Friday, September 28, 2012

"The Diamond Lady"


I received an email yesterday from a woman who had read My Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs, and noted that I had included a blog on her aunt, Pat Mallon.

Pat was one of my favorite people during my Los Angeles days. I first met her while I was working as an editor for a firm called NPR, which was contracted to produce a glossy house organ for the statewide (and politically powerful) Engineering and Grading Contractors Association. Pat was the secretary for the association's president. Through my duties, Pat and I were in frequent contact, which developed into a friendship.

Pat was…well, to call her ‘one of a kind’ would not come near to describing her. She was one of those wonderful Charo-like souls who, in her passion for life, simply ignored age. She was probably in her 60s when we met. Her hair was very long and pitch black. She wore about as much makeup as Tammy Baker, but she wore it much better. She favored toreador pants, spiked heels, low-cut blouses (often tube-top) and lots of expensive jewelry. (She at one time had worked with noted jeweler Harry Winston and conducted a side business selling jewelry. She referred to herself, on her business card, as “The Diamond Lady.”) Unlike so many outwardly effusive people, her joy for living went to her very core. In many ways, including her voice and certain of her actions, she reminded me of Carol Channing, and I found her just as charming.

I’d see her every time I went to the EGCA offices, but our friendship was cemented during an EGCA conclave in Las Vegas, over several French Cannons...a delightfully refreshing libation consisting of a equal parts champagne and brandy, three of which could easily have rendered me comatose. But Pat could belt them back like water and never bat an eye.

When we first became friends, she was married to a great guy named Chuck Blair, who had been a singer with one of the big bands in the 40s. They lived in a beautiful house in the hills overlooking the entire San Fernando Valley. The memory of looking out from their patio at night, with the valley spread out below like a carpet of glittering jewels that put the stars to shame, is one of my fondest memories of L.A..

Chuck traveled a lot, so Pat spent a great deal of time on decorating the house to suit her unique taste, including curtains made of strands of crystal which, when the sun hit them, became a million prisms reflecting their light on every surface. She also spent literally hundreds of hours painstakingly gold-leafing every door frame in the house.

But though I considered Pat and Bob to be the perfect couple, apparently they did not, because Pat filed for divorce and their house was put up for sale. She could not understand why the realtor did not feel that all her expensive gold-leaf and hard work would not be reflected in setting the selling price. The fact that the new owners may have different tastes or even want to repaint the house and door frames was incomprehensible to her.

Her second husband, Bob Mallon, was a very nice guy who adored her, but was not overly fond of gays, though he was always very pleasant whenever Pat would have my partner Ray and I over, or invite us to one of her lavish parties, for which she would spend several days in preparation. Their house, on a hillside just up a winding road from Ventura Blvd., did not have the view her old house did, but there was a large if steeply inclined back yard set into a hillside, on which she and Bob spent a fortune landscaping and decorating with colored lights.

After I moved from Los Angeles, we more or less lost touch, though every year I would get the same mass-printed postcard saying “Keep in touch!” and signed “The Diamond Lady.”

The note I received yesterday informed me that Pat had died in 2004, and even though I knew she almost certainly could not still be alive--she probably would be pushing 100 now--I was truly saddened to hear it. But I have developed the ability, over the years, to ignore reality. So to me Pat is still alive, bubbly as ever, sparkling like the crystal “curtains” in her windows, still throwing her parties and being her effervescent self. In some ways, Pat was for me a symbol of all my L.A. days, and every now and then—today especially--I truly miss them…and her.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).

3 comments:

Kage Alan said...

Do you ever immortalize friends like that by creating characters based on them for your books? It sounds like she'd make an absolutely lovely one!

I'm guilty of it and only to glad to continue doing it.

Dorien/Roger said...

Good question, Kage, and the answer is "of course." Pat is one of two women (the other was the wife of my porn-days boss) who are the basis for Iris Glick in "The Hired Man."

Like probably most authors, I use characters from my real life as springboard to creating those in my books.

Nikolaos said...

I hope someone one day writes a memoir like this about me!