“Decades ahead of its time . . . Mesmerizing . . . The equation of emotional dependencies with drug addiction in one comprehensive personality disorder is, if anything, more chic today than in Susann’s time; also prescient is the book’s protofeminism.” –Mim Udovitch, The Village Voice Literary Supplement
About The Book
Dolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight – for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry – only to find that there is no place left to go but down – into the Valley of the Dolls.
“The kind of book most of its readers could not put down. I, for one, could not . . . For me reading Valley of the Dolls was like reading a very, very long, absolutely delicious gossip column . . . Magnetic.” –Nora Ephron
“Valley of the Dolls is a grim fable. It’s Thomas Hardy dark. It’s Balzac bleak. It’s Dostoyevsky greige. Nothing ends well. Success corrupts. Fame destroys . . . Everyone is a mess. It is, in other words, the perfect mirror for today’s culture.” –Simon Doonan, Slate
“Valley of the Dolls turns fifty this year–and it still looks fabulous.” –NPR’s Weekend Edition
“[A] famous cult hit that has . . . sold more than 31 million copies on the power of its tawdry, compelling tales of life among the rich and over-indulged.” –Vanity Fair
“It’s always been a bit of an inspiration to me . . . It’s a darn good read. There’s a depth to it, there’s a sadness and a reality to it that’s actually poignant.” –Candace Bushnell, NPR’s Weekend Edition
“Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls is still my favourite bonkbuster. What strikes me is this 60s bestseller’s essential sincerity, whether in the matter of abortion, adultery or mental illness.” –Rachel Cooke, Guardian (UK)
“An era-defining masterpiece. Sure, it’s gossipy, salacious and packed with pop culture, but it also tackles some pretty important issues head-on–Valley of the Dolls was way, way ahead of its time.” –Running in Heels (UK)
“I marvel as always at the raw energy, the detail, and the grim authenticity of the book’s depiction of New York show biz society . . . I have learned from Jackie Susann. I have always respected her power . . . Jackie was among other things utterly sincere in what she wrote.” –Anne Rice
“A cult classic about three girls, striving to become stars, whose dreams come true–only to be derailed by their dependence on “dolls,” Susann’s slang for uppers and downers . . . A shocker at the time, VOTD was a racy roman ” clef depicting . . . a kaleidoscope of fame, sex, addiction, homosexuality, cancer, adultery, suicide, divorce, [and] abortion.” –Holly Millea, Elle
“It’s the most unputdownable book.” –Candace Bushnell
“I tell every millennial they should read it . . . Valley of the Dolls will live forever.” –Simon Doonan
“Valley of the Dolls is one of the great books of the postwar era. There’s a punchy, masculine, brazen quality to [Susann’s] writing that I identify with as a reader. The kind of language that she uses and the kind of imagination she has are totally contemporary.” –Camille Paglia
“I think it is a feminist book, but I don’t think the label really matters. I think the [point] is that [Susann] challenged the norm. In airing her grievances, she aired the grievances of an entire gender.”–Brooke Hauser, author of Enter Helen
“Fifty years later, its alternative feminist message still rings true . . . The book details the lives of three women working in Hollywood and New York and their destructive addiction to prescription pills, or ‘dolls’–a reference to how they cling to the drugs, the way a child might become inseparable from a cherished toy doll. The watershed work has since entered the popular lexicon, shorthand for the seemingly glamorous destruction of drug addiction.” –Nathan Smith, Broadly
“Valley of the Dolls is fascinating. It pushed the genre of fictionalized show business into a new realm of realism . . . Susann set her story in post-World War II America, offering a devastating peek behind the crumbling facade of female stardom in a male-dominant world. Valley acknowledged the existence of sex in a way no other book previously had, particularly from the female and homosexual perspectives. It was the 50 Shades of Grey of its time, and it was received with the same mixture of wild fandom and critical derision.” –Lauren Smart, Dallas Morning News
