Once Is Not Enoughby Jacqueline Susann
“[Susann’s] pulp poetry resonates to this day. With her formula of sex, drugs and show business, Susann didn’t so much capture the tenor of her times as she did predict the Zeitgeist of ours.” –Detour
Once upon a time, the entertainment industry was a world that never slept. Magazine editors, models, pop stars, and all the rest visited “vitamin doctors’ to get the shots that would allow them to stay up all night and then work all day–in offices decorated with beanbag chairs and Calderesque mobiles. In this world, January Wayne goes from poor-little-rich-girl to grown-up swinger, as she searches New York and Los Angeles for a guy just like Mike Wayne, the glamorous movie producer, who also just happens to be her father.
Though often panned by critics, Susann’s slightly sordid yet thoroughly fabulous novel was embraced by her fans. Once Is Not Enough became Susann’s third consecutive novel to reach the number one spot on the New York Times best-seller list–the first time any author had accomplished this feat. The novel would be Susann’s last great success: The year after its publication, in 1974, the author died of breast cancer.
“Spectacularly successful. There are plane crashes, drug orgies, motorcycle accidents, mass rapes, attempted abortions, suicide, evil doctors and assorted other activities; and I just couldn’t put the damned thing down.” –Library Journal
“[Susann’s] pulp poetry resonates to this day. With her formula of sex, drugs and show business, Susann didn’t so much capture the tenor of her times as she did predict the Zeitgeist of ours.” –Detour
WHEN MIKE WAYNE WALKED into the V.I.P. Lounge at Kennedy Airport, the hostess was positive he was a movie star. He had that look of someone you’ve seen many times but know you’ve never met.
“Is Flight Seven, Swissair, still scheduled for a five o’clock arrival?” he asked as he signed the guest book.
“I’ll check,” she said, flooding him with one of her warmest smiles. He smiled back, but experience told her it was the smile of a man who already had a girl. A girl arriving on Flight Seven. Probably one of those Swiss-German beauties that were crowding the market lately. It was getting so a domestic stewardess didn’t have a chance.
“Half an hour late. Due at five-thirty.” Her smile was apologetic.
He nodded and walked to one of the leather chairs by the window. She studied his scrawl on the book. Michael Wayne. She had heard the name, and she knew his face, but she couldn’t place him. Maybe he was on one of those television series . . . like that dreamy fellow on Mannix whom she watched whenever she was dateless on Saturday nights. He was older than the men she usually dated, maybe in his forties. But for Mr. Michael Wayne with the Paul Newman blue eyes she could easily forget the generation gap. In a final bid for attention, she came over with some magazines, but he shook his head and continued to stare at the planes being serviced on the ground. She sighed as she returned to her desk. No way! This one really had something on his mind.
Mike Wayne had plenty on his mind. She was coming back! After three years and three months of hospitals and therapy . . . she was coming back.
When she crashed on that motorcycle, his own crash dive had begun. It started with the flop of Melba’s picture. He took the blame for that himself. When your kid is busted into pieces, you can’t worry about a spaghetti western. And January’s prognosis had been dismal. In the beginning none of the surgeons held any hope that she would ever walk again.
The paralysis was due to the concussion and called for immediate physical therapy. For weeks he studied X rays he didn’t understand . . . electroencephalograms . . . spinal pictures.
He flew in two surgeons from London and a top neurologist from Germany. They agreed with the specialists in Rome–the delay in physical therapy lessened the chances of recovery from paralysis, yet nothing could be done until the broken bones healed.
He spent most of his time at the hospital, going to the studio to make sure that most of Franco’s scenes were cut from the picture. He didn’t buy Franco’s story–that January had insisted he drive faster–and when he put it to January she had refused to deny or confirm it. But he threw Franco off the set and let the director cut and edit the picture. He wanted to get out of Rome . . . and take January with him.
But three months later she was still in a partial cast and unable to talk. The picture opened in Rome to murderous reviews and tepid business.
In New York it was yanked out of a first-run house after one week and went straight to Forty-second Street on the bottom half of a double bill. In Europe the press labeled Mike Wayne the only man who ever made Melba Delitto look sexless.
He tried to be philosophical. Everyone had to have one flop. And this was long overdue. He had been on a winning streak since 1947. He told it to himself. He told it to the press. Yet as he sat beside his daughter’s bed, the thought nagged like an exposed nerve. Was it just one flop–or had his luck run out?
