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Married at 16 to comedian Joey Adams, the author was bereft when her much older husband died, in 1999, after a long illness. She had no children and no siblings, her mother was hospitalized, and though her many celebrity friends loyally rallied round, they were not enough. One of them, however, sent an unexpected gift that had unexpected consequences. A week after Joey’s death, TV producer Michael Viner paid $475 to have a Yorkshire terrier puppy chauffeured by limo from his trainer in Connecticut to Adams’s Park Avenue apartment. She had never had a dog, so she was unprepared for the demands, crises, and rewards of sharing her life with an animal. Short, breezy chapters relate Adams’s tussles with Jazzy, their travels together, and their adventures around town. In church, he started barking and then fled as the very bad soloist started singing. A shopping expedition ended abruptly when Jazzy pooped on the Gucci doorman’s shoes after he insisted that Adams remove her dog. Alongside cute tales of how Jazzy acquired his own personal trainer, designer outfits and collars, and a driver to chauffeur him to play dates, the author of course throws in plenty of celebrity encounters. On Christmas, distracted by Jazzy’s barks, she let the door slam shut behind her and wound up eating Big Macs with Imelda Marcos on the floor outside her apartment. Worried about her ailing pup, she spilled red wine all over herself while dining with Governor Pataki. After a year’s cohabitation, she observed that Jazzyhad acquired some of Joey’s habits: he sat in her husband’s favorite chair, liked the thermostat kept high, and insisted she go to bed when he did.
A treat for dog lovers and Cindy’s fans.
Joey and I had been together forever. I almost can't remember a time I wasn't with him. I think I came out of the womb married. Instead of a teething ring, I had a wedding ring. We were married when I was sixteen.
In his golden days he'd say, "Cindy and I became man and wife so long ago, Moses himself performed the ceremony. Our license is on a stone tablet."
My husband did everything for me. The only thing he ever did to me was grow old. And so, in the winter of his life, I did for him.
* * *
Age is a bitch. Worse than a mugger in a dark alley, because age brings a slow death. Minute by minute, inch by inch, here a little, there a little, year by year by year. Age robs you of your dignity, ability, agility, memory, self-respect. It forces once-powerful somebodies to beg favors from nobodies.
It humiliates. It debilitates. It assassinates.
In the old days, comedian Joey Adams was a big-time pro headlining those Broadway movie theaters that are now long gone. Glossy palaces like the Paramount, the State, the Capitol, the Roxy. He and his friends and colleagues-Frank Sinatra, Johnnie Ray, Guy Lombardo (all of whom are also gone)-did six a day then. Six stage shows to go along with each showing of the movie.
I was a teenage model when Joey and I were wed. Why did I marry someone so senior? Because Joey loved me the same way my mother did. Without reservation. Some brides are motivated by passion, money, companionship. For me, the man I married was an extension of the life I'd had. If I got a cold, Joey sneezed. I felt safe.
The man who swore to take care of me was successful and, to my mind, sophisticated. Attractive in a non-pretty-boy way. Sharp looking. Beige cashmere coats. Snap-brim fedoras. Custom shirts with starched French cuffs. Diamond studs with the tux.
He lived big. Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Home was the Waldorf Towers. With Joey, I began to socialize with the famous. I'd been to people's houses before, but now the houses I was going to belonged to people like Bob Hope. Joey took me to Bob's Palm Springs estate. Bob gave me a "Hiya, honey," then showed me through the enormous closet that housed just his golf clothes. "My Lord," I gasped. "There must be a hundred pairs of pants hanging in one row." "Naaaah," said Bob. "Only seventy."
Not exactly the type of conversation I'd been having at my mom's kitchen table. It was heady. Open Sesame to a world about which a young nobody could only have dreamt.
Joey knew everyone. Other young girls I knew were marrying boys their age and struggling to find their way. It was all babies, bills, infidelity. To me those bonds of eternal romantic passion seemed the illusion, while the richness of my life was the reality. An average night out for us was a black-tie event.
My husband gave me entrée to everybody and everything. I started in the gossip business by interviewing his friends. I'd graduated to $200-a-story articles for TV Guide and was working for the North American Newspaper Alliance around the time President John F. Kennedy summoned Joey. Joey was then president of the American Guild of Variety Artists, to which all performers from Elvis to circus clowns belonged. In his dual role of quasi-political figure and performer, Joey became an ambassador in greasepaint. He was sent to head the first cultural exchange unit to Southeast Asia.
