Cover image for I'm wild again : snippets from my life and a few brazen thoughts
Title:
I'm wild again : snippets from my life and a few brazen thoughts
Author:
Brown, Helen Gurley.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xii, 287 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780312251925
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The always outrageous and effervescent editor of Cosmopolitan magazine brazenly delivers all the details of her personal life in this astonishing and candid memoir. Beginning with her days as a secretary in California -- where her meager salary wasn't the only thing supporting her -- to the success of her first publication, Sex and the Single Girl, to a happy and enduring marriage to producer David Brown, she has certainly lived life to the fullest. Openly discussing such topics as sex, marriage, friendship, celebrity, travel, and more, Brown's journey has been one wild ride.


Author Notes

Helen Marie Gurley was born in Green Forest, Arkansas on February 18, 1922. She studied briefly at Texas State College for Women, but did have the money to continue. She graduated from secretarial school in 1941. She held numerous secretarial jobs before becoming an advertising copywriter. In 1959 she married David Brown, a former managing editor of Cosmopolitan and a Hollywood producer.

Her first book, Sex and the Single Girl, was published in 1962 and inspired a movie of the same title starring Natalie Wood, which was released in 1964. She was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine from 1965 until 1997 and is credited with being the first to introduce frank discussions of sex into magazines for women. Her other books include Sex and the Office, Helen Gurley Brown's Single Girl's Cookbook, Sex and the New Single Girl, Having It All, I'm Wild Again, and The Late Show. She died on August 13, 2012 at the age of 90.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

You have to give Brown credit. The ultimate Cosmo "girl" still thinks she's wild, even at age 78. This book, a collection of Brown's all-too-random thoughts about her past, present, and future, is part rehash (fans will already be familiar with how producer David Brown gave her a writing career and a wedding ring); part dish (how to get Peter Jennings to come to your dinner party when he's already canceled); and part (way too big a part) intimate details about body parts and functions. The latter wouldn't be quite so distasteful if Brown didn't write so darn vividly. The pimples she had as a teenager were oozing sores that made her face look like it was covered with "strawberry jam." When she had stomach surgery, the doctors waited impatiently for her to have a bowel movement, but all she could produce were "pellets." We also learn that Brown is almost pathologically cheap, that she sort of misses what today would be deemed sexual harassment, and that she had a breast augmentation at age 75. She used to be ashamed of her acne; now she's ashamed of being old. Brown is brutally and refreshingly honest, but most of what she reveals falls securely in the category of "stuff you didn't need to know." Still, she will be sharing all her insights with television viewers on various venues, so buy at least one copy. --Ilene Cooper


Publisher's Weekly Review

Never shedding the "Cosmo Girl" identity she created and perfected over 32 years as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, the redoubtable Brown muses over her life, career and philosophy. Relentlessly candid, she reveals a difficult childhood: her mother was a depressed young widow, and her older sister contracted polio before the vaccine was developed. Brown was a veteran of 17 secretarial jobs before writing the provocative bestseller Sex and the Single Girl. She also reveals a brief stint at being kept ("keptive") by a married man, and an affair with boxing great Jack Dempsey, among other romances. Brown's self-portrait as stingy and demanding is in sharp contrast to that of her husband of 40 years, movie producer David Brown, whom she paints as a dapper, generous genius. A good portion of her memoir is given over to Brown's relentless quest for a youthful appearance, which may trouble some readers. She's probably kidding when she calls exfoliating dead skin one of life's pleasures, but she is deadly honest about her diet ("skinny is sacred to me"), exercise regimen (two 45-minute sessions seven days a week, even now), breast augmentation, and battle with thin hair. She's equally open about having had a lumpectomy for breast cancer. Brown, who transformed Cosmo into a powerhouse, is a publicity pro who can still charm (though replaced in the editor's chair at age 74, she is still editor-in-chief of the international editions). Whether playfully describing a man as "wife-encumbered" or fretting over a "poochy tummy," Brown's voice is uniquely hers, although the book feels padded and repetitious. Overall, to use one of Brown's favorite words, it's only "pippypoo." 16-page photo insert not seen by PW. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

