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by Floyd Conner

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1993
ISBN: 0-942637-96-8
Publisher: Barricade

Dizzyingly dreadful bio of the once-famous ``Mexican Spitfire,'' who racked up lovers like billiard balls and married Tarzan, a.k.a. Johnny Weismuller. Paste-up can't get more cockeyed than this, with Conner (Golf!, 1992, etc.—not reviewed) giving fuller sketches of Velez's endless lovers and many colleagues than of the actress herself (1908-44), who doesn't show up for pages at a time while we read potted lives of Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Charlie Chaplin, or whomever. The Chaplin pillow-talk is especially sappy: Chaplin, Conner says, kept his affair with Velez hidden and therefore nothing is known about it; meanwhile, the author offers the tidbit that Chaplin's 14-year-old mistress, Lilita Grey, was the original for Nabokov's Lolita, a piece of gratuitous information that Conner fails to support. A lifelong hellion born in Mexico during a hurricane, the tiny, ever-strife-ridden Velez said that she was born fighting. By her mid-teens, she was already an entertainer, thought herself a star, and, following stage appearances in Hollywood with Fannie Brice, entered films. Her first starring role was in The Gaucho, opposite 45-year-old Douglas Fairbanks, with whom, Conner suggests, Velez had a brief fling that depressed Mary Pickford for five years. Readers will find themselves buffeted by bios of Hollywood folk only glancingly acquainted with Velez (such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom Velez hisses as he sings at a party), and few will be able to keep a scorecard on the actress's lovers or to separate them from figures in passing whose pointless bios merely add fluff. Life with Weismuller, Conner says, left the actor bruised and so scratched that only studio makeup artists kept him filmable. Velez killed herself early on, overdosing on Seconal, her bedroom gaudily decorated for the farewell performance. A benchmark in the art of paste-pot bio—and winner of the Plan Nine from Outer Space Award as the worst movie book ever written. (Sixteen pages of photographs)