Thursday, October 28, 2004

Mae West’s beauty tip

Charlotte Chandler: Tinsel Town's other blonde
• • The Californian-born author of several bestsellers about Hollywood, Charlotte Chandler won the show business scoop of last century when she interviewed Mae West before the iconic movie star died. "I never see women interviewers," West snarled. Nevertheless, the blonde bombshell spent six hours primping and preening for their first meeting. Charlotte Chandler was invited to stroke West’s porcelain complexion. "I did so very nervously," she recalls.
• • Mae West’s beauty tip? "Warm baby oil - - applied daily by a man."
• • Mae West told her the secret of perfect skin. Federico Fellini cooked pots of pasta for her and Tony Curtis revealed all about his affair with Marilyn Monroe. Name any Hollywood star and the likelihood is that Charlotte Chandler will have interviewed them - - from the siren of the silent screen, Gloria Swanson, to Pierce Brosnan.
• • Mae West stared in disbelief at the unmarried Chandler’s ringless fingers. "You have no diamonds!" she exclaimed. "You must find a man to buy you some." But later she confided to Chandler that she had bought her own king’s ransom of jewels herself.
• • As the New York-based author listened to the tape - - the interview was chosen for the Penguin anthology of Great Interviews of the Twentieth Century - - she was puzzled by a soft susurration in the background. "It was as if a butterfly was beating its wings, then I realised that it was the sound of Mae’s false eyelashes flapping," says Chandler, whose latest book, Nobody’s Perfect, is a personal biography of the great director Billy Wilder.
• • Chandler is adept at getting big-name interviews, although in the case of Mae West blonde undoubtedly responded unto blonde. For Chandler also has a luxuriant mane of pale golden hair, untouched by peroxide. Photographs of her - - whether she is lunching with Fellini, about whom she wrote an international bestseller, or sharing a joke with Wilder - - always feature her smiling glamorously beneath her crowning glory. Indeed, Groucho Marx used to say of her fabulous follicles: "You’ve got your own beret."
• • She jests that her fine head of hair helped her to persuade stars such as Gloria Swanson, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Kirk Douglas, James Stewart, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis (who admitted that he had slept with Marilyn Monroe before she was famous) to be interviewed for the Wilder book. ("Superb name-dropping!" exclaims Chandler.) I suspect it has much more to do with her undoubted skills as an interviewer and writer.
• • Mae West, Henry Fonda, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, and Tennessee Williams stalked freely to her for her second book, The Ultimate Seduction, about people who are seduced by their creative work.
• • Dressed in a smart navy-blue trouser suit, Chandler is a well-preserved woman of uncertain age - - she politely refuses to tell how old she is. She has a gracious manner and wears her famous hair piled on top of her head. . . .
• • Come up and see Mae online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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