“Light, fast, and immensely readable . . . Reading Valley of the Dolls feels like that first champagne bubble-buzz, the vibrating hum of a crowded bar, the smooth gurgle of a sweet pill sliding down your throat . . . Instead of seeming gimmicky or schmaltzy, as it might’ve in the 1960s, the trials of these young women now seem candid, realistic . . . A fascinating, captivating, and yes, heartbreaking time-capsule of an era that deserves to be remembered.” –Alison Currie, Feed Your Need to Read
“[Valley of the Dolls] is now a cult film. Everybody knows every line of Valley of the Dolls.” –Lee Grant
“Racing against time for fame, Susann knew how to give readers what they wanted: a shockingly contemporary page-turner that went deep into the stuff of taboo, but still adhered to old scripts of women suffering virtuously in their undying love of men.” –Tim Murphy, Nation
“Valley of the Dolls captures, perfectly, a particular time in post-war America. Susann introduces the great social changes that redefined our culture in this fun, funny, accessible, poignant pop culture masterpiece. I can’t imagine a life without VOD in it. It’s a touchstone text.” –Ira Silverberg, literary agent and former editor in chief of Grove Press where he brought Valley of the Dolls back into print in 1997
“Valley of the Dolls is truly a timeless classic . . . Today Neely O’Hara would become a YouTube sensation, Jennifer North would be an Instagram influencer, and Anne Welles would be a Snapchat queen. No matter how high-toned people want to be, there’s nothing more addictive than a juicy, scandal-filled, drama-laced soap opera!” –Mickey Boardman, Paper Mag
“If Jacqueline Susann was not precisely the “voice of the 60s,” then she was its aching female heart.” –Amy Fine Collins, Vanity Fair
“Bust out your best Pucci and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic guilty pleasure that scandalized a nation, appalled the stodgy critical community, and apparently presaged our national addiction to opiates.” –O Magazine
“Valley realized Jackie’s ambition to be a storyteller and the #1 bestselling novelist. She was true to the show business world she knew intimately–a nonstop promoter and entertainer. With her husband Irving Mansfield, her publishers, and teams of publicists, Jackie changed how books would be marketed for years to come.” –Esther Margolis, founder and publisher of Newmarket Press, former SVP at Bantam Books, and publicity director for Bantam’s campaigns for all of Jacqueline Susann’s novels
“I couldn’t believe these weren’t real girls because I know them. Maddeningly sexy. I wish I had written it.” –Helen Gurley Brown
“Valley of the Dolls remains a brave, bold, angry and, yes, definitely a feminist book. All that, and still about the most fun you can have without a prescription.” –Julie Burchill, Guardian
“Jackie, it seemed, understood by instinct that her readers were ready for the raw side of love . . . for a franker sexuality and a tougher kind of story–for romance with tears and oral sex.” –Michael Korda, Simon & Schuster editor of The Love Machine, in the New Yorker
“From Mary Tyler Moore and Jackie Collins’s ballsy heroines to “Sex and the City” and Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” they all owe a debt to Jacqueline Susann’s riveting racy read.” –Red Online (UK)
“Reading the book feels more like hurtling down Niagara Falls–driven by a torrent of sex, drugs, and doom. The panic with which one turns the pages is like the mixture of curiosity and fear that accompanies reading the Oedipus myth. The protagonists can’t do anything to escape their terrible fates, and each choice binds them closer to their destinies, yet there are no other choices. Just as in the myth, where things cannot turn out well for humans, in Valley of the Dolls nothing can turn out well for women past thirty.” –Sheila Heti, Bookforum
“50 years on, and a lot of the same issues are cropping up: body image, pressures to balance professional lives and personal lives, and “getting a man.” To me, it’s the latter that really positions the book as a dark satire of patriarchy–literally all the characters are destroyed by trying to marry a man. The only other book I know that does that so well is Women as Lovers by Elfriede Jelinek, and she won the Nobel Prize.” –Kiva Reardon, Hazlitt
