Enemies of Reading: Hugh’s shameful rush into the night

Opinion March 9, 2012 0 Comments

Norman Mailer's former girlfriend, Carole Mallory, teaches memoir writing in Cheltenham? Is it possible?

by Hugh Gilmore

I still don’t know if I’m headed off for adventure or about to make a big splat.

Mild-mannered book nerd that I am, I was all excited that the Cheltenham Township Adult Evening School catalog had arrived in the day’s mail. I placed it on my favorite reading chair in the living room as something to look forward to that evening (this was mid-January)

Later, work done, Ned Coale-style martini at hand, I began browsing the course offerings, looking for Spanish II. Spanish I had been quite enjoyable last fall.

And there it was. Monday evenings, 7 to 8:30 p.m. for eight weeks, beginning Feb. 27.

Good. I’ll register with a phone call tomorrow morning, I thought. I hoped I’d run into some of my compadres from Part I. Improving my Spanish would help get me back into writing a novel I’d started that’s based on a spin-off from the “Carmen” opera. Good. My life was now settled. Nothing quite so assuring as a “plunge into the known,” as we say up here on the Chestnut Hill Peninsula.

Only … I turned the page – just to browse – and there, among course offerings such as “Learn to sell on e-Bay,” “Bead Stringing,” and “Mah-jongg for Beginners,” on page 36 I saw a course called, “Memoir and Me.”

Hah. One of those intro courses for suburban grandmothers who promised to write down some family stories along with the recipes. Not for me. I write memoir-type pieces often. In fact, I have an 80-percent-complete memoir in the drawer right now. So: hah!

Hmm. I see “Memoir and Me” is taught by Carole Mallory. Never heard of her. Hmm. Former actress (“The Stepford Wives”), supermodel, author (“Loving Mailer.”).

Actress and supermodel? What the hell’s she doing in this glazed brick penal institution, exposed to the possibility of teaching riff-raff like myself?

And what can “Loving Mailer” refer to, other than Norman Mailer? Norman Mailer is a hero of mine. His attitudes were crucial to my intellectual development as a working-class kid who somehow started reading The Village Voice, which Mailer co-founded and wrote for back in the 60s.

Mailer was a jerk too. Everyone knows that. But he was a giant jerk, a brilliant jerk, a thinking jerk, and a prolific author, National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize winner (twice), movie actor, director and producer. Lover. He had six wives, dozens of girlfriends and nine children. He lived a very full life.

And what did the “Loving” part mean? Did she love him? As loyal secretary, editor, student? Or, dare I say it, lover? Is this a book by one of his mistresses or wives?

It was scheduled for Monday nights, from 7 to 8:30. That’s when Spanish II would meet. Hmm. Well, I need Spanish II for my “Carmen” book. But I could use this course as an excuse to pull my memoir from the drawer and finish it over the next eight weeks. Still, this decision’s a toughie. I needed more information. I got out the laptop and went to Google, starting with Wiki.

You must remember that at this time I am sitting in my brown leather chair in the corner of my cozy living room here in what feels like suburbia. To my wife, should she look over at my sweet, graying head, I am a harmless, predictable drudge, lost in my usual scholar-adventurer dreams. In reality, I am drunk on adrenalin as I start reading about “my writing teacher,” especially since I must soon choose between her and Spanish II.

Okay, Carole Mallory. First, she was a supermodel, possibly the first supermodel, back in the 60′s. She was absolutely major league. All the big magazine covers. Remember the ad campaign on TV where a beautiful woman says, “All my men wear English Leather…or they wear nothing at all”? That was Carole Mallory speaking.

Remember the airlines “Fly Me” campaign? Carole Mallory again. She acted in “the Stepford Wives” and “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” and numerous TV shows.

Carole Mallory grew up in Springfield, Delaware County, majored in art-education at Penn State, went to Temple’s Tyler School of Art, taught high school in Lower Merion, moved to Los Angles and became famed as an international beauty. Among the notable loves, or affairs, of her life were Warren Beatty, Rod Stewart, Peter Sellers, and Richard Gere.

She married Ron Mallory, the photographer/sculptor, whom she left for Claude Picasso. She and Claude Picasso were engaged and lived together for years in France, but she left him when Claude couldn’t get a trip to the altar organized. At about the age of 42 she deliberately pursued Norman Mailer, who was about 20 years older than she, and he succumbed to her charms. Their love affair lasted nine years.

One can find online much more information than that brief sketch. I was fascinated by what I’d read so far, but it seemed like a typical Hollywood celebrity news roundup, only dated. I suspected her memoir course might not be useful for me. I couldn’t make a decision based on what I’d learned from the Internet.

