follow me to Shangri-La

Shelley Winters was a great character actress who portrayed a drab factory girl in A Place in the Sun and a sex starved mother in Lolita. She wasn’t particularly beautiful but her love life was steamier than most other sex symbols of her time.


“Yvonne De Carlo told me that Mr Erroll Flynn was giving a small dinner party and asked if I wanted to go so I put on my red satin you-know-what-shoes and drove out to his place in Hollywood Hills. The butler handed me a double martini in a silver goblet and Yvonne and I  were introduced to Mr Clark Gable and another couple.


We ate at a glass top table in an outdoor dining room surrounded by flowers and birds, and there were real gardenias floating in the pool. While we were having Irish coffee a doctor arrived and all three men left the dinner table. I heard each of them yell “Ouch” and one by one they returned buttoning their shirts and rubbing their right shoulders.


After the second “ouch” I excused myself and sneaked down the hall so I could peek in the room where the doctor was. I saw Mr Flynn with his shirt off and the doctor cutting a little flap of skin on the back of his shoulder, inserting a capsule, then stitching it back up. It seemed very weird  and to this day no doctor has ever been able to offer an explanation for what I saw.

Before we headed into the screening room to watch a movie, Yvonne invited me to go to the ladies room with her. “Which one do you want?” she asked. I hesitated and she said “I think Erroll really likes you so I’ll sacrifice myself and take Gable” and that’s how we decided.

Sacrificial Yvonne

As the lights went out Mr Flynn put his arm around me and I swooned like a Victorian heroine. I couldn’t tell you what the film was about but half way though watching it something shiny caught my eye. Mr Flynn must have pressed a button because a 12 foot panel slid back to reveal a raised platform with a huge satin covered bed with the top sheet turned back, ready. Around the bed were books, telephones, a bar, an icebox, a radio and a phonograph. On the ceiling was a mirror which also slid back to reveal the moon and stars through a flowering magnolia tree.

seduction den found here

When the movie ended everyone got up to leave but Mr Flynn’s arm kept me pinned to the seat. Maybe I wasn’t trying too hard to escape. He said to the others “Don’t worry about Shelley, I’ll see she gets home.”

“Remember she has to be at work at 6:30 on Monday morning” said Yvonne. I wondered what the hell she was talking about, it was only Friday night. In those days when the film industry considered a scene censorable, the camera would pan to such things as the fireplace or waves on a beach or fireworks in the sky.

So… cut to:

A fire ROARING in a fireplace

Waves POUNDING on a beach


Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, WITH CANNONS

Sydney fireworks 2007

By the way I WAS late for work on Monday…….

de wolf in sheep’s clothing

Famous Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper was born Elda Furry. When she married actor DeWolf Hopper she consulted an astrologer cum numerologist who advised her to change her first name to Hedda. At least it sounded less like the names of DeWolf’s previous four wives: Edna, Ida, Ella and Nella.


DeWolf was over 25 years older than Hedda. Bald from childhood (he had alopecia), Hopper wore wigs both on and offstage. In later years, a reaction to harsh medicines that he took for throat problems made his skin have a bluish tinge. With an insatiable appetite for young actresses, he left a long trail of wives and countless mistresses in his wake — he became known by the nickname “The Husband of His Country.”


Hedda divorced him in 1922 and devoted herself to her gossip column, courting controversy wherever she went.

After publishing a blind item on Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s relationship, Tracy confronted her at Ciro’s and kicked her in the behind. Similarly, after she had printed a story about an extramarital affair between Joseph Cotten and Deanna Durbin, Cotten ran into Hopper at a social event and pulled out her chair, only to pull it out from under her when she sat down.  She reportedly tried to “out” Cary Grant and Randolph Scott as gay lovers, but Grant was too big a star even for her to touch. Joan Fontaine sent Hopper a skunk one Valentine’s Day with a note reading “I stink and so do you”. Hedda merely said that the skunk was beautifully behaved. She christened it Joan and passed it on to James Mason as a present.

Joan Fontaine

***In a March 1927 edition of Screen World Magazine, Hedda reported this April Fools Day story. EDITOR’S NOTE: Mae West was responsible for this new item being planted, and the so-called Queen of the Show Biz title. As she relates in her unpublished account of the match below, Mae was trying to promote herself to the Hollywood, and she thought beating the “IT” Girl, Clara Bow, would be her ticket to Tinsel Town.

“Boxing is in Mae’s blood. The daughter of pro fighter “Battling Jack” West, Mae knows her way around the ring, and loves it! Says she: “Look, dearie, if there’s any thing better than “SEX” it’s lacing on the gloves, stepping in the ring, and punchin’ the daylights out of some hussy! There ain’t no canvas made I’d ever lay on. Besides, I know plenty other places that give me more pleasure.”