For former Cosmopolitan editor Brown, work, sex, and good looks have not lost their importance even at age 75. Full of spice, this memoir reveals Brown's past, growing up in Little Rock, AR, and explains the prodigious energy that sustained her through 17 secretarial jobs and then over 30 years running Cosmopolitan. The author of seven previous books, including Sex and the Single Girl, shocking for its time, and New York Times best seller Having It All, Brown writes in a chatty, anecdotal style about face lifts, her brush with lung cancer, and the constant battle to stay thin, occasionally providing information on how to keep a man and succeed in a career. Despite tiresome name-dropping and bragging, Brown has a giggle-inspiring sense of humor that--combined with her "live life to its fullest" philosophy--makes this book entertaining and fun to read.--Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Brockport (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Jobs and Men I won't try to do an hour-by-hour, year-by-year account of my seventeen secretarial jobs or the two copywriting ones, the latter of which led to my writing Sex and the Single Girl because I thought I was going to be fired and David came up with the book idea. I'll also spare you a boyfriend recall although there were some of those since I started dating at seventeen and didn't marry until thirty-seven. I'll just mention a few boy/girl encounters, not necessarily the sweetest ones and, in writing about David in a minute, tell you how I got started as editor of Cosmopolitan . Along the boyfriend trail--let's call them male encounters--were these highlights (or lowlights). Paid for Pleasure At age nineteen I had one little fling in the escort business. In a magazine article--I think some fairly decent magazine--I read about girls who went out with men and got paid as "dates," not one word about anything beyond dinner, dancing, and just being a delightful companion ... a regular date it would seem. With the article still in mind, I saw an ad in the Los Angeles Times for "attractive girls wanted for social evenings" placed by the Dolores Gunn Escort Service and decided this was definitely something to look into. Working at KHJ radio station as a secretary in the manager's office, $18.00 a week, I went over to see Dolores in her seedy mansion somewhere in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles between Vermont and Western Avenues. I didn't actually see Dolores ... she was behind a screen. Do you think the screen might have tipped me to something like she didn't want to be identifiable in a police lineup? Might have, but didn't. Dolores saw me and I passed ... how bad could you look at nineteen? My fee for the evening would be $5.00--nearly a third of my weekly salary--not bad.     Date picked me up in front of the apartment I shared with Merle and Rosa for a few months while Mary's and Mother's and my little house on West Fifty-ninth Street was getting ready to be moved into. Date was nothing-looking, possibly fifty; we drove around Los Angeles in his Plymouth sedan for a while, finally parked on a quiet street in Santa Monica, kissed some. Where was dinner? Where was dancing? Did I always suspect there wouldn't be any? Probably. I didn't mind the kissing that much, as I remember, though I could be blanking; he didn't get obstreperous or try anything awful.     Presently he asked, "Shall we double the fee--you get ten dollars, Dolores gets her ten dollars, and we go on to the next step?"     Again I wasn't that shocked. "No," I said. "I was just supposed to go on a date ." Maybe the gods, realizing they were dealing with a low-grade criminal-class amateur, were too bored to unleash their full furies and get me raped, killed, or beaten up. If that had happened, Dolores would have lost her license or whatever escort services carry, of course. Perhaps she actually tried to screen clients as well as escorts and accommodate only noncrazy ones. The evening, as I recall, lasted about two hours ... however long it takes to drive from downtown L.A. to the Pacific Ocean, stop for a little chat in Santa Monica, drive back again.     