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Here's to you, Ms. Winters - Sing With Me If It's Just For Today... — LiveJournal
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.
Here's to you, Ms. Winters
I’ve been meaning to write this for the past two weeks since Ms. Shelley Winters passed away, but I always get distracted, so here. I’ll just spit it out and not care about grammar or spelling because, Lord knows, she didn’t.

Ms. Winters was my very first celebrity assignment. I was four months into my trainee duties in the mailroom at ICM and reading scripts for agents in any spare time I could find. One of the industry’s first super-agents, Sue Mengers, liked my work and I began reading more and more for her clients who were, at the time, Ryan O’Neal, Farrah Fawcett, Nick Nolte and Shelley Winters among several other glittery stars of the early eighties. Sue was a charmer; spread-eagled, no panties, and screaming at her Scientologist assistant until the girl would cry. You had to love her.

Ms. Winters, and it was always Ms. Winters to me, was writing her autobiography. It wasn’t any of that James Frey memoir crap, either, man. The lady had the facts, so much so that one chapter listed nothing more than what was in her closet. There was the jewelry-and-fur chapter in which she catalogued her jewels and furs, each with a small and sultry story to make that fur come back to life.

Her companion, a stern and handsome woman named Sue, was always at Ms. Winters side, and gave me the unveiled impression she was suspicious of me. I, on the other hand, was terrified of both women for two very different reasons. I was afraid of Sue simply because she looked like she could hurt me and had the will to do it.

I tiptoed around Ms. Winters because she was Shelley Winters, the woman who starred in some of my all-time favorite films from Lolita to The Night of the Hunter, a movie that haunted my childhood, and finally, A Patch of Blue, the one where the blind white girl meets a young black man and doesn’t know of society’s scorn until her mother, Ms. Winters, catches them and screams “nigger” a lot. She won the Oscar for that performance because it was brave.

Okay, so I am assigned to go over to Ms. Winters’ home to help her “organize” her book. I really didn’t have the vocabulary at that time to do more than smile and nod while she smoked cigarettes in a long filtered holder and drank wine from a tumbler. Sue was always on the edge of my periphery, and I’d gently suggest to Ms. Winters that she tone down the listings, the pages and pages of lists of boyfriends and shoes and restaurants where she had accounts and, well, enough with the lists, lady!

There were two meetings we had at a restaurant. In public. I dressed as best I could given my $125.00 a week salary, but I always felt tacky and out of place (actually, it’s a feeling I still have, but that’s a topic for my therapist). Ms. Winters had mastered the art of the entrance, and once in the door, both times at Joe Allen’s, an industry eatery, everyone in the place knew that she had arrived. I’d meekly trail her and Sue to our table while carrying the three reams of paper that was her rough draft.

Her book agent and editor took over, and I had one last meeting with Ms. Winters at her town home. She was very kind, took my hand, and in that addled voice that was her trademark, she told me how much she appreciated my work. She handed me a gift-wrapped package, Sue glared the entire time as I carefully opened it and found an ornate stein with my initials engraved on it.

“Put it to good use,” she charged.

“It’s beautiful, Ms. Winters.” I left the house and never spoke with her again. Not long afterward, the book came out, and I hungrily thumbed to the Acknowledgement page to see if I was listed. Nothing. Not a word about my contribution, but I what I did have was a bitchin’ beer mug and the sweet memory of looking into those beautiful aged eyes of hers, eyes that had seen a million stories and just wanted to tell them.


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From: inkprincess Date: February 1st, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
great story!
ladycakes From: ladycakes Date: February 1st, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

I love it. Me and my mom read aloud to each other from that book.

oh...and btw...the last word I would ever use to describe you is "tacky".
From: cuppajohn Date: February 1st, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
what a great story, thank you so much for sharing.

pinkrose70 From: pinkrose70 Date: February 1st, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
"I was four months into my trainee duties in the mailroom at ICM."


Now I know that you must have been one of the guys in "Boys in the Mailroom!"

Your true stories are always great.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: February 2nd, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wish I would've written that book. They got it all wrong!
creactivity From: creactivity Date: February 1st, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always think of her in the Poseidon Adventure.

I'm still trying to figure out an evening to come up for dinner/movie. Are you ever off early?
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: February 2nd, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know. A lot of people do, but she was so much more than an Olympic swimmer.
discreet_chaos From: discreet_chaos Date: February 1st, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
As another longtime fan, I imagine she could make one hell of an entrance.
Ms Winters has entered the room. Let the fun, reminiscing and bawdy stories commence.
notoriousbrb From: notoriousbrb Date: February 1st, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
"It wasn’t any of that James Frey memoir crap, either, man"

Yeah. Fucking book. Pissed me off.

And I doubt you can ever seriously be as tacky as you think you are.
ridiculicious From: ridiculicious Date: February 1st, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love your star stories.
mengus From: mengus Date: February 2nd, 2006 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Me too. I feel really inadequate, and awestruck. I love it.
stutts From: stutts Date: February 2nd, 2006 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Popeye for me.

And maybe The Shining. Though I've never seen that one all the way through.
stutts From: stutts Date: February 2nd, 2006 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Haha, D'OH! Why do I always get those two mixed up?
fairy From: fairy Date: February 2nd, 2006 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
What a wonderful memory. Hmmmm, I wonder if Sue somehow had something to do with leaving you off the acknowledgment page. No matter though, how many people can say that Shelley Winters gave them a gift :)
ubermunkey From: ubermunkey Date: February 2nd, 2006 04:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Go Guyster Go.

I thought of you at the book store today.

tedwords From: tedwords Date: February 2nd, 2006 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Was that her first autobiography? I remember reading that way back when.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: February 2nd, 2006 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was way back when. Sigh.
(Deleted comment)
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: February 2nd, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's one of my favorite all-time scenes ever. It was Charles Laughton's only directoral effort, and he shot the film like a seasoned and eccentric pro.

I love that you remember that scene.
mwittier From: mwittier Date: February 2nd, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful insights, there, beautifully presented. Her sputteriness always made me sad. Publicly, she seemed so about to boil over always, you know? It's not at all surprising that she could be imperious privately; her whole vibe seemed to be that she'd seen so much and yet because she was trapped in a comical body with a cartoon voice, no one would listen. She was like frustration personified, those watery eyes and pursed lips masking her documented beauty.

I'm curious: what did you think of Dyan Cannon's quasi-impersonation of Sue Mengers in The Last of Sheila? It's about the only role I've ever been able to stomach Dyan Cannon in, even though the character's really horrid. As were all of them, I guess.

Favorite poorly-recalled line: "Now dear, are you sure 'condescending' is really the word you want to use?"
quuf From: quuf Date: February 3rd, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
That scene of the children in the hayloft, with the preacher riding his horse on the silhouetted horizon: It's a classic nightmare, isn't it? I thought of Hunter a lot when I drove through the Ohio River valley a couple years ago.

As always, thank you for this.

guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: February 4th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I recently ran the film for Joe. He'd never seen it, and it had been years since I last saw the movie. I was amazed at how many odd moments Laughton created, and I'm not certain all of them were intentional.
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