ROSLYN & DURWARD—HAPPY? YES
“DADDY IS SUCH a gregarious guy,” Roslyn Hees Taylor is saying, “and Durward's mother's name is Madolyn. I just knew that at the wedding he was going to get the orchestra to play Paddlin’ Madeleine Home, and go bouncing up to her and say, ‘Come on, Madolyn, this is our dance.' And sure enough, that's just what he did.”
When l visited Durward and Roslyn Taylor in Washington, they had been married exactly one month and two weeks minus one day. The bride is the daughter of George Hees, politician, financier, bon vivant and millionaire, and the Toronto wedding was one of those storybook affairs that send society reporters scurrying for adjectives, such as “fabulous” and “glorious.” What really put the women’s pages into a tizzy, though, was the fact that the bridegroom is a Negro.
“They didn't know what to make of it,” Roslyn is saying. “Some of the papers just ignored the fact, [GEORGE HEES’ DAUGHTER WEDS u. s. LAWYER, read one headline.) Others gave the impression that we're so courageous.”
We are sitting in a Spanish restaurant called the Toledo, just around the corner from their apartment in central Washington. Roslyn is eating arroz con polio because she is a “latinphile.” Dur-
ward, like any good American husband, is eating steak, medium. “This doesn’t count as our winter dinner-out, does it, Durward?” pleads Roz in an accent that is now more Washington than Toronto. (When they were married, Durward, who hates restaurants, promised to take Roslyn out to dinner four times a year, once in each season.)
Durward Taylor is a lawyer, and a wary one at that. Bang, he asks me, “What do you think of miscegenous marriages?”
“I’m all for them.”
I gulp, never having thought about the Why before. “Because maybe there wouldn’t be so many problems between blacks and whites if there were more coffee-colored people — ”
“Beige babies,” chimes in Roslyn. “That’s what we call them.” But Durward Taylor, barrister, is not finished with his crossexamination. “Why else?”
“Because if marriages like yours were more common, I wouldn’t have to go around writing stories about them.”
He breaks into a grin. “What are you going to write about us?” I don’t know, I tell him. I’m hoping to be able to write a love story about two ordinary people who happened to have a lot in common, and so they fell in love and got married.
"That’s all right,'’ Roslyn says. “Just don't make us sound brave.”
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Can George Hees’s beautiful daughter Roslyn find happiness with a handsome Washington lawyer who happens to be a Negro?
ROSLYN AND DURWARD continued from page 20
“When I heard that I’d passed my bar exams, I cried”
In England last year, somebody tried to do a half-hour TV series about an interracial couple, but it never got on the air. But some clever American could build a terrific man-and-wife show around these two, I decide — sort of an interracial He and She.
SHE is a tall, lissome, 25-year-old brunette, who could have been a fash-
ion model if she hadn’t taken a master’s degree instead, according to Maclean’s photographer Horst Ehricht. (“A model?” her husband says incredulously. “If there’s a piece of thread on the floor, Roz will trip over it.”) She holds an executive position with an international organization, and every day she rides off to work on her
Honda. (Once, she got a traffic ticket for riding it while eating an ice-cream cone. Durward defended her and got her off.) In your heart, you know she has a very rich father, but somehow she makes you forget it.
HE is a wiry, athletic guy, just under six feet tall, with handsome, mobile features, a mind as fast as a
submachine gun, and a lady - killing smile. When he wears his “lawyer suit” to the Lawson, Lawson, Nesbit and Chaikin firm, Monday to Friday, he looks every day of his 32 years. Weekends, running around in his turtleneck sweater, desert boots and Pontiac Firebird convertible, he looks more like a college kid. He’s worked his way up from a very poor family, and you realize that’s one thing he’ll never forget.
Oh yes. He likes all-American food — steak, hamburgers, potatoes; She likes haute cuisine. He likes jazz; She prefers classical music. He likes quiet dinners at home; She likes dining out. He likes to save money; She likes to spend it. But aren’t most married people that way?
They are Superpeople — brilliant, beautiful, with-it, and prize catches within their own respective races. And when you first meet them, you can’t help wondering: Why did they choose all the problems of an interracial marriage, when they could have married nearly anybody else they wanted?
Talk about dissimilar backgrounds. Roslyn is the third and youngest daughter of George Hees. She grew up in Toronto and was educated at private schools, Swiss finishing school, and McGill University. Political luminaries, dignitaries, company presidents and diplomats were Friends of the Family. Music, art, culture and education were taken for granted. By all odds, she should have married an aspiring Young Conservative from Westmount or someplace, and lived WASPily ever after.
“My family was always poor,” Durward says bluntly. (Not, you will note, “underdeveloped” or “culturally deprived”: poor.) He describes his father as an intelligent man whose ambitions were thwarted by the Depression and the arrival of twin sons — Quentin and Durward (after Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Quentin Durward)—and a third son, Gary, born 18 months later.
