Amazed, Schrader nevertheless had neither the time nor the energy to unravel the mystery of his newfound friend.
“This went on for five, six months,” he says, “till finally it got so frustrating, all these aborted meetings, I just kind of let it go.
I never found out exactly who she was.”Nor, apparently, did Robert De Niro, who, friends say, also took Miranda Grosvenor’s phone calls.
We’re talking about someone who can con people into saying they saw her. I don’t remember how it ended, but he never talked about it afterwards.”The name Miranda Grosvenor, in fact, is one that any number of famous and respected figures would just as soon forget. “Oh, my God.”Friesen takes a moment to collect his thoughts as I list the names of some of Miranda’s confidants. He leaned over and asked Johnny Carson, “Did you ever have anyone come up to you at ‘21’ and say they’re a friend of mine? Ever since, he has made a hobby of collecting all the information he can about the woman who called herself Miranda Grosvenor. She knew his résumé by heart and within minutes had coaxed him into a conversation about his passion for 1950s doo-wop records. I was getting off on this mystery woman.”They talked for 20 minutes, and he invited her to call back anytime.
It’s very complex.”With her mellifluous, accentless voice—Henry thought she was British, others heard a hint of Manhattan’s Upper East Side—Miranda Grosvenor was a silky phantom who told men she was beautiful and blonde, lived in the South, did some modeling, and looked after her fabulously wealthy father in New York City. “No, never heard of her,” Gil Friesen tells me from his car phone one morning in Beverly Hills. “I have a book’s worth of material on her,” says Henry. She knew all about Big Joe Turner and the Platters and even mentioned a classic recording he had never heard but later rushed out and bought, a duet by Ray Charles and Betty Carter. That led to another long talk and then another and another, until Perry realized he was looking forward to her calls.
She said she was a beautiful, well-connected blonde named Miranda, and she enchanted an astonishing circle of powerful men—Billy Joel, Paul Schrader, Buck Henry, and Quincy Jones among them—with her flirtatious, gossipy phone calls. Intrigued, Schrader invited Miranda to call back, and she did, again and again. She knew who was where and who was going to do what project. And there was always sort of a tease, how good-looking she was, wait till you meet my friends.
The woman on the line introduced herself as Miranda Grosvenor, and before Schrader could get rid of her, she had somehow managed to keep him talking for 20 minutes, gossiping about Hollywood and a number of famous men she seemed to know all about. The information she had on people was very accurate.
The next morning the hotel staffer who had taken the message told Henry it had been left by a beautiful blonde woman who had stepped out of a fire-red sports car and was leading a tiny corgi dog. She got him thinking I was trying to wreck her relationship with him because I was so in love with her.” Perry did take Henry’s advice, however, to begin taping his calls with Ariana/Miranda/Whitney.“Ironically,” Perry says, “the first call I taped was the first time she told me she loved me.”The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. Instead of being put off, Perry was in awe of Whitney’s talents. Perry reluctantly consented, and the singer appeared at his house late one night, “completely love-struck,” as Perry puts it, “to pour his heart out about her.
Henry determined to find out who Miranda Grosvenor really was. Somehow, presumably using a reverse telephone directory, the stringer was able to come back to Henry and Ramp with an address in Baton Rouge and a name Henry had never heard: Whitney Walton. I’m adorable and so are you.’ And then the relationship kind of petered out.”Henry wasted no time briefing Perry on his mystery love’s real identity. It seemed she really could get anyone to fall in love with her. He wanted to marry her.” Perry consoled the young man, wished him well, and never saw him again.The men who talked to her, a number of whom now decline to confirm they did so, came from all walks of the high life; they were actors and directors, rock stars and record producers, athletes and politicians, even a journalist or two. A busy dinnertime crowd was buzzing around him when an aide handed him the phone, saying it was “Miranda from New Orleans.”“So who all’s there today? Mc Nally craned his neck and rattled off several names, including that of Alexander Cockburn, the Anglo-Irish journalist.“Alex! She probably told Brian what great spring rolls he made. “She had a tape of Alex, on [her] answering machine, I think, and she played it for me,” says Mc Nally. Occasionally an operator would break into the call and say something like “Senator Kennedy calling from Aspen,” an experience remembered by Mc Nally and others as well. Once, as he was fishing for information about her, Miranda volunteered that he would meet someone she knew the following Tuesday night. But he knows what people may say about a man who fell for a woman he had never met. Somehow, giving only the name “Ariana,” she managed to keep him on the phone.“[I believe] we’re talking about hundreds of people,” says Buck Henry. There’s lots of people who think they have seen her, and it was not her. In the early stages, Patrick was really, really— well, she was intriguing. Personally—and I didn’t say this to him, not till after, when Patrick would talk about her—I kept seeing this image of this lonely, very fat girl sitting in a room. I know that through Quincy.”Friesen dates his relationship with Miranda to the early 1980s, her heyday. “She just had an incredibly sexy voice and she had a great game, delivery, come-on. She suggested cryptically that he ask that person about the restaurant ‘21.’ That Tuesday, Henry was on and during a commercial break it hit him. “A blonde girl, good-looking too.”“My mind reeled,” Henry says. In retrospect Perry realizes she had done considerable research on him.Perry had pushed to meet her, but she always had an excuse: She had to study. A separate snapshot showed a white Ferrari parked on what appeared to be a college campus, with a blonde behind the wheel. Then, at a recording-industry cocktail party, Perry ran into Gil Friesen. And then Friesen told Perry of the frisky calls he had taken from Miranda Grosvenor, who said she lived in Baton Rouge but attended Tulane.When Friesen asked how his love life was faring, Perry told him everything. Both men realized it had to be the same woman.“It was a knife through my heart,” Perry says simply.“You actually started living for these phone calls,” remembers Brian Mc Nally, the noted Manhattan restaurateur and hotelier. We were going to hook up in Florida and of course that never took place, because that was never her intention. You know, Quincy thought she was this really large woman.”Friesen laughs. “She keeps you on the line because she has a very, very engaging way of making you feel that she is dying to talk to you. [Eventually] I think I just dropped it, once I put two and two together and realized this was one of the silliest things I had ever done. It was supposedly a wrong number, but then the woman on the line, who introduced herself as Miranda Grosvenor, seemed to have a spark of recognition. ” she exclaimed.“So we started talking,” Mc Nally remembers. She alluded to friendships with Warren Beatty and Ted Kennedy. “It was a confusing long-distance call, apparently from somebody I knew. music scene: one wall of his den is lined with the gold records he has produced over the years for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, and the Pointer Sisters; on another are dozens of candid photos of Perry with friends and collaborators, an arm around Frank Sinatra, cuddling with Diana Ross, sharing a laugh with Paul Mc Cartney and Ringo Starr.