from the hospital, Harvey said exultantly, "I don't have to have an operation!"

"That's wonderful, darling," my mother replied wanly.

"You don't understand - I thought I was going to have to have brain surgery!"

"Good, darling," said my mother.

Harvey didn't say anything, perhaps realizing the true nature of the situation from her weak response. 

Periodically in the months that followed, he would say, "I wonder what's wrong with me," and my mother would repeat a mantra about high blood pressure and cholesterol.

At some point, on one of his hospital stays, the surgeon who had opted not to operate stopped by his room and told him to get his affairs in order.

He did, but his fate was never mentioned between us and in a letter to CMA agent Boaty Boatwright Baker, he asks her not to mention his illness to me because I didn't know anything about it.

Although my mother and I discussed chucking my plans to go to Oxford, we decided to maintain the status quo so as not to give Harvey a sense of imminent death.  For the same reason, my mother, who'd finally gotten a GED, also stayed the course at her own college, Hunter.

However, it's clear from his letters written after his diagnosis in May, 1974, that at some point Harvey had become fully aware of what was happening, although his references to it are circumspect and limited.  An uncharacteristic somberness creeps in as he recognizes that each letter may be his last to that correspondent.  He closes with more fulsome expressions of love and even phrases like, "God bless you," although the only time he'd ever mentioned religion before, as John Cleese quoted in a profile in the New Yorker, had been to point out what a lousy subject it made for comedy.  (The Life of Brian would soon put the lie to that, however.) 

Later in the correspondence, there's also increasing awkwardness with phraseology as his speech grew more halting and incomprehensible, finally ceasing altogether.

This website provides a sampling of his correspondence which is included in papers donated to the Emerson College Archives & Special Collections.
Jenna Orkin
The Moron's Guide to Global Collapse
Scout:  A Memoir of Investigative Journalist Michael C. Ruppert

Ground Zero Wars: The Fight to Reveal the Lies of the EPA in the Wake of 9/11 and Clean Up Lower Manhattan

To Orson Welles

London W9, England
Dear Big George:
Who’s goina to London to live? The undersiqned, of course, with an entirely new insurance policy that I think you are qoing to want to see, Mr.Consumer.
I will be at the Connaught Hotel or can be reached at Columbia British Productions, Ltd., telephone number xxx from December 8th on because I am in charge of production for Columbia in the United Kingdom and Europe.
In the name of mercy, Welles, call me from some­place cause I never know where the hell you are.
Warmest personal regards, your adoring mother,

To Richard Burton – on stationery from the Las Vegas Hilton

Augus l6, 1973 
%  Mr. Robert Wilson Grand Hotel
Dear Rich;
Don’t bother to ask me what 1 am doing here because I don’t know and by “her’e” I mean on this planet.  To make it short, however, a month ago I was sunning mines 2lf at the home of Prof. Sir.A.J. Ayer and Lady Ayer also known as Dee Wells from Mulberry Street in New York.   They had lent us the joint and as you know from personal experience, no one says “take my house, I’m a stranger in Paradise” to Harvey Orkin without he says “all right”. Following so far? Good. So Gisella and Anthony and I are  there sans telephone for about three weeks having a marvelous and I go Lo Landres whie they go back to New York and in London f get Lhenoli.cethal Cartridge Television, Inc. i.s Mechula, 711, bankrupt.  Get the picture? So that night I go to Freddie Ayer’s for a small dinner party including five other intellectuals and Frankie Howard who was trying to get Freddie to challenge the possibi.i.ty that Frankie was Cleopatra reincarnated.
Tn the midst of all these festivities there I got a phone call from Freddie Fields (1 think we can call the act “Ready  with Freddie”) saying that Barron Hilton wanted a Director of Entertainment for the Hilton  Hotels.
The rest writes itself.  Or rights itself.  Well, l want to do something good. And here is the idea.  I want you to play here. It seems to me that you are happiest, most gratified, really best when you work with a audience. Indeed, in a musical, for l remember seeing Camelot all those times and it never let me down. A good musical play is,, I think ,the most wonderful scaffolding for a performing  artist. The first play to come to mind was “MyFairLady.” The play has its own tensile strength, the music is lovely and the lyrcs first rate. Would you like to play Higgins? Of course, T realize that Rex played it but I shouldn’t think that would bother you.
Tf you’d rather do Camelot, thats fine too or actually almosL anything you want to do because I know your judgement is impeccable in these things.  The audiences here arc absolutely marvelous and you really could play hereust  about  as long or short  a  time as  you like.  You’d be terrific here and we have a wonderful room and a great crew.
And then of course you could do all the rest.  mean you could tour the production, you could film it for cassette etc,etc.  We would be xtremely cooperative in doing and making all these things.                                                                                   
No sense discussing mon8y now bul there would be a lot of it for you. Most of all it would be good.
All right  now. Your god daughter is at Hunter and last year, which was her second,Gisella decided to go because…take a breath, Harvey.•..she had left school at 14 to dance and wanted to get her high school diploma so she took examinations, got terrifically high grades in the thing, had equivalency dipk)ma, and zut, before she know it, my dear Pierre, she is a freshman in the same college her dau0hter is sophomore in.  I see it as a series, Wally, with maybe a Loretta Young PLAYING BOTH PARTS! know it’s a departure, but T’ve always been creative and gutsy.  And a realy good sport.   Would you like to be my pen pal?
Avoisten and I want to run away with him.and they’re not as good as we are anyway. things, we can deal with the. The women don’t talk to me What the hel, once we declare Come here, We will go riding into the mountain’s sunsets and tell lies to each other.
Best to you, Bob, Aaron, and anybody else you choose.
P.S. I did one day’s work on a film out of curiosity; to see it it is as tedious as it’s always seemed. It is, I think horrifyingly so. It could drive a fellow to drink. As r remember Mr. Fry said so well Tee-De-Um, Tee-De-1.Jm,Tee-De-·.Jm.  The stage is the thing,etc. 

