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Loved and Lost
Juki and Oksana
Juki and Celine

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      She was a blue-eyed natural blond, magazine cover face. glistening honey hued skin, a long-legged 5 foot 8. She'd been a ballet major at NYC's Performing Arts high school where I had taught modern dance. She'd never taken my classes but I recalled seeing her there, and that her teachers treated her with the deference reserved for those anointed with intense beauty. I'll call her Angeline and won't name the show because I don't want people clicking through IBDB trying to dope out her identity.
     We were matched for size and when the choreographer made us partners, she pointed to my wedding ring. "Married," she said.
       Dance partners don't always get along well but we did. Angeline was strong, a quick study, and had a slightly wicked sense of humor. She described our choreographer as a "noisy little man always getting in people's way." Three weeks into rehearsals she said, "Some in the cast think we're having an affair."
     "Aren't we?"
      She gave me a light punch. "Let ‘em think so, okay?"
     "Proud to oblige."
     "I'm serious."
     She spoke close to my ear. "There's a creepy singer I want keep off my back." She swung us around so I faced the piano where the male singers were clustered. "Sal," she whispered. Tall for a tenor, Sal was concentrated on the musical director.
     The show opened in Philadelphia and when we began having meals together, everybody assumed we were "making it." One day Angeline told a female singer that we were not. The singer cocked her head. "I think I believe you," she said. "But why not?"
      I'd already asked myself that question.
      "Because he's married and I'm engaged," said Angeline.
      I knew she had a boyfriend, Aaron, and that he was an intern. But she'd never said they were engaged.
      We were having lunch in the Automat when she told me more about Sal, the creepy tenor. "He's a friend of Arnie Schultz. Arnie and I, well, we had a thing when my last show was in Philadelphia."
     "I know Schulz from Paint Your Wagon."
     "Arnie was very depressed. He talked about breaking up with his wife."
     "It's an old line, Angeline."
     "Oh I know. But after a while he became a different person. He was happy. And after we opened in New York, he and his wife got back together."
     "How did you feel about that?"
     "I felt fine. What do you mean?"
     "Nothing. So you think that Arnie ...?"   I let it hang.
     "I just don't want to get involved."
      I half stood, leaned across the table and gave her a loud smack on the cheek. She turned her mouth to mine and we kissed.
      Creepy Sal wasn't at any of the nearby tables but other cast members were. Yet I hadn't kissed her for show and her kiss in return didn't feel like show either. Our pseudo-affair was getting complicated.
      Angeline and I stayed in the same hotel and would visit each other's rooms. We'd kiss and pet but kept our clothes on and always stopped well short of nirvana. Actually it was Angeline who stopped.
      One night after the performance we were at the Equity Club and Angeline told me about Aaron. A second year intern, he'd invited her to watch operations.
     "How do you like operations?"
     "They're fascinating. But he told me things that make me hope I never have one."
     "Like what?"
     "Surgeons leave things in people. Not just swabs and sponges but metal things, clamps and forceps. Sometimes they discover it after the patient has been sewn up so they open them up again right there. But sometimes they don't and when the patient complains they do an x-ray and say another operation is needed so they can take it out. But they never ever admit it."
      She said she used to visit Aaron at his hospital where they would sometimes make love in a tiny room where interns took naps.
     "Will he be coming here to see you?"
     "He barely has time to get to his hole-in-the-wall apartment for a night's sleep."
      Our conversations grew more intimate. One night she told me about losing her virginity.
     "I'd finished my sophomore year at PA and was with my family at Lake Placid. He was a lot older. I told him I was a virgin. Afterward he said to me, "You're all woman."
     And then one day after the show Angeline left the theater without me. I went to the Equity Club alone.
     "Where's Angeline?"
     "How should I know?"
     "Oh come off it!"
      Our affair was so well established it was taken for a lover's spat.
     When she kept avoiding me, I knew it was to keep things from going any further. Three days before we were to return to NYC, she knocked at my door. "Want to have lunch?"
