Lynn's Story by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
The Lost Lamb
Warner Brothers Studio A, January 1954
There's a saying old says that love is blind
Still we're often told "seek and ye shall find"
So I'm going to seek a certain girl I've had in mind
Looking everywhere, haven't found her yet
She's the big affair I cannot forget
Only girl I ever think of with regret
Ira Gershwin, lyricist and erstwhile lesser known brother of George Gershwin, sat at the piano off to the side on the sound stage, pounding out a melody from the composer, Harold Arlen. A Star Is Born was in the can, and he and Arlen were considering a rewrite on one of the songs. A few moments later, he gave up, feeling frustrated over the block he had reached. He sighed deeply and went to take his glasses off to clean them, but realized he wasn’t wearing any. A few minutes of just leaning on the music stand gave way to a familiar tune and lyric that he and his brother had written years before. And a few seconds after that he was interrupted by the presence of a smallish figure and a very slight, almost birdlike voice.
“Mr. Gershwin? Can I ask you a question?” The boy sat on the edge of the stage, his broom leaning up against the set. He was quite nervous; maybe not as nervous if he had grabbed George’s attention, but the composer was chatting up a chorus girl. Ira, on the other hand, was less in demand as far as fans go, and while Ira wasn’t upset that he had gotten the boy’s ear, so to speak, he would have been much happier if the lad wasn’t a lad at all.
“Sure, kid. Shoot.” He stuck the pencil he was holding behind his ear. He had been spending the better part of an hour pounding out the Arlen’s melody, trying to make some sense with his elusive lyrics.
“My Mom says you wrote this ‘spressly for Miss Lawrence. Do you do that with all your songs? I mean…write ‘em for friends?” The boy looked back at the set. George Gershwin was leaning up against the cardboard wall and the girl in front of him was happy for the attention. Ira watched it play out a thousand times, no matter where they went or who they saw.
“Yeah…well, a lot of times, for sure. Why do you ask?”
“I…” The boy put his head down.
I'd like to add his initials to my monogram
Tell me where's the shepherd for this lost lamb
‘Mom says…I gee, Mr. Gershwin!” Ira looked at the boy, his eyes squinting ever so slightly to make do, since he had left his eyeglasses back at the hotel.
“You’re Mary Cohen’s boy, aren’t you? I’d recognize you anywhere!” The boy lifted his head only long enough to nod before lowering his face once again.
“Your mom and I go back a ways,” Ira said with a wry grin. He realized that he had just looked at a child with a leer on his face over the boy’s mother.
“Geez, kid…sorry. But ya gotta admit that your mom sure is a looker.” Ira found himself staring at the boy, and as he gazed, his eyes widened in wonder.
“You sure you’re a boy?” He kidded, but the boy took it for the observation it was, and his face reddened to a dark crimson.
“Oh, come on, kid…you gotta admit you do look a lot like your mom.” Ira shook his head at his own words and stared at the boy again.
“Mr. Gershwin? Mom says you’re a man of honor.” Ira didn’t know about that, but he had always done right by her, even if he never proposed. After a while, between his schedule and commitments and his lack of commitment, they drifted apart. And now she was a single mother with a boy nearly grown up. How time flew!
“Yeah, kid. I try. So what if I am; what’s it to you?”
“Mom says you….well…she said to ask you to look at my eyes, okay. Just that. She said you’d know what’s what.” The boy put his head down once again.
“Well, I can’t very well look at your eyes if you ain’t lookin’ at me, kid. Let me see.” Ira laughed, but the boy still stared at his shoes.
“Okay…you got me. Let’s see those eyes.” He reached over and cupped the boy’s chin and lifted it. He leaned closer and stared. In an instant Ira’s expression had changed from lighthearted to fearful and anxious; changing once more in another moment to awe and surprisingly elated.
“She say anything….Who’s your father, kid?”
“You are, Mr. Gershwin.”
“Holy shit! Sorry, kid!” Ira was tempted to deny it, but the boy’s eyes favored Ira’s and George’s mother Rose Gershovitz.
