Happy Halloween darlings. It's the most spookiest time of the year, The Gay Christmas. And to be especially festive, I've posted this lovely painting of Donald Duck's Halloween done by the legendary Disney artist Carl Barks.
Speaking of Gay Christmas, there's an election next week. Did you know? They've been keeping it quiet, so few people even know about it. But with any luck, six days from now, we'll be able to speak of "President Elect Mandingo."
But if you live in California, be sure to vote NO on Proposition 8. It's just simple fairness. We call it "Equal Rights." You see it's this simple: either everyone has the same rights as everybody else, or they don't. The lying bigoted assholes behind the "Yes on 8" campaign, like the Mormon Church for instance, say "Restore Traditional Marriage". You remember "Traditional Marriage." That's when a teenage boy knocks up a Republican Governor's teenage daughter; they're forced to marry, they make each other miserable beyond belief for a few years, and then they either divorce, or one kills the other. Lovely thing, Traditional Marriage. But the thing about Traditional Marriage is, it doesn't need "restoring" because it hasn't gone away. All we've done is expand it to include everyone.
The liars say they won't be able to practise their idiot religions. Nonsense. Members of bigoted, small-minded religions, like The Mormons for instance (Odd people to champion "Traditional Marriage," since for Mormons, that involves one husband and three to ten wives. Some "Tradition."), won't be forced to perform gay weddings, they just also won't be able to force their imbecilic beliefs and tenets on other people, you know, like the way The First Amendment says they shouldn't anyway. So vote No on Proposition 8. Let everyone be miserable, not just the straight folks.
Last year for Halloween, Little Dougie told the tale of his friend Larry Vincent. it bears repeating, so feel free to click on Mister Halloween, and read it again.
However, for this Halloween, I thought I'd share a tale from my universally-available autobiography My Lush Life, this time, the tale of my scariest marriage, a very non-gay marriage that could make anyone prefer gay marriage.
If there's any name people associate with me more than my own, it's Frankenstein. Of course, in 1968, I co-starred with the divine Peter Cushing in the Hammer horror classic Frankenstein's Reason for Living. In this unusual story, Frankenstein put the brain of Jack-The-Ripper into the body of a dead female street-walker, played by me, so I was The Frankenstein Monster in that movie. It was a challenge, since I had to play a man in a woman's body. The trick to playing a man is remembering that all men think with their penises. But I don't have a penis to think with, no matter how many thousands of them I've borrowed. But then I realized that my male brain didn't have one when he was in my body either, so I didn't have to think at all!
Anyway, my story takes place many years earlier. In 1933, The Great Evil [Prohibition] was repealed, and I set out to celebrate. That was the last thing I remember before begining My Lush Life, Chapter 13:
When I awoke I was lying in my bed in Morehead Heights, next to an unfamiliar man. When I looked closer, I realized I did recognize him, and when I did, I let out a scream. I was lying, naked, next to the equally naked, Scariest Man In The World, Boris Karloff!
Boris woke up, looked over at me with his hooded, monster’s eyes, and said: "Good morning, Tallulah dear." And then leaned over and kissed me.
"Mr. Karloff," I said, "Aren’t you being a bit forward?"
"Aren’t we formal today, Mrs. Karloff?" Boris replied, and I went into shock.
What woman hasn’t woken up after a particularly Social party and found herself married to a strange man? I’m sure that’s happened to all my readers once or twice. But who else has woken up from a party and found themselves married to Frankenstein’s monster?
Not that I wish to malign dear Boris; he was actually a very nice, soft spoken, polite Englishman, with an incomprehensible, boring obsession with cricket. In any event, finding myself married to Boris Karloff was only one of the shocks I had waiting for me that morning.
Once I stirred up Terrence, he filled me in and I had the largest series of surprises since the time Mildred Puett woke me up in Tijuana more than twenty years before. The big shock wasn’t that I was Mrs. Pratt [Dear Boris’ real name was William Henry Pratt. Thank Heaven he changed it.], it was that it was 1934! My blackout had lasted just a little over a year! Honey, when I celebrate, I really cook!
Studio head Louie B. Thalberg had been furious when I’d disappeared without a trace for more than six months. One production had to be cancelled and then another had been shot with my role being played by Delores Delgado! That was the lowest blow of all! I was on suspension.
Eventually I had been found in San Francisco, working as a drag queen! Worse than that, I hadn’t been too successful. When Terrence and Major Babs came to collect me, the owner of the club where I’d been performing said to them, "Tell your friend that if he wants to be a convincing woman three words: Depilatory and Face Lift. And if he must impersonate a celebrity, why not someone other than that washed-up old hag Morehead? Now, how about settling his bar bill?" What a rude monster! How sensible of loyal Major Babs to have broken his collarbone.
Once I’d been brought back to Los Angeles, a disgusted Louie loaned me out to Metro, where I was now halfway through shooting a film with Boris Karloff, a sequel to his The Mask Of Fu Manchu called Fu Manchu’s Blessed Event! I was playing Fu Manchu’s white mistress (As with all the Fu Manchu movies, the film was wildly racist.) who gives him a son.
