There is, as they say, no accounting for tastes and the fact that Karen chose Jim to marry baffled many of us. They had a beautiful wedding in a neighbor’s lush, redolent backyard. Karen’s sister made a great crown of French braids out of her long chestnut hair and spotted it with white roses, the officiant was a warm, generous, very Butch woman who spoke about trust and love and connection and I wondered how on earth Karen could hear those words and not want to lift that long silk sheath, kick off those narrow heeled shoes and sprint for the front lawn and any available car.
“Stop!” I wanted to yell. “He can’t love anyone but himself, and I think you should know that!”
Jim was always nice to me, I was a reader for Paramount and I think he thought I had connections in high places. I don’t believe he got an accurate view of what a script reader does. We were brought in pro-forma as CYA for the studio but it took me a long time to cotton to that, I also thought I had some meaningful input on story decisions. I worked as what I did mattered, which is, for me, kind of hard.
But not as hard as some part of Karen was working. Jim was fabulously brilliant and entertaining as long as he was talking about himself. He was warm and expansive to me and my husband, doubtlessly because he saw me as a potential ‘contact’.That’s a problem in Hollywood; a lot of people, not just Jim, can’t tell the difference between a contact and a friend.
Karen was a true friend. Kind, generous, funny, self-deprecating. Her father had been some kind of mining engineer and she had grown up in mountains and deserts. She had a real small town charm. She was also crazy talented, she could do everything I could not – really sew, make puppets, cook better than anyone’s mother. She accepted, though, that her gifts were completely unimportant compared to Jims’, and he compared them often. He was a talented screenwriter and she was menial, loyal, unimportant. Aside from the food, I thought Jim would have been better served by owning a dog, a spaniel. They don’t talk, their needs are minimal, a little kibble, a little walk. Although, even they need a little love once in a while and I wasn’t sure Jim was capable of that.
Oh, sure, he wasn’t that bad, didn’t beat her, didn’t cheat on her until a little later and, for some reason she loved him beyond all hope and reason. She believed in him. She believed in their future together. The four of us, my husband and Karen and Jim often had dinner together. Wine, food, a garden. In those moments she looked so happy.
Everyone, except me, thought that they would have a brilliant, long lasting marriage but I placed my bets, naively perhaps, on love. I’d already made some pretty poor choices romantically myself by this time and while that certainly did not make me an expert I had learned how to recognize love when I saw it. I guess I assumed that Karen had, too. I did see that Karen had thrown every part of herself into this relationship but I also saw that all the dream building was being done by her. For Jim she was the starter wife, someplace to begin his upward trajectory. But Karen was playing for keeps.
I knew something about that terrible hunger, that lust, that ache, that overwhelming experience of love and I knew that when that ends it is so devastating that it lays you on the floor.
I bet that Karen would get off that floor someday. I hoped so. Even as I watched her walk down the aisle at that lovely summer wedding, the blossoms in her hair, Jim’s beautiful pale suit, I prayed that her fall would not hurt her too much.
Over time we lost touch, Jim was an impossible boor and she was becoming frantic and filled her doubts up with working 24 hours a day at whatever odd jobs she could get because Jim’s great fortunes had still not quite yet materialized.
Then, something weird happened, weird even for Hollywood..
She began to make giant puppets at home in the evenings while Jim was out shmoozing. Then she branched out into whimsical papier mache creatures, then bigger fantasies and suddenly, everybody wanted them. She was sought after for movies and parties and art installations and my humble, loving friend, began to reach meteoric heights in Hollywood, where meteoric heights are what you are supposed to hit.
Jim couldn’t understand it. He didn’t like it. He had always mocked her but now he mocked her more. He found her creations to be puerile and childlike and he found lots of different ways to say that. Meanwhile, his very funny plays, which had been a big hit a few years back, languished on the desks of agents and producers who now wanted to know when Karen’s next opening was going to be and of course they wanted to go.
I don’t know which one of them finally pulled the plug on their marriage, not much was left to wind down the drain. By that point Jim actively hated her and Karen was as overwhelmed with indifference as she had once been with need.
It’s hard to find a moral story in Hollywood, but sometimes one just drops into your lap and I, for one, couldn’t be happier.
By Evalyn Baron
On July 29, 2022
By Jackie Davis-Martin
On August 1, 2022
Laura– I was captivated all the way through. I loved the story; I loved more your sentences that told the story.