I hadn't been a bride for too many years when we started off on this four-month journey. Among those I interviewed on our expedition was Sukarno, who was then president of Indonesia. I wasn't too conversant with Indonesia. All I knew was you get to Beirut and make a right. Until then I'd been specializing in such hard-hitting, thought-provoking, incisive, in-depth think pieces as "Where Does Laurence Welk Go from Here?"
Sukarno liked the piece I wrote about him, and I was invited to return the following year to write his life story. Sukarno: An Autobiography-As Told to Cindy Adams was my first book, published in 1963. It sold all over the world, was translated into a dozen languages, and landed me a news commentator job on ABC-TV. Another I spoke with on this tour was the Shah of Iran. Over the years we met repeatedly in Iran and the United States, and I interviewed him and the empress extensively.
My husband gave me my career. And then he stepped back and watched me go. Joey allowed me to flourish, and I bloomed in the sunlight of his love.
I carried that aura into my writing. Joey's professional take-no-prisoners attitude formulated my own. Early on I complained, "Syndicates want me to tone down, soften the style so the column can travel. They say readers in Iowa or Utah won't get my edginess."
Said Joey, "Listen, even though she lived in the White House, Teddy Roosevelt's daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth used to tell visitors, 'If you haven't got anything good to say about anyone, come sit by me.' So, frig 'em all. Be New York. The whole rest of the world is Bridgeport."
But that was a long time back. By the 1990s, Joey's glory days were over. Joey was no longer the guy with the smarts. No longer the hotshot entertainer who at a Friars Roast could say to Dean Martin, "Pal, if your zipper could only talk." And I, for sure, was no longer that girl with the baby-fat face who'd just won the title Miss Bagel.
Although I never thought about it in those early days, I guess down deep I knew that someday I'd have to pay back. But out of forty years, more than thirty of them were great. Most marriages are 50-50. Mine was 75-25. All the man ever wanted from me was to be number one in my heart. He treasured me. All he ever asked for was to be treasured by me.
And so, in the last half dozen years, I gave him not only what he wanted but also what he needed. I put my own life on hold to take care of his. He did for me in the beginning. I did for him in the end. As my grandmother used to say, "The wheel turns."
But I don't say it wasn't tough. It was tough.
When Joey first started taking me around, he was New York's toastmaster-in-residence. Every dais. Every event. At one time if you ate a grapefruit in a Manhattan ballroom, it came with Joey. As he put it, "I've been around so long, been to so many dinners, I think if you take an enlargement of The Last Supper I'm third from the right."
And then came the first time he was invited to some major event but not asked to emcee. And then came the first time he was not even invited to the major event because the invitation came marked, "Mrs. Cindy Adams." And then came the first time he didn't even have the energy to accompany me to the major event.
Inside the witchy, bitchy gossip columnist who delivers six columns a week for the New York Post lived this secret agent. A player on two stages. One role being to spit on the mascara and sally forth reporting on openings and parties. The other to live among bedpans, to spend a sleepless night changing the sheets on a home hospital bed, to struggle lifting a 175-pound man who'd slipped out of my arms onto the floor.
My whole life changed as my husband changed. Our whole lifestyle revolved on the changing Joey. When Joey and I had first moved into our apartment, the decor was attractive enough to have been featured in a House and Garden layout. But that soon changed as Joey's needs changed. Our library doorway had to be widened to make it wheelchair-accessible. That tore apart walls and ceilings. Then the floor had to be ripped up to anchor a grab bar so Joey could hoist himself up from his favorite armchair. I had to add a throw blanket to tuck around his legs, an egg-crate cushion to avoid bedsores, a footstool. I had to construct shelves and install cabinets so there could be a small heater, cubbyholes for medications, and whatever else had to be right at hand if needed.
The Ming table at his right elbow was configured to hold a box of Kleenex, cough drops, Vaseline because his lips and nose were always dry, a bell he could ring, and a baby monitor so he could be heard if whoever was watching him slipped out for a moment.
Since the library still needed to function as the setting for my own business meetings, I tried to prevent it taking on the look of an ICU. An identical slipcover was added to the armchair to circumvent the effects of spillage. Some supplies were hidden in an antique chest. A microwave was built inside an armoire, which precluded the need to cross the entire house when he wanted something warmed up. An enormous clock with oversize black numbers was screwed into the side of a couch so that Joey didn't have to raise his head to learn the time.