He had two more pictures to release through Century, and he could amortize the loss of this picture against the profits of the others. And he didn’t see how the next picture could miss. It was a spy story from a best-selling novel. He started principal photography in London, in October. Each weekend he flew back to Rome; forcing himself to walk into that hospital room with a smile to match the one she always had for him. He tried not to be disheartened at her lack of progress. She would make it. She had to! On her eighteenth birthday she surprised him by taking a few laborious steps with the aid of the therapist and crutches. Her right arm had improved, but she still dragged her right leg. Her speech was coming back. There were times she halted or stuttered on a word. But he knew that was just a matter of time. But damn it! If she could talk and use her right arm, what was holding up the progress of the leg? Certainly not the concussion anymore. But her smile was so bright and victorious. Her hair had grown back short and shaggy–she looked like a frail little boy. His throat felt dry. He felt it tighten as he forced a smile. Eighteen years old, and so many months lost.
After her birthday he had to go to the States to film the chase scenes in New York and San Francisco. Then there was the editing and final scoring in Los Angeles. He had high hopes for the picture; it had the smell of a winner. And somehow he tied up his hopes for the success of the picture with January’s recovery. Like a mind bet. If the picture made it big–her recovery would be rapid.
It opened with a big charity premiere in New York. The klieg-light bit; the celebrities; Barry Gray interviewing the V.I.P.’s. The audience applauded and laughed in the right places. When the lights came up, the heads of Century walked up the aisle with him . . . back-slapping . . . smiling. Then on to the party at the Americana, where they heard that the first reviews on TV had been bad. But everyone said it didn’t matter. The New York Times was all that counted. At midnight they learned the Times had murdered it (that was when the heads of the studio left the party). The head of Century publicity, an optimistic man named Sid Goff, shrugged it off. “Ah, who reads the Times? For movies, it’s the Daily News that counts.” Twenty minutes later they learned the News had only given it two stars, but Sid Goff was still optimistic. “I hear the guy at the Post loved it. Besides, word of mouth will make the picture.”
But neither the Post nor word of mouth was good. Business was weak, but Sid Goff was still cheerful. “Wait till it plays across the country. The people will love it. That’s where it counts.”
It received a lukewarm reception at the Chinese in Los Angeles. It limped along in Detroit. In Chicago it bombed completely. And Philadelphia and other key cities refused it at first-run houses.
He couldn’t believe it. He had been so sure of the picture. Two flops in a row. And now he faced the old show business superstitution. Everything bad comes in threes. Deaths . . . plane crashes . . . earthquakes–and flop pictures. Obviously the heads of Century pictures felt the same way, because when he called, everyone was always busy in meetings or had “just stepped out of the office.” And the final clincher was when word came from the New York office that they would allot him only two million dollars (including advertising) for his third picture.
He couldn’t bring it in on that kind of a budget unless he settled for actors whose names went under the title and a new director or an old one with a long backlog of flops. But he had no choice. He had to do the picture; it was part of his contract. He had a three-picture deal. Well, if that’s the way the cards were stacked he’d get the third flop out of the way, pack it in, go back to New York, and do a smash Broadway show. The more he thought about it, the more his confidence grew. His return to Broadway would be an event. Money would be no problem. Hell, he’d back it himself. He was worth several million. What was a few hundred thousand bucks? The only thing–he had to come up with a hot script.
These were his emotions that summer of “68 as he started his third picture. He was in high spirits when he flew to Rome to see January, but when he saw her hobble toward him, still dragging her leg, it hit him for the first time that she just might not walk again. Her bright smile and eager excitement only added to his feeling of despair. She wanted to know all about the new picture. Why had he picked unknowns? Who was the leading man? When could she read the final shooting script? He forced himself to invent stories and gossip with an enthusiasm that came hard. He held his panic until he was alone with the doctors. Then his rage and fear exploded. What was all this crap about her making steady progress? All the good reports he had received during the past few months? She hadn’t improved one iota.
They admitted she was not responding as quickly as they had hoped. But he must realize . . . They had not been able to start the physical therapy as soon as they should. Then they told him the facts. She would improve. But she would always limp and possibly have to use a cane.
That night he went on a wild drunk with Melba Delitto. And when they wound up at her apartment, he paced and raged about the doctors, the hospital, the hopelessness of it all.
Melba tried to calm him. ‘mike, I adore you. I not even hold my one big flop against you. But now you have done another bad picture. You must not let your daughter’s misfortune destroy your life. This next one must be good.”
“What do you want me to do? Just go to work and forget about her?”
“No, not forget. But you have your own life to live. Stop fighting for the impossible.”