To Warren Beatty

November 26,1973
c/o Beverly Wilshire Hotel 9500 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills,California
Dear Warner:
It’s not my place to rewrite the script but here goes some ideas.
AsI told you on the telephone you have a line here, it would be presumptuous of Me to say stronger than you think, but it is stronger than you express because it is so personal with you. 
It’s the story of someone who declares what he wants, what he thinks are in his best interests, and then behaves antithetical to those best interests because of weakness. That means, that those decla­rations should come from this intelligent, young man at the very beginning.   The audience will see youself-defeating, and if that ain’t a universal theme my name isn’t Adolfo Luque.
Lester, of course, should be what you people call a “father figure” and he should be just as insan aas George who made it work. At least George thinks so because Lester has a lot of money. Lester thinks George is making it work because he doesn’t care about money and gets a llthe tail.  In other words, each thinks the other is properly dedicated.
Everything else are scenes deriving from this bone construction. The story should be laid out like the skeleton of a mackerel, or in my case, a herring. If I qo on, I will be writing the damn thing and that’s not g,ood.

To Robert Redford

February 7, 1974
Hr. Robert Redford
Dear Robert Redford:
I am a two fisted American fag, and Ex-Doughboy which he don’t take kindly to your slurs on success. In this country, where lets face it you yourself kicked the habit so it must be okey dory, when you ask a fellow “How’s Ed Forcline?” and the reply is “very successful”, the image inunediately is two
cars, swinuning pool. “How’s Brad Karlstern?” “He’s doing very well”. Same picture. He may be doing nothing well at all. All quite <langerous. Yester­ day there was a squib in the Times, wherein they wrote of Neil Simon "the most successful playwright in the histroy of the theatre." How do you like
them apples? That tells it all. Success means money only . Did Doc influence more people than Checkov? Entertain more than Moliere? One cannot hardly believe what's going on.

I long to see you and get all thia going be­ cause if we do not the whole thing is going down the tube with our children unable to swim up­ stream and more mtaphor than that you have no right to expect from me or anyone at all. We can­ can expect anything other than what to do, any­ ways.
When you are in Los Angeles see aort Sahl his telephone number is xxx because we all need one another . We must pay attention to that, en­ couraging one another instead of wasting time hitting the devil in the chops. That's simply paying attention to him anyway.
Let me know where you are and we will meet in New York or Los Angeles. Haybc we can meet in Las Vegas, if that's necessary, when Mort is playing there, or Rio when we abscond with the Columbia funds. "Who are those zweien (lots
of them in Brazil) gringos at the table counting money and laughing?”
Write when you get work.

Harvey “Harv” Orkin
ACME Hardware
Sedalia, MO.

February 27, 1974
Mr. Robert Redford
Dear Bob:
In thinking about your getting a nomination for a part that really doesn’t extend you or test your mettle and in believing that you’re not going to do the 100 in 10 flat without a rabbit for you to knock off in the last five yards, I send you the enclosed which Tony Webster, the author, says will make your fortune. Idon’t think that ‘s so, but I think you should read it ftr some reason or other.
This piece was done first some years ago on tele­ vision by Art Carney and as Iremember it was both good and successful.
Tony, who was one of the worlds great drunks (do you remember Don Marquis coming down to the Players Club bartender and saying, “Give me a double Scotch and soda. I finally licked that G >ddamn willpower of mine .”) has made this play out of it that runs
an hour and forty minutes. According to Tony, Joe Papp was going to do it this season and has now said he will do it next season, and Jose Quintero has always said he wanted to direct it.

Is it a feature? Is it a play? well written. It also feeds my old with cassette television because it
I know it is love affair is an intimate piece, probably should be seen the •way one reads a book.
Let me know what you think and please call me when you get back so that we can get together.
If you ever did this thing it would extend you and I think you would be terrific in it. What we do with it then, knows only God (Wolcott Gibbs.)

ALAN HIRSCHFIELD                        HARVEY ORKIN “STAR OF THE MORNING”             APRIL 29,1974
I feel bad about telling you that this isn’t good enough because the writer is so intense on making what he considers important statements, but that’s not the way it should be done. Philosophy is in the point of view and it’s a dull play that has the odd joke here and there and then what purports to be the useful statement. It has to be woven together and, of course, in this piece the jokes are awful anyway.
I read 75 pages because you gave me the damn thing, so I never got into another problem that may or may not come up and that is when you do the life of a great artist, you’d better have a great artist do it. Of course, I don’t know who remembers Bert Williams except old parties but still his records are around.
Anyway, to sum up: it’s completely amateurish work, done with the best intentions in the world but we all know what the road to Hell is paved with- the same damn thing that lines the walls of Chapter 11.

