Hollywood greats slag each other's memoirs

Esther Williams and Gloria Stuart face off.


Craig Offman
September 17, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

In her new memoir, "The Million Dollar Mermaid," 76-year-old Esther Williams recounts her frustration when she discovered that her lover, fellow film star Jeff Chandler, was a cross-dresser. And in "Gloria Stuart: I Just Kept Hoping," another recent Hollywood autobiography, "Titanic" octogenarian Stuart reflects on free love and masturbation. Meanwhile, Eddie Fisher dines out on Elizabeth Taylor's surfeit of passion, and Debbie Reynolds' lack thereof, in his new tell-all, "Been There, Done That."

The old Hollywood, which has been known to pat itself on the back for its sexual discretion, is letting its gray hair down these days - and its stars are every bit as candid in person as they are in print. At Williams' book party, thrown by her publisher, Simon & Schuster, the swimming starlet took a poke at Fisher's book when asked to comment on the rash of dishy memoirs. "Eddie Fisher's isn't very fun-loving," she said. "It's mean-spirited."

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Williams herself drew criticism from Stuart. "I don't think it was necessary for us to know that Jeff was a cross-dresser. What did she gain by that?" Stuart said at the party that her publisher, Little, Brown, threw for her. "It's something I didn't want to know about him. It's a minus quality. Actually, there were some things I wrote about some personalities that my daughter [co-writer Sylvia Thompson] thought were a little strong. She said, 'Mother, you didn't need to say that,' and I didn't say it."

In her New York Post column, Liz Smith also took Williams to task for revealing Chandler's secret when the late star of "Broken Arrow" (1950) wasn't around to defend himself. But Williams made a splash of her own Thursday. "I remember Gloria," she told USA Today. "Those in lesser roles in movies had a better time than we did. We were too busy getting the job done."


Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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