I don’t know how much I’d had to drink but always drank too much at Hollywood parties because I feared the beautiful and talented actresses there were a bit more wonderful than I, and that I’d only be a walk-on as long as I lasted and that wouldn’t be long, and then I’d have to either find a regular job, which I dreaded, or a wealthy husband, which I preferred, and I would’ve loved to marry either Errol Flynn or John Huston or maybe both at once since everyone understood neither could long commit to one woman.
It’s ironic these two men, perhaps more than some of the leading ladies at Warner Brothers, Bette Davis, for example, forced me to understand that I lacked the essential ingredient of a star – presence. I felt I looked better than Bette but couldn’t light up a movie set as she did. At least I sometimes outshined her at parties, and walked away with men she wanted, but I never could hold the floor once either Errol or John started talking. It mattered not if they were merely saying hello or, more likely, spinning tales about their adventures at sea and on land the world over. Most of the hundred or so people present this night encircled the thespians in the living room.
“I can knock men out with either hand and often do,” said Errol.
“You must be fighting jockeys. I doubt you’d give me a decent workout.”
“Easy, John, I represented Australia as a middleweight in the 1928 Olympics.”
“Maybe someday I’ll film that fantasy.”
“Your distrust saddens me. I may have to give you a hiding in front of all these people.”
“For your edification, I boxed professionally before I turned to the craft of writing and directing movies.”
“One assumes most of your opponents were ladies.”
“Okay, Errol, let’s go outside and mix it up.”
As they walked long and lean toward the side door and into the garden, I guessed Errol was about six-two and John a couple inches taller, and I mention this because right after Errol said, “Ready, old boy?” John nailed him on the nose with a long left jab drawing blood from one of the swashbuckler’s nostrils. Enraged and grunting, Errol charged, hurling punches with each hand, and John either dodged or blocked most of them but Errol did land a right to the jaw that backed John up and prompted him to open and close his mouth a few times to ensure nothing was broken.
I’ve still never been to a boxing match but right away figured out Errol punched harder while John fought more skillfully, continuing to jab Errol’s chiseled but reddened and soon quite bloody nose and following with right crosses that cut his lips and evidently inside his mouth and caused him to spit blood before he counterattacked, not worrying if he missed, knowing he’d surely land some, and he did, and now John had a swollen eye and bloody nose, and all the men shouted like they probably did at professional fights, and most of the women were fascinated by two stars pummeling each other.
“Hit him in the body,” some men urged. I don’t know which fighter they were exhorting. “Give him the ole Bob Fitzsimmons punch to Jim Corbett’s solar plexus.”
“Where’s the solar plexus?” a lady asked her husband, who made a fist and held it between her breasts and stomach. I bet that would hurt.
Errol and John rarely aimed there. “A couple of headhunters these fellows are,” commented a gentleman.
“Had enough, old boy?” Errol said.
“I’m a decent fellow who’s had enough of hurting you.”
They quit talking and resumed swinging. I don’t know how long they beat each other but it must’ve been ten minutes that felt like an hour. Both looked sweaty and beaten, and since they were huffing hard one of the men said, “That’ll be enough, won’t it, boys?”
Errol and John embraced that idea and each other, and the men cheered and then the ladies did too.
“You better go to the doctor or a seamstress,” said John.
“You as well. I’ll drive.”
“Champions don’t drive after their title fights,” said the host, a portly producer.
“My chauffeur will deliver you to the hospital.”