Hedda’s rival Louella Parsons then supposedly wrote this riposte

“About the upcoming bout, Clara Bow purrs, then hisses: “I can’t wait! I love to fight so much! I love the smell of my leather boxing gloves! I don’t care how good a fighter Mae West is. I got twelve years on her, and I’m fit and in fighting trim. She’s old news, Louella, and when I’m done, she’s gonna be dead news!”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Parsons-Hopper animosity is of course legendary, but research indicates that it ran much deeper than professional rivalry. Both women had boxed on the underground circuit in their youth, and clashed in a number of bitterly fought matches, with Hedda the stylish boxer and Louella the shorter brawler. Of the three known bouts, Hedda outpointed Louella over six rounds; Louella knocked out Hedda in the fourth in the rematch; and the two fought to a bitterly contested draw over 12 rounds in the rubber match.”


*** found at Reocities which appears to specialise in April Fools Day Boxing Stories. None of the characters actually participated in any of this…..

Published in: on May 30, 2010 at 7:49 am  Comments (32)  
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the doctor does little

Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham Fiennes was very upset when he heard 20th Century Fox planned to make a film in his picturesque village.


He was seconded into the SAS, and promptly expelled following an unfortunate incident – “that Castle Combe business” – in which he was fined £500 for plotting, with the aid of flares and some plastic explosive, to blow up bits of the set of Dr Dolittle, which was apparently causing enormous inconvenience to the good residents of that idyllic Wiltshire village.

My favourite Dr Dolittle animal

Of course, this escapade is not the only thing that Ranulph is known for. While travelling to the North Pole in 2000, he developed frostbite.

Evacuated by air the following day, Fiennes underwent emergency treatment but was told that he would have to wait five months while the only partially damaged tissue healed and his “gnarled, mummified, witch-like talons” could be safely amputated.

Frostbite (not Ranulph’s) found here

So he decided to do the job himself. “I purchased a set of fretsaw blades at the village shop, put the little finger in my Black & Decker folding table’s vice, and gently sawed through the dead skin and bone just above the live skin line,” he writes. “The moment I felt pain or spotted blood, I moved further into the dead zone. I also turned the finger around several times and cut into it from different sides. This worked well, and the little finger’s knuckle finally dropped off after some two hours of work.” It took him five days to do the rest; a job, he says, well done.

The star of Dr Dolittle was Rex Harrison. During the making of the film, he was invited to present an award at the Directors’ Guild Annual Awards dinner. A limo was booked to pick up Rex and his wife Rachel Roberts and drive them to the ceremony. When the chauffeur rang the doorbell, he discovered the Harrisons were far from ready.


Rex and Rachel were joyfully soused and soaking wet. They had both been drinking in the pool and Rachel answered the door wearing her bikini as a waistband. Rex was wandering around minus his toupee and with his left testicle hanging out of his trunks. The studio sent over a “wrecking crew” of hairdressers, makeup and wardrobe people to make them presentable.


According to Mark Harris, the behind-scenes shenanigans of Mr and Mrs Harrison were legendary.

The man was anti-Semitic, passive-aggressive, alcoholic, avaricious, and egomaniacal. His wife, the severe and perpetually stewed actress Rachel Roberts, was a toxic presence on the set. Apparently in keeping with the movie’s subject, she embarrassed herself with dog yowling imitations, and even got bestial with a basset hound.


Sir Ranulph has a couple of cousins in the movie business, Ralph and Joseph. Ralph is famous for his escapade with a Qantas Flight Attendant.

Actor Ralph Fiennes considers himself to have been the victim of a sexual aggressor in an alleged mile-high sex scandal.

Hos media manager, Sara Keene, declared flight attendant Lisa Robertson had instigated the incident in a toilet cubicle of a Qantas flight between Darwin and Mumbai.

“She initiated the encounter,” Ms Keene said, in the first confirmation from the Fiennes camp that an incident did occur.

“This woman seduced him on a plane. She was the sexual aggressor.”


Reports that Lisa Robertson is the owner of a basset hound may have been greatly exaggerated….

Grace beyond redemption

***Grace Metalious wrote the biggest selling potboiler of 1956. The Christian Herald described her book, Peyton Place, as “Bad – quite beyond redemption.” The fact that it was written by a young housewife made it even more scandalous.

Neighbours buzzed about her poor homemaking skills and the nickname of “It’ll Do” that Grace had given her house. There were rumours that she didn’t wash dishes and fed her children peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches for lunch. Some of the stories were started by Grace herself such as the time she arrived at the Beverly Hills Hilton in a dusty convertible wearing an old western costume pretending to be a Texas oil millionaire. When shown to the suite she had booked, she adopted a false southern accent and expressed amazement upon discovering that hotels had indoor plumbing.


