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Backdoor Debutantes

It was out of this world to think that Barb and I were right here at Humphrey Bogart’s garden, party mingling incognito in our best glamour make-up with the guests. Barb kept complaining about my pinching her, but I couldn’t help it, even though the red marks started to show through her chiffon, which was not so becoming, since the dress was green. I talked to Claude Rains about Victory Gardens and tried to discuss Lincoln with C. Aubrey Smith, but that came to an impasse since he pretended he had never known him. And not one of them, including my beloved Bogie and Mayo, recognized us as the housemaid and gardener, respectively, of the Bogarts.

Of course it never would have happened—our being hired by Mayo—if it hadn’t been for the employment shortage, but Vera Bailey and the Guiding Stars, Ltd., our club back East that puts out “Fan Dust,” will never have to know that. They think we have simply infatuated the Bogarts and are their house guests, spending a little time with them while we are out here on the Coast visiting my Aunt Helen and Uncle Bossy. As a matter of fact, Vera was completely bowled over by the photographs we sent back of me and Bogie and various other stars in various poses. I must say that Barb is a wonder at hiding in the bushes with her camera at just the right moment.

We were simply having a wonderful time, being careful not to mix our drinks but just sticking to all kinds of rum and speaking to everybody. We kept wondering when the Occasion of the garden party would occur—i.e., when Jack Warner would make the announcement that Bogie was to play Ulysses S. Adams in his big picture, “Uncle Sam’s Nephew.” Then at six o’clock things began to happen, and never stopped, for my money. Everybody gathered around and Jack stood on the steps near the swimming pool and made a great speech about the Industry and Manhood and Womanhood, Barb and I being too excited, standing right near Red Skelton, to hear much. ‘Then he ended up with “the role of Ulysses S. Adams has been awarded to that loyal American, Humphrey Bogart.”

There was terrific applause and Bogie stepped towards Mr. Warner, holding out his hand. The cameras were all going strong when suddenly he tripped over a rake which I’m afraid I forgot to put away after my morning chores and went splash into the pool.

Without thinking, I plunged right in after him. It wasn’t until I hit the cold water that I remembered I couldn’t swim a stroke!

Bogie saved my life, though not intentionally. He climbed out of the pool with me clinging to him and then he and Red Skelton pulled me up. At least that’s what Barb says. I was too full of water to notice much. All I remember is seeing twelve dollars’ worth of hat float away like a Disney water lily. A gray chiffon dress is very ethereal floating in the summer breeze, but dunked in pool water it shows aU the underpinnings. The next thing I remember is lying on the lawn wrapped in a blanket and Bogie wringing himself out and swearing under his breath. People were crowding around and someone said, “Who is she?”

“How should I know?” said Bogie. “I never saw her before in my life.” I cast a reproachful look at him from under my lashes. (Later I learned it was only the left ones, the right being at the bottom of the pool.)

“He knows only too well who she is,” said Barbara indignantly after he had gone to the house to get dry clothes. The next thing I knew a lot of reporters were crowding around me asking questions. One of them asked my address and I pointed to my room. Then Muggs came along and took me away and made me take a hot bath and the cook brought me some broth. The cook is swell. She’s an old family retainer, having worked for the B’s for over a year. Then Bogie’s doctor came and took my temperature and said I must stay in bed on liquid nourishment (nonalcoholic) and he very quiet.

I had a terrible time getting the left eyelashes off as they stuck like glue, but finally did and got my face made up in case anyone should come to see me, but it was only Mayo. She was very sweet and said I should just ring for anything I wanted. I told her I felt terrible about spoiling the party, and if there was anything I could do to mend matters I would be only too happy. She said I’d better just stay quietly in bed.

In the meantime my man Early was holding a Press Conference on the lawn.

Monday after lunch.

I am writing this in longhand as I’m supposed to be taking a nap, but naturally I can’t sleep. I didn’t close an eye all night, until after one o’clock. This morning I felt fine but decided to have a cough and a headache because I realize the minute I get well I’m fired. Barb sneaked in some bacon and eggs, etc., and then Aunt Helen telephoned and Barb went and said I was busy in the garden and would phone her later. She said something about a letter from Pops and our getting back home. Then she asked Barb what this was about my falling in the pool and Barb said not to believe a word of it, as it was all press-agent stuff Aunt Helen said, “But her picture is in the paper, and so is yours.” Barb was so excited at that that she hung up the receiver and rushed for the papers, but Bogie had taken them so she had to go out and buy them.

“Jane,” she cried when she returned, “you are famous! You’ll probably get all kinds of movie offers, but you must hold out for at least a hundred a week. They don’t appreciate you if you’re too cheap.”

