Excerpt: 'I Am Not Ashamed' by Barbara Payton
Men went for my body and I resented it – like all women, I wanted to be loved for myself – not just for my body.
So when I was sure a man was only interested in my body I was out to get him and it didn’t make any difference who or what he was.
A famous producer, when I was a pretty big star, pinched me on the ass as I was going through the door, meanwhile saying, “Let’s have a drink sometime.”
I was sure he didn’t expect me to accept his invitation. But I had plans for him. He had a wife who was loaded and didn’t like her husband even looking at another woman, let alone going out with one.
When I said “yes” he tried to wiggle out but I pinned him to a night and even went to his office to pick him up. He tried to get me to go to a “charming little restaurant on the beach,” which I knew was for no other reason than to keep out of the way of his wife or friends.
I insisted we go to Chasen’s, which he was violently against, but I was showing plenty of cleavage and giving plenty of promise so I finally got him to go but at a late hour, which was my compromise.
You should have seen him looking around furtively, expecting a detective to come jumping out of the hedges. He was even stuttering. He just wanted to get dinner over with so he could get me in the hay.
He just gulped his dinner along with several straight scotches. I took my time, enjoying the food and the situation. When I asked for dessert I thought he’d collapse. It meant for him another twenty minutes of agony.
And just to put the pressure on a little more, I spent ten minutes in the ladies’ room.
The cruel thing for me to do was to let him take me home, then brush him off. But that was too easy and fast. I had a better idea.
We went to my place. We had drinks and I stalled so he’d get home damn late. He was patting the perspiration on his forehead – a combination of worry, drinks and passion.
As it got toward dawn we got to bed, and by this time he was a nervous wreck. It’s a wonder he could perform. I never saw a man leave so fast afterward. My parting line was, “You know, Jean is a good friend of mine . . . ” Jean was his wife and I did know her.
I thought he’d fall down the stairs. He just groaned and left. I’m sure for weeks after he suffered agony. And you know, I bet that cured him of pinching asses.
That also reminds me that a pretty girl in Hollywood, especially one who is getting good parts and has a career going for her, gets marriage proposals as well as other proposals several times a week.
Most of the marriage proposals are sincere. Others are offered as bait to get you into bed. How or why a man will promise marriage to a girl he’s known for an hour has always been a puzzle to me.
I’d say a woman is like an iceberg. Only a facade shows. The rest is hidden and it takes months, even years, to find out the mysteries of what’s underneath.
I swear, once in a week six men asked me to marry them! They just ask to be taken – what with California community property laws.
I had a deep hate for men who used a marriage proposal to get a girl into the hay. If they succeeded you couldn’t even get them on the phone.
At one time when I was bitter because of a slipping career (I guess because I was drinking too much and not paying attention to the right people), I made it a cause to pin these bastards to the wall.
I remember I had just done a picture with a fine gentle man, Gary Cooper. The picture was Dallas, which did very well.
It was really the contrast between Cooper and this heel that got me going.
It was in the American Room of the Hollywood Brown Derby. He was an actor who was going up fast. The rumors were that he was married to a young starlet. He denied it. Much later it turned out to be true.
In any event, this heel came over to the punch-bowl area of the room and while talking to me squeezed my hand and looked me in the eyes with his so-called “irresistible” look. He suggested a drive to the beach. He thought he was leading me along – but it was me who was doing the manipulations.
We drove to the beach and parked at Dead Man’s Point. He made no pass. His was a more subtle approach.
First he told me his life story. Fact or fiction, he told it well. And it was a good story. The tale came to one conclusion – that his whole life was directed to this moment, meeting a girl like me. And he wasn’t going to let me get away, not easily, that is.
Then it came: “Barbara, I want you to be my wife. I love you and this is a magic moment. Do me the honor of marrying me.”
I decided to play it straight. “John, I love you, too. I consent to being your wife. When shall we marry?”
I caught him a little by surprise. He was used to convincing a girl after a period of time. “Oh . . . how about next Wednesday?”
“How about tonight?” I countered. “We could just wake up a Justice of the Peace and tie the knot, then release the story to the papers. We’d get a lot of space.”
I knew he wouldn’t like that. “Don’t you think that’s a little quick? How about this Sunday?”
