Wednesday, February 13, 2008
More Memories about Charlie
I am posting a lovely email written by former model and actress now a writer and film maker- Jeanne Rejaunier. She used to be part of La Dolce Vita in Rome when our late, dear mutual friend Charlie Fawcett was its prime mover. He was beautiful inside and out. The press dubbed him Rome’s unofficial Mayor.
I hope you appreciate the black and white photo of Charlie in Rome (see below), and the attractive photo of Jeanne as she looks today.
I love pictures of beautiful people. I know the word is rarely used these days. That’s because most people are pitifully obnoxious, disgustingly vulgar and obscenely cheap. La Ferrari is beautiful, so is Cartier bijou, Faberge eggs, iBook, and Nokia mobile telephones. People? Hardly ever
Yes, indeed, Rome was a fabulous place when I lived there in 1960-62. At that time, the Via Veneto was referred to as a giardino zoologico – (but how things have changed!) I wish I could recall how Charlie Fawcett and I met for the first time, but unfortunately that event has receded in memory. What stands out are the days upon days and nights of outings, events, lunches, dinners, beach excursions, Via Veneto and Piazza Navona happenings, night clubs and after hours aperitivi and gelati at so many exciting places with Charlie, usually with an entourage in tow consisting of Indian maharajahs, Greek shipping tycoons, international film stars, producers, directors, CIA/OSS spies, and assorted other interesting types who, immediately upon arrival in Rome, would always make sure their first phone call was to Charlie. Charlie called me nearly every day from the time we met, telling me what was on for that day (or night), who was in town, and where we would all go together. Everybody was high on la dolce vita, mainly because of Charlie -- always the organizer, always the energizer.
Charlie was then living with a German painter, whose name, if I recall, was Kurt something. The book Charlie Wilson’s War includes a reference to Charlie once having lived with the late Baron Enrico di Portanova. I’m not sure when this might have been. I knew Ricky di Portanova well, and at the time I was in Rome, I have no recollection of Charlie and Ricky’s paths crossing. Ricky was then residing in a charming Parioli apartment and owned a jewelry store on the Via Margutta, not far from the Spanish Steps. He was married to the seldom-if-ever-mentioned wife # 1, a tall, blond, handsome Swedish woman named Ingrid. After a time, Ingrid and Ricky divorced, and Ricky married wife #2, the dark haired Yugoslav Llubja (spelling probably wrong!) who was said to have been an ex-girlfriend of Cary Grant (whom I also met in Rome, through Charlie, of course!). My frequent escort in those days was the Marchese Emilio de Cesare, a close friend of Ricky di Portanova’s, and we often double dated. (After the Yugloslav came the Texan, but that's another story). Charlie was definitely not living with Ricky then. I lived at Via Nera 4, on the corner of Via Salaria, directly opposite the villa of film director Lucchino Visconti and his four Great Danes. (I used to practice speaking German with Visconti’s secretary, Annie).
Charlie was known for never accepting a gift of any kind, not even a necktie, even though everybody wanted to give him the world, enrich him, assure his future. He always declined. He was also, in addition to being the "honorary mayor of Rome," the greatest facilitator known to man who delighted in helping others and in arranging things to make innumerable lives better. When I came down with hepatitis and had to stay in l’Ospedale San Giacomo for seven weeks, Charlie was a loyal visitor. After my release, Charlie pulled strings to obtain for me a vastly reduced ticket on Pakistan International Airlines from Rome to New York.
Speaking of Pakistan reminds me of a plan Charlie had for me, never realized because of my own lack of foresight, for which I could certainly kick myself. Charlie knew I was writing a book about the New York modeling business (later published by Simon and Schuster/Trident Press and Pocket Books as The Beauty Trap). "You’re a writer," he told me, having read a couple of chapters of my work in progress. "If you want to write something really important, I can arrange to have you be the guest of ..." And here, Charlie casually listed the names of top world leaders who were his close friends in countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and a host of others – (President Goulart of Brazil, Saud bin Abdul Aziz, King of Saudi Arabia, and Heili Selasi were names I recall Charlie mentioning, all of whom Charlie assured me would lay out the welcoming mat and be wonderful hosts!). The idea was I should write about the role of women in these countries, some of which, Charlie said, would be utterly fascinating, and little known to the world at the time. Why didn’t I listen? Can you imagine such introductions? Charlie had the pulse, and was way ahead of his time.
Over the years, I have thought repeatedly of Charlie, and especially in these past months, hoping to find him again. In fact, on various trips to Europe over the years, I always wondered where Charlie was and how I could locate him. When I heard about his role in "Charlie Wilson’s War," I was hopeful we could reunite. There was so much I wanted to reminisce about with this incredible man who touched so many lives. Alas, it was not to be.
You say my name is familiar. I was a model and actress before publishing nine books. Maybe you heard my name in one of those contexts? The name "Rejaunier" is not a common one in France; in the United States, I’m the only one, and in France there are only about twelve Rejaunier families, many of whom live in Lyon. I’ll send my picture, so you have a face to relate the name to. I will first email this, to give you the option of letting me know if you want it posted on your blog, and/or if you might want it edited or cut.
I will be looking forward to reading your next blog entry about Charlie. Thank you so much for updating me about Charlie’s last months and days.