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‘There’s nothing better in life than diamonds’



Mae West held out her hand to me. As I took it, I scratched my palm on one of her diamond rings. All of her fingers were covered with diamonds. These, she explained, were just her “daytime diamonds”. Holding out her hands, she said, “They’re all real. They were given to me by admirers.” Her gaze settled on my unadorned hands. “Oh, you poor kid! You don’t have any!”For a moment she regarded me with pity. Then she brightened. “But you have some at home?”

I shook my head.

She studied me, then said encouragingly, “You could, honey. But you’ve gotta try, and you’ve gotta know how to try. Knowing what you want is the first step toward getting it. There’s nothing better in life than diamonds.”

Mae West had been giving no interviews at all. She already knew all the people she wanted to know, especially in light of the hours she felt compelled to spend on hair, makeup and dress before she could see anyone. I had cost her three hours, but it would have been double that if I had been a man. If she were going to see anyone at all, a man would have been preferable any day, and especially any night.

“They always sent a man,” she told me, not specifying who “they” were. “I considered spending my time with girls a waste of time, so I didn’t mingle with any.” The only exceptions were her beloved mother and her sister.

For Mae West, Hollywood had real unreality, and that was the way she liked it. To the end, she nobly resisted any assault on her fairytale castle. The apartment in Hollywood’s Ravenswood was truly an extension of Mae West. The furniture was upholstered in eggshell-white silk and satin, and appeared virginal, as if it had just been moved in for my visit. Once Mae had achieved perfection by her own standards, she hated any change. The celebrations of herself on display throughout the apartment evinced no false modesty. They also signified that in her mid-80s she was not afraid to be in competition with her younger self.

Whenever Mae interjected one of her celebrated epigrams to make a point, she would change from a serious tone to the sultry flippancy of Diamond Lil. As she spoke, her sculpted platinum hair would swing as in a shampoo commercial.

Perhaps she didn’t like to give interviews to women because she couldn’t act her part. Mae West had to be there herself; she couldn’t just send Diamond Lil. She pointed out that although she was Diamond Lil, Lil was not Mae because there was more to Mae West.

Mae gave me a hard look and said there was something to tell me before we “got into it”.

“If you smoke,” she said, “you’ll have to leave the room. I don’t let anyone smoke in my presence.”

I assured her that this wouldn’t be necessary. Her approving look indicated that I had passed an important test.

“Then you’ll keep your soft skin. That’s how I kept mine. I always use baby oil. But the secret is it has to be warm, and you have to have a man put it on you – all over.”

Her next query had the same tone of entrapment as the smoking suggestion. She asked if I wanted a drink. I declined. She said it was a good thing because she didn’t have any liquor.

“I never understood drinking. It isn’t good for your looks, and it cuts down on what you are. I never wanted to cut down on what I am.

“I was indefatigable. They only just found out that I had a double thyroid. Always had it, but didn’t know it. Maybe that’s the source of my energy, especially my sex energy. Is that scarf because you’re cold, or do you have something to hide?”

I take it off.

“That’s better. Now, unbutton a few buttons. Men like it if you show them a thing or two. I dress for women and undress for men.

“When I was making a film, I would stand during the whole shooting so I wouldn’t wrinkle my dress. I’d say, ‘Do I want to look my best for my public that expects it of me? Or would I rather sit down?’ That ain’t no choice.

“First impressions are what count. It’s like when you arrive at a party. That’s when people take a real look at you, and if they’re impressed, that’s how they think of you. If your makeup fades and you get creases in your dress later, that isn’t what they remember.”

What would you do if you didn’t make the best first impression on a man?
Get a different man. I’d figure there was something wrong with him. I never needed clothes to make me feel sexy. I felt that way all the time. The nearness of an attractive man kept me in a constant state of sensual unrest.

You summed it up at the end of I’m No Angel when Cary Grant asked you, “What are you thinking about?” and you answered, “The same thing you are.”
That’s very exciting for a man. When men sense a woman is ready for sex, they’re ready right away. When men came to see me, I had to try to calm them down a little first. [Sighing] I had a lot of great love affairs. Sex and work have been the only two things in my life.

In reverse order of importance.
Yeah. If I had to choose between sex and work, it was always my work I’d choose. I’m glad I didn’t ever have to choose between them for more than a week, though. Since I was grown up, I’ve never been without either for more than a week.

