BENEDICT CANYON —It’s always fascinating to me why people who are attractive and talented enough to be on the big screen often choose backstage and behind the scenes work in order to promote and insure the viability of stars’ careers and place in history. This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Maximillien de Lafayette, who is one of the most creative and astonishing authors on the planet. John O’Dowd who wrote “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” the best book ever written about the star Barbara Payton introduced me to Mr. de Lafayette, who single-handedly left me awestruck over his incredible skills as a writer, a historian and proved that research, love and admiration of cinematic stars and a high respect for the tough lives these screen idols endured in order to succeed and become part of Hollywood history.
Many of the stars the author focuses on in his latest book, “Hollywood Earth Shattering Scandals” were once considered Tinseltown’s royalty and often they fell to the depths of poverty and obscurity without fans or their peers ever noticing. What is great about this book and all the others Maximillien has written is that although he’s extremely honest about what transpired in the lives of our legendary icons, he writes about them with a flair of creativity and sincere and deep respect for his subjects, which is why so many of our long forgotten greats are willing to talk to him.
Enjoy my interview with a living legend himself, but he’s far too modest to admit it.
Q-I received your book “Hollywood Earth Shattering Scandals” for a Christmas gift from a mutual friend [Author, John O”˜Dowd]. It was amazing, what made you write the book?
A-“Many reasons, for instance, it broke my heart to see magnificent artists who were harshly and unfairly judged by history. Superb artists who were bigger than life and became smaller than the pack of cashew and nuts they sold in the streets when they became homeless, and friends walked away. Hollywood mega stars who took advantage of young and naÃ¯ve actresses and subjected them to abuse and used them as sexual prey. The infamous casting couch that launched the career of so many and destroyed the lives of talented actresses because they refused to exchange sexual favors. The dirty tricks and threats some studios bosses used to manipulate so many. The cover-ups of murders, rapes and hideous scandals. It is horrifying.”
Q-What story in this book was most shocking to you and why?
A-“The casting couch, the sexual harassment, putting an end to an actress’s career when she reaches 37, stars addiction to cocaine, heroin, the greed, their vanity and shallowness, badmouthing each other, the atrocious early days of Hollywood’s columnists, you name it, this is in general. But the most tragic episodes in Hollywood history and stars [actors/actresses] is how they ended their life, flat broke, destitute, homeless, in mental hospitals, in the streets, and unable to find a job to survive, sleeping on park benches and near garbage cans, like Veronica Lake, the magnificent Barbara Payton, Frances Farmer, Gene Tierney and Judy Garland.”
Q-You have been in the entertainment business for a while now. What is your background?
A-“Well, I wrote more than 15 books on Hollywood, theater, stars, the silver screen, the early Afro-American singers and musicians pioneering work on the plateau of American music, the Spirituals, the Gospels, The Jazz, the Blues. Also I toured the world and reviewed a great number of shows. I grew up with stars and cinema legends, I produced hundreds of shows and Cabaret acts, wrote melodrama music score and several plays.”
Q-I’m a lover of classic Hollywood, and so are you. Who motivated you as a child that you saw on the screen or stage so much that you chose this profession?
A-“It was not actors or actresses, but the black and white film art-form, the genre, the style, the magic of the set and the mesmerizing effects of lighting techniques, the music scores, the stimulating and intelligent dialogue of French cinema, I was fond of the Neo-realism of Italian cinema, because it stole from life its most intricate and bleeding canvases, the reality of life! I was fascinated by the grandiose and magical production of the early American musicals, the mind-boggling choreography, the elegance and fashion of the era. In summary, what motivated me most are the genius and work of so many people you don’t see on the screen, such as set designers, light engineers, the carpenters, the music composer, the director”¦marvelous people rarely cinemagoers remember of even notice their existence. It is not always the light that shine brighter than everything around it”¦sometime it is the shadows that give live to light and make it emerge, the shadows are larger and bigger because they contained the light.”
Q-You are a true renaissance man, what other professions have you done in addition to writing?
A-“I owned several cabarets, produced nightly shows for almost 10 years, wrote musical arrangements for Afro-Cuban acts and musical pieces, music scores for plays, created a trio ‘Boleros Tres,’ played the piano and Tam Tam with my band sometimes four nights a week on the stage of my nightclubs and have also collected rare art.”
Q-What is your next project?
A-“Writing more books, interviewing stars and starlets and discovering new talents to write about in two new books and in the 15-Volume set [Encyclopedia] of Music and showbiz.”
Maximillien de Lafayette’s literary works are available at delafayetteencyclopedia.com. A full-length description of his various books is also included on this Web site as well as contact information.