“We Are Not Ashamed”—Kim Novak & Rafael Trujillo
Kim tugged at her lavender bedspread. She patted it smooth again and looked around the elegant bedroom, at the white fur rug, at the lavender walls, the king-size bed. The house was new, and this was the bedroom of her dreams. She didn’t want the maid fussing with her very special room now. She liked taking care of it herself.
And besides, it kept her mind off other things . . . her loneliness, the thoughts that her life was grotesquely different. There was emptiness in her mind, in her heart.
She had everything she wanted now. Everything about the house—even to the electric-light bulbs tinted a faint rose-lavender—was an exact reflection of the dreams she had had for years. And she didn’t have to worry about the cost of the home. Her studio, in a salute to her great box-office drawing power, had presented her with this luxurious $100,000 home in exclusive Bel-Air as a gift.
Surely, thought Kim, I should be glowing with happiness. I am a star, as I always hoped to be. This home is exactly what I have always wanted. All the things around me are the things I dreamed of as a little girl living in a house with a wishing tree in the back.
Then she shuddered a little, in. spite of the sunlight pouring into the room. There was a wound stabbing at her. Only recently she had broken off with a man who—the studio had warned her—would be a threat to her career.
Harry Cohen had been alive then—Harry, the wise studio boss who had made her a star. He had said, “Kim, you told me a long time ago that you loved your career, that stardom meant everything in the world to you. Now you say you want to continue to see this man. Don’t you know that you can’t have both?”
And so she had made a final phone call to this man, telling him that they could never see each other again.
Now she shook her silver-blonde hair and sighed. She stared through the glass doors to the garden, to the pool glistening like a blue jewel in the sunlight. No one understands, she sighed. How well she knew the way the gossip had raged around her in Hollywood . . . how her name had been on everyone’s tongue. . . .
Her phone rang. It was a gay voice, the voice of joyous Zsa Zsa Gabor. She wished she could be like the witty, bubbling Hungarian charmer, going lightly from one admirer to another, never caring very deeply for anyone.
“I’m giving a party,” Zsa Zsa said. “Dollink, you must come. There is going to be a wonderful man there. You will enjoy meeting him. He is just your type.”
In a tired voice, Kim said, “I’m not going to parties much these days.”
“But dollink, this one you must go to. This man is wonderful. He is important; he is powerful and rich. And very charming. He has just arrived in Hollywood and he has done nothing but talk about a certain woman whose picture he has seen and whom he must meet. And guess who she is, dollink . . . you.”
Kim laughed. “Zsa Zsa, how you carry on! Who is this terrific man?”
“Rafael Trujillo, Jr—he is the son of the head of the Dominican Republic, and a lieutenant general himself. He is the head of the Dominican Air Force, the handsomest man you have ever met, and young—he is just marvelous, dollink. You must come to my party.”
“All right,” said Kim, without much enthusiasm. “I’ll come.”
It was with this feeling of desolation that Kim set out to meet the man who has become the most important man in her stormy love life.
Kim went to the party alone. Kim always manages, by accident or design, to make a dramatic entrance when she arrives at a party. This time, when she arrived at Zsa Zsa’s home, she stood for moments in the doorway, her statuesque figure draped in a form-fitting beige satin sheath gown.
A tall handsome man, lean and muscular, with dark, wavy hair and a wiry moustache, was the center of a group of people. As Kim stood and gazed coolly at the guests, he wheeled around and stared at her. “I must meet her,” he said. Zsa Zsa, who was in the group, smiled knowingly and said, “I knew this would happen. Come, I will introduce you.”
From that moment, General Rafael Trujillo and Kim were together all evening. Never for a moment did he leave her side. Every night during his stay in Hollywood, they saw each other.
Their romance, which began in an instant burst of attraction, was to make headlines throughout the world—but while Rafael was in Hollywood, Kim moved in a lavender-scented mist of happiness.
As one of the most beautiful stars in Hollywood, Kim has always commanded attention. But now, with Rafael Trujillo as her constant escort, she got more attention than ever because this man was greatly in demand by every important hostess. Wherever Rafael took Kim, he was greeted with the kind of deference usually given only to visiting royalty.
He had come to Hollywood with an imposing retinue—his own cook, secretary and any number of aides. People bowed and scraped wherever he went. Nevertheless, this man who was used to being catered to constantly was so tender and thoughtful to Kim that it was obvious he wanted only to cater to her.
It was a giddy experience for Kim. Kim, born of a relatively poor family in Chicago, has always felt financially insecure. Even now, with a salary that approaches the four-figure mark each week, she has a disturbing feeling of insecurity. She couldn’t help being dazzled by young, dashing Trujillo, one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Kim was a girl who had had to struggle hard for every dime she ever earned. Rafael had been accustomed to riches all his life, and the casually elegant way he spent his money was breath-taking to her.
From the first, he sent her beautiful roses every morning. Already her home was filled to bursting with flowers. They filled every vase she had, and he had even sent flowers to her in special vases, so that her home looked like a garden nursery.
