Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Halloween Memory

Hello darlings. I thought that for a Halloween treat, I'd share with you the story of my greatest romance, taken from the pages of my beliked autobiography, My Lush Life, so you can share the story that has moved the hearts of upwards of 40 people worldwide.

Cheers darlings.

Chapter 13.

Countess Tallulah

Transylvania in the late twenties; has there ever been a more romantic setting? The forests, the mountains, the schlosses outlined against the sky in the moonlight, the bats, the wolves, the screams of the peasants, the streams of blood, the constant moaning in the background day and night, romance seems to waft through the air. And it was there, high in the idyllic Carpathians that I had the wildest romance of my very long life.

Lovely as London is, it held too many memories from two marriages back, so I gave it a miss this time out. For obvious reasons I also decided to skip Berlin, and indeed, Germany altogether. We sailed to France, where I was known as Le Sousé. We landed at Le Havre, then river cruised to Paris, lovely city, the wine so fine, the people so rude. Then we went by train to Cannes, then Nice, which was, then, by ship again, to Rome, where I was known as La Lushio. Oh, those Italian men were so forward. Poor Terrence’s tush was black and blue. Finally, we motored deep into Romania, where my fame had never been penetrated, so I could finally be incognito, arriving at last in the small, unspoiled Transylvanian village of Klotsburg, taking rooms at the local inn: The Nosferatu.

The Nosferatu was a simple, picturesque place, nestled against the towering Carpathians. Just outside, standing atop the mountain peak was the awesome sight of Schloss Tepes, a crumbling mediaeval castle so positioned that from late afternoon to sunset The Nosferatu was literally in it’s shadow. I point this fact out to the reader so you will understand my puzzlement when I tell you that no one at the Inn would acknowledge the existence of Schloss Tepes. I would ask "What’s the name of that castle, darling?"

"What castle?" the ones who spoke English would reply.

"The really big, crumbly one, just outside."

"There is no castle."

"That one, right there, dominating the landscape."


"The one you can plainly see through the window."

"I don’t see any castle."

"Look, let me move this garlic out of the way and you’ll clearly see it."


"All right, darling, but look. See the castle? You can’t really see anything else. Good God, look at the size of it!"

"I don’t see any castle."

And so it went. No one would admit to it’s existence, even though it commanded the view. These people had less truck with reality than Pete Moss. But the people were friendly, religious folk. Every last one of them was wearing an enormous crucifix. One terribly sweet ancient crone came up to us the first afternoon, trying to press crucifixes on us. "No, no," I told her, "I don’t want to buy any native crafts. But here, have one of my personally autographed pictures."

"No, no," the adorable, withered dowager replied, "Not for sale. A gift. For the lovely lady, the big man, and you."

A perceptive woman, she’d apparently seen right through Major Babs drag, something Terrence had yet to do. I found her description of Terrence as a "Big Man" odd though. He was actually very diminutive in height (Shorter than Major Babs) and slight, almost delicate of build. In fact, he always wore shoulder pads in all his blouses to give himself more heft. I still demurred from accepting the precious hags offerings, "You must understand, I’m a Christian Scientist, except for all the doctrines. We don’t wear those things."

"Please, glamorous lady," the insistent, cherished biddy continued, "Wear this for your mother’s sake. It will protect you."

That was, of course, absolutely the wrong thing to say to get me to do anything. I turned to Terrence and said: "Give the hag an autographed picture for her trinkets and get rid of her."

The one thing that seemed to be missing from the idyllic existence in Klotsburg was any kind of nightlife. Everybody just seemed to want to hide away in their bedrooms the moment the Sun set. It was only the gentle persuasiveness of Major Babs that induced the landlord to keep the bar room open after dusk so I could sample the charming local liqueurs. I was happily sampling a variety of interesting drinks when the main door suddenly banged open, though I had been positive that the landlord had bolted, barred and barricaded it the instant the Sun sank. Everyone in the room seemed to shrink back, and grab hold of their crucifixes.

Then into the room strode the most magnetic man I’d ever seen. He was tall, clean shaven except for a long white mustache, and clad from head to foot, without a single speck of color about him anywhere. His face was a strong-very strong-aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy mustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor. His most striking feature was a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed to gleam red in the lamplight.