His anger made him suddenly sober. His whole life had been a fight to attain the impossible. Son of a mother who deserted him when he was three. Father, an Irish prizefighter who died from a lucky punch from a third-rate kid. A life of growing up on his own in South Philadelphia. Enlisting in the Air Force at seventeen because anything seemed better than the world he knew. And then the war . . . being in the midst of it . . . seeing guys you lived with and slept with catch a bullet at your side . . . wondering why they got it and not you. They had families who were waiting for them to come home. Families and sweethearts who wrote long letters and sent food packages. And gradually the idea hits you that maybe they got your bullet because there was something back there, waiting to be done . . . by you. And it’s your job to go back and do it. He felt he had been given luck–luck to accomplish the impossible. And he had to make good so that the guy who got his bullet would understand. He wasn’t religious, but he believed in paying his dues. That had always been his philosophy, and it still was.
“My kid will walk,” he said quietly.
Melba shrugged. “Then try Lourdes. Or if you really want to spend money, take her to the Clinique of Miracles.”
“In Switzerland, in a remote section of the Alps. It is very expensive, but they have accomplished great things. I know a racing driver who crashed at the Monte. They said he’d be paralyzed for life. He went to the Clinique of Miracles–they made him walk.”
The next day Mike flew to Zurich, then drove to a rambling ch”teau hidden in the mountains and met with Dr. Peterson, a fragile-looking man who seemed incapable of creating even the smallest miracle.
It was just another wild chase. Another blind alley. But he was there. So he toured the Clinique with Dr. Peterson. He saw old people who had suffered strokes wave cheerfully at the doctor as they struggled with crutches and braces. He followed the doctor into a room where small children were singing. At first glance, it appeared to be an ordinary songfest, until he realized that every child was performing against odds. Some had cleft palates . . . some wore earphones . . . some had facial paralysis. But they all smiled and forced some sounds through their lips. In another wing there were Thalidomide children working with their artificial limbs, smiling as they made some slight progress with a new and cumbersome prosthesis. Mike felt his mood changing. At first he didn’t quite understand. But then it hit him. Everywhere he went, there was an absence of despair. Everywhere he looked was an attempt at accomplishment. The fight to attain the impossible.
“You see,” Dr. Peterson explained, “every waking moment is spent in therapy. In striving to get well. We have one little boy who lost both his arms in an accident with a tractor on a farm. With his prosthesis he has learned to play the guitar. We have songfests every night. Sometimes we put on plays and ballets–all part of the therapy. But there is no television or radio.”
“But why cut out the outside world?” Mike asked. “Aren’t they segrated from life as it is by their illnesses?”
Dr. Peterson smiled. “The Clinique is a world of its own. A world where each patient helps the other. News from the outside world concerns wars, strikes, pollution, riots. . . . If it is not a world that healthy people enjoy, why should our patients want to fight insurmountable obstacles just to return to it? Also, a child born without legs who has worked six months to take two steps can be disheartened if he sees the violence or apathy of people born more fortunate. The Clinique of Miracles is a world of hope and the will to recover.”
Mike looked thoughtful. “But there is no one here my daughter could relate to. Everyone is very old . . . or very very young.”
“Who is she relating to in her hospital room in Rome?”
“No one. But she’s not surrounded by sickness and mutilation.”
Dr. Peterson looked thoughtful. ‘sometimes seeing others less fortunate helps one to recover. A boy comes here with one arm and sees a boy without any arms. Suddenly, having one arm is not the end of everything. And the boy missing two arms takes great pride helping the boy without legs. And that is how it happens here.”
“One question, Dr. Peterson . . . do you really think you can help my daughter?”
“First I must study her records and the reports from the attending physicians. We accept no one whom we cannot help. And even then we cannot always promise a complete cure.”
Three weeks later Mike chartered a plane and flew January to the Clinique of Miracles. He had not spared her. He told her what she would find, the condition of some of the patients. But at least–here–she had a shot at getting well. He did not tell her that Dr. Peterson had some reservations about her complete recovery.
The nearest village was five miles from the Clinique. He checked into the inn and remained a week to see how she would take it. If she felt any revulsion she did not show it. Her smile was always bright, and she praised everyone at the Clinique.
He returned to the Coast and went through the motions of making the final picture. It was a dog and nothing could save it. But he had already started the publicity going on his ‘return to Broadway.” Agents, actors and directors began calling. Each night he holed up in his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel and read scripts. Scripts from established playwrights, new authors, amateurs. He read everything, including galleys of new novels. His attach” case was stacked with them when he flew to Switzerland. January had been at the Clinique two months. Her speech was perfect. Her right arm was as strong as it had ever been. But her leg still presented a problem. She was walking better, but with a decided limp.
The picture was finished in December. He gave it to the director to edit and score and walked away from it. He had a long meeting with his business manager. He sold his plane and some stocks. But he refused to relinquish the suite at the Plaza.
