Friday, July 8, 2011

Here Comes the Judge! A few amicus briefs, and underpants galore!

This High Court Justice isn't blind -- he sees very well.
    (Jan 27, 2014) For nearly four decades, my old New York friend has combined the role of "Your Honor" -- which he has performed with diligence and decisiveness -- with the role of tireless womanizer. He is gorgeous, ravenous, a bona fide connoisseur of females in every shape, style and color, a chivalrous charmer and always a victor. 
    It's all about victory, just as courtroom dramas are. No agony of defeat for this battler of the sexes.
    The fact that he has kept his double life so well hidden under those filmy robes represents a magnificent feat of finesse and role-playing. He could easily have become another Spitzer or Weiner. Like them, he had everything to lose. But unlike them, he's managed to maintain his impeccable image, even as he has bedded hundreds (or thousands?) of women, many of whom he had just met. I bet they all have fond memories.
    Dante got mad a few months ago when I teasingly called him a "dog." He is a dog, or a bull elephant or a silver-backed gorilla (I mean no disrespect to these venerable creatures). He is always on the prowl. Sex is the centerpiece of his life. He has such a melt-in-your-mouth lust, and such charisma, and such class, that all one can do is collapse onto a fainting couch, and say, "Come on over, big boy. The owls are hooting."   
She's going to need that sword, and probably some willpower. He's delicious.
    The night I met Dante, in 1971, is still vivid in my mind. One of his partners in a public-interest law firm took me to the group's annual St. Patrick's Day party at an authentically old-time Irish bar on the Lower East Side. I had moved to the Big City just months earlier, and was having a blast sampling all the various forms of socializing that were available, from boozy, rowdy hoots such as this one, to formal balls at the St. Regis Roof Garden, to the sedate but thrilling intellectual salons of the literati. Dorothy wasn't in Salt Lake City any more!
    When my date and I walked into the crowded, narrow tavern, I looked across the expanse of people drinking the traditional St. Patty's green beer, and my attention was immediately drawn to what I still recall as "the golden boy." He was staring intently at me with a bemused smile and eyes that obviously had an agenda: They were saying "Get over here." He seemed to be standing in a shaft of light, which -- I soon realized -- the Heavens poured down upon him, wherever he went. 
The radiance was part of the package.
    I am still astonished at how helplessly and thoughtlessly I left my escort and made my way through all those people, to present myself to him. I have no idea what we talked about. It didn't matter. He was so beautiful, I was aware of nothing else.
    I'm not referring to physical attractiveness, although he certainly had that. In general, I avoid gorgeous men, finding them to be shallow and vain. His magnetism came from something else. I felt as if he knew me. He seemed delighted by me. He intended to "have" me, and the honed-in intensity of that desire both frightened and slayed me. I was a deer, and I was in his headlights, and it was his move. It was akin to magic: I was under his spell.

Where was I? I felt as if I were blind and blooming.
     I had earlier learned a phrase from my black friends: "His nose is open." It meant that a man was sexually aroused, or that he was aiming for that particular condition. I found this wording distasteful, but it literally applied to Dante, and with him, it was somehow attractive. His flared nostrils indicated that he was opening himself up to a breeze of his own creation, which was bringing with it exactly what he had orchestrated: Me, teetering there in a hypnotic trance.
    No one had ever captured me like this. I was always in control. I called the shots. I said, "No!" and no meant no. I was untouchable! 
    But now, I felt all flushed with fever, to quote Roberta Flack:

    I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style,
And so I came to see him and listen for a while.
I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd,
I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud.

     It was obvious that Dante was all about sex. I am not about sex at all. I wanted to be with him, to know him, to share a bottle of champagne. It might have been pleasant, at some point, to hug and roll around in his ever-clean bed (keeping our undies on), talking and laughing and smelling each other. How could he stay so fresh all day, after hours arguing eloquently and heatedly for the rights of the oppressed, in some dingy downtown courtroom? He smelled like lime zest. 
Zestfully lime.
    I wanted to kiss his cheek and neck, in a platonic fashion, and go to sleep with his arm around my waist. I wanted to have brunch together, and walk through the park, go to the art museum. I wanted to hang out in his spacious, tasteful, ultra-modern apartment and listen to jazz. He was cool with that. We did all of that. He cooked for me! He took me to parties, and to weekend getaways in the Hamptons. He drove me to work in his convertible MG MK3 RWA. But it was part of a larger package, and I didn't want the whole package.

