LENNY LYING DOWN AND LAUGHING
December 14, 2010

Chapter 18 of My Autoblography

It seems like it was only yesterday.....
Can you believe? ....

Oh well, let me tell you two tiny private moments with Lenny –

August 19, 1990. Leonard Bernstein’s last concert he would ever conduct – at Tanglewood. After the concert Lenny, his sister Shirley and I are driven back to New York City in a Limo – Lenny coughing, Shirley coughing – oh by the way, they were both smoking as if they were in a nicotine marathon. I, a never smoker, was going mad. God he was so tired it was hard for him to talk. He put his head on my lap and his feet on Shirley’s. I stroked his head and told him I would make up a story to while away the time and hopefully put him to sleep. I remember very little of this opus – just that there once was a creature – half-animal half-man. Well that perked up our Lenny boy – he started asking questions, his voice came back, and I had to come up with answers – plots – point? point? – the three of us were laughing so hard – point? point? – Lenny’s zest and curiosity never waned. Don’t think for a second his illness or body defeated him. He wanted to be rid of the sick, humorless part of him. He told us many, many times – he never wanted to live so he could be “wheeled over to and around Central Park”.

October 13, 1990 – the night before he died. I sat on his bed and as the family and friends went into dinner, he said to me “I know, I know – you’ll give me a thousand dollars if you can just go home now” – an exchange we had many times, before receptions, parties and the like. I nodded yes and we laughed – we really laughed – I kissed his forehead and I went home. I owe him a thousand dollars. What the world owes him? You couldn’t afford.


Phyllis Newman and Leonard Bernstein

Click here to view this piece by Phyllis Newman on LeonardBernstein.com.
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10 comments
He was a major idol of my youth. He still holds a special place in my heart. My best music teacher, greatest musical artist, a treat for all who encountered him. Thanks so much for the vignette.
3:23pm 12/23/2010
Judith
Dear Phyllis, thx so much for posting. Bernsteins lectures on tv persuaded me to study music (piano). Whenever I see him on tv or in my mind, I´m thankful. Nobody else struck my heart more in terms of compassion and love for people and the pure joy of making music.
Next year I will play "I hate music" What a joke.
Renate
3:40am 12/23/2010
Renate Laich-Knausenberger
Thank you. Although I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Bernstein, my husband and I met doing a local production of West Side Story, and my son (then a student at The American Boychoir School) sang at his memorial service at Lincoln Center. He is by far, my favorite 20th-century composer and conductor.
4:36pm 12/22/2010
Marcia Weber
Bernstein's huge problem was that he was sooo talented as a conductor, composer and performer that he could not decide which one to pursue. So he did them all! Wish this were my "problem" to be so fortunate!

Shame on Julliard for not admitting him and kudos to the Curtis Institute for doing so!

I'm glad his Connecticut composing studio was donated to my alma mater Indiana University, which treasures it, and to which I traveled this summer with my son who performs.

I never met Bernstein, although as a child I was rivited to his young people's concerts. However. we will end up close, as my Greenwood property in Brooklyn is near his Greenwood resting place. Sitting on the iron bench on his family plot in Greenwood was uplifting for me a couple years ago during a re-creation of The Battle of Brooklyn. From about 50 yards from Brooklyn's highest point I could survey the New York harbor.

I foolishly believed that new melodies would cascade through my brain while contemplating on his bench, but unfortunately they did not. I think God expended all his musical talent when he made Lenny!

I'm glad you made this page, Phyllis. Thanks!
11:34am 12/22/2010
Donald Allport Bird
he was definately one of a kind -- I was acquainted with him in the mid-60's for a while -- we had great conversations about projects for the music theater I was working on or thinking about working on -- thanks for your memories, you were certain;y one of the ones who were there -- bu the way there's an interesting picture of LB, Mr. Green and Dizzy on the photography page on my web site www.michaelshaffer.com
10:59am 12/22/2010
Michael Shaffer
Very, very moving!!! You're right we can't afford the debt.
10:56am 12/22/2010
antonio conflitti
I was a waitor at Trattoria Dell 'Arte on 7th between 56th & 57th across from Carnegie Hall.
Must have been '89 or so. He came in a few times and I would always have to be his waitor. I remember he took a real liking to me. He drank Fleischmans whiskey or rye. I remember exactly where he sat. I do think if I pursued it more aggressively and confidently, he would have gladly helped me in my career. I opted not to.
What a gift he was and is. Thank you for sharing Phyllis. I exuded good energy! I felt it then and feel it still.
10:43am 12/22/2010
Mark
More interesting memories. Thanks for sharing. My friend Mary's mom Ruth Orkin photographed Bernstein at Tanglewood many times.
2:21pm 12/15/2010
Pam G
Lenny gave me a lifetime of wonderful, wonderful music and memories..... I have never met him or seen him on person..... when I knew he would be on t.v. I would make sure I would watch.....God truly blessed him with a wonderful talent and great passion..... He has left the world a better place and wonderful memories...... May you rest in Peace .....
1:14pm 12/15/2010
Annamay
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this...your brilliance and his are important to so many of us.
12:43pm 12/15/2010
Sharon Douglas