My WhurdsDeRodan Channel

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Brush of Stardust


As far back as I can remember I have had this infatuation with Hollywood. I knew the back streets of Tinseltown before I had ever stepped a foot in California. I knew where the old Chaplin Studios were. And the Original Disney Studios (on Hyperion Ave.) A few odd places as well. The Vault where Valentino was interred. Such oddities.

I am a fan of Classic Hollywood and all its tinsel tossed history.

BILLY WILDER(RIP) Director of such grand classics as Sunset Blvd. Some Like it Hot, The Apartment.

SIR ALFRED HITCHCOCK,Director:Psycho, Birds, Rebecca,Suspicion, to name a few.

VICTOR FLEMING,Director: The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind

DAVID O. SELZNICK, Producer: Gone With the Wind. Rebecca etc...

GEORGE CUCKOR, Director: The Women, parts of The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady....etc

I name these greats because through a certain happening in my life I feel a semi-personal connection with these great men and the films that they are connected to.

Upon my completion of my two hitches in the U.S. Navy I took for a few months a job as personal secretary and moreover the position as Major Domo for one of the greatest actresses of the often called Classic Hollywood Era. I was living in Carmel California working part time for a Local Television station. I had just about had it with the unpredictable freelance schedule and asked a friend to help me find a more regular job. My friend ran an agency for domestic help.
after a few offers I had turned down....and about a month later I got a call asking if I'd like to work for the actress Joan Fontaine. I had no idea she was living in Carmel...I had no idea she was even living.

I said uuuh-errr, okay...lets have an interview and see how it goes. A day later I got a call from a woman with a low distinguished voice. She asked for Dan Thompson. NEVER has anyone said my name in just quite that way.... Daaaaaaan Thooooompson~my goodness I thought to my self... a bit like Garbo. She asked me to come by her place the next day. I said okay Joan I'll be there! UHH---UHHH I would prefer it if you would call me Ms. Fontaine if you don't mind. she shot back quickly. Oh yes of course.*(my my my I thought) I will see you tomorrow? Oh yes I replied. All right then tomorrow, she said.

I remember this all very well... If you have seen the opening to the movie Rebecca.*(of which Joan is the Star) You will remember the long drive leading up to Mandalay. Such is the drive to the front to Joan's (oops!) Ms.Fontaines ocean side home... Waves crashing on the rocks below and all. As I arrived, she met on the driveway. She walked me through her home as if it were a museum. It was immaculate. Italian motif in the main living room. Big Fireplace, for those cool evenings just listening to the ocean waves. We walked down some stairs to what I thought was going to be a basement area. There tucked away in a corner niche was her Oscar statuette. She hardly gave it any notice as she turned. I stared at it and she picked it up and handed it to me. She showed me around what was a very cozy bungalow under her main home. That was to be my apartment. We went back upstairs and stopped out on one of the Balcony's overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Waves crashing on the rocks below. Such a setting! Now, I cannot describe the thoughts that were going on in my head. My whole conscience was determined not to be star-struck and I must say that I held my own quite well. We had such a nice talk about me my history and background in the military. And she seemed so happy and eager to have someone around who spoke English. Her Maid and Gardener (a married Mexican couple, who couldn't speak any English,more about those two later,Please remind me if I forget there is quite a story there) She had been starved around the house for someone to talk to. In English. She asked me if this were the type of job that I thought I wanted to do. And I said yes. (why not I thought to myself.) She had explained that It was not going to be long term. That she was getting ready down the road to do a few films and wanted someone around to help her get organized. We actually became good friends, in as much as she would invite me to dinner on occasions cook for me. we'd play rummy cube, a concert or two. But for the most part I was helping her prepare for her trips.

One March afternoon I as I was preparing to leave to go to a party in town (a fundraiser) Academy Awards Dinner. We were going to watch the Show live on a big Screen and have dinner. Ms. Fontaine asked me what I was doing for the evening. I told her that I was going to this function. What a bore-!she said. As she was playing
Rummy cube with neighbor Walter. She suggested that I go and take her little statue (*she had won Best Actress for Suspicion w/ Cary Grant in 1942) Uhhhhh My pals will think I swiped it if I she gave me a note to go along with it...I cherish it. And keep that note in an album with lots of memorabilia.

