Cindy Adams doesn’t need a man. And definitely not an older man in a polyester suit with Polident breath. The New York Post gossip columnist is content with her two Yorkshire terriers, Jazzy and Juicy. The pooches help her through life’s ups and down. In her bestseller, “The Gift of Jazzy,” Adams wrote about how her first Yorkie helped her cope with her husband’s death. But just when life seemed to be good again, Jazzy suddenly died. In her new memoir, “Living a Dog’s Life,” Adams writes about her fear that she’d never love again. But as her relationship with Juicy grew, she realized that she could. Her furry companion had shown her that “Life is good. Life goes on.” Here’s an excerpt:
It’s nighttime that the Devils dance. It’s when the surrounding universe is dead that the dark world within comes alive. When sleep is a stranger is when Fear’s fingers grab hold. It’s then that the Voices shout:“You’re all alone.”“Nobody really cares.”“Suppose you fall . . . suppose you get sick . . .”“If anything happens, who would know?”“How long before someone might find you?”Punch the pillow, smooth the sheets, roll over on your side. The Voices get louder:“Who would you call?”“Who would rush over?”“Who would care?”“Everybody has somebody, you have nobody.”
Switch on the light, open a book, raid the fridge, switch off the light, crawl back in bed. The Voices:“You’re getting older.”“You need someone with you.”“You shouldn’t be alone.”“What if . . .”The What Ifs subdivide. What If there’s a fire? What If an earthquake? What If a terrorist attack? What If you can’t breathe?
The first feathers of dawn usher in the army of Yeah Buts. Yeah But I don’t want someone cluttering up my space anymore. Yeah But I love my life as it is. Yeah But I’ve been there, done that, and don’t want to be married again.
The What Ifs wade in. What If it isn’t a full-time commitment? What If you don’t marry him? What If you just have someone live with you?
I opened a dialogue with the Devils: “Look, I was married a lifetime. He was good to me and I loved him, but I’ve paid my dues. For his last ten years I took care of a husband who’d grown old and who was dying. I’m not doing that a second time.”
“So find a husband who’s grown old and who’s healthy,” said the Devils.
“Yeah? A geezer with his three hairs parted right over the ears and pasted across a bare skull sideways? A beauty with denture breath? For Christmas you buy him an economy-size jar of Polident? No, not for me.”
I’ve seen these types sitting on benches in Miami. In green-checked polyester pants. Their futures behind them. To them exercise is a brisk sit. Late dinner is the early bird special at six o’clock. Farina is an exotic food.
I told the Devils: “You’re talking men whose social calendar is two prostate exams a week. And their conversation? ‘You heard how cold it is up north?’”
Unfortunately, even if the Devils hadn’t already whispered that I wasn’t exactly Reese Witherspoon and wasn’t exactly about to find Justin Timberlake hitting on me, I didn’t want a young stud either.
Tragically, I’d actually seen myself in a five-times magnifying mirror. In broad daylight. In summer. Right next to a window. With bright sun beating down. Trust me, this was not a good thing. I wanted to go under the wheels of a speeding truck. My chin resembled Sherwood Forest. There was more hair on my face than there was on my head. I didn’t need a tweezer. I needed a scythe.
A friend asked me the other day: “You know what I think is the world’s best invention?”
I took a guess: “Radar?”
Thong panties?! I mean, whatever happened to radium, contact lenses, polio vaccine? Thong panties?! Okay, depilatories I can understand. Thong panties?!
I stared at her. She wasn’t much better looking than I. How come she was finding a need for thong panties and I wasn’t? I wondered, How come I’ve obviously missed out on so much that I’ve never even had the need for thong panties?
The once I tried them, they ended up bunched in my crack. When I shop for underpants, I go looking for size fours. Five is nice. Six feels so comfortable. I buy sevens.
It’s not that I don’t manage to look glamorous. I dress to the eyeballs when I’m out. Take a particular fund-raiser for Andrew Cuomo. At the time he was political royalty. He had been in Bill Clinton’s cabinet. He’s the son of New York’s onetime governor Mario Cuomo. He’s the ex-husband of Robert Kennedy’s daughter Kerry Kennedy. He’s the brother-in-law of fashion star Kenneth Cole and the brother of TV journalist Chris Cuomo. So this particular night it was a big-time crowd whooping up Andrew’s New York gubernatorial try.
