Jack Nicholson was naked in the pool, but not a shining star in bed: Just one of the revelations in a riotous new memoir about Hollywood at its most debauched – as told by a beauty who fell under the A-list’s spell
Hollywood stars rarely live up to their on-screen reputations but Warren Beatty even had trouble keeping up with his offscreen one.
Before he took phone calls, the film world’s most notorious lothario would do a hurried set of squats holding 20lb weights in each hand so that when he picked up the receiver he’d be out of breath.
His assistant, Susanna Moore, eventually realised the reason for this.
‘He wanted the person on the phone, presumably but not certainly a girl, to think he’d been interrupted while making love,’ she says.
Nicholson, pictured above, seduced Moore. In a funny but shocking new memoir, Miss Aluminium, she provides an insider’s account of the seedy, amoral reality of Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s
‘It must have been flattering to think Warren Beatty considered you of sufficient importance to abandon, if only for a few minutes, his partner in bed.’
When it came to that era’s other notable ladykiller, Jack Nicholson, Moore gained rather more direct experience of why he, too, didn’t match up to his onscreen image.
She fell for his charm, and into his bed, during a 1971 film shoot, their affair starting with skinny-dipping in his swimming pool.
‘Not thrilling,’ was her merciless verdict on how the man dubbed The Great Seducer performed in the bedroom.
Nicholson nicknamed Moore ‘Miss Discreet’ — but she is finally revealing all, puncturing his and Beatty’s precious mystique along with plenty of other A-list reputations.
Moore — a former model, film extra and sort of Tinseltown groupie who became a successful writer — had a mix of brains and beauty that the misogynistic kings of Hollywood found hard to cope with. She is pictured above
In a funny but shocking new memoir, Miss Aluminium, she provides an insider’s account of the seedy, amoral reality of Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s.
Moore — a former model, film extra and sort of Tinseltown groupie who became a successful writer — had a mix of brains and beauty that the misogynistic kings of Hollywood found hard to cope with.
Beatty insisted on inspecting her legs before giving her a job reading scripts for him and was, she says, only really interested in hearing about her sex life.
Raised in Hawaii, where her mentally unstable mother died when she was 12, possibly committing suicide, Moore — now 74 — fled a philandering father and neglectful stepmother.
Dark, willowy and high-cheekboned — she reminded some of Ali MacGraw — Moore’s first modelling job was as ‘Miss Aluminium’, promoting aluminium at boat shows in a skimpy metallic outfit.
She was 20 when she married Bill, a young business student.
At 21, she was raped by the celebrity fashion designer Oleg Cassini after he asked her to model his clothes.
Cassini, Jackie Kennedy’s favourite couturier and Grace Kelly’s former fiance, forced himself on her in her hotel room and ‘afterwards lifted himself from the bed with a contented yawn’.
But she kept quiet about it, as so many did back then, and Cassini got Moore her first break in Hollywood — as a barely clad extra on a Dean Martin film, the 1967 comedy The Ambushers.
Within days, Moore had encountered the casting couch system, experiencing a drunken night with one of the film’s producers, Doug Netter, after which, she said sarcastically, he ‘spent the night in my room, I presume engaging in sex’. She became the married Netter’s mistress.
On location in Mexico, she says, Dean Martin was ‘supplied with girls and pills’ by his agent. Lazy and jaded, he refused to film two takes of any scene.
Moore discovered the peculiar social habits of location filming, where long periods of waiting around drove people to ‘sleep with partners whom, in more conventional circumstances, they would not have given a second glance’.
She adds: ‘Misbehaviour on location was not only mostly ignored but expected: an implicit, almost contractual perk that included alcohol, drugs and sex.’
Yet Martin had no sexual interest in Moore and so came to trust her, she says. He once even asked her to take his girlfriend, Dee, out to lunch.
‘Dee was one of my first lessons in the arcane world of girlfriends,’ she writes. ‘I’d expected her to be sexy and funny but Dee was a thin, etiolated, washed-out blonde with almost no personality.’
