I know, I said we were doing Fear of Flying. I said! But, I’m gonna level with you, I figured it would wind up in an Unpleasant Internet Scuffle, because Erica Jong is more likely to get squiffy with me than Jackie Collins. She just is! And I’m a little gun-shy after the MacGyver Rage Incident. Also, whenever I think about Fear of Flying, I think about her husband always leaving skid marks in his underwear (or was it on the sheets? I think it was on her sheets), and, ew.
NOT THAT THERE ISN’T LOTS OF EW TO GO AROUND IN HOLLYWOOD WIVES, TOO. Let’s get to it!
I first read Hollywood Wives when I was eight years old, because it was at my grandmother’s house. Not the nurturing-cooking-earth-mother grandmother. The chain-smoking-vodka-swilling-bigamously-married grandmother with trashier books. She also rented The Silence of the Lambs for my little brother and I when we were twelve and eight. My parents were not super-stoked, even though we were pretty much “what’s a woman-suit? Is it like a clown suit?” And now I write a column about Classic Trash. Draw your own conclusions.
My trash expectations for Hollywood Wives were pretty high on reread, due to crystal-clear (possibly false) memories of four scenes from 21 years ago.
Remembered Scene the First: Some movie star and his precariously-held-together wife run into each other at their house following an estrangement. She’s “let herself go,” which means she’s put on about four pounds, let her roots grow out, and is wearing less makeup. This means she actually looks better, and the two of them “fall silently to the carpet and begin to make love.”
Actual Scene: “They circled each other warily, then Ross blurted, ‘I’ll tell you something — you look damn sexy.’ And he had pounced, surprising both of them, Silently they began to consummate their reunion on the living-room floor.”
Remembered Scene the Second: Creepazoid twin brother of movie star remembers having sex with his creepazoid mother.
Actual Scene: It wasn’t the creepazoid twin! It was actually the movie star. “She climbed on top of him and guided his penis into a warm wetness.”
Remembered Scene the Third: Movie star is humping some lower-level lackey in his trailer, she uses his first name, he gets pissy and loses his erection.
Actual Scene: “He hadn’t said she could call him by his first name. Mr. Conti would do nicely. Women. Give them nine inches and they frigging moved in.”
Remembered Scene the Fourth The precariously-held-together Hollywood wife reminisces about being a fat child who didn’t know about carbs. And she had a nickname, which was some kind of large animal (hippo, or elephant, or manatee).
Actual Scene: “When I was thirteen I was the fattest girl in school. Etta the Elephant they called me. And I deserved the nickname. Only how could a kid of thirteen know about nutrition and diet and exercise and all that stuff? How could a kid of thirteen help it when Grandma Steinberg stuffed her with cakes and latkes, lox and bagels, strudel and chicken dumplings?”
Wow, okay, so the moral of that experiment is that your children will totally remember and internalize the things you tell them when they’re eight, and then talk about it on the Internet.
The book starts with two pages about an unknown crazy person hacking his family to death with machetes. And you’re all, oh, wow, this is… intense. And then you’re immediately in Hollywood, with the wives, and it’s all “wait, machetes? I have to assume that dude with the machetes is eventually gonna hack up some Hollywood wives, right?” WAIT AND SEE, readers. Wait and see. And, for serious, buy the book, it’s just as much fun as you think it might be. Minus the incest memories and the machetes. Or, I don’t know, maybe that’s what grabbed your attention in the first place. Classic Trash is not here to judge you.
Context-Free Excerpts From Hollywood Wives
• “Elaine Conti awoke in her luxurious bed in her luxurious Beverly Hills mansion, pressed a button to open the electrically controlled drapes, and was confronted by the sight of a young man clad in a white T-shirt and dirty jeans pissing a perfect arc into her mosaic-tiled swimming pool.”
• “She remembered the day well, because he had climaxed all over her new Sonia Rykiel skirt.”
• “You’ll never need anyone else but Mommy now, will you, Buddy? Will you?”
• “The cutting-down process had been painful. First the chauffeur had gone, then the live-in housekeeper and her staff of two, next the gardeners and poolman. Now it was just Lina, who came in daily, except weekends. And Miguel, who was a combination gardener, poolman, and chauffeur.”
• “He wished he knew something about the role in the movie. Should he be aggressively sexual? Boyish? Charming? Dustin Hoffman with looks?”
• “’You see,’ she continued earnestly, ‘the whole of my career I’ve been typecast. Cunty dumb blondes with hearts of gold — and that kind of part is not the real me.’ She paused for breath, then plunged on, her huge bosom heaving with emotion.”
• “’This is Thiou-Ling,’ said Gina. ‘My present for us. She speaks no English, but she understands. She has been trained in the art of making love since childhood. We shall celebrate our contract, Neil. And then we will go to the party.’”
• “’Goddammit, Gina,’ snapped Thiou-Ling, who had suddenly developed a fierce New York street accent. ‘Cut the fuckin’ hysterics an’ tell me what you want me to do.’”
• I never watched the miniseries. How was it? Was it Spelling-tastic? Should I buy the DVD and then talk about it with you?
• Whose Hollywood wife would you be? And would you rather be a beard, and just spend all of your time getting massages and buying things and then having fun platonic dinners with your husband, Hugh Jackman? Because that’s what I would want. Because, otherwise, I think the straight ones are probably dicks.
• Which books would be improved by the inclusion of a machete-wielding madman who drops in and out of the action? A Separate Peace? The Mill On The Floss? The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
• Should we just go ahead and do Fear of Flying next? Or should we do Confessions of a Shopaholic? Is that Classic yet?
• Why is it so disconcerting to read Hollywood Wives, written in 1983, and to have the constant urge to tell the wives about the advances in skincare? Like, “Bitch, you don’t need to get your eyes done. You want some FILLERS. Be back on the street on the same day.” “You probably don’t even have a prescription retinoid!”
• Do you get the sense that Hollywood Wives is like a really bad version of Postcards from the Edge, which is a DOPE-ASS BOOK? You are correct. This is not really a question.
• Dustin Hoffman is “Dustin Hoffman with looks.” Yes or no?
Nicole Cliffe is the proprietress of Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews.