Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hey, y'know what?! The publication date for When the Stars Come Out is only about three weeks away. So I suppose it's time to start piquing your interest... otherwise, you might spend your hard-earned pennies on that book by my new arch-enemy -- The Gay American.

And what better way to pique your interest than by introducing you to one of my favorite characters ever: the Queen of Hollywood, Kitty Randolph.


Bel-Air, California
August, 2006

When she was a little girl in Millville, New Jersey, growing up within sight of the factory where her father blew glass for a living, young Kathy Fisher took dance lessons. Her father considered them a waste of money, although he looked the other way. Her mother considered them a necessary introduction to the social graces. And Kathy, well... she was only seven years old. It would be years before she would have her own agenda.

The dance classes led to beauty pageants, and in 1952 Kathy Fisher was crowned Miss Cumberland County. It was there that a ‘talent manager,’ an occupation he assumed for himself on the spot as he watched the virginal teenage girls walk the stage at the county fair, first took her under his wing. Two months later, Kathy was no longer virginal and no longer single.

Soon, and through no fault of her new husband, Kathy found a role on the stage of a Philadelphia theater. At that point –- earning her own income and now, thanks to the older girls in the chorus, wise enough to understand that her husband was little more than a garden-variety pedophile –- she filed for divorce. And she never spoke of that marriage again. It ceased to exist. The creep went back to stalking southern New Jersey county fairs and Kathy Fisher moved on.

“Kathy Fisher?” asked the next smooth-talking man she would marry. “That’s... banal.”

She didn’t know what the word meant, but Kathy Fisher soon became Kitty Fisher, a name apparently less banal. The second husband also soon disappeared. But by then she had adopted his last name and, after scrubbing his existence from her life, she re-emerged as Kitty Randolph.

She was a worldly twenty-one-year-old by the time the actor Bert Cooper came to Philadelphia to star in a play. And after Kitty had once again been wooed and wed she thought, Finally I have a husband I can actually list in a biography.

Bert Cooper was a chronically-depressed mess who could stay in bed for seventy-two hours at a time, but he did have a real acting resume dating back to adolescent roles in the 1930s. Kathy – no, Kitty! – thought she had married an icon. He took her from Philadelphia, set her up in Hollywood, and got her those all-important screen tests, which led to her first film roles.

Too bad about him, she thought, as she sat in the sunroom of her Bel-Air mansion almost fifty years later, sipping something bubbly and non-alcoholic. Poor Bert. But that hadn’t been her fault. Theirs was an age-old Hollywood story, one career ascending as another was falling into the Pacific Ocean. The fact that Bert had literally fallen into the Pacific –- on purpose –- was not her fault. He had always been so sad...

Her fourth husband –- no, second, she reminded herself, because the continuity of her Official Life Story was important –- well, he was another story.

In an earlier period in her life, Quinn Scott would have disappeared from her biography as effectively as husbands number one and two had vanished. But when they married she was already a screen legend, and there was no hiding it. And so for more than three decades the ghost of that relationship had followed her.

It wasn’t just that she had learned he was gay a few years into the marriage, although that was quite bad enough. It was that even after she made arrangements for Quinn to go quietly away, industry gossip kept growing. Her ex-husband, it seemed, was not merely gay, but gayer than gay. And when rumors finally reached her that Rock Hudson was preparing to go public and not only profess his homosexuality, but also his love for her ex-husband, well, that had to be stopped.

And she had stopped it. For thirty-six years.

And then, a few months earlier, word came from reliable sources on the East Coast that Quinn Scott was finally stirring after decades of dormancy. That would not do. Her lawyers were immediately dispatched to put out the fire, and she thought no more about it. Quinn knew better than to take her on in 1970, and he would certainly know better than to try it in 2006. Also, she had very good lawyers.

Kitty had moved on, and so should he. Discreet people – proper people – did just that. Why on earth would he dredge up old skeletons so many decades later?

And yet… there it was, in black and white, staring at her from an inside-page of Variety. Barely-remembered actor Quinn Scott’s autobiography would be released in September, and –- lest any reader forget –- Variety had to add that he had once been married to Kitty Randolph.

As she read the short item, over and over again, she thought herself remarkably calm. Much calmer than she had the right to be. She had the right to be furious, but she wasn’t.

The fury would come a few hours later, when the Valium wore off.


So have you pre-ordered yet?