Moore’s own marriage began to crumble under the weight of life in Hollywood. When she told her husband she no longer wanted to be married to him, he beat her into unconsciousness.
Though endlessly unfaithful herself, she was struck by how much Hollywood revolved around sex. She was told Robert Wagner reportedly ‘possessed an enviable reputation for sexual prowess, as he was said to have been taught everything there was to know about sex by Barbara Stanwyck, who was 25 years older’.
Meanwhile, an ex-boyfriend of Dean Martin’s daughter revealed that he had then been seduced by Martin’s wife. She rented him a love pad complete with waterbed for afternoon assignations.
Everyone boasted of who they had slept with. ‘Sex was a means to power, not an exercise of desire or a necessary source of pleasure,’ she says.
Moore, who always managed to land on her feet, became friends with Connie Wald, the wealthy and impeccably connected widow of a powerful film producer. At her first dinner chez Wald, she met Natalie Wood, Deborah Kerr and the writer Joan Didion.
That was only the start. Every night, Moore joined a changing panoply of stars at Wald’s crowded dinners — a tradition that Moore says has died out in Hollywood, especially as most stars don’t even live there any more.
Moore once sat next to Jimmy Stewart but didn’t recognise him without his wig. She also got to know Audrey Hepburn, Mrs Wald’s best friend, particularly well.
One evening, the star of My Fair Lady told Moore she had something life-changingly important to tell her but, agonisingly, kept being diverted.
Finally she blurted it out: ‘You must always wear shoes the same colour as your hose,’ Hepburn confided, totally seriously. ‘It means everything. It has been my secret for years.’
As for sex chez Wald, ‘I chose to think the occasional squeeze under the table was accidental,’ says Moore. ‘It would not do to lift the tablecloth to see who had put his or her hand on your thigh, or had somehow managed to insert a foot between your legs.’
Men, even the doddery ones, were watched like hawks by their wives, although it would always be the women who got into trouble.
One night, Robert Mitchum rushed towards her but failed to intercept his wife before she slugged Moore in the head with a gold mesh handbag, leaving a livid bruise. Her crime? Presumably having unwittingly captured Mitchum’s attention.
One of Moore’s less salubrious new friends was disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer, the self-appointed ‘Mayor of Sunset Strip’, whose ‘otherwise inexplicable sexual conquests of young girls’ were essentially his way of ‘auditioning’ them for his rock star friends including Sonny Bono (of Sonny & Cher) and David Bowie.
Another reprobate in her circle was the ‘aggressively amiable’ actor Larry Hagman (pre-Dallas), who would sit in a sarong on the edge of his hot tub ‘allowing one a peek at his genitals as he smoked a joint’.
Altogether more demure and sensible than these zonked-out hippies, Moore — who didn’t take drugs — was as surprised as anyone when John Phillips, louche member of pop group The Mamas And The Papas, got her into his bed while his wife Michelle wasn’t in it. Their relationship ended after she woke to find his one-year-old daughter, Chynna, rummaging through his big bag of drugs.
Having cared for her broken mother as a child, Moore says she was repelled by the vacuous, irresponsible Swinging Sixties values.
But that didn’t stop her accepting a job reading scripts for Warren Beatty, possibly the most vacuous of them all.
Less interested in her work experience than in who she knew in Hollywood, he told her she was too tanned and then asked to see her legs. She hitched up her skirt a few inches, ‘not in the least offended’.
Beatty asked if she could start the next morning.
It wasn’t a ‘real job’ but it gave her the chance to observe a Hollywood superstar at peak vanity and libidinousness.
As well as his ‘warm-up’ behaviour before taking phone calls, she saw evidence of his ‘endless sexual encounters’ — even though he was supposedly in a relationship with Julie Christie, who would stay with him when she was in LA.
‘He said his romance with Julie only heightened his success with other women, as he immediately told anyone in whom he was interested that he was in love with Julie,’ she says.