On the way home, he said, "Kid, don't mess around. If a man can get it free, he won't have much use for you ... if you're getting all the milk you want, why buy the cow?" The cow/free milk proposition was popular in those days. Letting me out at my front door, Date gave me $5.00 and, I assume, took care of Dolores. Why wasn't I revolted? I was a little but not utterly. I think even then I was a practicing realist. I knew my date wasn't going to be Tyrone Power. Even at age nineteen and a virgin I realized men "needed things" and there wasn't anything horribly wrong about their needing them even if you couldn't or wouldn't supply. Also from a pretty early age I tried to do whatever you needed to do to survive. At that moment I needed more money. The escort business wasn't going to provide, but I was never a big rebel or complainer. I'd got myself into this silly assignation, was probably lucky to be alive!     Dolores called once more after that; she probably hadn't got a rave review and suggested on my next date I try to be a little more cooperative. We didn't do business after that. God bless that date. From him I learned I wasn't going to make any real money or solve any problems as an escort. I'd have to be good at something else. Mary and Cleo One Sunday afternoon in April 1937, playing out in the backyard of their Fifty-ninth Street home in Los Angeles with my cousins Bob and Virginia Gurley, we got the news that Mary had polio. Doctor had thought at first it was simple la grippe, but now a more accurate--and devastating--diagnosis was in. Life would change irrevocably for Mary, Mother, and me. Her legs paralyzed, Mary would spend the next sixty years in a wheelchair, me the same sixty trying to make up a bit with financial support and love for what had happened to her, her life challenge a little more major than mine. We had the same parents, I reasoned (Daddy had died five years before in an elevator accident in the Arkansas State Capitol Building, had run for the elevator, jumped on just as the doors were closing--you could do that then--life got snuffed out), were formed from the same gene pool, ate the same food, lived in the same apartment, slept in the same bedroom, breathed the same air, were accessible to the same floating germs out in the street. Polio picked Mary, not me ... I owed her. I never wished it had been me, martyrdom not my thing, but I would never abandon her.     Mary was immediately put in the Orthopedic Hospital, which specialized in polio, Mother and I moved to a little bungalow on South Hope Street across from the hospital. During the many months Mary was in the Orthopedic she had pool treatments, massage therapy, was seen by the best polio doctors in the world, Doctors Brockway and Lohman. Muscle transplants--paralyzed muscles replaced with healthy ones--were performed twice but nothing could reverse the damage, she would remain paralyzed from the waist down all her life. For the next two years I attended John H. Francis Polytechnic High School a few blocks from the hospital where, would you believe, white students mingled with black ... shocking! One year out of Little Rock, where a black man looking directly in the eyes of a white woman on the street could land in jail, where occasional lynchings still took place on Saturday night, I could have had a problem but prejudice of any kind had never been on the menu in my house and the dusky ones and I, after they got used to how funny I sounded, got along fine. Black boys were fabulous dancers, and the Amazonian black girls, towering over me on the basketball court, actually forgave my getting a ball--finally--into the hoop, but the hoop belonged to the other team. John H. Francis got the best out of me and vice versa.     Mother's time and anxiousness (she knew how to do anxious better than anyone I've ever known) were pretty much channeled into care of her older daughter, now home from the hospital, but I wasn't neglected. Acne was the major problem of her younger child. At that time the medical profession didn't know any more about acne than they did about polio, and mine was virulent. Every Tuesday and Friday after school I saw Dr. Todd, who opened postules and sent me out to face the world with a face that looked as though it had been smeared with strawberry jam. So, what does a sixteen-year-old with an invalid sister, depressed Mommy, terminal acne, and the financial pinchies do to cheer herself up--drugs? drink? temper fits? total withdrawal? Drugs and drink weren't available for teens in those days and wouldn't have appealed anyway; the other two options didn't either. And so a lifelong habit got started: do the best you can with whatever you've got even if most of what you've got isn't remarkable and some of it you wouldn't give a tarantula. My grades were good. Mother and Daddy were smart so I guess I inherited those genes. Acne was the challenge. Shy like my mother--some of my classmates called me "the Bashful Babe"--I willed myself to become more outgoing, even extroverted, divert attention from the skin that was either forming postules or scabbing up from excision. I wrote little skits for myself and performed them before the whole student body in numerous variety shows (show biz!), tried out for the class play but wasn't an actress so that route of expression denied me. Several times I ran for school office and was actually elected: president of the Scholarship Society, president of the Amacitians (girls' club), president of the World Friendship Society. I didn't know Belgrade from marmalade, Outer Mongolia from Mentholatum, but if the club needed leading I was happy to try. At graduation I was one of five honor students--an Ephebian, for God's sake!