|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Edition description:||40th Anniversary ed.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.17(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Dead. New York City, May 10, 1977 at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight time. Official cause of death: coronary arrest.
As the wire services sped the news around the world we heard a brief obit on the radio all-news station on our way to the airport.
The only time so far that I had cried was when an old fan had called to tell me about the TV news station coming to film his collection of her clothes and photographs in his living room and to ask if he could have her dog ... if no-one else had asked for it. Would I bring the dog back with me? She's barely cold and someone wants the dog! It was the same story all over again – the old clothes and the anklestrap shoes and the 8×10 autographed glossies and the goddamned dog. The rage made me shake and tears spilled down my face ... yet somehow my voice sounded ever polite. I hung up the phone.
Superstar is dead. Now the closet door will open and every weirdo in America will be on parade waving their faithful notes signed "God Bless ... Joan." I cried. But it wasn't sorrow, it was anger ... a flash of the old rage like one of those violent thunder and lightening storms that sweep across the eastern sky and are gone.
The rest was just phone calls and plane reservations.
I had a terrible headache and felt sort of shaky inside, but there were no tears. David held my hand and I felt his strength slowly calm me. Somehow if I could just hold onto his hand, I could make it through this.
Mercifully there was no food on this flight because I felt like I couldn't swallow anything. I tried to sleep and fell into a kind of suspended dream ... I could hear everything but my eyes were closed. I was cold and uncomfortable and I'd already been in the same clothes for fifteen hours.
It was dawn when we landed in New York. Outside the baggage claim area a dark haired man with a slight accent asked if we wanted a taxi. I said yes and he took our bags. There were no yellow cabs in sight. David and I followed him to a black limousine parked at the curb. I looked at David and smiled ... well, why not? Twenty bucks was fair enough and it would be a nice change for us. An English woman going to the Village sat in front chatting away about how glad she was to be home again and how she loathed Los Angeles. As we drove through Queens, the dirty old buildings, the knee-deep potholes, the elevated subway trains rattling overhead and the people pushing their way through another day made me feel deeply relieved we didn't live in the city.
My brother Chris arrived at the hotel about 10:30. He looked older and much thinner. Hard times and troubles were so clearly evident that he may as well have been carrying a sign. We held each other in greeting and consolation and a kind of under-standing that went back thirty years deep into childhood. "I'm really glad you're here, Chris" is all I said. It was very tough for him. Chris hadn't been included in any family event since he was 15 years old. The four of us kids had always been in touch but privately. Mother had rarely mentioned his name for the last 19 years. Now that she was dead we were all together again. He'd gotten a 6 o'clock train in from Long Island. Actually, he only lived about a hundred miles from the city but it was like another world out there. His town ... he belonged there ... he knew almost everyone ... married and owned a house ... did his job ... had been a volunteer fireman for a couple of years ... found a place for himself after coming home from Viet Nam. I really love Chris.
We drank black coffee out of slightly soggy paper cups from the delicatessen around the corner and Chris took another Excedrin. David had changed into his blue Cardin suit and my heart overflowed with pride. What a terrific man, this husband of mine. I'm the luckiest woman in the whole world.
At noon the three of us took a taxi to the Drake Hotel. There, we were to meet the lawyer, the secretary and one sister with her husband.
The greetings were strained. Everyone was being polite and there was a lot going on underneath all that niceness. Words seemed hollow and as I looked from face to face ... I sensed there was something strange. Chris sat across the room from the secretary. At one time years ago they had been arch enemies. She had gotten Chris in a lot of unnecessary trouble in her own struggle for a permanent place in the household. Chris had been a good target and she hadn't missed many opportunities. Chris smoked his cigarettes and watched. My sister's husband talked ... and talked ... Joan this and Joan that ... I looked at David and then at Chris. My sister and the secretary had very defined ideas about what mother's wishes were, or rather, would have been for funeral arrangements. Nothing had been written down before her death except that she wanted to be cremated. It was odd that someone so fanatically organized should leave all the details to anyone else, let alone to group decision ... particularly considering the people in this group. But nevertheless ... that was it ... somehow we had to decide and soon ... like right away. The lawyer mediated, which was all he could do anyway. And there we were ... a disparate group to say the least ... deciding how to arrange the formality of burying mother when never in any of our other experiences with her had we decided anything in relation to her except how we would each live our own lives. As the hours dragged on it became painfully clear what some of those life decisions had been. A student of group dynamics would have had a field day with the shifting interaction, the assumptions of right and power.
Then, during one of the many phone calls to Campbell's, the lawyer got a really strange expression on his face as he listened to the voice on the other end. It was the only emotional expression I saw on his face during the entire time ... it was surprise.
