Friday, April 04, 2008

Joan Crawford and the wardrobe lady

She charged into the wardrobe building, blowing more kisses in the direction of the secretary at the lobby, then looked at the two giant 1930s pictures of herself - one in a gorgeous maid’s uniform and the other in a sleek black beaded little number, both Adrian designs. She ignored all the other framed stars. “Those were the days.” She invited herself into the main studio.

“Miss Crawford!” Helen Rose greeted, stepping back from an easel. “How lovely for you to come back so soon. My, aren't you raring to go.”

Joan blew a kiss. “What a beautiful dress you have on. But then you do have the best taste in dresses.”

“Thank you.”

Joan said, “They say there was just another Joan Crawford out there. But I think she sounded like a he. I’m sure of it.”

Helen replied, “Probably your stand-in. And the cold is always going around.”

“Oh, sure. Are you making me a big white dress like Adrian would have done? Are the 30s back in fashion?”

“No. Not at all.”

“No?” Joan grew worried again. “But she was just seen – and that’s what she was wearing. That wasn’t your dress?”

“God, no.”

Joan was flustered. “What do you think of my new shoes? Aren’t they adorable?”

Helen said, “Yes. Very cute.”

“Are you sure? You like them, really?” Joan pointed her toes out this way and that. “You’re not just saying that? I trust your opinion. You have the best taste. I’m so glad this studio has you while I’m here. It’s a comfort to me.” Joan plopped down the heavy alligator portfolio and loudly unzipped it. “We’ll make a great team. Designers always love to work with me because I give one hundred and ten percent back. But I haven't worked hard enough yet for you though and I don't want to look like a frump.”

“I'll take care of that,” Helen assured her. “You won’t look like a frump.”

Joan gushed, “I brought ideas! Ideas ideas ideas, I'm so full of them and I can't wait to start working. We gotta ponce me up good. I want miles of taffeta so that I look like I just fell out off a cloud. I want it to swirl around me like a great magical carousel in some fanciful ballet. I want it so great that the department stores can't copy it. Goddam them! I won’t look like I came off the rack!”

Helen frowned. “But the department stores have always copied your wardrobe. You’ve been the biggest fashion influence on America. People certainly weren’t running out to wear what Gloria Swanson wore.”

“Sure – Adrian and I were the first great fashion team and we used to make fashion in the world. But now I'm too big a star for that. If you want the girl next door - go next door. This picture has to look bigger than it is, goddamn it, and it can't be sold in a department store. The script is a bit two-dimensional. I'm a bulldozer on gams. So we'll just distract them by pounding them over the head with dresses. That's how I got through most my past MGM weepies - making them look like a million bucks! Have you seen the script? Ain’t it a riot? I just yell at everybody and they call it a Joan Crawford picture. Goddam MGM!”

The rest of the THE JOAN CRAWFORD MURDERS is out in paperback at (in general fiction)