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Jackie Susann

Jacqueline Susann


NYTBSL.org Says…

In this Interview…

susann

Why women have affairs with older men

What her mother thought of her books

On living a rich existence

On homosexuality and love

Interview with Jacqueline Susann

I think every girl falls in love with daddy. After all, he’s the first man she knows. It’s a funny thing that happens… a father isn’t turned on by a newborn baby daughter, but when she’s about two, then she becomes a girl child, and he comes in one day and kisses her ahead of his wife. “That’s when the mother goes into unconscious rivalry. When the father says she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, the mother says, ‘Don’t tell her that. She’s not’. The mother tells herself she does this so the child won’t be vain, but what she’s doing, she’s telling her husband, ‘I made this child. We both did, but I’m the original, I’m more beautiful’.

My father treated me like a date from the time I was seven. That’s when he began spending Saturdays with me. At first he took me to matinees. Then one day he said ‘Instead of going to a matinee, how would you like to make some money? I want to play cards but we mustn’t tell mother, because she wouldn’t want you around where there’s smoking. I’ll give you ten percent of my action.’

So every Saturday I sat in a smoke filled room, behind a poker game. He made a pal of me, I was his sweetheart, because we were cheating on my mother. I had something special going. He’d give me ten dollars whether he won or not, but later on when I got to know the game and knew he’d lost, I wouldn’t take the money. ‘But when I was about eleven, he won six hundred dollars and then I demanded my sixty.

Incidentally, poker served me well, because when I started in show business I played with the stage hands and made more money at poker than I did from my salary.

Anyway, when I was sixteen I dated my first boy. He was very handsome and I like him a lot, but when I compared him to with my father he fell flat on his face.

Later when I met Irving, he was so unlike my father. I mean, the complete opposite. He intrigued me. My father hated him at first because he recognized competition and realized I hadn’t been looking for someone like him. In the en, there was great admiration between the two. After daddy died, Irving got interested in art and was sick about the things my father could have told him, the stories they could have swapped.

Our parents are all dead now, all but my mother. She’s a very timid soul, and she’s terrified about what her friends will say when one of my books comes out. With the first one, Every Night, Josephine, the reviews were poetry and the only four letter word was love. My mother used to sit in Rittenhouse Plaza where friends would visit and say, ‘In this day and age, your daughter’s been in show biz and everything, yet she’s written this sweet book.’ My mother would answer, ‘Well that’s the way we raised her!’ I laughed. Then out came Valley of the Dolls and this poor lady was absolutely out of her mind. She went to Atlantic City for three weeks, she couldn’t face talking to anyone. By the time she came back, the book was a smash. She went to the Friday night concert at the Academy of Music. Everyone said, ‘Oh isn’t it wonderful about Jackie and her novel?’ …It’s naughty but…’ As mother said, if it hadn’t been a hit they’d have said her daughter wrote a dirty book.

Afterwards, she’d always ask if I was going to use ‘that word’ in whatever I was writing. I never knew which word she was talking about, until one day this woman who had never sworn in her life, who taught me not to say darn because it meant dame, finally told me that the word that was bothering her was ‘fuck’. I said to her, Do you know where that word came from?. I explained how in olden times, when people were arrested for stealing, for sodomy, for having an affair with someone else’s wife, they were put in irons and placed in stocks. And a sign would be hung over their head saying, ‘For Thievery,’ or for whatever they had done wrong. And they’d hang, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ that’s where that word cam from.

But my mother hasn’t gone to the movies in five years, she doesn’t know what’s going on, she’s shocked at hearing the word damn on the air. When you think Bergman couldn’t return to this country because she’s had a baby out of wedlock, and now they’re all doing it. The change is only the last three year….

That’s what I attempted to convey through my character January in Once is Not Enough. In 1967, when I have her have her accident, people were still walking around in Pucci dresses. You couldn’t get into a restaurant wearing slacks. I remember at the Dorchester,’ Madame is wearing pants.’ By the 1970’s slacks were accepted anywhere…boys walked with arms around boys….girls were embracing girls…the shaved head Christian group appeared…all these girls without bras, even if they had knee thumpers down to here….girls with hair under their arms…the Indian headbands. I wanted January to be like Rip Van Winkle. She’s away from the real world for three years, then comes into this new one. How could a girl face it? Could she overcome it?

Many girls who have difficult fathers go the other route. They pick a man nobody else wants. They need a man who’ll love them, who’ll come home every night. They pick ugly men, even lame men, because they don’t want to be like their mothers and sit and cry. They don’t want competition. Take Gloria Vanderbilt. She’s seen her mother have problems. So first she married a young handsome guy, and after that who did she marry? Leopold Stokowski, who treated her like the father she never had.

But girls who have marvelous father…look at Grace Kelly. Her father and mine were great friends in Philadelphia. My father looked like Valentino and hers like a red haired Clark Gable. She had to marry a prince. Diana Barrymore drank herself to death trying to be like John. Errol Flynn’s daughter is a stunt girl. Eugene O’Neil’s daughter had to marry Charlie Chaplin.

There are things I thought about before writing Once Is Not Enough. There’ve been lots of things on the Oedipus complex but very few on the Electra. I thought of Susan Zanuck talking about Darryl as if he were a god. These Hollywood girls don’t see their father being picked on by their mom, or sitting drinking beer in front of the TV. They only see them in the glamorous thing.