Why Must M.F.S. retain the dealer concession? What is a dealer concession?
It seems to me that your stock keeps going down the drain and now you want to make some more money on that. I don’t like that.
Please let me know what you are talking about.

To Marion Taylor Richards (Harvey’s former secretary)

August 23,1974
Dear Angel:
Please work out a deal with Keith, who as you wrote me, has taken off 20 pounds because with this little furry animal reunning around in my head that I wrote you about, they put me on steroids,18 a day to start, which is what football players take to gain weight and I am like the most adorable Porky
Pig you’ve ever seen. If you could get us in a Waring Blender and then pour us out you might have two perfect fellows for yourself.
 SJP is fine, and Jenna will be in Oxford the end of September.   I hope I remember to give her your address but if you do come to England for any time you can find out where she is from Marit and Sandy.
I did see Clive and Valerie in Long Island and with the greatest of pleasure. They are just so nice I wish I saw more of them. 
An’J’lh>ay,my health is getting better. My book will be out here in October and I miss you awfully much.


To Stanley Baker

i’-tarch 22, 1974

 Mr. Stanley Daker
Dear Stash:
The next time you send me a letter that starts “My Dear Harvey” I will take back all those kisses that you gave me in order to be­come a  client.
I am going into this with David and eter Guber and will get back to you as soon as possi­ble.

Hr. Gregory Holmes B. Litt
Dear Mr. Litt:
May 23, 1974
Of course, I am able to persuade my daughter, Jenna, to go to your school from Oxford.  I would really have it no other way. 
However, would it not be better for you both if you chose a neutral college, such as the Uni­versity of Iowa so that neither of you can kvetch at the other at times of stress.
Please advise by corresponding directly with Herself.
Yours truly,

August 15,1974
Don Sipes
c/o International Famous Agency
Dear Don,
I’m sitting in Henry Halper’s this morning with our friend, Sam Gelfman, when a lady accosts me and says “Aren’t you a friend of Don Sipes?”   “Yes” I acknow­ledge “and you’re Marilyn’s sister.”  She agrees to that and I go on “I guess you heard about Marilyn and Don.”        “What?” she says, “I haven’t heard from them in some time” and she looks properly worried.      Well, concerned.   “Since Marilyn sold a couple of scripts she got to feeling her oats” I go on” and she moved out to the beach, Malibu, I believe.”   That’s where Harriet went from concern to orry. I go on” and I understand that she’s going with Henry Wynberg; well actually, she and Elizabeth Taylor are both going with Henry Wynberg; alternating or soJl\ething.”
With that, Harriet’s face brightened.    “low I know you’re kidding me” she says, “because Marilyn doesn’t share anything.” 
Now Don, all the above is exactly as it happened, and I have documentation from Sam Gelfman to authenticate it. What I mean is, there’s:. iarilyn’s own sister talking, so where do you stand.
I ran back to the office to call you about this so that you wouldn’t go home ignorant, so to speak, but I ain’t got your home number so please send that to me immedi­ately. aeanwhile, hang loose and write if you get work.
Yours sincerely, 

March 22,1974

Mr.Terence Hill 
Dear Terence!
I sneaked away for a week in Sarasota, Florida where I was the youngest person there so you could imagine what that was liko.
Peter Guber was also away so next week wo will get together and discuss with you the Sergio Leon Gfilr: tINTO YOUR TEHT I’LL CRFE.P and the possi­bility of you and Bud dubbing OR ELSE WE’LL GT MAD.
;:,ook forward to seeing you ooon, and in the mean time beat to you and my neighbor; your wife
(that’s a qood title; MY NEIG!fBO.R, YOUR WIFE).

P.Guber N.Broad

To Edward Nequatewa August, 1974 (eight months after diagnosis)

See here for further explanation
I’m not sure who Edward Nequatewa was; possibly the child my high school class sponsored for a year or so through an aid foundation, after which our family kept up the connection. – JO
Mr. Edward Neuatewa
 Dear Edward:
 Thank you for our letter and please let me assure you that whatever slip there was between us was entirely my fault and not because of anything having to do with you.The fact is that I got stricken ill and shoved
into the hospital duringwliich time I should nave been mailing in a check to help take care of you, which I am happy to continue doing.
I had something go wrong in my head, which indeed may be an improvement since I wasn’t all taat thrilled with my head anyway. It felt as though I had a small furry animal running around in it but according to the tests that’s not true,and I am a whole lot better now.
So,keep up the good work and you take care of Arizona for me, while I take care of New York for you.
Kind regards.
BCC: Ms. Nanacy A. Fekete {Enc.check)

To Evelyn and Arthur Lewis

February 4, 1974
llr. & ‘1rs. Arthur Lewis
Dear Evvie & Arthur:
I called you Saturday to say farewell and was happy there was no reply because I was on the verge of tears anyway.
It was wonderf l seeing you, but I must say its heaven to see Gisella, Jenna and Avo .
Sorry Imissed. Jimmy, but \•1hcn Itold the fanily last night that Pete had gotten his degree in .1edieval History, although Gisella and Jenna both asked “what’s he going to do with that?”, Avo get­ ting to the core of things like his dad, snapped back “nc will be a part time knight”. So you got a scholar and I have got Lennie Kent.