“A generation that knows Sex and the City, and which connects to Lena Dunham’s Girls, may not instantly connect the dots to Susann, who did it all first, and in Pucci. A culture that cavalierly tosses off the term “chick lit” doesn’t fully realize how fast Susann was out of the gate so many decades ago in the way she gave frank talk to women.” –Shinan Govani, Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“As an adolescent I “borrowed” a copy from my mother’s bedside basket of books without telling her. The Pepto Bismol–pink cover was irresistible to me, and the novel rewarded my curiosity . . . a salacious read I’ve revisited several times in adulthood.” –Laura June, New York Magazine’s The Cut
“Susann’s lurid descriptions of three pill-popping young women struggling with fame and beauty–based off her own life–were vivid and relevant enough to a generation of women clamoring for stories about themselves.” –Kate Dries, Jezebel
“The iconic novel that shook the “60s to its core with its shocking look into the lives of three friends who fall into the seedy underworld of fame and drug addiction.” –People
“Decades ahead of its time . . . Mesmerizing . . . The equation of emotional dependencies with drug addiction in one comprehensive personality disorder is, if anything, more chic today than in Susann’s time.” –Mim Udovitch, Village Voice Literary Supplement
“Jacqueline Susann’s questioning of glamour and fame, so unsettling in its honesty, crept into my head and stayed there, lingering for years until I was finally able to give it my own expression.” –Lori Goldstein
“Exciting news for all you modern Dolls (#squadgoals) and aspiring millennial readers . . . the story feels more relevant than ever.” –Micaela English, Town & Country
“Valley of the Dolls remains a pop-culture touchstone: a gleefully salacious story of friendship, sex, backstabbing and pills (or ‘dolls’).” –Alexandria Symonds, T: The New York Times Style Magazine
“[Susann] was crass and she was brave. She was giving women permission to be something other than what they had been told they had to be.” –Marissa Stapley, Toronto Star (Canada)
“Valley of the Dolls is a zipper-ripper that has been called trashy, tawdry, glitzy, lusty, sordid, and seamy–and that’s just the beginning of its appeal.” –Nancy Bachrach, NPR.org
“One of the sexiest novels ever written.” –Earl Wilson
“A shocking tale of fame, friendship, fucking, and pharmaceuticals.” –Marjorie Ingall, Tablet Magazine
“A bonafide, ahead-of-its-time American classic.” –BookPage
“This cult-classic portrait of glamour and excess is enjoying a fabulous comeback.” –Criterion Collection
“Susann predicted the celebrity culture we live in now. Actually, she invented it: fame is as fame does.” –Letty Cottin Pogrebin, founding editor of Ms. Magazine and publicity director for Bernard Geis hardcover launch of Valley of the Dolls
“The classic from Jacqueline Susann is as fresh in its attractive 50th-anniversary release as it was shocking in 1966. Still gripping, still gossipy, still the raw reflection on fame, super-stardom, and the salacious legacy of those that produce it.” –WORD Bookstore
One of Amazon’s 100 Best Books to Read in Your Lifetime.
Anne – September, 1945
The temperature hit ninety degrees the day she arrived. New York was steaming—an angry concrete animal caught unawares in an unseasonable hot spell. But she didn’t mind the heat or the littered midway called Times Square. She thought New York was the most exciting city in the world.
The girl at the employment agency smiled and said, “Aaah, you’re a cinch. Even with no experience. All the good secretaries are away in those big-paying defense jobs. But honest, honey, if I had your looks I’d head straight for John Powers or Conover.”
“Who are they?” Anne asked.
“They run the top modeling agencies in town. That’s what I’d love to do, only I’m too short and not skinny enough. But you’re just what they’re looking for.”
“I think I’d rather work in an office,” Anne said.
“Okay, but I think you’re crazy.” She handed Anne several slips of paper. “Here, they’re all good leads, but go to Henry Bellamy first. He’s a big theatrical attorney. His secretary just married John Walsh.” When Anne failed to react, the girl said, “Now don’t tell me you never heard of John Walsh! He’s won three Oscars and I just read he’s gonna get Garbo out of retirement and direct her comeback picture.”
Anne’s smile assured the girl she would never forget John Walsh.
“Now you get the idea of the setup and the kind of people you’ll meet,” the girl went on. “Bellamy and Bellows—a real great office. They handle all kinds of big clients. And Myrna, the girl who married John Walsh, she couldn’t touch you in the looks department. You’ll grab a live one right away.”
