Monday, 2 February 2015

Will I Be Sad When Marlene Dietrich's Daughter Dies?

There are around half a dozen people in this world whose deaths would see me hanging up the bunting--literally--and rejoicing. Nasty, conniving people who have been nasty for nasty's sake, and not just towards me. And before I get bombarded with hate-mail, let me say that these half-dozen people would react in exactly the same way, should I curl up my toes. Indeed, should I die these people would be without an anchor because all they ever do is think, talk and write about me, and the sole purpose for their existence would have been removed.

While I would not actually wish Maria Riva to die as I quite openly do the others, I will not be sad. By writing her kiss-and-tell she set off by doing Marlene a great dis-service my exposing some rather unpleasant things about her. Okay, so I did the same thing with my father--the difference being that Marlene was a legend revered by millions, whereas George Spurr was an odious twat, loved by few. And the proof of the pudding was in the eating. Maria's book never really damaged her mother's reputation. Also, what must be remembered is that Maria was actually there, while we were not until those last few years. It cannot have been easy, walking in the shadow of Marlene Dietrich.

It is also untrue that Maria Riva tried to stop my book from being published. Her lawyer did ask for the tapes, pictures, envelopes and letters, and was politely told where to go. After that there were no more problems. My problem was always with my then publisher. Maria's lawyer called his office, where someone told him they were unaware of any taped conversations--when this person had actually sat down for fifteen hours and listened to them, even had copies of some of them, and had heard Marlene and I talking on Channel 4 news on 6 and 7 May 1992.

I digress. I had the same agreement with Marlene as I would later have with Elizabeth Taylor: they both wanted me to publish after they died. Mainstream were wonderful. They had the Taylor out in less than two weeks. Robson Books hedged, swore to support me, and then took a back seat while I sorted out the mess which would not have been there in the first place, had Jeremy Robson had the balls to tell Maria's lawyer that he had heard the tapes. I was even charged a lot of money to change the cover. Therefore the book came out in 1993, one year after Marlene's death, though it did corner the market.

The book, however, was not as it should have been. The publisher left out around 20% of my conversations with Marlene, fearful he said of being sued by the families of John Kobal, John Wayne and a number of others for what Marlene had said about them. He knew of course that in the UK, one cannot libel the dead.

On saying this, I am not dissing my former publisher--who is only my former publisher, my choice, because of what I believe to have been a bad career move. I do not like Iain Dale, and he does not like me. Let's leave it there. Jeremy Robson published 23 of my books, and they all did well--at least ten of them reached the six-figure sales mark, and few have ever been out of print. We had a good working relationship, never argued once, and I still hold him in high esteem.

Now, the time has come to return the Elgin Marbles to the Parthenon, so to speak--to put the missing conversations back into the book. Nothing has changed about Maria and the other Rivas. What was said about them by Marlene was in the original book, none of it bad. There is no doubting that Maria was the member of her family that Marlene loved the most. Marlene told me that she loved Maria and only lived for her. She did not however care for some of her other relatives, and even compared one of them with my father--I argued with her over this one, because no man on earth could have been as bad as my father!

Neither am I re-releasing the book as some sort of revenge act against Maria, or deliberately timing things this way. I began working on it again two years ago, and have bumped it forwards considerably at the end of last year due to a gap in my schedule. Marlene was extremely opinionated. This is why we became such firm friends, because I stick my head above the parapet, opine as much as like, and don't give a damn what people say and write about me. We also shared the same biting, sarcastic and satirical sense of humour. Indeed, though she would not make an appearance for another twenty years, the first Nancy Sphinctergritzel was developed while I knew Marlene. The woman I later based the Valentino fanatic on--and who caused a scandal by having a sexual relationship with her own brother--died then, and how ironic was it that Marlene herself would die on Valentino's birthday, while her image was promoting that year's Cannes Film Festival? 

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