To Martin Rosen

April 5, 1974
Mr. Martin Rosen
Dear Marty:
Bob Goldston did visit me the other day and Iam waiting for the script at which time we will make a movie of JOSEPH’S MOVE .
With the demise of President Pompidou so close to us, we would all appreciate your cap­ italizing the first letter of French, even though it is an adjective.
H. O’Rkin
HO: JA1. 1

To Ian Holm

September 19, 1974
‘1r . Ian Holm ‘Wassal House’
Dear Ian :
As far as I am concerned , to some of us that bricklayer’s experience was a day in the country.

What I mean is, like when you have to run the world, have that responsibility, etc., it’s all ups and downs, all ups and downs.
Anyway, it is better than being in the barrel. “lore lated .
In cringing gratitude to you old friend.
From ,

To Patricia Neal, January 6, 1975

January 6, 1975
Dearest Patsy:
I just got back from Florida where Ihad a good rest and Iam now at my desk for the first time in Christ knows how long.
Jenna wrote me that you were angry because a few years ago I didn ‘t call you. Darling, Iam sure that
if Roald didn’t give you the messages he had a very good reason in it, that’s okay, I just want you to know that I called you two or three times a week and left messages and that’s all Icould do then.

Unless I am confused you have had Jenna there and I am so delighted: two of the three girls Ilove more than anything on earth. Istill relish the hour we spent alone in the hospital and further hours after­ wards.
Okay, kid, I’ll start back to work now and send you all my love .

To The Studio (Peter Gober [sic])


Dear Peter:
I saw THE RITZ the other night which got reviews like so many other plays •••people loved it or hated it and, of course, its like a lot of plays, its got a lot of good in it and some bad. I am just not sure it’s for us, in fact, I think it isn’t.
Then I saw ALL OVER TOWN which is brilliantly directed by
Dustin Hoffman and written by Murray Shisgal however, I don’t think it’s for us.
Saturday I went downtown to see THE SPONSOR which is really a brilliant two character play (Eli Wallach, E. G. Marshall and Betty Guard filling in about one-sixth of the show at the be­ ginning and end) in a way reminiscent of LUV. It’s really quite good but here again I can’t see a two character play going into the movies without a lot of effort on our part first.

Now this is just a hurried up review to see if you ‘re inter­ ested and I am going to follow up some thoughts if you are but by that Imean I’d like to fill in with what you know yourself.
Kind regards.
cc: Messrs. D. Begelman
R. Heller
C. Johnes
N. Broad

To Jenna Orkin

How could I have forgotten Joan Littlewood? We’d gone out with her on a boat in Cannes, where we ran into a storm which I later learned had been unusually treacherous. Even the captain, (Joan’s partner, Jerry) threw up.
I did go see her as per the goad below. She was busy arranging a game for kids at a street fair in the East End which was supposed to facilitate their ability to read. Lionel Bart was there too, just hanging out. I hadn’t seen him since he lived around the corner from us in a house that was surely his childhood fantasy come to life with endless places to hide including a bathroom that was entirely covered in mirrors; even the floor and ceiling. There the hider found herself fumbling for the door since there was an infinite number to choose from.
With him at the street fair was a woman dressed in a large green tutu who went by the unforgettable name of Matilda Battlefield. – JO

January 28, 1975
You know what you might do, egghead, and just do it if you want to ••.not as a favor to your poor, odd dad; call Joan Littlewood and see her. She’s really out from everybody else and is a great favorite of mine, from her you can only learn. Do you remember her at all? But, if you have the time you could see her. She’s really the kind of woman you just can learn from in England.
I am sure you know what we are doing here, your mother works from morning until night and still doesn’t quite know what she wants to do, which makes it very difficult as it does with us all except those of us
who are dedicated to being short order cooks.

Which brings me to your brother whose wish is to be either an astronaut or a short order cook. He also is now playing with being a magician but I don’t think that’s going to last. Then you have your dad, who is inspite of everything else supporting this Goddamn family with his own very hands.
Everthing I hear about you is so lovely and so good that I realize I am being lied to by my very own friends .
Well, sugar, that ‘s 30 for tonight and I sign off with all my love.

To Sandy Lieberson

Mr. Sandy Lieberson
Dear Sandy:
Why you made the whole trip over here, ran around the city, then finally got to The Woman’s Echange but failed to go upstairs is something I will never understand but I suppose can be explained by your defiant nature. What do you think they exchange at The Woman’s Exchange? Right !
Hell, I went to see my friend Zero Mostel yester­ day and brought up Sammy’s Roumania, he exploded and said that “ne won’t walk into the place because he is loyal to the original which is across the street”.
All the trouble you get me into, Sandy.
Jenna leaves for Oxford tonight, the way I figure it She will be tearful on your doorstep in 2 1/1 weeks.
Okay pal, I called David last night and told him how highly I thought of the picture you and David Put­ nam made. He wants it out there so everybody cannsee it, and I told him you would let us know when you’re ready. I have a good feling about the film not only because I think it was well done, but as an old press agent I am telling yo it could be marketed as the timely piece it is. d there is no reason to do it at all if we don’t do it that way. So please, please keep me posted and I’ll do the same for you.
Heard last night that Gay Lib has formed an alli­ance with the Mafia but part of the deal is that when the Mafia gives the kiss of death they have to have a dinner and dance first.
It was lovely seeing you but don’t come over again unless you stay north of 14th Street because I had to buy a whole new wardrobe this morning.
Love to you and David, Marit and the kinder.
Don’t forget that Jenna has 6 weeks off in the winter and does speak Welsh, so she can take care of your house there. Well, it’s not exactly Welsh but what do they know.