Then a few days after they met, Kim opened her first gift—and was dazzled. Never in her life had she seen such a jewel! It was a piece of perfection, nestled in a box from the finest jeweler in Beverly Hills.
Kim in her love-tossed life, has received many gifts from men who were infatuated with her, but never before so many from one admirer. “She has enough jewels from Rafael,” one observer told us, “so that if she chose to hock them she could live on the money for a lifetime.”
But it wasn’t just Rafael’s lavishness that swept Kim off her feet. It was very flattering to see the way other women fawned on him, and the way he seemed to disregard them completely to center his adoration on her. With unseeing eyes he would look at the glamor girls in the Mocambo, then turn to the quiet, almost shy Kim, telling her with every word he spoke, with every look he gave her, that she, and she alone was the woman he adored.
Kim has always responded to the romanticism of foreign men. While some of her best friends are Americans, she has been swept off her feet by the ardor of Latin men like Aly Khan and Count Bandini. But never anything like the ardor of this man!
Whenever Rafael brought her home, she knew that he would not be content until he called her again minutes later to find out how she was. Where American men-friends had been accustomed to taking her more or less for granted, he took nothing for granted.
One evening, when he had invited guests to dinner at the mansion he had rented in Bel-Air, he discovered at the last minute that he couldn’t call for her and drive her to his home.
“Don’t worry, Ramfis,” said Kim blithely. (Ramfis is Rafael’s nickname.) “I’ll take a taxi.”
Never ” Rafael had replied firmly. “I would not dream of permitting you to do such a thing. I would not let you come alone. I want to protect you, darling.” And he had sent his limousine and chauffeur, with two of his aides to escort her to his home in a style befitting a princess.
At the dinner she sat at the place of honor at his right, and he showed her such tenderness and courtesy all evening that the other guests treated Kim with the same kind of respect. Such attention, such prestige—Kim was thrilled with it all. . . .
Rafael noticed everything about her. When she changed the style of her hairdo, when she wore something new that he liked—he would compliment her in ecstatic praises. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever known, and one of the most charming,” he told her.
Men have told Kim always that she was beautiful—but Kim has been obsessed with a feeling of inferiority from the time she was a child and went to public school wearing dresses her grandmother had made for her, dresses that made her feel clumsy and fat. Although men have admired her beauty, few men ever told her she had poise or personality. And here was Lieutenant General Trujillo—dashing, powerful, son of a famous and powerful Generalissimo, a fabulously wealthy young man with an income of $50,000 a month, a man who was accustomed to associating with world famous dignitaries—here was this man telling her how charming and wonderful she was.
Clouds . . . purple clouds . . . she’d been on them before, but never like this. She felt herself floating on a cloud so high in the sky it seemed as if she’d drift away into the upper stratosphere.
In spite of his devotion to her, Kim hardly dared believe that Ramfis was taking her seriously. She knew how pursued he was, and she believed their romance might last a week, maybe two or three, but that it couldn’t possibly be the love of a lifetime for either one of them.
Early in their friendship, Rafael told her about his marriage, that he and his wife had separated many months ago and that he planned to get a divorce.
At once, the thought crossed her mind: People will say I’m a home wrecker.
So she said, “But isn’t there a chance you may reconcile? It might be best, for you and the children.”
He shook his head. “We are completely incompatible. Our marriage is dead. Only my devotion to our children has held us together finally come to the conclusion that it is wrong for us to remain together. It is a farce.”
The infatuation, which began like a sudden flame, now was raging like a forest fire. . . .
Then came their first separation. Kim had to follow studio orders and leave for San Francisco to help publicize Vertigo. She knew that Rafael would have to leave soon for the Army Staff Officers’ School at Fort Leavenworth, where he would study American techniques in air and military procedures. Leaving him was like dying a little. She begrudged each day she would be away from him. For a moment they even considered his following her to San Francisco. But they decided their romance would be a little too obvious if he did that. For the time being—until he could come to her a divorced man, free to woo her openly—it would be better to keep their romance as quiet as possible.
Then while she was in San Francisco, a bombshell exploded.
Black newspaper headlines told of the lavish gifts the young Latin general had bestowed on Kim—the $8500 Mercedes Benz, and of the $11,000 chinchilla coat he’d bought for Zsa Zsa for introducing him to her. There were critics who believed that the money for these gifts came from our gifts to the Dominican Republic.
We might as well give our foreign aid directly to famous actresses as let a young playboy from the Dominican Republic spend our money on such lavish gifts, the critics said very loudly.
“This is ridiculous,” replied an aide of the General’s. “General Trujillo is one of the wealthiest men in the world. He believes he has the right to spend his money as he sees fit.”
The studio is alarmed again
The studio, alarmed by the publicity, called Kim on the carpet and suggested that she try to mollify the reporters. Kim and Rafael had been hoping to announce their romance with some dignity once he was free. Now Kim was shattered by the bitter criticism.
Confused by the spotlight glaring on their romance, she began to stammer out denials that she knew he was married. Does this seem wrong? Put yourself in her place. If you had been foolish enough to fall in love with a man who was still married, who was separated from his wife and wanted to get a divorce without exposing himself to harmful publicity, would you like to see your love affair blazoned to the world prematurely in screaming headlines?
