Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 1936

Oh, my darlings, here we are at the end of another year! Can it really be so? What will the new year bring to us? Life is so very uncertain. At least I know that I shall soon depart from this rather silly Portland and return home. Or what I call home; can anyone of my world renown call any one place home? I suppose not, but my dear London is what I think of as home, my little nest.

I hope you all had a lovely, lovely Christmas. Though I suppose if you be Jew or Hindoo or such, you'll not have had a lovely Christmas! Haha! I cannot at all say that mine was entirely pleasant. No, I really cannot. I have not cultivated many friends here. No one to be chummy and cozy with; no one of my level, you understand. And then I was terribly sad that my dear sweet Penny was not with me this year; I missed her dreadfully. I thought of all the lovely Christmases past, when she was a little girl, and nanny would trot her out and she would rip through all her presents like an adorable little demon. But this year...well...I'm not even exactly sure where she is! She was being very silly down in Los Angeles, chasing after film stars and perversely trying to get secondary roles. Which is beyond my comprehension, I must say. I tried like anything to get her safely back to Europe and now I don't know precisely where she is. So, you see, I was not in a very merry mood for celebrating the Christ child and all that.

I went with two of my pansy friends to a lovely home up in the hills for Christmas supper. Our hostess is somebody or other, terribly wealthy and and important. By Portland standards, you understand. The company was dull and the champagne was domestic. But, in my dreary state, I fear I was indiscriminate and drank a wee bit more than perhaps I should. And then I got all weepy. Yes, I did. And then I drank a wee bit more. I seem to remember droning on about how I missed my darling Penny and enumerating the many sorrows of motherhood. Awful, really. I awoke the next morning very sadly hung and my Boxing Day was completely spoilt. Do you know that Americans haven't any idea of Boxing Day? Amazing. They all go back to work or go shopping. I really cannot fathom the coarseness of it.

But this is New Year's Eve, my darlings! A new year and a fresh start for all of us. So forget about your dreary workaday lives. Confetti and a bit of stardust will do the trick! Haha! Do up your hair, put on a lovely frock and go out and enjoy the evening - but sensibly! Learn from my regrettable errors, and make certain that the champagne is imported!

Happy New Year to all you lovely, lovely people!

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 21, 1936

Well, he's gone and done it! My horrid manager - really, he's just the most evil fellow in the world, I expect - has got me out of my contract here. I cannot begin to imagine what he had to do to arrange this, my very salvation, but he's done it. I really do hope nothing illegal has been done - he's capable of anything, my darlings - but I shan't worry myself with that. Because I'm returning to London; what joy! Oh, yes, London can be quite tedious, but it always seems so marvelous when one is away. So, at this moment, stranded as I've been, languishing here in the Wild - but perversely dull - West, it does shimmer paradisiacally!

I shall have to remain here through Christmas, of course - civilised people do not travel Christmas week - but then, once the new year is upon us, I shall fly! Well, not really fly. It's much too far. Besides, flying has only brought me the greatest misfortune of late, you understand.... No, there's the long train trip to New York, where I shall stay for a week - there are so many people there who say they must see me before I leave the country - and then the Normandie home. Oh, to be home! I have the most charming flat in town, you know. And, of course, my lovely country house. But, then, you've seen that in all the illustrated magazines. Oh, I do hope my roses are making it through the winter well. I have the most marvelous little gardener who tends to them. He's quite a gnarled little gnome, really; the top half of him goes East, whilst the bottom veers West. Haha! But he is a sorcerer when it comes to my roses. They are so lovely. Ah, home....

And so very soon I shall be there, my darlings. Amongst my own things at last. I shall need several weeks to recuperate and rest from my journey, of course. Before I shall find myself able to meet with the very "Lions of the Theatre" who've got me to come home. Though I'll be longing to dash over to Paris for new frocks - I am terribly in need at present - I may find it necessary to purchase something by a British couturier; I suppose I may find something not too unattractive. For, after all, I don't want to keep Ivor and Noël waiting for too long a time. They are both so highly strung, I fear what a protracted wait could make of them. In my imagination I can see them, one ahold of each of my arms, gnashing their teeth and mewling like overly amorous cats, whilst they endeavor to pull me to bits. Oh, haha! How very funny! Haha! Well, even should it come to that, the scene - whatever it must be - will be played very, very soon!

À bientôt, my darlings!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 19, 1936

Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Now I'm really in a muddle. Before I had any chance to cable dear Ivor, I received a cable from - can you guess? Yes! That darling , awful Noël! And he says he's writing a new show, too, and wants me to star in it. Can you imagine?! And, I dare say, there must be a similar situation to Ivor's, in that a certain Miss Lawrence can't or won't play with him. Why does it always seem I am a second string Muse! Haha! Well, never mind; now it seems most certain I'll be back in London presently. Oh, how marvelous! And how marvelous, as well, to think that dear Ivor and Noëly will be fighting over me like silly cats and I an old fishhead! Haha! It's really too delicious; I adore being clambered after!