She had, however, written two books, “Flash,” (a novel) and “Loving Mailer” (a memoir). I bought them both and requested quick delivery. I’d read them and see. I really had been looking forward to Spanish II.

“Flash” arrived first. I read it immediately. Oh oh. The narrator of the novel is a young woman, a fashion model, who has an addiction to lifting her skirt, pulling aside her underwear and “flashing” men. She only does this to underclass men, e.g., cab drivers, cabana boys, bellhops, men who can look but cannot act on the lust she arouses in them.

Often she pleasures herself during these moments. She’s angry, she says, and this is her only real means of feeling power. The rest of her day is spent being abused by powerful entertainment industry men who use her beauty against her.

“Flash” is a rather brutal book, even though it’s meant to be sympathetic to the victims of Hollywood’s predatory business-as-usual. One does get the feeling, however, that the book is honest in its portrayal of Hollywood behavior.

The lead character in “Flash” is also an alcoholic and, if not an addict, an unhealthily heavy drug user. There’s no sense saying she’s promiscuous too, because there’s no standard to judge that by in a world where all appetites are indulged and where no behavioral price is too high if it advances your career. The men are far more abusive here, but the ladies are keenly aware of how to use their assets, especially if the process is pleasurable.

(I just flinched, picturing: My goodness, Mr. Gilmore! We expect higher standards of topics in the Local, especially from you!)

Ah, yes, I forgot myself for a moment there. I’d say I felt obliged to read the book and that, while it was an eye-opener, was not a satisfying read, even though the leading lady conquers all her addictions by the end. Oh, and yes, the book is autobiographical and Carole Mallory worked free of those same addictions herself. She’s quite frank. So, did I want to take a course with her? I still wasn’t sure.

“Loving Mailer” arrived next. In the opening scene she recreates a daring telephone call she once made to Warren Beatty, telling him to come over to her place because she wanted to be worshipped in the active manner for which he had become famous. Only, she uses Anglo-Saxon verbs in the dialogue. He came over and obliged her. Sorry, folks, no 800 number is given for the delivery service she dialed.

The point is, she uses details and language that would shock many people and intrigue others. And I’m not certain if she does so in the service of truth or in the pursuit of sales. The book walks both lines. She goes as far behind the scenes as one can go. Though she lives in what your grandmother would call a very fast world, she reveals a hidden, hungering side of her life that yearns for education and self-expression.

On her first “date” with Norman Mailer (“Meet me for hamburgers at 11 a.m. tomorrow?” she wrote on the note she slipped in his hand at a public reading he gave), she reaches into her bag and pulls out a 500-page manuscript for his perusal. They make the usual, ages-old pact that writers and groupies make (anyone listening out there?) and soon they are in a relationship.

At this time, Norman is married to wife No. 6 (Norris Church – whose memoir, “Welcome to the Circus,” I just finished last night.). Nonetheless he and Carole Mallory’s affair lasted nine years and she was, as far as history can tell, his last mistress. “Loving Mailer” is her account of the exciting beginning, sort-of-happy middle, and bitter end of their affair.

While I was reading it, of course, I was trying to make up my mind whether I would learn to write better by taking her memoir-writing course. I didn’t think so. And don’t forget, Spanish II was meeting at the same time and I’d have to choose one or the other.

About mid-way through “Loving Mailer,” however, the predictable and boring saga of a mistress trying to wring more time and care out of her married lover started to take some turns I enjoyed. This woman, who, despite her beauty, had lived as a kind of doormat for men, developed some spine and started to stand up to Mailer.

To put it simply, she started to ask him to treat her as a person and not as his fantasy play pillow. It was a stand-up-and-cheer moment for me. And it was then that I felt for the first time that this memoir had a story arc and wasn’t just an “and then” chronicle of their nine years together. That might be something I could learn from.

Ahem. One doesn’t tell one’s wife casually that he’s taking a class with a former supermodel-Hollywood actress, and he’ll be “out for a while” on Monday nights, even if the supermodel is 70-years-old and a bit plump now. Not without promising, (1) “I will not run off with my teacher” and (2) “I will not give my teacher warm oil foot massages.” Promises easily made, being the dull fellow that I am. My male friends nonetheless got a gleam in their eyes when I told them I might take the class for self-improvement. I am not responsible for their immaturity.

On decision night I reckoned that I could always take Spanish. I was drawn to the idea of taking a, perhaps, one-time class with a person who’d lived such an exciting, glamorous life. And had intimately known Norman Mailer, one of the major writers of recent American literature, one of the literary heroes of my youth.

As I threw open the doors of Cheltenham High School last Monday night, I wondered: What was Carole Mallory doing in this dreary place, and why was she willing to teach the likes of me?

(To be continued next week.)

