Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jed Levin Talks About Ira Levin

   “I knew him both as a father and as a writer,” Jed says.  “He involved us in his writing life.  Not when he was writing books - he needed time alone then.  But once he finished something, especially plays, he brought us into that part.”
   Jed and his two brothers saw one of Ira Levin’s plays repeatedly.
   “I have no idea how many times I saw Deathtrap.
    “My father went to the out-of-town tryouts and, in New York, he went to every performance with a new actor – not just new leads, but any new actor.  He wanted to be able to confer with the director as to directions for the new actor.  Also, he liked to go to Deathtrap.  And he liked to take us with him.
“We went out to dinner at Sardi’s before hand.  We went backstage afterwards.
   “It was so much fun to be in the back of the theater.  We weren’t watching the play as much as we were watching the audience.  My father didn’t have tickets, of course, no seats - we just sat on the steps. We were fascinated by audience reaction.   We’d wait on the edge of our steps in anticipation.  How hard would they laugh at the jokes?  How much would they jump at the scares?  We never really got tired of it.”
    Jed wondered if I knew the play.
    “It’s great,” he said.  “It’s two plays – kind of a play about a play – something like the little play within Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  It’s funny and it’s suspenseful at the same time. There are lots of good twists.  I can’t tell you the plot.  You have to see it.  Go to one of the frequent revivals.”
     Ira Levin’s sons didn’t spend all of their time on the steps.  Sometimes they spent the second act backstage with Marian Seldes in her dressing room.
     “Marian was the female lead for the duration of the show.  She never missed a performance.  She was so nice.  We loved hanging out with Marian in her dressing room."
     Hanging out with performers in their dressing rooms, dinner at Sardi’s, fussed over by staff and celebrities, aware of his father’s impact in the theater, movie and book business – this was all part of Jed’s and his brothers childhoods.
     Deathtrap is the work of his that involved us most.  That was about 1974.  I was in the 4th or 5th grade when it opened and it ran for a good chunk of time.  Death Trap was something that was always going on in the background of my childhood.”
     When Ira Levin and Jed’s mother, Gabrielle, divorced the boys still saw their father frequently.  He took an apartment nearby their Wilton, CT home.  (Wilton likely provided the inspiration for Ira Levin’s “Stepford Wives”.)
     “It was a small apartment.  We slept on a foldout sofa, I think. We ate on his desk.  It was a big desk and at dinner time he would just move the typewriter.”
     What about all his papers and notes and other things spread out all over the desk?  I wondered.
     “No, no.  He was a neat person.  Meticulous really.  There would just be a folder of notes and an orderly stack of papers.  Easy to move.”
     Jed told me about “Drat! The Cat!”, a musical Ira Levin wrote.
     “He wrote the play, the lyrics, and he actually wrote the music too. They didn’t use that music though.  They advised him work with a musician for the melodies.  His were good though.  Very good.  My father played some of his songs for us in the on the piano.  We liked it.
    “Elliott Gould was in Drat! The Cat!  He was married to Barbra Streisand.  She recorded one of my father’s songs – “He Touched Me” – maybe as a way to help promote the play Gould was in at the time.   The song was a big hit lasting a lot longer than the play ran.
     “Such a charming play.  Too bad it flopped.”
     It flopped?
     “The New York Times went on strike just as the musical opened.  It was a disaster. The review wasn’t printed.  Wasn’t read.  No one knew about it.  The play closed early.
     “It’s just a matter of time, though, before someone puts it on again.  I’m surprised it hasn’t already happened. It was such a good musical.”
    Some time afterwards, the music for He Touched Me was used as background to a perfume ad.  “It was funny,” said Jed, “to hear it come on the TV.  ‘There’s Dad’s song’ we’d say.”

     What did Jed get from his father, Ira?
     “I really treasure his influence on me.
     “I value those interests of his that he passed on to me.  Movies – he loved movies.  The original King Kong was his favorite.  He was pretty clear about that.  That’s one of my favorites too.   I have his same general taste in books.  We both like Dracula and Sherlock Holmes and Poe.  Certain things I read make me think of him.
     “I remember him best when I am reading something we both liked.”

YouTube snippet from Deathtrap 2010 movie – British version

YouTube excerpt from 1982 Death Trap with Christopher Reeve


about the Roman Polanski movie, Rosemary’s Baby, based on Ira Levin’s novel

Guide to Drat! The Cat!

Ira Levin bio

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