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.

New Anais Nin Literary Journal issue coming soon

Volume 8 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal will be released after Anaïs Nin’s 108th birthday, February 21, 2011.

websitecoverimageThis issue contains letters from Anaïs Nin, Hugh Guiler, and Rupert Pole, between 1975 and the end of 1977. Never seen before, these letters shed light on two very important considerations near and just after Nin’s death: first, the degree to which Nin’s marriage with Guiler had deteriorated; second, the amazing alliance Pole and Guiler forged after Nin’s death. Guiler’s very first letter begins:

Dear Rupert: As we are going to be communicating with each other from now on I think it is well that I do what I can to make things as easy as possible for us both, and I want to start by being quite frank with you.

And then he reveals that he had been aware of the “special relationship” that Pole and Nin had “for more than ten years.” In what could have been a bitter exchange, Guiler instead reached out to Pole, and the two men developed mutual sympathy and ultimately respect. Volume 8 contains the first two letters between Pole and Guiler and subsequent correspondence as well.

Nin’s illness and subsequent death was the backdrop for this group of letters, and her illness was something she never publicly discussed or wrote about, except in her unpublished diaries, The Book of Music and The Book of Pain. Now, one of Nin’s friends during the last two or three years of her life, Barbara Kraft, has written a memoir entitled Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, from which the preface and first chapter are included as an introduction to this difficult and mostly unknown period.

Most of us are aware of the effect Nin’s father’s abandonment had on Nin’s love life, of the psychological need to re-conquer him through other men, and finally by trysting with her father himself. But there were other ramifications as well, which Kim Krizan highlights in her article, “Anaïs Style.” Nin is known to have dressed exotically, to have created her own outfits, to always have stood out from the crowd no matter her age. Where did this fascination—and even obsession—come from? Krizan insightfully makes a connection between the scars left by Nin’s father’s abandonment—and perhaps just as importantly, his exclamation of “How ugly you are” when she was ill as a little girl—and her need to dress beautifully, to “de-uglify” herself. Using quotations from the childhood diary, Krizan makes her case that Anaïs Nin’s lifelong fascination with style was actually an act of self-healing.

Tristine Rainer, a friend of Nin’s, was also close to another Nin friend, Renate Druks, the heroine of Nin’s final novel, Collages. In a sometimes humorous and sometimes distressing film treatment, Rainer uses Druks’ own commentary to tell the saga of her torrid affair with a young and tragic sports hero, Ronnie Knox, in her “The Bohemian and the Football Player.”

Also in this issue are criticisms of Nin’s writing by Nin scholars Joel Enos and Sonya Blades; a critique of the relationship between Nin and Maya Deren by Japanese scholar Satoshi Kanazawa; an analysis of Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Henry and June for his movie of the same title by Anita Jarczok; a recollection of Rupert Pole’s father, Reginald Pole, by Harry Kiakis (followed by the editor’s research on the once-famous Shakespearian actor); the introduction to The Portable Anaïs Nin by Benjamin Franklin V; photography, art, fiction, poetry, and reviews.

A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 8 will be released in a limited edition, so be sure to reserve your copy now. You may order in three ways: by credit card; with PayPal; or by snail mail. Price is, as always, $15.00.

Anais Nin Myth of the Day #16

Myth #16: Anais Nin didn’t have a sense of humor.

Fact: In his 1969 interview with Nin, Duane Schneider asked: “Do you have a sense of humor?” Nin was surprised by the question, but said: “I think the Diary is humorous; I think Collages is humorous… I don’t think I have what is called humor in the American sense. I have playfulness, and fantasy. But my humor is quieter; it’s more like the Japanese. I don’t like farce, broad humor” (A Cafe in Space, Vol. 5, p. 111).