 

Several of Hugh’s Books are available at Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback formats, including his just-released tales of life in a Chestnut Hill bookstore: “Scenes from a Bookshop.”

 

 

 

"Adios Carmen" y "buenas noches, Senorita Carole": Hugh's shameful rush into the night

by Hugh Gilmore

I still don't know if I'm headed off for adventure or about to make a big splat.
Mild-mannered book nerd that I am, I was all excited that the Cheltenham Township Adult Evening School catalog had arrived in the day's mail. I placed it on my favorite reading chair in the living room as something to look forward to that evening (this was mid-January).
Later, work done, Ned Coale-style martini at hand, I began browsing the course offerings, looking for Spanish II. Spanish I had been quite enjoyable last fall.
And there it was. Monday evenings, 7 to 8:30 p.m. for eight weeks, beginning Feb. 27.
Good. I'll register with a phone call tomorrow morning, I thought. I hoped I'd run into some of my compadres from Part I. Improving my Spanish would help get me back into writing a novel I'd started that's based on a spin-off from the "Carmen" opera. Good. My life was now settled. Nothing quite so assuring as a "plunge into the known," as we say up here on the Chestnut Hill Peninsula.
Only ... I turned the page – just to browse – and there, among course offerings such as "Learn to sell on e-Bay," "Bead Stringing," and "Mah-jongg for Beginners," on page 36 I saw a course called, "Memoir and Me."
Hah. One of those intro courses for suburban grandmothers who promised to write down some family stories along with the recipes. Not for me. I write memoir-type pieces often. In fact, I have an 80-percent-complete memoir in the drawer right now. So: hah!
Hmm. I see "Memoir and Me" is taught by Carole Mallory. Never heard of her. Hmm. Former actress ("The Stepford Wives"), supermodel, author ("Loving Mailer.").
Actress and supermodel? What the hell's she doing in this glazed brick penal institution, exposed to the possibility of teaching riff-raff like myself?
And what can "Loving Mailer" refer to, other than Norman Mailer? Norman Mailer is a hero of mine. His attitudes were crucial to my intellectual development as a working-class kid who somehow started reading The Village Voice, which Mailer co-founded and wrote for back in the 60s.
Mailer was a jerk too. Everyone knows that. But he was a giant jerk, a brilliant jerk, a thinking jerk, and a prolific author, National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize winner (twice), movie actor, director and producer. Lover. He had six wives, dozens of girlfriends and nine children. He lived a very full life.
And what did the "Loving" part mean? Did she love him? As loyal secretary, editor, student? Or, dare I say it, lover? Is this a book by one of his mistresses or wives?
It was scheduled for Monday nights, from 7 to 8:30. That's when Spanish II would meet. Hmm. Well, I need Spanish II for my "Carmen" book. But I could use this course as an excuse to pull my memoir from the drawer and finish it over the next eight weeks. Still, this decision's a toughie. I needed more information. I got out the laptop and went to Google, starting with Wiki.
You must remember that at this time I am sitting in my brown leather chair in the corner of my cozy living room here in what feels like suburbia. To my wife, should she look over at my sweet, graying head, I am a harmless, predictable drudge, lost in my usual scholar-adventurer dreams. In reality, I am drunk on adrenalin as I start reading about "my writing teacher," especially since I must soon choose between her and Spanish II.
Okay, Carole Mallory. First, she was a supermodel, possibly the first supermodel, back in the 60's. She was absolutely major league. All the big magazine covers. Remember the ad campaign on TV where a beautiful woman says, "All my men wear English Leather...or they wear nothing at all"? That was Carole Mallory speaking.
Remember the airlines "Fly Me" campaign? Carole Mallory again. She acted in "the Stepford Wives" and "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" and numerous TV shows.
Carole Mallory grew up in Springfield, Delaware County, majored in art-education at Penn State, went to Temple's Tyler School of Art, taught high school in Lower Merion, moved to Los Angles and became famed as an international beauty. Among the notable loves, or affairs, of her life were Warren Beatty, Rod Stewart, Peter Sellers, and Richard Gere.
She married Ron Mallory, the photgrapher/sculptor, whom she left for Claude Picasso. She and Claude Picasso were engaged and lived together for years in France, but she left him when Claude couldn't get a trip to the altar organized. At about the age of 42 she deliberately pursued Norman Mailer, who was about 20 years older than she, and he succumbed to her charms. Their love affair lasted nine years.
One can find online much more information than that brief sketch. I was fascinated by what I'd read so far, but it seemed like a typical Hollywood celebrity news roundup, only dated. I suspected her memoir course might not be useful for me. I couldn't make a decision based on what I'd learned from the Internet.
She had, however, written two books, "Flash," (a novel) and "Loving Mailer" (a memoir). I bought them both and requested quick delivery. I'd read them and see. I really had been looking forward to Spanish II.
