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A JOAN CRAWFORD MOMENT

One day last week I received a letter from a person in New York City who asked, "What happened to your book on name-dropping?"

The reference was to a story in BUFFALO Magazine three years ago that said I was planning to do a book on "name-dropping." The person who sent the note does not understand the mechanics of moving an idea from the mind to a printed page. It is very difficult, but I'll talk about that on another day.

Anyway, a few days after receiving the note, I heard a mention of a movie star named Jack Palance and how he did one-arm push-ups after he received an Oscar three years ago for Best Supporting Actor.

Naturally, I had to think of the first and only time we crossed paths. And of the actress named Joan Crawford, whom I met twice.

The time Palance and I met was many moons ago. Indeed, it was Palance's first movie, "Sudden Fear," that starred Crawford as the leading lady.

The day was a Friday, a most unusual day for a press party, which were usually held on a Tuesday or Wednesday. The distributor was RKO, and that is important to this story.

Like King Kong, I had a plane to catch. But it didn't leave New York City for Boston until a few hours after the reception would end. Accordingly, I had time to kill and lingered after those who had homes in the New York area had left the scene.

At the reception Crawford did what all movie stars did -- introduce her new leading man. And how she gushed as she guided him from group to group. "Isn't he wonderful?" and "We had much fun making this film" were the standard lines we were used to hearing.

There were no standard lines after Palance left the reception and the room supposedly occupied by RKO people. Off came the mask of pretension and Crawford was . . . well, let's say that I didn't have any trouble believing the "Mommy Dearest" book when it came out.

Now the "Isn't he wonderful?" line was replaced by some words that I hadn't heard since my days at the Boston Fish Pier. The "We had so much fun doing this film" was replaced by "Have you ever met such a jerk? What a pain in the posterior."

Of course, she didn't say "posterior" or the other words of opprobrium. And when she launched her tirade at me, I said something about being from the press.

The following Monday I received a phone call from RKO and the person on the other end asked what I intended to do with my new-found knowledge. My answer was: "Nothing. As you know, a magazine prints three months ahead of the cover date, and it will be old news by then."

I didn't mention the episode to Crawford the next time we met, which was at a press conference to announce her marriage to the chief of Pepsi-Cola.

Nor did I ever write about that day.

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