Holiday in London! (no recipient apparent)


Orkin leaves town. Arrives in New York, spins around three times and is in hospital for four weeks. Out of hospital, into hospital, out of hospital, into hospital, out of hospital with a  total lack of memory.
Am back now and would like to see you, so why don’t you call my secretary and make an appointment and see if we can tie up old things if there are any.
Kind regards.

To Jenna Orkin

March 6, 1975
Well My Darling Jenna:
I see all the mail corning in for Mommy and perhaps a letter or two for Avo, not a thing at all for Harvo. That’s okay, that’s okay. I bundle my collar around me in the frost of the night and look through the window to where your dancing inside. That’s okay, that ‘s okay.
Because that’s all daddies are for. I make a pretty penny out of it as time goes on.You’ll be pleased to know that I call Teddy every day telling here how well I am, how happy I am, how delighted I am to which Teddy involuntarily says every day “I’ve such trouble! My health is no good! Etc. !But I go on and On.”Jenna darling, she’ll dance on our graves but dots the way it goes.
We have lots of pictures coming out and I think they are all very good. My God, I sure hope so. Not that I care, but it’s a living.
Peter Sellers just phoned, if you have time you give him a call and stop by and see him. He’s very attached to our family and he’ll move right in with you. He’s a great pal and you’re a great gal and you and I are lovers forever.
Your Loving Daddy,

To Boaty Boatwright Baker

Beaty Baker London, England
Mon Cher Beaty (That means My Dear Beaty.  Get it!):
Gisella and I went to the opening of FUNNY LADY last night which was a triumph, al right it wasn’t a triumph but its going to own the world.  Afterwards we went to a party Ray Stark gave at the El 11orocco. And still I write to you. When Gisella and I walked in,a woman threw her arms around me and hugged me and I hugged her and it was Lauren Bacall whom I haven1t seen in a couple of years, although I have known her for 30 and it was a very nice feeling.
Den (Then) Gisella and I sat down, it so hap­pened dthat it was the table next to Barbra where Gisella brought me Chinese food (I don’t know why I am telling you all this, a stranger) and after exchanging vows with our masterful agent whose name I can’t remember an aca-.rlll:xlle lot of other people whose names I can’t remember I said to Gisella, ‘Let’s blow this joint.” and so we headed for a restaurant across the street from where we lived, went in there to find out it was closed and went home happily to have some Rice Crispies.
I say happily, Boaty, because after the first time in 9 months I slept through the night, and kiddo that’s soething. Of course, don’t tell this to Jenna she doesn’t know anything about what I have had but I do feel better and I thought this morning I would be well and jump on a plane over to you.
By the time you get this you will have a whole collection of people there for FUNNY LADY. I just want you to behave your­self, just pinch David who is a Sterling character and leave everybody else alone. He’s really doing the most wonderful job here arxlIa I’m so proud of him but I think I’11 let him go.
In other words, don’t about anybody else, just take care of my David
With all due respect, I remain,
Cordially yours,

To Patricia Neal, Mar 17, 1975

March 17, 1975
Patsy Dearest:
Boaty Boatwright sent me a two page layout of Tessa and I can tell by looking at her that she’s sad because she wants me but she can’t have me because I am Gisella’s and yours and that ‘s plenty. Does she really look like that?
I am finally losing my baby fat, and in a couple of weeks I should be in charge of the motion picture industry and you will no a major star and Iwill be hipky dripky and we will take our families up the river and down the stream laughing and scratching all the way.
A kiss for you, and toodle-co. All my love.

To Jerry Davis?

Harch 19, 1975
Re : “THE SEAGULLS OF 19 33”
Dear Old Jerry:
Why is it that Icannot remember anything before three vcars ago, yet seem to think that I read TH SEAGULLS OF 19 33 about that time? Is it a new script or an old one, I swear I could have read it.
Now, darling Jerry, Isuggest you don’t approach Sellers with something in which he plays not the main part because like all actors he’ll say he ‘ll play anything but he really does like to play the starring role. Of course, Icould be wrong about this but Idon’t think Iam. You can’t show him something where he doesn’t get 1/2 a million or more or less, at least that’s the way Isee it.
It’s quiteaggodi script, however, and indeed well worth making a picture out of and we’ll talk about it when you get here. I suppose by then you’ll have a list which should in­ clude some excellent players which we can put together; per­ haps like Albert Finney. Of course, that’s asking a lot. But you can take it down a peg and have a terrific company.
i'<iore later. All my love .

