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She was broke and alone and usually drunk, a one-time Hollywood goddess who had two choices: “I either write the book or sell the jewels,” she said.
“And I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels.” And so, in January 1988, Ava Gardner, ravaged by booze and cigarettes and a recent stroke, called British journalist Peter Evans and asked him to ghostwrite her memoirs.
Ava’s voice comes through loud and clear on the page. The stories, as told by Ava and relayed by Evans, are tawdry and fabulous.
And Evans makes the bold and interesting decision not just to tell Ava’s story, but to tell his own story of writing the memoirs. I relished turning the pages and reading about fucking Mickey Rooney (Lana Turner “called him Andy Hard-On”), not fucking Marlon Brando (“I don’t know about Jimmy Dean, Ingrid Bergman, Larry Olivier, Jackie O, and the rest of the names Marlon’s supposed to have carved on his bedpost, but my names definitely not one of them, honey”), fearing Louis B. But anytime Ava has doubts about including the wildest of her stories, Evans reassures her by saying that the stories are honest, and Ava deserves an honest book.
“He said, ‘Get into a fight with him, and he won’t stop until one of you is dead,’ ” Gardner said.
“He didn’t want to risk it being him.” Gardner was a teenage virgin from Grabtown, NC, when she was discovered by a talent scout in 1941. “I knew that my looks might get me through the studio gates.” She knew she wasn’t a great actress, and didn’t much care: “A lot of my stuff ended up on the cutting-room floor,” she said. “I never loved him,” she said, adding that despite the generosity he showed her, paying for her dying mother’s medical care, he was also a racist.
He, unlike the book’s author Peter Evans, knew how to create the mystique of Ava Gardner. I get on fine with fags, I just prefer dealing with guys who aren’t.” (Later in the book, Gardner describes the difference between gays and fags: “Gays make the best ‘walkers.’ They are good company. His research seemed more focused on reading Sinatra biographies than assessing Gardner’s career and influence as a woman and an actress.
Was it an accident that they ran into each other a few days later, in front of her place? Frank wasn’t usually keen on walking but suddenly he was getting out a lot. Dark haired with a white fur stole on her wide shoulders, he noticed how she prowled with the easy grace of a tigress.He dallied with actress Lana Turner and told her he would leave his wife. The name of the hot young film star stirred Sinatra. With the kind of beauty that comes along once in a hundred years, she transfixed men and women alike. ’ his big voice carrying far into the quiet evening. And he was so enthusiastic and invigorated, clearly pleased with life, in general, himself, in particular, and, at that moment, me.’ So began one of Hollywood’s legendary pairings of alpha male and female. Despite her stupendous looks, she had no confidence and alcohol, consumed in quantity, made her forget her deep self-doubt and feel glamorous, intelligent, desirable — a person worthy of the attentions of Frank Sinatra.She took her pleasures as she found them — and she found them everywhere. She had always had a thing for musicians but he was in a different league.In an exclusive from the book that wasn’t published in either of their lifetimes, Gardner spills the seduction-to-split secrets of her three marriages Right, Ava Gardner with Frank Sinatra, at the Hollywood premiere of Show Boat, 1951. But this was Only a fool would say he wasn’t interested.“I’m told we’d get along fine, but who the hell knows? She was a Brazilian dancer, a hot little number while she lasted. With permission from Gardner’s estate, Evans decided to publish their interviews. (“I was the star in the ascendancy and he was on his ass.”) Left, Ava two years later., Photographs: left, © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis; right, by Murray Garrett/Getty Images In the first week of January 1988, Ava Gardner asked me to ghost her memoirs. I don’t want to upset Frank.” There was a small silence, then a brief husky laugh.“Fuck Frank,” she said with a faint southern drawl. Mickey was playing her, complete with false eyelashes, false boobs, his mouth smothered with lipstick.“It was my first day in Hollywood.