His eyes swept the room as the occupants shrank back from him. "Where is the American woman?" he asked in a commanding tone, with a rich, deep voice, colored by a tremendously sexy accent, "Ah, here you are, my dear."

When those bright red eyes fell on me, I felt a shiver run through my whole body. Drowning in those eyes, I felt an overwhelming desire to surrender to him completely. The man stretched out his hand towards me. Major Babs, who can sometimes be a little overzealous, stepped forward and grabbed the man’s arm saying, "Hold it right there, fella."

The man seemed merely to flick his wrist, but Major Babs went flying across the room, to land in an unconscious heap on the floor. The man took my hand and kissed it. A ripple of intense excitement flooded me. I noticed, oddly, that he had hairy palms, not unlike my stepfather, Maxie. He said: "Allow me to introduce myself, dear lady. I am Count Vlad Tepes, the traditional feudal lord of these peasants. I live in lovely Schloss Tepes, which you must have been admiring through the windows all day. Welcome to my homeland. Enter freely, and of your own will."

"Why thank you, Count darling," I replied, "You are most incredibly gracious. My name is Miss Tallulah Morehead."

"Not the Miss Tallulah Morehead, the great American motion picture diva?" he responded.

"Yes darling," I answered, "I had no idea anyone had ever heard of me in this remote corner of the world."

"Oh yes. It’s true," The Count went on, "That there is no cinema in Klotsburg. But I have been known to visit the cosmopolitan metropolis of London periodically, in search of fresh blood, and I have seen several of your most remarkable films."

"Well Count, allow me to introduce my companions. The gentleman you tossed across the room is my bodyguard, Illinois Smith. And this is Terrence, my personal assistant."

"A great lady of your international stature should not be staying in this hovel."

"Oh, I find this place quite charming and unspoiled. And besides, I’m traveling incognito."

"How wise of you. But please, you must allow me to extend the hospitality of Schloss Tepes."

"Oh no, I couldn’t," I lied, "I’m perfectly comfortable here."

"But I insist," the Count went on, "You would be doing me the highest honor."

"Well, since you insist, Count darling. Terrence, pack our bags. We are decamping for Schloss Tepes!"

"I am delighted, my dear," The Count replied, "I will return at once to my castle to prepare your rooms. My coach will call for you here in an hour." And with that the Count was gone in a swirl of black cape. I looked out the window but all I could see was the black hulk of Schloss Tepes looming in the moonlight, and a lone bat flapping its way towards that lofty peak.

As I watched Terrence pack there came a knock at my door. It was the Landlord. "Frau Morehead, bitte," He begged, "Do not go to the Schloss."

"Oh, so now you admit it’s existence."

"Yes, yes, but you must not go there!"

"Don’t be concerned, my good man. I’ll pay for the whole night. Really, this is not the way to compete."

"You don’t understand," the man went on, apparently desperate to keep my business. After all, how many glamorous movie Stars do you suppose he saw each year? "The Count, he is not a man."

"He looked like quite a well-set-up man to me, and I know a thing or two about men."

"But the Count, he is a Monster!"

"Is he really? Do you, by any chance mean he is a man of monstrous proportions? You whet my interest."

"No, I mean a real monster! A bloodthirsty berserker! Do you know what ‘Tepes’ means?"

"A big tipper?"

"No, it means ‘The Impaler’!"

"Vlad the Impaler, you say? You whet my interest even more. I used to know a man named Sherman Oakley, and you could have called him ‘The Impaler’ as well. Count Tepes sounds fascinating!"

"If you go there you will die!"

"Nonsense! You have no way of knowing it, but I’m a screen immortal!"

"I mean it! The Count, he will drain your blood!"

"I insist you stop maligning the Count this way. I don’t think he’d be pleased to hear the way you speak of him."

The landlord’s eyes bulged with terror, an effect I’ve always enjoyed having on unattractive men. "Please, please Frau Morehead, you will not tell him what I said? Please, I have a wife! I have a daughter! Please say nothing to the Count of what I have told you."

"All right, darling. Now be a lamb, and help Terrence take these trunks downstairs."

True to his word, the Count’s coach, what they called a calèche, drawn by four coal-black horses, arrived spot-on an hour after the Count’s departure. The Count’s driver and personal assistant, a runty gentleman named Renfield, loaded my trunks, and then Terrence and I traveled in the calèche while Major Babs followed us driving the rented touring car.

