HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the man Hollywood used to call ‘the transvestite’s favorite cowboy’: John Wayne.
I had just finished the hilarious musical ‘Those Toots Are Not for Tooting’ with Sammy Davis Sr. Sammy Davis Jr.’s criminally underrated father, when I got a call from my agent to report tout suite to bungalow 13 on the Warner Bros back lot and to bring a ladder.
I blinked, but in those days the studios were to be feared and for a jobbing actor such as I, no request seemed too ridiculous, if you didn’t wish to share the fate of poor William Holden. Holden had refused to paint his bottom orange during a pool party run by the famed and feared columnist Louella Penis. As punishment, he was forced to eat three fat rats.
At bungalow 13, I was met by my Teutonic pal Hardy Kreuger. Although we’d had a sticky argument sometime back about which of the two of was responsible for breaking Charles Laughton’s diet, myself and Hardy were wonderful friends, partly due to our shared passion for Tess of the D’Ubervilles. Though he was far more committed than me, having changed his name by deed poll to signal his admiration for the novelist. He greeted me civilly and – as was our habit – we launched into a discussion of the relative merits of Anthony Trollope.
‘What ho, Fluffer!’ said a voice from inside the bungalow affecting a ridiculous British accent. I only realized then that it must be ‘The Duke’. ‘I say did you bring the ladder?’
‘Right here,’ I said. And angled my way into the bungalow, ahead of the Duke.
John Wayne, the star of a hundred horse operas and everyone’s idea of the ideal American Male, was actually the son of Baron Chauncy of Devon, England. The Duke was no mere nickname, but a hereditary title. He was an actual Duke. Off camera, he spoke in the most clipped polished accent I’ve ever heard. I entered the presence where I was gifted with a spectacular sight. A giraffe from the set of the film Hitari was folded in the small confines of the sitting room. I handed over the ladder and up he went.
It later turned out that the whole idea was a dare by Errol Flynn. The Duke and Errol – who by the way was the most charming Nazi I’d ever met – had been playing pinochle when conversation turned to the wildest beast either had had. In those days bestiality was easily the done thing. Cary Grant lived for several years with a goat called Terry. And Audrey Hepburn had a lama. But that’s another story…
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HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the going to what insiders refer to as ‘the rubber arse’, AKA rehab.
After the wrap party for Apache Chaps Go Hell For Leather the judge made it a condition of my bail that I go to one of those drying out clinics for an extended lie down. To be perfectly frank one wasn’t looking forward to it all that much, but as soon as the studio said they’d pick up the bill I grabbed my toothbrush and headed out the door.
If truth be told I was still a bit pissed when I got there, largely due to the fact that I bumped into Errol Flynn on the way, but they checked me in and showed me to my room. It wasn’t unpleasant, and the flowers on the mantelpiece were a nice touch. They died as soon as I drank the water in the vase, but the receptionist said she’d send up more.
I’d describe the catering as ‘nutritional’ if you know what I mean, and the wine list was frankly appalling. After a few minutes I decided there was only so much fun you could have on your own with a toothbrush, so I went out into the corridor to knock on a few doors and see what the other guests were up to. Not much as it turns out. Jiminy Cricket had done nothing since Pinocchio, and Bambi’s mum hadn’t worked in two years. I didn’t even recognise Dumbo The Flying Elephant. His boyish charm had been worn away by years propping up a bar on Hollywood Boulevard. He’d lost his teeth and tried to retain some dignity by wearing a pair of fake tusks; it was tragic really.
But it was the Tin Man I felt most sorry for. Apparently his oil can was always full of scotch, and they’d had to break his fingers to get it out of his hand. By that stage I couldn’t take any more. The bars on the windows wouldn’t budge an inch, but then I remembered that lovely scene which was sadly cut from the final edit of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and I managed to smuggle myself out in a laundry basket.
I still think that that movie would’ve got the critical attention it deserved if they only kept the scene of me and Death playing Twister. But that’s another story…
September 12th, 1974
Larry Jackson has approached me to narrate a documentary about Bugs Bunny which will be a welcome distraction from the spirit-crushing process of editing The Other Side of the Wind. I’ve never worked with Bugs but back in 1947 during a particular grisly absinthe session he unexpectedly turned up to my house in the wee small hours and we stayed up all night sharing stories and making merry. One particular tale I recall him telling was his failed audition for the film adaptation of Mary Chase’s delightful play Harvey. He’d prepared for the role for months and had spent time with some ancient monks in Tibet were he had managed to acquire the ability to turn himself invisible but despite his efforts, he was roundly rejected because Chase was insistent Harvey had to be exactly 6ft 3.5in tall and Bugs was a mere 6ft. It’s something of a mystery who ended up playing the role but according to legend, Gregory Peck ordered an usually large amount of carrots during the period the movie was being shot.
I had a rich rabbit stew for dinner followed by a superior slice of carrot cake.
December 8th, 1974
My doctor has insisted I cut down on the scotch so I’ve made the bold decision to return to the bosom of heroin. I first became acquainted with the milk of the poppy back in 1947 when that Tasmanian devil, Errol Flynn offered me a pipe at the Academy awards after party. Flynn had acquired the opiate from James Cagney who, at the time, ran the Hollywood drug dealing racket with an iron fist and was embroiled in a vicious turf war with Humphrey Bogart who was importing cheaper, more potent narcotics via a connection in Casablanca. Anyway, I spent around two months on ‘the horse’ but one day I woke up to find myself stripped to the waist and lying in a pool of my own filth on a damp, sodden mattress above a butchers shop in Harlem. After locating a pay phone my unsympathetic wife kindly informed me that I had sold all of my worldly possessions, I was bankrupt and she was filing for divorce but on a lighter note, Republic Pictures had agreed to finance my cinematic version of Macbeth. I swear to this day if it wasn’t for the fact that my underwear had been soiled so savagely during my glorious drug binge, I would have danced a merry jig on the spot.
I had heroin for lunch followed by more heroin.