But who do I choose? Oh, Noël is much the cleverer, but Ivor's tunes are completely heaven sent! What to do? What to do? Oh...!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 17, 1936

Oh, dear! Just now I've received a cable from dear Ivor asking me - begging me, really - to return to London. He says he's got a new show he's putting up, and that he's written a part just for me. Just for me, he says! Oh, really...? Now, I don't believe that for one moment; his usual muse, dear sweet Mary Ellis, must be occupied elsewhere. Naughty Ivor! But I may just choose to go along with his little tale this time. Oh, it would be so nice to get away from this silly place and its wretched weather! The weather in London - oh, bother! But it doesn't matter. Just to be in a proper city again would be so refreshing. In a lovely, successful real musical play; Ivor writes nothing but great smash successes, of course. And I can't languish here forever, goodness knows. I wonder if my horrid manager can get me out of my contract....

December 17, 1936

Oh, what a dreary day this is! They do say that Portland is very rainy, and I begin to see that what they say is quite unbearably true! But really!

Well, I've had a most taxing morning, already. Oh, I see now that it's after noon, but no matter. I have been told that I must take exercise. On account of not wanting to get too stout, you understand. So I've spent hours this morning doing all sorts of ghastly calisthenics and such - can you imagine?! It is really the most soul-killing activity. Oh, it's all right for those New York society ladies and all; they haven't any brains and nothing to do with their time, so who cares? Yes, my darlings, you know the type I mean. And then, of course, you know it's a very religion to Elsie de Wolfe. And, goodness, she's ancient! So, it's certainly kept her in good stead. That, and rather a lot of surgery. But I really don't have time for such undignified running about, being strapped into contraptions, and standing on one's head. It's exhausting and too, too silly! But it appears to be another thing that one must endure. After all, I don't want to be a great rhinoceros and not fit into my lovely frocks. Ah, well....

I must go now, dear ones. My glorious, pugilistic Miss Daphne has just arrived - and she's growling at me! Yes, she is! Haha! She'll give me the most delightfully savage massage, I'll have a bathe, then I'll have my hair reset and my sweet, silent little Malaysian will give my nails a fresh varnish. Then, I shall feel quite renewed, I'm certain of it. And may not even remember the horrors of the morning! Haha!

Until the next time, my darlings....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 9, 1936

Well my radio appearance of yesterday went rather well I think. The studio sent round a car that was all nice and toasty warm. And since the very expert doorman let me out from the heated lobby and nearly threw me into the automobile, I barely felt the ghastly cold at all. When I arrived I found I was to be interviewed by a lady. You can imagine my surprise; I didn't know that ladies were employed by the radio. I can't think of another one save that beastly Louella Parsons. And one wouldn't really call her a lady; she's merely female. I digress. But, then, I always do! Oh, la!

Well, my "lady of the press" was most charming and terribly, terribly chic. She was beautifully dressed and flawlessly made-up; her grooming was impeccable. And at such an hour. Eleven-thirty in the morning - can you imagine?! Now, I must confess, my darlings, that for a wee moment I had considered not making by usual full-on daytime toilette. The full fig, as it were. I thought perhaps, just this once, I could make do with something simpler. Something that I might wear about the house - slacks and a head scarf, even - throw a big sable coat over it all, and who's to be the wiser? And it was so very early. Thank heavens my better instincts took hold, as I would have been completely mortified! Especially when finding that my interviewer was a very attractive, well-dressed woman. I wouldn't have been able to speak for the shame, and the entire endeavor would have been a disaster. So let that be a lesson to you, my darlings: never, ever leave your humble abode until you are properly, faultlessly attired. That's a bit of advice you'll never regret following, I promise you.

We spoke of - well, I have no idea what we spoke of. But it was charming. And great fun. And I don't believe I was unduly indiscreet; I do have to be so very careful! Haha! Ah, well, I must run, my dearest darlings. Auf Wiedersehen, as the dreary Germans say. Until we meet again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 1936

Hello, my darlings! What a lovely bright morning it is. Though it is simply appallingly cold outside. So do stay indoors, all cozy and warm in your little cottages, or wherever it is that you lurk. Stay close round the fire, turn on the wireless - and listen to me! Yes, that's right, me! Haha!

Because, you see, it appears I shall be on the radio this morning. I shall have to leave my warm little nest and go down to the radio studio to be interviewed. I'm certain to be asked all sorts of impertinent questions - the American press is wretched in that regard - but at least I shall have the comfort of knowing that my public will be once again hearing my voice. Though I shan't be singing, my pets; no orchestra has been engaged. I do believe it will be a transcontinental hook up, so that the whole of the country will hear me. I don't know if it will be transatlantic, though; my dear Europe may need to wait a wee bit longer for my company. I don't know. I simply cannot fathom such technological marvels, at any rate. All I'm certain of is that I shall be floating upon the airwaves this fine morning. Floating into your homes, be they grand or very dreary. Floating from the wireless and into your hearts - oh, I do hope so, my darlings! So do listen in, if you haven't anything better to do - oh! Haha! As if you'd have something better to do? Oh, how funny I am!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 3, 1936

