Tennessee Williams wrote Baby Doll with her in mind, and she was considered the sexiest blonde bombshell ever, much sexier than Jean Harlow, whom she portrayed on film. She was great in The Carpetbaggers, The Great Divide, Harlow, Giant and countless other Fifties, Sixties and Seventies hits. Carroll Baker is ninety-one, still very much compos corpus and without make-up; a lively dinner companion who Michael Mailer and I took out to dinner last week.
No, they don’t make them like her any more — except for Lily James and Keira Knightley. I sat next to her in an Italian outdoor restaurant, ordered some good wine and the three of us downed two bottles in no time. Unlike the stars of today, who are spoilt and too stupid to speak and make any sense, Carroll was funny and not at all bitter at having been exiled for ten years for not giving in to the slob Joe Levine, thankfully no longer with us. Levine was a physically repulsive man, but a big-shot producer at Paramount. Carroll stopped him from climbing into a car with her, and fat Joe took it rather badly. (Most fat and ugly men do.) The result was that she was blackballed, left Hollywood and worked for ten years in Italy “where I met the most gorgeous of men, including your friend Gianni Agnelli, whose boat I went on.”
I did not ask for further details. Italian men were not known for being fat or ugly, and are still considered better lovers than Frenchmen, if somewhat sillier. But this is about Carroll, not French or Italian males. She still speaks with the same radiating voice as when she played the daughter of Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor in Giant, seduced by a drunken mega oilman, played by James Dean. And she’s quick. When I told her that, as a young sportsman, I watched her in a black and white film lying half-naked in a bed under a tent in the desert and my sporting prowess took a downturn for obvious reasons, she laughed and called me a naughty boy. I loved the films of that long ago period, without Google, internet or social media, rotary telephones with a cord that stretched all the way to the bathroom, music on the radio, movies in palace-like theaters, newspapers and books made of paper. And women like Carroll on screen.
The day after our dinner, implausibly unattractive women and men were making the headlines in a freak show at the Met. It was the utter inversion of a 1950s reality. The more outrageously ugly the costume or the person, the more clicks by the paparazzi. This is the skeletal-like Wintour’s baby, and it reflects modern life. Ugly, fat and outrageous is in; everything that even hints at good taste is out. I used to attend that event year in and year out, when Pat Buckley ran it, but I wouldn’t be caught in the place on freak night even if Lily James gave me the eye. (If you believe that you also believe in the melodic beauty of rap.)
Otherwise everything’s hunky-dory. Alexandra has gone back to Europe and I once again find myself hanging out with men and women much too young for me. The current subject of debate is Tucker Carlson’s firing by Fox News, a subject that has the Bagel Times drooling as it writes ad nauseam about it.
One would think that the economy and the debt, mass shootings galore, Texas being overrun by migrants, not to mention Ukraine and China, might be more interesting subjects, but it seems the firing of a conservative TV anchor has obsessed the paper that only favorably prints stories that are woke.
At lunch with Michael Wolff and his very pretty wife the other day, I asked him about Tucker Carlson, whom I know slightly and like very much. Wolff has just finished a book on the Murdochs, whom I am a fan of but suspect Wolff is not. He had the nicest things to say about Tucker Carlson and blamed his firing on office politics rather than the Bagel Times version of inappropriate emails. The Bagel Times writes falsehoods to fit its agenda, of that I am certain.
Basically Fox has taken a tremendous hit by having to pay out such a sum and settle a lawsuit, something the rest of the channels, which are all left of center, are rejoicing at. I tease Michael Wolff about the moolah he’s made with his three Trump books — all hatchet jobs but still the Donald will see and dine him, believing that he (Trump) can turn him into a fan. But what I find even stranger is the nonsense that the Bagel Times and the rest of the left-wing media are putting out about Tucker Carlson and his firing. It even won a Pulitzer this week for foreign reporting, which will amaze anyone who has read its unrecognizable coverage of Britain. “Apathy Reigns” was a headline the paper used to describe last week’s magnificent coronation in good old Britain. That says it all.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the World edition here.