--photographed for the school paper, made a big fuss over and, of course, I was class valedictorian. Particularly popular with teachers, I was voted biggest apple-polisher in the senior class but also second most popular girl ... I guess you could be both.     On the dating scene I wasn't a belle but also wasn't a blip. As I wrote in Sex and the Single Girl , I felt and feel a girl needs men in her life. My theory from high school on was that until you can collect a prince, you create a court from who's there , no matter how disparate the courtiers. My two steadiest beaux, Joey and Lester, I would now say were homosexual but, at the time the "condition" didn't exist and surely wasn't talked about. We danced, picnicked, baked at the beach, drove tons of miles around Bel Air and West Los Angeles on Saturday nights in Joey's father's big old Chrysler, occasionally picked a flowering branch from the grounds of a Bel Air mansion ... wicked!     The day of the senior prom at Poly High, president of the student body, Hal Holker, didn't have a date, had been just too busy to get on the case and called me that afternoon. It wasn't, he explained later, because he considered me a wallflower and probably not booked but, on the chance I wasn't, thought I'd be perfect. "Gurley could take care of herself ... good dancer ... lots of friends ... wouldn't have to worry about her while doing stuff you have to do as a prom chairman." Dateless, I accepted the offer and we had such a good time he took me out graduation night a week later. Then, if you'll pardon a little bragging (you can check with him if you like), the Number One Man on Campus fell in love with me--acne had subsided a bit by them. Some of the best smooching of my life was during those sweet summer months. Still years away from surrendering virginity, I wouldn't take anything for the sexy hours when you struggled your brains out with boy or man, passionate, steamy struggling ... foreplay that didn't actually lead to play . A Little Rock brought-up-girl didn't go All the Way ever . Since I could be brought to orgasm by kissing why ask for anything more, and whoever he was put up with it. What the poor creature did when he got home was his affair.     After high school--my prom king was off to Alaska to look for gold--I attended Woodbury Business College to learn how to type and take shorthand, tuition paid by working after school at radio station KHJ for an announcer whose early-morning radio show, Rose and Shine , observed birthdays and anniversaries of letter writers. My job was to extrapolate requests from letters so my boss could announce, "If little Willie will go out to the garage and look behind the tool chest, he'll find just what he's been looking for" or "Minnie and Sam Spiegelgrass are celebrating a twenty-third wedding anniversary ... congratulations, Minnie and Sam." Occasionally I had a twelve-year old boy or girl celebrating their seventeenth year of togetherness ... mixed extrapolation; rough morning at school before coming to the station must have made me not squeaky careful. Some afternoons when I got to KHJ, somebody there in the morning would report Mr. Wilson having gone mangoes, shrieking to be heard all the way to Cahuenga Avenue that his idiot secretary had screwed up again, distressed parents having called to say Becky Sue couldn't find her birthday doll in the attic because he'd announced it hidden in the basement next to the bicycle rack. For my chores I was paid $6.00 a week, lavishly raised to $7.00 in a few months.     From KHJ I moved on to posh Music Corporation of America in Beverly Hills, continued my thirteen-year odyssey through fifteen more secretarial jobs, sometimes getting fired, sometimes firing myself to try to advance in the world. Finally I was given a chance to write advertising copy but, hey, this is Mary's and Mother's story so let's get back to them.     