Valley of the Dolls, page 1
Valley of the Dolls
Also by Jacqueline Susann
Every Night, Josephine!
The Love Machine
Once Is Not Enough
Valley of the Dolls
Copyright © 1966 by Tiger, LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, or the facilitation thereof, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Any members of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain permission to include the work in an anthology, should send their inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Valley of the dolls : a novel / by Jacqueline Susann.
an imprint of Grove/Aitlantic, Inc.
New York. NY 10003
Distributed by Publishers Group West
08 09 10 25 24 23 22 21 20 19
who sat at my feet, positive I was writing a sequel but most of all to Irving
Valley of the Dolls
You’ve got to climb to the top of Mount Everest
to reach the Valley of the Dolls.
It’s a brutal climb to reach that peak,
which so few have seen.
You never knew what was really up there,
but the last thing you expected to find
was the Valley of the Dolls.
You stand there, waiting for
the rush of exhilaration
you thought you’d feel—but
it doesn’t come.
You’re too far away to hear the applause
and take your bows.
And there’s no place left to climb.
You’re alone, and
the feeling of loneliness is overpowering.
The air is so thin you can scarcely breathe.
You’ve made it—and the world says
you’re a hero.
But it was more fun at the bottom
when you started,
with nothing more than hope and
the dream of fulfillment.
All you saw was the top of that mountain—
there was no one to tell you
about the Valley of the Dolls.
But it’s different
when you reach the summit.
The elements have left you battered,
deafened, sightless—and too weary
to enjoy your victory.
Anne Welles had never meant to start the climb.
Yet, unwittingly, she took her first step
the day she looked around
and said to herself,
“This is not enough—
I want something more.”
And when she met Lyon Burke
it was too late to turn back.
The temperature hit ninety degrees the day she arrived. New York was steaming—an angry concrete animal caught unawares in an unseasonable hot spell. But she didn’t mind the heat or the littered midway called Times Square. She thought New York was the most exciting city in the world.
The girl at the employment agency smiled and said, “Aaah, you’re a cinch. Even with no experience. All the good secretaries are away in those big-paying defense jobs. But honest, honey, if I had your looks I’d head straight for John Powers or Conover.”
“Who are they?” Anne asked.
“They run the top modeling agencies in town. That’s what I’d love to do, only I’m too short and not skinny enough. But you’re just what they’re looking for.”
“I think I’d rather work in an office,” Anne said.
“Okay, but I think you’re crazy.” She handed Anne several slips of paper. “Here, they’re all good leads, but go to Henry Bellamy first. He’s a big theatrical attorney. His secretary just married John Walsh.” When Anne failed to react, the girl said, “Now don’t tell me you never heard of John Walsh! He’s won three Oscars and I just read he’s gonna get Garbo out of retirement and direct her comeback picture.”
Anne’s smile assured the girl she would never forget John Walsh.
“Now you get the idea of the setup and the kind of people you’ll meet,” the girl went on. “Bellamy and Bellows—a real great office. They handle all kinds of big clients. And Myrna, the girl who married John Walsh, she couldn’t touch you in the looks department. You’ll grab a live one right away.”
“A live what?”
“Guy . . . maybe even a husband.” The girl looked back at Anne’s application. “Say, where did you say you’re from? It is in America, isn’t it?”
Anne smiled. “Lawrenceville. It’s at the start of the Cape, about an hour from Boston by train. And if I had wanted a husband I could have stayed right there. In Lawrenceville everyone gets married as soon as they get out of school. I’d like to work for a while first.”
“And you left such a place? Here everyone is looking for a husband. Including me! Maybe you could send me to this Lawrenceville with a letter of introduction.”
“You mean you’d marry just anyone?” Anne was curious.
“Not anyone. Just anyone who’d give me a nice beaver coat, a part-time maid, and let me sleep till noon each day. The fellows I know not only expect me to keep my job, but at the same time I should look like Carole Landis in a negligee while I whip up a few gourmet dishes.” When Anne laughed the girl said, “All right, you’ll see. Wait till you get involved with some of the Romeos in this town. I bet you rush for the fastest train back to Lawrenceville. And on the way, don’t forget to stop by and take me with you.”
She would never go back to Lawrenceville! She hadn’t just left Lawrenceville—she had escaped. Escaped from marriage to some solid Lawrenceville boy, from the solid, orderly life of Lawrenceville. The same orderly life her mother had lived. And her mother’s mother. In the same orderly kind of a house. A house that a good New England family had lived in generation after generation, its inhabitants smothered with orderly, unused emotions, emotions stifled beneath the creaky iron armor called “manners.”