“A live what?”
“Guy . . . maybe even a husband.” The girl looked back at Anne’s application. “Say, where did you say you’re from? It is in America, isn’t it?”
Anne smiled. “Lawrenceville. It’s at the start of the Cape, about an hour from Boston by train. And if I had wanted a husband I could have stayed right there. In Lawrenceville everyone gets married as soon as they get out of school. I’d like to work for a while first.”
“And you left such a place? Here everyone is looking for a husband. Including me! Maybe you could send me to this Lawrenceville with a letter of introduction.”
“You mean you’d marry just anyone?” Anne was curious.
“Not anyone. Just anyone who’d give me a nice beaver coat, a part-time maid, and let me sleep till noon each day. The fellows I know not only expect me to keep my job, but at the same time I should look like Carole Landis in a negligee while I whip up a few gourmet dishes.” When Anne laughed the girl said, “All right, you’ll see. Wait till you get involved with some of the Romeos in this town. I bet you rush for the fastest train back to Lawrenceville. And on the way, don’t forget to stop by and take me with you.”
She would never go back to Lawrenceville! She hadn’t just left Lawrenceville—she had escaped. Escaped from marriage to some solid Lawrenceville boy, from the solid, orderly life of Lawrenceville. The same orderly life her mother had lived. And her mother’s mother. In the same orderly kind of a house. A house that a good New England family had lived in generation after generation, its inhabitants smothered with orderly, unused emotions, emotions stifled beneath the creaky iron armor called “manners.”
(“Anne, a lady never laughs out loud.” “Anne, a lady never sheds tears in public.” “But this isn’t public, I’m crying to you, Mama, here in the kitchen.” “But a lady sheds tears in privacy. You’re not a child, Anne, you’re twelve, and Aunt Amy is here in the kitchen. Now go to your room.”)
And somehow Lawrenceville had pursued her to Radcliffe. Oh, there were girls who laughed and shed tears and gossiped and enjoyed the “highs” and “lows” of life. But they never invited her into their world. It was as if she wore a large sign that said, Stay Away. Cold, Reserved New England Type. More and more she retreated into books, and even there she found a pattern repeated: it seemed that virtually every writer she encountered had fled the city of his birth. Hemingway alternated between Europe, Cuba and Bimini. Poor bewildered, talented Fitzgerald had also lived abroad. And even the red, lumpy-looking Sinclair Lewis had found romance and excitement in Europe.
She would escape from Lawrenceville! It was as simple as that. She made the decision in her senior year at college and announced it to her mother and Aunt Amy during her Easter vacation.
“Mama . . . Aunt Amy . . . when I finish college I’m going to New York.”
“That’s a dreadful place for a vacation.”
“I intend to live there.”
“Have you discussed this with Willie Henderson?”
“No. Why should I?”
“Well, you’ve kept company since you both were sixteen. Everybody naturally assumes . . .”
“That’s just it. In Lawrenceville everything is assumed.”
“Anne, you are raising your voice,” her mother said calmly. “Willie Henderson is a fine boy. I went to school with his daddy and his mother.”
“But I don’t love him, Mama.”
“No man can be loved.” This from Aunt Amy.
“Didn’t you love Daddy, Mama?” It wasn’t a question. It was almost an accusation.
“Of course I loved him.” Her mother’s voice bristled. “But what Aunt Amy means is . . . well. . . men are different. They don’t think or react like women. Now take your father. He was an extremely difficult man to understand. He was impulsive, and he enjoyed his drink. If he had been married to anyone but me he might have had a bad end.”
“I never saw Daddy drink,” Anne said defensively.
“Of course not. There was Prohibition, and I never kept a drop in the house. I broke him of the habit before it could take hold. Oh, he had a lot of wild ways in the beginning—his grandmother was French, you know.”
“Latins are always a little crazy,” Aunt Amy agreed.
“There was nothing crazy about Daddy!” Suddenly Anne wished she had known him better. It seemed so long ago . . . the day he had reeled forward, right here in the kitchen. She had been twelve. He never said a word, just slumped quietly to the floor and quietly died, before the doctor even reached the house.
