After I persuaded Clemmie to return Benita's wardrobe, the next several days were relatively uneventful...Oh, Clemmie had her moments, like when she attempted to burn all the dresses Benita had bought her (I couldn't entirely blame her, they are hideous), or when she put itching powder into my wife's compact (Benita rationalized it as an allergic reaction), or when Clemmie strolled into my shower with a camera (I now lock the door), but, in truth, things were far calmer than I expected...yet I still voiced concerns over Benita hosting a meeting of the "Hollywood Women's Club", at our home.
"It's too soon," I insisted. "Clemmie has only been here a few days, and anything might happen!"
Benita tut-tutted me, sympathetically. "Haven't you begun to see that Clemmie is just a sweet little monkey?"
"King Kong began as a sweet little monkey," I muttered, then changed the subject. "How in the world can you keep a club meeting with both Bette Davis AND Joan Crawford in attendance from turning into a major catfight?"
Benita giggled. "With rules we strictly enforce! We don't allow conversations about husbands, we don't discuss personal lives, and, most importantly, there is NO ALCOHOL allowed! Most of the girls only get ugly when they're drinking...I make a non-alcoholic punch, and that's all we serve, when we meet."
"A very wise decision," I agreed. "What does your group do?"
"We talk about the studios and the community, discuss problem areas, and try to improve things for everybody! Irene Dunne is the Chairwoman, and I'm the Secretary...you know, Ronnie, you should stick around, and watch us work! The girls would love to see you, and you might have a lot of fun!"
"Attend a women's club meeting? No, thank you!" I rose quickly from the couch. "I have a meeting scheduled with Johnny Holiday to discuss my LUX radio appearance, and the Ben-Hur musical he's producing, then we're going to Ciro's for drinks...I should be home by 7, or so..." Arm-in-arm, we walked out to the car...
...and a simian eavesdropper emerged, from behind a chair!
With a giggle, Clemmie proceeded to the bar...
By 2PM, a collection of the finest actresses in Hollywood had assembled. In addition to Benita and Irene Dunne, Joan Crawford, Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, Ann Sheridan, Barbara Stanwyck, and Bette Davis were in attendance.
Benita called the meeting to order...
"Good afternoon, ladies! We have eight present, and written acknowledgements from Alice Faye, Myrna Loy, Lana Turner, Dorothy Lamour, and Loretta Young, who were unable to attend, so we have a quorum! Clemmie, bring out the refreshments!"
Grinning broadly, the monkey carried in a tray, and gave each actress a glass of 'punch'.
Marlene Dietrich quickly downed hers, saying, "I'm parched!"
"Benita!" she exclaimed. "This is DELICIOUS! What an unusual taste, and lovely 'bite'...Are you sure it's non-alcoholic?"
"Absolutely!" Benita chirped. "I added tropical fruit to the mix, which must be providing the 'bite'...Drink up, ladies, I made plenty!"
By the third glass, everyone was feeling more than a bit 'in their cups'...
Chairwoman Irene Dunne was attempting to give a report..."I cannot stress enough the importance...the importance...what is that important? Oh, excuse me, I HAVE to go to the bathroom!" She quickly left the room...
Bette Davis glared at Joan Crawford! Downing her fourth glass of punch, she snarled, "Face it, ladies, we'll never get the studios to take our demands seriously, as long as dear Joan keeps kissing-up to L.B. Mayer!"
"Oh, bite me, Bette! You just can't stand that I'm a star at the biggest studio in town, and you're at crummy Warner Brothers!"
"Want to count Oscars, Joan?"
"Want to compare Box Office, Bette?"
Barbara Stanwyck interrupted them.
"Can't we all just get along?" she asked, then sipped her drink. She noticed Irene, unsteadily re-entering the room. "Irene," she asked, "Can't you do something?"
"I...I...I have to go potty," she mumbled, and stumbled back to the bathroom!
"Benita!" Barbara said, "Calm things down!"
My wife attempted to rise, then sank back into her chair...
"Wake me when the war is over," she mumbled, and promptly passed out!
"Dear, dear Joanie," Bette hissed, "When will you realize the world doesn't revolve around a tiny, big-shouldered, over-age Charleston dancer? What happens when Metro doesn't need you anymore?"
"Bette, darling," Joan growled, "I'm the biggest star at MGM, bigger than Shearer, bigger than Harlow, even bigger than Garbo! It took me years to get here, and I'm not going anywhere!"
Bette stared at Joan intently, then said, "What's that I see? A wrinkle? You're getting older, Joan, and Metro has plenty of character actresses!" She laughed. "Then again, I can see you playing Andy Hardy's dried-up old grandmother!"
Bette had to duck quickly to avoid a lamp, flung at her by Joan! As it shattered against the wall, Benita roused enough to mumble, "Not tonight, Ronnie, I have a headache," and pass out, again...
"You want to talk about wrinkles?" Joan shouted, "What about those mail bags under your eyes? That's how you lost 'Gone With the Wind', y'know...who'd believe you're 18? That 'Flynn-as-Rhett' crap was all studio B.S.!"