He always asked the time. Every ten minutes he'd ask the time. Without dates or appointments on which to base a day's schedule, time becomes something amorphous, free-floating. There's nothing to pinpoint. Hours become days, and days become lost.
After all the effort involved in furnishing this room, it still really wasn't working for Joey. The room opened to a terrace. Too quiet. No action. Hustle and bustle was in the other part of the apartment-in the kitchen. So I made our kitchen the center of life. An architect melded it into what was once a rear terrace. I had it glass enclosed so that the room became a large lounge and solarium. Big, comfy, overstuffed armchairs. Heated tile floor. Giant TV. Stands for Joey's favorite felt-tip pens. Racks for the large-print crossword puzzles he seemed no longer to be doing but I hoped he'd do again. Outlets nearby so we could plug in a turntable, so he could play and replay his comedy albums. Breakfast table and banquette for eight. This way, if I was out, he'd be in the midst of whatever was happening. Where food was being cooked, ironing was being done, deliveries were being made. He'd be able to experience whatever life was unfolding inside his shrunken world.
In that gray era when Joey was still going out some evenings for dinner, a problem was clothing. How to get new suits? The old ones were overly cleaned and getting shiny. They looked like mohair even though they were wool. Not only that, but he'd lost so much weight they didn't fit. There was one afternoon Joey was being taken to a neighborhood coffee shop where he occasionally enjoyed lunch. We walked him, me holding one arm, a friend holding the other, from the car straight into the coffee shop. His trousers fell down right in the street. The following night he was going to Le Cirque with his old friend Anthony Quinn. I don't remember Quinn's outfit, but I remember Joey's. The pants of his $2,500 suit featured a big diaper pin in back.
And there were other humiliations. The evening our car stopped at a service station. Joey in the back. Dozing. His head down on his Hermes tie. And the tie stained because when the hand becomes unsteady, the battle to keep oneself unspotted is a losing one. A balding, elderly passenger in another car sees him. Her dentures were out. And she says to my husband, "Joey Adams! How did you let yourself get like that?"
Besides his seven-day-a-week "Strictly for Laughs" column in the New York Post, Joey wrote books, magazine pieces, and material for politicians and lawyers who were making speeches. In addition to the Post, he had longtime contracts with other publications. Even when he could no longer remember people's names he could always remember jokes. Stick a needle in the man and he would spurt one-liners.
In his wind-down months, one of his magazine deals was canceled. The doctors had by then told me they'd given him three months. They undershot the estimate by four weeks.
He was in the countdown. I would've killed to keep him happy. I could not bear to see him hurt. I've long been in the business of doing favors and I'm not used to asking for them. It took a lot, but I called and pleaded for this one publication not to cancel his column. Even if they didn't think the output was as sharply edged as it used to be, I was just asking for another few months.
Do I blame them? Not really. Will I forgive them? Not ever. Will I get them someday? I'll sure as hell try.
We tried to maintain whatever semblance of normal life we could. I'd take him out as much as possible. It was difficult. Besides physical deterioration there was mental confusion. He needed to know exactly, but exactly, where he was going. We tried to keep to whatever locations were familiar, except that they were no longer familiar.
A typical conversation as we set forth one evening: "Honey, we're going to your favorite Italian restaurant, Patsy's."
"Where is Patsy's?"
"You've been going to this same place for thirty-five years. Your picture's up on the wall. You know Patsy's."
"I know that I know Patsy's. What are you telling me about Patsy's for? Of course I know Patsy's. Where is it?"
"On Fifty-sixth Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. Where it's always been. Same spot it's been since Sinatra first took you there."
"Please, you telling me about Patsy's? You kidding? I've gone to Patsy's all my life. Which side of the street is it on?"
"What do you mean, which side of the street?"
"What do you mean, what do I mean? Right or left?"
"It's a one-way street. It's on the right."
The first few times I thought he was putting me on. Then I became irritated. Finally I realized the demon that now inhabited this man I'd known practically all my life no longer knew where Patsy's was. My husband had traversed the Great Divide. There was no pulling him back.
In the end fear was my constant companion. While I was consciously busy handling whatever was immediate another-nurse, an ambulette, a pharmacy that wouldn't send urgently needed medication because the prescription couldn't be renewed and his doctor was traveling-what I couldn't handle consciously was the unconscious fear. The what ifs.
