met Diane. “I was a John Robert Powers model, but not a very good one. I was walking down West 70th Street one day on a photographer’s go-see, and there on the other side of the street was this young woman with the most extraordinary presence about her—she seemed haunted. She had wild, startling eyes and she was carrying a paper bag instead of a purse and she filled the space around herself with an almost palpable mood. Anyhow, we both stopped and looked long and hard at each other and then we walked on. And I thought, ‘I’ve got to meet her!’ And then I came to this beat-up brownstone—I climbed the stairs and rang the bell and a man answered. He was wearing a freshly pressed, very white shirt and slacks—turned out to be Allan Arbus, the photographer. I gave him my portfolio…he barely looked at it, he said, ‘You have a funny expression on your face.’ And I started telling him about this extraordinary woman I’d passed on the street—didn’t know who she was, but she had this look—and then suddenly the door opens and Diane appears and I think excitedly, ‘That’s her!’ and Allan says rather irritatedly, ‘I thought you were going out,’ and Diane stares at me and says, ‘I just decided to come back.’ We became friends instantly. It was as if we had always known one another. We saw each other almost every day for the next eleven years. Our friendship was metaphysical, rapturous. We were all things to each other. We were mothers to each other, we were daughters—sometimes we were little girls giggling in the attic, other times we were wise old women talking about our men, our kids. ‘You’re my best friend,’ she’d say solemnly. We addressed each other as ‘Grace.’ ‘How you doin’, Grace?’ we’d say, and then we’d laugh uncontrollably. Diane drew the story of my life out of me and we exchanged secrets, ideas, memories. She was never judgmental about me or anybody or anything.”
A native from the farmlands of Ohio, Cheech was twenty-eight, a brilliant, perverse, slender woman with a dazzling smile and a fiercely “Cheech McKensie” is a pseudonym.