“You’re right, Anne. There was nothing crazy about your father. He was a man, but he was a good man. Don’t forget, Amy, his mother was a Bannister. Ellie Bannister went all through school with our mama.”
“But Mama, didn’t you ever really love Daddy? I mean, when a man you love takes you in his arms and kisses you, it should be wonderful, shouldn’t it? Wasn’t it ever wonderful with Daddy?”
“Anne! How dare you ask your mother such a thing!” said Aunt Amy.
“Unfortunately, kissing isn’t all a man expects after marriage,” her mother said stiffly. Then, cautiously, “Have you ever kissed Willie Henderson?”
Anne grimaced. “Yes . . . a few times.”
“And did you enjoy it?” her mother asked.
“I hated it.” His lips had been soft—almost slimy—and his breath had smelled sour.
“Did you ever kiss any other boy?”
Anne shrugged. “Oh, a few years back, when Willie and I first started dating, at parties we’d play Spin the Bottle. I guess I got around to kissing most of the boys in town, and as I recall, each kiss was as repulsive as another.” She smiled. “Mother, I don’t think we have one decent kisser in all of Lawrenceville.”
Her mother’s good humor returned. “You’re a lady, Anne. That’s why you don’t like kissing. No lady does.”
“Oh Mama, I don’t know what I like or what I am. That’s why I want to go to New York.”
Her mother shrugged. “Anne, you have five thousand dollars. Your father left that specifically for you to use as you wished. When I go, there will be a good deal more. We’re not rich, not like the Hendersons, but we’re comfortable and our family stands for something in Lawrenceville. I want to feel that you’ll come back and settle in this house. My mother was born here. Of course Willie Henderson may want to add a wing—there’s plenty of ground—but at least it will be our house.”
“I don’t love Willie Henderson, Mama!”
“There is no such thing as love, the way you talk about it. You’ll only find that kind of love in cheap movies and novels. Love is companionship, having friends in common, the same interests. Sex is the connotation you’re placing on love, and let me tell you, young lady, that if and when it does exist, it dies very quickly after marriage—or as soon as the girl learns what it’s all about. But go to your New York. I won’t stand in your way. I’m sure Willie will wait. But mark my words, Anne, after a few weeks you’ll come running home—you’ll be glad to leave that dirty city.”
It had been dirty—and hot and crowded—the day she arrived. Sailors and soldiers joggled along Broadway with a reckless holiday spirit in their eager stares, and a convulsive, end-of-the-war excitement. But mingled with the dirt, humidity and strangeness, Anne had felt excitement, and an awareness of living. The littered and cracked pavements of New York made the trees and clear air of New England seem cold and lifeless. The unshaven man who had removed the “Room for Let” sign from the window, after accepting a week’s rent in advance, looked like Mr. Kingston, the mailman back home, but his smile had been warmer. “It’s not much of a room,” he’d admitted, “but the ceiling is high and it kind of stirs the air. And I’m always around to fix anything you want.” She felt he liked her, and she liked him. There was an acceptance at face value in New York, as if everyone had just been born, with no past heritage to acknowledge or hide.
And now, as she stood before the imposing glass doors engraved Bellamy and Bellows, she hoped she’d find the same kind of acceptance from Henry Bellamy.
Henry Bellamy couldn’t believe his eyes. She couldn’t be for real. In her way, maybe she was one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen, and he was accustomed to beautiful girls. And instead of wearing the outrageous pompadour and platform shoes that had come into style, this one just let her hair hang loose, natural, and it was that light blonde color that looked real. But it was her eyes that really rattled him. They were really blue, sky blue—but glacial.
“Why do you want this job, Miss Welles?” For some reason he felt nervous. Dammit, he was curious. She was dressed in plain dark linen, and there wasn’t a sign of jewelry except the small, neat wristwatch, but there was something about her that made one certain she didn’t need a job.
“I want to live in New York, Mr. Bellamy.”
