August 20, 1918- September 21, 1974.
"When I write I do five drafts. The first is on inexpensive white paper. I don't try for style, I just spill it all out. The second draft is on yellow paper, that's when I work on characterizations. The third is pink, I work on story motivations. Then blue, that's where I cut, cut, cut."- Jacqueline Susann
"She doesn't write. She types."- Gore Vidal
While the literati dismiss her work as pulp fiction fodder, Jackie paved the way for other female novelists such as Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins. Her novel, Valley of the Dolls, is ranked as the top selling novel of all time next to Gone With The Wind, and spent 65 weeks on the best-seller list in 1964. Her other works include:
Every Night Josephine
The Love Machine
Once is Not Enough
Born August 20, 1918, Jackie's life was exciting even in her decidedly non-exotic hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father, a philandering portrait painter, would fool around with his mistress under the pretense of taking Jackie to the movies. A lazy girl, Jackie never took school seriously, but on scoring a 140 on her I.Q. tests her mother pushed her to begin writing. Jackie famously replied:
"Writing is hard work, but acting is glamour, so I choose acting."
A pill popping socialite by the time she graduated, Jackie had enough time for the lifestyle but little time for developing any actual talent. Debuting in The Women in 1932 (a Broadway play) Jackie married Irving Mansfield shortly after, a move some consider a move only for her professional gain. Jackie wasn't sexually attracted to Irving Mansfield but felt she could "manage" him and he could help her in her career with his connections. In fact, he courted her by placing items and photos in theater and society sections of New York newspapers. She tried her hand as a movie and TV actress, only to fail along with friend Helen Gurley Brown by the early '60s. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1962, Jackie appealed to God to "give me ten years for a chance as an authoress." She got her wish. Her life, filled with parties, drugs, and celebrities, became easy notation for the largely autobiographical Valley of the Dolls.
Jackie's dark side
was her family
. She had a son, Guy Mansfield, on December 6, 1946, but at three he was diagnosed as being autistic
and at four he was committed to an institution, and is still there. For awhile Jackie told friends that he was an asthmatic
who was away at school in Arizona
for the healthy climate
. She was tormented with guilt over Guy her whole life, and some people said that the poodle Josephine was a surrogate
for Guy. Jackie could also be tough, and there are stories that she punch
ed an agent who tried to lure her onto his casting couch
, she slugged a critic
who wrote negatively about a play she wrote, and she even got in a fight with Johnny Carson
in a bar and tossed a drink at him. Jackie did have two words of advice for brides
about how to live: "room service
," because with her glamorous lifestyle, she herself never cooked
She tried writing a show-biz/drug expose which she was going to call The Pink Dolls, but instead she wrote her first succesful book, Every Night, Josephine!, which was based on her experiences with her poodle, whom she sometimes dressed up in outfits to match hers. "The Elizabeth Taylor of poodles," she called her dog. Once she was famous, Irving devoted himself to supporting and helping her. All of her novels were written during the decade, and she herself said that two things about the 60's would be remembered: The Beatles and herself. However, in the 70's she was known as washed up. Said late night show host Tom Capote: "She looks like a truck driver in drag." She sued him, and he apologized: TO THE TRUCK DRIVERS OF AMERICA!!!
After the '60s, her last four years were spent glamorously and productively. When she was diagnosed with cancer on January 11th of '73, she was determined to finish her last novel, Once Is Not Enough. Like her other books it too was a roaring success, but she couldn't enjoy it because she was so sick and drained by the chemotherapy. Still, in her last days she told a friend that "every day of the last ten years for me was a blessing," suggesting that she'd lived hard and successfully to get the most out of every moment, knowing she didn't have a long life ahead of her. She may have attempted suicide by trying to leap from her terrace; supposedly Irving handcuffed himself to her to keep her from further attempts. When she finally went to the hospital for the last time, she refused to die and stayed in a coma for seven weeks before finally succumbing on September 21, 1974.
Dying words: "Let's get outta here, doll."