Meet Denton Moulton — a shy, effeminate male professor — lives inside his head, where he is really a long-dead movie star: the glamorous Gloria Grahame, from the golden age of Hollywood. Professor Moulton is desperate to reveal Gloria’s shocking secret before he dies. Does he have the right to tell this woman’s story? Who, in fact, has the right to tell anyone’s story at all?
Read the first chapter below, and don't forget to preorder I, Gloria Grahame at your favourite bookstore!
It was only briefly, as the door was open. I was doing my hair — I can’t remember — on my way back from the bathroom, I think it was. And Nick was out. Honestly, I shouldn’t have looked, I suppose, but then again there are some things that just stop you in your tracks. And why did I stop? It’s fruitless to ask, really. No point at all. For I have no regrets. I, Gloria Grahame, do not, I repeat, do not regret.
“I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me.”
I wrote that line, or rather we wrote it together, though Nick and I don’t do anything together anymore really, except, well, create. Anyway, I stopped. What of it? I looked in the doorway and the boy was lying on the bed naked, on his stomach, and the sheet was cast aside. Only slightly touching his right thigh. And I could see it all, it was all there, the adolescent — the glory of it all. He was just thirteen and I know that after glancing his direction I should have turned away. I Sky Gilbert did, in fact, turn away, but then I turned back and I couldn’t help but notice the thick dark coat of adolescent fur on his legs, which I thought was precocious for such a young man, and reminded me — well, yes it did — of Nick. Not that Nick was on my mind. Only him. And the fact that he had, for that moment, supplanted Nick in my mind was enough to fill me; it filled me in that moment. And it was so nice to briefly be filled with something other than hate and rage.
So I turned back. And going beyond his leg to the curve of his buttocks, which were hairless and pink, and then pink, too, between his legs there was a hint of “it” — as his right leg was cocked, and for a moment I wanted to be the sheet that kissed his thigh. And then I turned away. It wasn’t that I felt guilty, and why should I? Only that Nick would not like me looking, he never liked me looking — but not only at my stepson — looking was in itself a crime. And one thinks of how many times Nick — my dear husband for nearly two years (since 1948) and suddenly a “big” Hollywood director — has looked. And then there were the rumours. I’ve never told anyone this before — the rumours that Nick had some sort of “thing” for the actor Farley Granger. Have you heard that? I certainly heard it. He just loves Farley Granger, can’t stop talking about him, and also seems very brave about talking about him, very unabashed, as if he has a right to just because he directed him in They Live by Night. But does that mean Nick owns Farley? Anyway, Nick always goes on about Farley Granger with this kind of bravado, praising him and even talking about how beautiful he was when he discovered him, and the fact of the matter is that nobody would ever have looked at that little homo if it wasn’t for Nick.
And if you challenge him on it — well, I like to challenge him on it and see what happens. I like to see if he will hit me. Not that I want to be hit, no. I promise you I don’t want to be hit. But it speaks to the power of Nick’s mind and his body, which I’ll have to admit is somewhat sexy. And I will goad him — Why not? It’s fun — and say, “What went on between you and Farley Granger?” And he’ll stop whatever he’s doing and say, “You’re not going to go there, are you?” And I’ll say, “Maybe. Maybe I am going to go there,” and then I’ll ask him, “And exactly where would I be going?” looking him right in the eye. Once I even said to him, “Yes, I like to imagine you and Farley Granger in bed together.” And he grabbed me, not unlike the way he is presently asking Humphrey Bogart to grab me in In a Lonely Place, and he shook me the way you shouldn’t shake a baby, but I’m not a baby, I’m a woman who sometimes enjoys being shaken. And he was about to hit me. He almost hit me.
He has certainly hit me before, but frankly I don’t remember exactly when or how, as we were both drinking, and it was only that I woke up the next day and found the bruise. Once he kissed me on the bruise. I didn’t like it, but there was something terribly tender about it because I know he was truly sorry. On the matter of whether or not I drive him into these rages — well, it’s not at all a moot point. That is, of course I don’t. Of course, it might appear that I do, to an onlooker (the only onlooker here, right now, is you, because yes, there is always someone looking, and that’s not because I’m an egotist, it is, frankly, simply because I am a star). Well, the fact of the matter is that Nick rages. He rages constantly. I’m not sure at what, but there is always that rage.
The very first night I met him was at a bar in Hollywood, and I shouldn’t have gone home with him that night, at least that is what mother says. (I take her direction about everything concerning the stage, but not in life.) At any rate, that night Nick was doing what he always does in bars, which is start fights. He was kidding some guy about his nose. It was a bulbous nose or a Cyrano de Bergerac nose; not a deformity, actually, but large. And Nick said something like “Do you find it gets in the way of things?” and this was enough to get the guy going with “What did you say? What did you say about my nose?” and Nick was loving it, I could see he was loving it, the fight, the thrill of the chase. “I was just wondering,” he said, or something to that effect. And, of course, they ended up slugging it out until the bartender yelled at Nick, and I dragged him out of that bar. And this was our first date. An alarm should have gone off, I suppose. Well, it did. But what kind of alarm was it? It was an alarm saying this relationship will not be boring. Is this a good reason to get involved with anyone? No, in fact, perhaps the opposite. The law of attraction should be “I find this person very boring, ergo that person would be the perfect person to give me some peace and quiet, and ultimately put me to sleep.” But we’re a long-time dead, I say. Because I, Gloria Grahame, don’t, when it comes down to it, give a you-know-what. For that very reason. And you might well consider that, too.
Want to keep reading? Read the full chapter on Issu here.
Sky Gilbert is a writer, director, and drag queen extraordinaire. He was the founder of Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, has had more than forty plays produced, and published seven novels and three poetry collections. Toronto named a street after him. (Dr.) Sky Gilbert lives in Hamilton, Ontario.