I shall be attending the opening of an artist's exhibition this evening. Or should I say, I'll be dragged; you all know how I loathe artists and modern art. I've tried like anything to get out of it, but it does appear I am doomed! Haha! People are always so lovely to me, so kind. But I do wish they would have the sense to know that I really don't care to bother with all this "artistic" nonsense. So dreary, most of it. So jarring and unpleasant. I suppose I shall have to gaze upon rows and rows of pictures of ladies whose noses have gone astray. But, because I'm so well-known to the public, I can't react like any average person might when confronting such horrors. I certainly can't screw up my face in disgust, when I know everyone will be watching me. No, I must always be a very beacon of decorum. So I shall go about smiling and nodding. And I shall punctuate the pantomime with a veritable torrent of "hmmm..."'s and "ah!"'s. I shall take the - often quite filthy - hands of the poor little artists and tell them that their wretched little daubs are really quite fetching. Yes, I shall. I suppose it is my duty. But how tiresome!

Of course, I'll spray myself with a great cloud of Arpège before I go out; you can be sure of that, my darlings! To help mask - to help me endure - the pestilential odors I am certain to encounter; artists are so very unhygienic.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 29, 1936

Now, where was I? Yes.... Well, when last I spoke of it, the film star had left me abandoned in Mexico City! Such behavior is incomprehensible. Unforgivable. And you can imagine my shock, my horror. At least the hotel management was most solicitous and kind; I do believe - at last - they began to know who I was! After a fruitless search for Miss Lombard was concluded, they thought to contact one of the guests from the party of the previous evening. A certain count Peñál-Yrués, a charming fellow who fortunately spoke a fairly decipherable English.

Now, is it possible that he was genuinely Mexican? I don't believe that silly Mexico even has any aristocracy, so perhaps he was actually a Spaniard. At any rate, I do hope he wasn't one of the dreadful fausse noblesse one finds everywhere nowadays; how they irk me! Now, where was I...?

Oh, yes. Well, the count was most kind. Whilst I struggled to have arrangements made for my return to America, he generously squired me about to this office and that. Everyone was faultlessly kind and smiling, but the paperwork and delays were maddening. I travel about all the time, so I can't think why this was so very difficult to arrange. I am terribly celebrated, so that does raise some complications - a good deal of extra care is necessary - but you'd think they were trying to post a soft-boiled egg! Haha! During the days of endless waiting, count Peñál-Yrués took me about and introduced me to some lovely people; regardless of my ghastly experiences in their country, I do adore les Mexicains! Lovely parties were held in my honour. And, during the daytime, the count, thinking I would enjoy it, toured me about to the various museums and art galleries of the city.

Now, my darlings, you know how I loathe modern art. It's all so ugly and unpleasant. Nothing that one would dare to hang upon a wall, certainly, nothing that would complement the sofa or window draperies. So what's the good of it, I ask you? But what I saw in Mexico was not offensive, I'll give it that. And it seems that the country is, after all, terribly artistic. And I don't mean the silly pottery and baskets that one would expect. No, not at all. Of late it seems they've gone quite mad for murals. Everywhere one looks, they've put up vast, brightly colored compositions. The newer buildings in town look quite slap-dash and haven't the least bit of architectural élan, so perhaps the murals are a necessary diversion. But, really, I thought them a bit of all right, terribly jolly and so large. So very large. Which may explain why the perspective always seems to be a bit of a muck-up.

Artists leave me quite senseless. Such dreary, self-important bores. But, of course, I couldn't tell the dear count that when he offered to take me to the atelier of Mexico's most celebrated painter, a certain Mr. Rivera. And what a truly appalling looking fellow he was! Enormous and having the aspect of a great ape - or should I say toad? I don't know which is more apt. At any rate, he smelt like a goat! But his work was lovely. Yes, it was. The subject matter was a bit too peasant-y to my way of thinking, you understand, but lovely nonetheless.

And then I met his very curious little wife. She was quite a sight, I must tell you. Even if one were to overlook the black, bristling brows that met in the middle, one could never fail to note the moustache! I know! Impossible to imagine, but it's true! A tiny, sweet-smelling thing, she was dressed in some sort of madcap native costume, covered in jewelry of all sorts, her hair braided and set with flowers. A most delirium-making concoction. And yet.... And yet.... One would expect this toilette - this apparition - to jar - at best - but, you know, somehow it was all rather charming. The woman must be a sorceress to pull off such a thing. She was a complete effrontery to all notions of beauty and good sense. But there you have it. She looked really quite marvelous. They tell me that she paints a little, too.

