I spent the majority of today in 1932.
Well, as close as I’ll ever get to it, anyway.
On this exceptionally bright, magical March afternoon, the not-so-distant past collided head on with the present.
The authors of Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital held a book signing on Club View Drive in Beverly Hills- the former residence of Jean Harlow. The gracious current owners of the home, Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, hosted a lovely afternoon luncheon whose guests included Leonard Maltin, Holly Madison, members of the Harlow family (the Carpenter side), veteran Hollywood actress Pauline Wagner (Fay Wray‘s King Kong double!) and Hollywood historians Lisa Burks, Darrell Rooney and Mark Vieira.
I was thrilled to be a part of such a distinguished group, and really cherished every blessed second.
Armed with my partner in crime, the beautiful vintage model Lauren Foulk, we arrived at the legendary home ready for an afternoon of pure Hollywood history… and were certainly not disappointed.
The Chandlers love of their homes’ history is evident in every lovingly preserved square inch. Beautiful period prints of Harlow in the Club View Drive home were prominently placed in areas of particular interest, creating a tangible, living museum.
It was a truly extraordinary experience, roaming the hallways of a legend. A costume worn by beautiful Carol Baker awaited upstairs– lead actress in the miscalculated 1965 film that was a victim of misinformation. (Baker’s talent as an actress could have been explosive given the correct material.)
Sitting in the the living room which had once played host to the wedding of Jean Harlow and ill-fated MGM producer Paul Bern was quite surreal … even moreso was speaking with a delightful lady who had graced its presence before… eight decades ago…
When Pauline Wagner signed my autograph book today, she tagged it with “SAG #2”. Meaning, quite simply, that she was officially the second member of the Screen Actors Guild. A photograph of the strikingly young Pauline with Jimmy Cagney on set rested in the Club View Drive drawing room, and a crowd of willing, waiting pupils sat at her feet. Eager, ever so eager, to hear the stories of working as an actress in 1930s Hollywood FROM an actress who worked in 1930s Holltwood. Pauline may be 100 years old on paper, but certainly doesn’t look it. In fact, when Lauren and I were told her real age we were fairly knocked off our feet. Lauren, arrayed in the most delightfully vintage tresses, was spyed by the very spry Pauline from across the room. We had no idea at the time that the sweet little lady introducing herself was a living Hollywood legend.
Her strikingly well preserved form? Summed up thusly:
Me: Pauline, whatever you’re doing, please keep doing it!
Pauline: It’s not what I’m doing… it’s what i DON’T do!
A statement followed up by a gloriously vivid account between her and director Mitchell Leisen who, after an uncharacteristically bleary-eyed morning with the actress, said: “Take my advice, kid. DON’T GO TO HOLLYWOOD PARTIES.”
She listened. Much to the benefit of all of us assembled this afternoon.
She wallopped me, that dame, and I’m still trying to recover…
After the fun had ended, Lauren and I were still weren’t quite ready to rejoin the present. So we made a stop at the legendary Sunset Tower Hotel to have a drink in Jean’s honor. The Jean Harlow Cocktail was a slight challenge for our willing bartender, who’d never heard of the concoction before, but the end result was delicious!
Here’s to Harlean!