Taylor, Sr., did odd jobs and Mrs. Taylor took in washing. But a grandfather on one side had been a Methodist bishop, a grandmother on the other side, a schoolteacher; and the Taylors encouraged their children to stay in school as long as they could. The boys moved from segregated school to segregated school, and wound up at Washington’s Howard University, a Negro school. “When I finally heard that I’d passed my bar exams,” Durward says, “I put my head down on the table and cried,
I was so happy. I was the first in my family to get a graduate degree.”
“He’s a Negro Abraham Lincoln,” Roslyn teases at this point. “Honey, were you really born in a log cabin?”
The next day is Saturday. Photographer Horst Ehricht and I go around to the Taylors’ home, a cheerful tworoom, $110-a-month apartment in fashionable uptown (as contrasted with unfashionable downtown) Washington. Roslyn says that the long cushion-back chesterfield is Hers. The wooden Scandinavian chairs are His. She points out their treasure on the living-room wall: a 65-year-old clock they found in Virginia. “We can drive into northern Virginia,” Roslyn explains, “but we don’t dare go any farther south.” There’s still very
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ROSLYN AND DURWARD continued
Reminder for Durward: “Don’t be late for the wedding”
strong feeling against miscegenous marriage in the southern states, she says, and people might make things unpleasant or difficult. “They take away your driver's license on some pretext — that sort of harassment.” The coffee table is an old chest they found in a junkshop. painfully refinished by Durward in three evenings
of scraping. The great open fireplace is unfortunately for show only, and doesn’t work. The "kitchen” is a built-in wall, hidden behind a bamboo curtain. The landlord is a Scrooge who locks the thermostat so they can't turn it up.
It's the kind of apartment that all newlyweds should have, and most do.
Durward is wearing his high-laced skydiving boots, all of which leads to his Anecdote Number One. (“Durward has three anecdotes,” Roslyn explains. "When he meets people for the first time, they think he is so amusing." )
Anecdote Number One concerns the time they decided to take up sky-
diving. (“Way before we were married, we decided we were going to try every kind of new experience there is.”) On their first try, standing at the airplane hatch, Roslyn was terrified, but managed to jump anyway, “because they would have had to bring the plane down to let me out, and it would have been so humiliating." During the fall itself, she was so petrified she forgot to steer the parachute, and landed a mile off course on the roof of an apartment building.. She wasn’t hurt, but managed to demolish a chimney, and had to be brought down by the fire department. all of which was so embarrassing they never went up again.
Anecdote Number Two is the time they went skiing in Pennsylvania, and Durward fell off the ski-lift five times, and finally spread-eagled himself on the bunny hill, splitting his ski pants from stem to stern.
They laugh a lot, these Taylors — at themselves, at each other, at the world.
Best way: be inconspicuous
This afternoon, they arc going shopping in Georgetown, which is Washington’s Olde Chic district. Washington has just had one of its four annual snowfalls, and we trek through the slush, in and out of dozens of Nouveau Cute shops. Roslyn buys a lot. Durward sulks a lot. Horst Ehricht tries to get a photo that shows a lot of warmth and insight, but he has a hard time: the Taylors rarely hold hands on the street. Roslyn explains later that Durward, like many Negroes, finds that the best way to make it in life is to be inconspicuous. This means avoiding public display of affection with a white woman — even if she is his wife.
We stop at a place called Billy Martin’s Tavern, a dark, old, heavybeamed place that serves great seafood. “Daddy spent ages here once, waiting for Durward,” Roslyn says, over her clam chowder. “A couple of years ago, he was passing through here on business, and I told him, you've got to meet this terrific man. And then Durward showed up for lunch an hour and 20 minutes late. Daddy was really ticked off: he kept remembering it right up to the day we were married. Mother kept saying to Durward, ‘Whatever you do, don’t be late for the wedding.’ ”
“I was terrified,” Durward explains. “Have you ever met him?”
No whirlwind courtship, this one. The couple met three years ago, while Roz was taking her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. At that time, Durward was working as a lawyer for the Poverty Program, giving legal aid to those who couldn’t afford it. A mutual friend. Ann Meitzer. introduced them: “1 thought
they'd be sufficient punishment for each other.”
“Roz wasn’t the first white girl to come to our house.” says Durward. “It wasn’t a thing my parents encouraged. though. They had the normal parental questions about the dangers of intermarriage: What would happen to our children? What would this do to me professionally and politically?”
Saturday evening. Durward’s best
friend. Robert Griffin — known universally as “Grif” — drops by, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Billy Hansen. Grif is a handsome, moustached, light-skinned Negro, a jovial, gentle fellow who is perfect for the role of Husband’s Sidekick in this TV series about the Taylors which, by now, I am secretly planning to write. Billy Hansen, married to Grifs sister, is an educational-film producer, currently working on a joint U.S.National Film Board project. Billy is wearing his hair in the long, bushy "Afro” style worn by Black Power supporters.
