Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books Sunday

UCLA. 10:30 a.m. Rolfe 1200. “Biography: Hollywood Legends” USC professor Steven J. Ross moderates a discussion between Peter Biskind and Leo Braudy.

Biskind is most famous of late for estimating that Warren Beatty slept with about 13,000 women in his life.

In his recent unauthorized biography of the movie star, Biskind declined to write about Beatty’s “private life” since he married Annette Benning out of consideration for Beatty’s four kids with Annette.

I find that a provocative choice. If Beatty’s ashamed of what he’s doing behind Annette’s back, then that’s his problem and his kids should blame him, not the press.

“There’s a lot of wheedling and groveling that’s not pleasant,” Biskind says about the challenge of writing a biography of a living person.

Biskind had a relationship with Beatty for about 20 years until his book came out and that relationship is now over.

Dr. Braudy is not interesting. He only offers cliches about fame.

Steven J. Ross relates an anecdote about shopping his new book (out in a year about ten actors and their influence on politics). An editor asked him for a juicy anecdote. “This conversation is over,” Ross replied. “You’re the wrong editor and wrong publisher for this book and I’m the wrong author for you, so goodbye.”

Dr. Ross and Dr. Braudy look down their pointy academic noses at gossip.

Noon. “Biography: The Artist’s Life” James Rainey moderates a discussion between Judith Freeman, Barbara Isenberg, Richard Schickel and Kenneth Turan.

Turan and Schickel look like they are on their last legs. Turan in particularly looks in bad shape as he minces in. He’s got a big ol head hanging down off a tiny misshapen body.

All three men on the panel compress their necks to the point of extinction. Haven’t they ever heard of Alexander Technique?

The women on the panel, by contrast, display poise.

Rainey looks younger and fitter than his effete LA Times photo. He introduces himself as “Jim.”

Contrary to my expectations, he’s very funny.

LA Times Editor Russ Stanton sits near me in the second row. He has good use and good posture. He exhibits grace under pressure.

Kenny Turan can’t sip from his water bottle without tensing his neck, hunching his shoulders and grimacing.

A few years ago, I asked him for an interview. He did not respond. Now that I have the power to make him well, I wonder if he’ll call.

The New York Times says that Judith Freeman pursues Raymond Chandler in her new book “like a love-sick stalker.”

I didn’t know that Chandler was married to a woman 18-years his senior. I wonder what their sex life was like.

Richard Schickel: “I’m not obsessive. I’m a writer. My relationship to my subjects is purely professional.”

He describes a biographer of Isaak Denison who took to wearing her perfume.

Before every panel, there’s an announcement that taping of sessions is forbidden. Why do the organizers waste their times with these proclamations? If someone wants to tape the session, they can. I doubt the organizers could go after us legally.

We’re also told we can’t eat or drink, but panelists and workers routinely eat and drink around us.

Richard: “Everybody I’ve written about doesn’t like Los Angeles.”

“I’m suspicious of self-conscious artist people.”

The volunteer woman up front facing the audience is having a hard time staying awake.

James: “Richard, are you using Wikipedia for all of your work?”

3 p.m. Life on the Edge: Violence and the West.

I suspect that there may be more violence on the West Coast because people are less likely to have traditional ties (to family, ethnicity, religion, etc). People who feel free are more likely to do evil.

3:30. I start the one mile hike to my car (free parking on Wilshire Blvd). It was September of 1988 that I first stepped on to this campus. I was still a virgin, but I had hopes, not just for the experience of woman, but for a cure to my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and my life of loneliness and isolation.

If that confused 22 year old could see me now, what would he think? I haven’t accomplished as much as I had hoped. I thought I was going to be a professor. I thought I was going to get a Ph.D. in Economics from Oxford. I thought UCLA would be the home to my first academic success. I thought I’d move into polite society and walk around with prestige.

If I knew then that I’d never get well, could I have handled it? If I knew then that for the rest of my life a simple walk around a college campus would exhaust me, would I have kept going? If I knew I’d never achieve academic distinction, that I would never graduate from college, that I would never marry and have children, that I’d never go a day without crippling fatigue, that greatness would always be beyond my grasp, would I have kept the faith?

It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have girls. I was smart and white and prior to February 1988, I was strong. Now I’m walking home alone. Nobody stops me. Nobody says my name. Nobody is waiting for me.

I had hoped to be a big man on campus. I expected to be on these panels. I felt sure I’d be surrounded by babes and TV cameras. Now I’m choking on fumes as the traffic backs up and I feel a headache coming on as I roll my jaw and wipe the sweat out of my eyes.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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