Mr. Toback, I’m Ready for My Close-Up

May 21, 2012

Multiple Pages
Mr. Toback, I’m Ready for My Close-Up

“Sorry, I’m in makeup; if it’s something important, call my agent, Israel Goldfarb.”

This is how I’ve been fending off the myriad calls from eager females trying to reach me now that I’m about to become a major movie star.

Michael Mailer, son of Norman and a very close buddy, is producing a movie directed by James Toback and starring Alec Baldwin. It’s about a movie producer trying to finance a film during the Cannes Film Festival. That’s what Cannes is all about: Greedy Hollywood types deal, dicker, and haggle over future films and imaginary profits with the French Riviera’s azure waters as background. So this is a movie within a movie, and yours truly plays an Onassis-like figure languishing on his yacht trying to fend off Hollywood sharks looking for a mark.

According to the script which I have yet to see, Alec (us Hollywood types only use first names) comes onboard Bushido, sees my young blonde girlfriend du jour, makes a pass at her, and we end up fighting. The only provision the director has made is that the fight should be for real. No faking and no taking dives, except that we both should end up in the sea fully dressed. This is the good news. The bad is that Alec Baldwin is not only a tough guy, he’s also no friend, having told Mailer that I’ve trashed him in print and he’s looking forward to getting revenge. Oh, dear!

“I have hated Hollywood for most of my adult life due to the way it depicts Americans.”

For someone who has detested Hollywood’s philistinism for decades—when was the last time a priest was not portrayed as a child molester, a cop as corrupt, and a soldier as a psychopathic murderer?—I’m looking forward to my 15 seconds of fame. I shall look at the Cannes film people from my boat and keep an Onassis-like distance from them, unless they’re very young and pretty and female. (Neither Baldwin nor I are gay, so we will not fight, make up, and get married, even if that disappoints Obama and Biden.)

I have hated Hollywood for most of my adult life due to the way it depicts Americans: All Southerners are Ku Klux Klan, all farmers dumb and backward, all drug dealers misunderstood, and all criminals victims of an unfair system. Yet in my private life I’ve only had good experiences with movie stars—except for the ghastly Peter Lawford, next to whom I lived at the Sherry Netherland almost fifty years ago. He was a very bad drunk and a terrible drug addict whose idea of paternal concern was to give one of his sons—according to the son’s biography—five grams of coke which father and son consumed together on Christmas Eve. I finally ended up punching Lawford after he insulted my then-young wife, and that was the end of a beautiful friendship.

After that it was all hunky-dory. I went out with the sexiest woman of her time, Linda Christian, and with a very young Joan Collins, and the beautiful Janet Leigh. But my real friendships were with men such as Louis Jourdan, the handsomest actor of his time in films such as Gigi, Letter From an Unknown Woman, and The Swan. Louis and his wife gave a wonderful party for me on my way back from Vietnam, introducing me to all the stars and then some, and we used to spend our summers together at the Hotel du Cap in Antibes. Louis is now in his nineties and looks as good as one can at his age. He has impeccable manners and is well-read and as charming a man as one can hope to meet.

Probably the least pretentious person I know is Harvey Keitel, he of Taxi Driver pimp fame. The time we were introduced I asked him what a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn like him was doing in the Marine Corps. He laughed and said to no one in particular, “Who is this guy, I like him.” I rarely see him but when we run into each other we have lotsa laughs togther.

Just as charming is Frank Langella, a sophisticated man and wonderful actor. His book Dropped Names is beautifully written. But my closest actor buddy is Sir Roger Moore, a man I’ve known for forty years and with whom I’ve spent a lot of time due to our William Buckley and Gstaad connections. As his son Jeffrey once said to me, “Roger is not a great actor, he’s a great movie star.” He’s also as gentle and witty as they come, and we meet a couple of times a year and get rather pissed together. Roger devotes his time now to UNICEF and spends his own money while traveling the world helping poor children.

And as luck would have it, the first James Bond, Sir Sean Connery himself, moved near me in Gstaad a few years ago. During a dinner party he revealed that he’s been reading me for thirty or so years in the Spectator. Sean and I have shared many dirty jokes and many good bottles of wine. His wife is even more of a fan because she shares my prejudices. So I’m friends with the two best James Bonds, the great Louis Jourdan, and now at 75 I am about to join the Hollywood pantheon by throwing Alec Baldwin off my boat like Achilles slaying Hector. Look for the movie starring Taki and tell your children and your children’s children about it. Hooray for Hollywood. 


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