Cover image for Lovely me : the life of Jacqueline Susann
Lovely me : the life of Jacqueline Susann
Seaman, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, 1987.
Physical Description:
480 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


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PS3569.U75 Z87 1987 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3569.U75 Z87 1987 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Barbara Seaman's pioneering biography of the author of Valley of the Dolls, The Love Machine, and other mega-sellers examines the life of a woman who exhibited amazing strength in every aspect of her life-from getting her writing published and promoted to fighting her ultimate adversary, breast cancer.

Author Notes

Barbara Seaman, a cofounder of the National Women's Health Network, was cited by the Library of Congress as the author who raised sexism in health care as a worldwide issue. Her books include "The Doctor's Case Against the Pill", "Free & Female", "Women & the Crisis in Sex Hormones" & "Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann". She has three children & three grandchildren & lives in New York City.

p (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

This unauthorized biography of the best-selling novelist ( Valley of the Dolls, etc.) will appeal only to readers of Susann or of celebrity biographies. A would-be actress since the late 1930s, Susann finally attained long-desired fame and celebrity with Valley in 1966 (after her first cancer). Neither interviews nor chapter quotations are satisfyingly cited, which makes it difficult to separate fact and rumor. The book does explore Susann's drive for success until her death at 56 and provides an in-depth look at the grim business of American publishing and promoting, at which Susann was truly brilliant. Ultimately an ungratifying look at a sad writer who knew her subject matter only too well. Scheduled to be an ABC-TV mini-series. Rebecca Sturm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Night Thoughts One other dream beside Irving ... --Jacqueline Susann     Christmas Eve, 1962.     Of course she wouldn't sleep tonight. When things were going well she had a problem with insomnia, let alone when they were falling apart. Tonight her "dolls," her sleeping pills, had failed her, and so had the potent Nembutal suppositories she kept in her refrigerator for emergencies. Chasing sleep was a waste of time, and oh, how she hated to waste time! She had wasted months when they put her son, Guy, away; for months she hardly came out of her bedroom. Now she knew better. "Time," she reminded herself, "is life." She prowled the small apartment, searching for something to do. She watched the snowflakes drift down onto her beloved Central Park--perhaps for the last time? "No," she promised herself, "it will not be the last time." If she did have cancer, she would lick it.     She wandered into the den and took a novel from her bookshelf, but it couldn't hold her. Drugged up as she was, she was still too tense to concentrate. She played solitaire. It was three-thirty in the morning when her eye fell on a small black looseleaf binder, the journal in which she'd so conscientiously entered a 227-page record of her recent trip to Israel and the Far East. She had dutifully escorted her mother, Rose, enduring for five full weeks a bunch of annoying old ladies. Her mother loved to travel, but wouldn't go without her, besides, since her heart attack and with her cataracts, Rose really could not go alone. The journal was to be a present for her mother, a memento of the trip, all typed up, cleaned up, grammar and spelling corrected, and with their many snapshots pasted in. The snapshots were revealing. In them Rose was always groomed and in a hat, even the day she took a ride on a camel's back, but Jackie looked exhausted.     When Jackie returned home, she'd added--in the original black looseleaf binder, and just for her own edification, certainly not for Rose's eyes--a summary of her thoughts on the art of aging gracefully. She entitled the page "Fight Against Old Age--What Not to Do in 1987!" 1. Be sure to stand tall. 2. Don't wear orthopedic shoes. 3. Don't talk too much. 4. Don't nag. 5. If you can't walk fast, DON'T--but don't hold others up. 6. Don't become helpless, and let others wait on you--open cab doors, pack, get into your coat. 7. Try to remember--someone young doesn't owe you anything--unless you've more than earned it. 8. Don't reminisce. 9. Listen.     Her own old age was not imminent. She was only forty-four. Still, she was all too aware that she was beyond the height of her beauty, and maybe beyond the best of her dreams as well. She was on the downhill slope. So be it, then. She'd face it. She'd age with dignity and flair--if of course, she got the chance to age at all.     She had been an angel on that trip, and look how God rewarded her. More lumps, specifically a lump in the breast. She'd had them before, but in the past they'd been nothing, and her gynecologist, Arthur Davids, had merely aspirated them, in a procedure she'd come to hate. She had discovered this latest lump in Japan, and though she'd returned home in November, she hadn't seen Dr. Davids until December 14. She had stalled, hoping it would go away when her period came, but it hadn't.     She liked Dr. Davids. So did Joyce, and some of her other women friends who went to him. She also knew him socially, mostly from parties at Billy Rose's mansion on East Ninety-third Street. The doctor was a jovial man, an excellent tennis player, a reader of good books. His office, off Fifth Avenue, was practical, not posh. The green and orange rug was industrial quality. A bulb was usually missing from the chandelier. The curtains were graying, and the beige linoleum in the foyer curled upward at the corners. It was an office to which mothers could bring their toddlers and where Jackie could--and often did--bring her poodle, Josephine.     On December 14 Davids had decided not to make Jackie wait. He had ushered her into his examining room and then left while she removed her old dog-walking slacks and her beige silk blouse. Jackie always dressed casually when she had a doctors appointment--a habit she'd picked up from her mother, who thought that the doctors would charge less.     