On Thurs., July 16, Kaity and I made a trip to West 11th Street to visit the home of David’s third husband, Joel Conarroe. Joel has kept extensive files of letters, postcards, photos, articles, etc on a variety of his friends over the years; and since learning of the biography from David, he has very generously opened up his home to us and given us amazing access to himself and his archives.
When Kaity and I arrived, we sat for a while with Joel, getting acquainted with one another, and bringing Joel up to speed on our research thus far. Then we were led to his library, where four sizable boxes were laid out for us. Joel gave us the tour of the material – a box of programs, articles, and reviews; a box of letters and photos; a box of postcards and more letters and photos; and a box of various materials, much of which is tangential to the project, but important nonetheless – and reminisced over several items, pointing out a few points of particular interest. Joel hadn’t looked at most of the materials in the boxes in years, and it clearly sparked a lot of memories.
In one box was a copy of the speech that Joel gave at David’s 70th birthday party at the Century Club (included in another box is the letter of introduction that Joel wrote to the Century, suggesting David as a member). (Alas, I missed the party because I was at the VCCA, busy writing till night is overgone.) A portion of the speech had been given over to witticisms of David’s that Joel had written down over the years:
Joel: This wine needs to breathe.
David: This wine needs to gasp! It needs a respirator!
David (While waiting for Aaron Copland to answer his door during Joel’s first visit to Copland’s house): Now, when Aaron opens the door, you must bow twice – he expects it. And you have to say, “Why, Aaron! You don’t look a day over 69!”
David’s silliness and irreverence were really driven home over the course of the two hours we spent looking through Joel’s archives that day. So, too, were his sweetness and capacity for love. Kaity and I were both a little surprised at the effusiveness of David’s love letters to Joel. Surprised, mostly because love letters are a lost art. Who today pours their heart into a letter, stuffs it into an envelope, and pops it in the mail? No one I know!
During our visit, Kaity and I took notes on various points of interest: specific dates on certain pieces of correspondence, names of people to look into, nicknames.
When we left, I had only gotten through one of the four boxes! And that just was skimming the majority of the letters and postcards!
Last Thursday, the 23rd, we went back to familiarize ourselves even more with Joel’s materials before we sit down to interview him properly. We’ve come across so many interesting things: the eulogy that David gave at his father’s funeral; the interview that Joel and David did for the Parnassus Review; snippets of music that David wrote to silly texts for Joel; a moth that David Scotch-taped inside of a letter he sent from MacDowell.
Tomorrow morning, Kaity and I will make our third trip to Joel’s for an interview in the morning. I’m not sure how I feel about waking up so early (8:00 – far too early for someone who doesn’t have a day job and typically sleeps until noon!), but I’m really excited to hear everything that Joel has to tell us!
Joel has been incredibly generous in giving us such amazing access to his archives. Kaity and I are really lucky to be working on a project about which so many people are so enthusiastic and want to be so wonderfully helpful.