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Ruth Page Guatemala Room No. 13 [March 29, 1985]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0513
Run Time
0h 19m 4s
Date Produced
March 29 1985
NOTE: This interview was conducted as an informal conversation. Consequently, instead of the usual Q (Interviewer) and A (Interviewee) format, questions and statements are identified by the initials of the participants: R (Ruth Page); J (Jerold Solovy): T (Thea Flaum).
[Interview begins at 03:44.]
J: Ruth, André's pictures fit perfectly into your room.
R: Well, the room was really made for the pictures, because he was in Guatemala, and I had this poncho that you put over your head -- this thing. And the colors were so beautiful, and then I added the butterflies. But he painted all these pictures while he was in Guatemala, I think. Or, anyway, remembering Guatemala. So, this is my Guatemalan butterfly room. I love this little room. Don't you think it's nice?
J: I love it, too. Where is André?
R: I don't know. My wandering husband. He was in Marakesh. He can't take the Chicago winters, as you know. But I think he's in Paris, now, but he'll be back in April. I hope he'll have good weather. He was here most of that bad weather. He just never went out. He just stayed home all day. So, I said, "Why don't you go on to Marakesh?" That's a place he likes so much. I don't like it, but he does.
J: And he's in Paris now?
R: I think so. As far as I know.
J: What did you do in Paris? You were there for ten days in February.
R: What does one do in Paris?
J: Well, what did you do in Paris? That's the question.
R: I went to the opera once, and it was perfectly terrible. It was called Doctor Faustus -- a new opera. I don't know who wrote it, and I don't want to know. It must have cost them at least a million dollars to put it on, it was so elaborately staged, and it was awful.
J: What about the ambience of the house itself?
R: Oh, it's a perfect theatre. I love that opera house. It's gorgeous. And I went up and watched one of their classes and Josette Amiel, who'd been with us, gave the class. There were these perfectly beautiful girls all exactly alike. They were all the same height. They were all beautiful. They all had the same technique. And it was very boring. Nobody had any personality, but it was interesting to see. They never seem to do anything much. They've got 90 or 100 perfect dancers, and they don't know what to do with them.
J: What else did you do? Did André take you to Orchestrat to eat?
R: No. We always eat at the Relais so much. I don't care much about food. I'm like you, I don't like to go to fancy restaurants. Everybody told me about that restaurant and I wanted to go, but André doesn't care about food either, so we didn't bother.
J: He likes it, but only with Dolores. He doesn't like it with you or me.
R: Well, Dolores. Does she appreciate good food?
J: Yes.
R: Oh, she does. Well, he adores Dolores, and so do I. So tell Dolores next time I see her in Paris, she'll have to take me to that restaurant.
J: You'll leave me at home.
R: Leave you at home with your old hamburger and coca cola. You're a big bore.
J: I like the Relais, too, because you can have a hamburger there.
R: I like to eat in the Relais because it's so much easier than anyplace else. I stay at that hotel, so I just always eat there.
J: What else did you do?
R: I bought a few clothes, not many. Very few. I can't remember what we did. We were busy all the time. We always go to the museums. There's nothing to see. We did see the Paris Opera dancers give an all-Tudor evening, which was very interesting. It was their idea to do it. I didn't know they knew anything about Tudor, but they put it on themselves. Tudor never came near it. And I thought they did them awfully well. I was very surprised. It shows they can do something if they have an idea and want to.
J: Did you ever tell Thea about your house in Paris? Did she ever discuss that with you?
T: A little bit. Have you seen the house?
J: Just on the outside. I was never in the house.
R: You were never in the house? I don't know how we happened to get the house. It was way out. The reason I finally sold it was because I had so much trouble with the roof. I've always had roof troubles no matter what building I'm in. The roof is always leaking or something. And this was a sort of slanting glass roof and it always leaked. So that was too much trouble. So I finally sold it to Clavé. Clavé bought it. My friend Clavé, who lived next door to me in St. Tropez, and he needed it just to store his pictures in, so he bought it. It was a nice great big room, and I used it as a studio -- put a mirror in it. We went there quite often, but not too often. I had some friends who lived there all the time. They got out whenever we came. So that worked out all right. But I only want one place now. I don't want a million different places. It's just too much trouble. I like to have one place, and this is it.