I LOVE THE WAY SHE USE TO CALL ME DAAAAAAAAAHHHN ! ! ! She had a big house and loved to use the intercom....
There is so much more to this story... I love telling this..I will have to do it in chapters so I don't leave anything out....
MS. FONTAINE HAS WORKED WITH ALL OF THE MEN I LISTED ABOVE EXCEPT BILLY WILDER. I Went to see Sunset Blvd the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with Joan in London. We had such fun there. more on that later as well...

Joan, Ummmm...(clears throat) I mean, Lady Fontaine, was such a nice person with me. Shortly after I began my stint working with her. She made such a fuss over me, because she'd been without anyone in the home other than the maid and gardener (whom were a married couple) They spoke very little English. What English they did speak was crude to say the least. And she went on and on about how nice it was to have someone to talk to. I was honored and embarrassed at the thought that someone such as herself was so starved that she'd be happy to talk to someone as boring as myself. The Spanish speakers:Gaston the gardener was a tall sturdy chap. A very hard working gardener. Ms. Fontaine kept him very busy. His wife Asailia was a very quiet steely eyed gal who kept to herself took orders and kept quiet. On occasion I could and would catch her rolling her eyes at a request by our lady.

Upon the start of my second week on the household staff I began my routine of fixing coffee in a French press and preparing a tray of cereal for the mistress. I heard her call me "Daaaaaan"--- Headed into her bedroom, I took in with me her morning paper. She was propped up in her canopy bed reading a book. She sat the book down beside her and began to tell me that Gaston her gardener had phoned her very early this morning and told her that I had called him during the night and propositioned him over the phone.

Needless to say, I was stunned to the core. I said outright to her clearly that I did not do any such thing. That I did not know Gastons last name. That she nor anyone else had given me his home telephone number and that I had no idea how I would call him if I hadn't a telephone number. Then I said to her that while I am a gay man... I have not nor have I ever had to preposition a man via the telephone. She laughed slightly at that and called Asailia who was vacuuming just outside in the hall. I had to go out and fetch her into the bedroom. I guess she didn't hear over the vacume. Asailia must have been waiting for this. She seemed so prepared she switched off her machine with a flair. turned up her nose to me and bolted into the bedroom. Our lady told Asailia that it was not me that had called and that .....The maid interrupted and said that "Yes it was him." I was flabbergasted.... JFD continues to say that it must have been someone else from Gastons second job. And that she didn't want to hear another thing about this. Asailia so obviously reluctant to give up, but nodded....and left the room. JFD looked at me and said don't worry Dan..I have dealt with this kind of thing before. She must have seen that I was still shaking from such an accusation. I said that in my eight years in the military I have never been accused of such a thing. She said let's continue with our day. And we did. I thought to myself how jealous can two people be. And it was obvious to me from that point on there was a real coolness between the household staffers. And JFD knew that there would be. Later that day she walked up to me and gave me a big hug. She apologized for the incident and told me again that she'd seen this between household staff's before. And for me not to worry about it... It was so obvious to me and to her that they were just trying to get rid of me. I was upsetting their apple cart.An intruder. From that point on she always introduced me as her House Manager...which always upset,(pissed) off Gaston and Asailia. And I was very direct with them when it came to any work. They were so shocked when she told them that I was going to Europe with her.

Ps, I didn't I didn't I didn' this day I laugh with embarrassment that someone might doubt that I told JFD the truth. While I might have checked out his booty while he was planting begonias. I never ever made such a call or propositioned him electronically or in person. I was earnestly in shock at that accusation. Now it all seems like a humorous scene from a play. But then I was shaking at the thought that I was a target of such a scandalous accusation. ( perhaps I overstate that because it is such a funny story now)

God this sounds so Queenie!

R O D A N~~


    Joan Fontaine was skulking around in my dreams... I need to give her a call and check up on how she's doing...

    All my very best to you Joan...Thank you for the wonderful memories.

  2. Actually called and she picked up... had a very nice conversation (short but sweet) She complimented me for thinking of her today. It meant a lot to me that she remembered our time together in Europe. It was a very special time.