During my high school years when we lived in the little house near the Orthopedic Hospital, Mary and I were close companions, went shopping, to the movies, sometimes just strolled around. I was proud of getting her wheelchair up and down curbs without bumping. Our next-door neighbor, also a wheelchair-bound polio victim, and her construction worker husband, had somehow got beyond the depression and sads that go with invalidism and were an enormous support to my overwhelmed mother, particularly because they were cheerful. Sue and A. frisked Mary all over town, sometimes took her to the ranch of a family member in Simi Valley where she actually picked oranges.     After my graduation from high school, Cleo, Mary, and I moved to the little house by the railroad tracks on West Fifty-ninth Street where freight trains roared by just beyond the backyard and gophers tunneled up under Mary's and my bedroom, actually pushing floor boards up, the little bastards! We once put a hose down a gopher hole, let it run several hours--talk about big spenders on our budget--actually flushed up a gopher! Poor drowned little thing, we didn't try to revive him. Maybe there's a secret cruel streak in all of us but this gopher was eating our carnations and trying to sleep in our bedroom. Mother got a job in the marking room at Sears Roebuck pinning little tickets on merchandise; her marking-room friends were really the only ones she had in Los Angeles. Shy to the point of verbal paralysis, with not one smidge of outer confidence or inner self-esteem, she poured herself into Mary and me and, oh yes, a husband--I should have mentioned him earlier.     After Mary became ill, while I was in high school, Cleo married the sweetheart of her girlhood and he lived with us. She hadn't married gentle, bookish, poetic, much-like-her Leigh in the first place because her family preferred Ira Gurley, dynamic law school graduate, full of charm, hunted and fished with her brothers, sure to Amount to Something and be a family asset. They put the pressure on and she married Ira. From what I glean--I was only ten when Daddy died--he loved my mother but didn't understand her, made her give up her teaching job--which had meant everything to her and they needed the money. In those days, if your wife worked, the neighbors thought you were a lousy provider, Zeus forbid!     So now there was Leigh in our lives, a nice-enough person, good cook (men didn't cook in those days and I hated the food smells that wafted to the living room when a date picked me up), but I found him embarrassing and ineffectual. The only job he ever held was Good Humor salesman; his cart with its icy treasures sat outside our front door every night. Stepfather for five years, Leigh died slowly, agonizingly of stomach cancer. Those visits to him in the Los Angeles county hospital with Cleo were as pain filled as anything you would ever want to know. She loved him, she deserved a little happiness. One would have hoped her childhood was friskier but, as oldest child, she was often nursemaid for the younger eight, heaped with responsibility early, screw having fun. So here she was, widowed again, older daughter an invalid, younger still smeared with strawberry-jam acne, occasionally worried that she was neglecting her younger (not true) for the older.     Cleo also worried about my love affairs that never led to marriage; I worried about a couple of those myself (more in a minute). Mary got a job with C. E. Hooper, the ratings system of the day, telephoning to see what radio program people were listening to. For forty cents an hour she sludged her way through hundreds of numbers copied from the telephone book, put up with hang-ups, no-comprendes, and couldn't-remembers, conscientiously recording data. Sometimes I helped her call for a little while. Socially we branched out to the opera, theater, race track. My beaux were nice to her--one brought her Danny Kaye records--though we could have taken her on outings a little more often. While my sister didn't ever cry or complain ever , God knows what demons occupied her. In 1946, when I was twenty-four years old, my mother took Mary from Los Angeles back to live with her folks in Osage, Arkansas. She thought she and Mary would have a better life there among loved ones, or so she said. She really did it because she saw me being a semi-nurse-companion to my sister, too deeply involved in Mary's life (and problems) perhaps to have a life of my own. Cleo's separating me from them was a courageous, unselfish act ... she could easily have sacrificed me to be a handy, unpaid bound-by-blood helper forever.     At first Mother and Mary lived in Osage, Arkansas--population seventy-five--where several of Mother's brothers and sisters still resided. The year I made my Arrangement with a wealthy New York banker who built a movie studio in California (more later), I brought them back to Los Angeles for a few months, inexpensive rent on an apartment having been arranged for after the banker decamped. They didn't feel comfortable in L.A. and Mother, still wanting to keep me from getting too embroiled in caring for an invalid sister, took herself and Mary back to Osage again.     