As Schloss Tepes loomed ever closer I looked at it with wonder. It was obviously very old, and not really in the best of repair. It was extremely massive but it’s battlements were broken and everywhere the stone work was crumbling. Not a single ray of light shone from any window. There was something about it, a haunted quality, that reminded me of dear old Morehead Heights, now so far away. I could almost picture the Headless Indian Brave wandering these corridors and feeling perfectly at home.

If I found Schloss Tepes homelike, Terrence had a very different reaction. The closer we got to it, the more Terrence shrank down in his seat, eventually starting to quietly whimper.

"Oh Miss Tallulah," Terrence finally begged, "Can’t we please go back to the inn? You heard what the landlord said. He knows the man. He must know what he’s talking about. I’m terrified! Look at this place. It’s so…so tacky!" Terrence, I’m afraid, was a style snob.

"Terrence," I commanded, "Butch up. And don’t embarrass me in front of the Count. Don’t you think he’s a fine figure of a man?"

"I think he’s scary."

"So do I! Scary in a sexy way."

"No, scary in a terrifying way. He makes my blood run cold." This was unusual. Normally Terrence and I had very similar tastes in men. (i.e. Anything human with a penis.) But there was no time to compare notes further as we had rolled into the Schloss’s roomy courtyard, with Major Babs and the car just behind.

The massive front door opened and the Count was standing there with a lamp, beckoning us in: "Welcome to my home. Come freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring."

"Thank you, darling." I said, laying a big kiss on our host, "Isn’t this just too charming and old world for words?" Indeed it was. The great entrance hall we were in didn’t look to have been dusted or swept in centuries. There was a spider’s web across the great staircase that must have been ten feet in diameter. Major Babs was looking about scowling while Terrence was trying to move about with his eyes closed.

"Sweet Heavens darling, I’d fire the maid if I were you. She’s not pulling her weight. That spider’s web is titanic!"

"The little spider spinning his web," replied the Count, although that spider looked to be a foot across to me, "To catch the unwary fly. The blood is the life, Miss Morehead."

"That’s as may be, but a little housekeeping goes a long way."

"I have no maid, I’m afraid. Just my ‘Personal Assistant’ Renfield and myself, two single men living alone."

"Oh really?" asked Terrence, perking up for the first time. Opening his eyes made him reel. He put out his hand to steady himself, then saw what he was touching and screeched.

"Ah, two bachelors sharing a home," I said, ignoring Terrence’s outburst as usual, "They’re always a little messy, although this place has world-class rot going on. What you need here is a woman’s touch. I’ll have Terrence whip this place into shape in no time."

The resounding noise of wolves howling suddenly filled our ears, followed at once by Terrence’s scream, before he fainted dead away into Major Babs’ arms. The Count said: "Listen to them, children of the night. What music they make."

"Frankly darling," I said: "I prefer a little Gershwin myself. So where are our rooms?"

The Count conducted us, Major Babs carrying Terrence, into a suite of rooms that were bright, clean and cozy. A blazing fire was burning in each room’s fireplace. And in one a feast had been laid out, including a collection of delicious-looking bottles of wine. The Count, perfect host that he was, immediately poured me a goblet of wine. "This is very old wine." He said.

"Aren’t you having any, Count darling?" I asked, noticing that he’d only filled one goblet. As a social drinker I never drink alone unless there’s no other social drinkers around.

"I never drink wine." The Count answered. Good God, a teetotaler! An abstainer! A freak! Maybe he was a monster! But no, a man who didn’t drink, however odd that was, but who served his guests such excellent wine as I was having was obviously highly cultured and civilized. I was already half in love with him. As I heard him say: "I have a whole cellar full of hundreds of bottles of this wine." I fell all the way.

So began our strange, nocturnal existence at Schloss Tepes. The Count was busy days but visited with us every evening. His native customs forbade him from eating with us, but Renfield prepared us delicious food, and there was a steady supply of the great wine.

After a rocky start, Terrence took quite a shine to Renfield. I didn’t see what he saw in the man. Renfield wasn’t too fastidious about his appearance or grooming, his posture was terrible, and then there was his diet. After Terrence told us what he ate, we were glad that he didn’t eat with us either.