“Gee, kid. I’m really sorry. I didn’t know. I swear to God I didn’t know.” Ira shook his head; more out of embarrassment than denial. The boy stood and stared back, his eyes filled with tears.
“Where’s your mom, kid? And hell, what’s your name. I can’t keep calling you kid.”
“Mom passed a couple of years ago. I live with the Mr. Marchioni...the Key Grip... ‘n his wife. They’re nice folk and all.”
Ira became very uncomfortable. He didn’t know what to say to a child he had unwittingly abandoned years before, and nothing he could say would bring back the boy’s mother.
“Gee, that’s great that you’ve got someone. So what’s your name?”
“You promise not to laugh! I couldn’t handle that, Mr. Gershwin.” It was so strange; the boy and he had acknowledged their relationship but he kept calling him Mr. Gershwin. Ira wasn’t about to correct him, since he wasn’t ready for a brand new thirteen year old baby boy. Leonore wouldn’t be very happy with it at all, but he knew her enough to believe she’d accept the child…maybe by the time he was twenty-one or so.
“Well, folks here call me Danny, after Mr. Kaye?”
“So your mother named you Daniel?”
“No sir, she did not.” The boy’s face reddened once again.
“Okay, I give…what did she name you?”
“She was really fond of Jeffrey Lynn.” The boy sighed.
“Well, Jeff is a fine name. Jeffrey Cohen. Nice American name!”
“Well, yes, it is, Mr. Gershwin! But she didn’t name me Jeffrey. My cousin’s name is Jeffrey and she didn’t want to get her sister…my Aunt Betty? She didn’t want to get her upset, so she named me….” The boy started to tear up again, but the look in his eyes didn’t seem all that angry or sad; he had a melancholy look about him. Ira tilted his head and stared at the boy. The boy who bore a very strong resemblance to both his mother and the grandmother he never met. And Ira smiled.
“Well, I guess if Mr. Dana Andrews can be a Hollywood star? I suppose Hollywood might just be ready for Lynn Cohen?” He laughed softly and the boy leaned closer and burst into tears, holding on to the father he had never known. Ira pulled the boy close and patted him awkwardly on the back.
“Do you mind, Mr. Gershwin?”
“That you have a girl’s name? Oh, Hell, there are a lot more important and serious things in life than having the wrong name. It’s okay.”
“No, Mr. Gershwin. I mean do you mind that you got stuck with a daughter instead of a son?
There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone to watch over me
I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me
Although he may not be the man some girls think of
As handsome to my heart
He carries the key
Won't you tell him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh how I need
Someone to watch over me
Someone to watch over me
They're Writing Songs of Love
The Palace Theater, Broadway, May 1970
What is it that we're living for
Nothing I know brings on the glow
Like sweet applause
You're thinking you're through
That nobody cares
Then suddenly you hear it starting
“Lynn? Penny can’t do the Saturday matinee; she’s filming F.B.I. Friday and won’t be back in time. Sunday as well, so you’ll do Eve for Saturday. Janice is going to do Sunday. You do understand, right?”
Lynn didn’t mind at all. She was happy to even get Saturday. Most of her time she was helping the stage manager, and she even got a chance to suggest some changes in staging for the second act. The best part had been meeting one of her idols, Betty Jean Persky. Most people knew her as Lauren Bacall, but to Lynn she was Aunt Betty; a good friend and ally in the business.
That night, after the show…
“Daddy, can Mommy get on the extension?” Lynn practically shouted into the phone. A few moments later, she heard a click and a hello.
“Mommy? Daddy? I’m on for Saturday…yeah the matinee….Janice is picking up Sunday….No..it’s okay. Really. She’s been waiting for an awfully long time, and she’s really much better…No, Mom…she is!” Lynn paused for a moment and sighed a happy sigh.
