Jacqueline Susann

From Academic Kids

Jacqueline Susann (August 20, 1918September 21, 1974) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child her philandering painter father would send her to the movies while he rendezvoused with his mistress. After the movie, he would pick her up and have her tell him what the movie was about so he could tell his wife about it when they returned home.

At school Jackie was a lazy student, but she scored a 140 on a fifth-grade IQ test. Writing was always something she was praised for, and her mother encouraged her to become a writer; however, she had other plans. Jackie wanted to become an actress simply because of the glamour.

In high school Jackie entered into the wrong crowd, she smoked pot, popped pills, and became a big partier. After graduating high school her mother wanted her to become a teacher, but she moved to New York to become an actress.

Arriving in New York she got bit parts in movies and commercials. A year after arriving in New York she landed a decent theatrical job playing a lingerie model, earning $25.00 a week.

After marrying her husband Irving Mansfield, a press-agent, she began to get better jobs. She was placed into news columns, and soon was playing a wacky supporting player in The Morey Amsterdam Show. She then got a spot on a Broadway show titled The Temporary Mrs. Smith (later titled Lovely Me) It was canceled after 37 shows.

In the early 1950s, she wrote her romance/science fiction novel Yargo.

In 1955, she acquired her pet poodle Josephine and a contract to be the fashion commentator for Schiffli Lace on an all-night show called Night Time, New York which ran from 1-7 a.m. weeknights. She wrote, starred and produced in two live commercials every night.

She would be the "Schiffli Girl" until 1961. She tried writing a show business/drug exposť which she was going to call The Pink Dolls, but instead she wrote her first successful book, Every Night, Josephine! which was based on her experiences with her poodle, whom she sometimes dressed up in outfits to match her own.

Once she was famous, Irving devoted himself to supporting and helping her. After the 1960s, her last four years were spent glamorously and productively.

When she was diagnosed with cancer on January 11, 1973, she was determined to finish her last novel, Once Is Not Enough. Like her other books it too was a roaring success—a success she couldn't enjoy as she was too sick and drained by the chemotherapy.

When she finally went to the hospital for the last time, she stayed in a coma for seven weeks before finally taking her last breath on September 21, 1974.

Her last words were to her beloved Irving, saying, in true Jackie style, "Let's get the hell outta here, doll."


Facts

  • Jackie never wrote her stories—she typed them. She typed them all on a hot-pink IBM Selectric typewriter.
  • She spent 7 to 8 hours a day working on the plots of her books. She used a blackboard and color co-ordinated chalks to keep track of where her book was heading.
  • Her most famous book, Valley of the Dolls, was so rough in manuscript form her editor had to spend six weeks with her rewriting it.
  • When her books were coming out, she'd get up at dawn to take coffee and donuts to the truckers who were delivering her books—just to make sure the books arrived safe and sound.
  • She and Irving would drive around the country to meet the sales clerks. She would keep track of everyone's birthdays, their kids' names, and their pets—all so she could talk to them more personally.
  • Jackie also made a point of appearing regularly on TV talk shows, and even game shows, to promote her latest book. She continued to do this even into her last months; Jackie always put up a good front, and nobody who saw her knew how ill she actually was.
  • After her death, Jackie was cremated and her ashes placed in a special container styled like a hardcover book, with "Jacqueline Susann 1918-1974" stamped on the front-cover side.

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