Shortly after Lana Turner was ‘discovered’ behind a counter and made into a film star, a number of girls standing behind counters and waiting on tables were also ‘found’ by Hollywood. At a Beverly Hills party a talent scout for Warner Brothers’ was bragging about the good taste and shrewd instinct of his employers. Kaufman who despised Hollywood, cast a withering look at him. “They don’t want actresses,” he said, “they want waitresses.”
His second marriage proved out to be good in that it turned him from a dour man to one who went out to please his wife; and then his phobias or fear of heights for one, disappeared. He could just laugh about his fears. When a collaborator who was waiting for Kaufman was found leaning over Park Avenue, Kaufman crept up behind and whispered, ”Don’t jump. The second act can be fixed.”
Once he went shopping to everyone’s amazement with his wife. In the drapery department of Bloomingdales while his wife was elbow deep in materials and fabrics, George stood a picture of misery. Taking pity on him a salesman approached and asked if he could be of help. “May be you can,” George answered, ”do you have any good second act curtains here?”
Towards the end of his life a friend visited him. In an attempt to cheer up the unhappy Kaufman the visitor mentioned that a mutual acquaintance who had a spotless reputation till recently, had acquired a young woman as a mistress.
Kaufman’s arm shot out and his index finger pointed to the door. “You get out of here…”Kaufman roared. His caller realized that he has made a mistake by bringing gossip of this nature to his host. Before he could excuse himself he heard his host who added, “… and do’nt come back until you find out who she is.”
Once at the Round Table, Alexander Woolcott called Franklin P. Adam, “You goddamn Christ Killer”. As he had intended the company laughed. Dorothy Parker who was half Jew and who had tried to hide the fact, said nothing. Kaufman taking note of her silence, and in mock fury said, “I’ve heard enough slur on my race. I am now leaving this table, this dining room, and this hotel.” A pause. Looking at Mrs. Parker he added, ”and I trust that Mrs. Parker will walk out with me, half- way.”
Kaufman was an incorrigible hypochondriac. Afraid to shake hands, afraid to open door, afraid of every known illness he suffered continuously and secretly. Once he went out to dinner with an actress after a rehearsal in Washington D.C. As the actress was dieting she skipped the first course. But when the cream of tomato soup was brought for Kaufman she could not resist trying it. Rather than drink what was tasted by his date, he ordered another. No amount of coaxing would make him touch it. “I’m terribly sorry,” Kaufman told her, “I’m rather particular about these things.”
Later in the night Kaufman kissed her. “I can’t understand your kissing me that way when you won’t let me taste your soup.” His companion said.
“Well, miss” he said, “your tasting my soup was one kind of risk. My kissing you was another. Let’s concentrate on the second.”
In order to ease some of his pain Kaufman turned to psychiatry; but gave it up half way ‘because she’s asking too damn many personal questions.’
He mistrusted doctors; One sunday morning Kaufman frantic with worry called his physician who was reputed to be one of the internists in New York. He was out. Around five his doctor came in his white cable -stitch tennis sweater. Kaufman roared to which he meekly explained that he had been playing a little tennis to keep himself in shape, the better to serve Kaufman.
“I pay the doctor to look after my health, not his.” Was his comment.
He did not want to take his chances with his next physician that one day he put in a call. “I need you immediately.” and he hung up. He lived in the neighbourhood and sensing an emergency he rushed across Park Avenue and told the elevator man to take him to Kaufman’s penthouse.
When he reached the apartment, he saw Kaufman standing in the foyer with a stop- watch in his hand.
“Mr. Kaufman I thought you were ill” He gasped.
“I’m, but I wanted to see how long will it take you to get here If I were really ill.”
Kaufman had an uneasy relationship with his collaborator Edna Ferber. Miss Ferber in a gallant attempt at reconciliation invited the Kaumans to a large Sunday evening dinner party.
The dinner began and Kaufman who was finicky about his food became almost ill at the sight of dishes served. His wife, realising the importance of patching things up between him and Edna, ate his portion as well. At then end of dinner she got up to leave the table. A buckle of her dress had caught the lace of the table cloth. Unaware she moved away from the table sending the silver, the china, the coffee and the mint, crashing into the floor.
Kaufman looked at the broken china and then at the hostess,”’ That’s what I call pulling off a few good ones.”
One fall day Kaufman was met on the street by a friend of composer Irving Berlin. Kaufman had previously worked with Berlin and their relationship was not trouble free either. Kaufman was presently working on a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.
“How’s it going, George?” Berlin’s friend asked him.
“Great,” answered Kaufman, ”it is wonderful working with a dead composer.”