Memoir Monday: They Are Very Nice Monkeys

Every generation has its Peggy Hopkins Joyce, a woman famous for being famous. How quickly later generations forget Zsa Zsa Gabor or Charro, and, hopefully eventually, a Kardashian.

Peggy wasn’t the first woman famous for being beautiful and appreciated by men, of course. But hitting her heyday in the ’20s, she was the first to serve as an emblem. Married six times between stints as a show girl (and a much publicized affair with Charlie Chaplin*), Joyce did this and that while collecting diamonds. She wrote a newspaper column in diary form that may or may not have had an effect on Anita Loos and Lorelei Lee. Eventually, that “diary” was collected in to the form of Men, Marriage and Me, a 1930 memoir dedicated to “my great friend Walter Winchell.” The first chapter is titled “I Run Away From Home.” The second? “I Become a Wife—For Two Days.” Other choice headings include “And Then I Took Up Golf,” “How to Get a Pearl Necklace,” and “I Become Myself Again.”Alas, as you might have assumed, Men, Marriage and Me is pretty dull stuff. There are some priceless moments, however, including one that has become a catchall catchphrase in my social circle.

Ensconced in a mansion in Florida (where she was unable to hire “all Jap” servants, which she thought would be very “smart”), Peggy has installed a dozen monkeys in their own house somewhere on the grounds:

“Some one has been sending me the most impolite notes about my monkeys, not abusive of course but very curt and bitter, and considering I have never met him socially I think it is very bad taste on their part.

“Besides can I change the direction of the wind? If it blows from my monkey house into his bedroom window today, tomorrow it may blow from his bedroom window to the monkey house. Can I do anything about that?

“There is no other place to put my monkey house anyway, and I cannot keep my monkeys in the house very well, can I?

“I do not see why anyone should object to my monkeys, they are very nice monkeys, very expensive, and they do not smell as bad as all that.

“I will not take my monkey house from where it is. Anyone who doesn’t like it can move away.

“And anyway some people are more objectionable than any monkey. I like people but I like monkeys too. I don’t see why monkeys haven’t a right to live as well as anyone else.

“I shall do nothing about my monkeys.”

*According to Hollywood Babylon, Peggy’s opening remark to Chaplin was, “Is it true what all the girls say—that you’re hung like a horse?”

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