Thus Spake Groucho and Gertrude

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

Thus Spake Groucho and Gertrude

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

Thus Spake Groucho and Gertrude
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Sept. 16 1999 8:17 PM

Kurt Andersen and Nora Ephron

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Do you remember the first time you ever heard the expression, "There's no there there"? I do. I practically remember where I was sitting when I first read it. Of course, it's Gertrude Stein, speaking of the place she grew up, which I'm pretty sure was Oakland, Cal. This is the sort of thing I could check if I weren't in Los Angeles. So, forgive me if it's Berkeley. Anyway, what a great line. What a great great line! I mean, when I first came across it, I just stopped reading for a few minutes and rolled that line around in my brain and thought, I would kill to say something that amazing. There's no there there. No there there. It's right up there with "Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes," which is definitely another of the other top 10 lines of the last l00 years.

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Anyway, you are right about Bush and Clinton and just about everyone: no there there. Bush I find dangerous precisely because he will win according to my criteria (and yours), and he knows absolutely nothing. Also, call me crazy, but I hate Republicans. Could never vote for one. Just couldn't. It's as close as I get to being a practicing Jew. I mean, God would strike me dead if I voted Republican. If I believed in God. And those horrible Supreme Court justices Republicans nominate really matter. (Although it's surprising and fascinating to see what's happened to Sandra Day O'Connor and--of all people--David Souter as they've carved out a middle-of-the-road pragmatism no one could ever have predicted.)

One of the things I always find interesting about L.A., where I grew up waiting desperately for the moment I could get out, is how it found its "there" (kind of the way Miami did). Fred Allen: "Los Angeles is great if you're an orange." Another of the top 10, don't you think?

And Groucho Marx: "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member." (Probably not quite accurately quoted, but as I say, there's no Bartlett's in my hotel room.)

I've been told that all sorts of people have "worked with" Bradley. I think Sydney Pollack tried to help, although I could be wrong. Bradley's TV-Q has definitely improved: He was great on Meet the Press a few weeks ago, as relaxed as he'd been the day I saw him in person. But I've also been told that people have worked with Al Gore, and it seems to be truly useless. I mean, if you just tied the man's hands together and lashed them down, it would be an improvement. If I were trying to help him, I would tell him to never ever read from a speech--that just makes the performance even more deadly. He should always work from index cards with no more than a word or two written on them. Well, so should anyone who gives a speech. I wanted to die when Gore got up after the Littleton shootings and stood there holding a sheet of paper with a speech on it that he dutifully read from. On the other hand, if Gore runs against Bush and Ventura, we will both be voting for him, I guarantee it.

More children shot with guns last night. Another thing I like about Bradley is his position on guns. In the L.A. Times today there's an article that says that the LAPD has asked Charlton Heston to be its guest speaker at a fund-raiser next week. This is the LAPD whose chief is anti-NRA, and this is the Charlton Heston who refuses to take a position against cop-killer bullets. The man who booked Heston for the speech has this to say: "I was unaware until after he accepted that he was the head of the NRA."

Well, I am off to work. And so this is the end of our days together. I feel relieved, because frankly my entire life has ground to a halt for the last four days while I feverishly tried to think of things to say. But I also feel sad. Next week, there's American Beauty to talk about, and while I'm sure we'll both see it over the weekend, and maybe we'll even e-mail each other about it now that we know each other's addresses, no one will be listening.

xoxoxox

Kurt Andersen was architecture critic for Time, co-founder of Spy, and editor of New York magazine. He now writes for The New Yorker, and his best-selling first novel, Turn of the Century, was published in May (click here to buy it). Nora Ephron is a screenwriter and director. Her films include Sleepless in Seattle, Michael and, most recently, You’ve Got Mail.