Brooke Hayward, who’d marry Dennis Hopper, finally told me she couldn't continue working on the scene with me and suggested her friend, Jane Fonda. Jane could take her place since she was interested in getting into Actors Studio. Because we were doing a directed scene, chances were outstanding for both of us. Brooke took me to Jane's - actually to Henry Fonda's apartment, where Jane was staying since returning from an art-school stint in Paris.
I liked Jane's blonde pony tail and long neck, and by the second rehearsal we were on the bed together. She'd shaved her pubic hair deep into the V-shaped crevice of her crotch-more like a pie-patch than a natural blend of her body from belly to thighs.
Something was missing from the relationship, and I didn't know what it was. There was always the feeling that wherever she knew she had to be next, most of her was actually already there. Left behind was the tense, fretful shell of a pretty girl whose top front teeth were a little big for her mouth. It took energy to pull Jane into the moment at hand-energy that drained from the work-and the strain called for more relaxation, more candles and pillows with the scent of perfume and cosmetics, and the smell of her body. That long, willowy body was luscious, but there didn't seem to be a point to lovemaking, unless it was to blow off a little steam.
Was I really looking for a relationship, and did I think maybe I could concoct one with Jane Fonda who was running through a whole slew of friends, including an affair with James Franciscus, the lead in the half-hour Naked City series? I appeared in two of the shows myself, both directed by Stuart Rosenberg, a solid craftsman with whom I'd soon do quite a bit of work in Hollywood.
I never got a chance to speak with Franciscus the first time around, but the during the second Naked City show we had a couple of scenes together, and between takes we talked about Jane. I didn't realize that he seriously believed he had a monogamous relationship with her - as though she'd lie awake dreaming only of him. He said, "I know she's very much in love with me, but I'm not sure if I want that sort of clinging involvement . . ." He said he was holding the "puppet strings," and hadn't decided whether or not he'd continue the relationship.
I had something to eat at Jane's after the show, never mentioning Franciscus. She cooked macaroni and some sort of meat, and we sat on cushions on the floor, Jane sitting on my foot, agitated and preoccupied at the same time. I was leaving for France as soon as Howard received my expenses from producer Manny Tiedman, and Jane gave me names of people to say hello to in Paris. Because of the television work I was doing, and Jane's modeling and running around, and with the film pending, the Actors Studio scene was pushed to the back burner, though we were still going to give it try.
We went for a drink at Jim Downey's restaurant one night, and Jane was fluttering around with a couple of friends. Brooke showed up with someone else, and I ran into Sal Mineo in the men's room ... He said, "Hi." I said hello. He said, "I know you, you know . . ."
After Rebel, Sal had gotten the big-gun send up toward stardom from Warners, but somehow it was falling flat.
Jane and I grabbed another drink in Downey's, then a taxi to my apartment on 73rd near Central Park West. She said nothing in the taxi, but remained slumped back, staring out the window. I remember thinking how pretty she was and how much I was drawn to something about her, and she'd later tell me it had been "self-recognition." She said we were so alike in some ways it was "almost like incest," "burning up at both ends . . ."
Tennessee Williams once told me, "These people are all mad, you understand. All mad to get into each other's bread baskets, but leaving nothing for the mice. It's as though there's nothing more to life, and perhaps there isn't . . ." I'd met Williams through Joanne Woodward, while Paul Newman was doing Sweet Bird of Youth on Broadway. Joanne was pregnant, and I accompanied her as her "date" to the premiere of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. She wore a loose maternity dress, and I had on a black shirt, flowered tie and sneakers.
Williams drank Jack Daniels on the rocks in Downey's, and liked to buy drinks for me and talk about the people he hated in New York and Florida. I didn't know why he told me about the people he hated in Florida, because I'd never been to Florida. He said he didn't hate anyone in Hollywood at the moment, because "at this present time," he said, I don't think Hollywood exists - except as a long urinal you can piss in from right here, and it's all downhill from here to there . . ."
After the taxi reached my building on 73rd, Jane and I got out, surprised to see a young woman down on her rump against the iron gate to my basement apartment. Though her hands were covering her face, I could tell it was Gena. She wore a turquoise suede skirt and jacket and high spiked heels, a mask of makeup, blotched and streaked, and her eyes were wild. She was having a nervous breakdown, she said, and knew it was wrong to come to me, but there was nowhere else to go.
Jane helped me get her into the apartment, but said that Gena should go to a hospital instead. She couldn't stop shaking. I had some valium, gave Gena one and put the rest in my pocket. Gena said she'd be okay - just needed somewhere to sit, get a grip and make a couple of phone calls. She was shaking so bad she couldn't hold the receiver, and then couldn't remember who she was calling.
"She needs to see a doctor," Jane kept saying. I told her I didn't want Gena there, but knew she was in trouble. Jane said I should stay with her, and that she would leave. I didn't want Jane to go. I looked to see if there was anything Gena might use to kill herself, but figured if she'd wanted to do it, she could have done it before getting to my place - that is, unless I was supposed to play some essential part in the act.
We kissed goodnight in the dark in front of the small cathedral. I said, "I really could love you . . ." It was a lingering kiss, with almost desperate, tentative probes pulled back and held in check. The cabby gunned the motor and said, "You goin' or what?" I opened the door and Jane got in. She pulled it shut as the taxi drove off.
Going to Paris was a big break, as well as a kissing away of the friendship with Jane and her search for an ideal situation. Anyway, I had no room to gripe, with the thirty or so girls I'd been seeing that year. Damn! While having these exciting little flings, I was pretty much playing with people, though I hadn't planned it that way. I'd been called a roué -a Don Juan, who thought I had the magic touch to turn almost any female to jelly in a couple of minutes. But ultimately I was alone, "alone on a wide, wide sea . . ."
Jane was notches above some of the others, but part of it was high-risk chemistry, romantic notions of having somewhere to go once you get off the bed. I kept thinking about her long blonde thighs on my shoulders and her pained look-quietly gasping, keeping the secret. I'd picture her quivering and panting, those high breasts rising and falling with her rib cage.
But I felt I was probably yesterday's news as soon as I'd left for the airport. I wasn't looking back.
From LAID BARE: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives & the Hollywood Death Trip