May 13, 2023

Carroll Baker, 1962.

Carroll Baker, 1962.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

NEW YORK—Tennessee Williams wrote Baby Doll, his only screenplay, with her in mind, and she was considered the sexiest blonde bombshell ever, much sexier than Jean Harlow, whom she portrayed on film. She was great in The Carpetbaggers, The Great Divide, Harlow, Giant, and countless other ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s hits. Carroll Baker is now 91, still very much compos mentis, and without makeup a lively dinner companion as I, Jimmy Toback, and Michael Mailer took her out to dinner last week.

No, they don’t make them like her anymore—except for Lily James and Keira Knightley—the irony being that I’ve always preferred sweet young things to sexy “bombas,” but not where a young Carroll Baker is concerned. I sat next to her at an outdoor Italian restaurant; we ordered some good wine, and the three of us—Jimmy doesn’t drink—downed the two bottles in no time. Unlike the spoiled and “too stupid to speak and make any sense” stars of today, Carroll was funny and not at all bitter at having been exiled for ten years for not giving in to the slob Joe Levine, thankfully no longer with us. Levine was a physically repulsive man but a big-shot producer at Paramount. Carroll kept him from climbing into a car with her, and fat Joe took it rather badly. (Most fat and ugly men do.) The result was she was blackballed, left Hollywood, and worked for ten years in Italy, “where I met the most gorgeous of men, including your friend Gianni Agnelli, whose boat I went on.”

“She still speaks with the same teenage voice, radiating innocence no longer attainable.”

I did not ask for further details. Italian men were not known for being fat or ugly and are still considered better lovers than Frenchmen, if somewhat sillier. But this is about Carroll, not French or Italian males. She still speaks with the same teenage voice, radiating innocence no longer attainable, as when she played the young daughter of Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor in Giant and was seduced by a drunken mega-oilman played by James Dean. And she’s quick. When I told her that as a young sportsman I watched her in a black-and-white film lying half naked in a bed under a tent in the desert, my sporting prowess took a downturn for obvious reasons—she laughed and called me a naughty boy. I loved the films of that long-ago period, without Google, the internet, or social media; rotary telephones with a cord that stretched all the way to the bathroom; music on the radio; movies in palace-like theaters; newspapers and books made of paper. And women like Carroll on screen.

The day after our dinner, implausibly unattractive women and men were making the headlines in a freak show at the Met. It was the utter inversion of a ’50s reality. The more outrageously ugly the costume or the person, the more clicks by the paparazzi. This is the skeletal-like Wintour’s baby, and it reflects modern life. Ugly, fat, and outrageous is in; everything that even hints at good taste is out. I used to attend that event year in and year out, when Pat Buckley ran it, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in the place on freak night even if Lily James gave me the come-on. (Oh well, if you believe that, you also believe in the melodic beauty of rap.)

Otherwise, everything’s hunky-dory. Alexandra has gone back to Europe, and I once again find myself hanging out with men and women much too young for me. Never mind; life, as they say, is short, and I appreciate youth because at times I am the wisest of the group. The current subject of debate is Tucker Carlson’s firing by Fox News, a subject that has the Bagel Times drooling while it writes ad nauseam about it. One would think the economy and the debt, mass shootings galore, Texas being overrun by migrants, not to mention Ukraine and China, might be more interesting subjects, but it seems the firing of a conservative TV anchor has obsessed the paper that only favorably prints stories that are woke.

At lunch with Michael Wolfe and his very pretty wife the other day, I asked him about Tucker Carlson, whom I know slightly and like very much. Wolfe has just finished a book on the Murdochs, whom I am a fan of but suspect Wolfe is not. He had the nicest things to say about Tucker Carlson and blamed his firing on office politics rather than the Bagel Times version of inappropriate emails. The Bagel Times writes falsehoods to fit its agenda; of that I am certain.

Basically, Fox has taken a tremendous hit by having to pay out such a sum and settle a lawsuit, something that the rest of the channels, which are all left of center, are celebrating. I tease Michael Wolfe about the moola he’s made with his three Trump books—all hatchet jobs, and still the Donald will see him and dine with him, believing that he (Trump) can turn him into a fan. What I find even stranger are the lies that the Bagel Times and the rest of the left-wing media are putting out about Tucker Carlson and his firing. It shows they’re afraid of him and of any competition with their agenda. “Apathy Reigns” was the headline the paper used to describe last week’s coronation in good old Britain. It says it all.


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