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Loving Lana TurnerFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

I’m just Judy Turner being followed by boys down the halls of Hollywood High and that’s pretty good but not nearly as exciting as when a reporter spots me cutting class in a cafe and sends me to an agent. Right away MGM signs me and says I’m one of the most beautiful women in the world and ready to work with gorgeous and talented actors and become a star.

I think I can do it and know I already love that tall, handsome clarinet player Artie Shaw whose so sexy playing his long black instrument. We’re starring in Dancing Co-Ed, and I like the way he looks at my legs when I’m tap dancing. I say yes when he invites me to a private place where, after just a few times, I convince him to drop Betty Grable, his famous blonde girlfriend. I’m thrilled we marry in 1940 when I’m nineteen and know this will last for life. I love being married. I love making love. I love having a special man. My dad was murdered when I was nine but now I’ve got someone to take care of me. My mom’s a little worried since Artie’s eleven years older and has already had two short marriages.

“Why don’t you cook me dinner more often?” Artie asks after a couple of months.

“Why don’t you cook? I work as hard as you and am just as tired.”

“I’m sick of the silly things you talk about. Read a book. Read the goddamn newspaper.”

“Be a better husband. All you do is blow your horn then come home and read.”

“The world’s more than Hollywood, Lana.”

“I’ve got plenty right here.”

“There’s a war going on. Think about something besides your makeup.”

“What war?”

“In Europe, you idiot.”

I don’t know what to do except cry. This isn’t the man I love. He’s the one I sleep with that wonderful night.

“Lana, I know you’re a glamour goddess, but will you make the coffee this morning?”

“I made it last week.”

“And I’ve made it every day since.”

He grumbles climbing out of bed and in a few minutes storms out of the bathroom. “What did I tell you about the goddamn toilet paper? I want it rolling from the front, not the back.”

He’s mean like this almost every day and I’m crying at home and work and at my mom’s and when I visit my friends, and they say leave him, and that’s what I do. I escape but have to see some doctors who give me medications to keep me from going crazy. Cigarettes and alcohol help even more. They’re always available and you don’t need a prescription.

I think I was tired of Artie, anyway. There are so many great looking guys on movie sets and plenty of them want to be with me. I definitely need to go out with them and others. I think I’m falling for Joseph Stephen Crane. He owns a popular restaurant and is a good looking gentleman. I know he’s the one. I’ve matured and am getting better roles all the time, most recently as an alcoholic dancer in Ziegfeld Girl. By 1942 I’m ready for the man of my life.

“You told me your divorce was final.”

“It is. It was. It was supposed to be,” says Joseph.

“You’re a liar and this scandal could ruin my career but it isn’t because I’m divorcing you.”

“Lana, please.”

“Go to hell.”

He tries to kill himself and I feel guilty and beg him to remarry me when I learn I’m pregnant, and we have a girl, Cheryl, the following year. I’m anxious to return to the screen before people forget me and I just don’t have much time for my daughter but always hire people to take good care of her. I really don’t have time for Joseph, either. Other men excite me more, so I divorce him. My career keeps going quite well and in 1946 I get my best part as the wicked wife of a boring old man in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

In real life I’ve fallen for the most beautiful man in the world, Tyrone Power. He’s such a talented actor and craves me as I do him. I’m free and want to marry him. He’s not really married anymore, they’re separated. I urge him to divorce. He says he will but has work in Europe. I’m very lonely without him. I don’t think it would hurt to have some company while he’s gone. Neither does his buddy Frank Sinatra. I know MGM starts publicizing this to drive Ty away from me. Studio executives are always worried by publicity about my private life, and now they suspend me.

“I’ll do what I want with my life,” I tell them, and they look at my box office receipts and agree.

Besides, I’m getting married. He’s a very rich socialite named Bob Topping. I love his mansion in Connecticut where we’ll live when not in Hollywood. This is an incredible time. We honeymoon for two years, traveling and going to parties and spending lots of money.

“Bob, please ease up on the booze.”

“You’re not exactly a teetotaler, my dear.”

“I’m not the one becoming bloated.”

We go on another vacation and Bob asks me to pay for it. He starts telling me to pay for lots of things.

“I keep reading about ‘millionaire Bob Topping.’ It’s time for you to be the man.”

“I just need a little help.”

“You evidently need my purse.”

“Just until my investments start paying off.”

“Haven’t they been doing that?”

“Not lately. And the family’s cutting back my share of the trust.”

If I stay with millionaire socialite Bob Topping I’m going to be broke actress Lana Turner. I just don’t want to see him anymore. I’ve met a divine South American actor, Fernando Lamas, and we travel together. He makes me feel so good. And so does Lex Barker, a big beautiful Tarzan who loves to hold me. We marry in 1953, and I’m happy, but a few years later my daughter Cheryl tells me the most horrible story. After wiping away tears and composing myself, I open the dresser drawer, grasp my revolver, and walk into the living room where Lex is sitting.

“Get out of my house.”

“What is it, darling?”

“You’re a despicable dog.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You feel like a big man, fondling and raping a little girl from age ten on?”

“She’s lying.”

“I know my daughter.”

