What It's Like To Befriend A Living Legend... It AIN'T Easy!

in #life8 years ago (edited)

I had just moved to Los Angeles form New York City… And to a young man, from Hells Kitchen -- it is a completely different world. It was pretty. The sun was out, daily. The beach. The mountains. Palm trees. Beautiful women. And, of course -- all the celebrities -- EVERYWHERE!

 I had thought about moving there, eventually… But my plans to head out west were jumpstarted when I was chosen by a good buddy of mine to be the best man at his wedding. He was a New Yorker who had already made the move to the City of Angels.., met a woman and BAM wedding bells.

He was preparing to star in the musical version of a hugely successful cult movie, Tommy, playing the Pinball Wizard. Yes, the WHO. He fell in love with the assistant choreographer and the festivities were to be held in New York.

I had spoken to his bride to be on the phone.., and she was just as excited to meet her grooms best man, as I was to meet his bride to be… My Dad had recently passed away (you can read my intro post for that insane story) and my mind and thoughts were, a bit., scattered - to say the least. But all these "fabulous" people I was soon to meet, turned out to be a great comfort to me.

The night had arrived… We were to meet at a local bar, favorited by B"way actors, for a pop or two after a long day of rehearsals… When I arrived the place was packed and I was informed by the barkeep that the whole crew from Tommy was in the back and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of -- the bestman. As I made my way through the crowd… The first person to come running up and wrap her arms around me in an almost "bear-hug" fashion was -- Liza Minnelli… And that's not even the legend this story is about!

She is so excited to meet me, she starts talking a mile a minute -- "Oh my god… This is going to be so much fun - we have to get together.., and you must let me help you plan the bachelor party." Liza, it turns out -- is the maid of honor.., which I thought was a little strange at first glance, considering she was a bit older than the rest of us. Turns out, she is the brides mother's best friend.

And the bride was Lisa Mordente, daughter of Tony Mordente and Chita Rivera… She was conceived when Tony and Chita met and married during the original run of West Side Story. The London run of the show was postponed until after her birth -- she was the original.., B'way baby!

This was shaping-up to be quite a wedding, to say the least -- but that is whole post, itself. But what did happen next was… Most of the wedding party was from Los Angeles and 2 of the most beautiful bridesmaids you can imagine heard I was thinking of moving to Los Angeles.., and were in need of a roommate to share their amazing Hollywood Hills home -- actually it sounded more like a freakin' palace to some guy from Hells Kitchen.

The decision was made -- I would move to LA right after the wedding… And then we all proceeded to get shit-faced!!!

When I arrived in LA with stars in my eyes -- literally stars… They had thrown me a welcome to LA BBQ and the place was packed with Hollywood A-listers… Charlie Sheen, Judd Nelson (he was an A-lister back then), Uma Thurman, Rob and Chad Lowe… I even smoked a whole joint with Robin Zander (Cheap Trick).., and had no idea who the heck he was…

As the party wound down.., and my head stopped spinning… Unfortunate news was to follow -- the girls, my future roommates.., informed me that the room had been taken by someone's sister -- a family member and I was out!

They assured me they would find me a place.., and sure enough the next day, drove me over to there friend Eric's apartment. Eric was a model and had a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment, right off Beverly. The first thing he says to me as he opens the door -- "Im gay, I hope that's okay with you…" my reply was quick and better than well received… "I don't care what you are -- as long as you're not an asshole, I got no problem with it." 

He immediately threw his arms around me… "Oh my god, I love New Yorkers!

Eric was hardly around, my first few months in LA -- off modeling in another state or country. I was still getting my feet wet -- looking for a bar gig, getting used to driving everywhere and even a little sight-seeing. I was really digging the LA lifestyle.., and nobody was more surprised about it, than me…

One morning, while Eric was off in Miami… The phone rang (this is when people still had land lines), it was some guy looking for Eric -- he was supposed to do a moving job. Yes, moving someone from their big Hollywood Hills home to a small bungalow, in the flats.

I told him Eric was in Miami.., and figured that was that… The phone rang, no more than 10 seconds later -- it was the same guy… "Hey, you're Eric's new roommate, right? Would you be interested in making $25 an hour to help us with this moving job?"

Like I said earlier.., I had been looking for a bar gig but, heck -- I'll take $25 an hour to move some Hollywood type. "Sure, I tell him." He gives me the address and time and hangs-up. The phone rings, again.., in about 5 seconds -- "Look, you really need to be on time and don't take anything personally that the owner of the house might say to you… She is known for being, quite the diva -- raving bitch is more like it."

I actually got a little intimidated… Being new to LA and all. He finishes the phone call with -- "It's FAYE DUNAWAY!"