Finally, after nearly a week, all my arrangements were in order. On my last night - or what I imagined would be my last night - I was thrown a lovely little soirée by the dear count. It was quite charming. At first. I enjoyed myself a bit more than I should have, perhaps; the circumstances of my visitation had been so very trying. And the Veuve Clicquot was flowing rather freely, you understand; the dear widow and I are such dear friends! Haha! At any rate, things did get a little vague as the evening wore on and, at the same time, it seemed as though the - oh, I don't know - the tenor of respectability weakened. Yes, rather. And, of course, when I gaily quaff champagne, I do like to dance. Yes, I do! I danced dance after dance with all the most lovely, fragrant and swarthy men. Real men, you understand; not a pansy in the bunch! The last thing I remember is that I was clasped in the arms of some great Mexican god, his hands the size of Schiaparelli handbags, and his glittering, black eyes proverbially smoldering. Babbling throatily - mesmerically - in honeyed Spanish, he danced me expertly into a darkened corner, through gauze curtains that breathed gently with the last warm breeze of night breaking unto dawn....

Ah, then everything goes blank.

I awoke hours later somewhere out in the country. An old, leathery peasant was patting water onto my face, hoping to revive me, I suppose. I appeared to be lying prostrate in the middle of a farm yard; there were chickens about! Well, I believe they were chickens; I've never actually seen a chicken standing up. I suppose I'll never know exactly where I was or how I'd arrived there. Or how I'd gotten to such a state: I hadn't any wrap, my gown was soiled and torn, and I'd only one shoe! My hair was matted with dirt and straw and, when I tried to speak, I found several feathers clinging improbably to the inside of my mouth. Of the chicken variety, I presume. And I was terribly, deplorably hung!

It was quite useless trying to communicate with the peasant, but he was obviously very concerned about me, which was really too sweet. He wrapped a filthy horse blanket about my shoulders, gave me some coarse sandal-like things to put on my feet, and led me - dragged me, really - to a wretched donkey cart full of dirty straw and threw me into it! I was too weak to protest anything, too ill. We drove for miles and miles, under the blazing, burning sun, every bump of the rutted road was an agony; I longed for death! Somehow, the old peasant seemed to know exactly where to deliver me because, after what seemed an eternity - I can't even know how long; I was quite unconscious most of the journey - we were back in the city, and he pulled the brakes on his little burro right at the door of my hotel. As my Good Samaritan rolled my limp form out of the cart and toward the doorstep, the hotel doorman was just about to roll me back toward the gutter - haha! - when, thankfully, he noticed my Cartier bracelets; Cartier has saved me on more than one occasion! Oh, yes.... At any rate, there were shrieks of alarm and everyone was quite aflutter as they carried me - fainting, repeatedly - to my rooms. They wanted to call the doctor or take me to hospital but, waxing quite Amazonian - I'll never know how I mustered the resolve - I gave a noble "no" to all succor. I had a bath - well, of course, I did - and the next morning flung myself into a chartered aeroplane and returned to Oregon. Where, at last, I allowed myself the well-deserved luxury of a complete and utter collapse!

Now, there, I've told you all. All the parts I am able to remember, at any rate. Not a tale at all indicative of my otherwise glamorous lifestyle. A sordid, messy tale; this incident will certainly be expunged from my official biography, you understand. But you begin to comprehend why my recovery has been so very prolonged. I do hope my distressing story hasn't upset you overly much. Dreadful things happen to us all, of course. Those of you who are lowly and even those, like I, who live in a more rarefied manner. We must all learn from life, my darlings. And, if nothing else, do learn from my error and stay far clear of any beastly film people!

Oh, and do keep at least something by Cartier on your person at all times; you'll never regret it! Until we speak again, mes amis....

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 27, 1936

Well, yesterday I endured one of America's strange national customs. From what I've been told, it all began with a terribly drab sect of Christians. It seems they came to this country a bit rashly and were very ill-prepared as to the practicalities; I do believe they hadn't thought to bring any servants at all, silly things. And when the weather got colder and they couldn't eat figs and plums and such from off the trees, they got really terribly hungry and had to go steal food from the lovely Indians - no, not the Gandhi sort of Indians, the other ones. And then they sat down at table and thanked God for having the Indians to steal from. At least that is what I've been told. Though I may have scrambled it a bit. But then, of course, American history is so very contradictory.

The way the country now celebrates this sad little occasion is to come together and gorge themselves quite dreadfully. My hosts were charming and the food was really quite expertly prepared. (Especially when you consider that, once again, I was supping with people who have no servants, and must needs do the cooking themselves!) I must quibble with the selection of courses, though, as it was all most starchy. I was told that that was the one indispensable ingredient of the menu though, to me, it did seem unnecessarily reckless. And then, of course, everyone sat about on the sofas in very ungraceful postures, their heads lolling, too sleepy for any intelligible conversation. Really, Americans are such a strange race. Oh, and we ate a turkey! I didn't know that anyone actually ate turkey! Haha!

Now, I must get back to my conte du Mexique, mustn't I? I'm sure you're all quite cross with me and my negligence. Now, where was I...? Hmmm...?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 18, 1936

Oh, at last my nail varnish is dry! My hair has been set, my skin has been slathered with creams and unguents, I have been rubbed up and rubbed down by my great, bull-ish masseuse, Miss Daphne, and I finally begin to feel able to tell all you lovely people of my Mexican ordeal and my veritable, well, resurrection.