Just that. A straight answer. Why did it make him feel like he was snooping? He was entitled to ask questions. And if he made it too easy, she might not take the job. That was crazy, too. She was sitting here, wasn’t she? She hadn’t just dropped by for tea. Then why did he feel as if he were the applicant, striving to make a favorable impression on her?
He glanced at the form the agency had sent along. “Twenty years old and a B.A. in English, eh? Radcliffe. But no office experience. Now tell me, what good is this fancy background going to do around here? Can it help me handle a bitch like Helen Lawson or get a drunken bum like Bob Wolfe to turn in a weekly radio script on time? Or convince some fag singer to leave the Johnson Harris office and let me handle his affairs?”
“Am I supposed to do all that?” she asked.
“No, I am. But you have to help.”
“But I thought you were an attorney.”
He saw her collect her gloves. He turned on one of his relaxed smiles. “I’m a theatrical attorney. There’s a difference. I draw up contracts for my clients. Contracts that have no loopholes, except in their favor. I also handle their taxes, help them invest their money, get them out of any and all trouble, arbitrate their marital problems, keep their wives and mistresses apart, act as godfather to their children and wet nurse to them, especially when they’re doing a new show.”
“But I thought actors and writers had managers and agents.”
“They do.” He noticed the gloves were back in her lap. “But the ‘jumbos,’ the kind I handle, they also need me to advise them. For instance, an agent naturally pushes them toward the job that pays the most. He’s interested in his ten per cent. But I figure which job will do them the most good. In short, a theatrical attorney has to be a combination of agent, mother and God. And you, if you get the job, have to be their patron saint.”
Anne smiled. “Why don’t theatrical attorneys replace all agents?”
“They probably would, if there were enough dedicated schmucks like me.” He caught himself quickly. “Excuse the language. When I get going, I don’t realize what pops out.”
“What language? Schmuck?” She repeated it curiously.
It sounded so outrageous coming from her that he laughed out loud. “It’s a Jewish word, and the literal translation would make you blush. But it’s become slang—for dope. . . . Oh, don’t let the fancy tag of Bellamy fool you, or even my freak Episcopalian face. I was born Birnbaum. When I was a kid I worked summers as entertainment director on cruises—wrote the ship’s column. And they didn’t like their fancy columns headed ‘Boating by Birnbaum,’ so one guy suggested Bellamy. I met a lot of important people on those cruises. A singer who was working the tour became my first client. A lot of people got to know me as Bellamy and I stuck with it. But I never let anyone forget that under Bellamy there’s always Birnbaum.” He smiled. “Now you have the whole picture. Think you can handle it?”
This time her smile was real. “I’d like to try. I type fairly well, but I don’t know much about shorthand.”
He waved his hand. “I got two broads out there who could win shorthand contests. I want someone who is more than a secretary.”
Her smile vanished. “I don’t think I understand.”
Dammit! He hadn’t meant anything like that. He ground his cigarette in the tray and lit another one. Jesus, she sat straight. Unconsciously he straightened in his chair.
“Look, Miss Welles, being more than a secretary means not sticking to the usual nine-to-five routine. There may be days when you won’t have to come in until noon. If I’ve made you work at night I wouldn’t expect you to come in. But on the other hand, if there was some crisis and even if you had worked until four in the morning, I’d expect you in before the office opened, because you would want to be there. In other words, you make your own schedule. But you’d also have to be available some evenings.”
He paused a second but she did not react, so he hurried on. “Say I was having dinner at ‘21’ with a prospective client. If I go for the right dinner and make with the right words, it’s a pretty good bet he’ll sign with me. But I may have to have six or seven drinks with him and listen to his gripes about his present management. Naturally I’ll swear on my life not to do any of these things. I’ll promise him everything—the moon with his name on it. Now I can’t give him all the things I promise. No one could. But I will want to make an honest effort to avoid the mistakes of his present management and keep what promises I can. Only the next morning I won’t remember a goddam word. That’s where you come in. You won’t have a hangover, because during this thrilling evening you will have sipped one sherry and you will remember everything I have said. The following day you will present me with a list of all the promises and I can study them when my head is clear.”
