The thing about being a heavy drinker in Hollywood is, over time, you will meet all the heavy-drinking stars in town, no matter how big they are. I’m not sure why this is, except that once you’re deep in your cups, all men become equal. That whole thing about Gibson getting drunk and dumping on the Jews? His tapes were running his mouth, but down in his lizard brain, the only thinking part still actually working for him at the time, he could have been saying all that to Abe Goldstein, companionably, with his arm around the guy’s shoulders. Just a theory.
Sure, I’ve met a lot of stars through screen writing, on the job, but I was always drunk when I seriously got down with one or another of them. Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Gibson of course, Rourke, Reed, and many many more. Including Liz.
I went to a party in Topanga Canyon sometime in the late 60s. At some point late in the evening, I was sitting in a room set up as a library/den, with a scrapbook on my lap full of photos of a family I didn’t know. I looked up and there was Liz, perched on the desk, materialized like a leprechaun, with a drink in her hand. She was in her mid-to late-thirties then. I remember that she’d made Virgina Woolfe and was married to Burton at the time.
I didn’t need beer goggles to see that she looked great. Like so often happens, she seemed smaller than you’d expect, but perfect in every way. Definitely not Martha from Woolfe, although she was as drunk as Martha at her worst. I was starstruck. Starstruck and drunk like her.
She asked me what I was reading and I held up the album so that she could see the family pictures. Immediately she began to blubber. Then so did I, for no reason.
We both stood up and we were chest-to-chest. I couldn’t touch her there. She was drinking champagne with strawberries in it and I was drinking rye. Our fumes made our eyes water, and with the tears already there, Liz’s mascara ran down her cheeks. It made her look younger.
She saw the expression on my face.
“Relax,” she said. “In a couple of years, I’ll be a grandmother. Fame is fleeting.”
“You can say that again. In my case, it didn’t even slow down as it went by.”
“You remind me of Richard,” she said.
“Is he here?”
“If you’re him, he is.”
I’ve always liked dark hair and now I had my hands full of it.
Taylor, like all the greatest stars, had an aura. When I got within the length of my lips to her, I was so deep into it that I could have been standing on Mars, or in Heaven. Couldn’t think, or sense anything but her skin, the sound of her breathing. She was wearing something black and off the shoulder. We were both hot and the sheen of sweat on her breasts, the slickness, threw light from the overhead spots into my eyes. I only had a bit part but Liz gave me my cue.
With her in my arms, my melancholy hit, grief for my misspent life. Liz was crying again. We stood there trying to comfort ourselves in front of each other, with our eyes drifting, out of our control, to our half-empty glasses.
Before we left the room, I held out the album and asked her to autograph it. She picked up a pen from the desk and signed her name under one of the pictures in the middle of the book. I closed it and put it back on the shelf. When she died the other day, I thought about going back to see if the book was still there, but it never works to go back. I’m trying to never go back anywhere anymore. When she died, going back would have just made me sadder than I already was.