Moore — who insists she never became a notch on Beatty’s battered bedpost — once asked if he didn’t ever get tired of his ‘insatiable need to seduce’ women.
‘He looked at me for a moment, gauging whether or not it was worth the effort to answer me truthfully, and then said: “It’s simple. You get smacked a lot, but you also get f***ed a lot.” ’
Certainly, Beatty was fixated on sex. Anyone who worked for him, including Moore, had to phone him a dozen times a day with updates on what they had been doing, especially if it involved sex.
After living with Joan Didion and her husband John Dunne, the writer of A Star Is Born, she moved in with new boyfriend Dick Sylbert, a handsome production designer, in 1971. His housemate and close friend was Roman Polanski.
‘I was too old to interest him,’ says Moore, then only in her mid-20s, of a film director currently evading justice for raping a 13-year-old girl.
Ferociously competitive and argumentative, Polanski, whose young wife Sharon Tate had been murdered two years earlier, infuriated her.
‘If attention were diverted from him for even an instant, he fell into a performance of manic devilment, not unlike Rumpelstiltskin, which usually was sufficient to gain him an audience,’ she recalls.
It was through Dick Sylbert that Moore met Jack Nicholson when they both worked on the 1971 comedy Carnal Knowledge. The film — which also starred Candice Bergen, the Swedish-born star Ann-Margret and musician Art Garfunkel — was made in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Moore went with Sylbert.
Accepting Garfunkel’s invitation to use the stars’ rented swimming pool while they were off filming all day, she went over one afternoon to find both him and Nicholson in the pool. Both were naked, and it was clear they expected her to be the same when she got in.
They laughed at her shyness and Nicholson swam over, inadvertently revealing himself. ‘As small and as pink as a nestling,’ she damningly recalls.
Still, when she shifted her gaze upward, she saw that famous grin, which reminded her of ‘the wolf who ate Little Red Riding Hood, a not unappealing association’.
Carnal Knowledge certainly lived up to its title for Moore, as she started an affair with Nicholson, visiting him each day in his dressing room. It continued when they moved back to Los Angeles, where she saw him under the cover of being his script-reader.
After years of going to other people’s Hollywood dinner parties, Moore started throwing her own. They didn’t always quite work out as she planned.
‘He said his romance with Julie only heightened his success with other women, as he immediately told anyone in whom he was interested that he was in love with Julie,’ she says. Moore — who insists she never became a notch on Beatty’s battered bedpost — once asked if he didn’t ever get tired of his ‘insatiable need to seduce’ women. Julie Christie is pictured above
She once made the mistake of inviting Beatty along with director Nicolas Roeg, unaware of a story circulating that, while filming the horror film Don’t Look Now, Roeg had made a short film for himself composed of out-takes from a love scene between Donald Sutherland and Beatty’s girlfriend Julie Christie. Apparently, the sex had been real. Beatty believed everything.
When Roeg arrived for dinner, Beatty asked him outside and, as everyone watched appalled through a window, punched him in the face. Picking him off the ground, Beatty examined Roeg’s upper lip and led him back inside.
Of course, given his own rampant infidelity, Beatty had a nerve acting the aggrieved boyfriend over Christie. But the misogyny seeps from almost every page in this tale of backstage Hollywood long before the #MeToo era.
Moore even reveals how actress Susan Tyrrell, while filming the 1972 boxing drama Fat City (for which she won an Oscar nomination), would visit its director, John Huston, each day to pleasure him.
‘It’s not as bad as you’d think,’ she told Moore, except that Huston, then 66, had emphysema and his oxygen cylinder always bruised her head.
Moore married Sylbert and, when she was 30, they had a daughter together. However, he divorced her after finding out she had been unfaithful with a young film producer.
Predatory men and compliant women — Moore’s glitzy but tawdry tale sums up the very worst of Tinseltown.
Miss Aluminium, by Susanna, Moore is published by W&N, £9.99.
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