A: Should we walk? It's really beautiful out.
Taxi was from Charleston, South Carolina—a confused, beautiful debutante who'd split with her family and come to New York. She had a poignantly vacant, vulnerable quality that made her a reflection of everybody's private fantasies. Taxi could be anything you wanted her to be—a little girl, a woman, intelligent, dumb, rich, poor—anything. She was a wonderful, beautiful blank. The mystique to end all mystiques.
She was also a compulsive liar; she just couldn't tell the truth about anything. And what an actress. She could really turn on the tears. She could somehow always make you believe her—that's how she got what she wanted.
Taxi invented the mini-skirt. She was trying to prove to her family back in Charleston that she could live on nothing, so she would go to the Lower East Side and buy the cheapest clothes, which happen to be little girls' skirts, and her waist was so tiny she could get away with it. Fifty cents a skirt. She was the first person to wear ballet tights as a complete outfit, with big earrings to dress it up. She was an innovator—out of necessity as well as fun—and the big fashion magazines picked up on her look right away. She was pretty incredible.
We were introduced by a mutual friend who had just made a fortune promoting a new concept in kitchen appliances on television quiz shows. After one look at Taxi I could see that she had more problems than anybody I'd ever met. So beautiful but so sick. I was really intrigued.
She was living off the end of her money. She still had a nice Sutton Place apartment, and now and then she would talk a rich friend into giving her a wad. As I said, she could turn on the tears and get anything she wanted.
In the beginning I had no idea how many drugs Taxi took, but as we saw more and more of each other it began to dawn on me how much of a problem she had.
Next in importance for her, after taking the drugs, was having the drugs. Hoarding them. She would hop in a limousine and make a run to Philly crying the whole way that she had no amphetamines. And somehow she would always get them because there was just something about Taxi-. Then she would add it to the pound she had stashed away at the bottom of her footlocker.
One of her rich sponsor-friends even tried to set her up in the fashion business, designing her own line of clothes. He'd bought a loft on 29th Street outright from a schlock designer who had just bought a condominium in Florida and wanted to leave the city fast. The sponsor-friend took over the operation of the whole loft with the seven seamstresses still at their machines and brought Taxi in to start designing. The mechanics of the business were all set up, all she had to do was come up with designs that were basically no more than copies of the outfits that she styled for herself.
She wound up giving "pokes" to the seamstresses and playing with the bottles of beads and buttons and trimmings that the previous manager had left lining the wall. The business, needless to say, didn't prosper. Taxi would spend most of the day at lunch uptown at Reuben's ordering their Celebrity Sandwiches—the Anna Maria Alberghetti, the Arthur Godfrey, the Morton Downey were her favorites—and she would keep running into the ladies room and sticking her finger down her throat and throwing each one up. She was obsessed with not getting fat. She'd eat and eat on a spree and then throw up and throw up, and then take four downers and pop off for four days at a time. Meanwhile her "friends" would come in to "rearrange" her pocketbook while she was sleeping. When she'd wake up four days later she'd deny that she'd been asleep.
At first I thought that Taxi only hoarded drugs. I knew that hoarding is a kind of selfishness, but I thought it was only with the drugs that she was that way. I'd see her beg people for enough for a poke and then go and file it in the bottom of her footlocker in its own little envelope with a date on it. But I finally realized that Taxi was selfish about absolutely everything.
One day when she was still in the designing business a friend and I went to visit her. There were scraps and scraps of velvets and satins all over the floor and my friend asked if she could have a piece just large enough to make a cover for a dictionary she owned. There were thousands of scraps all over the floor, practically covering our feet, but Taxi looked at her and said, "The best time is in the morning. Just come by in the morning and look through the pails out front and you'll probably find something."
Another time we were riding in a cab and she was crying that she didn't have any money, that she was poor, and she opened her pocketbook for a Kleenex and I happened to catch sight of one of those clear plastic change purses all stuffed with green. I didn't bother to say anything. What was the point? But the next day I asked her, "What happened to that clear plastic change purse you had yesterday that was stuffed with money?" She said, "It was stolen last night at a discotheque." She couldn't tell the truth about anything.
Taxi hoarded brassieres. She kept around fifty brassieres —in graduated shades of beige, through pale pink and deep rose to coral and white—in her trunk. They all had the price tags on them. She would never remove a price tag, not even from the clothes she wore. One day the same friend that asked her for the scrap of material was short on cash and Taxi owed her money. So she decided to take a brassiere that still had the Bendel's tags on it back to the store and get a refund. When Taxi wasn't looking she stuffed it into her bag and went uptown. She went to the lingerie department and explained that she was returning the bra for a friend—it was obvious that this girl was far from an A-cup. The saleslady disappeared for ten minutes and then came back holding the bra and some kind of a log book and said, "Madame. This bra was purchased in 1956." Taxi was a hoarder.
Taxi had an incredible amount of makeup in her bag and in her footlocker: fifty pairs of lashes arranged according to size, fifty mascara wands, twenty mascara cakes, every shade of Revlon shadow ever made—iridescent and regular, matte and shiny—twenty Max Factor blush-ons . . . She'd spend hours with her makeup bags Scotch-taping little labels on everything, dusting and shining the bottles and compacts. Everything had to look perfect.
But she didn't care about anything below the neck.
She would never take a bath.
I would say, "Taxi. Take a bath." I'd run the water and she would go into the bathroom with her bag and stay in there for an hour. I'd yell, "Are you in the tub?" "Yes, I'm in the tub." Splash splash. But then I'd hear her tip-toeing around the bathroom and I'd peek through the keyhole and she'd be standing in front of the mirror, putting on more makeup over what was already caked on her face. She would never put water on her face—only those degreasers, those little tissue-thin papers you press on that remove the oils without ruining the makeup. She used those.
A few minutes later I'd peek through the keyhole again and she'd be recopying her address book—or somebody else's address book, it didn't matter—or else she'd be sitting with a yellow legal pad making the list of all the men she'd ever been to bed with, dividing them into three categories— "Slept," "Fucked," and "Cuddled." If she made a mistake on the last line and it looked messy, she'd tear it off and start all over. After an hour she'd come out of the bathroom and I'd say, gratuitously, "You didn't take a bath." "Yes. Yes I did."
I slept in the same bed with Taxi once. Someone was after her and she didn't want to sleep with him, so she crawled into bed in the next room with me. She fell asleep and I just couldn't stop looking at her, because I was so fascinated-but-horrified. Her hands kept crawling, they couldn't sleep, they couldn't stay still. She scratched herself constantly, digging her nails in and leaving marks. In three hours she woke up and said immediately that she hadn't been asleep.
Taxi drifted away from us after she started seeing a singer-musician who can only be described as The Definitive Pop Star—possibly of all time—who was then fast gaining recognition on both sides of the Atlantic as the thinking man's Elvis Presley. I missed having, her around, but I told myself that it was probably a good thing that he was taking care of her now, because maybe he know how to do it better than we had.
Taxi died a few years ago in Hawaii where an important industrialist had taken her for a "rest." I hadn't seen her for years.