What’s “grown up”?
Thirteen. Before that, I was finding my way.

Didn’t you ever have any trouble finding a man?
[Puzzled] What do you mean?

I mean one you really liked.
They always found me. I could always find something to like about every man. Well, almost every man. I want to show you my mother’s picture. Isn’t she beautiful?

She’s lovely.
My mother lost a baby girl just before me, so I was her whole world. I had a sister and a brother, but they came along later. I was never jealous of my sister and brother. In my whole life, I’ve never envied anyone. I was too busy thinking about myself. Some people thought I should see a psychiatrist, but why spoil a good thing? It’s better not to know everything about each other.

My mother wanted to be an actress. She finally got that through me. I took her out on the stage with me for a curtain call before she died. The success I had was worth it for my mother to come and take that bow with me. That meant more than any diamonds.

When I was a little girl, my father built me a stage in the basement of our Brooklyn brownstone. My father wasn’t as sure as my mother about me going on the stage so young. He said, “Let her have a chance, but if she gets stage fright, she’ll have to wait till she’s older.” Stage fright! Can you imagine? I didn’t know the meaning of the word. Still don’t. My mother didn’t listen to my father. She knew I could do anything I wanted.

Very few of us have the opportunity to live out our fantasies. An actress may have that opportunity.
Being an actress and a writer both – that’s the best thing you could be because you can be anyone you want. You just write yourself the part, and then you play it. Say, do you want to know about my first love affair? It was when I was five. I made my debut in Brooklyn at the Royal Theatre. It was my first love affair with my audience, and it’s lasted all my life. That was the only one that ever really counted. No man could equal that. I ached for it, the spotlight, which was like the strongest man’s arms around me, like an ermine coat.

Of what in your career are you proudest?
I saved Paramount Pictures. They were selling out. But my pictures made so much money for them, they were able to stay in business during the 30s. They oughta have a statue of me. At least a bust.

[Indicating a nude statue in her living room] Like that?
No. One of Diamond Lil in a beautiful dress. After Diamond Lil, sex was more out in the open. I’m proud of that because I always believed that sex was nothing to be ashamed of.

Do you think sex is better with love?
Honey, sex with love is the greatest thing in life. But sex without love – that’s not so bad either. Sex is the best exercise for developing everything. It’s very good for the complexion and the circulation. I’ve always had the skin of a little girl. Go ahead touch it. [I touch her skin.] That’s all real. I didn’t ever have to lift anything.

Do you remember when you first thought about sex?
I can’t remember when I didn’t. I always played with boys. They used to gather round me. I liked to see how each one kissed. A man’s kiss is his signature.

I always liked having a lot of men around. On a rainy night it’s like having more than one book to choose from, only better. I never could understand women who would almost die over one man. When you get rid of one, you don’t want to sit around moping. When you mope, your mouth turns down; it puts lines in your face. There isn’t any man in the world worth getting lines over.

Too many women wait around depending on men to bring them happiness. I didn’t depend on men for mine. I knew how to handle men. I have a code though: No drinking, no smoking, and no married men. There are enough men to go around.

My best lover was a Frenchman who would pick me up after Diamond Lil and take me to the other theatre to rehearse Pleasure Man. One Saturday night we were at it till four the next afternoon. Like I always said, “It’s not the men in my life, it’s the life in my men.”

What kind of “life” do you look for in a man?
Fire. A man can be short and dumpy, but if he has fire, women will like him.

Who were some of the men who had that fire?
John Barrymore wasn’t so bad. I wouldn’t have minded playing with him. In a movie, that is.

You mean you’d rather have had him as a leading man in a film than as a lover?
If I’d had to make the choice, yeah. Because movies are forever, and sex doesn’t last.

I gather that most of the men with whom you’ve had affairs were not performers.
You weren’t in the bedroom with us, honey. With me, they were all good performers.

Do you think being a lady means something different now from what it did? One thing that’s changed is talking about it as a value. You were a good girl or a bad girl.
I was a bad girl with a good heart. I don’t think things have changed so much. It’s still a man’s world, with men making the rules that suit them best.

Which time was better for women?
I think it was better then. Now a woman’s expected to do it, and the man doesn’t even have to court her. The woman used to be a bigger prize.