But where to begin? Where to begin? Well, my divine aviatrix, ma polonaise - Lina? Lena? I don't know, but I know I shan't get anywhere near to the last name; Polish names are barely human! - but I digress.... Hmmm...? Oh, yes. Well, the gorgeous creature set us down in Los Angeles - like a butterfly on a rosebud! Such expertise, such grace; she was some sort of acrobat prior to her aero-mania. I was hoping she might linger a while - she has such a frightfully strong allure - but, no, she had need to fly right off. She's terribly serious about her craft. Oh, well.... Hmm? Now where was I?

Well, Los Angeles was a dream. The nights were balmy and fragrant - I did get to wear my new organdy - and my hosts were just adorable. The wife does all the cooking - can you imagine? - but marvelously. Though she seemed to believe me the famous calf in need of fattening! Haha! I do believe I dined on avocados at every meal. My hosts are good, decent people - they don't know a soul even peripherally famous, bless them - but, after a day or two I was found out, tristement, and I started getting all sorts of invitations from horrid film people; I suppose I'm too, too famous to wallow in anonymity for long. But what a bore! After that, it was party after party. Every night too much champagne - though, entre nous, not of the best quality - and ridiculous frenzy. And then, of course, the silly people are all in bed by ten. Ten o'clock! Because they have to be up before dawn and off to work. Pictures! Quite the most barbaric way to make a living!

I saw a lot of a certain Miss Dietrich - I rather got the impression that she was trying to woo me, if you'll believe it - and though she's quite the "film queen", she is , after all, European. So that make her quite a bit more tolerable. Oddly, I got really rather chummy with Miss Carole Lombard. I can't think why. But she's very jolly, quite pretty in a well-scrubbed American sort of way, and makes riotous good use of an alarming vocabulary. Very fun, really. Which is what got me into the bloody mess I'm about to describe.

She suggested - demanded, really - that I take a little weekend trip with her, "south of the border". Just a short jaunt in the aeroplane and right back again. Well, I was up to nothing at the time, she appeared to want it so, and she is so very jolly! I expected we were merely headed to that delightfully louche Tijuana I've heard tell of. But once aloft, she said, no, darling, we're headed for Mexico City. Mexico City! Can you believe it?! It was a dreadfully long, unpleasant flight, during which I languished, completely non-plussed. When we finally arrived we were whisked off to a rather nice hotel, everyone bowing and scraping to her; really, it was a bit much. And the silly people didn't even seem to know who I was - imagine!

That night we had the grandest party in her rooms; she seems to know lots of the natives. The crowd was immense. All Mexicans. Lovely, charming people. The woman all smooth and perfumed, with that gorgeous magnolia skin they have. And the men? Oh, I can't remember ever being so flocked about with male pulchritude. Not really adequately tall, of course, but so very beautiful! The golden skin; the oiled, ebony hair; the exquisite scent. Perfectly attired, faultlessly groomed. Such manners and such allure. And, well - yes - the sex quotient! I was quite giddy, I must tell you. Though that might have had a bit to do with all the cocktails...and then more cocktails! I don't remember the end of the evening, exactly - no, I don't - but if I have done anything less than discrete, I shan't disclose it here. Haha!

I awoke the next morning - or afternoon, as it were - in a bit of a daze and a trifle hung. A lovely, tiny - tiny - little maid brought me my coffee and then I rang Miss Lombard's room -- only to find that she'd checked out! She was nowhere to be found, utterly, utterly gone. Et, j'ai été abandonnée! Can you imagine my shock?!

Oh, dear.... Oh, dear.... This is most upsetting, just thinking of it. I will have to continue this later, my darlings; do forgive me. I must lie down. With a cold compress upon my brow. Now where is my maid? Alyssia? Alyssia?!

Friday, November 6, 2009

November 6, 1936

Oh - oh! - at last I'm back in Portland! At last! I never thought I'd be so happy to see this dreary place - marooned here, though I seem to be - but, my word, after all I've been through! I shall write very soon, pets, and tell you all about my adventures into the dark soul of Mexico. But you'll have to wait just a bit, my darlings. Your beloved, glamourous Madeleine is in the greatest, desperate need of "refurbishment". You would not believe the poverty of grooming I've been made to endure; I might have died of it. I'm all scuffed and rumpled. My feet, my skin, my nails! Wretched, I tell you; I look like a pig who's been digging for truffles - yes, I do! And my hair! Les coiffeuses de Mexique are little more than barbarians; you should see what they've done to my lovely hair. It looks as though they set it whilst I sat astride a spinning top; I am awhirl! I look like Lupe Vélez, for goodness sake! Which is fine for her, I suppose, poor dear, but not for me. After I am properly rested, and I've recaptured a bit of my starry lustre - haha! - I shall tell you all about my ghastly little escapade. Quelle horreur!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24, 1936

I have no time to write anything now, my darlings. I was having a perfectly lovely time in Los Angeles - Penny had come all the way out to join me - and then, with no warning at all, I was rather, well, kidnapped! Well, I suppose it's not really that; I wasn't sold into white slavery, after all. Haha! But I'm down in Mexico as I write this - yes, Mexico! I've not been to Latin America since the Peruvian debacle. Oh, and this is another rotten mess. As I said, I can't go into the whole bloody thing right here and now. But soon I will. Yes, I will. Pray for me, my dears. Pray for me....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 18, 1936

Well, my darlings, I'm off tomorrow for the South, flying down just like a little bird! And practically at dawn; such a horror for those of us who toil away our nights upon the stage. I shan't be able to linger there long, so I'm having myself flown down. A marvelous Polish aviatrix is taking me in her lovely, sportif little aeroplane. Really, I can't understand a word she says - she's an accent like blancmange - but she's simply superb to behold and, well - dashing - if one may describe a lady thus. You know - I shouldn't say, it's too silly - but I think the ravishing little beast may have inspired in me a wee, tiny crush! Oh, la!