      There was no rehearsal so after lunch we went to her room, proceeded past petting until I began to undress her.
     "Take everything off," she said. "Your clothes too."
     "I intend to."
      Then she told me she had never used any kind of birth control.
     "What do you and Aaron do?"
      She nodded.
     "It's chancy."
     "There's always sixty-nine, which I love."
     "Me too."
      That evening before leaving for the theater we checked the hotel desk for messages. As we started out Angeline looked at the leather sofas, heavy chairs, red carpets, and potted palms. She drew a breath and let it out.  "Philadelphia. Hotels. Married men."
      Our affair was over.—Stuart Hodes


     It was a hit musical although a bit too serious for tired businessmen and most out-of-towners. I'd been hired as a replacement for what turned out to be its last few months on Broadway. Most of the original cast was still there.
     The chorus dressed in the basement which had been curtained off with sections for male singers, female singers, male dancers, and female dancers. It fostered a kind of slap-dash intimacy and everyone not only knew everyone else but pretty much all about them.
  My space was between Billy Berwick on my left, Italo Bueno on my right, and on Italo's right at the end of the table, Orville Brinks. All had been in from the beginning.
  I went into the show on a Monday following a sunny weekend. After the opening number Ginny Koch pushed through the muslin curtain to show Orville her tan, raising the tails of the man's shirt she wore between costume changes. Her thighs were tan and glistening.
    "Nice," said Orville. She dropped her shirt tails and lifting her head to make it clear she was looking beyond Italo and me, said to Billy , "You look like you haven't spent two minutes in the sun."
      "You're very observant," said Billy.
      "Why not?"
      "Because when you start to peel and look like a rotten onion, I will still be a smooth even white."
     "I don't peel," said Ginny curtly, and dashed off.
      My space at the steel dressing room table was marked out with masking tape.
     "You replaced Denny Winters who was a slob," Italo confided. "Even worse than Billy."
      Billy 's space on my left was a morass of spilled pancake, open pots of rouge, mascara, candle drippings, mug, used tea bags, honey jar, English digestive biscuits, knife, teaspoon, a dusting of face powder over everything.
      Italo went on, "When Denny left, we wanted to clean up the whole table but Billy wouldn't let us touch his space, so we taped it off and cleaned everything else." He pointed to two framed photos taped to his mirror. "Wife and daughter, Lara and Ariadne." Lara was wearing a mortar board and graduation gown.
     "When did she graduate?"
     "Three years ago. Brown."
     "Ariadne is two. Every month we buy her one share of IBM stock."
      I'd been in the show two weeks when Ginny came by with an envelope asking donations for Orville's wedding present. Orville was on stage in a dance number. Ginny looked at me, "You don't have to, unless you want to."
     "Sure, how much?"
     "Five dollars."
      Billy Berwick looked up sharply. "Why five dollars? When anybody in this show gets married, we give two dollars."
     "It's for a silver service."
     "Why a silver service? Everyone who gets married in this show gets oven ware."
     "We talked it over."
     "Nobody asked my opinion."
     "Give or don't give, but shut up. Orry will be down in a second." She glanced at me. "I'll come by later," and slipped out through the curtain.
      Orville appeared and dropped into his chair. A full time student at Hunter, he was dancing himself through college like others tend bar or wait tables. His goal was a doctorate.
     "What are you going to do with a doctorate," Italo once asked.
     "Nothing," said Orville. "But think how good ‘Doctor Orville Brinks.' will look on a program."
      I'd been in the show two months when I had a run-in with Ginny. She was often in our aisle, top button of her shirt unbuttoned exposing a piquant breast, lifting the elastic bottom of her pants to show her tan line, or offering her neck to be sniffed with a new perfume. Billy Berwick was immune to her charms so she concentrated on Johnny, Italo, and me. One day she came by holding a slender can.
     "It's sun powder."
     "I never heard of sun powder," said Italo.