You’ve gotta have plenty of self-esteem, nerve, and be bold in life. I’ve been liberated all my life. I always did what I wanted to do. I was an original. I didn’t understand then what films meant, every new generation rediscovering you. When I first came out here, I didn’t understand how important Hollywood was going to be.

Do you find Hollywood greatly changed now?
The star system’s gone. I was a real star.

Are there any ways you feel you’re different from the public image of Mae West?
I’m glad you asked that. When people think you’re funny, they start to laugh at everything you say. There was a lot of serious reflection in what I said. And I was always writing.

I know you’re especially proud of your writing.
The secret of it is to keep everything moving. Don’t let the audience think of the dishes. You need to have some lines they can take away, like songs they go away humming. Do you type or write longhand?

I write longhand.
That’s the only way I could do it. They offered to teach me to type when I was in prison. Did you know I was in prison?

Yes. But you weren’t an ordinary prisoner.
I was never an ordinary anything. I had to stand trial because of my show, Sex. They said I could pay the fine, but I decided it would be more interesting to go to prison. They told me I had to wear prison clothes, but I said I was bringing my own underwear. I wore my silk underwear the whole time.

How do you feel about censorship?
believe in censorship! If a picture of mine didn’t get an X rating, I’d be insulted. Don’t forget, dear – I invented censorship. Imagine censors that wouldn’t let you sit in a man’s lap. I’ve been in more laps than a napkin! They’d get all bothered by a line like “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

A man’s imagination is a woman’s best friend.
Do you know what question I’m asked most? About the mirrors on my bedroom ceiling. I say, “I like to see how I’m doin’.” You can go look at my bedroom.

[As in the living room, everything in the bedroom was white. The perfectly made bed was covered with a white satin spread.]

Did you like what you saw?

I did. It’s one of the most famous bedrooms in the world.
The most famous. What did you think of my bed?

I thought what an interview it might give!
I wish I could’ve shown you my beach house. But I sold it. I never lost any money in art or real estate. Money is sexy for men, but people don’t find it feminine for a woman to talk about it. So, you don’t have to talk about it, just have it. The real security is yourself.

Do you think money buys happiness?
No, but money is a great love potion for an affair. It buys a good bed with clean linens and time to enjoy it all. If you have money, you don’t have to worry about it, and worrying spoils your looks.

What are you calling your book?

Do you have a suggestion?
[After thinking for a moment] You could call the book “Mae West and others”. That’s “others” with a small “o”, and I want to be first. Being first is important in life.

For you, what’s the most important thing in life?
My career is everything. Always was. I never changed. Inside, I feel like the same little girl I was. But it was the way I grew up outside that men liked.

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‘The Square’ Interview with Ruben Östlund, Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss




Director Ruben Östlund is an adventurer of Swedish film and a hard man to satiate. It is seen in his Oscar-nominated film – The Square that has received much attention. Here is an excerpt from the interview with The Playlist as actors Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss share their experience with the movie and the director.

Claes Bang: Can I tell you a funny story from Cannes?

Elisabeth Moss: Yeah.

Claes Bang: When we were [at Cannes] there was this Screen International journalist, Wendy Mitchell, and she saw the film, she loved it, and she started [rooting] for me as best actor. She put on her Facebook page she put “The Daily Bang” and posted a new photo of me every day. Invented the hashtag #BangforBond.

Elisabeth Moss: So good!


Claes Bang : At the end of the festival, all these predictions come out, right? My agents were fanning me. “It says in Variety now that you’re gonna win. It says in the Daily Telegraph you’re gonna win. It says in The Guardian.” It said everywhere and I started fucking believing the hype. I did. I started believing the hype, because everybody was saying, “It’s an amazing film. It’s so fucking good, but you’re not gonna win the big thing because it’s too funny.” So when we got that phone call on Sunday…

The Playlist: And they told Ruben to come, too, it wasn’t just…

Claes Bang: No, no. They invite the entire crew that is there. So they said to come and I was like, “Fuck, I’m gonna get [an] award.” So when they said, “And the award for Best Actor goes to,” I was almost fucking getting my ass out of the seat and then they said, “Joaquin Phoenix.” I was like, “Okay, I’ll stay put.” Then the next prize went, the next prize went, the next prize went and there was just one left. I leaned over to Rupert and I said, “Unless they’re really fucking with us, we’re gonna get the big one.” We got the big one and I was like, really, really so fucking happy about it, and he was, and everything was exploding, and then five minutes later I was like, “Wait a fucking second. What the fuck was that? He stole my award,that fucking Swedish wanker.” (Laughs.) So what happened is that all the people that get the awards, they go off to a press conference.

