Betty Friedan’s Sigmund Freud Footnotes

Sigmund Freud, by Max Halberstadt (cropped).jpgThe footnotes in Betty Friedan’s seminal 1963 classic The Feminine Mystique are as good as the text:

“During the years Freud was germinating his sexual theory, before his own heroic self-analysis freed him from a passionate dependence on a series of men, his emotions were focused on a flamboyant nose-and-throat doctor named Fliess. This is one coincidence of history that was quite fateful for women. For Fliess had proposed, and obtained, Freud’s lifelong allegiance to, a fantastic ‘scientific theory’ which reduced all phenomena of life and death to ‘bisexuality,’ expressed in mathematical terms through a periodic table based on the number 28, the female menstrual cycle. Freud looked forward to meetings with Fliess ‘as for satisfying hunger and thirst’. He wrote to him: ‘No one can replace the intercourse with a friend that a particular, perhaps feminine side of me, demands.’ Even after his own self-analysis, Freud expected to die on the day predicted by Fliess’ periodic table, in which everything could be figured out in terms of the female number 28, or the male number 23, which was derived from the end of one female menstrual period to the beginning of the next.”

Footnote 20, for Chapter 5 The Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan, 1963.

Photograph: Max Halberstadt, 1921.

Ronald Reagan Warns the Growers of Topanga

Patti Davis’ The Way I See It is obviously a much better read than Ivanka Trump’s Women Who Work or Chelsea Clinton’s It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, and Get Going!. For instance, Patti wrote about growing 8 foot-tall marijuana plants in the ‘rich, black soil’ of the old chicken coop at her secluded bungalow in Topanga Canyon. She aired out her house before her parents came for dinner in 1977. “It was early November,” she recalled, “And what was left of my marijuana crop was in plastic Baggies, hidden under my bed, waiting to be sold.”

“When we moved into the the living room after dinner, my father started talking about  helicopters flying over the canyons, looking for marijuana plants and people to bust.

‘This is the time of year when the plants are harvested,’ he said, settling into an old oak rocker that had cost me about ten dollars at a garage sale. ‘Thank God I harvested mine early,’ I thought… ‘But does he know? Is that why he’s saying this?’ I will never know the answer, but I suspect he was trying to warn me. It wouldn’t look good if his daughter was busted.

‘I have information because of my years as governor,’ he was continuing, ‘and Topanga is one area they’re going to be concentrating on because a lot of people break the law around here and grow drugs. I don’t know if any of your friends…’ His sentence trailed off, and I abruptly changed the subject.

But after they left that night I called several other growers I knew and passed along the information that had been leaked to me– that narcotics agents would soon be circling Topanga in helicopters.

‘Your father told you this?’ one of them said. ‘Sort of like a double agent kind of thing? I mean, he’s giving us tips about when the narcs are coming?’

‘Something like that, I guess. I’m not really sure what his reasons were…’

‘Well, do you think he’d know exactly when the helicopters are coming? Maybe he has the schedule or something.’

My father was very popular in Topanga for the next few weeks. People were camouflaging their marijuana plants because they’d gotten tipped off by the former governor of California that Topanga was a big target area for busts that year. I didn’t hear about anyone getting caught.”

The Way I See It: An Autobiography, Patti Davis, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992.

Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Grocery List

Toby Young’s slam of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s More, Now, Again in The Observer was pretty funny (“…Wurtzel’s overweening self-regard oozes from every sentence. On page 61, for instance, she congratulates herself on having done a good job of bringing up her cat: ‘For some reason, he’s turned out well. I did something right with him.’) The fact that Wurtzel spent time “describing the contents of her larder” seemed to him particularly egregious, though he confessed to admiring her chutzpah. “She’s gone one better than foisting her diary on her publishers: she’s actually made them pay to print her shopping lists!” I loved every one of her lists of amphetamines, television shows, and high-fructose corn syrup cereals. Who but Elizabeth Wurtzel could write a grocery list like this? 

“Yogurt, cereal, bagels, Lean Cuisine dinners, orange and grapefruit juices in plastic bottles–it’s supposed to be fresh-squeezed, but it’s not. I hate that. When I was little and we visited Florida, there were grove stands everywhere, you could get fresh-squeezed juice in roadside 7-Elevens. When did that stop? When did everything good go away? The whole world has gone to hell.”

Elizabeth Wurtzel, More, Now, Again, Virago Press, 2002.


Nancy Reagan’s Actual Birthday

“I don’t remember the name of the hospital where I was born. It burned down years ago, but there’s no truth to the rumor that I set that fire to destroy any records that might reveal my age. When Ronnie was president, every year on July 6 there would be a story in one of the papers about how Nancy Reagan says she was born in 1923, but we all know she was really born two years earlier.
When, exactly, was I born? I still haven’t made up my mind. Besides, as Mother used to say, ‘A woman who will tell her age will tell anything.'”