Emcee Rosie O’Donnell stood on the stage of the jammed Sheraton Grand Ballroom. Despite one thousand VIPs, Rosie wore her usual fashion-forward sweats, sneakers, and crappy baseball jacket. She spotted me sitting with our long-ago governor Mario Cuomo and our state’s former First Lady Matilda Cuomo. Across a football-size room she shouted: “And there’s Cindy Adams. Overdressed as usual.”
I shouted back: “And you look like an unmade bed.”
Rosie and I have long had this running gag. I tell her she’s the poster girl for a bundle of wet wash. She tells me my birth certificate must’ve been written on a bugle bead. The truth is, I was all tarted up. But that was out in public. At home my ensembles are straight from Rosie’s closet, and I’m the visual equivalent of five miles of bad road. So I knew I couldn’t deal with a young guy. Suddenly having to always look good? Smell good? Shave my legs every day? Drizzling fragrance once more on those seven desirable spots which these days I only use about four of?
On freezing February nights I’d have to opt for frilly, frothy, froufrou nighties instead of flannels with the trapdoor and feet in them. Naaaahhh, I thought, I really don’t want to do that. And let’s don’t even discuss the bikini wax. The Devils were making so much noise in my head that I couldn’t get a fix on that still small voice of gratitude I try to chat with in the quiet hours. Many’s the night I invite that friendly familiar whisper to keep me company. Sometimes It comes in so faintly that you can barely hear It, but It always comes. This time nothing came through, but I knew what It would have said had the static not been so loud.
It would have told me to be grateful, to count my blessings, to realize how fortunate I was. And It would have been right. It knew. And I knew. I knew no fairy godmother had touched me with a magic wand. I wasn’t born with breathtaking beauty, blue-blood upbringing, or a silver spoon. My parents never gave me an eighteen-karat-gold Rolex. I didn’t go to college. I wasn’t left a fortune. Money was not something my family had in profusion. My divorced singleparent mother, whom I adored, was an executive secretary; the kindly gentleman she married down the line who became my dad for much of my life was an insurance man. I was a sickly baby. When Mom got divorced she pawned things and we moved in with her mother.
Grandma was a janitress. Grandma came from the old country with a handful of children she fed by cleaning the stoops of brownstones. And by taking in boarders. Life with Grandma was simple. Whatever was dirty got scrubbed in the kitchen sink. Mom finally saved enough for a party dress for me. It was satin with shreds of kolinsky fur. Grandma washed it. With brown laundry soap. And put it on a steam pipe to dry. It went stiff.
My public school classmates were picture postcard pretty. Jeanette with waist-length blond hair, Joanne with silken braids, Suzanne with thick auburn curls. I had acne, anemia, and my looks weren’t A-1. Good teeth I had. The only thing I didn’t need was dentistry. Since my birth father was a dentist, I always thought that was somehow a waste. But in Mom’s eyes I was beautiful. She even took me to a modeling agency. I stood there in my blue-and-yellow-plaid wool jumper and yellow sweater, and they politely looked me over. Then they politely refused me.
“She’s heavy,” they said.
“She is not heavy,” mother said. “She is just short for her weight.”
The weight was shifting from foot to foot as I stood in
the middle of the room.
“My daughter will become something,” my mother said.
“We’re sure she will,” they said. “But not here.”
My mother, who was beautiful, determined to make me attractive. She had my hairline moved back, and when she realized my nose was in the image and likeness of the dentist she’d divorced because she hadn’t liked any part of him, including his nose, she brought me to a friend’s relative. He was a plastic surgeon. His surgery was off his kitchen. Fact is, it was his kitchen. In Brooklyn yet.
Mom then had me audition for some small-time creep theatrical agent with a smelly cigar and a walk-up hole-in-the-wall rear office in a seedy building in the Theater District because he “guaranteed” he’d make me a movie star.
