12 October 1951 / New York City

When Susan told me she had someone she wanted me to meet, I naturally assumed she was talking about Karl Malden. Long has she known my great desire to befriend him. And she also knows every attempt I’ve made to be in the same room as the great actor has been thwarted by either miscalculations, misunderstandings, or those miscarriages Judy Garland lied to me about so I’d feel bad and buy her a gin gimlet factory.

It was nearly 6 PM when Susan phoned my hotel room, all hushed and secret sounding, and I half suspected she’d kidnapped Karl, like she’d kidnapped so many others before. I was more than a little annoyed.

As always, it’s just in good fun for her, the kidnappings, like a joke. But she conducts them with such deft professionalism and precision, her “victims” have little question that this is the real deal, a hostage situation, or some sort of revenge fantasy by a jilted lover. It’s unspeakable to put a person through that just for fun. (Unless, of course that person is Cary Grant, who, I remember hearing when he was kidnapped by Susan, was really into it and kept asking to be put in the “sex tank”)

But Karl Malden does not want to be put into any sex tank!

What have you done to Karl Malden!?! I burped at her (I was eating my pre-dinner submarine sandwich) and threw the phone through the wall. Before my neighbors could raise a fuss, I was out the door, bounding down the stairs then onto the street, sprinting toward her apartment.

I got to her Gramercy flat in no time and smashed open the door with a donkey kick…. to see not Karl Malden, but an older Midwestern woman and man. They were completely shocked and confused by my sudden appearance. (I should note here that I was still wearing only my sandwich-eating catch-all towel, so worried was I for Karl’s safety I neglected to change into a proper kimono.)

"Is that Bent I hear?" Susan’s voice sang out from the kitchen.

She appeared, wearing a conservative dress that would more likely be seen on an off-duty nun than my friend Susan. So accustomed was I to her form-fitting dresses, the ones through which the phrase amongst her peers was born: “When Susan Joy enters a room, so does her genitalia,” that now I was the one who was confused.

“I’m soo glad you’re home, Bent, my dear husband!” She peppered me with kisses as I stood there. “My husband, my husband! You are my husband and I am your wife!” I was beginning to think she didn’t actually have Karl Malden in the other room.

She continued, “These are my parents, Bent, and they are all the way here from Nebraska to finally meet my husband. You. Bent Magnus, my husband. Nod if you understand me.”

There was silence and all eyes were on me. I slowly nodded, buying time until I fully understood the scene. The seconds grew to minutes, my rhythmic nodding putting everyone in a trance. But I still could not grasp what was happening here. Until suddenly… I did.

As everyone, including myself, was half asleep from my nodding, I was only able to muster the speed and strength of a sea barnacle to clunk the two hicks’ heads together. But it was enough. They were out cold, collapsed into two plaid heaps on Susan’s carpet.

Of course I deduced it was Susan who was being held hostage by these two, her strange code-like language making that clear. The kidnapper became the kidnappee, and maybe a lesson will be learned. Serves her right.

Except, it turned out that the two actually were Susan’s parents. Apparently, she wanted me to pretend to be her husband so she could be sure to inherit their luggage set.

So relieved was I that she hadn’t kidnapped Karl Malden, I was game to participate. When her parents came to, we pretended a major earthquake had caused their concussions, then proceeded on with the evening, Susan and I acting as wife and husband.

This whole situation, by the way, created some truly hilarious and unexpected hi-jinx. Mainly, I’m thinking about all the sex Susan and I had to simulate in front of her parents. That actually reads sort of creepier than I remember it, but I’m fairly sure we were all laughing.

Well, I know there were a bunch of other really funny bits in there too, and actually, come to think of it, a couple of touching tender moments involving my son, who met up with us at the restaurant (he was really a busboy). I’m going to give Danny Thomas a ring to see if he could use the whole scenario in television.