This used to be it for me, the season of the Academy Awards: I am reluctant to use the word "Oscars," because it has become so... what, exactly? I am not sure. 'Commercialized' is the wrong word to use in a disparaging sense, because that is what it was always meant to be.
But once it seemed Glorious, with a deliberate capital. When I was a little girl, I was already in love with movies. And as I grew up, there came into my life a plethora of movie stars. Gregory Peck filming a scene for Gentleman's Agreement in the railroad station at Darien, Conn., where I was in boarding school.' turning up later, at an actual Hollywood party--where everyone was. Gene Kelly, who had been my dancing teacher in Pittsburgh when I was two optioned my first movie script, What a Way to Go! Cary Grant on my telephone- a whole other saga. George Segal, with whom I had been crazily infatuated at Bryn Mawr, becoming ALMOST a major movie star, retaining always, if less than his charisma, the ability to hurt my feelings.
But Great and Glorious in the full sense of both those words did it seem for a moment in time, when the phone rang and a woman named Sandy Burton called me and asked if she could cover my Academy Awards party for Time Magazine. Oh, how I loved publicity then,--it was in the midst of my success with my novel, THE PRETENDERS, and how we all still loved Time Magazine. And how I came to love Sandy Burton.
She had gone for a cut to my hairdresser, Dusty Fleming, who told her he was going to go to this great party. And a great party it was. Ruth Berle, the wife of Milton, who wasn't as much as she was, toughie though she was, an ex-army sergeant, a woman who tolerated no pretension, really liked me. So where she went, Hollywood followed, and that year she came to my house.
The McGiverns(Bill and Maureen)'s son Patrick had on an old ushers' outfit from the Roxy, and he stood in our driveway with a flashlight ushering people in. A black-tie party to watch on TV, at the time a true, witty innovation. Everybody came. Lee Marvin, who had won Best Actor, the year before, his then girl Michelle who was to go on to become the originator of 'palimony,' Shirley Jones, still with Jack Cassidy who was to die in a fire at his apartment, causing Alexis Smith, in my yoga class with Bikram to say, "Well, he always was flamboyant." Glenn Ford who had once been top of the box office food chain, chair tilted back against the wall in my bed room, Shirley MacLaine, stoned out of her head raging against Mike Frankovich and Columbia to Sandy Burton, who I kept telling her was with Time Magazine-- "I thought I was at a private party!" Shirley steamed when the article appeared, though I had told her even as she spewed that Sandy was there for Time, as Sandy, pencil in hand and pad under Shirley's nose told her the same. And being the great gentlewoman she was, all she printed of what Shirley disgorged was "Oh, shut up, Mike Frankovich."
I had cooked for days. Don tended bar. There were hot dog wagons with Sabrett umbrellas in our back yard-- and it really was a back yard-- and Madeleine 5, was in a gown, and Robert, 2, was in a tux. All of life lay ahead of us, and there we were, celebrated and celebrating. Zsa Zsa Gabor in our living room, her gown no more spectacular than mine. How much better could it get?
Not much of course. But it was a great night, where everyone had a fabulous time. The house was divided into three rooms- Orthodox (Just watching, no talk) Conservative(watching and talking) and Reformed(talking the whole time.) Everybody got presents. (Ruth Berle brought an autographed picture of Ruth Roman.)
Sandy was to become my favorite friend. She gave me directions to Carlos Castenada's Power Spot in the Malibu mountains. After she wrote her piece interviewing him she became the first woman Bureau Chief of Time Magazine. I visited her in Boston, Paris, and Hong Kong where she was stationed, I want to say, as if she were in the service, which I think she really was. She became an intimate of the Aquino family in the Phillipines, was on the plane with Aquino when he returned to his home and was assassinated. She became a backbone of Corey's rise to president. And was later to be killed, when I was visiting her in Bali, by her boyfriend.
It is a young word to use: 'boyfriend', and by then we were no longer young. But I can't call him her 'lover,' because that is too tender and sexy a word to apply to him. I had lunch with her the day before her 'accidental' death, where she was apparently fatally beaten, though the official report said she fell and hit her head on the toilet. I was still in shock at her funeral when her body was taken from the police truck, and did not see it before they put it into the oven. She had said to me at that last luncheon, about her soon-to-be killer, "We have my friends, and his friends; there are no our friends. " When I got back to LA I saw my doctor and told him what I had been told had happened, he mocked the "accidental" finish, showing how she would have had to bounce back and forth many times on that toilet seat to be fatally injured.
I have gone back to Bali several times, where the sly assassin lived comfortably, probably on her money, to try and get justice for her. But it was Bali, and there is nothing that can't be paid off, including murder.
I think of all this at Oscar time of year. It flashes by like coming attractions.