Crawford. Oh my, what a delightful
foray into high camp, which I now understood, at the age of my Saturn Return,
full of education and experience, at my first professional job. Joan, interviewed
late in life, answering questions with gusto, swearing, grinding out her
cigarettes in an ashtray like the pugnacious broad that she was. Drunk and
sentimental, she reminisced about the one that got away, Clark Gable. So sad!
So sad that she could never keep a man!
So delicious was this silly, freaky book; better yet were the dead-serious
marginalia written by some earnest follower of Joan’s life and career. Mommie Dearest, the movie version starring
Faye Dunaway, had been released: “No wire hangers!” we shouted at each other. The
people I worked with understood the camp value of Joan: we loved Conversations with Crawford; we took
turns describing the awful late-career movies we rented: Torch Song, Queen Bee, Johnny
Guitar, Female on the Beach. There were other stars we pondered and talked
about: Susan Hayward and Barbara Stanwyck, for instance, but nothing at all
could ever match Conversations with
Crawford, or those bizarre films. What an odd coincidence it was to find
out that our head librarian was the daughter of Jean Rouverol, who had written
the script for Autumn Leaves, where
the very masculine late Joan has an affair with a boyish and dangerous Cliff
At my Saturn Return, I went to an astrologer. It was accurate,
all of it, including how I would have trouble finding love, that the placement
of Venus meant that I would have trouble with my femininity. I would have to
learn to be more feminine, as in receptive
and yielding and related. What sounded like horrible language to the equality-minded
part of me (and probably to you, reading it) sounded true to the side of me that
shared a birthday with Joan Crawford: it’s a lonely future you face when you
find out that you can be castrating and critical, when you can clearly envision living life as a lonely drunk, or in some
version of Whatever Happened to Baby
Jane, or when your perfectionism starts to drive you crazy, and when I looked
into the abyss, this was the person who stared back at me.
I could define who I am in a completely different way, using other famous figures whose lives influenced mine, along with a better list of books and films that shaped my life. That list would flatter me, of course. It’s suspect and embarrassing, yet also true, that I did make life decisions based on Joan’s cautionary tale, and this happened because I discovered that I shared a birthday with her. I contemplated Joan Crawford’s example up to the time of my first Saturn Return, ages 28-30. At a Saturn Return we have to face ourselves and change what needs to be changed, or we risk staying in stasis, or moving backwards and making things worse. When I reached that age I felt compelled to change because I didn’t want to end up, like Joan, with the cleanest kitchen but the loneliest heart.
-- Stephanie Brown