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Styron, Updike, Bacall and Mailer Join in a Romp at Roseland

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Like pigeons, writers must hunt and peck (on their Olivettis) for survival. But they abandoned their solitary ways to flock to New York’s Roseland for a 10th-anniversary benefit for Poets and Writers, Inc. The organization, which aids struggling authors, needed to raise $50,000, and the literati obliged.

“This is like the great Hollywood parties,” trilled Jill (Perdido) Robinson, daughter of the late studio head Dore Schary. “Writers get energy from each other. I’ll write like mad tomorrow.”

Others, however, weren’t thinking that far ahead. “I’m astounded by Roseland!” exclaimed poet Richard Howard, an unworldly sort. “I thought the place would be tacky, but it’s just great. In the men’s room they have this machine where you can buy a comb for 25¢.” Toothpick-chewing John Updike scanned the ballroom packed with 1,500 guests. “I rarely go to parties,” he said, “but this is pure heaven.”

Norman Mailer, the gnome of Brooklyn Heights, was there, of course, accompanied by fiancée Norris Church. He even managed a tolerant chuckle when Abbie (Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture) Hoffman, out on bail and into the appetizers, patted his leonine head and announced, “So long, Norman. I’m going to see a real writer—William Styron.”

The author of Sophie’s Choice was foxtrotting. “I like to dance,” Styron explained. “There’s good mind-body contact.” His favorite author: “Outside of myself, Updike and Mailer.” Updike’s choices: “Woody Allen and Proust.” Betty Comden’s: “Lauren Bacall.” As for Bacall, whose autobiography, By Myself, was a 1979 best-seller, the evening was a welcome alternative to Book No. 2. “I’m working on something,” she acknowledged, “but if I knew what it was all about, I’d be at the typewriter now.”