I vividly remember seeing Oscar Levant on Jack Parr and thinking that he was the wittiest and most clever person I ever had the privilege of hearing. Then I read his book, Memoirs of an Amnesiac, and I was sold. Concert pianist and composer were his main callings, but for me his brilliant and spontaneous wit was the main attraction.
So it came as a real shock to bump into Levant as I was entering the dentist’s office and he was leaving.
Oscar Levant! Am I glad to see you!
“Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome.”
Okay, but I’m not the only one to believe that you are/were a genius.
“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”
You object to being called a genius?
“What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.”
But you’re joking about the insanity thing.
“I was once thrown out of a mental hospital for depressing the other patients.”
That can’t be true.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.”
You look good though.
“Underneath this flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.”
Millions of people still adore your wit and talent.
“It’s not what you are, it’s what you don’t become that hurts.”
“I’m controversial. My friends either dislike me or hate me”
You made a lot of people happy.
“Happiness isn’t something you experience, it’s something you remember.”
Are you working on anything new?
“So little time and so little to do.”
But you must be in demand for talk shows.
“I’ve stepped on too many toes on the way down.”
But you would have a lot to say about what’s going on now in our world.
“It’d be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view.”
Maybe you just need to get more rest.
“I had always resented sleep as an intrusion on my nocturnal self-pity”
Ah, the amnesia thing still has a grip on you. Well, I’ll let you go but I just had to tell you how much I, we, have missed you.
“In some situations I was difficult, in odd moments impossible, in rare moments loathsome, but at my best unapproachably great.”
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.