The only thing better was a nighttime roar down Park Avenue on a Harley.
    Even so, we continued to get together every few months for the entire decade I lived in New York. The nature of this relationship was not typical for either of us. He was a slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of guy, who didn't generally go back for a second helping. Although he relished the unique flavor of practically every woman who crossed his path, his real "rush," he once told me, wasn't the consummation -- it was the chase. Once he'd buried his face, and everything else, in that particular bit of fallen prey, he moved on. With me, he didn't.
Another one bites the dust. There are a few billion more awaiting him.
     I don't think it was because I was special to him. I think it was because he realized he was so special to me, and his ego was stoked by my intense affection for him. The affection could be explained in various ways -- his surprising gestures of  kindness and generosity toward me, which seemed so incongruous in a Sex Machine, and the pleasure I derived from his forceful vitality -- but I think my fondness primarily was something that's merely chemical. 
    Everything about him made me feel kind of milky. Of all the dozens of men I spent time with in New York, he is the only one I still think about. When certain Dante-related songs come on the radio, my stomach swoons, and so does the rest of me  (such as "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love?" by the Spinners):

Since I met you, I've begun to feel so strange
Every time I speak your name
Say you feel the same way, too
 And I wonder what
It is I feel for you

Could it be I'm falling in love
With you baby?
Could it be I'm falling in love?
Could it be I'm falling in love, with you?
    I was never in love with Dante. I would never have wanted to marry him, or even to be his girlfriend. For one thing (is this terrible of me?), I frankly had to have someone who could write an intelligent, grammatically correct sentence, and who spent some time reading high-quality stuff (not Sports Illustrated). I wanted a man who knew something -- preferably a lot more than I did -- about literature, history, culture and science. Dante did not.
    But the chief reason I  maintained my emotional distance was that within hours after he left me, he'd be seducing yet another girl. She didn't need to be pretty or slender or young or smart or classy. All that he required was the proper plumbing.  
A plumber with the right plumbing. Go get her, Dante!
    The moment we parted company, I would have been erased from his mind by a little automatic "esc" button. If someone were to mention my name, he'd probably say, "Which Sylvia do you mean?" Come to think of it, I believe that actually happened.
    I only had three girlfriends in New York. He slept with two of them, and he most certainly would have bagged the third if she hadn't slipped off to Nepal and become "the goddess of global Buddhism" ( 
I think they would both have had a great time.
    He slept with models and actresses and stewardesses, needless to say. Who didn't? But he also seduced obese nurses, the lovely Dominican girl who emptied the courthouse trash cans, waitresses in Chinatown and Little Italy,  which were our favorite lunch spots, just a five-minute walk away. He slept with grad students from NYU, his sister's psychiatrist, an intern to Donald Trump, a tough-talking Haitian prison guard from the Women's House of Detention, a wheelchair-bound intellectual who had multiple sclerosis, and an autistic savant, who wrote beautiful, tortured poetry. He slept with one twin, and then the other, and then they said, what the hell, let's do a threesome. 

Like Doublemint gum, but it lasts longer.

    He slept with a bosomy realtor, and then he jumped the bones of her bosomy daughter. He slept with women decades younger than he, and at least one tanned, bleached-blonde socialite who was 20 years older than he. He slept with his former court clerks (most of them were former, anyway) and more than once he slept with someone who was directly or indirectly involved in a case currently before him. How did he get away with it? Why didn't even one of these women come forward and wreck his career? I can't fathom it. He was charmed.

"Getting laid doesn't affect my rulings," he told me. I think that was true. But still!
    Dante had a "well respected man about town" life, filled with his work, civic leadership, friends, celebrity fund-raisers (he was included with the likes of Cher, Roger Penske, Jackie O, Gloria Vanderbilt, Peter Jennings, Yoko Ono and Robert de Niro. Why? I guess because of his glamor, and the media coverage his rulings got in high-profile corporate cases.) He was close to his parents and siblings. He traveled all over the world (generally screwing a couple of the locals each day), and he devoted considerable time to physical fitness. So he was a busy dude with lots of balls, so to speak, in the air.