“Barb,” I said, “if they want me, they’ll have to take you too.”

She was very touched at this evidence of true friendship.

Sure enough the papers were full of yesterday’s party with pictures, including one of me. Fortunately it was on page 6, as I don’t look my best half drowned.

“I’ll have trouble explaining this to Vera and the club,” I said when I read that Bogie had denied knowing me.

“Just say he’s secretly in love with you but you have to keep silent to protect his reputation. In fact, I’d better wire her before ‘Fan Dust’ goes to press.”

We were feeling pretty wonderful until I came across a little item in Hedda’s column that made me realize for the first time what I had really done.

In view of the circumstances, our bets are on Gary Cooper for the role of Ulysses S. Adams.

That was all it said, but I knew it was the beginning of the end. Bogie would sink down and down and end up in the gutter in front of Central Casting, playing bit parts and remembering the good old days. I had loved him, “not wisely, but too well,” and I who would rather die a thousand deaths than harm a hair of his head had innocently involved him in a scandal that would ruin his career.

“Not so innocently,” said Barb.

I would have killed myself, except that I hated to die.

“Don’t take it so hard,” said Barb sympathetically. “Maybe by good conduct he’ll live it down in a couple of years.”

We had a wonderful lunch and then Barb went out to do some shopping and send a wire to Vera to hold the mimeograph until further notice. I tried to sleep, but my Past kept running through my mind and I wondered what I could do to make amends. I could retire to a convent, but that really wouldn’t help Bogie with the producers. I resolved to make the Supreme Sacrifice, whatever it was. Maybe it’s to go away and never see him again and renounce even his movies. But, I thought, I would have to see him once and face the music. I would listen in silence to his reproaches and then would say, simply:

“Mr. Bogart, I know it may seem to you that I have acted in a foolish manner, but I assure you that I admire you merely as an artist, not as a man. Since my childhood I have been a worshiper at the Shrine of Thespis, the Greek Founder of the Drama.”

I began to practice it out loud before the mirror.

Then I got back to bed and was writing when I heard footsteps and a knock at the door.

I slipped the pad under the cover and said “Come in” in a weak voice.

Monday eleven p.m. It was Bogie himself, in a dark red dressing gown, looking very intime.

“Hello, Jane,” he said, “how’re you feeling?”

Just like that, as if I hadn’t ruined his life.

And then, before I could answer, he began to sneeze and my heart froze. Suppose on top of it all he got pneumonia and died, all on my account. If he did, I would wear mourning the rest of my life, maybe with a touch of white. Tears came to my eyes, but I forced myself to begin the speech.

“Mr. Bogart . . . .”

“Bogie, to you,” he said. I couldn’t beheve my ears. The speech fled from my mind. What price Thespis!

“How about some tea and pastry?” he asked, ringing the bell for Muggs. “Feed a cold and the fever will take care of itself.”

Muggs brought in tea and the most wonderful cocoanut cakes and we chatted about everything under the sun and he made me feel quite equal. He didn’t mention what had happened, or scold me, he merely asked me if Barbara had any more films in the camera. I said nothing of any importance and he said if I didn’t mind he’d like to see them, so naturally I promised . . . of course I couldn’t give him the ones we had already sent to Vera.

Then I asked him if he would get the role of U.S. Adams. He said Jack Warner had phoned and from what he had said, it would most likely go to Gary Cooper.

“It’s okay with me,” said Bogie. “He’s a swell actor and he’s identified in the minds of the American public with a hero. I’m just a bad man. Maybe they should use me in a film to recruit gangsters.”

He smiled, but I knew it was to cover a broken heart. Tears sprang to my eyes. Here he was, his career ruined, and trying to cheer me up. It was the noblest thing I had ever come across, outside of pictures. I’m afraid I began to blubber a little. So he put his hand on mine and said:

“Cheer up, kid. It really wasn’t your fault. Mayo always tells me to look where I’m going.” Then he changed the subject by asking me all about myself and before I knew it I was telling him about ‘Fan Dust’ and Vera and how difficult it would be to face the gang back East. He admitted I was in a spot.

“I tell you what,” he said. “I’ll autograph a picture to you, very affectionately, and you can show it to them. I’ll write, ‘To my dear friend Jane, with affection and happy memories. Bogie.’ That should shut them up.”

“Would you really do that after all I’ve done?”

“Of course. I appreciate your devotion and loyalty.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. If Vera and the gang could only have heard him. Which reminded me. This was the moment.

“Bogie,” I said, “there are thirty-five subscribers to ‘Fan Dust.’ If you could autograph a picture to each of them . . . not affectionately, like mine, of course, but with their names and a different message on each . . . it would help a lot to restore my prestige.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll get one of the secretaries at the studio to do it. Give me a list of the names.”

