JAMES KIRKWOOD JR., American playwright and author born (d. 1989); Some time ago, an editor at a major book club in New York had just gone through a perfectly lousy series of business meetings. Feeling generally rotten, and using a manuscript that had just arrived from a publisher as an excuse, he locked himself in his office, told his secretary he was not to be disturbed, and started to read. By the time he finished reading page one, he was laughing; by the end of chapter one he was still laughing; by the end of the manuscript he was feeling terrific and decided to buy the book club rights to the book. Calling the publisher’s representative, he made an offer for the rights, on condition that the publisher would set up a luncheon date with the author. As the book club editor explained, “If the guy is so funny on paper, what mush he be like in real life?” Besides, he said, he’d treat since working authors are not always particularly well-heeled.
The book was P.S. Your Cat is Dead; the author James Kirkwood. And we was as funny in real life. The book club owner discovered he was the son of pioneer film stars James Kirkwood and Lila Lee, that he had spent his entire life in show business, first as a movie brat, then as an actor-singer-dancer, and had had a moderate success as an author with two novels to his credit There Must Be A Pony and Good Times/Bad Times, both particularly popular with Gay men because of Gay sub-themes. What the book club editor didn’t know was that his lunch partner was then putting the finishing touches on a book for a little musical called A Chorus Line. Had he known that, and had he been clairvoyant, he would have asked Kirkwood to pay for his own goddamm lunch and for his, too. He died in 1989 of spinal cancer.