My mother, Lorraine Harriet Chase, née Fishman, sat happily in her hospital bed anxiously waiting for a nurse to bring me, her third child, into her room to meet her. She had recently awoken from the chemically induced coma obstetricians thought was the best way for most women to give birth in the 1950s and 60s.
She looked impeccable in her brand new size two pink peignoir from Bonwit Teller, a gift from my father, Norman Myron Chase, nee Chase. Then, as now, she had applied a full face of makeup and each curl on her head was perfectly placed. Of course she was also wearing earrings and her signature orange lipstick.
A nurse retrieved my father from the hazy open bar/waiting room/lounge. He was balancing a cigar between his lips and holding a scotch on the rocks with a twist in his hand as he followed her to see his wife and meet his newborn daughter.
By the time my father walked into the room, I had been placed in my mother’s arms. Thankfully she was wearing water-proof mascara because she took one look at me and burst into tears. She motioned for my father to come closer so she could whisper in his ear, “They gave us the wrong baby!”
My older sister and brother had been born with blond hair and fair skin.
I looked like a monkey.
My mother and father looked at each other, back at me, and then each other. My father, an attorney, assured my mother that he would investigate my pedigree even if he had to pay a visit to the chief of staff. He vowed to find out beyond a reasonable doubt if I belonged to them, another family, or if a newborn chimp was missing from the Ape House at Lincoln Park Zoo.
After much sleuthing, it was determined that I did indeed belong to my parents. My father brought my siblings to visit me at the hospital. They took one look at me and called me “Wild Boomba.”
I was born on January 7, 1961, although my mother wrote January 9, 1961, on the notepad that served as my first baby book. After learning of a friend who said his parents used the back of his brother’s baby book to chronicle his childhood I felt a little better.
Back in the day, women stayed in the maternity ward for 10 days after giving birth even though they had no recollection of delivering their children.
According to my mother, the nurses would bring babies to their mothers for feedings throughout the day, and the dads would come from work to dine on steak dinners and champagne with their wives. Add yoga and massages and you’ve got Canyon Ranch Spa.
By the time they left the hospital, some babies were already cutting teeth, crawling, eating solid foods, and a few even had their learner’s permits and were able to drive their parents home.
My parents were skeptical of my species until the day I pulled myself up to a standing position without attempting to climb up the furniture or scale the walls.
At least they kept me instead of dropping me off in a basket in front of the zoo. Besides, I don’t really like bananas.
It had started to rain while Richard drove me home and parked in my parents’ driveway. As he leaned over to kiss me someone started wildly pounding on the passenger side window.
I looked up and saw Jeff’s face. The rest of his head was covered by a blanket he’d also wrapped around his shoulders. His clenched fists held the two sides of the blanket together at his chest. The rain began dripping down his face and from the blanket. All he needed was a hatchet to complete the look.
Jeff and I had broken up. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in months. I thought he had moved back home. I was so shocked to see him my shoulder pads deflated.
I didn’t know what else to do so I locked the car door. “Great idea,” I thought to myself, “that’ll help.”
I looked over at Richard who was staring at Jeff.
This had to be the worst end of a first date ever. EVER!
I had to do something. I wasn’t going to let Jeff ruin whatever chance I hoped I still had with Richard so I took a deep breath, unlocked the door, and started to reach for the handle.
“What are you doing?” Richard said. I told him I was going to tell Jeff to leave. I said that I wasn’t afraid to stand up to all 6-feet, 4-inches of him, and that I didn’t want him to feel obligated to get involved.
But Richard The Brave refused to let me face Jeff alone. It was a rather romantic moment, well, as romantic as a moment like that could be.
I had no idea what the proper etiquette and protocol was for a that kind of situation, but since we were on my driveway, I was technically the hostess.
My parents had raised me to be polite in all situations, and, even though I’m sure they would have let this one slide, I felt compelled to introduce Richard to Jeff, and Jeff to Richard. I also thought it would help diffuse the situation, whatever the situation was, if we all appeared to be as calm and cordial as possible. I can’t remember, but I think they shook hands.
I don’t think any of us knew exactly what to do, so we just stood there in the rain. Richard and I looked like soggy, well-dressed parents taking their giant son Trick-or-Treating in his serial killer costume.
