Tuesday, August 14

Ghosts at Westwood

Why am I sitting on the ground against a tree?  Why is it dark?   Rubbing my eyes I see I am still at the Westwood Village Memorial Park in the Los Angeles area.  The cemetery is plopped right in the middle of a busy city, an odd but prestigious location.  Didn't I leave earlier in the day after touring the gravesites?  Mmmmm, I moaned softly, rubbing my sleeveless arms.  It's kind of nippy for a Southern California night in September.  Oh yes, oh yes, now I remember hitting my head on an overhanging branch and sinking to the ground..  Damn that hurt.   

Oh, what was that?  I sat immobilized and watching a ghostly presence some distance away.  Over there was another, then two more, both traveling in the same direction.  I shook my head and looked again and they were gone.  What was that?  Oh no, there was another one a few yards away and then another.  I turned my head and could see little pods of white puffs everywhere.  I shut my eyes to make it all go away and then I heard a woman say, "Hey, walk with me.  Keep me company."  I opened my eyes, a little apprehensive.  "Come on, Honey, there's a jam session with some of the members.  It's the best."  She was pulling on my arm.

"Are you Marilyn Monroe?  I mean, you are.  I stood before your crypt forever this afternoon or maybe it was yesterday or whenever.  But you're dead, I mean..."  She was taking shape before my skeptical eyes.

"Honey, we all come out at night, don't you know that?  I mean the ones who haven't turned to ashes.  No one ever really dies in Hollywood.  We rarely have night visitors except the guards and we stay put when they're around.  C'mon, I'll intro you around.  What's your name, Honey?"

Bob, I told her and she purred, "That's too old.  I never got old. We'll call you Bobby.  It's a name I like."

"Oh, I know everything about you.  I wish I could have helped you at the end.  I've always wished that."

"Aren't you the silly one?  There is no end.  I have just moved from Brentwood to here in Westwood but now all I do is have fun.  Isn't it wonderful?  Oh Jack... Walter," she said pulling me toward two men who were arguing.  "I drove Jack crazy when we made Some Like It Hot, but he loves me now.  Neighbors forever.  Hallelujah."

"Yeah, fun." snarled Jack Lemmon, not quite convincing me, "but Walter here is another matter.  You having fun, Walter?"

"Shut up Lemmon," said his frequent costar and longtime friend.  I was amused earlier when I saw how close their graves were to one another.  "And listen, Marilyn, take your friend away.  I can tell he likes Lemmon better than me.  Go catch the music."  She whisked me away.  "Bye, bye Geraldine," she said to Lemmon.

I kept trying to say things to her; I had a million questions.  I wanted her to know all the stuff I knew but then I wanted to ask her details.  How did it really happen at the end?  I always thought it was an accidental overdose, but was it?  Did she sleep with Mitchum?  Did she like David Wayne, the actor she worked with the most?  What was her favorite film that she made?  What was her favorite film that she did not make.  How could she fall for Yves Montand?  Was it a French thing?  I don't get it.  How volcanic was it with Darryl Zanuck, her boss at Fox? 

"He was a bastard."  I hadn't realized I said something out loud.  Wow, it was a dizzying experience in more ways than one.  "He never liked me.  Feeling was mutual.  He thought I was an untalented tramp but then he counted the receipts of the day and boy did he change his tune.  Still, I always thought he tried to sabotage my career.  I could not believe he wanted to rest here at the park, knowing I was here.  And this is my kingdom.  When they say who is buried here, Honey, my name is always mentioned first."

We walked on.  She held my hand, making it difficult to walk.  "Oh, look, there's Karl.  Hi Karl.  Hi Sweeties," she called out as we passed Karl Malden.  He was talking to an old co-star Cornel Wilde and Jane Greer was listening in.

"Oh wow, I love Jane Greer.  She was the best in Out of the Past," I purred, taking one step toward her misty presence. 

Marilyn tugged on my hand.  "Hey Buster, you don't love her more than me, do you?  She's just pretty cut glass, but I am diamonds.  I really enjoyed Karl.  We both did the Actors' Studio, you know.  That was a highlight in my last short life on planet earth."  I knew.  It was always in the papers and in movie magazines about her and the Actors' Studio. 