“Uncle Ira? No…I’m going to see him tomorrow. Yeah….he’s doing okay…they decided not to go through…yeah…there goes my chance for stardom.” She laughed softly and grinned. A proposed staging of A Star is Born on Broadway. She would have at least had a shot at an audition. The Marni Nixon of never performed musicals.
“I got some cartoon work and a couple of commercials…nothing big, but I’m still keeping busy. Maybe a chance to help Uncle Ira with his memoirs…yeah, Mom…he says hello and I think it’s probably the millionth time he’s said thank you…yeah….it was good that….yeah Daddy….he knows. You’re my father…of course…. Yes, Mom….I’ve got the best uncle in the world….I wouldn’t….no…” She sighed once again, recalling Ira’s determination to do the right thing.
“Mom…do you think….I….my voice is better than a lot of girls here, but I don’t seem to be getting any help. Even with Uncle Ira…no….well Dad, you have to admit…I am different…why shouldn’t they treat me…oh I know you love me and you….yes Mom….I love you too, but that doesn’t change things. If I knew I was just not as good…yeah, maybe I am ‘typed out.’ You have to admit, though, that there aren’t too many of my type here to begin with.” She laughed, but a frown crossed her face followed by a few tears.
“No, Mommy, I’m not crying…Okay, maybe just a little. You understand. What, Dad? Of course I believe you. Daddy…stop…please….Okay…okay. I…Lynne Marie Marchioni am a great daughter….and a good woman….and a marketable…” She laughed.
“Marketable? Oh. I….Lynne Marchioni am a very loveable woman who will make someone a great wife someday…No Daddy…things don’t look too good in that area.” She held the phone a bit away from her face and faked a cough. Shrugging her shoulders, she blew out a breath. It was hard enough trying to be the daughter they wanted; even if she started later in life. It would be even harder to explain why she hadn’t found a husband. She had tried; falling in line behind the expectations that marched her and many thousands of other women just like her since she was little into preconceived notions.
They're writing songs of love,
But not for me:
A lucky star's above,
But not for me.
With love to lead the way,
I've found more skies of gray
Than any Russian play
I was a fool to fail!
And get that way,
Heigh ho! Alas!
And also lackaday!
Although I can't dismiss
The mem'ry of his kiss...
“I’ve got to run…yep…Jacqueline of All Trades…Phil has that nasty flu that’s been going around, so I’m Stage Mistress for the evening. Yep…of course…Mr. Right. Yes, Daddy. Okay, Mom…Love you both!”
Lynn hung up the phone and sat down on her couch. She didn’t have to be at the theater until noon, so she sat back and put her feet up on the couch. She looked around her apartment until her gaze fell upon the photo sitting on the half wall between the kitchen and the living room. Just an 8 ½ by 11 blowup of one of those photo booth pictures. A very happy looking Lynn Marchioni giggling as her date for the day was nuzzling her neck; her date’s long red hair wasn’t due to the changing styles of the times so much as the style of her gender. Tough being a transsexual in 1970. Even harder trying to live outside the expectations of those in the newly burgeoning community to which she held a very shaky membership.
It started oh so swell,
This "let's pretend."
It all began so well,
But what an end!
The climax of a plot,
Should be the marriage knot,
But there's no knot for me.
The Minskoff Theater, November, 1984...
'Dozens of girls would storm up;
I had to lock my door.
Somehow I couldn't warm up
To one before.
What was it that controlled me?
“Patty?” Lynn called out; the voice almost disembodied as she squeezed her head between the two heavy curtains.
“I’m coming,” the girl answered, hopping onto the stage. She walked over and stepped through the gap and looked around.
“Crew’s gone for lunch, sweetie.”
Patty smiled and drew her partner in for a quick kiss. Even on a supposedly welcoming platform as a Broadway stage, the two remained discrete. Work in New York, especially on Broadway, might be available if highly competitive. Hollywood, particularly television, was less forgiving, as if the two needed to atone for their love. Patricia Salerno had entered Lynn’s life a bit later than most would have expected; the twenty-nine year old woman was a set designer when she met Lynn; Lynn enjoyed a rare opportunity as an understudy for Betty Buckley in Cats. By understudy, everyone understood that she was the emergency backup for a lot of the women of the cast, and that Buckley’s actual understudy was both very good and very healthy. That left Lynn looking for work and ending up as a vocal coach and occasional cast back up.