“How? You rarely say anything to her besides, ‘You can’t hug mommy now. You’ll ruin her hair. You’ll smudge her lipstick.”

“I said get the hell out now.”

He hesitates. I point my gun at his head. “I should shoot you now.”

He leaves rather rapidly. I know I haven’t been a good mother. I’ve had to travel and make movies and marry four times and love many unreliable men. Perhaps I should shoot myself. MGM recently declined to offer me a new contract. To hell with them. I’m still desirable and prove so at age thirty-six starring in the hit Peyton Place for another studio. I’m still box office and a woman who can attract good looking Johnny Stompanato. I’ve never had a better lover. I don’t think I’ve had one as good. He’s also kind to my daughter. I tell people they’re wrong when they say Johnny’s a gangster. He is a little possessive, though. In fact, he’s becoming a pest, asking for money and where I’ve been and where I’m going.

“I’m going to Europe to make Another Time, Another Place,” I say.

“I’m coming.”

“No, you’re not.”

“You think you’re going to go over there and fuck around on me.”

“I’m going to do whatever I want.”

God, every woman should meet Sean Connery in 1958. He’s a leading man. Johnny Stompanato’s an extra who shows up with a gun Sean takes away before punching him in the mouth. I know Sean, nine years my junior, is too young, handsome, and talented to be interested in me for long, and am lonely when I get back to Hollywood where Johnny’s waiting to embrace me. Still, I have to tell him, “You can’t come with me to the Academy Awards ceremony tonight.”

“You want me in bed but not in public.”

“Everything must look right if I win the best actress award.”

“See you when you get back, sweetheart.”

“Don’t be here, Johnny.”

I fail to get the Oscar for my role in Peyton Place but at parties afterward everyone treats me like a queen. When I get home, Johnny’s watching TV.

“So sorry, sweetheart. You’ll be thirty-seven next month, an old thirty-seven. All that drinking and smoking. You’re lucky to have a guy like me.”

“I’m sick of everything about you.”

He grabs and kisses me. I jerk away and rush upstairs to my bedroom. Johnny follows. I try to slam the door but he shoves it open and says, “Fuck you,” slapping my face and knocking me down.

“Stop it, Johnny.”

“I’ll cut up your goddamn face.”

“Please stop.”

He leans down and keeps slapping me and says, “Ugly old bitch. No one treats Johnny Stompanato that way. I’ll kill you or get someone else to do it.”

“Mom, are you okay?” asks Cheryl, age fourteen, standing terrified at the door.

“Close the door, Cheryl,” I say. “I’m fine.”

Johnny keeps looking down at me.

“Please close the door, Cheryl, and go to bed,” I say.

She pulls the door almost closed, and Johnny smacks me again, and grabs my neck and I think he’s going to strangle me, and I scream.

Cheryl opens the door a little and says, “Johnny, no.”

“Shut the fuck up.” He whirls and storms to the door, yanking it open, and lunges into the hall.

“Cheryl…” I get up and run out to discover Johnny on his back, bleeding fast from his stomach and breathing in a strange way I know can’t last.

“He ran right into it, Mom,” Cheryl says, holding a ten-inch knife.

What should I do? It’s too late to call an ambulance and too early to call the police. I dial Jerry Giesler, the lawyer stars in need depend on. He gets here right away. We tell him what happened and he tells us what to do and say. Truth is our ally. At the inquest I tell exactly what happened, and many call the testimony my finest performance, but I wasn’t acting.

I’d love to return to movies but no one will hire me and I’m almost broke from all the bastards in my life. Despite Cheryl driving drunk and romancing other girls and many other concerns, I remain poised, at least externally, and get a great role in the film Imitation of Life. Universal Pictures spends a million dollars on my wardrobe and jewelry, and moviegoers love the glamor as well as my kindness to a single black mother, played by Juanita Moore, who earns an Academy Award nomination. I’d farsightedly accepted a smaller salary in return for half the profits that total two million dollars.

I’m comfortable again and in love and marry Fred May, a rich and handsome rancher, and we last a couple of years. In my early forties now I know my time as a star has passed. Fine, I have more time to relax, and husband number six, Robert P. Eaton, is a sexy guy as well as fine tennis player, golfer, and gambler, and for a few years we have fun. In 1969 I rush from divorce to marriage to husband number seven, Ronald Pella or Ronald Dante, I suppose it depends on the scheme of this self-proclaimed greatest nightclub hypnotist in history, and he must be hypnotizing me since I write him a check for about thirty thousand he doesn’t use for the investments he said he needed, and I don’t watch him closely enough because he also steals a hundred grand worth of my jewelry. I still don’t give up on men, not entirely, but promise myself I’ll never marry again.

I spend a lot of the seventies drinking and smoking and losing weight and squandering most of the few acting opportunities I get, but in the eighties I convert to Roman Catholicism and embrace celibacy and do a little work on TV. I suppose it’s ironic that despite being a woman addicted to men I end up loving most my daughter and her girlfriend and especially my maid and companion of more than forty years who gets most of my estate when I die from throat cancer at age seventy-four.

Lana Turner as a young actress

This entry was posted in Artie Shaw, Divorce, Infidelity, Lana Turner, Los Angeles, Marriage, Movies, Sex.