July 23, 1924– I met Gavin Lambert at a coke fueled, debauched, all-male party at the Hollywood Hills home of a famed Oscar nominated, Tony Award winning producer in autumn 1973. I won’t give up the name of the host, but I will tell you kids that I held the 1953 Tony statue that he received for Wonderful Town while he did unspeakable things to my 20 years old body. This was the only period where I was briefly considered an ingénue. I actually didn’t mind being objectified & passed around. I liked being the object of desire, & being a bit of a slut. I was feeling very democratic & especially open-minded in those days. I was hungry for experiences, & was not above putting out my crack for my crack at show biz.
I had smoked a joint that might have been enhanced with something extra, because I don’t remember how I ended up in bed with the handsome older gentleman. In the early morning hours, we started in on round #2, when the little strands of conversation revealed that this man had written the novel & screenplay for one of my favorite films from childhood, Inside Daisy Clover, featuring one of my favorite actors Ruth Gordon. I went absolutely nutty, stuttering & muttering:
“Oh my god, oh my god, that is my favorite movie, I love that movie! Oh yeah, that feels so good. Tell me about working with Ruth Gordon! Oh, I can’t believe you created that film, I love it so much! Will you sign an autograph?”
I think I totally ruined the hot mood with my sudden outburst of fandom.
For 50+ years, the “go to guy’ for bitchy, witty & perceptive gossip about Hollywood was screenwriter, novelist & biographer Gavin Lambert. For much of the 1950s & 1960s, he lived in Hollywood, the inspiration & setting for most of his novels, including The Goodbye People (1971), The Slide Area (1960) & of course, Inside Daisy Clover (1966).
Tales Of the City author, Armistead Maupin:
“Decades before it was fashionable, Gavin Lambert expertly wove characters of every sexual stripe into his lustrous tapestries of Southern California life. His elegant, stripped down prose caught the last gasp of old Hollywood in a way that has yet to be rivaled.”
Lambert wrote the biography Mainly About Lindsay Anderson (2000) about his friend & roommate at Oxford, film & theatre director Lindsay Anderson, famous for This Sporting Life (1963), O’ Luck Man (1968), If (1973). Lambert & Anderson founded the short lived yet influential film journal Sequence (1949-51) while they were at Oxford. Unlike Anderson, who was tortured throughout his entire life by guilt about his homosexuality (he always fell for happily married, heterosexual young men), Lambert was gaily gay. Lambert was able to have a series of fulfilling relationships.
He had an affair with director Nicholas Ray, whose films Bigger Than Life (1956) & Bitter Victory (1957) Lambert contributed the screenplays. His longest relationship was with Mart Crowley who wrote the influential gay play The Boys In The Band (1968). The couple had a home together in LA.
Lambert wrote & directed the seldom seen Another Sky (1955), shot in Morocco. The rather modest film tells the story of a young English woman who discovers her sensuality in North Africa, a reflection of Lambert’s own sexual liberation in Tangier earlier in the decade. He lived off & on in Morocco from 1954 to 1989 on the suggestion of gay writer Paul Bowles, whom he met in LA at the home of gay author Christopher Isherwood & his partner, artist Don Bachardy.
Inside Daisy Clover (1966) was made into a film based on Lambert’s novel with a screenplay by the author. Directed by Robert Mulligan, it tells the tale of how the fame & fortune of a young star, played by Natalie Wood, leads to misery & a nervous breakdown. Lambert first met Wood when he went to Hollywood as an assistant to Ray on Rebel Without A Cause (1955). The parental units took me to see it at a drive-in theatre when I was just 12 years old & it fried my little pre-teenage brain.
Lambert wrote a revealing biography of the star Natalie Wood: A Life (2004) admitting they had shared at least one lover. According to Lambert, 17 year old Natalie Wood lost her virginity to Lambert’s then boyfriend Ray. Lambert’s biography includes details of Wood’s relationships with Elvis Presley, Robert Wagner, Warren Beatty, Paul Mazursky, & Leslie Caron. In the book, Lambert claimed that Wood frequently dated gay or bisexual men, including Nick Adams, Raymond Burr, James Dean, & Tab Hunter. Lambert also claims that Wood helped financially support his own lover Crowley, making it possible for him to write the infamous The Boys In The Band.
Lambert’s best screenplays were adaptations of novels with gay overtones: Sons & Lovers (1960) based on the novel by D.H. Lawrence was Oscar nominated, The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone (1961), from Tennessee Williams‘ novel, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (1977), & Liberace, Behind The Music (1988).
He wrote smart biographies of show biz figures: On Cukor (1972), Norma Shearer: A Life (1990), & Nazimova: A Biography (1997) which was the first detailed account of the private life & acting career of lesbian actress Alla Nazimova. He also wrote GWTW: The Making of Gone With The Wind (1973). Lambert was able to interview & gain personal remembrances of those involved with the classic 1939 film, including his friends, dismissed director George Cukor & star Vivien Leigh.
I have reason to believe that before he left this world in 2005, Lambert was working on a book The Greatest Sex In Hollywood: The 1970s, where I was to be mentioned in the chapter Live Fast & Fly High, but I was probably just as a footnote. Lambert was every inch the gentleman to me. He would have been 91 years old today. I would have like to have taken him out for a nice lunch with a toast to the 1970s.