A few years after that Mary entered a veterans' rehabilitation center in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. They were doing good things for veterans from World War II and Korea but Mary, with legs totally paralyzed, didn't have strength enough to learn to walk again with crutches and braces. She did meet and marry another patient, George Alford, moved to Shawnee, Oklahoma, with him and they lived there for twenty-three years; George died a few years ago. As long as he lived, I was involved with his pain from the grain elevator accident which had left him with crossed nerves not properly straightened out at the time. I schlepped him many places trying to find doctors or treatments that would help. George belonged to my sister, was usually good and helpful with her, so he went with the territory for me.     Mother, who'd lived with a sister in Osage for several years, moved to Mary's house in Shawnee while George was still alive. For forty years, wherever they lived, I visited them twice a year, phoned twice a week, one-hour phone visits on Sunday, shorter ones on Wednesday.     Mary joined A.A. Not hard to understand her need to somehow get away from the pain, but when drinking didn't get her away from it but brought new grief, she became--after a few lapses--a devout A.A. member, her number listed in the phone book to call if you wanted to investigate A.A. or right that minute were having a dragout time with somebody drunk who needed help.     During my visits to Mary in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, we roamed around town a little. I went to A.A. meetings with her and to the Wesley United Methodist Church, learned new respect for what religious people do to help each other ... her church friends were terrific. Mary and some other tenderhearted ones founded Softpaws to help unwanted kitties get adopted-- she couldn't adopt them all --and spayed and neutered. On visits to Shawnee one had to tolerate her own live-in kitty cats--from six to eight depending on how many strays had been recently rescued--nice mixed-breed little kitties except for the two Siamese who worked their glamorous selves into her life, plus two doggies of unprepossessing heritage, stature, and color. I never took much to them. Too emotionally needy, they would sniff at me mercilessly when I was trying sleep on the couch, moan when I ate though they'd just been fed. The kitty/canine crew together didn't make for nice smells despite uncounted cans of room deodorants deployed in winter, doors and windows all open in summer--screw air-conditioning--and I was all for that.     After George died and Mother's arterial sclerosis got progressively worse, a live-in housekeeper joined the household and I began staying at the Holiday Inn at night when I visited accommodated by the Inn's couldn't-do-enough-to-be-wonderful owner, Bobble Reed. Mary, Mother, and the cats didn't need me after midnight and I would return early next morning after a chug around the hotel pool--an Olympic-size beauty, warm and toasty even in December, with few other swimmers competing for space, except I did tangle with a local high school basketball team one Thanksgiving who were trying to knock each other off each other's shoulders in what could only be considered blood sport and I was a nuisance to them relentlessly lapping away on my side of the pool.     In the last years of her life Mary got pneumonia once a year--polio zaps your lungs--and would be plopped into either the Shawnee Regional or Mission Hill Hospital; I would go see her there. She had good doctors with whom I kept in close touch and they did the best they could for her always, knowing she would be back again in a little while because a mere cold would fill her lungs with fluid; I never felt a squidge of neglect of her in either hospital. In later years when Mary was home but mostly bed ridden, I would sit in a chair by her bed for hours and we would deep-dish soul visit, talking about our mother and father, childhood and childhood friends in Little Rock.     