Thursday, 31 January 2013
Shock and Awe
By Dolores Banerd
In the late 1940s, when I was growing up, Canada was a drab, dreary country. Sure, it had a few good excuses. At that time, it was still gamely struggling to recover from two misery-making disasters: The Great Depression and World War II.
Only a few events from that bleak era burn brightly in my memory. This is about one of them.
It was a dark, damp day - all our days seemed darkish and dampish – as I sat by myself on a large log on a local beach called English Bay. It was a cheerless place - nothing like the splendid, sugary sand beaches in Hawaii - a grimy mix of gritty sand, sharp rocks, nuisancy flies and slimy kelp all generously peppered with seagull poop. In other words, it was a crappy beach.
But as I gazed to my left, I was shocked to see a woman of such extraordinary beauty that I lost both speech and breath. I froze, transfixed by this vision of loveliness with her flawless fair complexion, dazzling green eyes, perfect white teeth and golden hair. A goddess.
And not just an ordinary goddess but an instantly recognizable one. It was Lana Turner, the reigning Queen of Hollywood.
She was resting on a log only a few feet from me. When she turned towards me and smiled, a soft, serene smile, nothing fakey, flashy or film star-y about it at all, my heart thumped wildly but I remained awestruck – statue-still, saucer-eyed, ice-brained - just blissing out and staring and blissing out and staring.
This could not be real. A gawky prepubescent 10-year girl, and a backwoodsy Canadian to boot, with half-chewed fingernails and boring brown hair always cut by her mother (and not well) would never meet a movie superstar. Never. Ever.
Then, after my brain thawed just a little, a question jumped into my head. What was the pinup queen of all pinup queens doing in Vancouver? It was always bleak, drab and damp. Always. In other words, it was a really crappy place. No matter what anyone else tells you.
Of course, it has since blossomed into a magnificent metropolis and while it was doing that, ever-so-slowly, Lana Turner went on to star in some of her hottest movies and I am not lying or exaggerating when I say that.
I still get goosey bumps when I think of her in Imitation of Life and Madam X. Of course, because she was such a beauty, and she had a bombshell body, she also got into mischief. Not small mischief either but big mischief with a gaggle of husbands (seven in all) and many lovers.
One was Johnny Stompanato, a minor gangster and major bully who was probably the steamiest of all her Romeos, but in 1958 Lana’s 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl, stabbed him to death.
For a long time after, the newspapers screamed out the sordid details and the shocking scandal sullied Lana’s reputation and nearly torpedoed her career. But it didn’t because Johnny Stompanato was a badass and Lana was a luscious peach - and don’t forget that bombshell body - that the public swiftly forgave and quickly forgot.
Well, that’s all that happened. I sat on a local beach. Lana Turner, one of the world’s most alluring actresses, rested on a log next to me.
It wasn’t much - not much at all – except to me. To me it was a big deal, a huge deal, and yet I never told anyone about it. I knew that no one, but especially my crappy older sisters and brother, would believe that someone as red-hot as Lana Turner would visit our city because then, as I have already carefully explained to you, it was such a crappy place.
For many years after, I still did not mention this mind-blowing miracle to anyone because I had started to wonder myself if I had only imagined that Lana Turner, the real deal Lana Turner, had sat on our crappola beach. Next to me. Me. A crappy 10-year old.
To my surprise, only a few years ago I was able to stop wondering. I read in a movie magazine - so obviously it must be true - that Lana Turner and her then-husband, Bob Topping, drove from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Canada, some time between 1948 and 1951.
I was so pleased.
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