To Doris Windsor

February 7, 1975
Dear Dodo:
I never got any mail from you but I’ll send you a note now and explain why thaa’s possible.
About seven months ago I spun around three times, went down and was taken to the hospital with something that I can’t remember and that’s what it was; lack of memory. I got a lot of treatment and then was released only to spin around again, I think in the other direction about five months later and into the crapper I went where I got shot in the head, the ass and everywhere else and released about four weeks later.
Then, I went in again and this time I was nigh unto death, which is a good expression. I have been out now for a few weeks and am as weak as a kitten and have absolutely no memory at all.
How do you like them apples?
How is Ted and how the Hell are you? Is your house still beautiful; are there flowers on the trees? Conversely, are there trees on the flowers.
My mother is 90 years old and playing hockey with the Rangers this may come as some surptise to you as it did to me but she al­ ways had a great source of energy.
Toodle-Ooo to you and your estimable husband.

To John Cleese

February 25, 1975
Dear John:
I have been watching your show with all the best interest here, as indeed has my son. I got flattened about six or seven months ago; three trips (count em 3) three trips to the hospi­ tal and am now just about wiped out.
I am getting there, but I just wanted to tell you how much my family and I enjoy your voik.
God bless you — an<l with a touch to his forelock Orkin slunk away.
Love to you and your wife and anybody else around. Kind regards.

To Jenna Orkin 1975

March 12, 1975
Dear Jenna:
I have written Stanley Baker and Sandy Lieberson to lay off you that way I think you’ll be either safe or sorry. God knows whibh it will be.
Now to the important part, absolutely have Tureck read the book and tell her to clap her hands and cheer me . As fpr my favorite dish, you go into Pomfret’s, which is not at all the name of the joint that this thing is in but I think you know the store I mean and you can get me some
wild fruit including stromberries and a few oodies like that. They do have exotic fruit which I would like, like apples.
When eu come back you’ll find Ave much taller but still the shortest boy in his class, don’t akk me how that happens, but it just does. I don’t know whether it’s us but he docs seem awfully bright an<l he's as sweet as a cow­ bell. I don't know how sweet a cowbell is.
Hhen you see Beaty give her a big hug and a kiss for me . I saw Lauren Bacall last night, who through her arms around me and tried to beat Boaty's time but nobody can do that . We saw FUNNY LADY last night and went to the party afterwards, which was mobbed but, of course, everybody wanted to embrace me even though, of course, they didn't make any pass at it, of course, I knew better.
I love you with all my heart.

To David Rayfiel (script doctor; ex-husband of Maureen Stapleton)

i1arch 31, 1975
Dear Good Old Dave:
This is just a friendly request and if you can do it fine, and if you can’t listen we’re still pals . Can you send me three dollars? Oh, I know it’s money, but I figure if I can get a million guys together then Iwill be alright Jake.
For nine months, for nine interminable months, Ihave had this crazy disease so now Friday Iwas going out to Sob Aurthur’ s on the train with meine liebchen and tiny Avo, well sir, as the train lurc!1ed to a stop and Iwas standing up Ialso lurched and Gisella went into me, Iwas in great pain and found out today I have a cracked rib, which is now strapped up.
So that’s the way the rib cracks.
That ‘s great about your getting 2% of DAYS OF THE CONDOR movie. When you sign the papers just put down 3%, shit, they won ‘t know the difference and you’ll still have twice what Ihave .
Isee that you’re getting cut down from New York by saying “the New York water-pik cuts like a laser”. I think you had better come back here where that’s considered good. The <loctor says Iam getting better and that's good.
But David Begelman, who is the father of us all, or at least of me has worked out a deal for the next few years for me, for which I embrace him absolutely, totally. So, the next time you see him just give him a big hug cause he saves my life.
Toodlo-oo and God bless.

To David Begelman?

April 2, 1975
Oh Sporty! Oh .Morty!
That thou shouldst have 1% each of these two layabouts is a mitzvah and, of course, I get half. Judy says half of what? Please advise.
That thou shouldst deliver whilst I shut mah mout is mahty hard on mah teeth .
But enow. Did your letter indicate you have a copy of that Goddamn piece I wrote that had Walter atthau and Ann Jackson in it, was played on the air and then turned down is a diatribe on T.V. And David, it ain’t any­ where unless you have it or can find it and I’ll run it around again.
I still can’t run, Hell, walk properly. I go to work each day and accomplish some things and, in fact, I haven’t been out of work one day in the last 4 or 5 months . Friday, on the way out to Bob Aurthur ‘s, the train lurched as I got up to pack , Gisella fell against me and I cracked a rib . Strapped up and painful for the weekend and these nights . These nights, these nights.
More later, stay with the tough (tuff) water-piks, Mister. Nine months ah been sick and all I want is one person to be sicker
than I am one day. Yours frightfully,

To “Tohn” (John Cleese)

April 7, 1975
Dear Tohn :
I am delighted that you feel as you do about writing a book. Iam sending you under separate cover a book Iwrote called “SCUFFLER”, which I wrote for only one reason: I wanted something done by me and by absolutely nobody else. Ithink you will like it, although it has many flaws but it’s all mine.
I do hope you will let me see yours when you are finished with it, and while I remember it, see if you can get a hold of a book called “RAGTIME” by E. J. Doctorow which is absolutely superb and I think will raise your guidelines.
•1eantime, I’m way behind what I can do but the doctors say (I’ve got four, count them four) that I will improve af­ ter these Goddamn 9 or 10 months.
When I get cured of this, I will of course, take over this country and yours and, of course, you will be my aman­ uensis bowing and scraping and lawsy me when you think of the fun we’ll have.
‘.1y very best to Constance and a hearty handshake to her for s-t:icking with you.