"Flash" arrived first. I read it immediately. Oh oh. The narrator of the novel is a young woman, a fashion model, who has an addiction to lifting her skirt, pulling aside her underwear and "flashing" men. She only does this to underclass men, e.g., cab drivers, cabana boys, bellhops, men who can look but cannot act on the lust she arouses in them.
Often she pleasures herself during these moments. She's angry, she says, and this is her only real means of feeling power. The rest of her day is spent being abused by powerful entertainment industry men who use her beauty against her.
"Flash" is a rather brutal book, even though it's meant to be sympathetic to the victims of Hollywood's predatory business-as-usual. One does get the feeling, however, that the book is honest in its portrayal of Hollywood behavior.
The lead character in "Flash" is also an alcoholic and, if not an addict, an unhealthily heavy drug user. There's no sense saying she's promiscuous too, because there's no standard to judge that by in a world where all appetites are indulged and where no behavioral price is too high if it advances your career. The men are far more abusive here, but the ladies are keenly aware of how to use their assets, especially if the process is pleasurable.
(I just flinched, picturing: My goodness, Mr. Gilmore! We expect higher standards of topics in the Local, especially from you!)
Ah, yes, I forgot myself for a moment there. I'd say I felt obliged to read the book and that, while it was an eye-opener, was not a satisfying read, even though the leading lady conquers all her addictions by the end. Oh, and yes, the book is autobiographical and Carole Mallory worked free of those same addictions herself. She's quite frank. So, did I want to take a course with her? I still wasn't sure.
"Loving Mailer" arrived next. In the opening scene she recreates a daring telephone call she once made to Warren Beatty, telling him to come over to her place because she wanted to be worshipped in the active manner for which he had become famous. Only, she uses Anglo-Saxon verbs in the dialogue. He came over and obliged her. Sorry, folks, no 800 number is given for the delivery service she dialed.
The point is, she uses details and language that would shock many people and intrigue others. And I'm not certain if she does so in the service of truth or in the pursuit of sales. The book walks both lines. She goes as far behind the scenes as one can go. Though she lives in what your grandmother would call a very fast world, she reveals a hidden, hungering side of her life that yearns for education and self-expression.
On her first "date" with Norman Mailer ("Meet me for hamburgers at 11 a.m. tomorrow?" she wrote on the note she slipped in his hand at a public reading he gave), she reaches into her bag and pulls out a 500-page manuscript for his perusal. They make the usual, ages-old pact that writers and groupies make (anyone listening out there?) and soon they are in a relationship.
At this time, Norman is married to wife No. 6 (Norris Church – whose memoir, "Welcome to the Circus," I just finished last night.). Nonetheless he and Carole Mallory's affair lasted nine years and she was, as far as history can tell, his last mistress. "Loving Mailer" is her account of the exciting beginning, sort-of-happy middle, and bitter end of their affair.
While I was reading it, of course, I was trying to make up my mind whether I would learn to write better by taking her memoir-writing course. I didn't think so. And don't forget, Spanish II was meeting at the same time and I'd have to choose one or the other.
About mid-way through "Loving Mailer," however, the predictable and boring saga of a mistress trying to wring more time and care out of her married lover started to take some turns I enjoyed. This woman, who, despite her beauty, had lived as a kind of doormat for men, developed some spine and started to stand up to Mailer.
To put it simply, she started to ask him to treat her as a person and not as his fantasy play pillow. It was a stand-up-and-cheer moment for me. And it was then that I felt for the first time that this memoir had a story arc and wasn't just an "and then" chronicle of their nine years together. That might be something I could learn from.
Ahem. One doesn't tell one's wife casually that he's taking a class with a former supermodel-Hollywood actress, and he'll be "out for a while" on Monday nights, even if the supermodel is 70-years-old and a bit plump now. Not without promising, (1) "I will not run off with my teacher" and (2) “I will not give my teacher warm oil foot massages." Promises easily made, being the dull fellow that I am. My male friends nonetheless got a gleam in their eyes when I told them I might take the class for self-improvement. I am not responsible for their immaturity.
On decision night I reckoned that I could always take Spanish. I was drawn to the idea of taking a, perhaps, one-time class with a person who'd lived such an exciting, glamorous life. And had intimately known Norman Mailer, one of the major writers of recent American literature, one of the literary heroes of my youth.
As I threw open the doors of Cheltenham High School last Monday night, I wondered: What was Carole Mallory doing in this dreary place, and why was she willing to teach the likes of me?
(To be continued next week.)

Several of Hugh's Books are available at Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback formats, including his just-released tales of life in a Chestnut Hill bookstore: "Scenes from a Bookshop."

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