You'd think I would be terrified to be traveling in such a manner, but the thought of getting there with such remarkable vitesse certainly has an allure; do you know that one can fly from Portland to Los Angeles in less than TEN hours! Can you believe it? I think my little polonaise says we may have to stop in San Francisco to put in more fuel, but still. Ah, this modern world in which we live...!

I shall return later in the week. Yes, the same week! À bientôt, mes enfants!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 14, 1936

So sorry my darlings to be away so long. And now I'm down to Los Angeles for a few days; I leave on Monday. So, of course, I've started packing. And the last several days I've had fittings all day and night; so exhausting! I had loads of lovely things sent over from Paris. Yes, I know it's absolutely criminal not to have them fitted over there, all those marvelous little ladies fluttering about you like black-clad moths, pins just flying through the air. And one misses the divine couturier or couturière pacing about, looking this way and that, making sure that every seam and tuck and hem is exactly as it should be. As it must be. It does make one feel so very secure. The gaze of the master, and all that. Of course they know me so well at all the houses that they are, when necessary, able to send them to me nearly perfect. My intrepid lady's maid, Alyssia, does a little here and a little there, and that's all -- oh, I've just got the most heavenly white organdy evening gown by Vionnet: the bodice nearly non-existent and the skirt and train a mad frothing of bias-cut ruffles. I can't think of anything more perfect for a gardenia-scented, moonlit terrace somewhere. Haha! It would be just the thing!

Of course, the lovely people with whom I'm staying are just plain, simple folk. Not anyone you'd know; there is a vague family connection. And I suppose they haven't even got a terrace. Tristement.... But at least they are not film people! I am so very grateful for that; film people bore me witless. I have no idea what I'll do whilst I am chez eux. Rest and eat, eat and rest, no doubt. There is really nothing else to do there, if you aren't in pictures. And I certainly hope they do let me be, and don't trot out hordes of people, all of them clamoring to meet me; that would be so very tedious.

It will be a relief to get myself to a warmer climate; it's been all wet and beastly cold here of late. (I'm beginning to think this engagement will never end.) Los Angeles is quite the stupidest place - there is no culture or society - but the climate is delicious, and everywhere the scent of orange blossom wafting on the breeze. I hope to have a lovely, lovely little rest.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9, 1936

Feet! Aren't feet the most dreadful things? They are most certainly the least appealing of all human appendages. Sometimes I feel that they are the good Lord's unkindest jest. The foot that is not hideous is the rarest thing on the planet. But, oh, the typical one! Why must the typical ones always run to the extreme? They are either as bloated as jelly-fish with ghastly sausage toes - ohhh! - or they are long, horribly twisted claws! Yes, claws! Why, any civilised culture would provide little boots that its citizens would wear all day and all night, to be provided at birth and to be buried in...oh...well, I suppose that's a silly idea....

Well, I shan't even contemplate the contents of men's shoes, but those of my sex? Sandals! An affront to all decency, but women will go about, day and night, in sandals. Only those possessing the most neutral of feet should be allowed sandals. And yet, everywhere you look, wobbly women with their horrid, painted toenails jutting through, their crusty heels slopping over the sides. Oh, it's too much to bear. It's really too, too much to bear! Oh...!

Oh.... Oh, what was I saying? I know I was most upset. Hmmm.... Oh, yes - feet! You know, my feet aren't half bad, really. Quite small, which is nice. And narrow, which shows my breeding, you understand. And I do take care of the wee things - well, I don't do it, of course. I have the most marvelous little Malaysian woman who tends to them. She's such a pet; I cart her about with me everywhere. No, she doesn't speak! But I'd be lost without her. Aren't I lucky? To be me? Haha!

Goodbye for now, my darlings!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 8, 1936

Fans! Where are all my fans? My friends, even? My ghastly manager said I must write this silly journal-ish thing. And here I am, writing my fingers down to nubs and I never hear from anyone at all, save my daughter. Which is lovely, of course - don't be offended, Prudence, darling - but she could just send my a telegram or even write a letter. Though her writing is perfectly horrid, you know. Completely illegible. Mlle. Blanche, her governess, had fits over it. But she spells beautifully, I'll give her that. Oh, but I digress. Where was I? Hmmm? Oh yes. That horrid man who said I had to, had to write this thing. The same brilliant fellow who booked me in Lima, Peru. Lima, Peru. And at Carnival. But I shan't go into that!

