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Can you imagine more unlikely meetings than these: Marilyn Monroe and Frank Lloyd Wright; Sergei Rachmaninoff and Harpo Marx; T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx; Madonna and Martha Graham; ...
Can you imagine more unlikely meetings than these: Marilyn Monroe and Frank Lloyd Wright; Sergei Rachmaninoff and Harpo Marx; T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx; Madonna and Martha Graham; Michael Jackson and Nancy Reagan; Tsar Nicholas II and Harry Houdini; Nikita Khrushchev and Marilyn Monroe? They all happened. Craig Brown tells the stories of 101 such bizarre encounters in this witty, original exploration into truth-is-stranger-than-fiction.
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“Deliciously clever and amusing…Hello Goodbye Hello is splendid company, not to mention perfect for the beach, the lake or the pool.”
—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
“Hello Goodbye Hello is a hilarious book, clever and thoroughly researched…dip into this book anywhere and you will be rewarded with something delightful.”
—Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal
“Brown’s collection of odd encounters could be titled Famous People Behaving Badly. They’re irresistible.”
“Craig Brown is the wittiest writer in Britain today.”
“The book that made me laugh most was Craig Brown’s quirky game of biographical consequences.”
—Julian Barnes, Times Literary Supplement “Books of the Year”
"Craig Brown is something of a national treasure in Britain. . . . Hello Goodbye Hello is a bravura feat of narrative engineering. . . . A joyful, fun read espsecially for its widgety, ingenious construction."
—David Kamp, Vanity Fair
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
DESIGNS A HOUSE FOR
The Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue, New York
One afternoon in the autumn of 1957, the most venerated architect in America, Frank Lloyd Wright, now aged ninety, is working in his suite in the Plaza Hotel, New York, when the doorbell rings. It is Marilyn Monroe, come to ask him to design a house.
Since their marriage in June 1956, Arthur Miller and his bride Marilyn Monroe have been based at Miller’s modest two-storey country house near Roxbury, Connecticut. Dating from 1783, it has 325 acres of land planted with fruit trees. A verandah at the back looks out across endless hills. A short walk from the house is a swimming pond, with clear spring water.
It is just right for Miller, who likes to live in the countryside, away from the flash world of celebrity, and is known to be careful with money. But Marilyn has other plans. She loves to spend, and has firm ideas about what is glamorous and what is not. Her self-esteem is bound up with her ability to splash out; she craves nothing but the best.
Like so many men, Frank Lloyd Wright is immediately taken with Marilyn.35 He ushers her into a separate room, away from his wife and his staff, and listens intently as she describes the sort of home she has in mind. It is spectacularly lavish. Once she has left, Wright dips into his archives and digs out an abandoned plan for a building he drew up eight years earlier: a luxury manor house for a wealthy Texan couple.
The parsimonious Miller is taken aback when he hears of Marilyn’s grandiose vision for their new home. ‘That we could not really afford all of her ideas I did my best not to dramatize, but it was inevitable that some of my concern showed.’ When she tells him the name of the architect, Miller’s heart sinks. But he bites his lip, hoping good sense will prevail. ‘It had to seem like ingratitude to question whether we could ever begin to finance any Wright design, since much like her, he had little interest in costs. I could only give him his day and let her judge whether it was beyond our means or not.’
One grey autumn morning, the Millers drive Frank Lloyd Wright to Roxbury. Wright is wearing a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. He curls up in the back seat and sleeps throughout the two-hour journey.
The three of them enter the old house together. Wright looks around the living room, and, in what Miller describes as ‘a tone reminiscent of W.C. Fields’s nasal drawl’, says disparagingly, ‘Ah, yes, the old house. Don’t put a nickel in it.’ They sit down to a lunch of smoked salmon. Wright refuses any pepper. ‘Never eat pepper,’ he says. ‘The stuff will kill you before your time. Avoid it.’
After lunch, Marilyn remains in the house while the two men trudge half a mile up the steep hill to the crest on which the new house is to be built. Wright never stops to catch his breath: Miller is impressed. At the crest, Wright turns towards the magnificent view, unbuttons his fly and urinates, sighing, ‘Yes. Yes indeed.’ He glances about for a few seconds, then leads the way back down the hill. Before they go back into the house, Miller steals a quick private word with Wright. ‘I thought the time had come to tell him something he had never bothered to ask, that we expected to live fairly simply and were not looking for some elaborate house with which to impress the world.’