“You know I could never warm up to someone before you?” Lynn said that often; perhaps unnecessarily so, but Patty understood just how insecure her partner was. It was difficult enough to look over her shoulder wondering if the next tap would be to alert her to a hastily formed press conference regarding her sexuality; what would happen if they knew what she had been at her birth.
“I know. I’m just a hot tomato, I am,” Patty smiled and kissed Lynn once again; this time longer and with much more abandon. Lynn pulled away, looking around nervously.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of!” Patty insisted, pulled Lynn closer. Just then Dave Lewis stepped between the gap in the curtain; nearly bumping into Lynn, who pulled away and straightened her cardigan.
“Jeez, Lynn, relax, okay? I’m family, and I’ll never tell.” He laughed and Lynn turned a bright red.
“Honey…It’s okay, really. You’re worrying about nothing.” Lynn turned away at his words. Patty touched her arm and she pulled away.
“Lynn….please….” Patty pled, but Lynn stepped further away, hugging herself.
“I’m so sorry…I’m a nervous wreck. They’re talking about pulling the plug on this.” She used her hand in a broad gesture, sweeping her arm in an arc.
“Well, maybe we’ll last past next week; a turkey like this deserves at least to last past Thanksgiving. Besides, it’s not like either of us will be out of work.” Patty laughed softly. She had been a theater arts teacher at CCNY for four years, and was happy to teach. Lynn was still doing voice- over and cartoon work, and being the utility infielder of the show wasn’t such a great gig other than that it kept her busy. Her nervousness came from some other source; an issue that Patty had tried to resolve for months without success. Tonight was almost a last chance in a way.
“The rumors are false!” Dave insisted as several of the crew returned from lunch. A moment later the director walked up the stairs to the stage as the curtain parted; a dramatically painful moment as he spoke.
“I’m sorry, kids. They pulled the plug.” His choice of words seemed fitting as all the energy in the theater seemed to dissipate in an instant.
“You’ll be paid ‘til the end of the week. I’m sorry, but it’s not like we didn’t expect it.” He frowned and shook his head; several of the cast began to cry.
“I guess I spoke too soon,” Dave laughed softly.
Ever the optimist, he seemed almost unfazed even though he had the most to lose as the male lead. Too many stories and too many whispers sealed everyone’s fate, since even in 1984, life was still harsh for a man who romanced a woman on stage but bedded a young man at home. The producers were gun-shy when it came to taking a risk on him, even though he had some of the best pipes in the business. Wondering just who he was actually singing to seemed to put off only a handful of folks, but they were vocal and wrote letters and complaints to local magazines and big city papers.
“Hell, I’ve always wanted to visit Florence, so now I’ve got some free time.” He shrugged his shoulders and began to tear up.
“Dave…it’s not your fault. They’re idiots…just fucking idiots!” Someone yelled from off stage.
“Yeah…honey. Don’t think anything of it. You know what they said when we started rehearsal? ‘The story is bad, but the music…..sucks’” Patty laughed.
“This was my last shot….I don’t think I can ratchet up any more strength to do this any longer.” Lynn looked down at her shoes.
“Don’t ….We’ll get through this.” Patty half-smiled before turning and seeing that most of the crew and cast had gathered on stage in commiseration. She waved to get their attention, but they seemed to miss the gesture. She put her fingers to her lips and whistled loud enough that heads turned.
“Okay…okay…folks?” Heads turned and she smiled broadly before stepping closer to Lynn, who looked at her with pleading eyes and the words ‘oh no’ mouthed silently.
What kept my love-life lean?
My intuition told me
You'd come on the scene.
Lady, listen to the rhythm of my heart beat,
and you'll get just what I mean.