     "My husband bought it." She shook some onto her palm, held it to Orville. "Feel."
      He poked a finger into her palm. "Smooth." Ginny giggled.
     "Let me," said Italo. He put a finger into the powder, stirred little circles in her palm. "Why do they call it sun powder?"
     "You use it instead of sun tan lotion. I wouldn't use yukky lotion so my husband bought me this."
     "Where do you use it?"
      She giggled. "All over!"
      She was between me and Italo, placed one foot on the edge of Italo's chair, shirt tails parting around her softly muscled thigh, shook powder onto the thigh, then turned to me. "Want some? Open your hand."
      She shook in a generous sprinkle. It felt like extra fine talc.
     She began spreading the powder on the top of her thigh. I placed my palm under it, gently smoothing it into her silky skin. No reaction for about three seconds. Then she jumped back and jerked her leg away. "Who do you think you are?"
     "No one touches me like that except my husband!"
     "Oh. If you say so."
     "What do you mean by that?"
     "Nothing. I'm sorry."
     "I don't let people maul me!"
     "Maul you? You call that mauling?"
     "Sorry, but I do!"
     "Okay. I apologize. And I'd appreciate you keeping your sun powder and your legs away from me!"
      She snatched up her shirttail, flounced angrily out of our aisle, into the corridor and through the curtain into her own space.
     "Geez!" I said.
      A couple of numbers later, Italo told me that when the show had been out of town, Ginny and Orry, both engaged, had had a torrid affair. It flamed during the week to be quenched on weekends when their fiancees arrived. The entire cast followed it like a real life soap opera. Could the lovers keep it secret from their intendeds? Could they keep their feelings in check?
What would happen when the show came back to New York City?
      Back in the city, Ginny married, Orville and his fiance were wedding guests. And now that Orville was marrying, Ginny was stage managing the cast's wedding gift.
      The next day I caught Ginny at the drinking fountain, proffered a sincere and extended apology, explaining that she was too sexy to be allowed out in public without a body guard, but in the future I would keep my baser instincts in check. She accepted and I was pleased to see her show up in our aisle the next night, all her charms on display, every bit the delicious irrepressible tease God created her to be. Stuart Hodes

Loved and Lost

New York City, 1947.  One day an exotic beauty showed up in my SAB ballet class: heart-shaped face, large alert eyes, heavy black hair, small soft nose, silky skin. During center work she stood at the very front, leotard cut low in back drawing my gaze to her softly muscled shoulders. She wore a wedding ring.
     "Who's that?" I asked Donald Driver.
     "Ruth Sobotka. She's in the corps de ballet."
     "She does what she wants."
      At the ballet a few nights later I spotted her in Balanchine's Serenade where she ran upstage on a diagonal, threw herself feet first into the air and was caught in a layout close to the ground. Soon after I saw her at the Automat.
     "That's a great lift you do in Serenade."
     "Thank you."
     "I was hoping you'd do more."
     "I only got that because when Mr. B described it, I was the first to jump up and do it."
      She had a light foreign accent with a musical lilt. I asked where she'd been born.
     "Vienna. I left when I was eight." She and her mother, an actress, had escaped just before the Nazis.
      I began looking for "Ruthie" in the Automat. One day she was sitting with an elegant older woman and introduced me to her mother who exuded Old World charm and presided over our table as if at a society salon. She asked me all about myself, attending my replies with an indulgent smile. If Ruthie spoke, her mother interrupted, and whenever I shot Ruthie a glance, she was concentrating on her food.
      Next day: "Your mother is charming."
     "So people tell me."
     "Does she always compete with you?"
     "Since I was four." I never met Ruthie's mother again.
      When I asked Ruthie about her husband, she said, "Once Richard and I had a terrible fight because I couldn't stand the way he called liverwurst liver pudding."
     "What's so terrible about liver pudding?"
     "I can't stand it!"