And boy.., was he right!

This particular moving crew (group of out of work actors) had been on this job for a few days, now. They had already packed up the big house and now, we were all at the smaller (bungalow) house… Within my first hour there -- she had ripped apart (verbally, of course) every member of the crew -- except me… She had a mouth on her, like a freakin' truck driver… But, she hadn't even, barely, said Hi, to me. 

I was out in the back guest house, which was eventually, going to be a, sort of, library… And I must say -- I was impressed. Going through her old scripts from such movies as Chinatown, with Jack Nicholson.., or Bonnie and Clyde, with Warren Beatty… And all the plays she had done in London -- all with her personal notes scribbled throughout -- about objectives, character progression, when to move and when to stay put…

And then.., I found her Oscar -- buried away at the bottom of a box… It was for the 1976 film Network. Like I said.., I was impressed! I found myself, daydreaming about scenes for that brilliantly acted movie… When all of a sudden, I see Faye heading directly for the library, where I am -- all alone.

I start busying myself, by grabbing a rather large carpet that needed to be rolled-up… As Im in the process of doing this, Faye walks in -- and starts to try and help with this task -- and bends down to grab ahold of this old, dirty carpet. And things are not going so well, to say the least -- and she starts in on me, with that filthy mouth --

"What the fuck are you doing? Are you stupid? Can't you even roll-up a fucking rug..

First-off, she was the one that had no idea what she was doing… Just making things more complicated then they needed to be.., and got frustrated… But I just -- dropped my end of the carpet, kicked open the very nice french doors, that led to the backyard… I lit up a cigarette and started cursing, myself…

A few seconds later, when I calmed down.., I turned around to see Faye standing there with the whole moving crew behind her with a look of total astonishment on their faces… It was like a scene out of a bad B-movie -- they thought she was going to kill me!

And then, after a long awkward silence.., which seemed to go on forever. she blurts out -- "Okay everyone, lets break for lunch…" She turns to the crew and tells them she has made arrangements for them to go across the street to Hamburger Hamlet. And then turns to me and says -- "Mack is going to have lunch with me, in the house…

And that look of astonishment, that had been on the face of every crew member -- turned to complete and utter disbelief… Mine, too. Once inside the house, I had no idea, what to expect… But I did see Mommie Dearest, so the first thing I did.., was look around to make sure there were no coat hangers lying around…

She immediately, poured us some freshly brewed ice-tea and began to apologize for her verbal assault… The whole thing was extremely surreal to me -- I mean, I had just been in LA for a little over a week…. And already I had been attacked by Faye Dunaway and now Im sitting in her house having ice-tea -- WTF!

We ate and talked for 45 minutes to an hour.., and she seemed to be genuinely interested in my life and my recent move to LA, following my Dad's death. I told her that I missed his funeral because I was off on some island tending bar for some people she was very close, too… Not something, I told to many people, at the time -- as it still weighed heavy on my mind.

She jumped-up out of her chair and preceded to hug me, for what felt like an eternity… She had to be, at least 60 something years old -- but she still looked great.., and back in the day, she was one of Hollywoods hottest leading actresses -- I mean, it was FAYE FREAKIN' DUNAWAY.

We finished out the day, working… And before we left, she paid us all and as the crew all got in there cars to leave, she held onto my hand and said -- "Thanks for having lunch with me.., and again, Im sorry for…" And I cut her off, as I leaned in and kissed her on the cheek and said -- there is absolutely no need for apologies, Im a big boy, I can take it -- and lunch was all my pleasure, for sure.

And, in that instant… I could see this living legend, turn into a teenage girl, right before my eyes.., as she actually blushed and sheepishly told me to go home now, she would see me bright and early tomorrow, for another day of work.., as her personal staff, all peeked throughout the curtains in amazement.

They had NEVER seen Faye react like that, to anyone…

The job went on for the next few days.., and I would have lunch with Faye everyone of those days… On the third or so day -- I was home asleep, when my phone rang at about 1am… It was Faye -- "Mack, my roof is leaking like a waterfall…" Before she could finish the sentence, I told her to relax.., I was on my way… 

LA doesn't see much rain, but it was pouring, cats and dogs, as they say… I jumped in my beat-up 1976 MGB roadster, top up, of course -- and headed for Home Depot. I grabbed a huge bucket of some stuff called Murray's Roof Tar… It was the supposedly, the only tar you could use -- in the rain. When I got to Faye's house, she was waiting, with a cup of hot tea for me…

I told her to keep it hot, let me take care of the roof. I climbed the, not too steady ladder, carrying this huge bucket of tar, on to the roof, in the pouring rain.., not really knowing, what the hell I was doing -- I can't believe I didn't kill myself… Somehow, with a little help from the universe -- I got the leaked all patched-up and the water had finally stopped flowing into her bedroom.

