Authors: F.G. Haghenbeck
Text copyright © 2006 by F. G. Haghenbeck
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
was first published in 2006 by Roca as
. Translated from Spanish by Tanya Huntington. Published in English by Treadstone Ltd. in 2012.
Published by Blue Amazonas Corp.
P.O. Box 24610
Las Vegas, NV 89140
To Bill “el Chief” and Silvia, thanks for the support, the love, and the real-life inspiration for this novel. I promise to return the favor.
A man’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.
—W. C. F
Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.
One can drink too much, but one never drinks enough.
6 PARTS GIN
1 PART DRY WHITE VERMOUTH
ombine the gin, vermouth, and ice in a shaker, mix until chilled. Serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with the olives. Enjoy while listening to Frank Sinatra sing “Witchcraft.”
The origin of the best-known cocktail in the world is the subject of some debate. It made its debut in California in 1870. And some contend that it was created by a San Francisco barman named Martinez, while others believe it was first served in the small California town of Martinez. Both theories, however, account for its distinctive name. The drink gained popularity during Prohibition because of the relative ease of distilling gin.
The martini used to be sweeter, with the components mixed in equal parts, than it is today. Though Winston Churchill believed that one glance at a bottle of vermouth was enough, most agree the olive provides the final touch and—according
to many mixologists, modern-day alchemists—absorbs the evil spirits in the gin.
American par excellence, the symbol of soirées, style, and class, the martini has been the preferred drink of Hollywood stars, writers, and even presidents for decades—from Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker, and Luis Buñuel to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, to name a few. The last take of the day on a movie set is known as the “martini shot.”
Some call it by the elegant nickname “silver bullet.” Its simplicity is what makes it so marvelous: only two ingredients are required to create something so sublime.
He wasn’t as tall as he looked in photographs, just slightly shorter than a palm tree. His voice wasn’t that deep either, only a notch lower than a lawn mower. He puffed on a cigar the size of a rolling pin, perfuming the entire set. His face, underneath the panama hat jammed down over his ears, radiated power—a god looking down upon mere mortals. He embodied the kind of power possessed by those who run the movie business. And that’s the only power that counts here.
The director was barking out instructions to his people: actors, producers, technicians, assistants, the locals hired as extras, and dozens of onlookers surrounding the cameras, all working to make his dream, his film, a reality.
I felt sorry for the lot of them, soaked in sweat in this debilitating climate. I, on the other hand, was drinking a martini so dry it drove away the oppressive humidity. And Richard Burton, who was sitting next to me, had just finished his. He ordered another. A double.
I wondered in which leg he stored all that booze. He was carrying around more fuel than the gas plant that powered the set’s electricity. Burton spent so much time at that bar you’d have thought they planted him there a hundred years ago. And, as long as they kept the drinks coming, he’d stick around for a hundred more. He was playing an alcoholic reverend in the film, and given how much he had been drinking, I thought he deserved an Oscar for his work off the set as much as on.
A reporter with a face like a cockatoo asked Burton if Elizabeth Taylor was annoyed to find herself in a remote Mexican town surrounded by snakes, tarantulas, mosquitoes, and scorpions.
“She’s one tough cookie. But that’s Liz. She walks so dainty and looks like a French tart,” he replied in his thick Welsh accent, while chewing on an olive, his lunch for the day.
I turned my attention to the scene they were filming: a conversation between “Lolita” and the “God-Fearing Woman.” To me, and probably the rest of the world, Sue Lyon would always be Lolita, her most recent role before this one. But she was more renowned for playing the lead in every man’s erotic fantasies. Her childish body, crowned by
that wicked angel face, simply reeked of illicit sex. One look at her and you could almost taste twenty years of prison. But it was just a front. That chick was more baked than last year’s Christmas turkey.
I never liked Deborah Kerr’s acting in the first place. But, as the God-Fearing Woman, I liked her even less. She reminded me of someone on my mother’s side of the family. We have a saying in Mexico about people from Puebla, something to the effect of not wanting to touch them with a ten-foot pole because they’re vermin. And there’s a kernel of truth to that.
Ava Gardner was the only star missing at that moment. She was playing a mature woman this time, a former lover of Burton’s character, determined to have sex with all the macho men in town. Miss Gardner was back in her bungalow rehearsing for the role. She’d locked herself in with a crooner from a local bar, and it sounded like she’d found her necessary motivation; her cries were so embarrassingly loud that Gabriel Figueroa, the famous Mexican cinematographer, had to turn up the volume on his gramophone.
could be heard everywhere, punctuated by the sounds of Miss Gardner’s climax and the warbling of the cinematographer’s off-tune tenor.
My boss, producer Ray Stark, flashed me a smile, as he surveyed the impressive set built on scenic Mismaloya Beach, as if to welcome me to paradise. But I’d misread his expression. He wasn’t welcoming me to heaven; he was welcoming me to hell.
All of the actors on
The Night of the Iguana
hated each other, and there was more sexual tension on the set than at a high-school dance. The director was so sure they would end up killing each other that he’d had five golden pistols made, each loaded with five silver bullets, a different name, including the producer’s, engraved on each one. The director was a cautious man; he didn’t include any bullets engraved with his own name. Even so, Mr. Stark seemed happy with everybody and everything.
I didn’t know why he was so happy with me. We were so different we must have descended from different apes. He’d done everything imaginable in his life, and he was famous and a millionaire to boot. All he had left to do was write a book.
As for me, well, I didn’t know what I was yet. For that, I guess, you need an entire lifetime. I’m just a beatnik bloodhound by the name of Sunny Pascal, half-Mexican, half-gringo, half-alcoholic, half-surfer, half-dead, half-alive. Hell, I even speak half