Fred Astaire, for example, turned out to be an almost total pragmatist, an affable, diffident man who seemed to have no conception of the pleasure he'd given millions of people like me. I found Judy Garland one day in an alcoholic stupor. Julie Andrews cussed with the creativity of a top sergeant. Mary Tyler Moore was tense and withdrawn. And I had to learn the hard way not to confuse an apparently warm interview with the beginning of a friendship. On two separate occasions, I spent a full day with Edward G. Robinson and Charlton Heston, then ran into them at previews that evening and they didn't know me.
But all of this was somehow put into a compartment of my head totally apart from the one that encased the affectionate companionship of the movies I enjoyed when I was growing up. When I had my fill of writing about Hollywood and turned to other things, I didn't look over my shoulder very often. Sure, I missed the location trips--many of them abroad--and the screening parties and the ego-life of being on the "A" list.
But the need I had--if that's what it was--to experience what I fantasized as Hollywood on my own terms was gone. That Hollywood no longer existed, anyway--if it ever had. The studio system had disintegrated, and the industry was being taken over by financial conglomerates--first domestic, then foreign--that didn't know Judge Hardy from Rambo, and couldn't care less. And the movies they produced turned appallingly violent--or appallingly cute--and were aimed primarily at adolescent minds of whatever age.
So an era was gone, and I didn't try to fight these changing rhythms. But that hasn't prevented an occasional opening of that compartment of my mind in which my own adolescent movies are stored--and the chance to poke about in them fondly. That usually happens at this stage of my life only when something stirs these memories--as the Universal fire did the other day. The cardboard sets burned fiercely, leaving only ashes. But the movies I carry in my head--and the feelings I have for them--are indestructible.