Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nancy Friday's Saturday Sale

The house on Southard Street where Bill Manville and Nancy Friday lived, before fame rewrote their love story. 

Nancy Friday's obit appeared in the New York Times yesterday. I was surprised at how sad it made me feel to know she was gone. Of course she will never really be gone. Her books will live on and on. And those stories in Cosmopolitan Magazine, when Nancy Friday nurtured my emerging sexuality, will forever live in my memories.
     Nancy is a real icon in American pop culture and I was in great awe of her work. I didn't know her in person, but I knew others who did. I saw her once and was impressed with her power. She swept through a room and didn't hesitate for one instant. She knew where she was going and what she was going there for.
     I once heard a story of Nancy being taken out of her house by ambulance when she was stricken with appendicitis.  She was very, very sick and had been for a few days before her illness was finally diagnosed and the decision made for her rushed trip to the hospital for surgery.  Sick as she was, she managed to walk down the curving staircase from her bedroom.  This she insisted upon as she feared that the EMT people and their stretcher would mess up the new paint job.  She was a practical gal. Then Alzheimer's.
    As I reminisce about the day of Nancy Friday's yard sale in 2011, which I wrote about in the piece that follows, I recall a certain solemnity in the spirit of the place, a sort of sadness that permeated Nancy's no-longer-necessary things. Lamps. Chairs. Hats. CDs. Paintings. Now I maybe understand a bit better why those who managed the sale seemed to be guarding Nancy Friday's things like sentries. It was the beginning of the end. They were paying homage to her giant personality.  The best part of Nancy died before her body did. That happened Sunday. The obit follows. RIP Nancy Friday. We won't forget you!

Nancy Friday's Saturday Sale

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.
Nancy in 1986
    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. Such a lovely piece, June. You made my eyes burn; over Nancy's departure-over-time, all the ones i associate with her, like Jimmy McLernan, Dick and Bob, John Young, Bernstein. That era. God, what a town and what an era in that town; and what a woman, you nailed it describing how she knew exactly where she wanted to go. And she went there so well. Thanks for this, June.

    1. Yes it was an era, Michael and I'm so glad we were there to see it.

  2. Great story! I felt like I was there at the sale.