So I had lunch with Robert, and he said I should tell my Terry Melcher story, in Dead Before Me, his title for the I-don't-want-to-call- it Memoir, about my famous friends(some of them not-so-famous, but all interesting and either wondrous or evil, sometimes both.) Terry was the son of Doris Day, who was, when we were friends, pretty much the most famous and probably most popular celebrity in the world. I was twenty, and my mother, a charming and witty bitch who really didn't like children, especially her own, came to Europe to round me up after my night-club career in Paris at the Mars Club, singing my own songs. That was a locale that caused Gene Kelly, my dance teacher from Pittsburgh when I was two, to ask my agent Elliott Kastner, "Is she a white woman?" But meeting up with Doris in London, I was given supervisory care of Terry, who was twelve.
"Westminster Abbey," said Terry. "Who needs it? Let's go to Wimpy's and have a Wimpyburger." He was, as is now known in the annals of colorful crime, the man who was later to bring Charles Manson into a would-have-been Hollywood circle, and when Manson's career as a songwriter didn't quite work out, Manson had taken his group into a chic part of the hills and killed everybody at Sharon Tate's. In truth, in fact, what Manson had been looking for was Terry Melcher.
I met him again when A.E. Hotchner, author (he was only a writer, but he took himself very seriously, so author is a more apt word) of Papa Hemingway, with whom I had become friendish on the road, invited me to a party at Paul Newman's house on Coldwater Canyon, (renting.) I was deeply involved, in a shallow way, with a lot of Washington Republicans, ruling the country at the time. I tried to humanize them for Paul Newman, who, like anyone with taste and mind I worshipped, albeit from afar except when, like on this occasion, I was honored to be up close, as I tried to explain what good people they were. "They're all crooks," Newman said, and that was that.
Terry tried to get me to tell him about Jerry Rosenthal, who'd become my attorney and friend(my mother loved him,) the lawyer who'd made everybody in Hollywood a corporation and then robbed them(though not me, as I hadn't written enough to be a pocket to dip into.) Jerry had partnered with Doris Day's husband, Marty Melcher, and more or less wiped her out, something for which I don't believe Marty was jailed as he hadn't lived long enough. It was a very fraught time, though I imagine I was just excited to be a part of it, across-the-board innocent of any wrongdoing, and not successful enough to be a target. I remember Jerry's going to jail, though not for his wrongdoing as much as opening a mouth to the judge. He used to call my mother from jail, as she was the only one who would accept his calls. There was a series about it in The New Yorker.
But politically the era was highly charged, though I was still callow and shallow enough to just be glad to be at a party at Paul Newman's. But when Jerry got out of jail and I could have befriended what was left of him, I didn't, and that is one of the major regrets of my life. Not because I am that good and kind a person as much as thinking it would have been fascinating to find out what really had been going on, not that he would have told me the truth.
Doris is still alive today, at 91, though I doubt she is very compis mentis. I would love to say Hi to her, though doubt she will remember me, if anything. It must be sad, though, to have lost a son-- Terry died fairly young-- and to have one's great unpublicized romance having been Maury Wills. And one's lawyer having been Jerry Rosenthal. I should have called him.