To Albert Hackett

Albert Hackett and his first wife, Frances Goodrich, wrote the screenplays for the Thin Man series, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Diary of Anne Frank, among other films. Albert became my mother’s second husband in 1985. – JO

April 18, 1975
Dear Mr. Hackett:
I don’t know if you will remember me but I met you last night and heard your beautiful voice. Perhaps, we could make an arrangement for the next year for you to sing around this country, your wife could hum in the background and I say to you, Mr. Hackett, it will be a taste thrill for America.
As Isee it we’ll get you a red cap, a white shirt and blue denim pants and I say it spells listening pleasure Mister for all and sundry.
Don you agree? Well, don’t you agree?
Ilook forward to your response with anticipation.
Yours very truly,

To David Begelman May 1975 Personal and Confidential

Let it be said that for all his later transgressions which gained him such notoriety and ended in his suicide, David Begelman was a loyal friend to Harvey, among others. – JO 
MAY 2,1975
Dear David:
I’m feeling much better now and have been in the office about six months without being out any day of that time.           All the British people come in and New York artists such as Pat Neal, Pete Sellers, Aaron Ruben, Jerry Davis, Ed Scherick, Marty Bregman, Sandy Lieberson, David Putnam, Joe Janni, Paddy Chayefsky, Walter Bernstein, Zero Mastel, Robert Alan Aurthur, Henry Ephron and many others.
I know how you think of me and you know how proud I am of you and I think now I can do more work besides what I do to help you.
Now I know and others know I can’t make complete decisions myself, but I’d like the right to negotiate.
GET THE PICTURE?    Of course you dew.
I shtill don’t talk midout an accent, but I’ll capture anybody’s attention.     Of course I will.
Kindest personal regards.

To Jenna Orkin

May 7, 1975
My Darling Jenna:
And by the great Lord Harry you are just that!
Your mother I don’t see or hear because she’s in the middle of exams. I remember her well though, at least I think I do and as soon as she is through with classes we will embrace each other and say “Sarah and John”.
Anthony, who wakes in the morning and makes us breakfast and comes home at night in time for dinner is quite serious and we have lovely conversations . Sure we have lovely conversations, but he always wins them.
I am working on a play that I wrote about 20 years ago and which Dob vlhitehead called :me on and said let’s do it over and see what we can make of it. As a :matter of fact, it ‘s rather amusing but I am not sure it ‘s serious enough.
Bob Aurthur was at Attica Prison doing research in lovely downtown Buffalo and he wastsn the prison library, turned around and saw “SCUFFLER” and he asked the guy “How does it move?” the guy said “WG can’t keep it in stock, everybody here w;:ints to read it=” So, that’s where your father is a big shot and well entitled too also.
Annie Jackson just called and said that you hadn’t seen each other but that you were doing very well. Naturally you’re doing well, your Scuffler’s daughter.
Gee, that’s a good title!
My health is absolutely on the up-beat and the girls are after me again. Oh, what a pain in the ass.
How do you stand for scratch? Please let me know if you need some. not that I’ll send any but it will give us something to converse about.
A tout a l’heure.

To Peter Sellers

June 3, 1975
ion Cher Pierre:
Well, we have done it again. Hell, two guys like us we don’t need partnership papers it’s one for all and all for one .
Isn’t it Pete, I mean it is isn’t it? Why doesn’t he answer?
No, serially, I’m leaving today by boat, well not by boat exactly but Mein Herz, I’m delighted with your picture that I want to thumb my nose at everybody, and indeed I have .
More power to you and I’ll be in the next one.
Lub and Kithethes,

To Sandy Lieberson

June 3, 1975
Dear Sandy:
Somebody told me today that you and David are hurting for money. Is that true? If so, let me know because I don ‘t want you should be midout. But in the name of heaven, keep it close cause Gisella would put a bullet in my scalp.
Love and Kisses,

To Annabelle Webb

June 10,1975
Dearest Annabelle:
Everything here is just splendid, I am now 3’4″ tall which, of course, means you’ve got to cut down also•••that is if you want to be my goil. You say you’ve settled for another so hand on until get there and then we can swim and dance and hot cha cha.
My love to Susie Waddilovc and all my love to you, as well as to the beautiful girl whose name I don’t even remember but please remember that I’m without memory right now and have been for a year.
God bless you.