Richard offered to stay, and even though I wanted him to, I didn’t want him to be any more involved in this drama than he already was. I told him I could handle the situation. I really didn’t want to talk to Jeff, but I had to. I told Richard I’d call him later that night. I just hoped he’d answer the phone.
Richard watched me walk to the door with Jeff. I rang the doorbell, instead of using my keys, because I knew my father would answer the door. My parents were happy I was no longer seeing Jeff, and were thrilled I was out on a date with Richard that night.
My father looked a little perplexed when he came to the door and saw me standing there with Jeff who looked like a tall version of “Igor” from Young Frankenstein, minus the hump.
As soon as Richard saw that I was safely inside I heard the screech and smelled the burning rubber of the Duster’s tires.
My father told Jeff he could stay and talk to me for ten minutes after which he would call the police.
I found out later that my father, who was the funniest person I’ve ever known, walked into the bedroom and said to my mother, “I don’t understand. Leslie left with Richard but came home with Jeff.”
Jeff and I walked into the den. He was soaking wet so I didn’t let him sit on my parents’ furniture. I had so many questions, but decided not to say anything. I just stood there, looking at Jeff, waiting for an explanation.
He said he wanted to try to patch things up, so he came to the house. He didn’t ring the bell because he “had a feeling” I had gone out on a date. He had parked his car around the corner so I wouldn’t see it. He was cold so he wrapped himself up in a blanket he just happened to have in his car and hid in my parents’ bushes waiting for me to come home.
I said, “That’s called stalking.” I asked him to just leave me alone once and for all. He promised he would and left before my father had to call the police. I never heard from him again.
I went into my bedroom to call Richard. I was relieved when he answered the phone, and happy to hear his voice.
I never even thought to tell Richard about Jeff because there was nothing to tell. I wouldn’t have blamed Richard if he didn’t want to be my date for the dinner dance the next weekend, but he said he wanted to honor his commitment. Not the most romantic sentiment, but understandable.
I told myself that everything had to go well the next weekend at the dinner dance. No surprises! I put myself on double secret probation because I knew I’d never get another chance with Richard if anything went wrong.
Nothing terrible happened the night of the dinner dance. However, my front-loading bra burst open causing a “Girls Gone Wild” situation, my mother ran after The Chicago Bears to say hello, and all the cocktail waitresses knew my father and called him, “Normie Baby.” After witnessing all of that, I think Richard was quite amused, and seemed happy with what he had gotten himself into. But I’ll tell you more about that in the next chapter.
In case you missed the past few chapters of I Married him Anyway, here’s a quick synopsis:
I’d broken up with Jeff, my college boyfriend, after finding out we had different ideas of what it meant to be in a relationship. I thought we were dating exclusively but found out he was dating so many other girls behind my back his idea of a relationship was as all-inclusive as a resort in Cancun.
I’d moved back home after transferring from I.U. to Lake Forest College to finish up my Creative Writing degree. I was also working part-time as a reporter for “The Singles Spirit,” a newspaper published by my brother-in-law, Sam.
It had been four years since I’d last seen or spoken to Richard, the nicest guy I’d ever met. I realized I’d made a horrible mistake by breaking up with him in high school and had been wanting to get in touch with him, but my over-achieving imagination led me to believe he’d want nothing to do with me.
Twice, out of the blue, I’d run into Richard’s mother, Harriet. Divine Intervention was intervening! Harriet told me Richard had moved back home to Glencoe after graduating from Miami University with a Theater Arts degree and was working at Steppenwolf Theatre. Both times I saw her she said she’d tell him to call me, and both times he didn’t.
Was he playing hard to get, or did he hate me? There was only one way to find out. I needed a plan to try to win him back but I couldn’t do it alone. I called in reinforcements: Laura.
We decided that all I had to do was call Steppenwolf Theatre and leave a message for the actor, Richard Korengold, saying I wanted to interview him for an article I was writing for “The Singles Spirit.”
Obviously I couldn’t say who I really was, so when I left messages I used a fake name and Laura’s phone number to throw Richard off course. If and when Richard returned my call, Laura was going to take a message for the fake me and arrange a time for the interview at Steppenwolf. Richard would be expecting the fake me, but the real me would show up, instead. He’d take one look at me and, after an extensive makeover from Laura, start falling in love with me all over again.