Yes, you read that right. It wasn’t bad enough that I’d lost an entire year in a Social Blackout, failed as an unconvincing drag queen, had missed out on two films, been replaced by the extremely untalented Delores Delgado (Thank God the film tanked at the box office), been suspended, been loaned out to Metro, was appearing in a racist piece of escapist claptrap (As opposed to the always high-class, quality films I made at PMS) and had married The Scariest Man In The World, but, worst of all, I was playing a MOTHER! Could I possibly sink any lower?
I learned the answer to that question when I arrived at Metro later that day and saw my costume.
Apparently Boris and I had had a whirlwind courtship and married three weeks into production. Further, I had been the aggressor in the relationship.
Oddly, considering that for most of the film I’m performing in a Social Stupor, I received some of the best reviews of my career, with Variety calling Boris and I "The Lunt & Fontanne of horror movies." So immediate was my fan response among the Horror Community that both Universal, the Horror Headquarters of America, and RKO, which was trying to compete with Universal for the horror dollar, asked Louie for loan-outs of me. Universal had the brilliant idea of teaming "Horror’s Big Three", namely Boris, Bela Lugosi and I, in a film that could charitably be described as "Loosely Adapted" from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Pussy. RKO wanted to feature me in HER! Louie, still disgusted with my disappearance, agreed to both films, but with one proviso; they would have to wait until I first shot a super-spectacle for him at PMS.
Paramount had had a huge success that year with Cecil Blunt DeMille’s Cleopatra, starring Claudette Colbert . Everyone expected them to turn out a sequel but DeMille instead chose other projects, announcing that there could be no sequel to Cleopatra. How wrong he was.
Our legal department had discovered that Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Egypt and the Roman Empire were actual historical personages and places and thus in the public domain. Paramount didn’t own them. Anybody could make a movie about them. Thus Louie B. Thalberg, who never saw a bandwagon he couldn’t jump on, decided that if DeMille wouldn’t make a sequel, Von Millstone would. And so I came to play the title role in PMS most expensive movie ever, The Revenge Of Cleopatra!
I played Cleopatra, of course, and Rod Towers played Caesar Augustus. Despite being a natural Platinum blonde, I played Cleopatra as a brunette, thus demonstrating the broad range of my legendary versatility. The film begins at the very moment that DeMille’s picture ended. Cleopatra lies dying of snake bite beside the body of Marc Antony. My faithful friend Polidorus, played by the immensely tall (Six foot seven) and strong character man Harry Rumpole, sucks the snake venom from my wound. [Terrence, venom-sucking expert that he was, voluntarily spent many long hard hours demonstrating snake sucking techniques to Harry Rumpole. So enthusiastic was Harry about the lessons he received that the coaching continued after the venom-sucking scene had been shot, and, in fact, even after the entire movie was completed. That’s professionalism!]
Over Antony’s body I vow revenge on Octavius who killed him and has become Emperor Caesar Augustus of Rome. With Polidorus’ help I travel to Rome, disguised as a Greek Princess, intending to make Augustus fall in love with me so I can then kill him and take over his empire.
When I get to Rome all goes according to plan. I find Caesar Augustus is under the influence of his evil wife Livia, played to perfection by Delores Delgado, and her cruel son Tiberius, played by the always amusing Vincent Lovecraft. I seduce Augustus and he falls for me hard. I’m about to kill him when we meet Jesus Christ (Spencer Hooks), when he comes to Rome with his disciples. I realize that I’m now in love with Augustus and we both convert to Christianity. With the help of Jesus and the disciples we foil the evil plans of Tiberius and Livia and kill them. Then the Roman Empire converts to Christianity and Augustus becomes the first Pope. Jesus himself gives the Pope special permission to marry me and we live happily ever after in the newly built Vatican.
As this brisk summary of what is, after all, a four hour movie, shows, unlike DeMille’s pagan orgy of gratuitous sex and violence, our film was a moving and deeply religious epic about the power of Faith to change history.
Critics were stunned by this massive film, and their reviews reflected their bewilderment: The Times wrote: "In The Revenge Of Cleopatra Miss Tallulah Morehead makes a spectacle of herself." Variety wrote: "In his Egyptian/Roman epic Cyril Von Millstone is unfettered by historical fact" The Christian Science Monitor, never my fan since I cancelled my subscription, gushed: "Miss Morehead’s performance as Cleopatra is every bit as believable as the screenplay." The London Times wrote: "Watching a movie in which Cleopatra, Caesar Augustus and Jesus Christ creep about a palace at night and stab Livia and Tiberius to death in their beds, is to understand how far civilization can sink."
Though popular, the film was simply too expensive to turn a profit and plans for a second sequel, Cleopatra Saves Atlantis, were scrapped despite the most powerful screenplay I’d ever had summarized for me, and I went off to Universal to work with my husband again, this time with Bela Lugosi as well, in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Pussy.
I hear you out there, loyal reader darlings, saying "Tallulah dear, I worship the stool you drink on, and I believe every word of this inspiring autobiography, but I’ve seen The Black Cat with Karloff and Lugosi, and you are not in it." I will explain.
