Leonard the Liberator

From David Denby’s review of Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein by Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein:

As a young man, Leonard Bernstein was prodigiously gifted and exceptionally handsome, and he slept with many men and with women, too. He seemed to be omnisexual, a man of unending appetite who worked and played all day and most of the night, with a motor that would not shut down until he was near collapse…

Bernstein, one might say, liberated the Jewish body from the constraints felt by the immigrant generation, including his father, Sam, who relinquished his severe, stiff-collar demeanor only when celebrating the High Holidays with the Boston Hasidim. For Lenny, every day was a High Holiday.

Liberate the Jewish Body!

In 1970, before entering Harvard, Jamie Bernstein spent the summer at the Tanglewood Music Festival, where her father had flourished as a young man. After a while, she heard tales of his earlier days (“moonlit naked swims in the lake, scurrying between practice cabins . . . you weren’t supposed to hear such things about your own father”)… Jamie’s sense of her father as a sexual being, and his superabundant warmth with his children, added to her own romantic difficulties.

Imagine that.

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