A Poet from Hollywood: Love, Insanity, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and the Creative Process // Chapter 12
[IN WHICH STEPHEN IS TERRIFIED BY A LITTLE FILIPINO WOMAN, AND ACTS IN HIS FIRST MOVIE; PLUS SOME GENUINE SWEDISH HISTORY]
“I’ve Been Sleeping on Skid Row”
Two weeks later my cell phone rang.
“Hello, this is Paula, do you remember me?” said the brisk voice on the other end.
I had to think a few seconds before placing her. She was the woman at the Tebot Bach reading with the Garbo collection. Her call surprised me; I had thought she was only being polite when she asked for my number.
“Oh hi, Paula!” I said.
She came right to the point. “So, how about that lunch?”
We agreed to meet the next day, Tuesday, at a restaurant she suggested on Sunset Boulevard called the Cat & Fiddle close to where Michael and I were staying. When I got there at one-thirty I found her already sitting at a table in the courtyard sipping an iced tea, looking quite smart with a new hairdo. As I sat down, she told me that she came into town every Tuesday to get her hair done by her favorite Beverly Hills stylist.
I ordered an iced tea as well and we engaged in some small talk. I told Paula about our stay in Hollywood; she told me about her background. It seems that about forty years earlier she was an assistant to a producer at MGM, hence her interest in Garbo and Mamoulian, who were both under contract to that studio way back in the Golden Thirties.
We had a lovely lunch of shrimp salad, after which at her urging I recounted everything I remembered about my old boss, although I’m afraid I couldn’t give Paula what she really wanted: a definite answer as to whether Mamoulian and Garbo had actually planned to marry after the filming of Queen Christina. Mamoulian had opened up to me about a lot of incidents in his life, but that wasn’t one of them.
“Personally,” Paula confided to me, “I never believed all this lesbian nonsense about Garbo. I think she was in always in love with John Gilbert.”
I nodded my agreement, actually knowing nothing about this aspect of Garbo’s personal life. “Anyway,” I continued, “Mamoulian told…