I want to tell you all; some of you know already and some of you have probably guessed. But I want everyone to know that Lynn Marchioni is the love of my life. I was nothing before she came on the scene, and she brings me great joy and happiness.” Patty almost shouted.
Lynn had felt old beyond her years only moments before. And though her face reddened, it wasn’t from shame or guilt, but from an embarrassment of misplaced feelings of being unworthy; certainly she couldn’t be authentic by any one’s estimation. Even folks in their circle of friends seemed to be unable to accept all of her; it wasn’t good enough to be ‘just’ a lesbian. That her beginnings were significantly different from her ‘sisters’ wasn’t lost on several women, who viewed her almost as a charity case of friendship; someone to be tolerated rather than embraced or enjoyed.
Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you!
Embrace me, you irreplaceable you!
“You’re my life and my love, honey. And I want everyone to know!” Patty would never make a distinction on her own but she knew how Lynn felt about herself. She knew what life would promise if Lynn could have filled the lack that Patty felt; both women for two painfully similar but entirely different reasons were unable to bear children.
I love all, the many charms about you!
Above all, I want my arms about you!
Lynn put her hand to her face and began to sob. Patty stepped closer, urged on by the friendly nods of dear ones who didn’t know but still understood. She held Lynn in her arms; there really wasn’t that much difference between the two women after all other than that Patty was at a place where she accepted and almost embraced their limitations. She kissed Lynn on the ear as the woman held her hand tightly to her face in shame.
“Stop….no…” Lynn insisted, even as she continued to sob.
Nancy Wadden, the ostensible female lead to the now-canceled show began to cry in sympathy for the woman who felt so alone in the midst of many. She walked up to Patty and Lynn and embraced the two of them.
“Mama Lynn…please…it’s okay….please.” She held the two close; an example of what she wanted out of life…a love that would last a lifetime. Patty nodded and smiled.
“See, honey…it’s all real and all good. Don’t worry. We’ll be okay.” One by one the friends stepped close to the couple and touched a shoulder or an arm or a hand. One by one friends spoke in soft whispers words neither woman ever expected but longed to hear.
“Take care, honey.”
“It’s going to be okay.”
Lynn’s sobs began to ebb, replaced slowly by the still tearful but relieved cries of a woman who realized just how special she was; both to her friends and ‘family,’ but also to the woman who valued and treasured and loved her more than life itself.
Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you!
Embrace me, you irreplaceable you!
Chelsea...Manhattan, New York City...1992
“What do you want for you birthday?” Heather placed three bowls of hot and sour soup on the table in along with a large bowl of shrimp fried rice. The two women sitting at the table smiled and nodded.
“Oh…you mean the first anniversary of my forty-ninth birthday?” Lynn laughed.
“Well, I know how I want to celebrate it.” Patty stood up and walked around to the other side of the dining room table and embraced her partner. She leaned closer and kissed her; a tender moment between the two that brought the girl to tears.
“I’m so happy, I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted.” Lynn looked at Patty before the two focused their attention on their daughter.
“Me, too, babe!” Patty laughed softly and waved at the girl.
“I guess it’s true….you know what they say? Right?”
“What’s true, honey?” Patty said, knowing exactly what their daughter was going to say. The girl laughed loudly and said,
“I guess Heather does have two mommies!” She smiled broadly as the couple laughed at her her quip before hugging once again. As they embraced, the girl began to whistle a very familiar tune before saying,
“I bet if he could see you, Uncle Ira would agree that that song was made for the two of you, huh?” She laughed softly before resuming the tune, only singing this time…
Don't be a naughty baby,
Come to mama, come to mama, do!
My sweet embraceable you!
~ fin ~
Someone to Watch Over Me
Words and Music by
Ira and George Gershwin
as performed by Miss Linda Ronstadt
Words and music by
Lee Adams and Charles Strouse
But Not For Me
Words and music by
Ira and George Gershwin
As sung by Carolyn Leonhart
words and music by
Ira and George Gershwin
as performed by
the incomparable Miss Cleo Laine
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