Death of a New American hits stores on April 9th. Until then—please enjoy the prologue!
A wedding took place on Long Island yesterday. This morning’s newspaper informs me that the bride, 67, is the star of a popular television drama. The groom, 25, was recently employed as a waiter. The two became acquainted at a clinic known for its success in treating alcoholics. It is the groom’s first marriage, the bride’s seventh.
The guests included many from the world of show business, as well as a former president who was also once an actor. A chimpanzee was the ring bearer. He performed his duties without incident. The actress’s adult daughter was not in attendance; she reportedly disapproved of the match, first on the grounds of the groom’s age, and second, that his resume included employment at a place called FunKey Nuts, an establishment popular in the Florida Keys.
The bride was walked down the aisle by her personal psychic. The couple was to honeymoon in the South of France; proceeds from the sale of the wedding photos would be donated to a cause dear to the bride’s heart: the safety and preservation of whales.
I happened to notice the story not because I was familiar with the bride or the groom—or even the chimpanzee—but because I recognized the house where the wedding took place. It is now a resort where a great deal of golf is played, but it once was a private home. I was there in 1912. I remember the year clearly because it was shortly after the Titanic sank, taking more than 1500 lives with her. It was a memorable year for other reasons as well. It was the time of the Bull Moose, when Teddy Roosevelt came roaring back to the political arena he had so recently quit. Eleven candidates fought for the favors of the small percentage of the American public able to vote—and women wondered if that fraction should not be enlarged. The arthritic Ottoman Empire was struggling to hold on to its European riches and 3000 cherry blossom trees arrived in Washington as a gift of the Japanese people.
And there was a wedding.
Then as now, there was a wealthy bride. Then as now, an eager groom, disgruntled relatives, and a suspicion that the match was more economic than romantic, although we were not so fussy about such distinctions back then. Then as now, the wedding was to be a glittering society occasion, an alliance that would result in prestige and wealth for all concerned.
But death intervened.