I reported to work at Universal with Boris, Bela, some hopelessly plain looking little actressette named Jacqueline Wells *, and darling David Manners who was gorgeous and who I would have been all over like L’Orange on duck if it weren’t for the facts that: 1. My husband was in the film and on the set of a picture about a man who murders his faithless wife and her lover, and 2. David was just the merest whisper, if you follow me. Presiding over us was the dark, fascinating master Edgar G. Ulmer.
The film made some slight changes in Poe’s story, but basically I play Boris’ wife, who is having an affair with Bela Lugosi. (I know-insane!) Boris finds out and walls us up alive in the cellar. When the police come and knock on the fresh brick wall they hear what sounds like the wail of a bewildered kitty come from behind the partition. The police tear down the wall and find Bela and I behind it, still alive and using our last bits of oxygen to make passionate love as we die. (Well, what would you do in that situation?) The wails they heard were my passionate moans. Boris then goes completely crazy, laughing dementedly and saying over and over: "It was the pussy! It was that awful, disgusting, smelly black pussy! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" Bela and I are rescued and live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, during my blackout celebrating the return of alcoholic freedom to America, Beelzebub’s minions had conquered Liberty in another way. Lucifer’s second-in-command [The Breen Office] had inflicted Satan’s Manifesto [The Motion Picture Production Code] on the motion picture industry and the movie business had capitulated! The First Amendment was used for toilet paper for the next thirty years!
The Black Pussy was declared completely unacceptable for release, and Carl Laemmle Junior took the unprecedented steps of cutting me and my storyline out of the film altogether, instead building up a minor subplot about a devil cult that Boris runs as a hobby into the main show. The only glimpses of me in the released film that you saw were some shots of me lying in bed beside Boris, photographed through gauze netting. Another actress, a little nobody named Lucille Lund, replaced me in a few scenes as Boris’ new wife, who is supposed to be Bela’s daughter, who is killed off early. Jacqueline Wells’ and David Manners’ characters, extremely minor supporting parts in the original film, are built up into the hero and heroine. In short, the film was defaced beyond all recognition!
The Breen office even objected to the title! Classic American Literature apparently meant nothing to those barbaric cultural vandals. Hence the name change to The Black Cat, and, just to strip the icing from the cake, they even stuck a cat in the picture! Subtlety was completely lost on the philistine Mr. Breen.
By the time the ruined film was in release Boris and I were divorced. Our marriage had been placid at best, dull at worst. Boris drank in moderation, ate in moderation, made love in moderation, he was, in fact, just too English for words! But the worst thing was his inexplicable obsession with cricket! Every single weekend he attended cricket matches. I didn’t even know there were cricket matches in Los Angeles, but apparently a bunch of English misfit malcontents had some sort of cricket club and Boris never missed a game. I went with him exactly once! The game is incomprehensible, The athlete’s outfits are unsexy, and they served TEA! I’d rather talk clothes with Terrence.
At Morehead Heights things were peaceful. Boris and Major Babs (Whom Boris knew only as Illinois Smith) shared an interest in military history. Boris loved dogs and so took to Terrence’s Yorkshire terrier Felicia, and the Headless Indian Brave was frightened of Boris and avoided him.
The marriage might have worked out if Boris hadn’t been so damned curious. I had this one cupboard at Morehead Heights that I kept padlocked. Boris wouldn’t leave it alone and one day I was awakened from a sound, restful stupor by the sound of a man shrieking in terror. Not thinking clearly as I was shocked awake, I grabbed an immense butcher knife and ran upstairs, followed by closely by Major Babs. There we found Boris standing before the padlocked cupboard, which he had pried open with a crowbar. It so happened that this was the cupboard in which I kept the jars containing the "Keepsakes" I’d supposedly sliced off my late husbands in Bluebeard’s Daughter, which I kept locked up, as they were valuable movie prop souvenirs.
As it happened, I’d never told Boris they were in there, so he didn’t know they were only props made by the brilliant artisans at PMS. Boris, I’m afraid, thought they were real! Then he turned and saw me running towards him brandishing that huge knife! Well, it was too much for poor Boris. The Scariest Man In The World was terrified! He cupped his hands over his crotch, screamed: "You won’t get mine, Devil Woman!" and turned and crashed through a second floor window. Fortunately Terrence happened to be outside and broke his fall or Boris might have slipped right off the end of Tumescent Tor to certain death! As it was, both men spent four weeks in hospital.
Even after the misunderstanding was cleared up, Boris wouldn’t come back. Some traumas just strike a man too deep. We divorced on grounds of irreconcilable differences and went our seperate ways. Four husbands down. would I ever find True Love?
[I must emphasize that the Karloff family and all historical documentation denies every word of this chapter. So far as we can establish it, Tallulah was never married to Boris Karloff. We can only assume that Tallulah’s memories of making those two films with him while still recovering from her End Of Prohibition bender have eroded over the years into a false memory. Fortunately, this is a Show Business Star Autobiography, so Truth isn’t an issue. -Douglas]