Grace hated Hollywood and the film version of her book. “All the women in Hollywood are either blondes, redheads or raven haired” she said. “Not one has plain brown hair or wears a size 32A brassiere.”

Perhaps she overlooked Mia Farrow who went on to portray the character of Allison MacKenzie in the television series of Peyton Place. Mia, who described her own slender figure as being a kind of 20-20-20, was from a Hollywood family. Her mother was actress Maureen O’Sullivan, her father was director John Farrow and her godmother was the famous and feared celebrity columnist Louella Parsons.

Mia marries Frank

Like Grace, Louella also hated being a housewife. Her third husband, “Docky” Harry Watson was a Beverly Hills urologist who had gained a reputation as “clap doctor” to the stars. His friendliness with local medical labs gave Louella more than one scoop on who was pregnant or ailing in Hollywood. A popular story about the party-loving Docky told how he once fell down drunk on the floor and stayed there. When someone moved to help him up, Louella cried “Oh don’t touch him please, he has to operate at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.” Needless to say this item was not printed in her column.

Louella and blonde friend

Parsons had long been known as “love’s undertaker” for her reports on celebrity breakups. When Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were quarreling she wrote impatiently that she’d like to spank the both of them for bad behaviour. Her 30th anniversary as a columnist was marked by a Masquers Club event at which Eddie Cantor candidly admitted “I”m here for the same reason everybody else is – we were afraid not to come.”

Eddie Cantor

Despite her hearty public image, health problems began to plague Louella. She took comfort in prayer, kneeling on her back lawn by a 10 foot statue of the Virgin Mary which was automatically bathed in light every evening at dusk. The last few years of her long life were spent in a nursing home where she died in 1972.

The Hollywood life was kinder to Louella than Grace. She died of alcoholism at age 39. “If I had to do it over again,” she once remarked, “it would be easier to be poor. Before I was successful, I was as happy as anyone gets.”

*** excerpt from The Bad and The Beautiful by Sam Kashner and Jennifer MacNair

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 8:46 am  Comments (41)  
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imprinted memories

When I was a child my father replastered the path to our back door. In doing so he reclaimed the small rectangle that had been a sand pit for my brother and me. He used to tell the story of how I was upset by this so as a consolation prize I was allowed to leave my handprints in the wet cement just outside the garage. My brother got the less advantageous spot beside the laundry which I accidentally walked over before it dried properly.

Sid Grauman, the part owner of Hollywood Boulevard’s Chinese Theatre, had the inspired idea of getting movie stars to place their foot and handprints in the wet cement on the sidewalk outside it.

image found here

Grauman was one of early Hollywood’s great personalities. Legendary as a practical jokster, he once sent MGM’s Marcus Loew to address an audience at the Ambassador Hotel, only to discover afterward the room was filled with dummies borrowed from the nearby Hollywood Wax Museum.

On another occasion, Grauman staged a Chaplin look-alike contest with official judges, with Chaplin himself as a secret contestant (Chaplin lost).

image of Chaplin and Einstein found here

His most notorious practical joke was played upon director Ernst Lubitsch, who was frightened of flying. He hired two stuntmen dressed as pilots to run down the aisle and parachute from the plane on which Lubitsch was travelling.”

Parachutist found here

Published in: on February 15, 2010 at 7:08 am  Comments (31)  
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butter wouldn’t melt…..

Paulette Goddard dated (and sometimes married) many famous men including Charlie Chaplin, Anderson Lawler and Spencer Tracy.

image found here

“Bette Davis called Katharine Hepburn to report that Tracy had been seen leaving the Hollywood Canteen with Goddard on his arm.

“As for me, in case you’re interested” said Davis, “I ended up with John Garfield. He raped me that night and I insisted he do it again the next morning. At least the time he spent with me was denying Joan Crawford a good roll in the hay. He’s fucking her too.”

image of Bette Davis and daughter found here

Anderson Lawler also reported Paulette’s activities with Tracy back to Katharine after they were spotted dining at Ciro’s

“Paulette went under the table between Spencer’s legs and was down there for at least twenty minutes. It was obvious, certainly to judge from the expression on his face, that she was performing fellatio on him. You know how fond our boy is of oral sex.”

image found here

The fellatio scene at Ciro’s became a Hollywood legend and Warren Beatty even incorporated it into his 1975 film Shampoo. Anderson Lawler was quite the gossip, he had news of a different type to tell Katharine a few weeks later

“You’ll never believe this” Lawler said “Last night I went to bed with Paulette Goddard. Up until now the only woman I’ve ever fucked was Kay Francis who is more lez inclined anyway. I must have been crazy. The only way I got through it was to imagine Gary Cooper naked……..”

image of Kay Francis found here

Published in: on February 13, 2010 at 8:43 am  Comments (45)  
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