A DISCUSSION OF GHOSTS, IN EXCERPTS FROM 1979.
Byline: Beverly Grunwald, April 1979
At twilight in Key West, I sit sipping wine with Tennessee Williams. We are surrounded and enclosed by a lush, man-made jungle. Huge palms tower above us and cast ghoulish shadows everywhere. It’s like a stage set for a murder mystery.
Would he ever write one? “Never. I hate them. Life is enough of a mystery….”
Tennessee Williams is annoyed at critics who say he hates women or that his female characters are men in drag. “It’s not true,” he protests, “I admire women. Their sensibilities are keener than those of the male. Just because my affairs have been with men doesn’t mean I don’t like women….”
He pulls a sheet out of his typewriter “I’m writing a new play,” he says with enthusiasm, “I call it the ‘ghost play’ — about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. They’re both dead. Zelda died in a fire the night before at the asylum in North Carolina and he’s been dead something like nine years. I call it ‘Clothes for a Summer Hotel.’ Everybody’s going to be a ghost.”
Tennessee never knew the Fitzgeralds but he once did meet Hemingway, whose ghost will also appear, at a party in Havana. “I was afraid of greeting him. It was a terribly rough image that he had, you know. When I did meet him, I found him quite gentle and charming.” About Hemingway’s suicide he says, “I think people should kill themselves when they can no longer function as writers and when they are going to, you know, disgrace themselves.”
He is more frank than bitter about his own unfortunate experiences when he combined drugs and liquor and wound up in what he calls “the looney bin.” He says the only drug he takes now is Valium, and he drinks more white wine than hard alcohol. Still, he looks back rather wistfully to the time he went to Dr. Max Jacobson, of Dr. Feelgood notoriety. He says the intermuscular shots he got inspired some of his finest writing.
He loves his sister, who has spent most of her life in an institution. His mother had agreed to a lobotomy for her and, ever since, she’s been schizophrenic. She imagines herself the Queen of England. When Tennessee takes her to a restaurant, she haughtily ignores the captain and selects her own table.
He doesn’t hesitate to laugh at the fact that his mother, sometimes lucid, sometimes senile, imagines she’s sleeping with a horse. “That’s all right,” he chortles. “She always loved horses.”