In 1988, Ava Gardner sat down with British author Peter Evans to write a Hollywood memoir. But Evans quickly discovered that Ava was a hopeless alcoholic who, when drunk, told juicy tinsel town tales. But when Ava sobered up, she ordered Evans not to use any of “the good” material.
Ava knew where all the bodies were buried. But too many of her Hollywood crowd were still alive. Settling scores would not settle anything for Ava. The aging star was in desperate need of money. In the end, Ava abandoned the project. Rumor says that Frank Sinatra paid Ava not to write the book.
Ava died just two years later. Evans went to his grave with his Ava Gardner book unpublished. But his notes have finally seen the light of day as Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations. Ava was a natural storyteller with a great eye for the telling detail. Her rich store of memories could have made for an invaluable piece of Hollywood history. However, what remains of those fragmented sessions is compelling and compulsively readable.
For Seraphic Secret, one of the most fascinating anecdotes in Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, concerns Artie Shaw. (born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky; 1910 – 2004). Shaw was a wildly popular bandleader and a brilliant Jazz clarinetest. A rigid man who emotionally abused his wives, Shaw was married an astonishing eight times.
Ava was his fifth wife. Her conflicting emotions about Shaw are on full display.
“Artie was very conscious of being a Jew, you know,” she said. He once told me a story that showed how vulnerable he was. I don’t know whether he was married to Jerome Kern’s daughter [Betty] at the time, or who, because he was married to everybody, but he was at a posh Hollywood dinner party when they started talking about Jews. It turned out that they were all anti-Semitic. He said he sat there in silence for a while—apparently nobody knew he was a Jew—then he joined in with their snide remarks about Jews. He said he’d never forgive himself for his cowardice.
“I felt such sadness for him when he told me that story. All my protective instincts came out. I really felt his pain. It made me love him even more. I was still mad about him at that time. I decided I wanted his baby. But he was very wise. He was protecting me—and I’m sure he was thinking of himself, too—he said this is not the time to have a child.
“I don’t think in my heart I genuinely wanted a baby at all. I don’t think I really did. I just thought: I’m going back to school, I’m getting an education, I’m being a good wife, to make it perfect I’ll have a child. Maybe I was playing a part, who the hell knows?
“What the f—, a few months later, he ditched me and married Kathleen Windsor, the woman who wrote Forever Amber—a f—ing potboiler, he called it. He snatched it out of my hands and tore it to shreds when he caught me reading it. It was part of my self-improvement program. What did I know?”