Sunday, February 28, 2016


     Many years ago, so many Time Magazine was still THE happening publication, and the people receiving it were in tune with everything that was taking place everywhere, Dusty Fleming was the hot hairdresser in Beverly Hills, and sometimes places out of the country where people flew him to do hair.  Sandra Burton was the brilliant new young reporter in Los Angeles for Time-- she was too shining to be simply bright:  it was the beginning of the Seventies, still extraordinary to do things as a clever woman. She went to Dusty to get her hair done, and asked him what he was doing for the Awards, and he told her he was going to this "great party."  She called me and asked if she could cover it for Time, and I nearly, as the Republican candidates being as inarticulate and tasteless as they are right now would say, peed on myself, I was so happily excited. 
      THE PRETENDERS, my novel about the Beautiful People, whom everyone assumed I knew, though I knew about them only what I was making up, with the exception of what I knew about the great showman, Billy Rose, the myth of his greatness being what he himself believed, little man that he was, dating the foul-mouthed and basically delightful, at least she was then, Sue Mengers, had been high on the bestseller list.  Sue had been my best friend, my agent, and my sister in spirit which we both had, in the beginning of our careers, anyway, and we'd both actually gone out with Billy, who enjoyed dating young, bright women.   The insights in the novel-- there were many-- lifted the book above the sexy, flashy, and highly successful dance it did, perfect for the end of that decade, and I'd connected.
      Ruth Berle, the very smart wife of Milton, former Army sergeant, (Ruth, not Milton,) read my new novel,  Touching, in manuscript, and completely approving my departure from sensationalism, became what Sandy, the reporter, was to call in her article in Time my 'doyenne,' electing to come to my Oscar party, endorsing me.  Everyone came.   I really liked Ruth.  And, as my friendship with Sandy was to be one of the great relationships in my life, I came to love Sandy. 
     My living room above Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills-- our house was divided for the evening into three: Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox-- was pictured in Time Magazine.  Our children, Madeleine and Robert, four and two, were in black tie, and the world, it seemed, was to be ahead of us.  Publicity was ALL, and this was the best of it, the shiniest link to the era's Heaven.  Lee Marvin, who had won the best male performance the year before, was there, along with everyone else who appeared to matter, including Shirley MacLaine, still cute, or seemingly so.  Stoned, she stared fixedly at a TV screen later in the evening that featured Sandor Vanocur, with whom she was bundling at the time.  She got very angry when her name appeared in the article in Time Sandy Burton wrote,  though Sandy had told her repeatedly, under her nose with pen and notebook, that she was there covering the party for Time, charitably ending up putting nothing Shirley said that was offensive, though there had been much, in the article.  Warren Cowan, publicist, told me I had to make it right with Shirley, and I spent several years trying to while I still imagined it mattered.  
       But Sandy Burton and I became true friends, in the deepest sense, even though it was Hollywood.  When she became the first woman bureau chief for Time, we both hoped and thought she would eventually become its editor.  She was posted to many important places, healing great issues, becoming an important witness to history.  She became instrumental in trying to help restore the Aquino family in the Philippines, having been on the plane with Aquino when he returned home from prison and was a witness to his assassination. 
     Eventually she was killed, hit and strangled, in all likelihood by the very self-important man she thought loved her.  I had visited her everywhere she was posted and was in Bali, my favorite place, for her death, though I had gone there for what I had thought would be a holiday.  So I was there for her funeral, having been with her the afternoon of the day she was killed, when she told me how peculiar things were with him. 
      I have not gotten over it to this day.   Bali is a place you can still literally get away with murder.  She probably left him everything,  as her family was mostly dead.  He came to her memorial in New York, where he actually stood on a platform in front of the many gathered there from the news business, trying tried to sell himself as a talent, marketable.  If I sound angry it's because I still am, along with sad.  Today is always a difficult day for me.