The message is plural, but it should have been singular. An elaborate house with which to impress the world is, in a nutshell, just what Marilyn is after, which is why she hired Frank Lloyd Wright in the first place. But Wright affects not to hear. ‘I saw that this news had not the slightest interest for him,’ says Miller.
A few days later, Miller visits the Plaza Hotel alone. Wright shows him a watercolour of his extravagant plan: a circular living room with a dropped centre surrounded by five-foot-thick ovoid columns made of sandstone with a domed ceiling sixty feet in diameter, rounded off with a seventy-foot-long swimming pool with fieldstone sides jutting out from the incline of the hill. Miller looks at it in horror, mentally totting up the cost. He notes with indignation that Wright has added a final flourish to his painting – a huge limousine in the curved driveway, complete with a uniformed chauffeur.
Miller asks the cost. Wright mentions $250,000, but Miller doesn’t believe him: it might cover the cost of the swimming pool, ‘if that’. He also notes that Wright’s ‘pleasure dream of Marilyn allowed him to include in this monster of a structure only a single bedroom and a small guestroom, but he did provide a large “conference room” complete with a long board-room-type table flanked by a dozen high-backed chairs, the highest at the head, where he imagined she would sit like the reigning queen of a small country, Denmark, say’.36
The marriage goes from bad to worse. Miller and Monroe have nothing to say to each other. ‘He makes me think I’m stupid. I’m afraid to bring things up, because maybe I am stupid.’ Marilyn adds that ‘I’m in a fucking prison and my jailer is named Arthur Miller ... Every morning he goes into that goddamn study of his, and I don’t see him for hours and hours. I mean, what the fuck is he doing in there? And there I am, just sitting around; I haven’t a goddamn thing to do.’
Miller fails to give the go-ahead to Wright, who dies in April 1959. Miller and Monroe divorce in 1961; Monroe dies in August 1962.
Thirty years later, the plans are dusted off and enlarged. Marilyn’s dream home finally emerges as a $35-million golf clubhouse in Hawaii, complete wtih banqueting rooms, a men’s locker room and a Japanese furo bath with a soaking pool, not to mention seated showers.
WEARS HER TIGHTEST, SEXIEST DRESS FOR
The Café de Paris, Hollywood
September 19th 1959
In her bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Marilyn Monroe is preparing to meet the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev. When she was first invited, his name hadn’t rung a bell, and she wasn’t keen to go. It was only when her studio told her that in Russia, America meant two things, Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe, that she changed her mind. ‘She loved hearing that,’ recalls Lena Pepitone, her maid. Marilyn tells Lena that the studio wants her to wear her tightest, sexiest dress. ‘I guess there’s not much sex in Russia,’ she concludes.
Her preparations are lengthy and elaborate, involving a masseuse, a hairdresser and a make-up artist. When they are halfway through, the president of Twentieth Century-Fox, Spyros Skouras, arrives, just to make sure that, for once in her life, Marilyn will be on time. As agreed, she squeezes into a low-cut, skin-tight black lace dress. Her chauffeur drops her at the studio before noon. The parking lot is empty. ‘We must be late! It must be over!’ gasps Marilyn. In fact, they are far too early.37
Nikita Khrushchev’s American tour has had more than its share of ups and downs. He is a temperamental character, apt to flair up at the slightest provocation. Perhaps because of this, the American media cannot get enough of him. ‘It’s Khrush, Khrushy, Khrushchev!’ writes a columnist for the New York Daily News. ‘The fellow’s all over the dials these days ... The pudgy Soviet dictator is smiling, laughing, scowling, shaking his forefinger or clenching his iron fist.’ Others have been less generous. A rival columnist in the New York Mirror describes him as ‘a rural dolt unwittingly proving a case against himself and his system’. The three main television networks show live coverage of his visit, repeating it every night in special thirty-minute bulletins. He is followed everywhere by 342 reporters and photographers, the largest travelling media group the world has ever known.
On the fifth day of his tour, Khrushchev arrives in Los Angeles, in time for lunch for four hundred people at Twentieth Century-Fox. There has been such demand for places that spouses have been banned unless they also happen to be stars. There are one or two couples – Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh – but they are few and far between.