“If you don’t mind,” I said firmly, “they would prefer it in your own writing. I was an autograph hound myself once and I know it makes all the difference in the world.”

He looked at me with admiration.

“Jane,” he said, “you’re going places. You’re quite a gal.”

“Thank you. Bogie,” I said, giving him the list of names Vera had sent me.

When he left I felt strangely elated, and yet torn by remorse. I looked in the mirror and saw I had aged months in one short hour. It wouldn’t have surprised me to have found a gray hair. I wished Barb would hurry back to witness my emotional upheaval. I wondered what that goon could be doing all this time.

Something, I decided, ought to be done, and no time should be lost. I thought and thought and finally I decided to go right to the headquarters of the Motion Picture Industry . . . Louis B. Mayer himself. I had heard of his kindness and charitable works, and if I put the case squarely before him, he might intercede for Bogie with Jack Warner and the others. I lost no time but called M-G-M. The female who answered the telephone said that Mr. Mayer’s secretary had gone for the day, and could I tell her what it was about. I said, “Certainly not, it’s a purely personal matter between L. B. and myself,” and hung up.

Fortunately I had taken down Mr. Mayer’s private address when I sent out the invitations to the party, so I could go right to his house. I had just come to that decision when Barb arrived with a man in tow.

“Mr. Moore,” she explained, “is a talent scout. I met him in Schwab’s drugstore.”

He was at least thirty-two. Barb is pretty naive for seventeen, I thought. He looks more like a wolf than a scout to me.

“This is my friend, Jane Lyons,” she continued. “Don’t you think she’s photogenic too?”

He looked at my profile and said I certainly was.

“He thinks I’m exactly the type Mr. Hitchcock is looking for and he’s going to get me a screen test.”

Well, there was just something about Mr. Moore that didn’t look like a talent scout to me, so I asked him certain questions and I could see he was bluffing. Barb, poor lamb, swallows anything. Finally I could stand it no longer because I saw how she was falling for him. I know the signs in Barb.

“Mr. Moore,” I said, “are you really a talent scout, or is this just a game?”

He looked right at me.

“Miss Lyons,” he said, “you’re pretty smart. I can’t lie to you. The truth is, I’m nuts about Barb and I knew it was the only way I could get to know her. You ought to appreciate that.”

Barb’s eyes popped and I’m afraid her tongue popped out too, which it does when she is deeply moved.

“Maybe real love has come to poor Barb at last,” I thought, fool that I was. And I felt happy for them in my loneliness. What if he had lied, I thought. Didn’t I do the same thing in the interest of love?

Barb sat on the bed and he on the chair Bogie had been in and we talked very intimately and I told Barb about Bogie’s visit and she said she was glad she had been out so I could be alone with him, but she wanted to know every word he said. So I told them what a swell guy he was and about signing the pictures, and I’m afraid I got rather sloppy because this person seemed so sincere and sort of egged me on by saying how much he had always admired Bogie. He said he could understand any woman falling in love with him, as he was a real he-man type. He said he hoped he’d get the role of Ulysses S. Adams. I said I was afraid it was going to Gary Cooper, from what Jack Warner had said, but of course not to pass it on, as Bogie had told me in confidence.

He looked at his watch and said he had to leave at once to catch a train. Barb’s face fell because she had expected him to take her to dinner. “Poor Barb,” thought I, “fulfillment is not for her. I’ll bet he’s a married man.”

Barb took him to the door and just as they were leaving the room Bogie came in with the signed photographs and they collided and greeted each other, but not very cordially. After they had gone Bogie said, “Nice manners.”

I explained that Mr. Moore was rushing to catch a train.

“Train my eye,” said Bogie. “It’s a deadline he’s rushing to catch. His name isn’t Moore. It’s Frank Moreland.”

A light began to dawn on me. A pale, sickly light And in it I saw the column head, Moreland’s Movieland.

“That . . . that isn’t, that’s not . . .” I began.

“It sure is,” said Bogie. “I thought I saw him hanging around outside this morning. That guy’s been gunning for me ever since we had a feud back on Broadway. I hope to heaven you didn’t shoot your mouth off.”

“I just told him how swell you’ve been to me,” I said. I was really scared.

“Oh, you did, did you. Then I might as well pack and go back to the farm. By the time the afternoon papers come out tomorrow my name will be mud. I won’t have a friend left in Hollywood. What you need is a muzzle!”

He threw the photographs down on the bed and stalked out without even saying good-by.

All I wanted was to be mopped up.

At that moment Barb came back.

“How do you like my boy friend?” she asked. “Janie, this is love at last.”