Mary liked me to go through all her catalogs to pick birthday and Christmas presents for myself; I could have exactly what worked and she never ever wanted giving to be unilateral. We listened to music; she had enough tapes and CDs to stock a radio station and a great sound system. John Michael Montgomery and the Gatlin Brothers were favorites, and we watched the Westminster Dog Show, which she would have taped for me. Teresa brought lunch and dinner on a tray ... tamale pie, stuffed peppers, baked apples ... yummy! I loved sending or bringing Mary things, and whatever company I worked for had to put up with serious mail room transgressions, particularly the last one where I was an editor and the cosmetic loot came pouring in. I liked better to be there in person to watch the opening, Mary sniffing and trying moisturizers, blushers, foundation, fragrance, mascara, lipstick, candles, signature scarves, airplane cosmetic and shaving kit take-aways. The girl was never jealous. She cared deeply about whether I was happy, never hit me for money, cars, jewelry--except occasionally costume. She was amazing! I don't miss the sixty years of worry and anxiety about her, but I miss her . She was a pussycat. The Year of Being Kept (but Not Very Well) I was a flop in the escort business. Five years later I was even floppier at being kept. If I'd been good at keptiveness, of course, you and I probably wouldn't be visiting. I would perhaps be a rich Beverly Hills matron living on South Camden or Roxbury Drive and, if you were also a Beverly Hills girl, we might run into each other having our hair done at Privé or lunching at Spago but we wouldn't be visiting as we are now.     He was forty-three, I twenty-four. I thought he was a hundred because he was mostly bald (although the morning we met he wore his hat and I couldn't see his scalp). He limped, but the limp, the baldness, the oldness weren't the problem with our soon-to-begin relationship--I was the problem. Among other failings, I just couldn't tell who was Jewish--an absolute necessity if you were to link up with the card-carrying, unreconstructed anti-Semite--but there were other problems. May I unfold our story? You're always so indulgent!     On a beautiful frosty February morning I went to the Motion Picture Center Studios at 1041 North Formosa in Hollywood to be interviewed for what would be my fifteenth secretarial job. The studio's owner-builder, soon-to-be my lover, showed me around the lot which, in a few years, would be sold to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz for Desilu Productions and is now the Warner Hollywood Studio. At that time the facility was spanking new, looked and smelled fresh and friendly. Fragrant wood curls swirled around our ankles as I was shown around the newly completed soundstages, told about the superiority of acoustical tile ceilings and thermal windows--not too boring. Back in his office, across from the biggest soundstage, I learned that my prospective employer was bald when he took his hat off, that the limp had come from an auto accident years before, that he was a member of the Morgan family, the prestigious House of Morgan banking Morgans of New York if you please, that, knowledgeable about building, he had decided to move to California and create a new studio. What else would you do but build your own studio if you were he and wanted to get into the movie business? Maybe he was bored with banking, maybe his beautiful wife, Susan Elizabeth, was starstruck--lots of wealthy New York women are to this day--and influenced him. Whatever the motivation, he certainly had done part of what he planned ... built this neat little studio with seven sound stages, the most of any movie studio in the city.     How anybody as violently anti-Semitic as he could have deliberately embroiled himself in a business that is what--we don't have statistics--90 percent Jewish, give or take a few hairdressers, actors and set designers, is almost unimaginable. His only tenants in the new studio at that moment were the Justman Brothers, certifiably Jewish, who hoped to make movies. If he planned to be spared association with Those People, the man was alarmingly misguided, naïve, or just plain dumb. The subject of anti-Semitism didn't come up at the interview but rose vociferously later. I told him a little about previous jobs, eliminating seven of the fourteen, about my mother and invalid sister who lived in Arkansas and depended on me for support. I explained that we had a little insurance money left after my father's death but Mary had soon got polio (before the Salk vaccine) after Daddy died, there were no March of Dimes, no government funds, or a family to help with her catastrophic illness and we seriously scrimped; Mother took care of Mary in Arkansas, I pitched in. Did his eyes light up at this sad tale? Probably. He asked if I had a steady boyfriend. I said no.     