The only reason the plan didn’t work was because he never called.
Ok. You’re all caught up now!
I finally decided to act like a normal person, to the best of my ability, and just call Richard. He seemed genuinely happy to hear from me, so I threw caution to the wind and asked him to be my date for an upcoming ORT dinner dance. He accepted and said, “Why wait two weeks? Are you free this Saturday night?”
On November 5th, 1983, Richard and I were finally on our first date The Second Time Around.
After dinner we went for a drive in the red 1974 Duster I’d been in so many times before. I relaxed into my seat, happy to finally be on a date with Richard again.
I wished I hadn’t wasted so much time letting my imagination, once again, run away with me.
Or, had I?
Richard parked the car at the entrance tothe Glencoe beach that night at 11:00 PM and suggested we go for a moonlit walk down to the shore. I began to think something was fishy. Before I knew it, my over-achieving imagination kicked into overdrive.
Maybe Richard was still mad at me for breaking up with him in high school. Maybe he had spent the past four years devising seemingly innocent yet diabolical ways to get back at me.
Why were we going on a moonlit stroll when there was no moonlight by which to stroll?
There were also no streetlights. Or witnesses.
I was still under the impression that Richard was an actor with The Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Was he so good at his craft that he’d been pretending he was happy to be with me that night, all the while planning to leave me swimming with the fresh water fishes of Lake Michigan?
We made our way around the metal gate that prevented cars from going down the driveway after 9:00 PM when the beach officially closed each night.
So, it was cold and dark and the beach was closed. Why didn’t I just tell Richard I’d prefer to be somewhere warm, well-lit, and open for business? Because telling him would have gotten in the way of my habit of making things much harder than they needed to be.
I could tell the driveway was steep because as soon as we began our descent from the precipice my toes were facing south. There was no tow-rope, or a phone booth with instructions on how to reach the on-call Sherpa.
I was dressed for a date, not rappelling. Richard was wearing Wallabees hiking boots. I was wearing Corkys Wedges, which, to my knowledge, have never been featured in “Field and Stream.”
The only thing keeping my Corkys from sliding out from underneath me was the combined width of the shoulder pads in my Norma Kamali blouse and winter coat ricochetting me between the retaining walls, turning me into a human Weeble.
Any woman who ever wore Norma Kamali clothing knew the shoulder pads were so big they were supposed to be worn in either a blouse or a coat, but not both. But looking like a linebacker that night probably kept me from face-planting over my Corkys.
There’s nothing more offensive than shoulder pad buildup – – Isaac Mizrahi
I finally told Richard I wanted to go back up to the car. I tried to turn around but couldn’t. Due to lake-effect humidity, my shoulder pads had inflated, wedging me between the embankments.
To my surprise and relief Richard came to my rescue. He gently exfoliated me from between the retaining walls and helped me back up the hill. Due to the size of my shoulder pads, and my hair, he had to physically stuff me back into his car.
As he drove me home he told me he thought going for a walk along the shore in the dark would have been romantic. So as not to sound crazy, I decided not to tell him what had been going on in my head. Instead I told him about the plan Laura and I had come up with, as if confessing to stalking someone at their place of employment was something normal people did.
“That was you?”
Richard said he’d never received the messages I’d left but he knew about them because the Managing Director of Steppenwolf had intercepted them. He confronted Richard and asked him if he had been claiming to be an actor with the Steppenwolf Company. Richard worked in the box office.
Thankfully, my antics hadn’t gotten him fired. The last thing I wanted was for things to get awkward.
He parked the car in my parents’ driveway. As he leaned over to kiss me someone started wildly pounding on the passenger side window.
My mother and I were rehearsing our tap dance routine for “Katz! The Musical!” on the makeshift stage for the first time. As we were “Shufflin’ Off to Buffalo,” Richard’s mother, Harriet, was running over to say hello.
Harriet told us she was on the Dinner Party Committee for the benefit and was looking forward to watching us perform in the show in a few weeks. Harriet said she’d tell Richard she saw me and tell him to come see us in the show. She also said she’d tell him to call me.