    But these aspects of his life were mere planets that revolved around the Sun that he euphemistically referred to as lovemaking. Everything else was spliced in and around his liaisons. This jungle beast was always stalking prey, no matter what else he was doing at the time.
    You would never have guessed this by outward appearances. He was a decent and sober yet powerful presence in all of his life's public venues. Someone to be admired. A model citizen and an inspirational human being, rising from the lower middle class in the Bronx to the upper reaches of the social stratosphere, complete with a co-op on Park Avenue. 

A long way from the public-housing projects of his youth.
    Dante kept up his hip-hop rhythm of girl/pause/girl/pause until he was 60 years old, when he finally got married to a smart and successful younger woman. I couldn't attend the wedding, in Kahana, Maui -- her home town -- but he sent me a picture of him dancing with his bride at the reception. It touched me deeply. They looked so happy. I was thrilled for him. I was thrilled for myself that I finally got to see him in a tux. I felt milky again.
    A few weeks later, he called me. I asked him if he really believed he could be monogamous, after a lifetime of freewheeling sexual adventurism.
    "I hope so," he said. He seemed reasonably sincere, but not terribly committed.
    He dashed his own hopes within less than two months of marriage, with a woman who was both married and pregnant. It was back to the races for this hound. He ain't nothing but a hound dog! 

He ain't no friend of mine -- any more.
     Is he a sex addict? He didn't seem like one to me. He wasn't a predator. He was a playboy in a playground. He loved to swing. He still loves it, and he's nearly 75 years old. He is a gourmand, who wants to sample everything at the banquet table.
    When I say "75 years old," don't visualize "old." He is handsome and vigorous, striding about with the physical confidence and grace of healthy, middle-aged man. He remains "golden."
    Adding to his allure, it doesn't hurt that he's in a position of such prestige and power. That affects a lot of women, including me. His judicial decisions impact thousands of people and at least tens of millions of dollars a year. When he sweeps magisterially into the courtroom, tall and with his head held high, everyone stands. 
He is the king of his grandiose domain. He will overrule you!
    He sits "up there," and those down below -- often people of considerable pride and power themselves -- treat him with ritualistic deference. They hang on his every word. When he pauses, they hold their breaths. When he overrules them, they slink down in their chairs. 
    He is like God. He knows it, he loves it, and that's why he doesn't retire. Between screwing women and emasculating men, he's keeping that self-image glowing like a hot coals.
Burn, baby, burn.
   I saw him one time when he was on the bench, presiding over a landmark copyright case. I was ravished. His authority magnified his desirability by at least a factor of five.
    For me, he didn't need magnified desirability. When I met him, long before he had all those grand trappings, when he was just a dedicated young lawyer starting his career, he had me at "hello." 
You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go go go, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I say high, you say low
You say why and I say I don't know, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello 
   Eventually, I said "goodbye," and he said "OK." 
    He said "why?" and I said, "I don't know."
   I knew. 
    When we spoke late last year, having not seen each other since 1980, he pressed me to meet him somewhere for a rendezvous. He used that melty, milk, husky tone of voice, and called me, "babe," which I must admit increased my heart rate -- briefly.
    He kept on pressing me. I was baffled. Why would you do that when you have a wonderful, loving wife? Was he forgetting how old I am now? Did he think so little of my integrity that he really believed I would betray my devoted partner of nearly 35 years for some deranged pantomime of sentimental youth and romance? Why was he being so reckless and stupid? Why didn't he have a little class, and drop the issue? 

Do not disturb? The whole sordid scenario was disturbing!
     For the first time since I'd known him, he seemed pathetic. I didn't want this to happen. I love my memories of him -- the sheer pleasure of his company, the delight I derived from just looking at him and listening to him. But he went too far with his alley-cat amorality this time. My precious memories are dead and gone. It hurts.
    I'm glad he hung up on me, rather than the other way around. The fact that he's disgusted with me makes it easier to consider the "case closed." 

    It's a relief, in a way, that my affection for Dante is over. Even though I didn't want him or love him in a romantic way, my woozy tenderness has always had about it the very pale taint of infidelity. I never made a secret of my feelings for Dante (maybe it would have been kinder if I had), but the whole thing has always made me slightly uncomfortable.
     I am and always have been faithful to my man, and now there is no asterisk.