I WAS SEVEN YEARS OF AGE when I first saw a fifteen-year-old Judy Garland singing her heart out to a photo of thirty-seven-year-old Clark Gable. As a kid, Broadway Melody was one of my favorite films, largely because of the Hollywood child star’s rendition of You Made Me Love You. In 1959, while I sat in the study of my grandmother’s house in the Pacific Palisades, glued to the round screen of an old black and white Philco, I was already wondering what it would be like to fall in love with an older man. Older men enchanted me, particularly if they were elegant, funny, European, and knew how to dance. I could spend an entire Saturday afternoon watching Paul Henreid light cigarettes for Bette Davis; or Fred Astaire sweep Ginger Rogers across the glistening surface of an Art-Deco night-club floor. Dressed in pearls and white gloves already at the age of seven, I would dream of being these women–of capturing the undivided attention and love of a man too debonair to be real.
At that moment, my future husband was laughing as he drank twenty-year-old scotch with Astaire, himself. At thirty-four, Pierre “Pitou” de la Salle had already been married for four years, to a beautiful young starlet, and fashion icon, who had just finished her first two film roles as leading lady opposite Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. At that moment, nine framed images of her face, assembled in grid form, graced the cover of the sixty-cent March edition of Esquire magazine–a cover that sat on the coffee table in front of the Philco as I watched Judy Garland swoon.
It would be another twelve years before I would meet the man who had so deftly captured the heart of this glamorous young woman; another twelve years before he would capture mine. Intuitively, I think I already knew he was waiting for me, and the time that it would take to grow up –to meet with him and my destiny, seemed like an eternity. Yes…my fascination for elegant older men, for the sense of emotional security they offer, the intelligent humor, and the years of sexual expertise only they have had the time to cultivate, runs deep.
The stories that you will read in the blog posts that follow are the memories of one woman’s forty-year love affair with her husband; a man old enough in years to have been her father, yet young enough at heart to have maintained her passion for four decades. An old friend once said to me: “There is something wrong with anyone who doesn’t like Pitou.” To have known him was to love him.
What irony, that no one would come to know him better than the little American girl who sat in front of that Philco television set in 1959.
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