September 28, 2014
I only like film stars who are good looking. As Vernon Sullivan once said “To hell with the ugly.” I don’t pay money to see ugly people showing their real life. I prefer the world of make-believe where beauty exists over anything that is ugly. For me, the make-believe is real. I don’t understand how anyone can say that they prefer ugliness, when clearly they can have beauty in their lives. I was four-years old when I saw my first movie in a movie theater. The film was “And God Created Woman,” and it was playing at the local movie theater in Larkspur California. It was a dramatic event for me, because my father and mother had to argue with the theater’s manager about letting me in to see the film. At the time, it was “adults only, ” but my father clearly wanted to see the film, and he had me with him that night, and it was a family gathering, so what’s the problem? I remember he refused to leave the line or the box-office, and finally the manager caved into his demand that I can see the film at his theater.
Being in a movie theater was a totally new experience, and I remember being struck with the largeness of the movie screen. I have no memory of the film’s plot at the time of the showing, but what I clearly remember is the image of Brigitte Bardot on the giant screen. At the time, living in a rural area of Larkspur, I could identify with the figures in the film. Not so much the men, but Bardot. I identified with her boredom and her naturalness in the way she dressed and expressed herself in the film. I cannot recall if the film was dubbed or had sub-titles, it didn’t make a difference to me, because due to my youth, I couldn’t understand the story. I only understood the image of Bardot.
Besides my mom, who is an iconic beauty, the other woman in my life is Bardot. Not by my choice, but my father always had an image of her on the wall - usually in his work-space or studio. The images I remember being on the wall were Artaud, Cocteau, Nijinsky, and Bardot. I didn’t know any of these people, but I did know their names and faces. I knew one was a dancer, and it seems Cocteau did a bit of everything, and Artaud looked insane. But Bardot I did know. Also I remember in the household we had a book of photographs of Brigitte Bardot. It’s odd for the household, because we had books with words, and books on painting or fine photography - but never a book on an actress. I don’t remember any text in this book. Just one image after another of Bardot. This was in the late 1950s, so the images were mostly when she was a teenager to her stardom in “And God Created Woman.”
Since I wasn’t reading text yet at the premature age, I did love books. And my favorite book was the book of photographs of Bardot. My attraction to her was her beauty. I knew nothing of her life, and I did know she came somewhere not in the United States. I was mostly impressed with the images of her walking down a sunny street. I knew wherever the photos were taken, it must have been warm. She is wearing shorts, sunglasses and no shoes. Viewing these images, I could feel the warm weather even though it was cold and gray in Larkspur.
As of this date, she is 80 and I’m 60 this year. Twenty years apart. When I turned 20, she was still 39. I could have dated her! But the truth is our lives are just so distant from each other. Yet, it is funny how my life is still very close to the “ideal” of Bardot. Like my father, I have a photograph of her on my work space, and later in life I published a short piece of fiction by her one-time boyfriend Serge Gainsbourg, as well as a biography (written by Gilles Verlant) on the great composer and entertainer. Even though I never met her or even seen her in person, I feel very close to her presence or image. She strikes me as a person who made her own world, over a period of time. There is ugliness, but not by her design. Like a film editor she accepted certain practices and images, and eliminated or left what she didn’t want on the film editor’s floor. The beauty of reflection is living in a world where ugliness is held back, and my memories are as pure as the sunshine somewhere in the South of France.