I hadn’t seen Harriet since Richard and I dated in high school four years earlier. Even though Richard was the nicest guy I’d ever met, I broke up with him before we left for college. We were going to different schools, and I thought I wanted to dip my toe in what turned out to be more of a cesspool than a dating pool.
Well, that was stupid. As it turned out, Richard really was the nicest guy I’d ever met.
I had been thinking about Richard for months, ever since I’d transferred from Indiana University to Lake Forest College to finish my Creative Writing degree. Since I was living at home, I wanted to get in touch with him but didn’t know where he was living or what he was doing.
I was also a freelance reporter for “The Singles Spirit,” a newspaper for singles (duh) published by my brother-in-law Sam. Part of my job was doing interviews about people, places, and things, you know, basically nouns.
I started to think I’d run into Harriet for a reason. Maybe it was Divine Intervention at the Temple, which, by the way, would make an excellent name for a band.
I ran into Harriet again two weeks later at Burlington Coat Factory. How could that be explained? It had to be Divine Intervention at the discount coat store, which, by the way, would not make an excellent name for a band.
Harriet told me Richard had graduated from Miami University with a degree in Theater. He was living at home and working at Steppenwolf.* She asked me if Richard had called. I told her he hadn’t. She rolled her eyes and again said she would tell him to call me.
All my life I’ve been told I have an over-overachieving imagination so it was perfectly normal for me to think that Richard hadn’t called because he hated me for breaking up with him before we left for college.
I hated me for breaking up with him, too.
But, since I’d run into Harriet twice in two weeks, I knew I had been given whatever the Divine equivalent is of a thumbs up to find Richard.
The only longish-term boyfriend I had in college was Jeff. I’d ended our relationship when I realized he wasn’t that great of a boyfriend; just ask all the other girls he was dating behind my back while we were going out.
I should have known our relationship was doomed; Jeff threw up on our first date.
I’ve been told I make things much harder than they need to be. I could have just called Richard, but that would have been too normal.
And what would I say if I called? “Hi! It’s me! The girl who broke up with you! Want to go on a date?”
I needed to find a way to accidentally bump into Richard on purpose so he could just start falling in love with me all over again.
But how? I knew I’d need help, and I knew just who to call.
Laura Wool has always been my partner in misdemeanors. When we put our heads together anything was possible. She was the beauty and the brains. I was there, too.
I called Woolie and said, “Here’s the 411. I have an Alfa, Beta, Foxtrot, Richard, and I’m bringing bagels.”Woolie said, “Roger that, Chester! I got your 6. Be here at 14:00 on Saturday. I’ve got lox and cream cheese. We’ll think of something.”
And, we did. We decided I needed to stalk him.
Since Harriet told me Richard graduated with a degree in theater and worked at Steppenwolf, I assumed he was an actor.
All I had to do was call Steppenwolf and set up a time to interview the actor Richard Korengold for “The Singles Spirit.”
I just needed a nom de plume and a phone number he wouldn’t recognize.
Laura got to know Richard when he and I dated in high school, but he didn’t know her phone number. So, Laura said we should use her phone number to leave as a call back number at Steppenwolf.
But, what if Richard actually called?
Laura came up with fake names for both of us. If Richard called my fake number which was Laura’s real number to reach the fake me, the fake her would take a message faking that she worked for the newspaper, too.
During the next week I called Steppenwolf several times and left messages for Richard. He didn’t call back which almost always makes doing an interview so much harder.
Well, I never heard back from Richard, and, as far as I know, he didn’t come to see mom and me in “Katz! The Musical!” but I wasn’t going to let a few minor details like that get in my way.
I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. I was not going to give up. And, if I found him, I was going to marry him anyway.
*Richard was not an actor at Steppenwolf. He worked in the box office. I’d been leaving messages for him with the business office instead of the theatre, and no one ever told him I’d called. Somehow, the Managing Director of Steppenwolf Theatre intercepted my messages and asked Richard if he had been telling people he was an actor in The Company.
Also, Richard’s actual degree is a B.S. in Business Administration with a Minor in Theater Arts Management. He had acted in plays at Miami University, but was always cast as the bartender whose only appearance was in the final scene.
This post is another chapter of my book-in-progress I Married him Anyway.