Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Love Machine

by 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

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 512
  • Publication Date January 13, 1998
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3544-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $14.95

About The Book

In a time when steak, vodka, and Benzedrine were the three main staples of a healthy diet, when high-powered executives called each other “baby” and movie stars wore wigs to bed, network tycoons had a name for the TV set: they called it “the love machine.” But to supermodel Amanda, socialite Judith, and journalist Maggie, “the love machine” meant something else: Robin Stone, “a TV-network titan around whom women flutter like so many moths. . . . The novel deals with his rise and fall as he makes the international sex scene (orgying in London, transvestiting in Hamburg), drinks unlimited quantities and checks out the latest Nielsens.” –Newsweek

Praise

“I read it in one greedy gulp, enjoying every minute.” –Liz Smith

“[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

Excerpt

ONE

Monday, March 1960

AT NINE IN THE MORNING, she was standing on the steps in front of the Plaza Hotel, shivering in a linen dress. One of the clothespins that held the back of the dress together clattered to the ground. A dresser hurried to replace it, and the photographer used the time to reload his camera. The hairdresser quickly retouched a few stray hairs with a can of hair spray and the session resumed. The curious crowd that had gathered was delighted with this glimpse of one of the Beautiful People–a top fashion model, facing the blasting cold winds of March, in a lightweight summer dress. To add to the strangeness of the scene, there were cold-looking snowbanks on the hills of Central Park, reminders of a recent snowstorm. The crowd, comfortably bundled in winter coats, suddenly felt no envy for the shimmering creature they were watching who earned more money in a morning than they earned in a week.

Amanda was freezing, but she was impervious to the crowd. She was thinking of Robin Stone. Sometimes thinking of Robin Stone helped, especially when they had spent a wonderful night together.

This morning her thoughts were not comforting. She had not spent a wonderful night with Robin. She had not even heard from him. He had two lecture dates, one in Baltimore on Saturday, and one at some dinner in Philadelphia on Sunday. “I’ll shoot my speech to them at seven and be back at New York by ten,” he had promised. “Then we’ll go to the Lancer Bar and grab a hamburger.” She had sat around in full makeup until two in the morning. Not even a phone call.

The photographer finished. The fashion coordinator rushed to her with a coat and a container of coffee. She went into the hotel and sank into a massive armchair in the lobby and sipped the coffee. The icicles in her veins began to thaw. She would survive. Thank God the rest of the shots were indoors.

She finished the coffee and went up to the suite that had been engaged for the session. The clothes were hanging in a neat row. With the help of the dresser, she slipped out of the linen dress and changed into a pair of summer “at home” slacks. She adjusted the falsies in her bra, then checked her makeup. The electricity crackled as her comb went through the thickness of the soft honey-colored hair. She had washed it herself yesterday and set it the way Robin liked it, long and loose. This afternoon she had a three-hour session scheduled with Alwayso Cosmetics–they would probably reset it. Jerry Moss liked her in an upsweep; he claimed it gave the product more class.

At eleven o’clock she was closeted in the bathroom, changing into her own clothes. She opened her large bag and took out the container with toothbrush and tooth paste. She brushed her teeth in up and down strokes. She was doing the summer shades of lipstick for Alwayso today. Thank God for her teeth, thank God for her hair. And her face. Her legs were good, her hips were slim, she was tall. God had been very good; He had only been forgetful in one spot. She stared ruefully at the falsies in her bra. She thought of all the women who had watched her pose: working girls, housewives, heavy women, thick-ankled women–they all had bosoms. Bosoms which they took for granted. And she was flat as a boy.

Oddly enough this was an asset for the perfect model. But it certainly was no asset in one’s personal life. She recalled the dismay she had felt when she was twelve and most of the girls at school began to sprout small “bumps’ on top. She had run to Aunt Rose, Aunt Rose who had laughed: “They’ll come, honey, only let’s hope they don’t get too big like your Aunt Rose’s!”

But they hadn’t come. When she was fourteen Aunt Rose had said, “Now, honey, the good Lord gave you a beautiful face and a good mind. Besides, it’s more important for a man to love you for yourself, not your face or your body.”