The understanding that we might Become Something to Each Other was present in the interview I would say, me giving off waves of waifdom and vulnerability like a civet cat throwing off musk, him sitting there goldenly like King Midas vaguely promising to make my future golden. A financial arrangement for me in return for certain "favors" wasn't specifically outlined at that meeting but words like stock portfolio, bonds, investments, real estate were floated about and I would have my secretarial salary to live on. You'd have to say I was not innocently swept into sin but baby-browns wide open, was encouraged in; the strain of caring for Mother and Mary had become a bit of a drag. Yes, I could try to stop getting fired, get better jobs and raises, become moderately comfortable some day (I was solvent now, never owed a penny) but financial ease might take the rest of the century.     After we became lovers, M. told me he could have had any girl in town because of how rich he was. At the time I halfway believed him; freedom from hunger and want, bye-bye pinchies and scrimpies, farewell fiscal fright sounded spiffy to me . Well, he probably could have had several girls though I doubt Ava Gardner, Gene Tierney, Susan Hayward, or other goddesses of the day. Anyway, regardless of anybody else's availability, where would he find a better keptive? I'm young, cute, intelligent (frequently!), sweet-natured. By supplying the kind of help I so badly needed without any sacrifice whatever on his part, he'd have a grateful little salmon throwing herself up on the shore. Perfect! Was I going to throw up on him in bed? No, he wasn't that bad. Not a beauty but not a mongoose, about 5'10", Waspy features, a bit pinched, not that old ... I could handle it.     Soon I was hired for my fifteenth secretarial assignment, given a modest salary of $35.00 a week, ensconced in a spanky new office, and our respective commitments--at least mine to him--began: interview Monday, sex Thursday. Our first carnal encounter took place in his office on a cushy Moroccan leather couch. A few office and motel trysts later, we got me a little flat on South Curson Street in the Wilshire--La Brea district of Los Angeles. I had left an understanding roommate--Barbara wanted security for me also--back on South Cannon Drive in Beverly Hills. Only eighteen months after V-J Day, building wasn't yet booming and apartments were scarce but the father of a secretary-friend at Music Corporation of America had a few rentals and she got me this one; I sent her a handbag.     The apartment was carpeted, furnished, had a wall bed, no place to cook, and nothing to cook on, but who cared--cooking wasn't then or now one of my passions. At the office, though I officially worked as a secretary from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., there was precious little work to do; nobody was renting our soundstages or even looking at them. The office was an arid place. Only other occupants than M. and me were M.'s brother-in-law, Phil, married to Susan Elizabeth's sister--weren't we cozy?--and an accountant, no girl playmates. I read Pearl Buck novels all day and finished off a six-ounce can of Planters peanuts nearly every twenty-four hours, often felt as though I'd been chugging through North China's Dunhuang or Cong Chun. Around 4:00 P.M. each day M. and I would start drinking in his office--him Pinchbottle Scotch, such a cute bottle--me Harvey's Bristol Crème Sherry, four or five glasses. I drank it like Coca-Cola. Can you imagine four or five glasses of Harvey's Bristol Crème Sherry every afternoon on top of the peanuts? If I did that now, I'd weigh eight hundred pounds. Why didn't we start drinking at my apartment? Because his office was bigger and nicer.     After cocktail hour we did go to my flat to make love. The lovemaking? It wasn't bad, wasn't love, wasn't anything, not even sure you could call it an affair--an affair is sexier. This was two people copulating--he seemed to have a good time and men can't fake "seemed to" in this situation, as we know. Moi learned to fake often and well. Though I was never really clutched or guilt-crazy about what I was doing--using this golden opportunity to stash enough money to take care of Mother and Mary and me the rest of our lives--my little body wasn't quite as cooperative as my little brain, refused to have orgasms, never a problem before; though the man didn't revolt me, maybe I wasn't as conscience-dead as I thought. After sex (without birth control--he couldn't make babies), M. went home to Mrs. M. in Holmby Hills each night to fulfill a heavy social agenda. Susan Elizabeth, a beauty, was a little frosty to me but who could blame her? (Continues...)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Snippets From My Lifep. 1
Sex / Affectionp. 43
Emotionsp. 61
Parentsp. 75
Friendsp. 81
Workp. 93
Looks / Age / Healthp. 119
Food / Dietp. 153
Davidp. 165
Travelp. 183
Smatterings and Spatteringsp. 219
Can We Get any of These Fixed?p. 245
Advice: Just a Tiny Touchp. 259
Letter to My Daughterp. 273