I am a woman of a certain age. An age at which I have gained, if not wisdom, then at least the experience and discernment to intuit that when an old friend I haven’t heard a squeak from in three years texts me, “S’up?” late at night that what’s lying heavy on his mind is the proximity of death and the unresolved question of why — exactly — we never tumbled into bed together. And whether there’s any possibility that we might still do that, even now.
Being of that “certain age” (and I hope the words “past it” have not entered your darling mind), I am able to reflect upon this calmly without even a hint of discomfiture. It wasn’t always so.
I came to Hollywood as a teenager, on a summer break from college, to look after a movie star’s kids. As it turns out summer never really ended, because here I stayed. I married the movie star, alienated my step-children, had one child of my own, went back to school, got a job assisting a hot young director, became a producer, then ran a studio. For a very short while, I ran a studio.
Life never is a simple linear narrative; it’s too messy and senseless. On the other hand a memoir, no, make that a novel (a much less contentious prospect) is an attempt to resolve the random acts of a life and give them meaning — put them into some sort of context. Whether this reads as simply an insider chronicle of a life lived in Hollywood or another of those cautionary tales about the same, I’ll leave to you, gentle reader, my unknown confidant.
IT’S NOT UNUSUAL
There’s a hardware store on Santa Monica Boulevard, just over the border from Beverly Hills in West Hollywood, that sells thick orange rubber gloves named after a famous French courtesan, Du Barry. It was like some aged copywriter on Madison Avenue still envisioned a beleaguered ideal of a woman with a full time job, two kids, and domestic chores scrubbing her pots and pans at the sink, or stripping down an old varnish encrusted piece of furniture, and feeling as sensuous and sophisticated as the woman who romped with Louis XV.
Kind of a nice antiquated idea but it didn’t exactly work out that way in modern Hollywood. Billie Price imagined that when the Du Barry company originated the brand back in the twenties it had seemed a stroke of brilliance but by 1980 it was old hat, or old glove at least. Despite that, she — at the time a nineteen year-old dreamer about to flunk out of Harvard hard — liked that something so anachronistic, with such a bizarrely inappropriate reference to a naughty historical personage existed just ten blocks down from where she lived. Or, it’s where she lived then.
At the time Billie probably should have paid more attention to the part of Madame’s story that’s always eclipsed by the tale of a young beauty with a brilliant and conniving mind that went from “nobody” to “official mistress to the king.” Du Barry fell victim to the guillotine. Lost her head… In over her head… Heads rolled… At any rate, at a certain point she was considered passé and dangerous and the rest is history.
© Vickie Lester and Beguiling Hollywood, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vickie Lester and Beguiling Hollywood with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.