"Your mother has been embalmed. You may see her if you want to." He said it straight and without emphasis. It wasn't ordered because she was to be cremated. It wasn't exactly authorized either, whatever that means. I guess it means that it was just done. Maybe because of the time involved. She died on Tuesday, we didn't all arrive until Wednesday and she couldn't be cremated until Thursday because I guess everyone had to agree to the cremation. Well, whatever the reason ... there she was ... embalmed at Campbell's. Weird. In fact all of this was beginning to take on a spacey, weird feeling. I had to keep contact with David to hold onto my sense of reality ... it was fading in and out. We were like a sequestered jury ... decisions had to be made and no matter how much anyone would have liked to take over, some kind of ritualistic primitivism prevented autocratic rule. Nothing in anyone's relationship with mother prepared them for making decisions for her ... so they had to be made for us, by us. The secretary and my sister seemed to feel that they had an inside track to mother's thinking. Chris, I think, had vowed to keep his mouth shut as long as possible. David had never met mother and was being very diplomatic and rather quiet. My sister's husband jabbered on and on about their close relationship with Joan. I felt my anger again. I was the oldest and had assumed that some courtesy would be given to me, but not much was. The lawyer seemed to look to my younger sister and then to the secretary. It galled me but I put in my two cents worth whether I agreed or disagreed and somehow it worked out. Then it was off to Campbell's. My sister was to sign the papers and pick out the urn.
David and I went with the lawyer, my sister and her husband. The secretary and Chris stayed at the Drake. My other sister hadn't arrived from Iowa yet. Her plane must have been late. She'd taken the news very hard and we were all worried about her. Chris would bring her to Campbell's and the secretary didn't want to go.
The funeral home on 81st street was as you'd imagine it to be. It all seemed more like a movie every minute. The men were dressed exactly right and looked and sounded like undertakers. It was quiet and people spoke softly. I was beginning to feel very tired and a little sick to my stomach. I held onto David's' hand whenever I could. He was my life and my reality. Cathy signed the papers and then she and I chose the simple brass urn without any grapes or goddesses. There would be no inscription on it.
When we returned to the room downstairs, Cindy and Chris had arrived. The little blue room with its love seats and simple chairs was full. The moment had come.
The man from Campbell's asked who would like to see mother. For the first time a complete silence surrounded all of us. It was almost like no one could breathe. We looked at one another. What thoughts must have been careening around in each brain. Cathy said no. Cindy shook her head no. Chris swallowed hard and looked quite pale. He said no. The man from Campbell's looked directly at me, expressionless. Almost inaudibly I said, "I'd like to see her." He opened the door and lead me to a small elevator. We entered and the door closed very softly. There was not much room in the elevator so we stood not more than two feet apart. He started telling me how beautiful she looked, and his own face was quite radiant as he described how hard he'd worked from some of his favorite photographs of her. I was completely caught up in his story ... I got in a flash that, for a moment, he'd thought that no one would see what he'd done ... that no one would appreciate it. He seemed almost grateful and his eyes sparkled. I stared at him in genuine fascination. I had never known anyone who did this. It seemed like a very long time that he and I were bound together in this special exchange. The lie was here, too, even in death. I was to be the final audience.
The little elevator stopped on the second floor.
He lead the way again, down a short hallway past the room with the satin-lined coffins where Cathy and I had chosen the urn. At the end of the hall there was a large room, the door was open but the lights were off. He stepped aside to let me by and I walked slowly because I wasn't sure where we were going. The lights went on and startled me. I looked straight ahead of me and got a terrible fright. There she was ... dead not ten feet away, laying on a table.
"May I be alone, please ..." I whispered. My knees felt weak and my hands were shaking. I heard the man walk down the hallway. I stood there, alone, a lump filled my throat and tears covered my eyes. I looked and looked and looked. That's my mother and she's really dead. Somehow I had to know that. Somehow I had to take this terrifying alone time to make that real ... to know for myself that death was real even if a lot of life hadn't been. To make sure that I gave myself this time alone with her at the very end so that I could go on. It was very fragile ... I felt very scared. I mean really scared ... scared beyond anything I'd ever known before. I didn't know what to do. I was still standing at the doorway to the room. I hadn't moved. There was no one here with me ... this was my time. I didn't have to worry about keeping anyone waiting ... or what anyone thought. It was just the two of us. Mother and me alone for the very last time. An incredible wave of sadness washed over me ... my mouth was trembling and my eyes filled with tears that hadn't yet fallen free. I swallowed a couple times and heard myself say "Mommie ... oh mommie ... I loved you so much ..." ... the tears inched down my face and I wiped a few away.
I walked up to the table and stood next to her. Her eyes were closed and they had done a good job with the makeup. It looked quite natural, surprisingly so. Her hair was short and brushed back from her face. It was gray. Her hands were resting on the cream colored satin comforter which covered her and she had been dressed in a pale salmon colored silk kimono wrap. Her nails were polished and she had lipstick on. As I looked carefully at her almost inch by inch, I noticed how terribly thin she was ... in truth, she had wasted away to nothing, to skin and bones. It dawned on me in that moment that coronary arrest was not the whole story, not the whole story at all. It takes a long time to become that thin. There was hardly anything left to her at all. But her face was indeed her face and I looked at her a long time. I had never seen a dead person before. At any moment I expected her to open her eyes and say "Tina".
I reached out and touched her hand. It was cold. Mother had very strong hands and prided herself on a straight-forward handshake. Her hands were also very thin, her wrists little more than bones.
