Wednesday, May 19, 2010

By Bonnie and Arnold Hano

The three of us all worked at Magazine Management, on the fourteenth floor of the Empire State Building. Bonnie and Arnold had been at Magazine Management since 1949; Raymond arrived two years later.

Magazine Management was a compendium of mediocrity, run by Martin Goodman, a former hobo who became a millionaire by copying good stuff and imitating it. And doing it all on the cheap. Goodman prided himself for paying Mickey Spillane an eighth of a cent a word for Spillane’s early pulp short stories. This translates to five dollars for a 4,000-word piece. Arnold ran Goodman’s paperbacks, Lion Books. Bonnie became the production manager of the comic book line, headed by Goodman’s nephew Stan Lee. Raymond came along, a breath of fresh air in dingy sharp elbowed Manhattan. His first job was in the mailroom, which he handled adroitly, a handsome son of sunny California. Soon Bessie Little, who ran the fan magazines and confessions, brought Raymond to her side.

The three of us found common ground. We had an apartment with a kitchenette, the size of a phone booth. Raymond joined us for frequent suppers. Arnold believes we ate standing up. Or we ate at Raymond’s place, dark and dank, with sharp corners you needed a white cane to traverse safely. And the smell of his cat’s litter box permeated all. This was Manhattan more than a half century ago. This was also the time of Martini lunches. All the editors would go out in search of the biggest Martini. . We drank Martnis every Friday noon and came back to work slight sloggered. All but Raymond who was his usual teetotaling self. And his thrifty self. When the check arrived, it was divided by the number of us at the table. “I didn’t have a drink,” he would grouse and rightfully so. But he had to pay for our drinking.

For a variety of reasons we three all quit Magazine Management. Bonnie and Arnold had a baby; Arnold felt he could freelance anywhere. So we set out for who knows where and ended up in Laguna Beach, a place we had never heard of. We had a three bedroom house and a large lot, spitting distance from the Pacific for $85 a month. Raymond followed us soon after, returning to LA where he landed a job as an editor which pleased Arnold who was always looking for magazine assignments. “I’ll write for you,” Arnold said.” “No, you won’t,” Raymond said,. “You won’t want to write for these magazines.” Arnold thought that was nonsense and asked for copies of the magazine. When Raymond brought them, we were both appalled and asked how he could possibly think that Arnold would consider writing for them. “You asked,” Raymond said, and that was the truth. And then we discovered mutual friends. Soon after we moved to Laguna, we had met Tom and Ulla Hubble (of the Hubble telescope family) who turned out to be old friends of Raymond from the time the three of them met while living in Paris . So when Raymond came to visit us in Laguna, we often met with the Hubbels.

We went frequently to Hollywood where Bonnie’s mother, out of Sioux City , Iowa , was spending her last years. After a visit we would meet with Raymond and sometimes the Howards joined us for a supper at different ethnic restaurant, which Raymond categorized as the Hanos’ poison pits. These were the best of times. We would drive up to Hollywood to see Mama and then visit Raymond; he would drive down to see us. And cheap as Raymond was, he also had music in LA, where we all would sit in the best seats to the glorious sounds of Beethoven or Brahms or others of that wonderful time long before dissonance took over the world of sound.

We went with Raymond and the Howards to the David Hockney staged production of Tristan and Isolde. Mickey Howard leaned over and said, “You have to agree, the Nazi bastard could write.’ And we had to agree. Age caught up with us. Hospital time intruded. We lived off the phone. Bonnie and Raymond had great long conversations. And at the end, when Raymond knew it was over, he said to Bonnie, ”Tell your husband, ‘You son of a bitch, you’ve outlived me’” So it goes. So it went. He was special. A young man who never became an old man. Bonnie’s addendum: I’m just terribly sorry that I didn’t get to say goodbye to Raymond in person. I really loved him.

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