What follows are some examples of Nin’s brand of humor:

In her published Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4, Nin describes a party shortly after the release of her Ladders to Fire, when one of the partygoers noticed smoke pouring into the room. Nin says:

“I telephoned the fire department. But the man who answered heard my French accent, and the gaiety in my voice, and believed it was a student hoax. I called out to Kendall: ‘You talk to him. He does not believe there is a fire because of my accent.’ We were laughing, uncontrollably, because we could not really believe the fire, because it seemed so absurd, because Jimmy stood there with his manuscripts, and because he said: ‘Oh, Anaïs, this is a publicity stunt, of course. On the occasion of Ladders to Fire, we set fire to the house and we will have to come down a ladder.’ We opened the windows. The house was only two floors high and we would fall on the grass and bushes, if the ladders to fire did not arrive soon. We heard the sirens. A huge fireman opened Jimmy’s door, ready to rescue us. How do you rescue people taken with uncontrollable laughter? ‘It was a publicity stunt,’ we said. He thought it was the champagne. There was a lot of noise around. Neighbors had come to watch. Two engines were standing there. And the climax came when the fireman said: ‘No danger. It was the lady downstairs, who left a cake in the oven, and that made all the smoke’” (Diary 4, pp. 171-172)

In a letter to Rupert Pole, dated Nov. 20, 1961, Nin, who was in New York, had their dog, Piccolo, “write” an addendum:

“Dear Rupert—there is a serious shortage of dog psychiatrists. Nobody understands I only pee at the United Nations just to be polite and international, I pee on the 57th St. corner of Tiffany’s just to be fashionable, but I reserve my fullest pee for my temporary home, to assert my temporary ownership, and each time the old German elevator man comes out and grumbles. It’s true I’m not paying any rent—but he should know dog psychology. Cold rainy day—Anaïs tells me you had the same. She hangs on that phone—I don’t feel I own her whole heart! But she brought me a leftover meal from her dinner with rich cousins. Love Piccolo” (A Cafe in Space, Vol. 5, p. 89).

In the novel Collages, which, in her dedication, she calls her “humorous book,” Nin describes a scene with her characters Renate and Bruce, based on her friends Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesen:

“And then one day at Christmas, the terrified animals ran down from the mountains. Renate saw them running before she heard the sound of crackling wood or saw the flames leaping from hill to hill, across roads, exploding the dry brush, driving people and animals down the canyons and pursuing them satanically down to the very edge of the sea. The fire attacked houses and cars, lit bonfires above the trees, thundered like burning oil wells.

Planes dived and dropped chemicals. Huge tractors cut wide gashes through the forest to cut off the spreading fire. Firefighters climbed up with hoses, and vanished into the smoke.

Somewhere, a firebug rejoiced in the spectacle.

Around Renate’s house there was no brush, so she hoped to escape the flames. She wrapped herself in a wet blanket and stood on the roof watering it down. But she could feel the heat approaching, and watch its capricious somersaults, unexpected twists and devouring rages.

Bruce helped her for a while and then climbed down. She was still holding the hose and soaking the house when she looked down and saw what first appeared to be the portrait of Bruce walking. The large, life size painting was moving away from the house and two feet showed below the frame, two feet in shoes just below the naked feet of the painting.

The first thing he had asked of her was to stop painting animals and women and to paint a portrait of him. He had shown her the long hairs which grew on his ear lobes and said: ‘You know that I am Pan, and I want you to paint me as Pan.’ He had posed nude, in the red-gold afternoon sun of Mexico, always showing the same half-smile, the pleasure loving, non-human smile of Pan. He loved the painting, admired it every day. It was the god of the household. When they traveled, it was he who had packed it lovingly. He would say: ‘If any injury came to this painting, it would damage me, something fatal would happen to Pan.’

And so today this was Bruce rescuing Bruce, or Bruce rescuing Pan in himself. At first the painting turned its luminous face to her, but as he proceeded down the hill she saw him behind the painting in dungarees and a thick white sweater. She saw a group of firefighters below; she saw the expression on their faces as the painting walked towards them, as they saw first of all a naked Pan with faunish ears, a walking painting with feet, and then the apparition of the same figure dressed in everyday costume upholding its twin, duplicate half-smile, duplicate hands; and they looked startled and puzzled, as if it were superfluous to rescue a mere reproduction of an original.

So Bruce saved Pan, and Renate saved the house but the fire seemed to have finally consumed their relationship” (Collages, pp. 27-28).

Nin’s relationship with her Peruvian lover, Gonzalo Moré, while fiery and chaotic, was also one in which humor thrived in their conversations. In the unpublished diaries from the 1940s, there are several examples of their discourse:

During a romantic tryst:

“Gonzalo unfastening my new panties with the garters attached and saying: ‘It looks like a pulpo (octopus)—how many pulpos do I have to unfasten?’”

A lazy conversation on a summer evening in New York:

“I said to Gonzalo how strange it is that the spermatozoa sometimes lingers in the womb before fecundating the egg. Gonzalo said: Yes, it’s slumming!'”

I said to Gonzalo: “Janet saw a hermaphrodite, half of her body a man’s, half a woman.” “And the sex,” said Gonzalo, “was it a banana split?”

He talked to me for a whole evening about the activity of the microbes. Coming home we saw lovers sitting in Washington Square. Gonzalo said: “I wonder what makes people fall in love!”

“Don’t tell me it’s microbes,” I said.

After one of their many quarrels:

“I said: ‘Last night I was enmerdé (bored stiff), and I was looking for you in the rain, and I was out for a fight, in fact all ready to throw lightning around and you must have felt it and you ran, off to the movies. You escaped a big scene!’

‘What was it,’ said Gonzalo, laughing.

‘I wrote about it and so it’s all in a book, and you’re safe.’

‘Estoy contento,’ he said. And slept with his hand on my leg.”

From a Spanish newspaper Nin and Moré read together:

“A man has to deliver a coffin. He takes it on the bus as soon as the deliveries are paralyzed after the Spanish revolution. There is no room in the crowded bus. He is sent up to the top. It is raining hard. He is getting soaked. He decides to get into the coffin and cover himself. More people come to sit on the top of the bus. They sit with their backs against the coffin. The man inside of the coffin listens to their conversation, gets bored, lifts the top of the coffin, sits up and says: ‘Is it still raining?’ The people threw themselves off the bus with fright, broke their legs.”

In the 1940s diary, Nin describes going to the staid home of Virginia Admiral:

“At Virginia’s house Hugo said: ‘It looks like the House of Crime and Punishment.’ I answered: ‘But it’s the House of Punishment without Crime.’”

A conversation with Robert Duncan in the 1940s diary:

“Wrote an article on astrology to order. Was nervous about it, being told it might be for Vogue. Wrote it lightly but Robert and Hugo thought it was not light enough. Robert took it up to make it humorous. I was sad…not to be able to be flippant.

I said: ‘I can’t flip!’

Robert said: ‘You must flip! Start on me if you wish. Make fun of me.’”

Special thanks goes to Rebecca (@anaisnin on Twitter) for inspiring this post.

The Characters of Anaïs Nin’s Collages: Renate Druks

The character who serves as a sort of Master of Ceremonies in Anaïs Nin’s final novel, Collages, named Renate, is based on one of Nin’s closest friends, Renate Druks. When Paul Mathiesen, one of Anaïs Nin’s many young homosexual friends at the time, paid her a visit in Sierra Madre in 1953, he mentioned Druks, a “Viennese painter” with a young son from a previous marriage. Shortly thereafter, Nin met her at Druks’ Malibu home and was instantly enamored. She’d found a soul not unlike hers: “Renate’s gift is a heightened mood which communicates itself to others. She creates in a state of natural intoxication” (Diary 5, 132).

Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesen

Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesen

It was Druks and Mathiesen who concocted a masquerade party for which guests were encouraged to “Come as your madness,” and this inspired one of the guests—avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger—to create Inauguration of the Pleasuredome, [the entire 38 minute film can be watched by clicking here] in which Nin, Druks, and Mathiesen appeared. One of the most iconic scenes is an abstraction of the costume Nin wore at the party, which she describes below:

I wore a skin-colored leotard, leopard-fur earrings glued to my naked breasts, and a leopard-fur belt around my waist. Gil Henderson painted on my bare back a vivid jungle scene. I wore eyelashes two inches long. My hair was dusted with gold powder. My head was inside of a birdcage. From within the cage, through the open gate, I pulled out an endless roll of paper on which I had written lines from my books. The ticker tape of the unconscious. I unwound this and handed everyone a strip with a message. (Diary 5 133)