I was soaked, to the bone when I got back inside and Faye immediately told me to get those wet clothes off.., there are a bunch of warm towels in the bathroom for me. I came out of the bathroom, in nothing but a towel wrapped around my waist…

I suddenly had the feeling this could turn into a bad porno... 

She was waiting for me, with that cup of tea -- and couldn't stop thanking me… Also, she pleaded with me to spend the night, just incase the leak started again… Plus, I was going to have to come back in a few hours for work, anyway…

You have to understand… 

The whole time this is going on.., the thing that is most present, in my mind is -- THIS IS FAYE FREAKIN' DUNAWAY! Before I even agree to stay, she gets a bunch of blankets out and puts them on the couch. I agree. She tucks me in like a little boy.., kisses me on the forehead -- and heads off to bed.

Normally, I would not be able to sleep a wink under these weird circumstances.., but I was wiped-out and fell asleep, immediately. When I woke up, Faye was running around the kitchen in nothing but her panties and bra… This just kept getting weirder…

When all of a sudden, the house keeper and her personal assistant came walking throughout the front door, witnessing the two of us in the kitchen, Faye still wearing nothing but bra-n-panties -- and the rumors started… By the end of the day, half of LA thought I was sleeping with Faye Dunaway!

Which, you could tell -- Faye liked...

She had a little crush on Johnny Depp, at the time. She had done a film him and Marlon Brando.., and her assistant said, you remind her of Johnny -- but with character…

When the job ended.., it was actually, sad. She was sad. Me too. Faye had the reputation of being a diva, a raving bitch.., as I mentioned, earlier -- Even the dreaded C-word (vagina), all around town. In Hollywood circles and even in the general public… And, a large part of it was completely understandable.

She would rip into everybody… From the poor sales guy at the hardware store to the girl bagging her groceries -- for seemingly, no reason.., except that she could… But the Faye I got to know… The woman behind the diva mask -- was sweet, caring, loving, funny, intelligent, creative -- and extremely genuine.

What people didn't know was… She didn't know how to act any differently… She had been hurt, both personally and professionally.., more than you would wish on your worst enemies --  but always had to show up being -- Faye Dunaway.

It's not as easy as you think being a living legend...

Im not making any excuses for her, or her behavior… It was, most of the time uncalled for -- but at least, I got a chance to understand it and even see her change, by spending time with me… You see, I don't kiss ass -- and she learned that from the very first time we met -- and she respected me for it.

As time went by, I would get a call from her to go to dinner or the occasional art show, or something like that -- even just to come by for tea… She even got me a bar gig at the famous Viper Room (I told you she wasn't all bad). And, no matter what, I always made time for her… Because, I could see.., I got a chance to know the real Faye Dunaway. The one that was scared of aging all alone. The one with the same insecurities, as all of us.., only she wasn't allowed to show them -- being Faye Dunaway.

I'll always defend Faye to my dying day.., to anyone… And, I will always love her, too.

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Up-voted and followed! ;-)

@macksby, what an incredibly captivating story! I can only imagine how isolating and reality-altering that level of fame can be. It's probably like a prison, that coupled with fears of aging and becoming irrelevant in the eyes of Hollywood would be enough stress to make a person moody and bitter.

I'm sure that time spent with you is every bit as memorable to her as it is to you. I can see this as a novel and then a film. Well done!

Thanks so much @ericvancewalton -- You know how much your opinion means to me... Through are many conversatiions, Faye expressed to me, that she really didn't know how to live any other way. Never having to struggle, being brought up through the old Hollywood studio system. She just didn't know how "regular" people interacted with each other. And, it was starting to scare her... Thanks Again, CHEERS!

Mack, I'm on the edge of my seat reading this outrageous story! I love it! Underneath that Hollywood persona is a real person, with feelings and emotions, and you brought that out in her. I keep thinking of Mrs. Robinson, although she is not Anne Bancroft. But what a tale. Life takes such bizarre turns. Had Eric not been in Miami, you might never have become friends. Wonderful! If I have a leaky roof, I know who to call.

Im on my way @fairytalelife -- any time. But seriously, your comment makes me think about all the weird, strange circumstances that led to our meeting.., and the even stranger events that followed. I guess, it experiences such as these that make us who are... It would have been, all to easy to chalk her up as just another spoiled Hollywood brat. And called her names like the rest of the crew... But sometimes your instincts just tell you different.., and if you're paying attention -- you get to make a genuine connection someone.., someone who might need it more than you... Thanks Again @ fairytalelife

I See!

Thanks @anns - it was a strange time!

I agree with you
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