Marlon Brando was my favorite actor when I was growing up. He was tough, street-wise, handsome, and didn't take no sh*t from nobody. When I saw him on the big screen for the first time (in The Wild One), he was everything a 14-year-old could ever dream of. He played the leader of a motorcycle gang, and when he roared into town on his big, quivering Harley, I felt I had died and gone to heaven.
By the time On The Waterfront made it to Milwain's, I was totally, deeply in love.
From my journal, Sunday, April 3:
Stayed all night with Maw Maw & Paw Paw George, saw "On the Waterfront." Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint. He's a darling! I LOVE him! I can't get him out of my mind! This may sound like a kid crush, but I do love him! I've got my skirt in Home Ec cut out. I HATE Home Ec!!!
I wrote a short story about my obsession in Clever Magazine, which will give you the whole story. (Don't know why I changed the name of the town, movie theatre and mine and Patsy's names and called it fiction, because it's all true.)
But now I have learned some disturbing things about the great actor.
Brando was bulimic. He suffered from the condition all his life and nearly died twice from his binging and purging. "We would eat dinner, and then Marlon would go to the bathroom, vomit, and come back and order another meal," his long-time personal assistant, Alice Marchak, says.
When she put locks on the refrigerator to control his gigantic appetite, Brando hired a private eye to teach him to pick them. (The Brando I knew would have jerked the door off its hinges with his bare hands, eaten all he wanted, and cut that long-time personal assistant down to size!)
Marchak, who worked for him for decades, rips the lid off one of the most closely guarded lives in Hollywood in her new book, Me and Marlon. "He was a self-admitted liar, con man and seducer, a subscription drug addict and a sex machine," she says. (I can believe he was a seducer and sex machine. But the Marlon I knew could never have been a liar, con man, or a druggie.)
Marlon almost turned down a role that cemented his superstar reputation. He was reluctant to play the godfather in The Godfather, saying he didn't want to glorify the Mafia. (Thank heavens he didn't; his performance of the powerful and intimidating mafia don MADE that movie.)
Brando had a stormy relationship with his children, particularly his son Christian. When Marchak discovered the teenager kneeling with a gun to his temple, she buzzed Marlon and asked him to hurry. "If he has a gun, I'm not coming out," Brando said. (The Marlon I knew would have rushed to his son, wrestled him to the floor and snatched the gun from his hand. He might have even smacked him around a few times and told him to "straighten up!")
But the 300-pound actor left Marchak to talk Christian out of suicide, and finally the troubled boy handed her his weapon.
Those are just a few things I've discovered about Brando. And I wish I hadn't.
I prefer the Brando of my 14-year-old dreams: that unobtainable rebel in his black leather jacket and boots, the boy with those dark smoldering eyes and insolent manner, the boy with an attitude, who rode his big, powerful Harley into town and scared the daylights out of everyone.