What did we know? We were so eager, so unsavvy. The problem was, he wanted a certain amount of money each week for his coaching. We didn’t have it, which is the reason I never became a movie star.
In school I had a 99 average and was in the rapid advancement class, but we had to make our graduation dresses. By midsemester my white lawn had osmosed into black serge, and the dress I was mangling might’ve fit Quasimodo but me — never. I just couldn’t do it. The teacher announced I wouldn’t get my diploma if I didn’t sew my graduation outfit. My mother told her, “My kid is never going to have to make her own clothes,” and marched me out of school. Age fifteen marked the end of my formal education and the beginning of my modeling career.
The one beauty title that repeats and repeats in my ear was when the board of the Better Bagel Bakers Association voted me Miss Bagel. A crown of shellacked bagels was placed upon my then blond head, an auspicious beginning for Miss Cindy Heller’s slow, tortuous journey to immortality.
So, although luck is the end product of backbreaking hard work, I know I’m lucky. Am I grateful for my lifestyle, the boldface names that are now my friends, and the highprofile job I have as a gossip columnist six days a week for the New York Post? Yes. Yes. Of course, yes. But does that make me any the less needy for another heart to lean my head on? No. Whether dinner is on Ming tables or upended cartons, those demons ... they can be scary.
The Voices had become so loud they were shouting. I argued them down. I told them: “Look, I don’t need anyone young or old. I have Jazzy.” Jazzy is the star of my very own shaggy love story. Jazzy. My seven-pound, purebred, spoiled rotten Yorkshire terrier. My love, my bedmate. Jazzy snuggles under my arm. Jazzy curls between my legs. Jazzy makes his bed right on my chest. No matter how I trained any two-legged household pet, he couldn’t give me what Jazzy does. Animals meet the expectations of the heart. I don’t love Jazzy. I am in love with him. No, I thought, I don’t really need anything or anyone else. I have Jazzy.
And then came Verizon.
Came the day my phones went out. Not even wrong numbers got through. Not even heavy breathers or bill collectors. For three weeks my phone lay as dead in its bed as Princess Diana used to say Charles was.
On a cell with the battery running down, I rang whatever the phone company was that week — AT&T, Lucent, Avaya, Bell South, Bell North, Bell Up Yours, Verizon, Sprint, Screw, Whatever — and then held on. That’s what you do when you call “emergency service.” You hold on—until the emergency and, you hope, they — are long over. This is a communications operation, but there is no such thing as communicating with them. The last human voice associated with this operation was the one who presided over AT&T’s breakup.
You get a menu. Press 1 if your bill is incorrect, press 2 if your payment will be delayed, press 3 if because of this you’re going to be late to work. When you cannot reach this emergency service, how are they going to perform said emergency service? Where? On what? What’s Verizon’s idea of emergency service? Putting a tourniquet on a hit-and-run victim’s cell phone?
The history of this giant is “Tell.” Telephone, telecommunications, television, teletype, telex, tell-a-friend. But tell them? Forget it.
My assistant, Marcee, who has worked for me for a lifetime and who’s so able she could get Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein on a conference call, rousted out a supervisor. The supervisor guaranteed service the next day. For three weeks, because a skyscraper was being built on my corner and in the dredging a lineman had accidentally drilled through a cable, I had no telephones. Also no TV. An elevator man in my Park Avenue building told me: “I live in the projects. In the Bronx. I pay four fifty a month. I have telephones and television.”
One particular starless night I was terrified. Not even a spirit could get through to me on a Ouija board, and from constant usage the batteries on my two cells had gone down.
The TV was dead, my faxes were dead. The house was eerily quiet. I wasn’t feeling comfortable. Our apartment building has a regular outside landline, but there was no communicating with downstairs. The entire building was out. The doorman had no working line either.
I ran into the kitchen and jiggled the house phone. Whatever had hacked through the cables had taken that out, too. The house phone was dead.
Excerpted from “Living a Dog’s Life” by Cindy Adams. Copyright © 2006,Cindy Adams. All rights reserved. Published by St. Martin’s Press. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.