24 July 2023

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September, 1945

The temperature hit ninety degrees the day she arrived. New York was steaming an angry concrete animal caught unawares in an unseasonable hot spell. But she didn't mind the heat or the littered midway called Times Square. She thought New York was the most exciting city in the world.

The girl at the employment agency smiled and said, "Aaah, you're a cinch. Even with no experience. All the good secretaries are away in those big-paying defense jobs. But honest, honey, if I had your looks I'd head straight for John Powers or Conover."

Who are they?" Anne asked. They run the top modeling agencies in town. That's what I'd love to do, only I'm too short and not skinny enough. But you're just what they're looking for."

"I think I'd rather work in an office," Anne said.

"Okay, but I think you're crazy." She handed Anne several slips of paper. "Here, they're all good leads, but go to Henry Bellamy first. He's a big theatrical attorney. His secretary just married John Walsh." When Anne failed to react, the girl said, "Now don't tell me you never heard of John Walsh! He's won three Oscars and I just read he's gonna get Garbo out of retirement and direct her comeback picture."

Anne's smile assured the girl she would never forget John Walsh.

"Now you get the idea of the setup and the kind of people you'll meet," the girl went on. "Bellamy and Bellows — a real great office. They handle all kinds of big clients. And Myrna, the girl who married John Walsh, she couldn't touch you in the looks department.

You'll grab a live one right away."

"A live what?"

"Guy... maybe even a husband." The girl looked back at Anne's application. "Say, where did you say you're from? It is in America, isn't it?"

Anne smiled. "Lawrenceville. It's at the start of the Cape, about an hour from Boston by train. And if I had wanted a husband I could have stayed right there. In Lawrenceville everyone gets married as soon as they get out of school. I'd like to work for a while first."

"And you left such a place? Here everyone is looking for a husband. Including me! Maybe you could send me to this Lawrenceville with a letter of introduction."

"You mean you'd marry just anyone?" Anne was curious.

"Not anyone. Just anyone who'd give me a nice beaver coat, a part-time maid, and let me sleep till noon each day. The fellows I know not only expect me to keep my job, but at the same time I should look like Carole Landis in a negligee while I whip up a few gourmet dishes." When Anne laughed the girl said, "All right, you'll see. Wait till you get involved with some of the Romeos in this town. I bet you rush for the fastest train back to Lawrenceville. And on the way, don't forget to stop by and take me with you."

Before Jackie Collins, Candace Bushnell and Lena Dunham, Jacqueline Susann held the world rapt with her tales of the private passions of Hollywood starlets, high-powered industrialists and the jet-set. Valley of the Dolls took the world by storm when it was first published, fifty years ago. Never had a book been so frank about sex, drugs and show business. It is often sited as the bestselling novel of all time. Dolls – red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight. For Anne, Neely and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three beautiful women become best friends when they are young and in New York, struggling to make their names in the entertainment industry. Only when they reach the peak of their careers do they find there’s nowhere left to go but down – to the Valley of the Dolls.