She smiled. “I’d be sort of a human Dictaphone?”
“Exactly. Think you could handle it?”
“Well, I have an excellent memory and I hate sherry.”
This time they laughed together.
“Okay, Anne. Want to start tomorrow?”
She nodded. “Will I also work for Mr. Bellows?”
He gazed into space and said quietly, “There is no Mr. Bellows. Oh, there’s George, his nephew, but George is not the Bellows in Bellamy and Bellows. That was George’s uncle, Jim Bellows. I bought Jim out before he went to war. I tried to talk him out of it, but no, he went to Washington and got carried away with that Navy uniform and a commission.” He sighed. “War is for the young. Jim Bellows was fifty-three. Too old for war . . . but too young to die.”
“Was he killed in Europe or the Pacific?”
“He died of a heart attack in a submarine, the damn fool!” But the gruffness in his voice only punctuated the affection he felt for the dead man. Then, with an abrupt change of mood, he flashed one of his warm smiles.
“Okay, Anne, I guess we’ve exchanged enough of our life stories. I can start you at seventy-five a week—how does that set with you?”
It was more than she had expected. Her room cost eighteen, food about fifteen. She told him she could manage quite well.
September had been a good month. She had found a job she liked, a girl friend named Neely and a gentle, eager escort named Allen Cooper.
October brought Lyon Burke.
She had been welcomed with instant acceptance by the receptionist and two secretaries. She lunched with them each day at the corner drugstore. Lyon Burke was their favorite topic, and Miss Steinberg, the senior secretary, was the expert. She had been with Henry Bellamy ten years. She had known Lyon Burke.
Lyon had been with the office two years when war was declared, and had left to enlist the day after Pearl Harbor. Jim Bellows had often suggested that his nephew join the firm. Henry had nothing against George Bellows, but he had always refused. “Business and relatives don’t mix,” he had insisted. But with Lyon gone, Henry was left with little choice.
There was nothing wrong with George. He was a capable lawyer, but he lacked the chemistry of Lyon Burke—at least in Miss Steinberg’s eyes. Lyon’s activities in the war had been avidly followed by all of the staff, and when he had received his captain’s bars, Henry had taken off half the day to celebrate. The last letter had come from London in August. Lyon was alive, Lyon sent regards—but Lyon said nothing about returning.
At first Henry had watched the mail each day. When September passed without word he moodily reconciled himself to Lyon’s permanent withdrawal from the firm. But Miss Steinberg refused to give up. And Miss Steinberg was right. The wire came in October.
It was direct and to the point:
DEAR HENRY: WELL IT’S OVER AND I’M STILL IN ONE PIECE. VISITED SOME RELATIVES IN LONDON AND STOPPED OFF AT BRIGHTON FOR SOME SEA AND REST. AM IN WASHINGTON WAITING FOR MY OFFICIAL RELEASE. AS SOON AS THEY LET ME TRADE THEIR UNIFORM FOR MY OLD BLUE SUIT I SHALL RETURN. BEST. LYON.
Henry Bellamy’s face lit up when he read the wire. He jumped from his chair. “Lyon’s coming back! Goddam, I knew he would!”
For the next ten days the office was in a turmoil of interior decorators, excitement and speculative gossip.
“I can’t wait.” The receptionist sighed. “He sounds just like my type.”
Miss Steinberg’s smile was loaded with secret knowledge. “He’s everybody’s type, honey. If his looks don’t polish you off, the English accent does the rest.”
“He’s English?” Anne was surprised.
“Born here,” Miss Steinberg explained. “His mother was Nell Lyon. That was way before your time. Mine too. But she was a big English musical comedy star. She came here in a show and married an American lawyer, Tom Burke. She retired and Lyon was born here, so that makes him an American citizen. But his mother held on to her British citizenship, and when Lyon’s father died—I think Lyon was about five—she took him back to London. She went back on the stage and he went to school there. When she died he came back and went to law school here.”
“I know I’ll fall madly in love with him,” the younger secretary said.
Miss Steinberg shrugged. “Every girl in the office had a crush on him. But I can’t wait to see his reaction when he meets you, Anne.”
