The Breakfast Table

When Partnerships Fizzle

Yes, I did see The Hamptons, and you are not going to trap me into defending the Hamptons against The Hamptons, which was, it seems to me, a spinoff of Melrose Place. Not that I’ve ever seen Melrose Place, but I have seen Melrose Place itself, a pleasant and quiet little block in West Hollywood where I once had my hair colored at a beauty salon that has a meditation pool, and my experience there would no more make a moment for prime-time television than would my experience in the Hamptons, which mostly consists of buying food, cooking it, and serving it to wildly appreciative friends and family.

But seeing The Hamptons reminded me of my new favorite guru Erving Goffman: Everyone is truly ready for his or her close-up.

As for Woody, I am mesmerized by divorce, in all its forms. “Tell me how to make love last, tell me how to make love last”—those are lines from a Tom Robbins novel I read many years ago, and they burned themselves into my brain. Ordinary divorces are compelling enough—but I can usually manage to figure out what caused them; I can make up stories that solve the “Why did they break up?” riddle. And of course, ordinary divorces often involve sex, which is so often a solution to the riddle in question.

But the breakups of partners and friends are in some way even more compelling. My fascination with them probably dates back to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, whose split astonished and deranged me when I was a child. Dean left Jerry. Everyone knew this. I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t Dean realize he would be completely washed up without Jerry? This was an early brush with my own fallibility, and it ought to have taught me something but probably didn’t.

Hollywood is full of partners breaking up, and while it’s mostly over money, sometimes it’s over things like new wives, who change the chemistry of earlier relationships. And sometimes a cigar is only a cigar: Sometimes people just get sick and tired of each other. But it’s always interesting. Michael Eisner alone has broken up with three guys: his best friend Larry Gordon, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Michael Ovitz. The breakup of the CAA partners—Ovitz, Ron Meyer, and Bill Haber—would make a fantastic book. (My favorite episode in the CAA breakup came after the partners had split up. Ovitz had gone to Disney, Meyer had gone to Universal, and they’d pretty much stopped speaking. They decided to have a lunch to patch things up. At the lunch Meyer told Ovitz that he and his wife had just found the house of their dreams in Malibu and were planning to make a bid on it. After lunch, Ovitz went back to his office, called Meyer’s real estate broker, and made a bid himself. Can you believe it? And that was that: All the earlier betrayals and lies were nothing compared to the real estate episode; the relationship was over, once and for all.)

But Woody and Jean Doumanian—they weren’t just partners—they were truly best friends, virtual siblings, inseparable. They had dinner five nights a week, Woody testified yesterday. They huddled together in a tiny little wigwam in Le Cirque while Woody lived through the mess of his breakup with Mia Farrow. And now they’re sitting in court every day, while letters Woody wrote Doumanian, referring to their business disagreement as a Tracy-Hepburn movie, are introduced into the evidence. It just seems sad. Life is too short, as I used to say even before Sept. 11 reminded me of it all over again.

And to return to the trivial after a one-sentence departure from it: I was reading about Winona Ryder’s brief appearance in court yesterday (she was styled for the appearance, quite clearly, and wearing Marc Jacobs), and it crossed my mind that plagiarism, in its hard-core form, is a lot like shoplifting: Both are deliberate, stupid, self-destructive, and usually unnecessary.

What’s the origin of “blogger” anyway?