Marie 1973: The Diary of Marie Stanley

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Two weeks after my return from my second year at college, on June 15, 1972, I moved to New York City from my original home in Washington D.C. Because I couldn’t go back to school — my father had gone bankrupt — the sophomore year wasn’t even paid for.

That college, St. John’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico, had provided me with two years of intellectual training, and sanctuary from a hellacious adolescence under a pair of reprobates, my erstwhile parents. As an aspiring author, I had begun to flourish and find my footing as an artist in the rarefied atmosphere of the college, abiding in that elite population… Admittedly I was thus ruined for the prospect of having to earn my own living, and upon the lowest possible rung.

Those parents were divorcing — my father was unemployed, except under questionable circumstances, and my mother had moved in with her mother. My father’s apartment, where I had last lived, was inhabited by three reprobate bachelors… There was for a nineteen-year-old pissed-off woman no home to go back to. I had no skills, no job prospects, and remained furious with my parents for many years thereafter.

And how could I live with those people who, after urging me on to attend college, then trashed my every hope? But wasn’t New York a good idea… wasn’t the place teeming with brilliance, with artists, writers, painters, galleries… and publishers?  I was drawn irrevocably. I put on the brave face and though I made it seem New York was my desire, my goal — in actuality I had no choice.

After a rough two months living here and there, and scrounging at part-time work, I found a full-time position as a secretary in a  small advertising agency that catered to Wall Street financiers. I could not type worth a damn, but faked it fairly well. My best friend from school, George Coe, arrived in September and we got an apartment together at 92 Horatio Street — $300 a month.

Georgy was gay, I was gay, my boss was gay… and it was a very exciting time to be gay in New York. My coming out was something of a burlesque, one ridiculous amour after another, punctuated by marathon drunkenness, a few near-rapes, and some portentous amateur S&M. While I never exactly ‘made it’ in New York,  I made it through multiple perils, adventures, humiliations, and ecstacies philosophically intact — by the time I departed the town for good in 2005.

Marie 1973 is based on the idea I had sometime in December 1972 to keep a detailed diary of an entire year in New York – my first full year. It was a sort of challenge to myself, as well… could I stay a full year?  It opens with a New Year’s Eve party at the Mercer Arts Center, with Georgy and I “tossing down surges of Mumm’s.”  In a small, cheap diary I jotted down the days, and sometimes full details of travels uptown and down.

As I worked on the manuscript I found more files to draw upon, manila folders full of typewritten accounts, hacked out while my boss was out of the office. These include dreams, of which I had a vivid, constant supply, poems, and short, moody pieces. There is also a long, unfinished manuscript based on an epic dream I had of an Apocalypse… entitled The Fire.   (D’Annunzio already had taken the better title, The Flame. )  I worked on this for my entire life, the latest foray in the fall of 2001, when the impact of September 11 brought many of its details again to life. It remains in that limbo/maelstrom of the unpublished.

In short, this text of Marie 1973 is not strictly as it was originally written, in one fell swoop of a year.  It is a congealment of many writings done that year, including letters written (and copies kept) but I anyhow promise the reader that nothing has been made up. The additions only improved on the kaleidoscopic reality, I wasn’t living any kind of linear life anyhow… and I maintain the flat, staccato, inadvertently comic style of the original diary.

I began working on the diary as a novel in 1995, and finished it about eight years later. The excitement of publishing online led me to imagine it being presented as a serial diary, day by day. In the forty years that have passed we need not repeat that New York has roiled with change… but some things I am certain remain the same: there are still kids arriving on Manhattan Island with dreams, little money, and the will to prosper.

Some apologies may be in order for friends of the original Georgy, who appears as something of a villain. Not that he wasn’t a villain, to me. But to enlighten readers as per that constant iteration of his wanting to change his name to Christopher — he did finally become Christopher Coe, and the author of two novels, I Look Divine, and Such Times.

We did not remain friends past the year 1982, when I published my first book, The Correct Sadist partly because he wasn’t interested in reading it. So I have to say I’ve not yet read his. But I do believe he’s reading Marie 1973 wherever it is he’s landed. Nor can he complain that “Georgy the Christopher” does not come off as a loud, clear and strong character, as the wild and beautiful man he was, however deleterious his younger personality.  But we aren’t able to say I was any kind of charmer myself.

We came to New York to be writers, and in the immortal words of  Robert McAlmon  “to be geniuses together.”  I think you will concur that was duly accomplished.


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