Khrushchev enters a packed room. Everyone who is anyone is here: Edward G. Robinson, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Kirk Douglas, Shelley Winters, Dean Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier, Zsa Zsa Gabor. Mrs Khrushchev is seated between Bob Hope and Gary Cooper. Conversation proves stilted.
‘Why don’t you move out here? You’ll like the climate,’ suggests Cooper.
‘No,’ replies Mrs Khrushchev. ‘Moscow is all right for me.’
Khrushchev is on the top table, next to Skouras. Lunch has its awkward moments. When Khrushchev is told that his spur-of-the-moment request to visit Disneyland has been turned down, owing to security worries, he sends the American Ambassador to the UN a furious note. ‘I understand you have cancelled the trip to Disneyland. I am most displeased.’
The after-lunch speeches are awkward. Khrushchev heckles Skouras during his speech of welcome, and further heckles Henry Cabot Lodge as he speaks of America’s affection for Russian culture. ‘Have you seen They Fought for Their Homeland?’ he yells. ‘It is based on a novel by Mikhail Sholokhov.’
‘Well, buy it. You should see it.’
In his own speech, Khrushchev grows very bullish. ‘I have a question for you. Which country has the best ballet? Yours?! You do not even have a permanent opera and ballet theatre! Your theatres thrive on what is given to them by rich people! In our country, it is the state that gives the money! And the best ballet is in the Soviet Union! It is our pride!’
After going on like this for forty-five minutes, he suddenly seems to remember something. ‘Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked, “Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?” Just listen to what I was told: “We” – which means the American authorities – “cannot guarantee your security there.” What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there? Have gangsters taken hold of the place?’ He punches the air, and starts to look angry. ‘That’s the situation I find myself in. For me, such a situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people!’
At last he sits down. The Hollywood audience applauds. As he is being shown to the sound stage to watch the movie Can-Can being filmed,38 he recognises Marilyn Monroe and darts over to shake her hand. All wide-eyed, Marilyn delivers a line that Natalie Wood, a fluent Russian speaker, has coached her to say. For once, she gets it right first time: ‘We the workers of Twentieth Century-Fox rejoice that you have come to visit our studio and country.’
Khrushchev seems to appreciate her effort. ‘He looked at me the way a man looks on a woman,’ she recalls.
‘You’re a very lovely young lady,’ he says, squeezing her hand.
‘My husband, Arthur Miller, sends you his greeting. There should be more of this kind of thing. It would help both our countries understand each other.’
Afterwards, Marilyn Monroe enthuses, ‘This is about the biggest day in the history of the movie business.’ But when she gets back home, she has changed her tune. ‘He was fat and ugly and had warts on his face and he growled,’ she tells Lena. ‘Who would want to be a Communist with a President like that?’39
But she is pretty sure that the Premier enjoyed their meeting. ‘I could tell Khrushchev liked me. He smiled more when he was introduced to me than for anybody else at the whole banquet. And everybody else was there. He squeezed my hand so long and so hard that I thought he would break it. I guess it was better than having to kiss him.’
Note to the U.S. Edition xvii
Author s Note xxi
Adolf Hitler + John Scott-Ellis 1
John Scott-Ellis + Rudyard Kipling 4
Rudyard Kipling + Mark Twain 7
Mark Twain + Helen Keller 11
Helen Keller + Martha Graham 14
Martha Graham + Madonna 17
Madonna + Michael Jackson 20
Michael Jackson + Nancy Reagan 23
Nancy Reagan + Andy Warhol 26
Andy Warhol + Jackie Kennedy 29
Jackie Kennedy + HM Queen Elizabeth II 32
HM Queen Elizabeth II + The Duke of Windsor 35
The Duke of Windsor + Elizabeth Taylor 38
Elizabeth Taylor + James Dean 41
James Dean + Alec Guinness 44
Alec Guinness + Evelyn Waugh 47
Evelyn Waugh + Igor Stravinsky 51
Igor Stravinsky + Walt Disney 54
Walt Disney + P.L. Travers 57
P.L. Travers + George Ivanovich Gurdjieff 61
