In an exclusive from the book that wasn’t published in either of their lifetimes, Gardner spills the seduction-to-split secrets of her three marriages In the first week of January 1988, Ava Gardner asked me to ghost her memoirs. I don’t want to upset Frank.” There was a small silence, then a brief husky laugh.“Fuck Frank,” she said with a faint southern drawl. Mickey was playing her, complete with false eyelashes, false boobs, his mouth smothered with lipstick.“It was my first day in Hollywood.
Guys didn’t trouble me much—most of them knew I was Mickey’s wife—but that’s where I learned to drink, I mean to drink seriously. ‘I’ve had it with you, you little shit,’ I’d scream at him. Neither did he ever say he was sorry.“Nevertheless, when he was feeling flush, or had made a big score at the track, he would try to placate me with nice pieces of jewelry.
All the clubs were hot on under-age drinking, but Mick would slip me dry martinis in coffee cups. He’d look all hurt and innocent—a real Andy Hardy look. He’d say that no one could love me more than he did. I remember a beautiful pair of diamond drop earrings. I’ll wrap up your divorce from Mickey, and I have plenty of material on Howard Hughes [the millionaire filmmaker, with whom she had an affair] I can use.”“How long is that going to take, honey?
I must have seemed so fucking awkward, so fucking gauche. It had taken about six minutes flat to unpack my only suitcase and brush my teeth. K.—but I have my sister Bappie staying with me, I told him. He usually did.“I took off for Spain to make a movie [ 1951]. Frank said it didn’t matter a damn if I’d slept with Mario or not, it was in the past. He said if I told him the truth, it would all be forgotten.
Anyway, I asked him what went through his mind when he saw me on the set that day.“He said, ‘O. I didn’t know a goddamn soul in Hollywood, except my sister. “Every conversation ended up with him asking me to have dinner with him. ‘Fine, bring Sis along, too,’ he said, bang-off.”His chauffeur-driven limo arrived at exactly seven o’clock. I had a fling with the bullfighter [Mario Cabré] who played my lover in the picture. He was always banging on at me about guys he suspected I’d slept with. So I told him the truth, and, of course, it was never forgotten. He never forgave me.”“But he still married you,” I said.“November 7, 1951. Only days after his divorce from Nancy became final.
Their bulb pressers always managed to get pictures that made me look as if I towered over Mickey—which, of course, I did.“Wherever we went, thousands of screaming bobby-soxers were there to mob him. But the enthusiasm, the hysteria, of those kids made me understand why Mayer was so fucking desperate to keep our marriage off the front pages.“It’s a shame that it didn’t work out with Mick.
The idea of being married had always appealed to me, and I was hopelessly in love with him by this time. The intellect isn’t connected to the pelvis, he told me once when I asked what had attracted him to her. Shaw married Turner in February 1940, when she was 19.
And it shows the power—and the guts—Mickey had to stand up to him the way he did.”In spite of Mayer’s efforts to keep the relationship quiet, the gossip columnists eventually got onto the story.
“They always mentioned that I was a North Carolina beauty and much taller than Mickey.
“I know a lot of men fantasize about me; that’s how Hollywood gossip becomes Hollywood history.”“Is that why you want to write a book? The stroke she’d had a year and a half earlier had partially paralyzed her left side and frozen half her face in a rictus of sadness. Those little bantamweights were the worst—they’d nearly kill each other to entertain us. There was a catalogue of disasters: His voice had gone. He had principles, I’ll give him that.”“It’s been 40 years, Ava.
Her housekeeper, Carmen Vargas, met me and led the way to the drawing room.“I think the most vulgar thing about Hollywood is the way it believes its own gossip,” Ava told me that day. “And I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels,” she added. He needed the money badly, but he told them to get lost.
The news that Mickey and Ava were an item soon spread around the studio. When I went into analysis—that was something else he made me do—I insisted on taking an I. test, because I was at the point where I thought there was something seriously wrong with my mind. I more or less didn’t work for a whole year because of him. ,” I asked her one evening in her apartment.“I was with Mickey in the studio commissary. Frank came over to our table—Jesus, he was like a god in those days, if gods can be sexy. “Another time, I met him at a party in Palm Springs.