This simple logic was all very fine when she sat in the kitchen listening to Aunt Rose, when neither of them thought she would ever go to New York and meet the kind of people she knew now.

Like the singer–she never thought of Billy in any other way. She had been eighteen, just starting to model, when they met. She had played his records in high school. When she was twelve, she had stood in line for two hours when he was making a personal appearance at a local movie house. Seeing him in person at a party was like a dream. And it was even more unbelievable when he singled her out. As Billy put it to some of the columnists, “It was instant romance!” From that night on, she was part of his entourage. She had never seen this way of life–the nightclub openings, the round-the-clock chauffeur, the large groups he took everywhere, songwriters, agents, song pluggers, press agents. And although they had never laid eyes on her before, they just accepted her as part of the family. She was amazed at the whirlwind courtship and all the attending newspaper publicity. He held her hand and kissed her cheek as the camera snapped, and on the fifth night they finally wound up alone–in his hotel suite.

She had never been in a suite at the Waldorf Towers–at the time she was still living at the Barbizon Hotel for Women. She stood in the center of the room staring at all the flowers and the bottles of liquor. He kissed her, loosened his tie and beckoned her toward the bedroom. She meekly followed him. He took off his shirt and casually unzipped his pants. “Okay, angel, unwrap,” he said.

She had felt panic as she slowly undressed down to her pants and bra. He walked over and kissed her lips, her neck, her shoulders, while his fingers fumbled with the bra. It fell to the floor. He stood back, his disappointment evident.

“Jesus, baby, put the bra back.” He looked down at himself and laughed. “Charlie here has already folded from shock.”

She put the bra back on. She put on all her clothes and rushed out of the hotel. The following day he sent her flowers, besieged her with calls, pursued her. She relented and they had three wonderful weeks together. She went to bed with him, but she kept her bra on.

The singer returned to the Coast after three weeks. He never called her again. He salved his conscience by giving her a mink coat as a going-away present. She could still recall the amazement on his face when he found he had taken a virgin.

The newspaper publicity brought a call from the Nick Long-worth agency. She signed with them and her career as a model was launched. He started her at twenty-five dollars an hour, and now, five years later, she was one of the top ten models in the country, booked solid at sixty dollars an hour. Nick Longworth made her study the fashion magazines, learn how to dress, practice her walk. She had moved from the Barbizon to a nice apartment on the East Side where she spent most of her evenings alone. She bought a television set and a Siamese cat. She concentrated on her work and studied the magazines’ .

Robin Stone had exploded into her life at a charity ball. She had been chosen along with five other top models to appear in a fashion show for a charity ball at the Waldorf. Seats cost one hundred dollars. There was the usual dancing and entertainment in the Grand Ballroom; all the best people came. But there was one factor that set this ball apart from all the other similar glittering charity events: Mrs. Gregory Austin was head of the committee. Mrs. Gregory Austin’s ball not only made all the newspapers, it also received television coverage on the local IBC station. And why not? Mr. Austin owned the IBC network.

The Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf was packed. Amanda and the other models were accorded the courtesy of “paying guests,” since they were donating their time. Along with the five other girls, she sat at a table and nibbled at the dinner. IBC had placed six minor executives at the table as escorts for the girls. The men were attractive and bland. In the beginning, they made stabs at small talk, but gradually they fell into discussions of ratings and cancelations among themselves. Amanda barely listened. She covertly studied the table where Mrs. Gregory Austin sat with her friends. She recognized Judith Austin from her newspaper pictures and was secretly elated that Mrs. Austin’s hair was tinted the exact color as her own. Amanda judged Judith Austin to be about forty, but she was very beautiful–small, elegant and perfectly understated. It was women like Mrs. Austin whom Amanda had tried to emulate in the early stages of learning how to dress–of course she still couldn’t afford clothes like Mrs. Austin’s, but she could get the copies.

After dinner she went to the dressing room to prepare for the fashion show. The IBC cameras were set up. The show would go on live for the local eleven o’clock news. She was sitting with the other models when there was a light knock on the door. Robin Stone came in.