What if something happens at home suddenly and we can't handle it? What if he has to make another trip to the emergency room and it's the middle of the night? I have no brothers, no sisters, no family. Whom do I call? What if the hospital insists on measures with which I disagree?
And then came the night his breathing stopped for a few seconds. Fingers and lips turned blue. A longtime friend and Methodist minister, David Randolph, had come over to share dinner with us. We held hands at the bedside. We prayed. Joey's breath returned. But the Gray Specter was now the Unseen Guest in the house.
It was three weeks later. Riding inside the ambulance, these words from Jeremiah, Chapter 6, verse 14, rattled around my brain: "Peace, peace; when there is no peace."
It was two days later. December 2, 1999. I was the only one alive who knew Joey had gone. I was in his room in St.
Excerpted from The Gift of Jazzy by CINDY ADAMS Copyright © 2003 by Cindy Adams. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|3.||Call Me Mommy||29|
|4.||Our First Christmas||39|
|6.||It's a Dog's Life||63|
|9.||A Day at the NYP||101|
|10.||The Dirty Dog||115|
|11.||Don't Fence Me In||121|
|12.||On the Road||135|
|17.||Jazzy's Phone Fetish||207|
|19.||Romeo and Jazzyet||227|
|20.||Big Women, Little Dogs||239|
|A Final Word||257|
It was a cold day. It was December 9th. Indoors it was just as bitter. It was exactly one week to the day that my husband had died.
My home was filled with lawyers telling me probate would take two years. A real estate broker had written, asking was I interested in selling my apartment since it now seemed too large and expensive for me to keep. My accountant was on the phone, giving me the news that I had somehow acquired a tax audit for the two previous years.
And into this chilly atmosphere a warm puppy was suddenly thrust into my arms. For too long, I'd known only an ailing aging spouse. Life for me was strictly home health care attendants, relief weekend nurses, rotating aides on an overnight shift. It had been schedules for the medications, emergency numbers for the doctors, and prescriptions for the drugstore.
I wasn't used to any live thing growing in my house. No kids, no plants, no pets. I couldn't have been less prepared for some squirming, squiggling, squalling Yorkie who weighed two pounds two ounces and was the size of a rat's ass.
And now? Now it isn't that I love Jazzy. I am in love with Jazzy. Whether this is why I phone from China just to hear Jazzy bark; why I actually sniff his ears because I heard a bad odor there is a sign of unwellness, why I personally massage his gums with my finger and a doggy toothpaste that tastes like peanut butter because I sense he won't floss by himself; why I cut up a brand-new four-ply cashmere maroon turtleneck to make a sweater for him -- who the hell knows! I only know it's true love.
However, in my book The Gift of Jazzy, I admit the behavior of this dog who lives with the gossip columnist of the New York Post has occasionally made me threaten to sell him for sandwich meat.
Like when General Noriega, Panama's former strongman whose current address is a Miami prison, called from jail. It had taken three months to set up this interview. Finally, I hear Noriega on the phone. The voice says, "Buenos dias...thees ees the General..."
...and my dog walks on the buttons on the phone and cuts him off.
Or the evening Judge Judy invited us -- Jazzy and me, because we are now considered a bona fide couple -- to her brand-new country home. Nobody had seen it yet. This was the first day she'd officially opened it. This was Judy's very first dinner party. We were in the new house maybe four minutes when my dog offered his opinion of it.
He peed right on her fireplace.
And then there are those dark nights I stare at him silhouetted against the backdrop of a starry sky. I see those two ears standing straight up and strings hanging off his tail and I want to kiss and hug him. What the psychological view is, I don't know. I only know it appears strong women are wild mad crazy insane for their teeny dogs...
Like Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky, whose white Maltese, Sugar, has warmed her bed longer than any of those two-legged household pets who've romped on her mattress...
Like Jennifer Lopez and her chihuahua, Rea...
Like Mary J. Blige and her Pekingese, Popeye...
The Gift of Jazzy is a true love story of a Yorkshire terrier and a savvy, tell-it-like-it-is New York gossip columnist.
Posted December 30, 2013
Posted November 16, 2007
Posted April 30, 2006
I loved the parts about the dog and could relate to some of them. I was not impressed with the name dropping all the time. I didn't get the book to read about all her famous friends I bought the book to read about the life of the dog.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2010
No text was provided for this review.