I suspected something was up when I entered Mother's bedroom to say goodnight one evening and she quickly snapped closed a book and stuffed it out of sight. I acted coy and pretended not to notice but it made an indelible blot on my memory to research the next day after school. I had no idea what I was looking for but I knew it was a book of some sort, so then I dug deep under the mattress and found my buried treasure of literary sin. It was not to been seen or read by just anyone. The scandalous book that shook Hollywood and created quite a stir on the best sellers book list. It was the talk of women everywhere and wherever you turned to look you could see the book fastidiously pressed near their face. I found all the hype exciting as a young teen and yet was unable to purchase the book outright due to the age factor, which made it even more necessary to procure a copy. It was always checked out at the library and was a hard thing to find a copy locally.
What a find.....I held before me the bible of Hollywood trash that everyone had to read. One thing though, I had to devise the way to read it without getting caught. There was only a small window of time that I could have reading time and that only existed between the hour of 3:30 and 4 in the afternoon. After 4:15 my Mother would arrive back home from working. I had to make it seem like the book was not touched and to put it neatly back in it's hiding place, to keep from getting found out that I was reading the ultimate dirty novel.
The vultures of upper literary degrees tortured it but it was all the smut and decadence that made it extremely popular. It also referenced the no similarities to persons living or dead, but we all knew who the people were in the story. With every word that I read and every page I turned I inched closer to the top of Mount Everest
and found that "THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS" became a mantra that would follow me through the rest of my crazy adult life. To this day my reference to "Dolls" has been handed down to all the newbies who have never heard of this classic book.
For the time it took me to peruse my way excitedly through this classic, the fear of getting caught made it even more titillating. For every close call there would always ensue a disaster pending while trying to put the book back just seconds before the front door would open.
Take for instance Mother's bottle of "Evening in Paris" perfume that stood artfully on her dresser. In my rush to get the book back in it hiding place, I slipped on the bedside rug them smashed headfirst into the dresser which in turn shook everything on top and a few things came crashing down. First and foremost was Mother's midnight blue bottle of Parisian perfume that smashed into a million pieces all over the bedroom floor which created a smell that would have given a french bordello a run for the money. I had only seconds with which to clean it up which would never have been enough time, so I did the next best thing and grabbed the cat and threw him in the bedroom so that she would think that he knocked it off the dresser. In a split second I made it into my bedroom, shut the door and started the stereo.
My plan of attack worked yet the aroma lingered on my pants so I quickly ran them in the washer to remove the last of any clue that I may have been involved. I felt gleefully happy in my strategic quick thinking yet everywhere in the house it reeked of that scent of "Evening in Paris". The poor cat walked out shaking each paw to try and remove the odor then he got scolded and put outside but the book was where it was hidden and I awaited the next day to continue my adventure of romance with "dolls".
I made it through almost half the book before the second dilemma arose. I was deep in the chapter with Neely and Ted Casablanca when the front door opened and Mother walked in 10 minutes early. I heard no warning of tires crunching on that shale driveway so I reacted swiftly and jumped quickly into her closet to hide behind the dresses and shoes. Unfortunately I had to use the bathroom, actually needed to thirty minutes earlier, but could not put the book down, so with a full bladder and book in hand I leaped into the closet and hoped for the best.
I knew that she would come in and change and usually did not require the closet right away, so I awaited her change of clothes and knew that she would make a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen and then go and sit in the Florida room to have her welcome home cigarette.
As many times as I saw this repeat day after day, the phone suddenly rings and my Aunt decides to have a long winded conversation with her while I danced a soft jig in the closet trying not to pee my pants. Out of the corner of eye I noticed a bit of light coming through the door and illuminating the shiny top of a jar that held my Mothers previously used nylons. I could see the mirage that was shaped like a toilet begin to form in my head and knew that jar could help relieve the built up pressure that I felt from having to use the bathroom. I meticulously and quietly unscrewed the top of the jar and dumped out the nylons and slow and carefully relieved myself, filling the jar almost to the brim. I had dropped, in my haste, the top of the jar and was unable to locate it so, without spilling the full jar I held it tight and waited patiently for their conversation to end.