The Count was a perfect gentleman. This made me a little suspicious at first, remembering how F. Emmett Knight had been a perfect gentleman from the day we met until the day he’d called me "The Whore Of Babylon" in divorce court. (What slander! I’ve never been anywhere near Babylon!) As far as I’m concerned the term "Perfect Gentleman" is a euphemism for "Boring Date". Between the way the Count never molested me and his roommate situation, I had my suspicions. Certainly Renfield was the merest whisper if ever there was one.

But it soon became apparent that the relationship between the Count and Renfield was strictly that of master and servant, however much more Renfield might have liked. And the Count’s romantic pursuit of me seemed genuine as well. Believe it or not, he just respected me too much to sleep with me before marriage! Go figure.

"The local peasant women," he told me one day after we’d been there several weeks, "They are like my cattle. But you are fit to be my Countess. Will marry me, Miss Tallulah?"

Well, who could resist? The fact was, I’d been head over heels in love with Vlad for some time, and couldn’t wait to be heels over head. I accepted at once and was delighted that he didn’t favor a long engagement either. We decided to be married the next night.

The following evening, in a stunning wedding gown I happened to have brought with me in my luggage, I became Countess Tallulah Morehead Knight Thalberg Tepes. The ceremony was performed by a crotchety old Romanian priest who appeared terrified. Major Babs was Vlad’s best man while Terrence was ring-bearer.

My first husband had been the merest whisper of a homosexual and hadn’t loved me. My second husband had been Louie B. Thalberg, and I can’t imagine what I’d been thinking. Now I was married for the third time to a dashing, romantic and mysterious Old World nobleman in what was a true love match. Alas, our flame burned too brightly, it could not last the night.

I can hardly bring myself to tell the sad, tragic tale of our wedding night. At the wedding feast Vlad, as was his custom, neither ate nor drank, but I more than made up for it, social drinking for two, if you will. I was celebrating at last finding the right man, and the wine and Champaign were flowing all evening. Renfield and Terrence were sobbing in each other’s arms all through both the ceremony and the feast.

Eventually Vlad and I retired to my boudoir to finally make love for the first time. With a name like "The Impaler", I expected Vlad to be a very different sort of lover than he turned out to be. Rather than impaling me, Vlad made love not unlike a lesbian. (I mean, of course, the way I imagine that lesbians make love. As the attentive reader knows, I have no first tongue knowledge of such things.) If I hadn’t seen the evidence with my own eyes, I might have thought he was another male imposter like "Illinois Smith".

But Oh My God, how that man could KISS! No man, before or since, has kissed me as deeply or as passionately. He didn’t simply nibble at my neck for a moment or so. He kissed my throat with a penetrating deepness for what seemed like hours, leaving me feeling both drained and filed with ecstasy. The hickeys he was leaving, which I could clearly see in the mirror above my bed, were not to be believed. (I could clearly see them because Vlad cast no reflection in the mirror to block my view of myself, yet another example of his modesty and consideration. Not being a narcissist he had no need to constantly view himself and simply refrained from casting a reflection.)

Finally, after what seemed like hours of ecstasy, Vlad rolled back off of me, seemingly satiated, his mouth smeared a bright red. "Vlad darling, is that blood on your mouth?" I asked, careful not to sound judgmental.

"You’re damn right it ish, Tallulah old girl." Vlad slurred back.

"Have you been drinking my blood, Vlad my love?" I asked, treading carefully, not wanting to offend him by belittling one of his native customs.

"You bet your shweet ash, Tallulah doll." Vlad garbled.

"How intensely kinky, my one true love."

"You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Tallulah baby. Wash thish." Then Vlad spread his arms so he was lying spread-eagled, naked, on his back on the bed, "Eh? How about them applesh, lady?"

"You’re lovely, my wild one, but what are you doing?"

"I’m turning into a bat." Vlad said, and then broke into a fit of giggles.

"Vlad darling, you’re in such a good mood."

"You probably think I’m batty!" Vlad roared, while laughing his head off, "Wait, wait, wait. I really can turn into a bat. I can. I just have to remember how."

"Vlad, my dearest, if I hadn’t been with you all evening and didn’t know for a fact that you drank no wine or Champaign tonight, I would suspect that you are drunk."