      She invited me to accompany her to a party. "It's at my husband's place." I picked her up at a tiny flat on Carmine Street in Greenwhich Village and we went to a modern midtown apartment, a far cry from Ruthie's humble digs. As soon as we walked in the door she introduced me to Richard. Tall and handsome, he gave me a firm handshake and left. I got Ruthie a drink and we stood in a corner. A beefy man with a shock of black hair approached.
     "Hello Pepi." She didn't introduce me. After about four minutes, Pepi left.
     "He's mad because I won't go out with him."
     "Why won't you?"
     "Spanish men think that if they make love to you once, they own you."
      Occasionally a man stopped to say hello to Ruthie without a glance at me. One man whispered something I couldn't hear, or her reply. As he walked away, Ruthie said, "I told him to go fuck himself. The last time I saw him he kept introducing me, 'This is Ruth Sobotka. She's a sampler.'"
      Ruthie went off somewhere and her husband came over. "Are you taking Ruth home?"
     "Uh, yes."
     "It would be a good idea to take her home soon."
      When she returned I relayed what her husband had said.
     "Richard's still worrying about me."
      Back at Carmine Street, she invited me in for coffee. "Your husband seems like a decent guy."
     "Everybody says that."
     "What about you?"
     "Richard could make any woman happy."
     "Except you?"
      She said nothing so I dropped it. I'd been dying to make love with Ruthie since I first set eyes on her, but after the evening's revelations I was not ready to join her unhappy ex's. When I left she said, "See you in ballet class."
      A few weeks later, she told me she was in a movie playing in Greenwhich Village. The Killer's Kiss. Ruthie danced a dream sequence. The film wasn't particularly notable except for a climactic man-to-man fight in a storage loft full of naked clothes manikins. One man had a fire axe, the other a fire spear and as they battled, mannikin bodies were speared, pierced, gored, and beheaded. Ruthie told me that the director, Stanley Kubrick, had been offered a dream contract by MGM.
      Ruthie got a summer job at the Lemonade Opera and I saw her in it. Afterward, back in her flat, I wanted to make love with her but was still afraid it would signal the end. Somehow I managed to tell her.
     "As soon as a man goes to bed with you, he thinks he owns you."
     "I'd never think that!"
     "I feel I don't know a man until I've been to bed with him. But then it gets complicated."
     "So we'll keep it simple!" She let me stay the night.
      Next day, Sunday, I suggested we go to the beach. I was still living in Brooklyn with my mother so we stopped off to pick up my bathing suit and towels. I introduced Ruthie to Mom. I'd been in the army including combat but my mother still hadn't quite learned to think of me as a man. She looked at Ruthie, at me, at Ruthie, at me, said, "You old devil, you!"
      I was mortified, but all I could do was hope Mom would regain her composure, which she did, offering to make us a picnic lunch. "Do you like chopped chicken liver sandwiches?" she asked Ruthie.
      Our white cat, Mitchell, emerged from the kitchen and Ruthie watched him stroll by. "He has such a cute pink ass," she said.
      In the ocean at Brighton Beach I caught the perfume of Ruthie's hair, marveling that I scented it even as she came up after a dive through a wave. On the way home, we stopped by my apartment where my mother put a light supper on the table and then rushed out, saying she had something urgent to do in the neighborhood. I couldn't imagine what.
     "My mother likes you."
     "I feel like I'm worming my way into your family," said Ruthie.
      This remark bothered me.
      Determined to prove I didn't claim ownership, I hung on to Ruthie in a kind of professional friendship. At a party, a small blonde dancer commanded attention by squealing and sighing. Ruthie whispered in my hear, "She's needs a fuck so bad I wish someone would just pull it out and stick it in!"
      I knew Ruthie was not seeing anyone, at least regularly, and imagined that the circle of men around her resembled those that formed about the great courtesans of Europe. Except that Ruthie was too helplessly honest to be a courtesan. To me she seemed defenseless, and I began to understand Richard's continued protectiveness. Yet I had trouble imagining all that must have transpired in that marriage and its end.