Mother finally took her stroll into the kitchen. I peeked out from the closet door then pummeled myself thru the clothes as quietly as I could, stepping over the shoes and made it out without spilling much of the liquid from the open mouthed jar. I was on the home stretch when I saw her rising out her chair and heading toward me. Panic ensued and I was trying to find a quick solution to the jar that I held. The bathroom was too far away for me to get to so I ducked into my brothers room where I ungracefully tripped over the pile of dirty clothes that were strewn about and the jar and its contents went flying across the room landing precariously on my brothers bed. Not much sound was heard and no breaking of glass, but the bed was covered in the liquid from the jar. Luckily she heard nothing and breezed by not noticing anything. The wet aromatic catastrophe left it's trail, but I decided that trying to clean it up was not a possibility as the room smelled like a locker room from dirty teenager clothes anyway so I left it to dry on it's on. I cleaned up what little was on the floor with some of the soiled clothes and left the room shutting the door to keep it's secret within. I figured I would blame it on the cat once more if asked, but it never came up or was discovered.
I celebrated the conclusion of the book yet I felt sad that my secret reading had come to an end. I knew how it all ended up, yet it left me with wanting to be a part of it all. I yearned to be an adult and live like they did and have what they had. Bigger seemed better and fame was the race that needed to be run.
Little did I know what path that would lead me to and how that would always beckon me on to have more and when that would be accomplished, restart the whole process over
When I recall those days of reclusive reading, I had no idea that this book would turn out to be the cult item that it is today. It's content was not of words from a great novelist but it created a world that all who read it wanted to be a part of. The makings of any great book seems to be based on drugs, sex and money, with unrequited love in the mix. For me it gave me the fantasy of what every young star struck person wanted and that was a view into the life unknown but by only a chosen few.
To be rich and famous and have the ability to have everything your hearts desire resonated in the pages of "DOllS".
I wanted my appearance to get me places like Anne Wells. I figured that if I was handsome enough I could be taken to new heights and and have the class attitude that came with "classy looks". Money would fall all around me and I would have my pick of many lovers.
I wanted my body to be a chiseled form with a firm torso and firm limbs that were envious to all who gazed upon it. My body was to be like an "art film" just like Jennifer North starred in. The only "nudies" I would appear in would be alone in my shower leaving everyone to wonder what biology might have done for me.
The true raw and savage talent that plagued Neely O'Hara, I wanted running through my veins. I wanted to expose my gift of voice for everyone to listen to and I wanted to feel the sensation of "mass love" without the self destructive personality. I secretly wanted to know what the "Dolls" actually did, afterall they were fashionably mode to take and it seemed everyone participated so why not me?
So.............now I have come to know the reality hidden between the pages of "DOllS" and what life did bestow on me and those chosen few. Life did appear to be a climb only now you realize that you never should have left the valley floor. The struggle to get to the top was always a let down and an illusion. When you felt you had peaked, you realized the it was not what it seemed when looking up at it. Staying firmly on the ground was the safest spot and the rush of exhilaration you thought you would feel in the climb became elusive.
The intensive work and time that it took to have a firm solid body took away precious moments of time that could have been used enjoying the things that really moved your heart instead of a workout machine. Physical time, that would have strengthened your senses to your surroundings and the people that surrounded you at the time.
The gift of talent that one possesses is innate and comes from within. You just have to be aware that it exists. It appears at various times yet distractions can cause it to fade into the back, yet it is always ready to be noticed. I used to think that fame would drive my talent and singing or making a movie would put my star ahead of everyone else. In many ways, while not in a Hollywood movie, I always had my star right there with the rest. It was always bright and shining and it took me to places only few have been chosen to see. At times it seemed "better living through chemistry" but when all was filtered out, there was no self destruction. I am still standing and had created my own "living legend", something that we all do from the talent that was there all the time.
We always like a good book on an air flight to pass the time. My own private "Valley of the Dolls" has one incredible epilogue and enough footnotes to spawn a new novel. My journey to the top led me to the bottom where I now look up to see the sky that holds my own personal star which is still shimmering. It's falling dust now light's the path for my tomorrow.