In Hollywood it’s extreme, but the same pattern exists everywhere. When I helped judge the Miss USA contest, all the girls in the pageant named daddy as their hero. He came first. The Nixon, Bob Hope and Billy Graham. Kennedy, you see, was a movie actor. Eisenhower a grandfather image, that’s my thinking anyway. But Nixon can seem the father. He’s also the loser of all time, and all girls have seen their fathers go through defeat. Hope, he’s the mischievous father figure, the guy with the leer who’s entertaining servicemen and most girls from small towns have brothers in the service. They also have a great church life, so here’s Billy Graham, a handsome man, not a musty old creature. He as sex appeal, and they identify with him.

All these girls have their daddies wrapped around their little fingers. If they get married and the marriage goes bad, Daddy says it’s the husbands how’s wronged his darling. “I knew from the start he wasn’t the man for you.”
This affects them all their lives, you see. Lots of women are married to handsome young men and have affairs on the side with father types. That happens a lot. Also when a woman hits forty five she goes for a young man, in sort of a last gasp attempt. She has her face done and body sculpture. She does things her daughters wouldn’t do. I’ve a friend, forty six and he’s twenty eight and she almost died keeping up with him. She had a coronary occlusion playing tennis.

Another problem this leads to is that many people are willing to have an affair but find it impossible to live with the other person. There’s a certain intimacy that has to be hurdled. “Sharing a bathroom is horrifying because they’ve never done that with mother or daddy. I know a girl who won’t spend the night with a man, she goes home, terrified of giving up her privacy. ‘Suppose I snore?’ had asked me. ‘Or suppose he snores? I want to go home and take off my makeup and dream of him as beautiful’

Men are that way, too. They don’t want to know about women when they have the curse, to see her with the KY jelly, the diaphragm, the stockings and girdle hanging in the bathroom. They takes it all away from them. They don’t want to see her when her eyelashes come off. In my day, life was simple–no false eyelashes. I know girls who’ve had affairs, lost their eyelashes and found them stuck on the guy’s fanny.

And the men too, now. They say, ‘Don’t touch my hair, it’s just been teased.’ I know girls who’ve gone to bed with men who put on hairnets.

Many women remain single because they cannot find a man who stacks up to daddy. And men, too, homosexuals looking for mother.

Don’t think I’m against homosexuality. I’m all for it. I think it’s highly civilized. In Greece it was, ‘women for babies, men for love.’ Where is the law that says men must marry women if they don’t want to? Where is it written? It’s only law of nature that says we must have man-woman love to create children. But with the population explosion….

And they’re not hurting anyone. I’m for all kinds of love, whatever kinds there are. A person’s love for animals. A nun’s love for Jesus.

Except nuns have changed, too. I was talking with one in slacks and asked her if she’d ever had an affair. She said ‘With a man or with a woman?” I broke up!! Then she hastened to clear up what might become another misapprehension. Having a single homosexual experience doesn’t make you a homosexual, you know. I tried to show that in my new book. People think my character of Karla is a lesbian, but she isn’t, not really. Karla basically cares more for men, but she simply feels safer with women. She was raped in Poland by all those ‘Russians, and the first bit of beauty in her life was the nun who’s been a ballerina.

The other books took me a year and a half to write. This one took me two and a half because of my smoking problem. I had a three pack a day habit. I tried for five years to stop. I went to a smoke shrink. I went to a hypnotist, I drank tons of water, I climbed the walls. During the brief periods when I’d quit I dreams tat if I had terminal cancer I could at least smoke a cigarette. Then Irving got a polyp, and I made a deal with God. I promised that if Irving’s polyp wasn’t malignant, I’d stop. It wasn’t and I did. Irving says I use God like the William Morris office.

Each book has taken five years off my life. When you’ve written all day and think you have a great scene, maybe twenty, thirty pages, then at three in the morning you sit up straight and know it’s all wrong. You go in the living room and watch the sun come up. You tear up what you’ve written. You have to be an architect, a master jigsaw puzzler, a psychiatrist. Part of my talent comes from my achieving background. I act the part out, I feel it. Even Linda in this book. “She’s a born loser, but I understand it when she takes a different man every night just to prove she’s a woman. There are so many lesbians in this world. You see all these girls in their twenties who have IQ’s of 150 and handle their work so well, but in personal life they’re like eight year olds. Then you meet a girls who’s klutzy in her job, but she can hold a man.

So many women don’t understand practical things. Reporters ask me now how much money I have. I can never tell because of the royalties constantly coming in. I just got a check from France for seventy eight thousand dollars for Love Machine. People keep buying them, other countries bring them out, there are reissues. Turkey used to steal my books, not they’ve come out and bought this one. I don’t know how much money I have. It is nice to walk into a store and know I can afford something I like that costs tow hundred dollars,but it was more fun when I was 18 and there was a dress at Saks that cost fifty dollars. I thought about that one for a month before I bought it.

I never thought of myself as a poor little girl. Father always lived as though we were rich, whether there were three $5000 commissions in one month or whether there were three whole months without a job at all. I never knew money was a problem. That’s the way daddy wanted it…”

I don’t believe in life after death, and yet I do. I have a wonder head sculpted of daddy, life-size. On my bad nights when I can’t sleep, I talk to him. We have this circular living room that overlooks Central Park, and I get daddy out and put him on the breakfront. I go off to fix a drink, and I say to him, “Don’t go away.” I talk to him in heaven, too. When someone I love died last year, I told him, “Daddy, Carol’s up there. Introduce her around.”

Taken from the Playgirl October 1973 Interview

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