      There were frequent informal parties, at one of which I met Carla McBride, sister of Pat McBride, a soloist in the NYC Ballet. Carla told me how she'd lost a boyfriend to an aggressive woman who'd simply moved into his apartment. When I relayed this to Ruthie, she said, "If any woman tried to steal my man, I'd tear her head off!" She meant it, yet it seemed strange considering the casual way she conducted relationships.
      Ruthie didn't come to class for several months and I heard she was designing costumes for a new ballet. I saw its premiere, The Cage, by Jerome Robbins. The women wore elegantly cut skin tone leotards, strikingly appliqued with what looked like giant triangles of black pubic hair.
     Months later on 8th Street, I saw Ruthie with a scruffy looking man who walked another ten yards while she stopped to talk. She didn't introduce me so I asked about him.
     "That's Stanley. He directed my picture."
      I got the impression that Stanley was impatient yet Ruthie seemed in no hurry to end our conversation. It was the last time I saw her. One day I read that she and Stanley Kubrick were married. Later that they were divorced. Still later I heard that Ruthie was working as a waitress in the "Limelight Café." And then I heard she was dead, possibly suicide.
     Kubrick had surely been unable to cope with Ruthie yet I couldn't forgive him for not giving her enough to keep her from having to work as a waitress. Yet I'd not have been surprised to learn that he'd offered but she'd refused. I had unkind thoughts about Ruthie's mother. As for Richard, I was sure he felt even sadder than I did.—
.Stuart Hodes

Juki and Oksana

Milk and Honey, 1961, NYC. Juki, an Israeli mime, played the character juvenile lead. Oksana (not her real name) was one of the chorus dancers. She had quiet intelligence, a modest demeanor, and never flaunted her considerable physical assets which included creamy skin, glossy black hair, deep dark eyes, and a langorously perfect body.  At the first rehearsal she caught Juki's eye and by Boston they were an item.
Juki was always showing off his conquest, an arm draped over her shoulder or around her waist, nuzzling her neck, even copping feels of a breast or a bun. I wondered why classy Oksana let him get away with it until I decided that she was as proud of her conquest as he was of his.
      Their affair blew up about two months after the Broadway opening. Juki and I shared a dressing room and one Saturday between matinees he complained that Oksana had stopped talking to him. That evening when one of the women told me Oksana might not be able to dance the hora on Monday, I knew. On Sunday she would be having an abortion.
       "Tell her not to come to the theater Monday."
      "No. She wants to come. It's just the hora."
       The hora left every dancer gasping for air.
     "Tell her she can stay out of it."
     When Oksana signed in on Monday, I told her to stay out of the hora. She nodded but gave no other sign.
      Juki, however, was highly agitated. "Oksana won't talk to me. All I want is talk to her. You tell her talk to me. Why won't she talk to me?"
      I'm thinking: You knock her up, act like it has nothing to do with you, then wonder why she won't talk to you?
     When Juki finally understood that he and Oksana were history, he turned to another female dancer who happened to be the wife of his own understudy. This guy was on my shit list because he'd insulted Martha Graham. I'd danced with Graham and still taught in her school and when the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers asked me to invite her to a meeting, to be introduced by NY Times critic, Clive Barnes, I did, and Martha said yes. Juki's understudy, whom I'll call Kasimir Krotchitch, was there. Things were going beautifully when Krotchitch raised his hand. Martha nodded.
      In a throaty gargling accent: "I think you are fake. People say you so wonderful but I don't think so. I think you make ugliness. I think you make mess. I think ..."
      I rose intending to strangle the little shit but Martha's hand on my shoulder pressed me down. She glanced at him as if at a dirty spoon in a restaurant. "I am not here to justify myself to you," and turned to Clive Barnes, "I've been hearing that sort of thing for years."
