Meg by Loren Beauchamp and Backstage Sinners by Don Elliott
Both Meg (Midwood Books) and Backstage Sinners (Nightstand) are similar stories — young women seeking fame and having to sleep with certain men to get it. Meg is about the cimb to supersardom in Hollywood and Backstage Sinners is about New York theater and grindhouse films in L.A. Both were published in 1961 so probably written around the same time (if not the same month), and meg was following on the success of Connie. What a drag it must be for a writer to have a hot seller under a pen name and no one knows whose behind the mask — or maybe it’s fun?
Meg is big, busty redhead from a small Idaho town with stars in her eyes. She saves $1000 and takes a bus to New York, after having lost her virginity to Jack, a potato farmer’s son and an ox of a boy. Since she gave up her virtue, he expects they will get married so Meg high-tails it out of town.
In NY, she meets a talent agent, Bonaventura, a short middle aged slimeball who knows he can make Meg into a star. He doesn’t require her to sleep with him — he does not mix buisiness with pleasure — buit she does have to sleep with certain men to get places: beauty contest promotoers and judges, money men, directors, producers, actors. Bonaventura moves Meg around like a puppet — every act is pre-planned and for publicity. This is the Marilyn Monroe/Jayne Mansfield story re-told. Meg does’t mind sleeping with the men, she just isn’t into anything kinky like spanking and whips. She also gets into a faux marriage to an aging Hollywood hunk who is a lot like Rock Hudson or Raymond Burr — ladies men on the outside, gay in secret. The marraige is for publicty to help both their careers.
Meg’s family and friends back home disown her for all the semi-nude photos and the racy films she makes. Within two years sibce her arrical to NY, she is a superstar with a large Beverly Hills mansion and a satff of four waiting on her.
The sex is often glazed over and not much — you can find more action in a Harlequin romance. This is pure guilty pleasure soapopera reading. It seems to end too quickly, as if Silverberg was reaching his word limit (all Midwood seem to clock in at 158-164 pages) and had to wrap his story up.
In Backstage Sinners, Jean Bruce is a young actress who is serious about her craft, but in Hollywood, she makes grindhouse junk films where she showsa lit of her body, and has slept with 40 men in a year to get where she is, which seems to be nowhere. With a year’s money saved, she moves to New York to get away from sleaze Hollywood and study Sid Reinfheld, a method actor who is a lot like Brando but quit acting in his 30s and now coaches hot young actors and actresses. There is a lot of interesting and insightful discussion about acting tecnique, Checkov’s Uncle Vanya and other plays that makes me think Silverberg had some theater background, or had friends who were actors — since he lived in NYC and went to Columbia, no doubt he did, as you could spit on the street and hit three actors in the 1950s, and now.
Jean sleeps with her Svengali teacher, of course. She wanted to from day one, although he is twice her age and twice her size. She falls for him and his teaching, as many young actresses have, only to regret it, as most do from a Svengali. Hollywood beckons for her return, and she cannot decide between a career or living a destitute, artistic life in the theater.
Reed Nightstand (Greenlead Classics) reprinted the book a decade later as The Bed and the Beautiful.