Elisbeth Moss: Yeah.

The Playlist: Yeah, I was at the press conferences.

Claes Bang: There’s an amazing party that starts out on the top of the Palais overlooking this harbor with all the boats and everything. Then you go down to the beach where there’s a department of a French restaurant that’s just the most amazing food, champagne, people in tuxes. I mean, amazing. I started to get a little bit pissed. I got quite drunk and then Ruben came back from the press conference and I saw him over there, and I was like, “I’m fucking gonna hurt him now. I’m fucking gonna go over there and kick his ass.”

The Playlist: Really?


Claes Bang: I was so mad. I was really … and I have done really, really stupid stuff when I’m drunk. So, I said to my wife, “We need to leave now.” So we left.

Elisabeth Moss: That’s the danger of believing the hype! That’s why after eight nominations I will never convince me of anything else other than that I’m gonna lose.

Claes Bang: And Ruben texted me something at [1 AM asking] “Where the fuck are you? I mean, we won and everybody’s asking for you.” I mean, everybody there had seen that film and unless you know Ruben, you don’t know that he is the guy, but everybody knew that I was sort of the lead of the film. And I was just…

Elisabeth Moss: Gone.

Claes Bang: I was gone.

The Playlist: But when you woke up the next morning with the hangover were you at least excited?

Claes Bang: I had to get up like, fuck dead early the next morning. That was one of the things. I had a show in Edinburgh that next night.

The Playlist: But when you were going to the airport, on the plane, you must have been thinking “Holy cow!” because when you make a movie you don’t necessarily think it’s going to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Claes Bang: No, and my wife, she was so fucking mad with me. She said, “We’re leaving the party of our lives. There’s boom boom boom and they all want to talk to you, and now we’re leaving.” “Yes,” I said, “This is not where I’m gonna kill a director or try and break the Palme d’Or in half to say ‘This is mine’ or something.”

Elisabeth Moss: But how Ruben Ostlund would that have been if the lead actor and the director got into a fight?


Claes Bang: Exactly.

The Playlist: Yes!

Claes Bang: When I told him this story, because I’ve told him and I’ve told the press and everything now, he was just like, “This is the best story of the whole shoot.”

Elisabeth Moss: Yeah, it’s the greatest!

The Playlist: He’s gonna put this in a movie now. You realize this, right?

Claes Bang: It’s cool. It’s fine. It’s no problem. Listen, what I actually find quite funny is that when you think about it, it’s like, “Oh my God, no. Did I do that?” But when I tell the story people are like, “Finally, someone is coming out and saying I was really, really disappointed not to win.”

Elisabeth Moss: Right. Totally, yes.

Claes Bang: It was literally something like five or six places where it said, “He’s gonna win it.” I fucking believed it.

Elisabeth Moss: Of course. It’s dangerous!

The Playlist: By the way, I’m one of those people that do the stuff that say “these people are going to win.”

Elisabeth Moss: Right, exactly!

The Playlist: So, I guess I apologize?

Elisabeth Moss: No, by all means. It’s your job, but it’s like…

Claes Bang: I have this thing also that was like, “Okay, they really invited a rookie to Cannes. Now we’re gonna fuck with him.”

The Playlist: It’s not personal!

Claes Bang: “We’re gonna build him up, we’re gonna make him believe, and then-”

Elisabeth Moss: “We’re gonna take it away. Just to teach him a lesson.”

The Playlist: Elisabeth, you weren’t at the ceremony. Were you there for the premiere and then you left?

Elisabeth Moss: I went to Antibes which is like 45 minutes, a half an hour away or something. Nobody asked me to go to the Palme d’Or Ceremony.

The Playlist: Oh, they didn’t call and tell you? I thought they gave everyone 24 hours notice.

Claes Bang: No. For instance, if you’re in Japan and you’ve gone back to Japan and you’re getting an award, they will let you know in time so you can get on a plane.