     "So have we all," said the stricken Barnes, and although Krotchitch soon slunk out, he'd cast a pall. Next day Martha waved my apology aside, "I know I should never go to those things."
      When Juki began his affair with Krotchitch's wife, making it no more a secret than the one with Oksana, I can't say I felt sorry for Krotchitch. Then one day while I was on stage something happened that ended with Krotchitch being hauled away in an ambulance. This much is clear; he'd passed the women's dressing room where through the open door he'd seen Juki talking to his wife and rushed in. After that, some said he'd had a fit and fallen down foaming at the mouth, others that he'd attacked Juki, who'd knocked him down with indifferent ease.
      I made no effort to learn the truth, but was relieved when I heard that Krotchitch would not return to the cast. Juki's affair with the wife went on until she gave notice and left the show.— Stuart Hodes

Juki and Celine

Milk and Honey, 1961. NYC
           Juki was always hopping from one girlfriend to another. All were pretty and doted on Juki who was small, lean, quick as a capuchin monkey and had an elfin face women found adorable. We shared a dressing room where his flame would often show up after curtain.  He'd introduce us and next day ask, "How you like ... ?"
      He was in the shower one day when the dressing room door opened wide. A cool beauty stood there.
     "This Juki's dressingroom?" She wasn't the least fazed that I was naked.
     "Um, he's in the shower."
     "Okay if I wait?"
      She walked in and took Juki's chair beside mine while I tried to maintain composure, not used to being buck naked in the company of a gorgeous woman who was not.
     "I'm Celine."
     "I'm Stuart."
     "You're the dance captain, right?"
      She didn't stare at me but didn't exactly look away when I rose to retrieve my towel from a wall hook a dozen feet away. I'd wrapped it around my waist and was about to leave for the shower when Juki came in, went straight to Celine, kissed her on the mouth and before I could escape said, "Hey Stu, this Celine."
     "We already met."
     "When you meet?"
     "Just now."
     "Oh. Okay."
      When I got back from my shower Juki was in a gray silk suit carefully adjusting his tie. He turned to Celine. "How I look?"
     "Good enough to eat!"
      He threw me a triumphant grin. Next day, "How you like Celene?"
     "She's too good for you."
      This seemed to please Juki. "What you mean?"
     "She's a woman. You're a boy."
     "But she like me."
     "Nobody's perfect."
     "You jealous."
      For a month or so Celine showed up backstage two or three times a week until Juki got a leave of absence to tour his mime act abroad. It's rare for anyone but a star to get a leave, but the producer liked Juki who was good in the show and if not given leave, would have quit. So I was surprised two weeks later when Celine showed up after a Wednesday matinee .
     "Juki's in Europe," I said.
     "I know. You doing anything special for dinner?"
     "Nothing special."
     "How about I cook dinner for you?"
    "Sounds good," I said, visions of glory making my heart start to pound.
      In her cozy living room she poured me a glass of wine and cooked dinner while I studied a wall full of photographs. Celine was an actress and most showed her in various roles. On an end table by the sofa was an eight by ten photo of Juki.
      She brought in dinner and while we ate told me that Juki had been worried about Paris, a city of great mimes, but that audiences and critics loved him. She unfolded a clipping. "How's your French?"
     "Not too good."
     "I'll translate," and started reading in French, translating each sentence. Then she picked up the photo of Juki.   "Juki told me you said I'm too good for him."
     "You are." Here was my opening! But before I could make a move she hugged Juki's photo to her chest.
     "But he's so cute!"
      She seemed close to tears and suddenly I realized exactly why she'd asked me to dinner. I was the only one around she could talk to about Juki. I was moved... and disappointed
      "He must be some great lover," I mumbled.
      She half-smiled. "Great lover? Him?" She smacked a fist into a palm, Whack! "That's all he's interested in."
     I wasn't surprised to hear that Juki wasn't a great lover but marveled at Celine for loving him so much anyway. She was much too good for Juki, maybe too good for anyone.—
Stuart Hodes

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