For my benefit, Roslyn asks Billy what he thinks of her marriage to Durward. “It was a mistake,” he says bluntly. “Ten years ago, or 10 years from now, it would have been all right. But right now, it’s all wrong.”
“Why?” Grif asks. He likes Roslyn, and spent the better part of three years convincing Durward to give up his bachelorhood for her.
Billy likes Roslyn, too, but he admits he looks at things in a “black context,” knowing that there are far more educated Negro women than educated Negro men. “For our people, it was wrong. Durward is a lawyer. He’s made it, in a very tough world. But then he turns around and shares the result of all this hard work, not with a black woman which would have been the right thing, but with a white woman who would have made it anyway.”
When they leave, Roslyn turns to me and says, “We know a lot of people like that: there are people now who won’t associate with me and Durward. And there are other people who like us personally, but object to what we’ve done on principle.”
Some Negroes, she says, feel as Billy does: that Durward has “sold out to Whitey” by marrying a white girl. And some white Americans, she says, classify Durward as an “uppity Negro” — a Negro who thinks that the ultimate sign of success is to marry a white woman. These same people, she says, consider a white girl who associates with Negroes to be no better than trash. She shrugs. “But it doesn’t matter: we’ve found enough people who agree with us, on both sides of the fence.”
Like his father-in-law, Durward Taylor is a handsome, charming political animal. At one time, he was involved with the Young Democrats: at meetings, Grif would be told to take Roslyn home, while Durward charmed all of the female Young Democrats into voting for him. Right now, his political future is a little vague, but he knows he is going to do something one day. “Do you believe in signs?” he asks. He goes on to explain that the number 2 has played an important role in his life: he was one of a pair of twins, born on the 22nd day of the second month (George Washington’s birthday) in 1936, a year divisible by two —
“— of two parentsadds Roslyn.
He talks about this recurring dream he has had since his early teens. Ffe is in a bowling alley, which is all black and white tiles. He is standing against a white pillar, and way off in the distance, a tiny pinpoint, comes a gigantic black bowling ball, rolling toward him noiselessly. Just before it
rolls over him, it crashes through the floor and shatters. “And I think, how can I put this ball together again? Heat? Glue?” And this overwhelming feeling of frustration comes over him because he can’t put it together. And then everything goes blank. And then, way off in the distance, he sees this black bowling ball, just a pinpoint, rolling noiselessly toward him, getting bigger and bigger . . .
One evening when a group of people were talking about dreams, Durward
started telling about this dream. And then his twin brother Quentin began to chip in the details. And it suddenly occurred to them both. “Man, you been having this same dream, too?” An amateur psychologist would probably analyze this dream as having significant racial overtones. And he might be right. But certainly, Durward has never been deeply involved in the civil-rights movement. (“He never went to Mississippi in the summertime,” Roslyn explains, “because
he was working to pay his way through school.”) He believes there are ways other than revolution to help his black “brothers”: “You struggle to make it as a person — not a white or a Negro — in the white world, inside the white power structure, and then you go back to the ghetto when you’re in a position to do something.” Sunday afternoon. Quentin drops by. He is nearly indistinguishable from Durward except that he wears
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ROSLYN AND DURWARD continued
“What was bugging me was, how would Roz’s parents feel?”
glasses and has a slightly squarer head. A graduate engineer, he has been married to a Negro girl for several years, and has a new baby daughter. He’s sort of a Durward on tranquilizers, 1 decide. Roslyn’s best friend. Ann Meitzer, pops in, too, with a present for Durward: a black poster with brown lettering, saying, “Keep the Faith, Baby.”
Durward cracks up. “When am Í getting my mezuzuh [a Jewish goodluck charm I?” he asks Ann, who is a Jewish girl from Boston. (Ann is a CIA agent in this TV series 1 am doing; she is going to play the Wile’s Sidekick: she’s a kind of young
Vivian Vance.) Durward declares that his secret ambition is to wear a mezuzah around his neck to a Buddhist meeting with his white wife: “How’s that for confusion?”
For whites, a different style
“There’s a big interracial communications problem,” Durward says later. “1 change my style of conversation when I’m with white people — drop my slang.” It he talked with me as he does with his Negro friends, he adds, I wouldn’t understand a word. “At first, when we were with my acquaintances, Roslyn couldn’t get what was said, but she tried awfully hard, and stayed long enough to understand. She fitted in with my world, where I’d seen a lot of other people draw blanks.”
This is what Durward calis Roslyn’s “Baptism of Fire.” “I tried a lot of different scenes with her — both hers and mine, with the resultant idea that if maybe we had made it this far. we could swing the whole deal.”
