Sunday, 17 December 2017

Wot I'm reading: a Superstar's busy - and varied - Sex life

Wow. This is a deeper dirt-digging biography than any of those by Kitty Kelley. Darwin Porter charts the long career of Paul Newman – ‘the man with the baby blues,’ it says on the cover, referencing his eyes, not his tears in the crib. The author also charts Newman’s sexual history – and what a history it is!

Mr Porter’s main sources seem to be Eartha Kitt, Shelley Winters and an actress known as Vampiria, all of whom claimed close confidence with the blue-eyed star. Porter reports whole conversations which can only be recon-structions based on ‘information received’. There are some startling revelations here, starting with the main one: Paul Newman’s bisexuality which will come as a shock (unbelievable even) to many of his lifelong fans around the globe.

Grace Kelly: (not) 'the ice princess'
Early in his career Newman was competing for roles with Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean. According to the author, he had sex with all of the above – even ‘love affairs’ with some of them. Some stellar ladies’ reputations are also trashed here. Gary Cooper is quoted as saying that Grace Kelly ‘looks like a cold bitch before you take her pants down – and then she explodes.’ As well as Grace’s sheets, Newman got to perform on Joan Crawford’s, Lana Turner’s and – OMG! – Sandra Dee’s and Audrey Hepburn’s.

We all (nearly all) like juicy gossip, don't we? But at close to 500 pages this is tittle-tattle 'overkill': an exhaustive – and exhausting – catalogue of all the roles Newman played or failed to get, plus all the men and women he ‘dated’. There are a few gems among all the sleazy details: Judy Garland unzipped his trousers on a nightclub dance floor; ‘I like to check out what I’m getting.’ There’s a memorable ‘cross-over’ moment when Newman is having sex with Kim Stanley (whom he met at the Actors Studio in 1952); after Paul ticks her off for calling out the name of ‘Marlon’ in the heat of passion, she tells him: ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be fucked by Marlon Brando.’ Paul’s answer cannot have been the one she was expecting!

Newman & Woodward: the 'Golden Couple'
Joanne Woodward, the second Mrs Newman, knew she was marrying a serial philanderer, although it's clear that she was the great female love of his life. As to the great male love, we are told that Brandon de Wilde, his cute young co-star in Hud (1963), played a supporting role in Paul’s private life for many years after Hud; but so, if Darwin Porter is to be believed, did Steve McQueen. It really is La La Land out there.

It’s not all sex. Actually, it mostly is. And it’s not all about Paul, although, again, it mostly is – obviously. A jaunty incidental revelation is Anthony Perkins’s claim that he lost his (hetero-sexual) ‘virginity’ at the age of 44 with none other than Dallas’s Victoria Principal. And – a spooky detail I’d not heard before – Tony Perkins’s widow, Berinthia Berenson, was a passenger in one of the jets flown into the Twin Towers on 9/11.

The ‘Casting Couch’ is back in the headlines this year. In Newman’s early days it was seen as going with the territory that he would kneel to or be knelt in front of by agents, producers, directors, studio execs – not all of the time, but a lot of the time. More surprises when the author names men who have, however briefly, trod the ‘lavender path’. Tyrone Power is quoted telling Paul that director John Ford ‘used to throw John Wayne on his casting couch back in the Stone Age.’ Pass the smelling salts! Robert Stack, an early lover of Paul’s, claimed to have shared his sheets with, among many others, Howard Hughes and Jack Kennedy. Come on!

After he married Joanne Woodward (1958) Paul Newman had a stock answer when interviewers asked if he was ever tempted to ‘stray’ with any of the gorgeous leading ladies he partnered onscreen; his regular reply was “Why go out for hamburger when you’ve got steak at home?’ This revealing biography suggests that Paul got through a lot of hamburgers during his marriage to Ms Woodward. At the risk of sounding crude (this is a fairly crude book) I’m tempted to say that quite a lot of sausages were also consumed. 

Newman and Brandon de Wilde in HUD (1963)

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