Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nancy Friday's Saturday Sale

The house on Southard Street where Bill Manville and Nancy Friday lived, before fame rewrote their love story.
The woman-on-top writer Nancy Friday had a yard sale Saturday. It was announced in the Key West Citizen, along with all the other yard sales in the Saturday morning edition. I am a Nancy Friday fan and have been since I began reading her fabulous features in Cosmopolitan Magazine when I was a kid growing up outside of New York City. Heaven to me in those days was the train ride from Katonah Depot to Grand Central Station, armed with a Cosmopolitan and a pack of Marlboros. In Cosmo I studied the art of seducing interesting men as told in articles penned by sexy New York writers like Nancy Friday and Bill Manville. Imagine my intense joy when years later fate led me to Key West where my orbit intertwined with Bill Manville’s and we became friends. Bill was married to Nancy Friday, but by that time, Nancy was living in New York, her star rising fast, and their marriage heading for the rocks.
Hello . . . is this Nancy's yard sale?
    The object of my affection in those days was a classical guitarist who played the dinner hour at a Key West club. Bill was working on a novel at his house on Southard Street. He was very kind and encouraging to me, a wannabe writer without a clue about what to write. Bill was also well versed in romance, and I needed help in that department, too, because things were definitely not going my way with the guitarist. Sometimes Bill took me for drinks to the club where my boyfriend worked (although neither one of us drank alcohol). He said it wasn’t fair that he got the job of entertaining me until my boyfriend, “the banjo player," got off work. Bill told me great stories of his salad days, his life in New York City, where he wrote a column in the Village Voice called Saloon Society. He told me about working for Helen Gurley Brown and the big book of subjects that was kept at the Cosmo office. Writers leafed through the book and chose topics to write about, he explained. He told me about living in Italy and drinking at Harry’s Bar. He described the night he met Nancy Friday and was instantly smitten with her.  The very next day he told his girlfriend (a feminist writer whose first big success was a novel I had actually read) it was over between them.  She replied: “I know. It's Nancy.” Bill said, “Yes. It's Nancy.” And he walked out the door and never saw her again. Eventually he and Nancy married. But, as I said, Nancy was no longer around when I knew Bill.
Starving artists in Nancy's secret garden on Southard Street. Ann Lorraine is the mastermind behind the fabulous windows at Fast Buck Freddie's. Her husband is a songwriter, too. That's why we're all starving.
    One night, in his house on Southard Street, after I talked about my boyfriend’s latest offense and Bill agonized over a rough spot in his novel, he told me a secret. He was seeing someone, yet another feminist writer (feminism was almost as big as sex in those days), who (oh, joy!) was a friend to me. I’ll call her Jane Doe. Back then she wintered in Key West.
    “When Jane tells you this—and she will tell you this,” Bill said, “you must act surprised, as if it’s news to you.”
     I promised. A day or two later Jane Doe told me about Bill, and said that I must never tell. Shortly after that, the news of Bill's and Nancy’s divorce was tearing over the Coconut Telegraph. I told Bill that being in on the secret of his romance with Jane Doe, the tragedy of his megastar wife dumping him and getting his Key West house in the bargain, trumped every tale of sex and the city of Key West I’d ever heard. I felt powerful indeed, as a witness to the scandal du jour. The lives of the real writers! Left homeless, and wifeless, the romance with Jane Doe done, Bill moved to California. 
    “My God, what intrigue!” I, the fledgling writer, gushed the last time I saw him. “I want to write it. But can I? I mean who owns this story?”
    “Whoever gets it into print first,” Bill said, flashing me his sexy sideways glance and dazzling smile. Then, he was gone, and the house on Southard Street became Nancy’s. 
Are you lonesome tonight? You need My Secret Garden.

    Saturday, we arrived at Nancy Friday’s yard sale around 9:30 a.m.. People were pouring not in, but out of the house, most of them empty-handed. We learned that a mob had gathered in front of the house well before 9 a.m. and the yard sale organizers had given in to them, opening the doors way earlier than the published start time. The main surge was over and done by the time we got there.
    The event was very well planned and executed, with solemn-looking attendants in every room watching shoppers like hawks. There were rules, too, like you couldn’t leave one house (there is a guest house and a main house) carrying merchandise that you hadn’t yet paid for to visit the other house.  When you did pay, you received a receipt, which you were to display to prove you were honest.            
    Clearly, the diva had left the premises. She’d left behind, appropriately enough—considering the nature of her work— a Kama Sutra-ish bed, with an intricately carved platform and dramatic headboard, for sale at $1,000. The bed was in a glass-walled room, overlooking the pool and gardens. Just about everything else, except a display of Nancy Friday’s books in various languages and editions, was gone. I picked up a fresh copy of “My Secret Garden” as my first one is well worn. We bought a brass lamp—had it once lit the way for some steamy prose by our lusty lady of the hour? Also, as described by the sticker price tag: “Nancy’s sun visor, $1.”
    The property is sold. Nancy has left Key West. The closing is this week, we heard someone say.
Wearing Nancy's sun visor. I'm afraid my head is bigger than Nancy's.

    “It’s the end of an era,” someone else said. (People say that a lot in Key West.)
    I put on my visor but it hurt my head. I took it off and checked the label, expecting something fancy like Saks or Henri Bendel. The label said “NO Headaches.” It really did. But it gave me a headache.
    We went home and researched Nancy Friday on the Internet. She is divorced from the fabulously successful journalist/editor Norman Pearlstine, ten years her junior, the man she married after Bill. She is 78 years old now, but surely not alone—not with her professed skill at looking, talking and behaving the way a woman should, to attract and seduce interesting men.


  1. How wonderful for you that you got to be a part of that. I am a huge fan of Nancy’s. And, I have found myself arguing with several caretakers of her “secret garden” as to who she is. Though they argued that she was another Nancy, I held firm in my belief that one of my favorite, trail-blazing authors, lived in Key West and was the caretaker of this lovely spot, gorgeous and brimming with life, both in flora and fauna right in the middle of Key West.
    Last week I rode (again) Lloyd’s touristy bike tour. He warned us as we entered that we may be the last to be able to see this beautiful oasis.
    I heard that she (Nancy) will live on the premises until she passes…and I also heard that the new owners will even welcome visitors.
    I was sorry to hear that the Medicine Garden house had sold, and is not open to visitors.
    But, I will always keep Nancy’s Secret Garden close to my heart

  2. Hi Vicky: Just for the record, you do have Nancy of Nancy's Secret Garden, and Nancy Friday, writer of "My Secret Garden" mixed up. They are two different ladies. Both wonderful. But as different from each other as night is from day. Believe me! Nancy of the Secret Garden in Key West is an artist. Not a writer. Nancy Friday is a mega-millionaire writer. Her home was located in a lush little garden oasis. Not public!!!! Nancy Friday is very private. Just wanted you to clear up that mix-up. And I don't want to add to any misinformation about my beautiful island. Thanks and love to you. June

  3. I was in the house ..upstairs is all tiled in green...ehhhhhhhhhh but the pool was fun!



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