On the day before Christmas he flew to Switzerland five hundred dollars in overweight, with three suitcases loaded with toys for the children. He brought January a record player and albums of all the show tunes of the past ten years.
They celebrated her nineteenth birthday in the little dining room at the inn. She chattered about the albums–how much she liked them, how she wished she hadn’t missed the shows of the past year. Then her face grew serious and she reached out and took his hand. “Tell you what. Next time you come, I’m going to be able to dance with you. That’s a promise.”
“Take it easy.” He laughed. “I haven’t danced in a long time.”
“Well, brush up,” she said. “Because I’ll be waiting.” Then she smiled. “I don’t mean discotheque stuff. But maybe a quiet little waltz. At least it’s something to shoot for.”
He nodded and managed a smile. Just that day he had a long talk with Dr. Peterson, who also was concerned over the lack of improvement of her leg. Dr. Peterson suggested they send for one of the top orthopedic surgeons in London for consultation.
A few days later Mike met with Dr. Peterson and Sir Arthur Rylander, the English surgeon. After Sir Arthur studied the X rays, it was his opinion that the bone had healed improperly. The only chance for a cure was to rebreak it and reset it.
When Mike put it to January, she didn’t hesitate. “Let’s break it. I’ve always thought wearing a cast in the Alps was rather chic. Didn’t you do a picture like that, where the heroine sat in apr’s-ski clothes and looked beautiful?”
“I’ve done three of them.” Mike laughed. “And all my heroines always recovered. Remember that.”
The operation was performed in a hospital in Zurich. Two weeks later she was back at the Clinique of Miracles. Those who were able signed her cast, and her unbelievable spunk sent Mike Wayne back to the States with fresh determination. Anyone with her guts deserved to have a kingdom waiting on her return. Nothing could stop him now.
He went to the Coast, cleared out his office at Century pictures, and went to the races at Santa Anita. He bet a long shot. It came in and he won five thousand dollars. He wasn’t really surprised, because he knew his luck had changed. And that night he read a script from a new author, and knew he had found his play. He decided to back it himself. He went to New York, put extra phones in his suite at the Plaza, took a lavish office in the Getty building, and called a press conference. Michael Wayne was back on Broadway!
For the next few months he was an explosion of frenetic energy. There were discussions with set designers, directors, actors, interviews at Sardi’s, appearances on the talk shows, quick dinners at Danny’s Hide-a-Way to unwind with the comedians, dropping by and sitting up half the night with Long John Nebel on his radio show. His return generated the excitement of a superstar. He was well liked by the press . . . his enthusiasm and “rough cut” charm were infectious to everyone around him. When rehearsals began he sent daily reports to January. He sent her the script; the newspaper stories; wrote to her about rehearsals; and kept her informed on every development of “their” propect. The only thing he neglected to tell her about was the ingenue who had moved in with him after the first week of rehearsal.
The play opened in October in Philadelphia and got mixed notices. Revisions were made and the ingenue lost two of her best scenes and stopped talking to him. It went on to Boston, where it received excellent notices. Three weeks later it opened in New York to a rousing ovation and murderous reviews. The consensus was “Old hat” . . . “Cumbersome” . . . “Badly cast.” The playwright went on talk shows and said Mike had changed his original conception, taken away all the mystical quality. The ingenue went on talk shows and said the playwright was a genius and Mike had ruined his work (she had already moved out of the Plaza and in with the playwright).
He refused to close it. The cast took cuts and went on minimum salary. He poured another two hundred thousand dollars into signs on buses and subways, full-page ads in The New York Times, radio and television spots, full-page ads in the trades, in weekly Variety. He reprinted the Boston notice in full-page ads in out-of-town newspapers. He papered the house and gave it the razzle-dazzle he had always given his hits. He flew to Switzerland and told January it was a smash–it would run forever and he would have at least three companies on tour.
Two months later, after a long session with his accountant, he was forced to close. The market was down, but he sold more stock and arrived in Switzerland for her twentieth birthday, walking like a winner, and carrying the usual amount of overweight in gifts.
And when January walked into the reception room without crutches and without a trace of a limp, he felt like the winner of all time. Her steps were slow and measured, but she was walking. He clamped his jaw and swallowed hard. She was so damned beautiful with those great brown eyes and her hair hanging to her shoulders.
And then she was in his arms, both of them talking and laughing at once. Later, over dinner at the inn, she said, “Why did you tell me the show was such a hit?”
“It was . . . with me. Just had too much class for the public.”
“But you put your own money into it . . .”
“Well, you’ve had three flop pictures . . .”
