Matt Weinstock, Feb. 27, 1960
February 27, 2010 | 4:00 pm
Briton's a Stevereno
I've been reading the short stories by Peter Ustinov in the Atlantic and wondering how he does it. Acting, speaking, traveling -- and writing superlative fiction, I mean. In the versatility sweepstakes, he's Britain's answer to Steve Allen.
Ustinov was in town briefly this week for additional scenes in "Spartacus" -- he plays Batiatus, head of a gladiator school who buys a slave named Kirk Douglas -- and the big answer came through.
His secret is an amazing ability to concentrate. He can write anywhere -- on a plane, sitting with his family (three children) beside his swimming pool or between "takes" on a movie set -- without losing the continuity of a story.
Fred Banker, studio attache, swears he could write under water.
Some of his stories are grotesque, others deal with characters who have emerged from the chaos and ashes of World War II, as the one in this months Atlantic, "The Loneliness of Billiwoonga." They all have, like their author, great zest for life, compassion and irony.
Of course, he happens to be a genius, which also helps.
WHILE DRIVING on Angeles Crest Highway, en route to an auto racing rendezvous near Palmdale, Art White's brakes went out. He nursed his Morgan speedster along until he came to Vincent's garage at Highway 6. Vincent turned out to be a racing enthusiast and started to work on the brakes -- for which a new part had to be made, when an emergency call came in -- a tow job for a car that had overturned. As he left, Vincent told Art to use whatever equipment he needed -- he had a complete line of expensive English and German tools -- handed him a new pair of overalls so he wouldn't get dirty, and said, "Leave whatever you think it's worth."
In all the world Art does not think he'll ever encounter such hospitality as he did in a lonely, one-man garage in the desert.
We'd do well to consider
What Symington said:
That we've been less
Than we've been misled.
THE STORY IS told about a writer who in a talk before the Ebell Club here many years ago urged his richly dressed club-woman audience to get closer to the common people and thereby achieve better understanding. His plea was not received enthusiastically and afterward, relating the incident to a friend, he said, "I should have remembered the old adage: See no Ebell, hear no Ebell, speak no Ebell."
Fine, but along with others, doubtless, I've always wondered where the club got its name. The answer has been furnished by Frances Kirschenbaum of the UCLA library reference department.
Dr. Adrian F. Ebell graduated from Yale in 1863 and became a noted lecturer on art, literature and women's advancement. Later he established a natural science academy which offered a travel and study plan in Europe to women. After he died in 1877, a group of women in Oakland, Cal., where he had visited the year before, formed the Ebell Society, the first woman's club in the state. Since then, everyone has heard a great deal about Ebell.
FOOTNOTES -- This is the big night for aficionados of Miles Davis, who plays the saddest, most haunting trumpet you ever heard, and in the past few years has become one of the giants of jazz. Although I am a piano addict, I'll be there. Shrine Aud . . . Preparation for the Squaw Valley Olympics also included a 150 man cleanup crew, recruited here by Sydney Rosenberg of the American Building Maintenance Co. Ten of them can speak five languages . . . A reporter on a suburban paper turned in an item about the theft of a two-foot zero, a letter in a sign, and a proofreader who handled the copy said, "I knew someday we'd get a story about just nothing" . . . A W Pico Blvd. beauty salon gives trading stamps.