"Thash ridiculoush! I haven’t drunk any alcohol in over four hundred yearsh! Five hundred if you don’t count the crap we drank when I was alive. What did we call that crap? Oh yeah? Mead! Have you ever drunk mead?"

"No, I haven’t had the pleasure."

"Pleashure! Ha! Stuff tastes like bullpissh."

"My dearest darling. You are looped."

"Nonsenshe! All I’ve drunk tonight has been your blood!"

"That’s as may be, but I know drunk when I see it, and you are sloshed."

"Don’t tell my daddy." Vlad senselessly replied, followed by another fit of the giggles. Almost immediately after the giggles he began crying: "You can’t tell my daddy. My daddy’s dead!"

"I’m sorry, Vlad darling."

"I don’t want your pity!" Vlad screamed at me, then started crying again, "I killed my daddy a long time ago. I had to. He…he killed my mommy!"

"There, you see, Vlad, there is a silver lining."

"I loved my mommy!"

"Oh. How novel. I hope it didn’t stunt your emotional growth."

"Shtunt my emotional growth? That’sh rich! Do you know how many people I tortured and murdered when I wash alive?"

"Aren’t you alive now?"

"Over a hundred thousand people! I was mean. I wash the the worsht bad ash in Transylvania! I kicked Turkish butt from here to Conshtantinople!"

"Well I’m sure they deserved it."

"You’re okay, Tallulah," Vlad said, turning weepy again, "You’re really okay. You desherve a lot better than an evil old monshter like me. I’m shorry I ruined your life, Tallulah."

"Vlad darling, you’re just a little inebriated. You’ll feel better after you’ve slept it off. Here, watch the dawn with me."

"The Dawn!" Vlad screamed, "Oh no! Your blood! Ish your God damn blood! I drank your blood and got drunk for the first time in four hundred years! Sho drunk I forgot to get back to my…NO TALLULAH, DON’T OPEN THE CURTAINS!"

I didn’t think it was anything but drunken paranoia. I pulled open the drapes and the morning Sun streamed into the room. What I didn’t know was that my new husband had a rare skin condition. He was fatally allergic to Sunlight! I heard him scream and turned back. At first I didn’t see him. Then I realized that the smoldering pile of ashes smoking on the floor was shaped like my late husband. As I watched a breeze swept in through the open window (The schloss was built before the invention of glass) and blew my husband’s ashes away. Less than twelve hours after the wedding, I was a widow!

(Although oddly, the vivid and enormous love bites, or hickeys as they call them now, that Vlad had inflicted on my neck in the heat of his burning passion, had disappeared within moments of his death.)

Oddly, there wasn’t any trouble with the local authorities over the accidental death of Count Vlad Tepes. I didn’t really feel up to handling any details* , but Terrence, Major Babs and Renfield took care of everything. Not only was there no inquest, but the villagers of Klotsburg seemed glad to be rid of him.

Apparently Vlad wasn’t very popular locally. When given the death certificate I noticed an odd mistake: They had listed Vlad’s year of death as 1476. Not even close!

At the funeral a group of children sang a jolly song in their native language. The landlord of The Nosferatu translated it for me:

"Ding Dong, the Count is dead.
Which old Count,
The wicked Count,
Ding Dong the wicked Count is dead!"

I didn’t feel it was in the best of taste, but the children looked charming. I was given the Key to Klotsburg and declared their national heroine. I gave Schloss Tepes, which now belonged to me, to Renfield. It had been his home for so long and I had Morehead Heights after all. And It was to Morehead Heights I shortly returned, sadder but not wiser.

Ah, Count Vlad Tepes, others may revile you, but I will always cherish the memory of our oh-so-short time together. I will love you forever, my darling.


Doug said...

What a strange and exciting life you have led. I will have to put My Lush Life on my list of books to get.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Well the old joke is, yes, you're strange, and I'm exciting. But don't envy me my dear. It's a terrible burden to be vastly more beautiful and glamorous than everyone else. It cuts into my drinking time something fierce.

Ah dear Count Vlad Tepes, beloved by all, except his victims. I will always treasure our oh so brief time together. He was the third of my many, many husbands.

Happy Halloween. And cheers!