Sex & Love

How to Celebrate a Real Old-Fashioned Valentine’s Day in Hollywood, 1939

Blindfolded errand boys, booze, and little pills. Read More

By / February 14, 2014

Hi everybody!

Guess what! My new book, Love Me, just came out this week, and I am relatively confident that you are going to. Love it, that is. (I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy and I no longer need you to personally love me.)

It’s the scintillating sequel to my book Starstruck, which came out last year, and the second in my YA series set in the Golden Age of Hollywood. That “scintillating” is the precise word used by Kirkus Reviews to describe it, and if you’re at all familiar with how Kirkus normally reviews things, you’ll know that really means something. They also called it “sizzling,” “with more twists and turns than Mulholland Drive,” and a variety of other nice things. I’m sorry. I’m not a braggart by nature, but my grandmother is dead so now I have to tell you these things myself.

The bottom line is you should buy it, and you should also buy the first book in the series so you’ll know what’s going on. Let me put it this way, if you loved Valley of the Dolls, but thought what was really missing from it was a scene where your Yiddish-speaking great-grandmother complained to her Oscar nominated son about the fruit in her hotel (“it’s too shiny!”), then this is the book for you.

Anyway, in honor of the holiday we’re observing today, the delightful people here at Jewcy asked me to share my knowledge on how to celebrate a real old-fashioned Valentine’s Day in Hollywood, 1939. Ready? Here goes!

 

Wake up face down on the floor of a hotel, still fully clothed from the night before. Stagger to the bathroom and throw up. Ugh, is that really you in the mirror? Well, they can fix it in make-up. Light up a cigarette. Call the studio and have them send a car over and an errand boy with a change of clothes for you to leave in. Is the boy blind? No? Can they get a blind one? Well, can they blind him specially? Because seriously, no one can see you like this and live. Seriously.

Finish screaming at the secretary who refuses to cooperate. You’ll get her fired later today. Light another cigarette. Call down to order a huge elaborate breakfast, which you’ll charge to the studio. When it comes, send the whole thing away again immediately and pop a couple of those little green pills Dr. Lipkin prescribes to keep you up, up, up, peppy peppypeppy. And thin. Don’t forget thin. But you still have a headache, so you have to look around for some Scotch. Oh, there it is, under the bed. It spilled, but you can mop most of it up with a handkerchief and wring it into your mouth, the way you fed milk to the orphaned baby bird you found in the barn that time, back on your parents withered farm in the Dust Bowl, when you were a different person with a different name.

The studio car arrives with the blindfolded boy (it was the best they could do, you guess) who brings your clothes up to the room. He’s docile and surprisingly good-looking, and you briefly consider seducing him, but there’s no time. You have to get home for a Valentine’s Day photo shoot with your studio-mandated co-star in life and art. You despise each other, but manage to look convincingly in love for the cameras, as you always do. After the shoot his over, your co-star propositions you, “because it’s Valentine’s Day, what the hell.” You’ve got a throbbing pounding headache, but you figure, why not? Might as well go through with it once, just to see what you’re not missing.

It’s over quick, although you managed to make a lot of noise so the photographers packing up outside can go spread it all over town how you two are really in love. After a few final insults, you leave, feeling completely disgusted with yourself and the lie your life as become, and pop a few more green pills before you take the car over to see your actual lover, which has to be done in complete secrecy because a) you’re married b) they’re married c) you are of the same sex or d) they can’t do anything for your career. You spend a blissful few hours together indoors and in bed, fantasizing aloud about why you can’t do this all the time. Why you can’t just run away together and live on a farm or something. But you can’t, because then you wouldn’t be famous anymore, and you would rather be dead.

Oh, and you should probably fret out loud about Hitler and whether he’s really going to invade Poland or not, because this is 1939 and his decision could have serious repercussions for the whole world. You know?

That evening, the studio sends you on another date at the Cocoanut Grove with the despised co-star you nonetheless slept with that morning. You feel disgusted with yourself and full of self-hatred for this double life you’re leading. But the cameras, oh, the cameras. Pepped up on pills, you know you’re talking too fast, so you have a bottle of Scotch to slow you down. But things are going badly, and you know you’re acting not quite right, so you decide to leave. I mean, not before you manage to spill a plate of Lobster Newburg all over yourself and then vomit right at the feet of the coat check girl. You get in your car and immediately crash it straight into the wall of the Ambassador Hotel, possibly injuring or even killing an innocent bellman. Don’t worry, the studio fixers will take care of that and make sure his remains are returned to his loved one.

In the meantime, you figure you might as well get a room for the night and we find you in the morning exactly as you were at the beginning of this day. It’s just like Inside Llewyn Davis.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Buy LOVE ME for whoever you love!

 

 

Rachel Shukert, a Tablet Magazine columnist on pop culture, is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great. Love Me, the second in a series of three novels, is new from Random House. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.