The weather is lovely here. But it has got too cold. I'm very sensitive, of course, and loathe the cold. I always crave a warmer clime. I do so love to waft down to the south of France at the first frost. Now, I must tell you that I never, never sit out in the sun and get myself brown. Yes, I know that to be all sunburnt is still terribly à la mode. And I know that all the darling physicians tell us that it's so very healthy for us, just as we know that cigarettes are so good and drying to the lungs. But I won't believe it. No, not at all. Pas...du...tout! Why, the ravages are obvious, for all to see. My dear friend, comtesse Vacherin du Pont, has been a great idolator of the sun ever since sunburning first became stylish, not long after the war. She does so love to consort with artistic types, so she was always down at Juan les Pins, staying with the Murphys, surrounded by vulgar Americans and the likes of...Picasso! And where has it got her, I ask you? Why, she's gone all yellowish and blotchy, and she's terribly creased! Yes, I know I shouldn't - I wouldn't say it to her face, after all, poor dear thing - but it's true!

I've heard the pioneer of this pernicious craze was Mlle. Chanel. Not a very pleasant woman, but so very talented. The world will follow her lead in all her chic-making business. She was formerly very fond of a certain ci-devant Grand Duke and her world - dress-making and otherwise - spun upon a Russian axis, as it were. The Grand Duke's sister even started a Russian-styled embroidery manufacture to help feed Mlle. Chanel's grande faim russe. Chanel even designed costumes for the Ballets Russes, you know. So you see, I think we really have the Russians to blame for this mania. As everyone knows, Russians are perfectly mad for the sun - and why wouldn't they be, with all that Siberian sort of nonsense they call climate? - they are the most devoted, sun-worshipping lizards! Ah, but now that the Grand Duke has been "retired", and the poor émigré Russians have gone out of fashion - yet another "exile", it seems - perhaps the tide will turn.

Whenever I am down to the sea, I always sit beneath a very, very large parasol. Fully lined with bottle-green silk. Really, it's the only way! Yes, I know it must seem very Edwardian to you. But the benefits far outweigh any risk of looking a fool. And if you've ever seen me close-to, you'll know that my complexion is still flawless and dazzlingly white. It really is. And I've no need of any make-up at all. Mostly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 6, 1936

I do so hate to bury you in celluloid, but here is another bit of our concertising out on tour. The press cameras follow us everywhere - we haven't a moment's peace - so I may as well take advantage of the miles and miles of film and share this with you. I do hope it doesn't bore you...oh! Aren't I funny!

Shadow Waltz is from a film by that divine Hollywood madman, Busby Berkeley. We've left off the neon-lit violins, you'll understand. Haha! And the gorgeous - gorgeous - Glamorous Night is from Ivor's maddeningly mesmeric musical play of the same name. My darling friend Mary Ellis - she's such a dear - sings it in the show. And her gramophone recording of it is nearly as celebrated as mine! She sings it most prettily; her voice is so high, you know. So high. So very high!

October 6, 1936

I just finished a book the other day.

That's all.

I just wanted you all to know that I read a book.

À bientôt, mes enfants!

Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5, 1936

Here is just a little bit of film of my daughter, Prudence, and me. Isn't she lovely!

This is, I believe, a very important song. Oh, it's done as a bit of a giggle, it's true. But the wisdom of the sentiment at its heart mustn't be ignored. We ladies can never afford to relax our great pursuit of youth and beauty. It is the only way to always be secure of love. To always hold the attention of that other sex! Men are such silly creatures, after all. They only love with their eyes; they are deeply superficial. Ah, but how we adore them!

October 5, 1936

Well, I'm back from the seashore. The little house was not clean. And its charms were meagre. It was fairly cosy, I'll give it that. Perhaps it was the very, very low ceilings. But it had a lovely view, perched right above the sea. And as I lay in my bed the first night - in a bed certainly designed for the proportions of elves, and with sheets half the size of the coverlet; I had to coil myself like a viper, lest my nether regions go exposed or all of me plop over the edge and onto the carpet - I did have a lovely vision of the moon - golden, translucent - floating low over its shimmering mirror of a limpid sea. Heavenly, that moon. And, oh, how well-made, how perfectly set it was for romance! One felt the very shiver of it, a quivering of incipient amour. And there I was, in a house perfectly brimming with fairies!

Oh, I live and work in the world of music and the theatre and the cinema, so I'm completely entourée des pensées, as it were. I do love all my dear pansy friends. We have so much to speak of, always. Certainly the most important things, the theatre and the latest fashions. But pluck them from their accustomed "flower beds" and they don't add up to much, I'm afraid. Why, down by the shore my pretty boys were completely hopeless. Oh, they lit fag after fag the weekend through, so they are not altogether unfamiliar with the process of setting things alight, but not one of them had the smallest idea as to how to build a fire in the grate. I had to do it! And do it marvelously, I did. It was a perfect Greek temple of a pile of firewood. Architecturally sound, it was, too. And it burned like anything! It surprises me that I'm so often very good at these practical and earthy sort of things. I must possess an actual instinct of some kind; who would have guessed it? I can't imagine where it comes from. I thought anything practical or in any way useful had been bred out of me! Oh, la! But there does appear to be something there. Some wee link to an uncivilised past. Oh, dear. But I'm sure I'd have made some sweet Neanderthal the most brilliant little wife.

