"Really successful writers give their readers a world they know intimately, and Harold certainly knew his world. From his luxurious yachts in the south of France to his lavish jet-set parties, Harold was king. He was larger than life and a real charmer."Jackie Collins, New York Times bestselling author of Drop Dead Beautiful on Harold and Me
Harold and Me: My Life, Love, and Hard Times with Harold Robbinsby Jann Robbins
In 1982, after years of working in advertising in Oklahoma, Jann Stapp took a job as the personal assistant to the world's bestselling author, Harold Robbins. Like those he portrayed in his novels, Harold Robbins lived life hard, fast, and occasionally out-of-control. He was a larger-than-life figure, and he let those around him know it. Young Jann didn't know what… See more details below
In 1982, after years of working in advertising in Oklahoma, Jann Stapp took a job as the personal assistant to the world's bestselling author, Harold Robbins. Like those he portrayed in his novels, Harold Robbins lived life hard, fast, and occasionally out-of-control. He was a larger-than-life figure, and he let those around him know it. Young Jann didn't know what she was walking into--but she loved every minute of it. Jann and Harold Robbins were married in 1992.
Harold and Me is the chronicle of the last fifteen years of Harold Robbins' life. Harold was a natural storyteller and Jann absorbed his stories with awe and admiration. Just like his characters, his life was a rollercoaster ride of pride, drama, and intensity, and Jann tells his story--and theirs--with vividness and love.
- Tom Doherty Associates
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This was a day I would never forget. Iâ€™d just received a phone call from a friend telling me I had a job interview with world bestselling novelist Harold Robbins.
Not only did I desperately need a job, but I had moved to LA intending to become a writer myself. I had, coincidentally, spent the last night before leaving Oklahoma City, my hometown, with Harold Robbins. I stayed up all night reading his novel The Pirate.
I arrived in Los Angeles from Oklahoma City with my rÃ©sumÃ©, my advertising portfolio, my awards, and my ambition. The LA ad world was singularly unimpressed, and I had been unemployed since my arrival. In the LA market, the fact that I had written television, radio, and print commercials and won regional awards was insignificant. On every interview I was told I was â€œoverqualifiedâ€ or â€œunder-qualified.â€ Well, at least, it contained the word â€œqualified.â€ I kept getting rejections, but I was determined to stay in LA. From the moment I stepped off the plane into the balmy breezes on Christmas Day I knew I had found my home.
When the call came to interview with Harold Robbins for a temporary job, my two cats and I were living on dry Post Grape-Nuts and we were desperate. On the morning of my interview, I dressed meticulously, choosing a cream silk blouse, soft lilac linen skirt, proper, all the while wondering what Harold Robbins would be like. Intellectual? Terse? No-nonsense? Crazy? Or like the characters in his book? He wrote about sex, drugs, power, and seduction in his books. Would he try to seduce me? My friend who arranged the appointment had told me Harold Robbins was as â€œwildâ€ as his books but also a very nice person. I remembered his image from pictures I had seen in magazines: black Stetson cowboy hat, dark, heavy sunglasses, looking like he owned the universe.
Harold Robbins had sold over 750 million novels in his career and been translated into forty-two languages throughout the world. That fact was blazoned on the backs of all his books, and I had read most of them.
The Carpetbaggers was racy, wild, and provocative. It had made a hidden progression from my grandmother, to my mother, to my aunt, and even though I wasnâ€™t old enough to read it, I suspected it was somehow wicked since it was passed in a brown paper bag. In fact, they only read it at night.
My diesel Peugeot puttered like a sewing machine as I entered Beverly Hills, passing beautiful mansions tucked among the trees and hills surrounded by walls of privacy. I followed my directions to 1501 Tower Grove Road and gave my name to the guard at the large black wrought-iron gates, and he let me through. The driveway was a half mile of plush greenery and surreal landscaping.
After I parked my car in the circular driveway, Rick, the majordomo, greeted me. Entering the large and elegant gray two-story home, I followed him over plush carpeting up a winding staircase. At the double doors in the hallway the majordomo knocked and then opened both doors in a sweeping gesture. We stepped up one stair and entered a huge, sprawling bedroom. Cream satin drapes from ceiling to floor, cream satin walls, smoke-mirrored ceiling, and a huge king-size bed. It looked like the ultimate seduction chamber, straight out of a Harold Robbins novel.
In the middle of the bed, a man wearing jet-black sunglasses sat cross-legged with a cigarette in his hand, smoke curling into the air, sipping coffee out of a mug emblazoned with the inscription â€œToo Much Sex Blurs Your Vision.â€ The last three words blurred. He was wearing a white T-shirt and red jockey briefs.
This was my introduction to Harold Robbins.
I had always had a slight limp. Most people, seeing me walk for the first time, fixate on that limp. Iâ€™m overly sensitive about this, but as I walked toward Harold he never took his eyes off mine. He hadnâ€™t noticed the limp and I could have kissed him.
He put his hand out to me. â€œHi, Iâ€™m Harold Robbins.â€
I shook his hand and smiled back at him. â€œIâ€™m Jann Stapp.â€
â€œPull up a chair,â€ he said, and motioned to the ecru satin chair in the sitting area near the bed. I turned the chair toward the bed and handed him my rÃ©sumÃ©. At the time, I was naive enough to think that it was your rÃ©sumÃ© that counted. In the world of Harold Robbins I discovered that shapely legs, a pertinent derriere, and a come-fuck-me smile were all that mattered.