“Not a bad idea,” I said.
He perked up.
“But let’s call the papers right away!” I said, knowing he wouldn’t go for that.
“Tell you what,” he said. “We’ll marry Sunday and release the story on Saturday.”
It was just a trap. We’d spend this night together nice and cozy and then he’d pick a fight and wham would go the marriage.
I had become very wise to the wolves. Conversationally there weren’t many places he could go with my check of his kingly ways. I figured he’d resort to a romantic kiss. Not passionate – just a love kiss. And he did. Just a light touch of the lips with no arms.
“Darling,” he said. “We’re both busy people. It’ll take us at least a couple of days to get our affairs in order. It’s a big step. I love you and I sense that you love me. What’s a couple of days of waiting if we have to?”
“Darling,” I said, still playing it straight. “I just don’t want to wait. We can drive down the coast . . . and get married in a simple ceremony.”
I had him stopped. I wondered what he would come up with now.
“Tell you what,” he said. “Let’s make it tomorrow night.”
I shook my head negatively. “I hope you don’t think I’m stubborn but I get this way once in a while.”
Poor guy, I had him tied in knots. I knew what was coming next. It was his only play.
“Barbara, I’m crazy about you. I just want to be close to you – intimately. Forget everything else – just you and I in the world.” He kissed me passionately. “Then we can talk about marriage. Maybe we will decide on Saturday or Sunday. I know just the spot. It’s just a couple of miles up the coast. What do you say?”
I should have laughed out loud, but I didn’t. “I’d like to,” I answered. “But I’d feel so much more secure if we were married first. Isn’t that a typical reaction for a girl?”
He was just starting to get edgy and even a little angry.
“Don’t you trust me?” he asked piously. “If I say we’ll marry you can bet your last button on it. Just believe in me.”
Yeah. That’s all I had to do – like all the others. I’d end up in shit creek.
But I was having too much fun to get angry. “I trust you – of course I do. But, a star and all, I’ve got to be careful.”
“Sure you do,” he answered. “And I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll call Louella or Hedda and tell them our marriage plans. Would that make you feel better?”
I was wise to that gambit too. We’d announce our marriage and then a couple of hours later he’d call and say we changed our minds.
“Darling,” I said, letting my real face show. “This is all starting to bore me. If you want to marry me, let’s get married right now and if we’re not going to, please take me home.”
Actually I wouldn’t have married him for a million dollars. I expected him now to get angry.
But he didn’t. He acted hurt. “Okay, if that’s what you want then we go.” He started the car.
I was silent. After he drove a while I noticed we were going the wrong way to my home. I called this to his attention.
He was a die-hard. “I just wanted to show you the lovely little hideaway I was talking about. We’ll have a drink and then we’ll leave.”
It was okay with me. It was fun giving him plenty of rope.
He insisted we have our drinks in a suite of the Band House, a lovely vacation place right on the water.
I stopped at one drink and wouldn’t have another, but he did. Now we were getting down to bedrock and honesty.
He looked me straight in the eyes.
“You son-of-a-bitch,” he said. “Are you going to take your clothes off and lay down on that bed or aren’t you? I’ve had enough of this shit. Who in hell do you think you are?”
I had been through this kind of thing before. I wasn’t afraid at all. I smiled and said, “Who do I have to be to say ‘no’ to you, a lying weasel, raper of young girls? In fact, it gives me great pleasure to tell you I’d rather be dead than have you touch me.”
“Maybe you will be,” he answered melodramatically.
I stood up, threw a stole over my shoulders and started for the door. I knew I could get a cab if he chose to stay behind.
He blocked my way to the door and said, “Where in hell do you think you’re going?”
“Home,” I said quietly, “and get out of my way. And if you don’t” – I picked up a bottle – “you’ll wish you had.”
He was a coward and backed off. He knew I’d use it. The fight blew out of him and he said, “I’ll take you home.”
It was alright with me. We didn’t speak all the way home and he let me out of the car without getting out. That was the end of it. He later became a star so that’s why I can’t name him.
Excerpted from I Am Not Ashamed, by Barbara Payton, first published in 1963, and reissued by Spurl Editions in 2016.