“Where in hell did you get Variety?”
“You left it here last time. Dr. Peterson gave it to me, thinking you might want it back. I devoured it. But why did you tell me it was a hit?”
“It was . . . in Boston. Look, forget the play. Let’s talk about important things. The Doc says you’ll be ready to leave in six months.”
“Daddy–” She leaned across the table and looked into his eyes. ‘remember when I entered my teens, you said that was a special night. Well, tonight I’ve left my teens. I’m twenty. I’m a big girl now. I know the clinic costs over three thousand a month. Erik, the little boy who taught me to play guitar, had to leave because it was too expensive . . . so I’ve been thinking. . .”
“The only thing you’ve got to think about is getting well.”
“What about money?”
“Hell, I made money from the flop pictures. I was on a percentage of the gross, baby–got it right off the top.”
He had gone back on the plane determined to knock down windmills. His talk with Dr. Peterson had been unsettling. (‘mr. Wayne, you must think of January’s future with much care. She is so very beautiful but also so very innocent. She talks of being an actress, which is natural because it is your business. But you must realize how protected she has been in the world of our Clinique. She must be eased back into your world, not thrown into it.”)
He thought about it on the plane. Somehow he’d manage to have one hell of a world waiting for her. When they ran into some rough weather, he was hit with the crazy idea that a plane crash might solve everything, until he realized he had already cashed in his insurance.
A hit picture was the only solution. Maybe with the three bad ones behind him, the curse was off. He returned to Los Angeles and once again holed up at the Beverly Hills Hotel reading scenarios and treatments. Oddly enough he found one almost immediately. It was from a writer who had not had a hit in the past ten years. But in the fifties, he had one blockbuster after another. He had Oscars for doorstops. And this one would get him another. It had everything. Big love interest, action, a violent chase scene. He met with the author and paid him a thousand dollars for a month’s option.
Then he went to the heads of the big studios.
To his amazement, he couldn’t raise any money or any interest in the script. The answer was the same everywhere. The industry was in a slump. A scenario from a screenwriter meant nothing. Now if he had a best-selling novel . . . perhaps. But scenarios were flooding the studios. And everyone seemed in a state of quiet panic. Changes were happening everywhere. Studio heads had come and gone. At some studios he didn’t even know the new people in charge. The top independent film-makers also refused to back him. They felt he was a bad risk and the author was old hat. At the end of the month he was forced to relinquish the property. Three days later, two kids in their twenties who had come up with a sleeper the year before grabbed it and got immediate backing from a major studio.
He returned to New York in a frantic search for some action. He invested a hundred thousand in a show a top producer had in rehearsal. The trouble began when the leading man quit the second week of rehearsal. The out-of-town tryout was a nightmare–eight weeks of hysteria, fights, cast replacements, and finally his decision to close the show without bringing it in.
After that he spent two months pouring money into an idea for a television series. He worked with the writers; he paid for the pilot himself, spent over three hundred thousand dollars. The networks looked at it, but “passed.” His only chance to recoup some of the money would be as a one-shot slot filler in the summer.
A few weeks later he went to a private screening of the picture he had lost. The production room was filled with young men with beards, tank shirts, and hair hanging from their armpits. The girls wore tank tops and no bras and their hair was either Afro or long and stringy. He felt sick as he watched the picture. They had ruined a great script. Put the ending at the beginning, flooded it with flashbacks and out-of-focus camera work, made the love scene a psychedelic dream sequence with hand-held cameras–the cin’ma-v”rit” crap. Sure, they had to play it that way with the beasts who were passing as actors and actresses today. There were no more faces around like Garbo’s or Crawford’s, or actors like Gable and Cary. . . . Today was the world of the Uglies. That’s what everything seemed to be, and he didn’t understand it.
A week later he went to a sneak preview on Eighty-sixth Street. The same crowd was there, along with college kids and young married advertising executives. The audience cheered.
Three weeks later it opened, and broke box-office records all over the country. That really rocked him. Because it meant he really didn’t know what was good or bad. Not in today’s market. Three years ago he could call the shots. Studios had believed in him . . . and more important, he had believed in himself.
It was time to walk away from the table. Mike Wayne was tapped out. How had the chemistry changed in such a short time? He looked the same, thought the same. Maybe that was it. He hadn’t gone along with all the changes, the nudity, plays and movies without plots, the new trend of Unisex. Well, he was fifty-two. He had lived through some great times. He had known what it was like to walk down Broadway without worrying about getting mugged. He had known New York when it had nightclubs and lines of beautiful girls, not just porno movies and massage parlors. But most of all he was sad–because this was the world she was coming back to.