Eve Babitz, Eve's Hollywood
“Culturally, L.A. has always been a humid jungle alive with seething L.A. projects that I guess people from other places just can’t see. It takes a certain kind of innocence to like L.A., anyway. It requires a certain plain happiness inside to be happy in L.A., to choose and be happy here. When people are not happy, they fight against L.A. and say it’s a ‘wasteland’ and other helpful descriptions.”
Eve Babitz, Eve's Hollywood
Joan Didion is considered the quintessential interpreters of the California experience. However, she is that particular amalgamation of perfectionism and creativity (balanced with conformity) that works better in New York City (which is where Didion resides). Eve Babitz, whom Didion helped get her start, is a more authentic Los Angeles voice.
Image Credit: The Los Angeles Book
“Well-bred people might drop you if your behavior [becomes] offensive, but they [do] not try to reform you.”
Robert Westbrook, Intimate Lies, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham, Her Son's Story
Image Credit: Society in Vogue
“’The Goldwyn touch,’ is not brilliance or sensationalism. It is something that manifests itself gradually in a picture; the characters are consistent; the workmanship is honest; there are no tricks and short cuts; the intelligence of the audience is never insulted.”
Alva Johnston, Saturday Evening Post (via Goldwyn, A Biography)
The Statue of Liberty is a fickle creature. Sometimes she welcomes the waves of immigrants yearning to breathe free, and other times she snubs them. The reason for her capriciousness? It might have something to do with the short memory of the American public. Immigration—and the assimilation that has always accompanied it—have always been the strength of the country, not its weakness.
Consider the wave of late 19th/early 20th Century immigration from Eastern Europe. It brought most of the original movie moguls who were fleeing the brutal pogroms of Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Arriving via the East Coast, they eventually made their way to Los Angeles. From there, they conquered the world … well, if not physically, then at least its imagination. They transformed Hollywood, a sleepy teetotaling suburb of Los Angeles, into a geographically porous global behemoth.
Among those immigrant moguls (and probably the most beloved) was Samuel Goldwyn. His name will go down in history as one of the three names in Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). Yet, he had departed by the time that studio reached its heyday. By then, he had formed Samuel Goldwyn Productions, a smaller, more bespoke studio. It produced fewer pictures a year than MGM, but what it lacked in output, it made up for in quality.
Goldwyn had a savant-like, totally original way of expressing himself (about which A. Scott Berg wrote brilliantly in Goldwyn, A Biography). So distinct were Goldwyn's expressions that they eventually acquired their own word, Goldwynisms. Samuel Goldwyn was an American cousin of Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop, the difference being his Goldwynisms arose spontaneously in real life; whereas, Sheridan's malaprops was written into a work of fiction. As to both, however, there was profundity.
Rumor has it that Goldwyn’s staff of writers (among the best in the business) manufactured Goldwynisms of their own. As such, there is some question as to whether a particular saying originated with him or was instead a tribute from someone on his staff. Of the following four examples, however, one is definitely not an authentic Goldwynism. Which one?
“'Elton John’s coming to [to Studio 54] tonight. Don’t tell anyone,’ [Steve] Rubell confided to me at one point, naturally wanting me to tell everyone. So I did …”
Michael Musto, Disco Years
Image Credit: Disco Years
A copy of Disco Years signed by Ron Galella is available via the Nick Harvill Libraries store.
“The best parody of Truman remained Truman himself … until he lost control of it.”
John Malcom Brinnin, Truman Capote, Dear Heart, Old Buddy
Read what happened when Truman Capote lost control here.
“As for [my role as] a mother—I wish you’d ask my children. I’m aware that there were times when I didn’t pay enough attention to them, and times when I was too strict. I expected them to appreciate their advantages, the things they had as children that I hadn’t had, but in Hollywood that’s hard to do. If we, as adults, couldn’t find reality, how could they?”
Joan Crawford, Conversations with Joan Crawford
“Everything’ll be all right, desolation is desolation everywhere and desolation is all we got and desolation aint so bad.”
Jack Kerouac, Desolation Angels
American and English editions are rarely identical. Obviously the English add the letter U to words like "color" and "labor." The titles might also diverge. For example, Craig Brown's inventive and magnificent biography of Queen Elizabeth II's tragic (but haughty) sister was published in the United Kingdom as Ma'am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret. The American edition was shortened to Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret. Nearly always the dust jackets are different, as it is the publisher that commissions the art on the cover.
Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels was no exception to the rule. The dust jackets were strikingly different. This semi-autobiographical novel, an installment in Kerouac's Duluoz Legend series, was written around the time of the publication of Kerouac's most iconic novel, On the Road, in 1957. It languished as an underground title for nearly a decade until finally published in the United States in 1965 by Coward-McGann and in the United Kingdom in 1966 by Andre Deutsch. Which publisher designed the better jacket?
This is an easy call. The Pop Art design by the Irish artist Michael Farrell for the English edition is not only eye-catching; it is magnificent. How fun a poster-size version would be hanging on the wall of a midcentury home. Its design was very much of that moment. The realistic etching depicting scenes from the book in the American edition is also of that time period, but in a manner that does not translate in 2019, unlike the "retro" English edition. Part of the problem is that the style of the American edition became overdone, frequently imitated in cheaply produced movie tie-in mass paperbacks.
The only issue with the English edition is that it is not precisely of its time. Kerouac's Desolation Angels is set in the mid-1950s, and the Andy Warhol-inspired soup cans in the illustration did not explode onto the art scene until the early 1960s when they were exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles.
PURCHASE GORE VIDAL'S COPY OF "DESOLATION ANGELS"
The copy of Desolation Angels (English Edition) from the library of Gore Vidal (stamped "From the Library of GORE VIDAL), is available via the Nick Harvill Libraries website. Though Jack Kerouac was straight, he did have a minor dalliance with Vidal. Moreover, a character based upon Gore Vidal appears in Kerouac's Duluoz Legend series (though not this particular installment).
MORE DUST JACKET DUST-UPS
Enjoy this dust jacket dust-up? Check out others here.
“All work and no play may make Jim a dull boy, but no work and all play makes Jim all kinds of jackass.”
William Randolph Hearst, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst
A vintage copy of this photo is available for purchase here.
“The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.”
Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography
“I find one day of suffering educates us more than one year of book reading.”
Julie Valeria, Park Avenue People
Image Credit: Park Avenue People