It seems to be a thing with a lot of big stars that they need desperately to have people around them. For example, I recollect an episode of the television series of Fame in which a High School of the Performing Arts alumnus, who, I seem to recall, was some kind of Gregory Hines figure, revealed that he couldn’t stand being alone and that this was the basis of his complicated psychological makeup. I also remember reading an article about Bill Pullman some years ago in which he said that he liked to have a houseful of visitors around him at all times and exactly how sorry I felt for his wife when I learned this piece of information.
The dazzling Ava Gardner was one screen idol of yore who really enjoyed going out on the town. Now, as we all know, this is a woman whose stunning appearance (which led MGM to bill her not merely as the world’s most beautiful woman, but as ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Animal’), not to mention her forthright personality and wit, enslaved for years as exacting a man as Frank Sinatra. He even went to the trouble of sending her coconut cake when she was on location in the wilds of Africa, playing Honey Bear Kelly in Mogambo; this was a gesture that, according to Lauren Bacall, who had been charged with delivering said cake, Ava haughtily dismissed.
It is clear from the above information that this is a human being who could not have had more going for her; nonetheless, it is a sad fact that Ava’s romantic relationships did not last the distance. The only reason for this, as far as I can see, is that for virtually the whole of her adult life, she apparently wanted to go out and party all the time. On the one hand, I find it admirable that she was brimming with all this joie de vivre but, on the other, it is difficult to imagine that there would be many people who could have kept up with her. This is especially so when you consider that Ava was not merely going out all the time, but doing so in more glamorous eras than this one, when ‘going out’ didn’t merely consist of brushing your hair and then eating a chicken parmigiana in public. Going out instead involved getting dressed to the nines, and even going dancing, and knowing how to dance actual steps, not simply free-forming it to The Vitabeats while at a shabby party.
On the subject of parties, I was once related by marriage to a man who genuinely looked forward to going to parties. Now, when I say ‘party’, I don’t mean a pleasant dinner party or a cheerful barbecue; even I can enjoy one of those. Instead, I mean a party in the sense of a large number of people gathering at another’s place of residence at night. I mean a party like the one in Say Anything, after which there is a lot of cleaning-up to do, and John Cusack and Ione Skye have to drive around in a car for about six hours while fellow guest Jason Gould tries to remember where he lives. I can only marvel at anyone who genuinely looks forward to going to a party in the same way that I look forward to, say, watching DVDs of a television show that I’ve already seen and so don’t even have to work out who anyone is or what they’re doing. I remember in Reason For Living: The Jill Ireland Story, Jill Clayburgh, while playing Jill Ireland as she was expiring of cancer, declaring in a faux English accent when the idea of giving a party was mooted, ‘I love a party!’ Now, I would have thought the one advantage of being this unwell would be having a cast-iron excuse never to go to, and certainly not to throw, a party.
I associate parties with being consumed by a serial-killer-like desperation to find my next conversational victim, in tandem with constantly worrying about whether the bathroom is occupied in case I should want to use it. Furthermore, I associate parties with disappointment in love. By this, I mean all the times when I was single and went to a party solely because I thought that I might ‘meet a man’, yet did not meet any man. The other foul prong in the disappointed-in-love party fork is meeting a man but engaging with him in a ‘party pash’ that turns out to have less of a future than did the Multifunction Polis. Fifteen years ago, I made out with a man while riding in a cab the entire way from Zetland to Frenchs Forest, and I don’t believe I’ve spoken to him again to this day.
What’s worse, in the years that I haven’t been single, I’ve been known to pick fights with boyfriends solely either to get out of going to a party altogether, or, if I haven’t managed this feat, to get to leave a party early. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t because I’m a sensitive introvert like the kid sister in The Glass Menagerie. Rather, it’s because there is simply no other variety of social occasion at which so much is demanded of a person. At parties for adults, there’s no entertainment, and usually very little food, to take at least some of the spotlight off each participant’s input. Yes, I know there’s a lot of pressure involved in going on a date, but at least with a date you only have to talk to one other person, not prove yourself over and over to an indifferent world.
I’ve just been reading Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, in which there are many nostalgic accounts of its early cast members spending a lot of time after the show partying on at the insanitary-sounding Blues Bar. Doing this sounds like nineteen kinds of hell to me, but the fact that it didn’t to them is, no doubt, the reason why these individuals are the sort of people who so richly deserve to have had a big juicy book written about their activities.