Oh, but the weekend was tedious. Nothing at all to do, but endless games of patience. Cigarettes and gossip. And we hadn't thought to bring even one fashion pictorial! Or any real food. Not that any of us would have known what to do with it; I'm sure my aforementioned instincts would never extend to a lump of fish or a lamb chop. So we just nibbled at a bit of dry cheese and some biscuits. Of course I brought two cases of Veuve Clicquot so that we shouldn't perish.

The skies were pretty and blue, but descending to the plage proved perilous. On Saturday I got myself up in that delicious Patou sailor outfit I mentioned. I thought, well, I'm dying of boredom, it's sunny and fairly warm, so I'll just take myself out for a wee constitutional. Mais, quelle horreur! The wind whipped about me, tearing at my clothes, blowing off my poor, sweet little hat. The horrid sea-smelling air - too, too coarse - tore at my delicate nostrils. But I am no coward, so I trudged on manfully, the high heels of my sandals sinking further with every step, the ghastly salt air blowing sand into every moist crevice I possess. I thought I must die of exposure! After what seemed ages, perhaps two minutes, I turned round and ran back, stumbling, to the cottage, and threw myself onto the floor in tears. I was chafed, blotchy from the burning sun, and red-eyed. And worst, my hair had been swirled into some sort of hideous, felted thing! I looked positively Ethiopian. And now, I will have to have my hair re-set!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1, 1936

Quite vigorous, this "hike", today; if I weren't so perfectly bred, I would have sweat like a coal stoker. And now I'm beaten all of a heap. But the weather was gentle; I shan't need to have my hair re-set after all. Really, a lovely, dappled day. Mais, mon Dieu, les limaces! I’m certain that slugs are quite useful in the correct setting. Nature has its place, after all. And I can’t think of anything more quiet; they’ll never keep you up at night making parties, now will they? Haha! But couldn’t they come in another color?

Periwinkle? Celadon?

I’m leaving for the beach tomorrow. I’ve been told it will be restful. But I’ve also been told that I mustn’t expect Juan les Pins or the Lido. I suppose it’s a bit more rustic; the things I’ve endured here in the wilds of Oregon! A house has been rented, which I hope will be cozy. And clean. Before I came over, I had Patou run me up the most darling little matelot costume. Or should I say, “matelotte”, in my case? Hmmm? It has one of those great flopping sailor collars and even a little white hat with a pom-pom. It’s too marvelous. So even if the crashing waves are a crashing bore – haha! – I’ll be the best dressed little sailor down at the seashore.

À bientôt, my darlings!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30, 1936

Oh, my darlings, how I miss you all! How long since I’ve been away! And how I long for you all. And home. As you know – the press coverage at my departure was Olympian – I’ve been over here in America for, oh, ages! Right now I’m at a place called Oregon. I’m quite sure you’ve never heard of it. I’m staying in its largest city – if it may be called that – Portland. Yes, there is another place with that name, somewhere north of New York, I believe, but this is not that. What this is I cannot say. But here I am. I’m doing a series of concerts before I travel on to the great expanses of California. No, my daughter, Prudence, is not with me here. She’s skiing in Zermatt at present; she’s so terribly athletic, you know. She’ll be joining me later. Assuming she doesn't fall down a mountain and bash herself to bits. Oh, la!

You may be wondering why I am writing to you like this. My manager – the horrid little man – has long been trying to convince me to address my public directly. Goodness knows, the papers get it all wrong. Why last year, you remember how they kept saying that Ivor Novello and I were about to endure orange blossoms and torrents of rice? Utter nonsense! Ivor is my dear, dear friend, but he’s not the sort of chap a girl marries, if you’ll understand me. And there is always that sort of thing being spread about. So, since I’ve been away for so long, I’ve agreed to write a kind of journal, I’m guessing one would call it. To let you all know, my pets, what trouble I’m getting up to. Haha!

Well, tomorrow, I shall be taken for a ”hike”. That’s what they call it. A hike. There is a park up in the hills above this funny place. But not really a park, as I hear it. I’ve been told not to expect parterres or proper banks of flowers. No fountains or other lovely things. Trees and shrubbery is all. I guess it’s a kind of forest – think of that! In the city. How very savage! It isn’t too cold as yet, but I’m to wear all sorts of wool-y things and laced-up shoes with flat heels. Can you imagine? Me in flat heels. I’ll probably fall right down on my face. And I’m sure I’ll look perfectly hideous. But I expect no one will see me save whatever beasts are lurking there in the woods. Oh dear, I wonder what ugly things I will have to see. I don’t know why I let myself be talked into such nonsense. I’m too acquiescent. That’s it, really. Too acquiescent. Oh dear, I do hope that is properly spelt….