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Christo, you and your wife Jeanne-Claude were born on the exact same day in 1935, but in completely different countries. Do you believe in destiny?

Jeanne-Claude always said, “There are a million people born on the same day.” But it happened that we met, that’s all. That is something not unusual. But there are many things that are not destiny. You make your own destiny.

You worked together for nearly 50 years. Would you have become the same artist without her?

It’s the same question to ask, “What would happen if I were Chinese?” (Laughs) We cannot discuss these things – if, if, if – there are no ifs. After living for 80 years, there are no ifs. I can only say one if and it was that I was rather lucky to escape in 1957 to the West. I had never been outside of Bulgaria until 1956 and if I didn’t go to the West, things would have probably been different.

The Soviets had a very strict policy against modern art so you might have not made art at all.

I was drawing all the time as a little boy, like 5 or 6 years old, and it was at this age that I decided to be an artist. There was never a thought about anything else. But it’s true, in the late ’40s and early ’50s most modern art was not permitted to be seen in the Soviet Bloc countries. There were some very bad reproductions and old books… I desperately tried to go beyond Bulgaria and the Soviet Bloc, but even going to other communist countries was very difficult. Fortunately my aunt and my uncle were living in Prague and finally I succeeded in finding a way to visit them. And I was totally flabbergasted by Prague!


It was the most Western country. Even before the chance to fully escape came into view, I had already decided that I was never going to go back to Bulgaria! I was going to stay in Prague. I was young, like 21 years old, and when you’re young and you discover the relatively small freedom of the Western art in Czechoslovakia and Prague in the late ’50s, suddenly you dream of going to Paris! And this is how the stage was set for me to go to Paris.

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Ms. Roš, what are the main challenges in Slovenian cuisine today?

I think Slovenia is slowly, slowly stepping on the world gastronomic map. But my generation of chefs needs to fight for every single step, and every decision is opening a new door. If you work in Italy or Germany, and you cook well, sooner or later you will get the recognition that you need — there is the Michelin Guide, there is Gault Millau, there is the L’Espresso Guide. While in Slovenia, you can be really good, but up to the moment when the international community acknowledges you, you are actually no one.

You have been the head chef of Hiša Franko in Kobarid for almost 20 years — and it wasn’t until this year that you were recognized as the number one female chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy.

Right, it’s a very, very slow process. Everybody travels for food to Copenhagen, London, or Paris, but who knows where Kobarid is? So it has been a long, long struggle and fight. It doesn’t have only to do with the quality of the restaurant; you have to prove that you are worth certain awards three times more than in developed countries.

“Creativity is something that does not come only from our childhood — it has a lot to do with our own personality.”

I guess the former Yugoslavia doesn’t necessarily come to mind as a haven for creativity in fine dining. What was it like growing up there in the 1990s?

Well, my mother was actually a brilliant cook. She was a journalist and a very creative person, so our meals at home were very colorful and never repeated. But if I think of the food from my childhood, I think of a simple pasta dish with homemade tomato sauce. It really was a super flavorful meal, with a drop of olive oil on the top and with no cheese. That was the most loved meal when I was a child! That is what they call, “happy food.” You know, my children would kill for it.

My parents lived through the communist regime and told me they used to get so excited over simple things like bananas because they were so rare.

Yes but you know, Yugoslavia never had a very strict organization of the country — the borders were open and we could travel. Tito was a “bon vivant” and he was letting his people have a pretty free life. So Yugoslavia had a lot of good things as well. I think Yugoslavia was a place with a lot of creative people; culture was super strong, especially in Zagreb and Belgrade. But I think that creativity is something that either is in a person or is not. Let’s say I have two children and they are both raised in the same way. The girl is super creative and totally irrational, while the boy is totally rational and not creative at all. I think it is something that does not come only from our childhood or from our upbringing or from the regime in which we lived in — it has a lot to do with our own personality.

Do you feel more creative and irrational, or the other way around?

Oh, I’m too instinctive sometimes! You see, my problem — and sometimes it is also a good thing — is that I don’t question a lot. I actually just jump in the water and swim and I am a kind of personality that is never happy with average results. At Hiša Franko, I never questioned myself about how it is going to be like, especially because I never had any prior experience of seeing how a restaurant really works and I’m completely self-taught so it was like a total experiment and we are still making corrections.

Source: The Talk

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