J: How did you keep all those places you used to have? You had your apartment in Chicago, Hubbard Woods, Paris and St. Tropez.
R: Well, I had Tom Fisher. Tom liked to moved around, and he liked to buy houses.
J: He did like to buy houses. That was true.
R: He loved to buy houses. He liked that. I liked it, too, when I had him, but I can't go out to Hubbard Woods all by myself. And André never cared about Hubbard Woods. He never cared about St. Tropez, either. He likes Chicago fairly well now. He doesn't like the climate; neither do I.
J: Ruth and I like St. Tropez, because we like the sun there.
R: Oh, the beach there is wonderful.
J: Did she tell you about the beach in St. Tropez? Did she tell you about the beach she went to?
R: What was that?
J: It was the nude homosexual beach.
R: Oh!
J: Come, on. That's the truth. It was next door to the nude family beach. But it was the nude homosexual beach.
R: I didn't know that it was homosexual.
J: Come on, there were all these good-looking guys. That's all there were.
R: Well, I walked along there in my little bikini all by myself looking at all these naked people, and I thought they all looked perfectly awful. And I looked a little beyond, and there were these gorgeous-looking boys all in a group. I said, I'll go up and see who they are. And they suddenly started waving at me. And it was all of the British Royal Ballet stark naked, and they looked divine. I don't know they were homosexuals. Maybe they were; maybe they
weren't. I didn't ask.
J: The first time we were there, I was a little aghast. We were there with Dolores and then Johnny came along. Dolores said to me, "Well, we can't" -- Johnny was about 18 -- "we can't possibly take Johnny to this beach." So I said to Ruth, as we had arrived, in the parking lot, "Maybe this is not such a good idea." And Ruth said, "Don't be ridiculous. Come with me, Johnny. I'll show you what life is about," and took Jonathan to the beach.
R: I don't remember that.
J: I remember that like it was yesterday. And also at the beach when Ruth went swimming, and we were with Mr. Lido . . .
R: Serge Lido.
J: . . . a Russian photographer transplanted to Paris. Ruth said she was very uncomfortable. I said, "Well, Ruth, then take off your suit." And she said, "I always do what my lawyer says," and took off her bathing suit.
R: That's nice!
J: It was shocking!
T: When was this?
J: This was -- when was that? -- five years ago, six years [sic]. The last time we were in St. Tropez together. Not too long ago.
R: I sold it about three years ago.
J: About five or six years ago.
T: I think this is great!
R: Nobody thinks about nudity there. There are nude beaches.
J: But you see it's interesting about our spouses. André doesn't like to sit on the beach, and Dolores doesn't like to sit on the beach. But Ruth and I like to sit on the beach. We could rot on the beach, where our spouses would think it is not intellectually rewarding.
R: Our spouses are too intellectual.
J: They're too smart for us.
R: I love the beach. It's good for your soul. It's bad for your body. Did you know that? The sun is very bad for your body -- I only found that out very late in life -- but it's good for your soul.
J: You see, Ruth will read on the beach. She'll use her time somewhat constructively. I won't. I just like to . . . .
R: Well, he's a lazy good-for-nothing.
J: But I like that . . . .
R: I don't believe it. You're a workaholic. You and your wife both are workaholics. They don't do anything but work. That's true, now, Jerry.
J: That's true.
R: All you like to do is work.
J: But I like the beach, too. Particularly when you took off your bathing suit. That was exciting.
R: Well, I'm getting hot.
J: No. We can't do that on film.
R: I don't ever go to Oak Street Beach here. It's too dangerous. I'm scared to go.
J: Well, you have to go with somebody.
R: Who will I go with? André won't go.
T: I'll go with you.
R: I'd rather have a man to go with. It's not safe down there. I'm not kidding.
