March 1st, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would throw a party every night, if I had that much space in New York. These two were definitely depressed.
After my success in Blue Denim I expected to be working again immediately, since my agent could now get me into most producers’ offices. I auditioned for every upcoming Broadway show, but to my great disappointment, I wasn’t cast in any of them. I longed to be given a chance to play high-strung, defiant young women. Instead I would appear on The Philco Television Playhouse as a flirty teenager in a two-piece bathing suit mouthing inanities.
I fell into a depression. When I wasn’t working I began to sleep all day. I’d wake up in the late afternoon and stagger down to the back deck of my parents’ duplex. Daddy was often there by himself drinking. He could see I was blue. I couldn’t tell him I thought I was failing as an actress. When I’d complain I was getting nowhere, he’d say I was being ridiculous. He had such confidence in me. He wouldn’t allow me to be negative. And then he’d change the subject by saying silly things like “Can you make love with a straight face?” Then we’d barbecue a steak and polish off an entire bottle of red wine.
We spent a lot of time on that deck, Daddy and I. It became our favorite place. It was full of cool green shadows from overhanging trees and it had a big awning. Daddy was in a better mood. His career was on the upswing. Rita Hayworth was keeping him busy; he was now advising her on movie roles. He thought she should play the dancer Isadora Duncan.
The main change in his life, though, was that the political climate was quite different from what it had been when he was defending the Hollywood Ten. The FBI was no longer pressuring him; he was sure our phones were no longer being tapped. There was a lessening of public interest in the hunting down of communists. The Korean War had ended, and in 1954 the Senate had voted to condemn the tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy. By 1955, HUAC was in a weakened condition, although committee members were planning four days of scrutinizing the entertainment industry in New York and there were plans to subpoena Arthur Miller.
* * * *
All that summer Mama was away. After making the disruptive move from the Sixty-Eighth Street brownstone to the Fortieth Street double duplex, she disappeared and spent the next three months traveling. We’d read her letters out loud—long enthusiastic, bubbly, funny letters about the people she was meeting, the recipes she was collecting, the sights she was seeing. She would try and phone us, but the connections were always very bad.
Daddy seemed genuinely pleased she was having a good time. “She needed to get away,” he said.
By August, Gene and Marcia were married. We gave them a champagne reception at the apartment. Now we were totally alone. We’d wander around the two duplexes feeling lost.
“Which living room shall we use tonight?” my father would ask. His eyes would brighten; his cheerful smile never let up, even as some secret anxiety etched new lines around his mouth. He wanted me to believe everything was within my reach. “So you are having a quiet time for the moment. Why don’t you enjoy yourself with your various men?” I would nod, although the suggestion irritated me. I didn’t like him monitoring my comings and goings.
Whenever I came home with a date he’d be up offering us drinks and we’d have to sit and talk with him. I didn’t like living at home. I wanted my own place, but I didn’t have enough money. I was determined to move. I asked my father to lend me $1,000. He refused. “Mama and I need you!” he’d exclaim, so I stayed for a while longer.
He thought it was wonderful that I was going out with so many eligible bachelors, like the genial ad executive Rib Smith. But I introduced my father to only a few of the men that I was seeing. Secretly I was going through a strange phase of sex without intimacy.
My phone rang nonstop, because I was divorced and considered a “hot property.” Supposedly I knew what I was doing in the sack; that’s what a Wall Street broker mumbled as he crawled on top of me. Except I didn’t know what I was doing, or more to the point I didn’t know what I wanted sexually, nor did I know the questions to ask. Jason’s “me Tarzan, you Jane” approach had left little to the imagination. I lay there and took a lot of pounding. It turned me on, but not for long. It took me awhile to find pleasure and harmony with a man.
Today it’s said that women own their sexuality and can have sex on their own terms. I don’t know if that’s true, but back in the late 1950s, just before the sexual revolution and the advent of the Pill, women bargained with sex for love and money, or they were too repressed and ignorant beyond belief—especially about their bodies. I for one was totally disconnected from my emotions. So many sad lost nights reaching out to so many sad lost men. The estates attorney who was so boring I had to stop seeing him, even though he gave me great orgasms. The musician who chewed speed gum and was constantly tripping out. He brought me to the only orgy I’ve ever gone to. It was held in an apartment on Central Park West with many bedrooms. I refused to participate. As I was leaving, I ran into a man dressed in priest’s robes. I was told he was George Plimpton.