Bernstein daily: Lenny’s gofer spills the beans

Bernstein daily: Lenny’s gofer spills the beans


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2018

LudwigVan Toronto has a review of a new memoir by Charlie Harmon, one of Lenny’s limitless entourage.


Bernstein smoked too much — this is probably what killed him at the age of 72 — drank too much, took too many Dexedrine pills to keep going, and partied too much. Charlie Harmon gives us all the gory details, and probably more than most readers care to handle, especially those like myself for whom Bernstein was a childhood idol revealing the mysteries of classical music on television as few teachers had ever done before…

Read on here.



  • Thomasina says:

    I imagine that he was a type that did not care about his health at all. But how much is that “drank too much”? Two days ago I was surprised because at the regular examination, my doctor told me to reduce the drinking amount (and I remembered Bruce’s comment of another thread). I drink 250ml-400ml of wine on weekdays and twice as much on weekends, but I think there are many people who drink more than I do……….

    • John Marks says:

      In the trenches of the Western Front during WWI, the daily wine allowance for a French soldier was 2.1 liters. That’s two standard bottles plus about two-thirds of a third standard bottle.

      Of course, the French General Staff was as afraid of a General Mutiny as they were of a German Breakthrough. So perhaps they wanted their own soldiers too snockered to organize anything unusual… .

      I have a wonderful World Wars joke that has to be told in French, but I am too tired to type it in right now.

      In any event, I have been advised that 4 “standard drinks” per day (that would be, one standard bottle of wine divided into 4 x 6.5-oz. glasses) is the boundary between “heavy moderate” alcohol consumption and “moderate heavy” alcohol consumption.

      The time factor is not to be disregarded. Four glasses of wine in one hour do far more liver damage than four glasses of wine spread over, one at lunch plus three more at even intervals from 5 to 10 pm.


      John Marks

    • Bruce says:

      “and I remembered Bruce’s comment of another thread”

      Was that me? What did I say? 🙂

      • Thomasina says:

        Yes, you told me about the “functional alcoholic”. I was hesitant when my doctor asked me if I could spend a week without drinking…but according to the comment above, the french soldiers were allowed to drink 2L per day! (Thank you for John Marks)

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    If you don’t drink, smoke and screw around, you may not live longer, but time will go by more slowly.

  • Hilary says:

    What a lovely guy he seems to be from this interview:

  • Herr Doktor says:

    Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but it’s not a state secret that Bernstein died of AIDS. I can’t tell you what specifically was his cause of death, but I’ve been told by several people who know that he was sadly another AIDS casualty.

    And by the way, some other posters on this blog have previously indicated the same thing in other posts, although I can’t recall specifically where.

    • Hilary says:

      The final photos suggest otherwise.

    • Mark says:

      That’s incorrect – he had a terminal COPD, and shortly before his death, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died of congestive heart failure.

    • John Marks says:

      Years ago I was told that the last time Bernstein was at Tanglewood, he would “ambush tongue kiss” unsuspecting people, and then dementedly sing-song something along the lines of

      Roses are red;
      Violets are blue;
      If I have AIDS,
      Now maybe you do.

      # # #

      “Stay classy, guy” is all I can say.

      Too bad the #metoo movement came too late to scoop him up.


      • Hilary says:

        If true, a bit naughty and tasteless but doesn’t immediately bracket him with the likes of Weinstein and Spacey.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          If true (and I rather doubt it is or it would have been reported before) it goes WAY beyond naughty and tasteless. More in the disgusting and possibly criminal category.

      • Bruce says:

        Well, if you heard it, it’s probably true. People don’t usually spread false rumors.

  • Richard Craig says:

    Have just ordered this book,can’t wait to read it should be quite gossipy and racy,I reckon anyone who worked for Mr Bernstein did not have it easy,I am at heart a Karajan fan but oh! Boy how he and Lenny where poles apart as personalities.

  • muslit says:

    Charlie Harmon wasn’t Leonard Bernstein’s type.