Sunday, August 25, 2013

File Under "Correspondents, Unlikely"

Consider my mind blown, courtesy of the endlessly fascinating Joan Crawford Best.

Oh, I know it's not really him, as it's surpassingly unlikely that he was living on Flatbush Avenue in 1958.  Still, don't you adore the image of the 13-year-old future reggae superstar sitting there in the dark of a Brooklyn theatre - watching, given the timing, a second-run screening of The Story of Esther Costello - and writing off to his secret idol?  I'm sure he would have been thrilled to gain a little insight into the beauties of Acapulco.

Crawford's letters are remarkable.  Not for their content - the very opposite - but for their incredible quantity, and for the even, impersonal, unnervingly mechanical tone, identical in each of all the thousands of them, whether she was writing to the most obscure fan or dearest friend.  One imagines her, in one of her immaculate, HarrietCraigische Hollywood Regency interiors on tony Bristol Avenue, busy stuffing the sleeves of yet another outfit with tissue paper as she dictates, in a sharp, smoke- and vodka-inflected monotone, two or three dozen more missives for the day.  The hapless secretary (barefoot for the white carpets, clad in my mind's eye in a shapeless blue smock provided for some long-forgotten sanitary reason) struggles not so much to keep up as simply to stay awake as she takes down the steady, implacable stream of words, words, words about the upcoming trip to Paris and the happiness of the poodles and the latest script for Warners or G.E. Theatre or worse.

And off the pale-blue envelope goes, to an eagerly waiting young Jamaican emigré back East in Ditmas Park...


  1. "Little darling, don't shed no tears
    No woman no cry"

    And she probably never did.


  2. balls of steel ↔ steel drums...
    it's a lock for me.

  3. The key to the letter is the very telling phrase "How nice of you to remember us." It's called a paradox statement. If you parse the statement, "How nice of you" neither suggests or implies that the writer neither appreciates the effort, or is impressed by it. It doesn't mean that she enjoyed the letter, either. It certainly isn't a thank you, or anything that would imply that you should do it again. It could also mean that its nice that you could forth this, or any effort.

    If you ever encounter a person who brags about how great their sex live is, or how much money they have in the bank, drop "How nice for you," and change the subject. It recognizes that they said something by not saying any thing the would encourage more on that topic.

    And this is what Crawford does. She gives nothing of herself to the writer, and it isn't much of what she does give aside from her travelogue plans. What she does give is that signature, which says "I am bigger than you'll ever be."

  4. i can just see joan's face
    after this was said to her.
    it might have won her an oscar.

  5. Apparently, Mr. Marley moved to the US in 1966 to be near his mother in Wilmington, Delaware. Dunno if he lived in Flatbush, but East Flatbush has had a Bob Marley Blvd since 2006 or so.