When the call came to interview with Harold Robbins for a temporary job, my two cats and I were living on dry Post Grape Nuts and we were desperate. On the morning of my interview, I dressed meticulously, choosing a cream silk blouse, soft lilac linen skirt, proper, all the while wondering what Harold Robbins would be like. Intellectual? Terse? No-nonsense? Crazy? Or like the characters in his book? He wrote about sex, drugs, power and seduction in his books. Would he try to seduce me? My friend who arranged the appointment had told me Harold Robbins was as “wild” as his books, but also a very nice person. I remembered his image from pictures I had seen in magazines: Black Stetson Cowboy hat, dark heavy sunglasses, looking like he owned the universe.
Harold Robbins had sold over 750 million novels in his career and was translated into 42 languages throughout the world. That fact was blazoned on the backs of all his books, and I had read most of them.
The Carpetbaggers was racy, wild, and provocative. It had made a hidden progression from my grandmother to my mother, to my aunt and even though I wasn’t old enough to read it, I suspected it was somehow wicked since it was passed in a brown paper bag. In fact, they only read it at night.
My diesel Peugeot puttered like a sewing machine as I entered Beverly Hills, passing beautiful mansions tucked among the trees and hills surrounded by walls of privacy. I followed my directions to 1501 Tower Grove Road and gave my name to the guard at the large black wrought iron gates, and he let me through. The driveway was a half-mile of plush greenery and surreal landscaping.
After parking my car in the circular driveway, Rick, the majordomo greeted me. Entering the large and elegant gray, two-story home, I followed him over plush carpeting up a winding staircase. At the double doors in the hallway, the majordomo knocked and then opened both doors in a sweeping gesture. We stepped up one stair and entered a huge, sprawling bedroom. Cream satin drapes from ceiling to floor, cream satin walls, smoke-mirrored ceiling, and a huge king size bed. It looked like the ultimate seduction chamber, straight out of a Harold Robbins novel.
In the middle of the bed, a man wearing jet-black sunglasses sat cross-legged with a cigarette in his hand, smoke curling into the air, sipping coffee out of a mug emblazoned with the inscription, “Too Much Sex Blurs Your Vision.” The last three words blurred. He was wearing a white t-shirt and red jockey briefs.
This was my introduction to Harold Robbins.
I was born with a slight ‘limp’. Most people, seeing me walk for the first time, fixate on that “limp.” I’m overly sensitive about this, but as I walked toward Harold he never took his eyes off mine. He hadn’t noticed the “limp” and I could have kissed him.
He put his hand out to me. “Hi, I’m Harold Robbins.”
I shook his hand and smiled back at him. “I’m Jann Stapp.”
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