Hollywood has long looked the other way, covering up for the anomalies and sexual deviances of its stars as long as there was money to be made off of them.
You think today’s entertainment industry logrollers and pervy politicos have a leg up on deviant sexual behavior? It was Johnny B. M. Good when noted scatologist Chuck Berry transformed the ladies’ bathroom stalls of his restaurant into two-camera shoots. The caption found beneath a photo of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and dummy Charlie McCarthy in Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon” reads simply, “No splinters between friends.” As for the well-guarded secret behind Eggs Danny Thomas Style, some recipes are best left to one’s own pop-culture archaeology.
Back in the day, tabloids and fan magazines alike were paid big bucks to squash stories. In 1935, a drunken Busby Berkeley veered into oncoming traffic, killing two and seriously injuring five others. Thanks to Warner Bros.’s crack legal team, the choreographer of such kaleidoscopic musical achievements as Footlight Parade, The Gang’s All Here, and four features with the words Gold Diggers in the title was eventually acquitted. His punishment? Twenty more years work behind the camera.
How might legendary Hollywood gossip queens Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons have handled someone like Harvey Weinstein? Simple. They wouldn’t have. According to her autobiography, after leaving 20th Century Fox Shirley Temple was placed under contract by M-G-M. Maureen Dowd recalled the day Gertrude Temple took her daughter to meet the bosses in a recent New York Times op-ed piece:
“Louis B. Mayer spirited away Gertrude Temple. The curly-haired superstar — hailed by F.D.R. for helping America get through the Depression — was taken to the office of Arthur Freed, an associate producer on The Wizard of Oz.
“After telling her that she would have to get rid of her baby fat, Freed abruptly stood up and pulled out his penis. The eleven-year-old had never even seen one before. She gave a nervous laugh, which offended the producer.
“‘Get out!’” he shouted.
Even if Gertrude Temple had brought this story to Hedda and/or Louella’s attention, it’s doubtful either would have run with it lest they risk putting a dent in their almost-as-lush lifestyles. In light of today’s daily dose of improprieties on the part of some power-blind celebrity or public servant, Hedda and Louella’s bodies would be reduced to a pair of whirling dervishes, careening off the walls of their coffins.
If Hollywood moguls spent as much time overseeing budgets and plastering plot-holes as they do walking around with their junk exposed, movie theatre attendance wouldn’t be at a 24-year low.
Enough with the moralizing. Who am I kidding? The whole point of this piece was to wring a few laughs with these wacky mockeries. The covers of the mags H&L worked for weren’t busy enough for this forger. I fondly recall the slapdash arrangement of cut-out heads splashed across the front pages of Teen Beat and 16 Magazine as they dangled from clothespins across the tops of subway newsstands. How might things have looked if the Fab Four consisted of Harv, Matt, Kevin, and Tobacko? Or Pence, Franken, Roy, and Weiner?