Before Nora was Nora

Nora Ephron took pity on me as a lowly peon at Esquire magazine. Then she found me a job

Topics: Nora Ephron, Death, Esquire, Magazine, Playboy, ,

Before Nora was Nora

The following originally appeared on John Blumenthal’s Open Salon blog.

Nora and I worked at Esquire at the same time — she as a columnist, me as a lowly fact-checker. It was 1973. We’d passed each other in the halls occasionally, perhaps rode an elevator together, but she had no idea who I was, and I wasn’t quite bold enough to tell her. Not that she would have cared.

Esquire was my first editorial job, and I was lucky enough to serve under the magazine’s legendary editor, Harold Hayes, who plucked me out of obscurity from a job as a house painter and whale’s tooth polisher on Nantucket Island. Esquire paid me exactly $65 a week, which, even in those days, was chump change.

One day, Nora stalked into the fact-checking area — a large room containing the four of us who made up the overworked department.  It wasn’t hard to discern that she was unhappy. For some reason, she chose me to snap at. I forget what it was about, but I snapped back, and she strode angrily out of the room.

Of course, I thought I was going to get fired. I didn’t. Instead, Nora asked me to accompany her to a literary party. Needless to say, I was a little bewildered given our first frosty meeting, but of course I said yes. Still, I wondered why she’d chosen me; perhaps she respected the fact that I, a peon, had not taken her guff lying down. I would find out the real reason years later.

Nora and I hung out for a while.  It wasn’t a dating thing — she was married at the time — but we’d go to gallery openings and literary parties together on occasion. One thing that impressed me about her was that she never abandoned me at any of those parties, even though she knew everyone there (everyone being the likes of Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Gay Talese, to name a few).

Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot of details. It was a long time ago, and when you’re young and self-absorbed, things are a blur. But I do remember that she was smart, sarcastic, mischievous, sensitive and ballsy: Dorothy Parker minus the mean streak.

A few months later, Harold Hayes, who had been grooming me to be an editor, left the magazine and was replaced by Don Ericson, who didn’t have any particular career-advancement plans for me. I had to leave, but I had nowhere to go.



Nora, sensing my dissatisfaction, corralled me in the office one day and said, “How would you feel about being an editor at Playboy?” I wasn’t sure. I had never been a big fan of the magazine, but living in New York on $65 a week was getting tiresome. I needed a new job. “The editor will call you tomorrow morning,” she said. He did, and I was hired.

Ten or so years later, I bumped into Nora at a party.We reminisced for a few minutes, exchanged small talk. I was still curious as to why she had chosen me to accompany her to parties and why she’d gotten me the job at Playboy. I figured perhaps she saw something in me — humor, intelligence, ambition. So I asked her, “Why me?”

She gave me that toothy smile and said, “Because you were cute.”

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>