Stripped, she hopped up on the examining table while Josephine looked on. Davids returned, an avuncular, dapper, somewhat reassuring presence. "You know the procedure," he reminded her, brandishing a needle that was two inches long and tipped with yellow plastic. "If it's just a cyst, we're hoping it's going to collapse. This one could be a solid tumor, but don't panic, in most cases it would be benign."      She didn't want to watch. She scooped up Josephine, hugged her against her other breast, and shut her eyes. She made a deal with God that if the cyst collapsed she would never be unfaithful to Irving again. Never again.     The cyst did not collapse. "Okay," Arthur Davids told her, "now we have to take a biopsy, and let's not put it off."     Davids got Gerson Lesnick, a breast surgeon, on the telephone. Lesnick then tried to book the hospital room. Jackie almost laughed when she heard about it later. A hospital booking, it appeared, was as hard to get when you really needed it as a booking in the theater. Lesnick had tried for Mt. Sinai, but couldn't get her in. The best he could manage was Doctors Hospital, and the earliest available date was Christmas, nearly two weeks away.     Christmas was an awful time to schedule an operation, she knew. The staff, such as it was, would resent working, and half of them might be drank. She remembered visiting her father in the hospital over Christmas, and it had been grim. She, her mother, and June, one of her father's mistresses, had stayed with him all day because you simply couldn't get a nurse. Other mistresses had popped in and out, but not a soul from the hospital.     Reluctantly Jackie had agreed to Christmas for her biopsy, but she was irritated--more than irritated, she was mad, furious, frustrated--and almost frightened to death. After she left Davids, she stormed into St. Patrick's Cathedral and marched directly to the statue of Saint Andrew, her appointed patron saint. "Do one thing for me before I die," she told him grimly. "Make me important enough to get a bed in a fucking hospital!"     But now, prowling her apartment, she knew that Christmas morning would soon dawn, the morning of her biopsy, and--reading between the lines of what the doctors had told her--quite possibly the morning of her mastectomy, too. Of course she couldn't sleep, and she really didn't want to. What if this was the last Christmas she'd see? Yes, she could fight cancer, but could she win? Dear God, she couldn't die yet. She was too young to die, and there was too much left to do--for herself, for others. Guy needed her. What if he ended up in Willowbrook or Creedmoor or some awful public funny farm? She had to protect her son. And Irving needed her, maybe now more than ever. She had to protect him, too, and to hold intact, for both their sakes, his image of her. He needed to adore her; she needed to be adored.     She prowled the apartment, but quietly, careful not to wake him. It would have been nice to turn to him for comfort, to share her fear with him--but not at the expense of smashing the icon he had made of her. He thought she was so strong. "My queen," he called her. If he knew the truth, "My Lady of the Sorrows" would be closer to the mark.     She would share with her diary instead. Writing in it was an old habit, and it always helped her collect herself, lift herself from despair. Her first diary had been a gift from her grandmother on Jackie's seventh birthday. It had been a lovely thing--real leather with a lock and key, and her initials stamped on the cover in gold to match the edges of the pages. "Sometimes you might feel sorry for yourself," Grandma had said, "and when you do, put it here, put it in your diary, and don't breathe a word." For all these years she had kept a diary. And she had kept her sorrows to herself.     But the diary she was using now was tucked away in a wig box in her bedroom, and she might wake Irving if she retrieved it. Her eye fell on the black notebook that chronicled her trip with Rose. There were still some blank pages in the back. She picked it up and settled herself with it in a chair, tucking her long legs beneath her, her thoughts still with her grandmother. Grandma Ida had expected great things of her. And now, a decade after the old woman's death, what of note had happened to her granddaughter? Nothing, except possibly breast cancer--that and a job doing idiotic television commercials that had made her something of a laughingstock. Jackie had dreamed of a career in the theater, but that was over. No one would give her a real acting job now.     Her current hopes for fame and fortune--slim hopes, to be sure--were pinned on a book about Josephine, a cute book based on the poodle stories that larded her letters to her friends and turned up often in her diary. She'd gotten an agent to take it, but not a publisher. It had been at Doubleday now for months.     On December 25, 1962, at 3:30 A.M., she opened her notebook and began to write: This is a bad Christmas. Irving has no job. I haven't heard from Doubleday. I am going to the hospital. But it is not the worst Christmas in the world. I am going to the hospital accompanied by a man who loves me. And I love him. I am not alone. The only thing I have to do alone is die--or fight cancer if I have it. No one can help me with that. I don't think I have it. I have too much to accomplish. I can't die without leaving something --something big. Irving has already made his mark. He'll make it again. But I have to leave something . I haven't left a child that can carry on. But I've got a brain and talent. I'm Jackie--I have a dream. I wanted to love more than my life. But that was not for me. A woman is dull if she lives for love. End of dream. I wanted to be the biggest star in the world. I skirted on the fringes. End of dream. I wanted a girl child. End of dream. I wanted a wonderful husband. I got him. I think I can write. Let me live to make it! One other dream besides Irving must come true! Copyright © 1996 Barbara Rosner Seaman. All rights reserved.