No, It Wasn't Drinking

O'Hara's Social Disease

By Richard Carreno
The late Sheilah Graham, the Hollywood gossip columnist, is almost always linked to F. Scott Fitzgerald as his mistress for the last three and a half years of his besotted life before the author's death, in 1940, at 44. Of course, Graham helped create this hardly missing link by mining her relationship with Fitzgerald for all it was worth in a series of tell-all books that told all -- over and over again.

Despite that repetition, her reminisces are interesting, engaging, and rather frank. (Fitzgerald used to call her a 'cunt' and, when drunk, wouldn't be shy in telling utter strangers that she was a 'good lay').

Less known, at least to me, was how John O'Hara would keep popping in Fitzgerald's life in Hollywood as a personal guest in Encino, fellow party guest in Hollywood, or just as general New York-connected hanger-on.

But was the big, brash, bear-like O'Hara shy around Graham, a knock-out blond with a sharp tongue and even sharper eye for the rich and the powerful?

O'Hara was no Lothario. Graham, on the other hand, was known to have had her share of men. (Before Scott, she counted eight in all, according her tally reported in The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald: Thirty-Five Years Later, a memoir -- yes, another tell-all -- published in 1976. Let's assume we can multiply that by at least a factor of five).

Somehow, O'Hara got to drive Graham home after she had an interview with Errol Flynn.

Unlike many a squire with a similar opportunity, it seemed that O'Hara didn't want to weazle an invitation to go in and make out. In fact, he left the motor of his car running -- sure sign that he meant to make tracks.

Graham recalled that O'Hara was making it plain that he wasn't about to investigate whether she was a 'good lay' or not.

'Does he think I'm going to rape him or something?' she thought at the time. Ouch!

Besides, Graham reported, O'Hara was suffering from a 'social disease' at the time. How she knew that, she never said.

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