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff + Frank Lloyd Wright 64
Frank Lloyd Wright + Marilyn Monroe 67
Marilyn Monroe + Nikita Khrushchev 70
Nikita Khrushchev + George Brown 74
George Brown + Eli Wallach 78
Eh Wallach +Frank Sinatra 82
Frank Sinatra + Dominick Dunne 85
Dominick Dunne + Phil Spector 88
Phil Spector + Leonard Cohen 91
Leonard Cohen + Janis Joplin 94
Janis Joplin + Patti Smith 97
Patti Smith + Allen Ginsberg 100
Allen Ginsberg + Francis Bacon 103
Francis Bacon + HRH Princess Margaret 106
HRH Princess Margaret + Kenneth Tynan 109
Kenneth Tynan + Truman Capote 112
Truman Capote + Peggy Lee 115
Peggy Lee + President Richard M. Nixon 119
President Richard M. Nixon + Elvis Presley 123
Elvis Presley + Paul McCartney 127
Paul McCartney + Noël Coward 130
Noël Coward + Prince Felix Youssoupoff 133
Prince Felix Youssoupoff + Grigori Rasputin 136
Grigori Rasputin + Tsar Nicholas II 139
Tsar Nicholas II + Harry Houdini 142
Harry Houdini + President Theodore Roosevelt 145
President Theodore Roosevelt + H.G. Wells 149
H.G. Wells + Josef Stalin 152
Josef Stalin + Maxim Gorky 155
Maxim Gorky + Leo Tolstoy 158
Leo Tolstoy + Pyotr Il'ich Tchaikovsky 161
Pyotr Il'ich Tchaikovsky + Sergei Rachmaninoff 164
Sergei Rachmaninoff + Harpo Marx 167
Harpo Marx + George Bernard Shaw 170
George Bernard Shaw + Bertrand Russell 174
Bertrand Russell + Sarah Miles 177
Sarah Miles + Terence Stamp 181
Terence Stamp + Edward Heath 184
Edward Heath + Walter Sickert 188
Walter Sickert + Winston Churchill 192
Winston Churchill + Laurence Olivier 195
Laurence Olivier + J.D. Salinger 198
J.D. Salinger + Ernest Hemingway 202
Ernest Hemingway + Ford Madox Ford 206
Ford Madox Ford + Oscar Wilde 209
Oscar Wilde + Marcel Proust 212
Marcel Proust + James Joyce 215
James Joyce + Harold Nicolson 219
Harold Nicolson + Cecil Beaton 222
Cecil Beaton + Mick Jagger 225
Mick Jagger + Tom Driberg 228
Tom Driberg + Christopher Hitchens 232
Christopher Hitchens + George Galloway 236
George Galloway + Michael Barrymore 240
Michael Barrymore + Diana, Princess of Wales 244
Diana, Princess of Wales + Princess Grace 247
Princess Grace + Alfred Hitchcock 250
Alfred Hitchcock + Raymond Chandler 253
Raymond Chandler + Howard Hawks 256
Howard Hawks + Howard Hughes 259
Howard Hughes + Cubby Broccoli 262
Cubby Broccoli + George Lazenby 266
George Lazenby + Simon Dee 269
Simon Dee + Michael Ramsey 272
Michael Ramsey + Geoffrey Fisher 276
Geoffrey Fisher + Roald Dahl 279
Roald Dahl + Kingsley Amis 282
Kingsley Amis + Anthony Armstrong-Jones 285
Lord Snowdon + Barry Humphries 288
Barry Humphries + Salvador Dalí 291
Salvador Dalí + Sigmund Freud 294
Sigmund Freud + Gustav Mahler 297
Gustav Mahler + Auguste Rodin 301
Auguste Rodin + Isadora Duncan 304
Isadora Duncan + Jean Cocteau 307
Jean Cocteau + Charlie Chaplin 311
Charlie Chaplin + Groucho Marx 314
Groucho Marx + T.S. Eliot 317
T.S. Eliot + Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother 321
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother + The Duchess of Windsor 325
The Duchess of Windsor + Adolf Hitler 329
Posted September 14, 2012
I liked this book. I would recommend it. I think the idea is pretty clever -stringing the people together like this, however, it is a "dry" read- a bit hard to get through and at times I found myself going over a page because my mind would wander and here, it was something laugh out loud funny - just the way it's written, it is in English but I do find sometimes when I am reading a book from a British author, I have trouble with it and I do not know why that is. It's something I've noticed. Also the people I was very familiar with, of course, I liked those stories much better than those I was not as familiar with. I would borrow this one from a library rather than running out and buying it.
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Posted November 30, 2012
Posted October 5, 2012
Most of the stories were entertaining, however I thought a lot of them were boring.
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Posted June 12, 2013
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Posted November 14, 2012
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