â€œYouâ€™re a very pretty girl,â€ he said, looking at me and smiling.
He kept on his black sunglasses and I couldnâ€™t see his eyes. I wondered if he always wore them. I wondered if he did all of his interviews sitting in bed, drinking coffee out of a mug that said â€œToo Much Sex Blurs Your Visionâ€ . . . in red jockey briefs. I wondered if the Hollywood stories were true about the casting couch or, in this case, the authorâ€™s bedroom.
He briefly glanced over my rÃ©sumÃ© and grinned broadly. â€œI went to Oklahoma once. Tulsa. I had chicken-fried steak with gravy and biscuits, the best! Almost as good as eating pussy.â€ His deep voice rasped with a rough New York accent.
Now that was the Harold Robbins from one of his characters in a blockbuster novel!
â€œHow do you like California?â€
â€œI moved here on Christmas Day and donâ€™t want to leave,â€ I said. A red bedside intercom light blinked and a beep sounded from the telephone as I spoke.
He smiled at me. â€œWhat do you want, Linda?â€ he bellowed into the speaker.
Lindaâ€™s voice filled the room. â€œDr. Cooper is running late; heâ€™ll be here in about fifteen minutes.â€
Harold took off his sunglasses for the first time. â€œDoes that mean I can charge him for my time?â€ he quipped, and laughed at his own joke.
â€œYouâ€™ll have to ask him about that,â€ Linda said, and hung up the phone, laughing.
He had a penetrating stare and had never yet taken his eyes off of me. â€œLinda is Graceâ€™s secretary, not mine. Sheâ€™s a pain in the ass. My head got fucked up a few weeks ago; she and everybody else are driving me crazy. Iâ€™ve got to get rid of her.â€
I wondered if Grace was here. My friends had told me she traveled quite a bit.
â€œI had an accident the day my married . . . Caryn.â€
I looked at him, a little confused, but said nothing.
â€œGoddammit, thatâ€™s what I mean. My sentences get fucked up,â€ he said in frustration. â€œI slipped . . . shower. Fuck it . . . itâ€™s all screwy. Crazy . . . I can see the sentence in my head. . . . It comes out . . . wrong. Itâ€™s driving . . . crazy. You donâ€™t understand me and I donâ€™t know itâ€™s wrong.â€
He was very frustrated but would not explain what had happened. I smiled at him. â€œItâ€™s okay, Mr. Robbins.â€
My smile seemed to break his frustration and he smiled back at me.
â€œI went crazy the other night when I was downstairs in the kitchen. I was trying to tell Rick.â€ He glanced at me. â€œHeâ€™s the one who brought you up here. I was telling him what I wanted for dinner and he and Linda kept finishing my sentences. I threw the pans all over the kitchen. Christ, they all try to help, but I need to do it on my own. I sent Grace to fucking Cannes to get her out of here. She was driving me crazy. I told her that she could go to the Cannes Film Festival and sheâ€™s over there pissing money away like . . .â€ He shook his head when he couldnâ€™t complete the sentence.
â€œIn the hospital the doctors said Iâ€™d bruised my head during a fall and I had aphasia. I slipped in the shower on the morning of Carynâ€™s wedding. I hired Dr. Cooper, a speech pathologist, to help me get out of this shit. We work together every day, two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon. Iâ€™m exhausted after I finish. Youâ€™ll meet him.â€
Again the intercom interrupted him. â€œDr. Cooper is here.â€
â€œSend him up,â€ Harold said.
â€œCooper says this fuckup in my head can be corrected. But Iâ€™ll have to work my ass off.â€ He laughed. â€œMy headâ€™s always been fucked up; thatâ€™s why my books are crazy.â€
I understood Haroldâ€™s dilemma. I, too, had faced battles. When I was born the doctors told my parents I might never walk. My father refused to accept this and came home from work early each day and for months forced me to walk up and down the sidewalk, like a Marine Corps drill instructor. Finally, I took steps on my own with only a slight limp remaining. That battle I fought every day of my life, taking physical therapy throughout my life. I knew Harold was facing a similar battle and I knew intuitively that he would never give up.
â€œMr. Robbins,â€ I said. â€œYouâ€™ll do just fine. Youâ€™re a strong person.â€
He looked at me curiously, a mischievous glint in his eye. â€œYeah?â€
Dr. Cooper, a tall, athletic-looking man with a balding head and gray hair fringed around his temples, entered the room. Cheerful and energetic, he looked at Harold. â€œWhat are you doing up here with this bombshell blonde?â€
â€œSheâ€™s my new assistant,â€ Harold said proudly.
I did a quick double take. â€œI got the job?â€ I asked.
He looked at me, a little surprised. â€œIsnâ€™t that why youâ€™re here?â€
He never looked at my rÃ©sumÃ© or questioned my office skills. I assumed this was how moguls and superstars did things in Hollywood. Still, I had no idea how much I would be paid, when I would work, and what if I couldnâ€™t do the job that he needed? But I was already hooked. I had a job and I liked Harold Robbins.
Excerpted from Harold and Me by .
Copyright Ã‚Â© 2008 by Jann Robbins.
Published in December 2008 by Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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