Renate Druks and Ronnie Knox: an unlikely affair

Volume 8 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal has arrived and is ready for ordering.

We began discussing some of the articles in Volume 8 with a post on Reginald Pole, Nin’s “father-in-law,” and we continue with another, a film treatment by Tristine Rainer entitled “The Bohemian and the Football Player,” which examines the unlikely relationship between Renate Druks, a painter nearly 40 years old, and Ronnie Knox, a dashing but disturbed 24 year old athlete who had been drafted by the Chicago Bears after starring as UCLA’s quarterback.

Rainer and Druks had met through their mutual friend, Anaïs Nin, and remained friends long after Nin’s death in 1977. Rainer told Druks that her relationship with Knox seemed to be a great idea for a film. Druks responded that she was no writer, that Rainer would have to write the script. In the end, Rainer arranged for Druks to tell her story to a tape recorder and then transcribe the recording into text. After compiling a large stack of paper, Rainer edited it into the film treatment. While the film was never made, the treatment reveals in detail, and in Druks’ raconteur style, the nature of an impossible marriage between her and Knox. Knox, for starters, was afraid that his image would be ruined if he went public with his older, bohemian wife. So, he kept it secret, going as far as renting an apartment in Los Angeles, where he rarely stayed, to convince others he was single.

Renate Druks, Ronnie Knox, Anais Nin

Renate Druks, Ronnie Knox, Anais Nin

In spite of the odds, Renate Druks and Ronnie Knox had bursts of joy and many humorous adventures, some of which Nin incorporated into her final novel, Collages. There is truth in the following passage, in which the characters Renate and Bruce (modeled after Knox), are trying maneuver their sailboat in Holland:

They traveled for a while down the rivers and canals, admiring the soft landscape, the browns and greys so familiar from Dutch paintings. Then the motor sputtered and died. They were in the middle of a swift flowing river, becalmed.

The boat ceased to follow a straight course. Every now and then, like a waltzer, it took a complete turn in the middle of the river.

Its erratic course did not discourage the barges passing by with cargoes and racing for the locks. They traveled at full speed alongside the sailboat, not noticing that Bruce and Renate were rudderless, and that they might at any moment circle in the path of the swift sliding barges.

At one moment the sailboat skirted the shore and Bruce maneuvered it towards the right into a small canal. At this very moment the motor revived and pushed them at full speed under too low a bridge. Scraping this they continued to speed past quiet small houses on the shore. Bruce now could not stop the motor.

It had regained its youthful vigor. He stood on the bridge and remembered his western movies. He picked up a coil of rope and lassoed one of the chimneys of a passing house. This stopped the runaway sailboat but drew a crowd around them.

“Crazy Americans,” said someone in the crowd.

A policeman came towards them on a bicycle.

“You damaged a historical bridge.”

“I didn’t know it was historical,” said Bruce.

“You will have to appear in court.”

The irony of the story is that Knox wanted badly to be a bohemian writer, while Druks’ college age son wanted to be “normal,” as he perceived Knox to be. Knox gave up his football career to pursue writing, at which he failed, while Druks’ son went to college, where he was unable to fit in. The end result was tragic.

To see a web site devoted to Renate Druks’ art, click here.

To see another post on Druks, click here.

To further explore or order Volume 8, click here.