T: Explain to Jerry about the picture.
R: Do you know this picture?
J: That's what Mr. Cecchetti said was "the most perfect arabesque."
R: Now, that's a hard pose to get into.
J: Tell me why.
R: Well, you see everything has to be just at the right angles. That foot's just at the right angle. Everything is right about this picture. And so I don't want it to go down to posterity as somebody else, which was in that book [Great Russian Dancers] as Spessivtseva.
J: It was a Russian ballerina person.
R: And they used this picture, my picture, with her name on it. And I don't know what to do about it.
J: I believe it's an invasion of your right to privacy. I think it's defamation and whatever it is, it's something awfully wrong. The problem is . . .
R: Is how to correct it.
J: . . . how to correct it, because they have this big expensive $45 book of which they have probably sold several thousands. So it will probably be good for the lawyers, bad for the publisher and bad for you, Ruth. But I'll have a lot of fun.
R: Why will it be bad for me?
J: Because it will cost you money to pay me to go litigate against the offenders.
R: Well, maybe you'll give me a little percentage off.
J: We'll give you a volume discount.
R: Lawyers are awfully expensive, I know that.
J: Very expensive. Because you were married to one for years, so you know how expensive.
R: I know all about lawyers. You can tell me nothing about lawyers.
J: But it is an interesting intellectual property issue. And I'm sure that they are in a lot of trouble, and I don't know what the answer is, because I think it's a very unusual problem. They usually don't make an error like that.
R: No, they don't. But I tell you, in Dance Magazine, which is published once a month, they make errors all the time. They have a little column where they apologize. But that book is set and published, and it will go down to posterity as Spessivtseva, I think it was.
J: No, no. They'll have to do something.
R: Well, I don't want them to give me any money. Money doesn't matter on this sort of thing.
J: No. Somehow publicize to the world that -- I don't know. You see, now, if it was a car, you could make them recall the cars.
T: Probably a lot of them are sitting in the warehouse. You could paste over on the page so it would be correct.
R: But the whole chapter is about her.
J: Right. So even the language that you're talking about isn't necessarily going to work -- except for books sitting there in the warehouse. But I'm talking about those books which have already been distributed.
R: Well, you better do something.
J: We'll do something fast. Somebody is looking into it at this very moment.
R: You're supposed to be a very good lawyer, I thought.
J: Well, I'm supposed to be. We'll try.
T: What would Tom have done?
J: Oh, he would have sued everybody. He loved to sue people. He would sue people. As a matter of fact, I told Ruth, I was getting ready to argue a case in the United States Supreme Court, and I came across a Tom Fisher decision, where he sued the car rental company over some charge that he thought was incorrect, and it went all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals -- where your husband sits -- over this day's car rental. He loved to sue. Tom was a person, if he lent you ten thousand dollars, and you said, "Here, Tom. Here's $9,999.99. I'm not going to pay you that penny." He would not take it, and just love to sue you for that ten thousand dollars. He really liked to be litigious. He was a litigious person.
T: You were involved in the King Ranch suit?
J: No, I wasn't, but as a result of that lawsuit, Ruth had certain property, part of the old King Ranch, part of Padre Island, [a] mineral interest. But he, before his death, litigated against the King Ranch trustees on behalf of two heirs, for thirty years, so that they just detested him. And there was a lawyer [at] Shearman & Sterling in New York, a firm I do a lot of business with . . . this lawyer would not talk to me because I was Tom's lawyer for his estate, until his partner certified that I was all right and they could talk to me.
R: I didn't know that.
J: He had a big argument with Mr. Kurlan. As a matter of fact, to show you how Tom was: they had a dispute with Mr. Kurlan for some mineral interest, and Mr. Kurlan paid into the clerk of the court to Tom $17,000 which Tom never took from the clerk. So, after his death, I got that money. It had been sitting there maybe ten years without earning interest.
R: Did you spend it foolishly?
J: No. We put it into the estate, where it belongs. He was very . . . .
R: Cantankerous.
J: No, litigious.
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