if he were still alive, would be 95 when this is posted. Now, let's face it. Even if he hadn't died by "misadventure," no way was this guy making it to 95. Odds were against him living past 70. On the other hand, my dad did. Of course, in my dad's family, dying at 77 was actually somewhat early. Okay, back to wherever we were headed.
My love for William Holden developed slowly over about 30 years, and then suddenly, bam! I could not get enough of him. At nearly 45 years old, I was crushing hard like 1977 ripping pages out of Tiger Beat hard. And after about a year of rewatching his films and catching up on so many I'd never seen, he started invading my thoughts. In 2011 I plastered one of my Tumblrs with him, posted about him here several times, and then last year I saw so much of him at other Tumblrs, etc., I was jealous. I mean that in the possessive sense. I've never minded sharing Gene Kelly or Hugh Laurie, etc., but Bill Holden was mine. What did a lot of young persons know about that world I was birthed into, the world which shaped who he became, and informed my sensibilities as I grew up and as it passed away? This world, the one we're in right now, is unrecognizable by comparison. To love this glowing yet damaged creature fully outside of context is to love a different person than do I. Yes, I cropped his wife Brenda Marshall out of this photo. It's a metaphor.
But that's mostly preposterous, of course. I know this. I know what it says about me, too. It's not, though, like I'd get into internet fights about it or whatever. It's just a reflection.
It's like how I am about James Garner. I can barely speak of it and risk suddenly being surrounded by a spontaneous retroactive adoration that waters down this particular intensity I've held onto for over 40 years. It's weird, but it isn't really weird at all. It's dreadfully, drearily ordinary. I so dislike confronting how ordinary I am sometimes, don't you?
William Holden was like Dean Martin in certain respects. He did what he did because that's what he did. He was both laid-back and very fussy. He appeared to be all surface; handsome, handsomely wearing what he wore, looking effortless, like sprezzatura.
Looking back, it's obvious how smart Dean Martin was, and that he was laughing at everyone else and how seriously they took themselves. I mean, their effort. He was serious when he needed to be, without all that energy-consuming effort.
I'm not sure Bill Holden was quite so smart, but I do think he possessed the same sharp view of himself, other people, the whole world. Some people, they're tortured by it all, and he was one of those people. And so, Africa, right? But also so much booze and cigarettes and needing to bathe over and over again. Perhaps trying to wash away something he could never take back. Anyway, it wasn't all effortless effort for him at all. Yet he kept at it.
I can love all that only retroactively because I've seen it in others, first hand, and because I'm fascinated by the puzzle of it all. In the every day present here and now, I like my puzzles to be crosswords or mazes on a little screen, and I am way, way over tortured passion. But it is a seriously groovy fantasy, not unlike when you're 15 and you find out a movie star you love prefers other men and you think, because you are 15 and silly, I could change him. He'd want me.
Nah, it's not really like that. It's just intensity, power, a sort of kinetic chiarascurro, and that's exciting; knowing what you know now, all that experience filters your view and colors your desires. You know how to play with fire, or at least imagine that you do.
Is someone reading this and thinking very earnest thoughts? Let's turn the record over and consider this. It is raining hard as I write this, the iPod across the room is playing a gentle jazz tune, I forgot to wash some of the paint off my legs from when I was working on a new canvas earlier, and in a few minutes, when I turn out the light to sleep, I'll press one of the pillows to my side in this great big bed, and contemplate something only briefly earnestly.
Bill Holden was a movie star, a box office hero. Did he want to be revered for more than that? Did he want to be revered at all? Probably not. Who can ever live up to it?
I watch this and grow sad and think, yes, he died too soon. It was a "wrong" death.
But I cannot be serious for more than 9 minutes at a time. (And as pt 2 appears to be missing, that's just as well.) So then I go back to thinking of him as my boyfriend Bill, just before I drift off to sleep.
More photos collected here.