"I don't mind wrinkles," Bette laughed. "I'm an actress, I can use them...I hear you're already lining up plastic surgeons..."
"At least I can still sleep with any man I want!"
"So can any cheap hooker on Hollywood Boulevard!"
"IRENE!!!" Joan screamed, as Dunne again attempted to return to the meeting.
"Ladies," she said, "...I have to pee..." and again she left the room!
Barbara Stanwyck, leaning against the wall, said, coldly, "Bette, Joan, you both disgust me! Arguing over some ridiculous 'pecking order' nobody gives a damn about! You know what 'heaven' is, to me? Knowing my lines, doing my job, and then getting the hell out, back to the ranch, and my loyal, loving Bob!"
This brought a roar of laughter from the other actresses, not exactly the reaction Barbara was expecting!
"Poor Barbara," Bette said, "'Loving Bob' is right! Ladies, could I have a show of hands from anyone who has NOT slept with Bob Taylor?"
No hands were raised, and Barbara looked dumbfounded!
"I'm sorry, Barb," Joan said, almost kindly. "If it's any consolation, Bob was the best lover I ever had!"
There were nods, and mumbling agreement, but then Marlene Dietrich shook her head...
"Oh, Bob was good, I won't deny it, but the best was Gary Cooper!"
All the actresses agreed to that...even Barbara, herself!
"You're right," she admitted. "I just finished a picture with Coop, and he was amazing...but I'm STILL gonna kill Bob when I get home!"
Jean Arthur, who had been silent, called out, "Why? You cheat on him, he cheats on you...What makes what he did, worse?"
"I CAUGHT him..."
Jean shook her head, emptied another glass of punch, then slid back beside Ann Sheridan. "This is a screwed-up town!" she declared. "I'm gonna leave it, and go to the stage, I swear!" She looked at the younger actress, in a a sexy, revealing outfit, and sighed. "You have a great figure! I'm so envious...My problem is, my bust is too small..."
Ann laughed. "I'll let you in on a little secret...I have no bust, at all! This is all padding..."
"You're JOKING!" Jean laughed. "What about all the cleavage in the photos?"
Ann finished her drink, and rolled onto her back. "Jack Warner said I have 'Little Boy Tits', and ordered a special bra to give the 'Oomph Girl' her 'Oomph'! I hate that tag!" She looked, appreciatively, up and down Jean's body. "I love your bustline, it's damn' near perfect! Big enough to look feminine, but small enough not to get in the way!"
Jean blushed, then said, "This is crazy, I know, but I think I'd love to see..."
Ann laughed, "I was just thinking the same thing about you!"
"I'll show you mine, if you show me yours!"
A groggy Marlene Dietrich looked at the two women, fumbling with each other's straps, and remarked, "My! Aren't we all becoming very Continental!"
Struggling out the bathroom door, Irene Dunne weakly remarked, "Now, where were we?" and slid to the floor, out cold!
I returned home, at about 7:45, to a scene straight out of some DeMille 'Wages of Sin' epic!
Benita was passed out in my easy chair, Joan, Bette, and Barbara were sprawled out, asleep on the floor (with a broken lamp, nearby), Marlene was snoring, lustily, on the divan, Ann and Jean, their dress tops still loosely tied, were curled up on the couch, and poor Irene was out cold, against the bathroom door!
"Maybe I should have stayed for the meeting," I mumbled, then spied a half-full glass on the table. I sniffed the contents, suspiciously, then lit a match, and touched it to the liquid. It burned!
It didn't take a genius to figure out what had happened, and who was responsible!
From the back yard, I heard the monkey giggle, in triumph!
"There are going to be some world-class hangovers, tomorrow," I muttered, sadly.
THE RONALD COLMAN SAGA
"The Dinner Party for Erich von Stroheim"
"The Misadventures of John Barrymore's Cheeky Monkey, Clementine"
"The All-Star Surprise Party for Laine"
"The Classic Hollywood Long Beach-Catalina Yacht Race"
"The Ronald Colman Seance"
"My "Lost Horizon" Surprise!"
"A Night at the Hollywood Canteen!"
"But I Thought You Were..."
"The People vs. Ronald Colman"
"The Epic Hearst Costume Party..."
"The Monkey on Ronald Colman's Back Saga" (A 9-Part Adventure):
"A MAN, A MONKEY, the MOB, and RONALD COLMAN!" (A 5-Part Adventure):
"Introduction: Broadway, 1920..."
"Chapter 1: A LONG Memory..."
"Chapter 2: Barrymore's Reply..."
"Chapter 3: Barrymore in Cement!"
"Chapter 4: A Desert Grave..."
"SURPRISE PARTY for RONALD COLMAN!"
"The RONALD COLMAN Banner Collection"
Finally, if you'd like to 'go to the source', with over 200 photos of Ronald Colman's life and career, please visit Myspace.com/Ronald Colman...the page that started it all!