"Oh, look, there's that nasty Truman Capote," she hissed.  "He was in my New York period, too.  He was always mad at me for some reason, so I just decided to stay mad at him.  Oooh look, he's talking to Peter Lawford, the weasel.  I wish he didn't figure so prominently in my last days but he does.  Oh well.  And there's John Casssavetes, too.  Another New Yorker type.  I should have married him and changed my name to Gena (Rowlands).  She's the kind of actress I wanted to be." 

"Oh look," I said, there's Donna Reed and Elizabeth Montgomery and Eve Arden and Eddie Albert and um, is that Jim Backus they're listening to?"

"Yes, the TV crowd.  I never really did any TV, you know.  Zanuck and all those creepy old men didn't want the public to get me for free.  They wanted them to pay up."

The late night or early morning now seemed a bit warmer.  Maybe it was more about my beautiful guide.  There were little groupings everywhere.  I gushed as we passed Natalie Wood.  I had to tell Marilyn that Natalie spent a lot of time in my brain, too.  But being as insecure as I remembered Marilyn to be, I knew to reassure her of my undying (hmmmm) love for her.  Natalie was talking to Janis Joplin, Dominique Dunne, Brian Keith and Dorothy Stratten.  "Mmmm, there's the gathering of the morbid death club.  Suppose I should stop and offer my own two cents worth?"  

The music was getting near.  I could hear some sweet, familiar melodies.  "Ah, this is my kind of music," Marilyn trilled, throwing her arms in the air for accent.  "It's mine, too," I truthfully said.  We came across a red velvet rope and Merv Griffin stood on one end and Eva Gabor on the other.  "Oh my God, they're even together here," I said.  "Yes, and they're trying to put one over on us here, too, just like they used to.  Hollywood."

I noticed Oscar Levant at the piano.  I hoped he would only play and not speak.  I didn't enjoy him speaking.  I caught Janet Leigh and Peggy Lee talking to one another.  I remembered them together in Pete Kelly's Blues.  "Hi, blondes," Marilyn said, taking a dip and fluffing her arm out at no one in particular.  I noticed Ross Hunter ordering some puffs of cloud around, two of whom were Mel Torme and Roy Orbison. 

I spotted Dean Martin and Burt Lancaster who were talking over one another. "Wow, they were in Airport together, after your time, Marilyn."

"Aren't you silly? Nothing is after your time. There really is no such thing, Bobby. I know about Airport. They were at odds in that film and they're at odds now. And they sleep so close to one another. What's up with that? Lancaster is such a bossy thing and ol' Dino cannot be bossed. So on and on they go. They're not as adorably crabby as Jack and Walter.  Dino doesn't talk to me a lot.  Probably still mad at me for that last film I didn't complete.  Dino'll croon some.  I wish Frankie were staying here."

Wow, was this gonna be fun.  We sat down on the ground together.  Alone.  Janet sang something bouncy which was good and she did a duet with Dean.  Then Peggy sang in a voice that wore well on the dawn that seemed about to appear.  I hoped she wouldn't sing Is That All There Is, but she did.  It was such a sad but mortal song. 

Suddenly the concert was over.  As my date and I ambled back to the area in which we met, we passed two graves labeled Goddard.  "Grace Goddard was a lady who cared for me in my youth and she came here in 1953.  I always loved her and I wanted to come here myself to be close to her.  Bebe Goddard was a family member who came along after I did.  It's nice to be close to loved ones, particularly with Zanuck over there."  She threw her head back and her blonde mane and ruby lips shone in the early light, just as I'd seen scores of times on the silver screen.

I closed my eyes when she kissed me.  I know she said something and I wish I could remember what that was but I was gripped by the kiss.  When I opened my eyes, she had vanished, as quickly as she had appeared.

I was sitting on the ground under the tree.  I was at once uncomfortable physically and with the early morning hour but felt I had just come out of a sweet reverie with my dream girl and was enveloped in some sort of torpor.   

This has been her earthly home for 50 years.  We will visit again.

NEXT POSTING:  Favorite Film #30

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