Years later, the phone rang one day and it was Carol. She had come back to Britain, for good! So she said. Would I care to lunch with her and Mike in the Kensington Hilton where they were staying. She wanted to ask me something.
Mike, she said, had picked her up when she had fallen foul of some of the most evil people in Hollywood and helped her put herself together again.
She was there, she said, as the guest of the Sunday Mirror, who had booked her in as a mark of their appreciation because they were beginning a major series about her that weekend.
There were problems to do with that series. The newspaper had sent along a cameraman to take some pictures and with him he’d also brought a suitcase of frilly negligées and sexy satin underwear.
In the normal course of events Carol, who at Cannes had despaired her agent by turning a photo opportunity into more of a wet T-shirt soft porn opportunity by falling off a pier in the course of the photo opportunity, resulting in photos which her agent thought more suitable for a Page Three model than for a serious actress, would have been happy enough to do it. And she was looking great, her voice had gone husky and had a mid-Atlantic caress about it.
But there was Mike Arnold to be reckoned with, and as for the sexy peekaboo blouses and black and red net panties and a bikini made of bits of chamois-leather with holes in the most interesting places, as the photographer and his smart yuppy woman assistant took them out of the suitcase, Carol looked to Mike and asked him was he happy about this, and Mike gave a surly ‘No sir, I’m not happy about this, no way,’ and the cheesecake photographer tried to persuade her, and suddenly Mike was tossing the negligées around the room and stamping on them. He clutched the photographer’s mohair sweater in his huge fist and said, ‘Are you going to lay the law down to my wife about her intimate wardrobe, want to make something of it?’
They were in the bedroom of the luxurious suite and now Mike had knocked the photographer down across the bed, so they told me, and the photographer made his exit from the Hilton Suite fast and they threw the frilly knickers after him.
I wanted to get Carol alone for a chat about old times but the lowering presence of the huge Mike made me realise that that might be quite a dangerous undertaking.
Over lunch in the Polynesian restaurant downstairs Carol asked me if I would like to write her autobiography for her. I asked what would be the highlights and Carol replied that it would be a sort of A-Z or roll call of all the major male actors of our time. She then ran through a few of these highlights such as her affairs with almost every showbiz male star I had heard of, and many that I hadn’t and one or two who weren’t male and weren’t stars, like the tall and seductive wardrobe mistress of a producer she was having a fling with which, she said, helped her pass the time quite agreeably.
She also told me a story which I believed at the time, that she’d got herself into drugs and pill-pushing in Hollywood and her former husband, the psychiatrist Stuart Lerner, had been trying to get her children off her. (X)
She’d gone round the bend and was paying a Hollywood shrink two hundred dollars an hour to sort her out. Her condition didn’t improve and later she learned that Stuart, who had wanted to keep the children when they split up, had been paying the shrink three hundred dollars an hour to ‘fuck her up’.
The story, I later learned, might not actually be exactly as Carol portrayed it, but what a subject! And it would have been good to be working with Carol creatively again.
I said I’d think about it but I probably didn’t want to ghost her autobiography. Now, I’m sorry I didn’t.
The book was to be called ‘Carol Comes Home’ and, said Carol, she was home for good. Tired of Hollywood tinsel and torment, she was coming back to the streets of West London she had grown up in and was looking forward to seeing more of her father and mother, brother and sisters.
It seemed the sensible thing to do. If only she had.
One early disappointment was that when the Mirror series came out, they had evidently been angry that Mike Arnold had not allowed them to take the sexy photos they wanted.
Somewhere along the line some boyfriend had taken some morning-after-the-night-before photos of Carol, in an unglamorous ordinary bath, not looking her best, her hair wet and lying black and unattractively plastered over her. She looked undistinguished and these were the pictures the Mirror chose to print instead of the Sex Goddess ones Carol would have wanted.
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