So often on the screen Kim has played ‘the other woman.’ She knew how unsympathetic most of us are to such a woman. But she had nothing to feel shame for. “I’m not the other woman,” she kept telling herself. “I never met Rafael until long after his marriage was dead.”
She told one reporter that she was shocked at the news that Rafael had a wife. She told another that he was a kind, sincere man and that it was dangerous to our country’s relationship with the Dominican Republic to treat a good-will ambassador so cruelly. Then she retired to her room with a splitting headache.
When she got back to Hollywood, she wouldn’t see anyone. She wouldn’t leave her lavender house. She changed her phone number. She had received orders from her studio to say nothing to anyone.
But Rafael was not ashamed of his love. If anything, he seemed to be relieved that he could now tell the world the truth about his romance. Previously, for Kim’s sake he had wanted to wait until the divorce was an accomplished fact.
Now he said, “I love Kim. My wife Octavia and I have been formally separated since last December. I started divorce proceedings in March. Some day, soon, I hope our divorce will be final.”
On a misty Spring night, Kim kissed Rafael good-bye on the platform of the station where his streamliner was to take him to Fort Leavenworth.
“Till we meet again, Ramfis. . . . hasta la vista, darling,” she cried. She waved to the departing train and blew kisses. When the train disappeared around the bend, Kim stood alone for a few moments, looking forlorn. Then she turned and walked slowly down the platform to the car waiting for her. . . .
The new Kim
Many men in town thought that with the glamorous Trujillo away, they could make time with Kim. But Kim wouldn’t date any other men.
She did go to a lavish party given by a millionaire oilman in town, Arthur Cameron. But she went mainly for the sake of her mother and sister, who were visiting her. She wanted to give them the thrill of seeing a big-time movie party with loads of stars. Although she could have been escorted by any one of a number of eager young men, Kim chose to go alone—except for her family. In a clinging, lavender gown she was the sensation of the party. Guests noticed how Kim had changed. Once she was always quiet; this night she sparkled. In the past Kim kept to herself at a party. This night, she laughed gaily, danced all night and displayed a vivacity that she had never shown before. What the General has done for her! His magic was at work even though he could not be with her.
At the party, Jeff Chandler found the new Kim so fascinating he hung around her all night. In fact, he paid such marked attention to her, that the grapevine says Esther Williams slapped his face and walked off in a huff.
If Jeff tried to get to Kim the next day he was in for a disappointment—like every other man who was anxious to date her. Because Kim drove up north to a swank dude ranch in Ojai to get away from everyone—and all those questions.
She may not be in to the Hollywood big shots who call, but she certainly is to her Ramfis. Whenever that call would come to her from Fort Leavenworth, Kim would rush to the phone and spend long periods listening to Ramfis tell her how much he missed her.
Although the studio had sent out a story saying she was returning the expensive car he had given her, Kim did no such thing (according to reports).
“Why should she?” said a friend to us. “This was a gift given to her by a man she loves, who loves her. It would be an insult to give it back to him. True, it’s expensive—but what’s an $8500 gift to a man whose income is over $600,000 a year? It doesn’t mean much more, in dollars and cents, than the gift of a piece of costume jewelry to a girl by the average guy! And the sentiment’s just the same. These two are definitely gone on each other.”
Kim—practical Kim with the ever-present fear of poverty—was reported to have eventually sold the car for $4500, and used the cash to buy furniture for her new home.
Perhaps she’ll put the restraining hand on her big-spending boy friend if and when she becomes his wife.
Meanwhile, she was bedazzled by the fact that when he was in Hollywood he was pricing yachts. He told her of his plans to have a yacht off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico. . . . So that he and Kim can drive to this nearby town across the border and sail off on a romantic honeymoon at sea?
It could be. . . .
There are many things to be considered. Mainly, does Kim love Rafael enough to give up her career for him? Grace Kelly did that for her prince. But Kim is more ambitious than Grace; she is more in love with the idea of being a movie star than Grace ever was.
On the other hand, if she tells Trujillo that she wants to remain in pictures, will he stand for it? Would he give up his powerful standing in the Dominican Republic to become the prince consort of a movie queen?
The truth about Kim is that she’s unpredictable. A close woman friend says, “Kim often sails off on clouds of romance. She reaches great romantic peaks. But just when she is breathlessly sailing along on a cloud, she gets out her little parachute, and goes right down to earth when you least expect it.”
No one knows whether she’ll marry her Ramfis or not. Even Kim may not know for sure. One thing we do know—that this isn’t just another romantic fling in Kim’s life—that this time she has touched heights of love and excitement such as she never knew before.
There may be problems ahead for this woman, but neither Kim nor her beloved are plagued with feelings of guilt. They know in their hearts that they did all they could to keep their love honorable. They are not ashamed. . . .
—BY LINDA POST
Kim can be seen in VERTIGO for Paramount and will soon appear in BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE for Columbia.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1958