(“Anne, a lady never laughs out loud.” “Anne, a lady never sheds tears in public.” “But this isn’t public, I’m crying to you, Mama, here in the kitchen.” “But a lady sheds tears in privacy. You’re not a child, Anne, you’re twelve, and Aunt Amy is here in the kitchen. Now go to your room.”)
And somehow Lawrenceville had pursued her to Radcliffe. Oh, there were girls who laughed and shed tears and gossiped and enjoyed the “highs” and “lows” of life. But they never invited her into their world. It was as if she wore a large sign that said, Stay Away. Cold, Reserved New England Type. More and more she retreated into books, and even there she found a pattern repeated: it seemed that virtually every writer she encountered had fled the city of his birth. Hemingway alternated between Europe, Cuba and Bimini. Poor bewildered, talented Fitzgerald had also lived abroad. And even the red, lumpy-looking Sinclair Lewis had found romance and excitement in Europe.
“Mama . . . Aunt Amy . . . when I finish college I’m going to New York.”
“That’s a dreadful place for a vacation.”
“I intend to live there.”
“Have you discussed this with Willie Henderson?”
“No. Why should I?”
“Well, you’ve kept company since you both were sixteen. Everybody naturally assumes . . .”
“That’s just it. In Lawrenceville everything is assumed.”
“Anne, you are raising your voice,” her mother said calmly. “Willie Henderson is a fine boy. I went to school with his daddy and his mother.”
“But I don’t love him, Mama.”
“No man can be loved.” This from Aunt Amy.
“Didn’t you love Daddy, Mama?” It wasn’t a question. It was almost an accusation.
“Of course I loved him.” Her mother’s voice bristled. “But what Aunt Amy means is . . . well. . . men are different. They don’t think or react like women. Now take your father. He was an extremely difficult man to understand. He was impulsive, and he enjoyed his drink. If he had been married to anyone but me he might have had a bad end.”
“I never saw Daddy drink,” Anne said defensively.
“Of course not. There was Prohibition, and I never kept a drop in the house. I broke him of the habit before it could take hold. Oh, he had a lot of wild ways in the beginning—his grandmother was French, you know.”
“Latins are always a little crazy,” Aunt Amy agreed.
“There was nothing crazy about Daddy!” Suddenly Anne wished she had known him better. It seemed so long ago . . . the day he had reeled forward, right here in the kitchen. She had been twelve. He never said a word, just slumped quietly to the floor and quietly died, before the doctor even reached the house.
“You’re right, Anne. There was nothing crazy about your father. He was a man, but he was a good man. Don’t forget, Amy, his mother was a Bannister. Ellie Bannister went all through school with our mama.”
“But Mama, didn’t you ever really love Daddy? I mean, when a man you love takes you in his arms and kisses you, it should be wonderful, shouldn’t it? Wasn’t it ever wonderful with Daddy?”
“Anne! How dare you ask your mother such a thing!” said Aunt Amy.
“Unfortunately, kissing isn’t all a man expects after marriage,” her mother said stiffly. Then, cautiously, “Have you ever kissed Willie Henderson?”
Anne grimaced. “Yes . . . a few times.”
“And did you enjoy it?” her mother asked.
“I hated it.” His lips had been soft—almost slimy—and his breath had smelled sour.
“Did you ever kiss any other boy?”
Anne shrugged. “Oh, a few years back, when Willie and I first started dating, at parties we’d play Spin the Bottle. I guess I got around to kissing most of the boys in town, and as I recall, each kiss was as repulsive as another.” She smiled. “Mother, I don’t think we have one decent kisser in all of Lawrenceville.”
Her mother’s good humor returned. “You’re a lady, Anne. That’s why you don’t like kissing. No lady does.”
“Oh Mama, I don’t know what I like or what I am. That’s why I want to go to New York.”
Her mother shrugged. “Anne, you have five thousand dollars. Your father left that specifically for you to use as you wished. When I go, there will be a good deal more. We’re not rich, not like the Hendersons, but we’re comfortable and our family stands for something in Lawrenceville. I want to feel that you’ll come back and settle in this house. My mother was born here. Of course Willie Henderson may want to add a wing—there’s plenty of ground—but at least it will be our house.”
“I don’t love Willie Henderson, Mama!”
“There is no such thing as love, the way you talk about it. You’ll only find that kind of love in cheap movies and novels. Love is companionship, having friends in common, the same interests. Sex is the connotation you’re placing on love, and let me tell you, young lady, that if and when it does exist, it dies very quickly after marriage—or as soon as the girl learns what it’s all about. But go to your New York. I won’t stand in your way. I’m sure Willie will wait. But mark my words, Anne, after a few weeks you’ll come running home—you’ll be glad to leave that dirty city.”