I don't know how long I'd been standing there thinking about her ... about me ... about the two of us locked into our turbulent relationship all these years. I was the first child ... her precious, beautiful princess of a daughter, the golden child she wanted so much. Maybe it was only right that I alone should have had the courage to be the last ... to be with her for a while in death.
"I know you're not really here with me anymore, mother ... I know your soul is gone already ... I just want to tell you that I love you ... that I forgive you ... you know I forgave you long ago. We had so much pain together, you and I ... but now mother ... God has set us both free. God has set you free to begin another journey. I pray the next one has less anguish. God has set us free, mommie dearest. Go in peace." I could hear the sobs now, they were mine.
It was time for me to go. I leaned over and kissed her forehead gently. "Goodbye mother ... goodbye ... and, I love you."
I wiped my face with the back of my hand and put on my dark glasses. Then I turned and left her.
As we walked down the stairs, I managed to tell the man from Campbell's that she looked beautiful. He had done a good job.
Hollywood in the 1920's was almost like a lawless town of western folklore. The town of Hollywood had been developed by men like C.E. Toberman and Sid Grauman who decided how the streets should run and where the railroad would go through. They were the visionaries and knew that where orange trees, avocado groves and dusty unpaved country lanes ambled peacefully through the sprawling village there would one day soon sparkle the jewel of the west, the luminary star in the fantasy of millions, the mecca of a new breed of hustler and dreamer: Hollywood. They helped decide where the studios should be built because they controlled a lot of land with the banking and insurance knowledge to back up. Sid Grauman who built Hollywood's palace and architectural temple, Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, was the entrepreneur and C.E. Toberman was the man with the knowledge of finance and insurance. Together with men like Mullholland and Doheny they carved out the details of a large part of Los Angeles.
In those days the big silent screen stars built fantastic estates up in the hills that were usually copies of European castles or English manor houses. Mediterranean influence was very strong and artisans were imported to create hand-painted ceilings, intricate tile mosaics and hand carved cornices, doors, banisters and all the other lavish decorations that adorned these modern day royal abodes. There was no income tax then and the movies were beginning to pay their major stars fantastic sums. Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin both are reported to have earned in excess of a million dollars a year ... tax free. Lesser luminaries, while not overnight millionaires, certainly had no thoughts of poverty and most spent their new found and seemingly never-ending supply of wealth on gratifying whatever whim occurred. Since they were tied to Hollywood studios and often worked a six day week turning out full length features in a matter of weeks, their spending was attuned to local self indulgence: palatial mansions, expensive cars, lavish parties and jewelry. Servants were no problem and most were imported from Europe where they had already been properly trained. In the midst of all this money and fame, most of the people had recently come from small towns and hard times. They really had no idea how to be the grand ladies and gentlemen of their own dreams so they copied what they read about the powerful eastern families and European royalty. However, in order to do that and carry it off with any semblance of reality, someone in the local palaces had to know which fork went where and when to serve what wine. The simplest solution turned out to simply import the servants to run the houses as they had earlier imported the artisans to build them. And for the next thirty years the English butlers and nannies, the Scandinavian, German, French and Italian cooks, maids and chauffeurs, the Japanese gardeners and the Filipino houseboys streamed into Los Angeles.
Excerpted from "Mommie Dearest"
Copyright © 2017 Christina Crawford.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thought it was a good book and Christina has every right to write what she went through with her mother Joan. And like I have always said 'don't like it don't read it and everyone has their own point of view'.
No one likes seeing someone they admire have their flaws exposed. I am not a fan of Joan Crawford per se, but I do think she was a good actress. That remains unchanged by this book. Christina herself has said her mother was talented, and she recalled some good things about her, like her sense of humor. But as a mother, Joan was dreadful. Abusive, cruel and selfish. And Christina didn't even get the worst of the abuse; her brother Christopher did. And the abuse has been confirmed by contemporaries. Cheryl Crane, Lana Turner's daughter, said that when this book came out, she asked her mother if she knew about the abuse. Lana said that everyone knew...no one did anything because in Hollywood, actors stood by each other. Lousy excuse.
I read this book cover to cover and soon realized that the reason why people are fascinated by this interesting read is for the ultimate MOVIE STAR--JOAN CRAWFORD. She is fablous and ambitious. However, she is not perfect. But, who is?
This book fascinated me as a kid. Can you imagine growing up the child of a slightly insane Hollywood icon? Christina tells a tale of madness, rebellion, narcissism, sabotage, alienation, luxury and deprivation. This book reads like candy.
I simply could not put this book down. It was just one thing after another with how mean that woman could be. I had a bad relationship with my mother, and I felt Christina's pain. This is definitely a book that everyone should read.
I can't believe Joan Crawford's daughter would write such an evil book like this. Joan isn't even alive to defend herself! I call this a creative work of lies written by a spoiled brat kid that was upset that she got nothing from her mother's will. Christine obviously cares for nothing but money! I feel really bad for Joan! This book was one of the worst books I have ever read and the movie was even worse! They both portrayed Joan as the devil which she was not! Christine should be ashamed!