To Marion Taylor (Harvey’s former secretary in England) 1975

(written five months before Harvey died)
My Darling Marion:
How am I? How do you think I am sans vous (sans vous). I was in the hospital 3 times, got the shit knocked out of me and it still is out. One of the things the illness did is took away my memory, which was the only thing Ihad.
Sandy is in New York and is indeed well ancl happy and he has a hit picture, for which I am absolutely delighted. He has had some others which did well but this one STARDUST looks like a real winner.
When I got ill Gisella panicked, as indeed would one, and started going to college. She is now going into her third year but doinq what courses sne knoweth not yet. She doesn’t know whether she should clo what slH wants to do, which I am trying to persuade her a9t. to do or do what makes money etc., etc. Anyway, I am sure she will do something good.
Jenna is at Oxford having an absolutely scrumptmous time at age 21 and Anthony is here 11 1/2 also having a great time.
I think of the 4 1/2 years I was in England which
\”lere the high points of our lives. The Beatles were just coming down, Mary Quant was setting styles and the kids were just gay and wonderful. There was the tail end of everything marvelous and my God what fun we had r even though you don’t always realize it at the time you have :it ou do know it.
Page 2.
Not/J, darling, I don ‘t know where Shirley Craig is.
But, Beryl Vertue came to see me when I was sick and Pat Neal came six nights in a row and we just ha<l a marvelous time . Peter Sellers came through for 2 <lays and took ne out of the hospital for dinner and other people just clustered around. I was extremely moved and touchel by all of my f r iends .
So all my love to you, Keith and Guy forever and

From Dee Wells to Gisella/Anthony Orkin and Boaty Boatwright Baker 1978 (3 years after Harvey’s death) partial; pdf below

ha,Johnny just back from fair with new ribbon. And so where was I•••oh yes, Gully in NYK. Well there’s not muoh to add exceot they went to visit her grandparents(he is 101 and she is 96•••no, honestly, no kidding)and had to drive up(to Brewster, this feudal vill&ee they sort of’ own) in her father’s 1949 London taxi,which is the only car the mniac has in NYK•••do keep an eye out for it, he drives it around quite insouciantly wearing hia fur Davy
Crockett type cap and sometimes in highly imaginative whimsical momenta puts the FOR HIRE sign on (can you imagine being married to someone like that•••well neither could I,so I called my lawyer) :But•••apikking of oare•••I will certainly get in touch with the Morgan people (and curiously I know just where they lurk in London) and get the list you ask f’or•••though I rather suspect these intensive care units will be tew and far between. As indeed are Morgana too,which is why. Hylan delighted you are still wearing the jacket •••he has been v. busy lately and has lots of work but nothing his heart is truly in and he still wants to go back to the U.S. -I know nobody who actually lives there thinks thats a good idea but honest to god cross my heart and hope to die if I tell a lie, this country is fast becoming impossible. Insanely expensive. Inefficient. Uncomfortable. I know its lovely to visit, but to live in •••aaargh; it costs as muoh as NYK (and houses cost even more than NYK- what is 100,000 there is £100,000 here) and yet people earn only about half as much as they do in NYK•••• and the taxes here, just to make it really fun, are much higher. No I know its boring but that’s the gods honest truth and the gods honest truth is always boring. Jet•assure. Also v. little turn-on here for us wild eyed madly creative beings•••• we need lights, laughter, excitement, swimming pools(the Ansonia Hotel. What••• where•••is the Ansonia Hotel, I do keep hearing the most extraordinary stories about it)  My plan, my own plan as distinct from Hylan doing his M. Luther King act of “Ah got a dree-um” is to let that hovel in France to some unsuspecting rich millionaires for June and JUly and take me and Nic now deep into punk…) to Los Angeles and hire a car so we can drive to the Grand Canyon and all the places around i\that I’ve only ever seen in the Nat’l Geographic. Just Nick and me. Oh well maybe Hylan too••• if it fits in with his dree-um.      So depending on whether splendid Mr. Laker gets his franchise for a LA flight we just may be coming through NYX in late July•••but it even more depends on whether I find renters for the house.  Do tell me if you know of any or just happen to meet any (at,say,the Ansonia Hotel)it will be nice and cheap (as well it ought) 500forJune. 600forJuly. Sleeps 8. More if they’re into Ntur is mor better still, incest. Oh a lot of rich millionaires are,  don’t you try and tell me they live the clean blameless lives we do because !£ they do (whioh they don’t) then how’d they get so rich, just answer me that. I’m sorry you found gainful employment a drag but that is, alas, exactly what it is. But now that you’re a shut-in again I’d be awfully grateful if you’d have a nice (a pinter•••painter, goddammit) over for a thimbleful of dandelion wine. His name is Daniel Lang(a v.good painter too,has pix in the Mus.of Mod.Aht & plenty other places too) and he is at moment of no fixed address but can be got by a little note o/o Fischbach Gallery, 29 West 57th. Do. He’sr eally nice. Comes!::’om·’i'”‘”-‘ what the hell look where you come from. rier about Mr. Begel-man though than abo·1t.Y  •  sound such a sad sad—·-sorry: mesa.         haven’:t Be.el-u.cgrandMl:..Lieberaons. in oe his beatification buti<vfsFOaDwHrJ;lu>C…,Lly good news. I will
hear more I hope when I see Boaty•••she and I are on some committee to save the Royal Court(the theatre, Gisella, the theatre) and so I shall be seeing her as from the look of that plac.ewe..’d111;t>6ter retbart>.oaa’9dn@rjTQUldfast.I
Only wish somebody’d get a committee for me dto save Boaty and me, now there’s a real ohallen                        .