Roslyn concurs. “In a miscegenous marriage, you’re going to have a lot of difficulty with the outside world— if you’re going to deal with it, you’ve got to be a united front. If there are any deep misunderstandings between you, you’re dead. It’s not enough to love each other: you’ve got to really understand each other.”
Last spring, they began talking seriously about marriage. “I guess the last thing that was bugging me was Roz’s parents — how they’d feel about the whole thing,” Durward says. When Roslyn took him up to Canada for a visit, he gathered enough courage to ask her mother, “What would happen if sometime I called you up and said I had three weeks off and 1 wanted to bring my three children to visit you at your summer home?”
Mabel Hees pointed to one of her grandchildren, who was playing nearby, and said. “Durward, if they were yours and Roz’s, I’d love them as much as that little child over there.”
Finally, he proposed. “We had been at the zoo on her Honda one Sunday afternoon, and I was getting ready to go out that evening. I said, Tf I decided to marry you, what would you say?’ ”
“I’d say yes,” said Roslyn.
So Durward nervously wrote a formal letter to George Hees, asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and Roslyn made him rewrite it. “He
made it sound like he was pleading a Supreme Court case,” Roslyn recalls. “‘I think this merger would be propitious for all parties concerned . . . ’ ” And so they were married in a great beautiful wedding in St. Thomas’ Church, Toronto, shortly after the Conservative leadership convention. (“If Daddy had won, we would have
had a small wedding, because it would have been just too much work for Mother.”) Mrs. Hees, whom her daughter describes as a “born organizer,” arranged all of the details.
When the couple left the church, 10 press photographers pounced on them. In the social pages, the wedding took precedence over Bobby Kennedy’s
visit to Toronto. “I don’t understand,” wailed a bewildered Durward. “We haven't done anything important.”
The honeymoon was in Jamaica, where, true to form, the bride nearly drowned when her scuba-diving gear sprung a leak. Anecdote Number Three.
Monday noon. Roslyn’s office, where she works as Assistant Director, Latin American Department, of the Population Reference Bureau. It’s a large, modern building on tree-lined
Massachusetts Avenue. On her wall is an Eskimo print. Across the street from her window, a Canadian flag waves in the breeze, “it’s the Canadian Embassy,” she says. “I used to go around there a lot when Mr. [Charles] Ritchie was there. He and his wñfe are old friends of the family.”
Roslyn still retains her Canadian citizenship, although she had to take out an immigration visa to work in the U.S. “I probably won’t become an American citizen, though, unless Dur-
ward becomes deeply involved in politics.”
Have they ever considered going to live in Canada? “I couldn't do that to Durward,” she says. "There is no substantial Negro community there: he would be living in a white society. I could never take him away from his roots.”
So 1 ask the obvious question: hasn’t she given up her roots and married into an entirely different world?
She shakes her head. For a funny girl, she can be very serious, very articulate. "No. Durward is moving into a far more different world than I am. When you grow up as a nice WASP, you have a sense of selfconfidence and security. But the average Negro is born into a fairly constricted culture: he doesn't have as much cultural exposure: travel, art. theatre . . . When he goes to move into the professional world, black or white, he has to adjust to a whole new thing.
And frequently, he doesn’t feel very secure."
The Hees jaw juts out. “Durward has a lot of drive to catch up — he wants to learn everything. 1 respect him a great deal more than someone who has had all the advantages: lie’s made himself what he is by hard work and effort.” Westmount Boy. 1 think, you didn’t have a chance.
I remember the previous evening, when Roslyn declared she could never have married a man she didn't consider her superior. “Do you think I’m your superior?” Durward asked, surprised. “Do yon'?“
Monday night. Horst Ehricht has gone home to Toronto, hopefully with at least one warm tender photo. SHE is fixing Hamburger Stroganoff in her Indian-toweling hostess gown. HE is listening to a record of jazzman Bill Evans playing Chopin. Now that’s adjustment for you.
Inevitably, the conversation comes around to beige babies. “When we have a boy,” says Durward, “he’s going to be a person, first of all —just a George or a Quentin or a Durward. He’s not going to identify himself as black, white or green unless he gets his back up against the wall . . . and then we’re going to make sure he’s strong enough to fight back.”
“But he's got to know he’s a Negro.” Roslyn interjects, “and he’s got to be proud of it. Because there's probably still going to be trouble, while he’s growing up. It all depends on how the world is then.”
The rain has washed away all the Washington snow. I get on a plane and go back to Canada, with the words of Durward Taylor on playback in my head:
“Everybody has a lot of veils up in front of themselves. There’s only a handful of people in your whole life that you can really communicate with. And when you meet one of these people, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks ...”
And that’s what it’s all about, man. ★