I’ve never seen Valley of the Dolls.
Until last night.
Now I don’t usually weep in the dark before a screen unless Ralph Fiennes is projected on it.
On a recent long haul flight I watched The English Patient.
Back to back.
Weeping, I actually lost water weight.
Ralph brooding in khakis. The perfect diuretic.
So, why did I sob an entire Valley of the Dolls?
It is the perfect kitsch masterpiece.
But that can’t be the only reason.
When I was a girl my mom had a friend as gorgeous as Sharon Tate. J’s hair teased up in a high smooth lift over her crown then fell waistward in a California dreamin’ cascade. J. wore belted safari suits in crème and bone. She was long and leggy and used to chat on the phone sitting on the kitchen counter, her pretty feet in the sink, her knees tucked up under her chin.
When Sharon Tate lies alone in her twin bed, a bandage peeking out of her mocha negligee, afraid of losing her breast, her husband locked up in a loony bin, her sister-in law, the elegant and practical Lee Grant, pimping her out, like her mother before her, I thought of J. with her leg in a cast and years later I’d heard her husband put it there. I thought of Sharon Tate, murdered in her home by the Manson clan, and I wept.
I wept thinking of all those gorgeous women, on screen and off, with
all their goddamn gorgeousness and yet all so forlorn. They gave it all
away. And in their poverty, they turned to dolls.
And what about those hairpieces?
I wept for the end of the era of Hollywood la-dee-da speech, of women in hats, hairpieces, and gloves.
And when Susan Hayward says,
One day you'll wind up alone.
And wonder what happened.
Yeah, you guessed it. For that I wept.
Child star Patty Duke, all grown up here, flicks her beatnik hips to stardom only to stumble doll-addicted back to Nowheresville in a glitter mini-dress and mussed wig.
Shall I call you a cab? A kindly bartender queries.
I don’t need it.
I don’t need anybody.
Cause I got talent.
They love me.
The hell with ‘em, who needs ‘em?
The whole world loves me.
This morning I had trouble dressing. Nothing would do. I stood on a pile that was my whole damn wardrobe. Everything was just a little too tight. The mirror just a tad too wide.
Now it all becomes clear.
That time of month when a girl could really use a doll.