It had been dirty—and hot and crowded—the day she arrived. Sailors and soldiers joggled along Broadway with a reckless holiday spirit in their eager stares, and a convulsive, end-of-the-war excitement. But mingled with the dirt, humidity and strangeness, Anne had felt excitement, and an awareness of living. The littered and cracked pavements of New York made the trees and clear air of New England seem cold and lifeless. The unshaven man who had removed the “Room for Let” sign from the window, after accepting a week’s rent in advance, looked like Mr. Kingston, the mailman back home, but his smile had been warmer. “It’s not much of a room,” he’d admitted, “but the ceiling is high and it kind of stirs the air. And I’m always around to fix anything you want.” She felt he liked her, and she liked him. There was an acceptance at face value in New York, as if everyone had just been born, with no past heritage to acknowledge or hide.
And now, as she stood before the imposing glass doors engraved Bellamy and Bellows, she hoped she’d find the same kind of acceptance from Henry Bellamy.
Henry Bellamy couldn’t believe his eyes. She couldn’t be for real. In her way, maybe she was one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen, and he was accustomed to beautiful girls. And instead of wearing the outrageous pompadour and platform shoes that had come into style, this one just let her hair hang loose, natural, and it was that light blonde color that looked real. But it was her eyes that really rattled him. They were really blue, sky blue—but glacial.
“Why do you want this job, Miss Welles?” For some reason he felt nervous. Dammit, he was curious. She was dressed in plain dark linen, and there wasn’t a sign of jewelry except the small, neat wristwatch, but there was something about her that made one certain she didn’t need a job.
“I want to live in New York, Mr. Bellamy.”
Just that. A straight answer. Why did it make him feel like he was snooping? He was entitled to ask questions. And if he made it too easy, she might not take the job. That was crazy, too. She was sitting here, wasn’t she? She hadn’t just dropped by for tea. Then why did he feel as if he were the applicant, striving to make a favorable impression on her?
He glanced at the form the agency had sent along. “Twenty years old and a B.A. in English, eh? Radcliffe. But no office experience. Now tell me, what good is this fancy background going to do around here? Can it help me handle a bitch like Helen Lawson or get a drunken bum like Bob Wolfe to turn in a weekly radio script on time? Or convince some fag singer to leave the Johnson Harris office and let me handle his affairs?”
“Am I supposed to do all that?” she asked.
“No, I am. But you have to help.”
“But I thought you were an attorney.”
He saw her collect her gloves. He turned on one of his relaxed smiles. “I’m a theatrical attorney. There’s a difference. I draw up contracts for my clients. Contracts that have no loopholes, except in their favor. I also handle their taxes, help them invest their money, get them out of any and all trouble, arbitrate their marital problems, keep their wives and mistresses apart, act as godfather to their children and wet nurse to them, especially when they’re doing a new show.”
“But I thought actors and writers had managers and agents.”
“They do.” He noticed the gloves were back in her lap. “But the ‘jumbos,’ the kind I handle, they also need me to advise them. For instance, an agent naturally pushes them toward the job that pays the most. He’s interested in his ten per cent. But I figure which job will do them the most good. In short, a
Anne smiled. “Why don’t theatrical attorneys replace all agents?”
“They probably would, if there were enough dedicated schmucks like me.” He caught himself quickly. “Excuse the language. When I get going, I don’t realize what pops out.”
“What language? Schmuck?” She repeated it curiously.
It sounded so outrageous coming from her that he laughed out loud. “It’s a Jewish word, and the literal translation would make you blush. But it’s become slang—for dope. . . . Oh, don’t let the fancy tag of Bellamy fool you, or even my freak Episcopalian face. I was born Birnbaum. When I was a kid I worked summers as entertainment director on cruises—wrote the ship’s column. And they didn’t like their fancy columns headed ‘Boating by Birnbaum,’ so one guy suggested Bellamy. I met a lot of important people on those cruises. A singer who was working the tour became my first client. A lot of people got to know me as Bellamy and I stuck with it. But I never let anyone forget that under Bellamy there’s always Birnbaum.” He smiled. “Now you have the whole picture. Think you can handle it?”
This time her smile was real. “I’d like to try. I type fairly well, but I don’t know much about shorthand.”
He waved his hand. “I got two broads out there who could win shorthand contests. I want someone who is more than a secretary.”
Her smile vanished. “I don’t think I understand.”
Dammit! He hadn’t meant anything like that. He ground his cigarette in the tray and lit another one. Jesus, she sat straight. Unconsciously he straightened in his chair.
“Look, Miss Welles, being more than a secretary means not sticking to the usual nine-to-five routine. There may be days when you won’t have to come in until noon. If I’ve made you work at night I wouldn’t expect you to come in. But on the other hand, if there was some crisis and even if you had worked until four in the morning, I’d expect you in before the office opened, because you would want to be there. In other words, you make your own schedule. But you’d also have to be available some evenings.”
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