“Me?” Anne looked startled.
“Yes, you. You both have the same quality. A standoffishness. Only Lyon keeps blinding you with that smile and it fools you at first. You think he’s friendly. But you can never get really close to him. No one could. Not even Mr. Bellamy. Deep down Mr. B.’s a little in awe of Lyon, and not just because of his looks or manner. Lyon delivers. You watch, Lyon Burke will own this town one day. I’ve seen Mr. B. pull some pretty brilliant deals, but he has to fight every inch of the way because everyone knows he’s smart and they’re prepared for him. Lyon just walks in with the English charm and the movie-star looks, and wham! he comes off with everything he wants. But after a while you realize you don’t know what he’s really like—and what he thinks of you, or of anyone. What I mean is, he seems to like everyone equally. So you get the feeling that maybe deep down he doesn’t really care about anyone or anything—except his work. For that, he’ll do anything. But whatever you think about him, you still wind up adoring him.”
The second wire arrived ten days later, on a Friday morning:
DEAR HENRY: HAVE BLUE SUIT. ARRIVE IN NEW YORK TOMORROW NIGHT. WILL COME DIRECTLY TO YOUR FLAT. SEE IF YOU CAN BOOK HOTEL RESERVATION. EXPECT TO START MONDAY. BEST. LYON.
Henry Bellamy took off at noon to celebrate. Anne was just finishing the mail when George Bellows stopped at her desk.
“Why don’t we go somewhere and celebrate, too?” he asked casually.
She couldn’t hide her astonishment. Her association with George Bellows had been confined to an official “good morning” and an occasional nod.
“I’m asking you to lunch,” he explained.
“I’m very sorry, but I promised to join the girls at the drugstore.”
He helped her into her coat. “Too bad,” he said. “This may be our last day on earth.” He smiled ruefully and drifted back to his office.
At lunch she listened to the endless chatter about Lyon Burke with half a mind, wondering idly why she had turned down George’s invitation. Fear of complications? From one lunch? How silly. Loyalty to Allen Cooper? Well . . . Allen was the only man she knew in New York, and he was very kind. Perhaps that did rate him a kind of loyalty.
She recalled the day he had burst into the office, determined to clinch some kind of deal—insurance, Anne later found out. Henry had been unusually cold and had gotten rid of him quickly. So quickly, in fact, that Anne’s sympathies were aroused. As she led him out she had whispered, “Better luck next stop.” He had seemed almost startled at the warmth in her voice.
Two hours later her phone rang. “This is Allen Cooper. You remember me—the dynamic salesman? Well, I want you to know that my session with Henry was a wild success compared to my other stops. At least at Bellamy’s I met you.”
“You mean you haven’t made a sale?” She felt genuinely sorry.
“Nope. Struck out everywhere. Guess this just isn’t my day . . . unless you want to give it a happy ending by having a drink with me.”
“I don’t . . .”
“Drink? Me either. So let’s make it dinner then.”
That’s how it began—and continued. He was pleasant and had a nice sense of humor. She thought of him as a friend rather than a date. Very often she didn’t bother to change her clothes after work. He never seemed to notice what she wore. And he always seemed eagerly grateful for her company. They went to little unknown restaurants and she always selected the least expensive item on the menu. She wanted to offer to pay her end, but she was afraid it might make him feel more of a failure.
Allen was hopelessly miscast as a salesman. He was too nice and mild-mannered for his profession. He asked questions about Lawrenceville, her days at school, even the events at the office. He made her feel like the most interesting, fascinating girl in the world.
She continued to see him because he made no demands upon her. Sometimes in a movie he held her hand. He made no attempt to kiss her good night. Her feeling was one of relief mixed with a curious sense of inadequacy. It was almost embarrassing not to be able to arouse any passion in poor Allen, but she was content to let matters rest. The thought of kissing him brought on the same distaste she had experienced when she had kissed Willie Henderson back in Lawrenceville, and this made her wonder again about her own capacity for love. Perhaps she wasn’t normal—or maybe her mother was right, maybe passion and romance did exist only in fiction.