My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan, Nancy Reagan with William Novak, Random House, 1989.

Bette Davis Divorced: “She Read Too Much” Says Husband

“Husband H. O. Nelson Testifies She Read Books Too Much
LOS ANGELES, Dec 6 (AP)- Harmon O. Nelson obtained an uncontested divorce today from his actress wife Bette Davis.
Home life with Mrs. Nelson contained little of that close communion between husband and wife, Mr. Nelson’s testimony in Superior Court disclosed. He said that he usually just sat while his wife read ‘to an unnecessary degree.’
‘She thought her work was more important than her marriage,’ Mr. Nelson testified. ‘She even insisted on reading books or manuscripts while he had guests. It was all very upsetting.’
The Nelsons were married in 1932 and separated a month ago.”
December 7, 1938.

Howard Hughes’ Memos to Robert Maheu

The investigative journalist James Phelan spent twenty years covering Howard Hughes. Two Hughes aides were the primary sources for Phelan’s book The Hidden Years. Published the same year as Elvis: What Happened?, it confirmed the rumours about Hughes’ agoraphobia, opiate addiction, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Like Presley, Hughes’ compulsions were facilitated by a team of men who arranged his hidden passages between hotels in Las Vegas, Managua, Acapulco, Vancouver, London, and Paradise Island in the Bahamas. 

Robert Maheu served as the CEO of the Nevada operations. He never met Hughes face-to-face, but they were in constant contact through letters and telephone calls. Phelan noted that Hughes’ complete identification with his functionary ran like a leitmotif through the handwritten memos. “The billionaire wrote entire scripts for Maheu-Hughes to play out for him in the exciting but fearsome world. ” Hughes often referred to Maheu as “I” and himself in the third person, like in this memo, which outlined his instructions for Maheu’s negotiation with a man named William Harrah over the purchase of a casino.

“Try something like this. Bill, I have to go to Los Angeles for a very important medical exam. I had postponed it to be free to come to Reno and meet with you. But if you are not ready, I will go on to L.A. and re-establish my plans.

Now look Bill, I don’t mind waiting another week at all and I am sure this is OK with Mr. Hughes. What has him upset is the fact that he is a man, like many you have met, who just cannot stand uncertainty. He has a number of other projects which depend upon this one. So, you see, his upsetment is not because of the delay, only the uncertainty.

Now, you said this afternoon, Bill, that you wanted to present this proposal at a figure that will be immediately acceptable to Howard. Well, I think that is fine, and it occurred to me that you know in a general way what Howard considers fair.  May I say to Howard before I go, that if he will just be patient for another week and quit fretting over this deal I am confident that when I return from L.A. in a week I will make one call and you will invite me to Reno.”

Howard Hughes: The Hidden Years, James Phelan, William Collins Sons & Co Ltd, 1977.

Bob Colacello on Las Vegas, Carter and Caviar

The great Bob Colacello began his career writing film reviews at the Village Voice, then moved to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, where he was made editor-in-chief after six months. Holy Terror, his memoir of working for Warhol, remains the best book written about the artist. In 1979 they interviewed Priscilla Presley and her boyfriend Michael Edwards (a model and actor who went on to write a squalid book about their relationship I will admit to having read as a child). As always, Colacello’s remarks were the funniest, most interesting part of the transcript:  

COLACELLO: I think Las Vegas is the most evil place in America.
PRESLEY: I gambled once and lost almost $2,000 on baccarat, which, unfortunately, is one of my favorite games. I just love the feeling of playing but I hate losing. I feel so stupid.
COLACELLO: Everyone in Las Vegas looks so poor. All the gamblers’ wives stand behind them, thinking about another mortgage on the house.

COLACELLO: It’s amazing how everyone is getting interested in politics these days.
PRESLEY: I think it’s because there are so many young, new politicians.
COLACELLO: I think it’s because the country’s falling apart.

PRESLEY: Can you believe the difference between Carter’s image when he first took office and now?
COLACELLO: He’s gotten thinner—among other things. Do you think he has a chance?
PRESLEY: One thing about the American people is that we have a tendency to forget things so quickly. We always seem to be rooting for the underdogs.
COLACELLO: I don’t think always.

COLACELLO: People are so fond of asking, “When was the first time you had sex?” Maybe what they should be asking is, “When did you have your first caviar?”

Photo by Becca923 from San Francisco, USA – Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh, PA, CC BY-SA 2.0.