Aboard the Super Chief

Homeward Bound

This has been a Scarlet Letter day in my life.

Errol Flynn and Preston Sturges are writing their autobiographies, but they will be nothing compared to mine.

We have just had filet mignon in the diner and now I must write the day’s events. We are leaving Hollywood with regrets and with memories, but we are looking forward to getting back to Broadway. The Stork, Leon and Eddie’s, Le Ruban Bleu . . . all are calling. Not that we actually ever go to those places.

There are several celebrities aboard this de luxe train besides ourselves and we expect to know them long before we reach Chicago. I am now about to write the last chapter of our Great Adventure and put Finis under it.

When I told Barb who her Paramour really was she nearly collapsed. She said that explained why he hadn’t tried to kiss her. She had attributed it only to gentle manliness. We held a conference and decided that we just couldn’t face Bogie, and we might as well pack and steal quietly away in the dead of night, leaving a note on the dressing table. Barb said it ought to be a suicide note, but I didn’t think so.

So we phoned Aunt Helen that we would be there about mi night, and she said she had just been planning to come for us, so we told her to have her car at the gate on the stroke of twelve and that we would explain all later.

Bogie and Mayo were out to a preview and then going to the Troika, so that made things easier. We took a few souvenirs, nothing of intrinsic value. Mayo has a set of quartz elephants and Barb wanted one for her charm bracelet. She wanted to take the smallest one but I told her not to, as it would be stealing. It was Barb’s idea that I sprinkle his pillow with my perfume so that he should remember me, and perchance dream, as Shakespeare said. We bid farewell to all the familiar places and stole silently out to the waiting car.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Bossy were simply super. I told them everything. Aunt Helen said we would have to leave on the first possible train if we wanted to be in New York for the opening of school, as the trains were often delayed on account of the movement of troops. “It couldn’t be,” I said to Barb, “that she wants to get rid of us.”

But as far as I was concerned, immediately was not soon enough. I felt I had exhausted the possibilities of Hollywood. The Super Chief runs Tuesdays so Uncle Bossy went early this morning and had the luck to get two reservations. It leaves at five-thirty and Barb and I figured that would be a nice getaway, just before the afternoon editions got around.

UNCLE BOSSY took us to a final luncheon at the Cock and Bull as Aunt Helen had somewhere to go. She didn’t mention where.

He told us to order whatever we wanted and not to consider price, which was a positive torture, because neither of us had any appetite.

We took a last walk on Hollywood Boulevard and Barb remembered to phone Huanera to say good-by to our little Seabees, Sparks and Robin. I would have forgotten them completely in my sorrow.

Aunt Helen looked pretty excited when we got home and said she thought we ought to get to the station by at least five, on account of the crowds that mill around these days.

What happened after that was like a movie in Technicolor.

We drove to the Pasadena station and Uncle Bossy had the tickets and we walked through the train which is all streamlined, and he led us right into a drawing room and there sat Bogie and Mayo and Peter Lorre and Red Skelton and Betty Hutton. The room was filled with flowers and candy and Barb and I pinched each other because we thought it was funny we should both dream that all these people were going East on the same train we were taking.

Bogie had a newspaper in his hand so I wanted to get away, and I said, “Let’s find our seats,” and Aunt Helen said:

“This is your drawing room, all to yourselves, with the compliments of Mr. Jack Warner.”

Barb and I looked at each other. We didn’t believe our own ears or each other’s.

“And your food is paid for on the whole trip. Just sign the checks,” said Uncle Bossy, handing us our fare money back.

Then Bogie showed us the paper, saying, “Jack can afford it. You got him thousands of dollars worth of publicity for ‘Uncle Sam’s Nephew.’ ”

The story was on the front page and instead of showing Bogie up as we had expected, Mr. Moreland said that he was burying the hatchet and he had always known he was a good actor, but now he realized he was a swell guy as he was taking the rap and losing a role to protect a couple of girls, and that anyone who could inspire such devotion and loyalty must have something.

He quoted me verbatim and yet it kind of made a lump come to my throat to read it.

More people came and brought us presents and the cameramen took our pictures, one with Bogie on one side and Gene Kelly on the other.

They’re going to be in the papers and they will send us prints.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Bossy kissed us good-by and Aunt H. was crying and Bogie said, “Where do I come in?” and he kissed me on the cheek. Then he kissed Barb’s cheek, too.

It was the happiest moment of my life. My cup was overflowing. I felt nothing in the world could ever top it. But it did.

Just before the train pulled out, Greer Garson, herself, pushed her way through the crowd and came up to me with an autograph album.

“Miss Lyons,” she said, “may I please have your autograph?”

Life could hold no more.