Guest Column

Elia Kazan’s office behind the cashier’s booth at the Victoria Theatre was listed in the Manhattan phone book.

One day in 1966, after I had stalked him near the theater at Broadway and 46th Street, he agreed to meet in his tiny two-room office. There was a little room for a secretary, and a second room with a couch, on which he stretched out like a cat.

“Tell me, exactly who the hell are you?”

I don’t remember exactly what I said. I know I babbled on. I had by that time worked at the ABC network and was then working at the Walter Reade chain of movie theaters. I had graduated college, served in the Army, worked as a cab driver, been a bowling alley pin boy, explored Europe, been a camp counselor, a waiter…

“Okay, enough,” he said. “You work for a theater chain. Have you ever heard of a film called ‘A Face in the Crowd’?”

“Sure.” I said.

“How about ‘Baby Doll’?”

“Sure.”

“Listen to me. I’m getting those two films back from Warner Bros. It’s part of my deal with Jack Warner. Do you think you could do something with them?”

“Absolutely,” I cried.

From that day to this, I represented Kazan on those two films. A few years later, he got back “America, America” and he gave me that also. He was always there to counsel and encourage me. He came to all my play openings, was on my radio show five times, taught at my school and visited me at my beach house.

He inspired me — hurt me — taught me — appreciated me. I worshiped him. No person I ever met could excite me so with the sheer power of his intelligence. I would leave any meeting with him intoxicated with ideas and plans. Spending time with Elia was like taking a powerful drug, without ever having to come down.

I threw him a 90th birthday party and it wasn’t small. Every time I opened my front door another legend walked in. It was a great night. Having mellowed a bit, he told me, in just the right words, how much he appreciated it. And I teared up.

It’s now 37 years since I stalked him. As I write this, the page is wet. There isn’t a great deal of loyalty in the world of show business. But for 37 years I represented Elia Kazan with no contract, just his firm handshake.

Julian Schlossberg is the founder of Castle Hill Prods., which is active in films, television, and legit.

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