Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Gay Place

The First Lines above are taken from The Gay Place, Billy Lee Brammer's classic 1961 novel set in the demimonde on Texas politics, based in part on his experiences as an aide to Lyndon Johnson and as an associate editor of the Texas Observer. The title comes from this poem by F. Scott Fitzgerald:
In the fall of sixteen
In the cool of the afternoon
I saw Helena
Under a white moon--
I heard Helena
In a haunted doze
Say: "I know a gay place
Nobody knows."
It's been nearly thirty years since I read The Gay Place, so I won't review it here other than to say that I remember it being very good. And that rereading the first chapter after discovering the First Lines made me want to pick it up again. The first chapter contains this priceless exchange between Governor Arthur Fenstemaker (a fictional hybrid of Johnson and Earl Long) and his butler:
"Siddown for Christ sake," Fenstemaker said.

"Yes sir."



"I'm just goddammin'."
Although critically heralded for The Gay Place, Brammer never wrote another novel, although he did work on an unfinished sequel called Fustian Days. Brammer died in 1978 of drug overdose. He worked in the kitchen of Austin's Driskill Hotel...

angels and people/life in New Orleans: Home construction in Elysian Fields...

The Death of Charlie Parker, another artist who died before his time:


Roy said...

Dizzy was furious when he heard that Bird's mother wouldn't allow jazz to be played at his funeral. She wouldn't allow any jazz musicians to come to the funeral, period; it was a small family thing. That in the face of the fact that Dizzy and Mary Lou Williams raised the money from among the musicians in New Yourk to bury Bird, and Norman Granz made sure that Bird's body got shipped to KC to be buried.

After Bird's mother passed away, Diz led a jazz expedition out to Bird's grave for a proper jazz send-off. At least the poor guy finally got the send-off he deserved; a little delayed, but in the end he got it.

Annette said...

Today is the day for it.

First Farrah, now Michael Jackson. Wow..I am just in shock.

It seems the end of an era.

Cowtown Pattie said...

There is another slim volume written by another Texan about LBJ, and now I can't for the life of me remember it and it ain't on Amazon. Damn. I think I sent my copy of it to Ronni (Time Goes By).

Probably published at a small (university?) press in the early 1970's.

K. said...

CP: If you haven't read The Gay Place, it's a must. It has added interest if you've spent much time in Austin -- a lot of it takes place in Scholz' Beer Garden.

Scrumpy said...

The Driskill hotel... I spent an interesting evening there at a company party a few years back. I'm quite certain several of my coworkers were asked not to return. Ah, the glory of working in the financial industry when the market was high, as was everyone else.

K. said...

The Driskill is my favorite hotel. The lobby, the bar, and the Texas-themed rooms are such wonderful over the top Texana.

I was staying there once and my late wife called to say hello. AT&T had told her that there was no listing for the "Driskill Hotel" (which is like saying that there is no listing for the "Waldorf-Astoria" or the "Copley Plaza" or the "Drake"). She started, then told the operator that it had been around for about a thousand years!