The girls gave him their names. When she simply said, “Amanda,” he wrote it down and waited. She smiled. “Just Amanda–that’s all there is,” she said. Their eyes met and he smiled. She stared at him as he went around the room, writing down the names of the other girls. He was very tall, and she liked the way he moved. She had caught him a few times on the local news before switching over to CBS and the late movie. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind she recalled he had once won a Pulitzer Prize as a newspaper reporter. Television certainly didn’t do him justice. His hair was dark and thick, just beginning to tinge with gray. But it was his eyes. They suddenly caught her own, held them–almost as if he was appraising her. Then he flashed an easy grin and left the room.

She decided he was probably married to someone who looked like Mrs. Austin. By the time the show was over, Amanda had even pictured two small children who looked exactly like him.

She was completely dressed when he knocked on the door. “Hello, Miss One Name,” he said with a grin. “Is there a Mr. One Name waiting for you at home or are you free to have a beer with me?”

She went to P.J.’s with Robin, toyed with a Coke and watched him in amazement as he drank five vodkas and remained absolutely sober. And she followed him back to his apartment without a spoken word or suggestion on his part. The pressure of his hand carried the message, as if it was mutually understood.

It was almost as if she had been under hypnosis. She entered his apartment without any sense of apprehension, stood before him and undressed without giving a thought to her bosom. And when she hesitated with her bra, he walked over and removed it himself.

“Are you disappointed?” she asked.

He tossed the padded bra across the room. “Only cows need boobs!” Then he took her in his arms and gently leaned down and kissed her breasts. He was the only man who had ever done this. She held his head and trembled” .

That first night he had taken her gently and wordlessly, then when both their bodies were moist with exhaustion, he had held her close. “Want to be my girl?” he asked. Her answer came in the darkness as she clung to him with more fervor. He broke the embrace, and those clear blue eyes searched her face. His lips smiled, but the eyes were serious. “No strings, no promises, no questions–on both sides. Okay?”

She nodded mutely. Then he reached out and made love to her again, with a peculiar combination of violence and tenderness. At last they lay back, exhausted and fulfilled. She caught a glance at the clock on his night table. Three o’clock! She slid out of bed. He reached out and grabbed her wrist. “Where are you going!”

“Home” .”

He twisted her wrist and she cried out in pain. He said, “When you sleep with me, you stay! You don’t leave!”

“But I have to. I’m wearing an evening dress!”

Without a word, he released her and got up and began to dress. “Then I’ll spend the night at your place.”

She smiled. “Afraid to sleep alone?”

His eyes went dark. ‘don’t ever say that! I sleep alone. But when I go to bed with a girl, I sleep with her!”

They went to her apartment, and he made love to her again. And as she fell asleep in his arms she was filled with a happiness so acute that she felt sympathy for every woman in the world because they would never know Robin Stone.

Now, after three months, even her Siamese cat, Slugger, had accepted Robin and snuggled against his feet at night.

Robin didn’t make very much money, and he was away many weekends, doing lectures to augment his income. Amanda didn’t mind not going to the Colony or “21.” She liked P.J.’s, the Lancer Bar, the Piccolo Italia, Robin’s hangouts. She loved double features, and she was trying desperately to learn the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. Sometimes she would sit in the Lancer Bar for hours, while Robin discussed politics with Jerry Moss. Jerry lived in Greenwich and his agency handled the Alwayso cosmetics account. It was Robin’s friendship with Jerry that had landed her the color layouts for Alwayso.

She stood before the mirror in the bathroom of the Plaza, slipped into her woolen dress and walked into the living room of the suite.

The makeshift dining table had been removed. The photographer was packing his equipment. His name was Ivan Green-berg, and he was a good friend. She waved to him and the people repacking the dresses and left the suite, a golden image, her long hair flying, the singer’s burnished mink rippling as she ran down the hall.

She went to the phone in the lobby and checked with her exchange. No word from Robin. She dialed his number–it rang tonelessly, the kind of a ring that tells you no one is home. She hung up.

It was almost noon. Where on earth was he?