Anger was a mutual friend of Nin and Druks, and through him both were introduced to Marjorie Cameron, a painter who appeared in Pleasuredome. According to Nin, “Curtis [Harrington], Kenneth [Anger], and Paul talked of Cameron as capable of witchcraft. She was the dark spirit of the group. Her paintings were ghostly creatures of nightmares. In connection with her, this was the first time I heard about [occultist] Aleister Crowley. There is an aura of evil around her. Her husband [Jack Parsons] was a scientist [with JPL] who delved in the occult. He was blown up during an experiment in his garage” (Diary 5131). (Today, there are those who wonder how it was possible a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer could wind up killing himself during a home experiment—but that’s a whole other consideration.) It is said that Nin largely dissociated herself from Anger and his circle because of her distaste for the occult—indeed, Nin only mentions one other meeting with Anger, in Paris in 1960.

"Come as Your Madness"

"Come as Your Madness"

Druks’ relationships with gay and bisexual men proved to be extremely painful. In Collages, the character Renate has a similar problem with her companion Bruce, who is a composite character of both Mathiesen and football player Ronnie Knox. Renate detests Bruce’s secret rendezvous with his young male lovers and is tormented by the lies and deception. Bruce then devises a method by which Renate can feel secure:

“It is my secrecy which makes you unhappy, my evasions, my silences. And so I have found a solution. Whenever you get desperate with my mysteries, my ambiguities, here is a set of Chinese puzzle boxes. You have always said that I was myself a Chinese puzzle box. When you are in the mood and I baffle your love of confidences, your love of openness, your love of sharing experiences, then open one of the boxes. And in it you will find a story, a story about me and my life. Do you like this idea? Do you think it will help us to live together?”

Renate laughed and accepted. She took the armful of boxes and laid them away on the top shelf of a closet. (Collages 29)

Of course, what Renate discovers in the boxes is too honest, too explicit and ultimately destroys her relationship with Bruce. In Nin’s diary, one can see from where the idea of Chinese puzzle boxes comes: “I have only seen [Mathiesen] angry and fierce once. Renate…is born to open Pandora’s box. Paul’s soul is like those Japanese boxes one can only open with infinite patience… (Diary 6 33). Paul says severely: ‘You insisted on entering a world which was locked to you. You crashed through. And now what you found hurts you… I have never given anyone what belongs to you (Diary 5 195). Renate and Paul eventually parted ways.

Druks’ son, Peter Loomer, as a young child was full of dreams and expressed himself through drawings that were far ahead of his age in their maturity. Nin collected several and eventually used some in her limited-edition paperback Solar Barque, privately published in 1958. Tragically, Peter committed suicide in December 1964 at the age of 21, just after the release of Collages. It was emotionally devastating to Druks, who, according to Nin, never truly recovered: “Renate went through an agony which was as terrible as the death itself. It was a nightmare from which she could not awaken…a period of insane grief. She wailed, and wept and lamented…her voice over the telephone was a long cry of pain. This was a bitterer sorrow than the ordinary death of a child. It was an unbearable burden on a mother’s sense of responsibility for her child” (Diary 6 371).

Although Druks and Nin remained friends till Nin’s death in 1977, the details of Druks’ life afterward is fuzzy, especially during her last years. According to a genealogy site, she died in 2007, but many of her friends today were, or perhaps still are, unaware of this. She seems to have dropped off the planet, so to speak, and those who tried to contact her during the past decade or so were given vague answers as to her whereabouts. Even her artist’s web site does not acknowledge her death. So there is a good deal of mystery surrounding Renate Druks, one of Anaïs Nin’s most loyal friends. Anyone having any information about her is encouraged to contact us at skybluepress@skybluepress.com.

Sky Blue Press has published Collages as an e-book for the first time. It joins several other Nin titles on Kindle: The Winter of Artifice, Under a Glass Bell, Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, A Spy in the House of Love, and Seduction of the Minotaur, and The Four-Chambered Heart, with others to follow.