By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Marilyn's own small room looks out upon a storage building, although a little neck craning rewards her with a partial view of a parking lot as well. Much of the room's precious space is taken up by a pile of large hats, some stuffed animals and a tottering butte of shoeboxes containing Royce's footwear. A framed poster of Marilyn Monroe in a white mink coat hangs on one wall, and a Princess Diana commemorative plate and framed photographs of Elizabeth Taylor and a Siamese cat are placed on tables.
An avid collector, Marilyn meticulously maintains a scrapbook that includes thank-you letters from novelist Barbara Cartland, the office of painter LeRoy Neiman and from Liz Taylor, to whom she once sent a get-well letter. Other pages are an eclectic archive of neatly clipped items from the newspapers or tabloids about fashion, the O.J. Simpson case and buildings she admires, along with a sketch of Howard Hughes. "This is my life," she says of her scrapbook, the 75th volume she has gathered.
Although the ladies spend much of their time together, their routines often diverge. "I have a tendency to read late and get up late," Marilyn confesses. "I also go to the library often."
Royce: "I have the original library card!"
Marilyn: "I frequently get the L.A. Times."
Royce: "Oh, God, I don't read the L.A. Times -- I read The New York Times, the London Times, Paris Match."
Marilyn: "I subscribe to Town & Country and Architectural Digest -- that's my favorite. And I take two tabloids, the Enquirer and the Star. It's all gossip and I love it! I've taken Playboy for the last 25 years. I admire beautiful people and beautiful bodies. She gets disgusted with me because I take these publications!" Marilyn still maintains a membership in her beloved Round Table West literary club, and is also an ardent follower of the TV soaps and belongs to The Young and the Restless' official fan club, which holds gatherings at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
In contrast to Marilyn, Royce, who abhors television and prefers listening to classical music, is an early riser who frequently leaves the hotel to visit the Calmart building and other old haunts in the garment district. Despite the dodginess of downtown, Royce fears no one.
"I'm very careful," she says. "I'm very alert, I move very quickly. I would murder someone, I'm very strong."
"She wears her rings loaded!" Marilyn laughs. "Royce doesn't take them off, even when she goes out -- she says, 'I am who I am, and I'm going to be myself in every situation.'"
ON ONE COOL, WINDY AFTERNOON, MARILYN AND Royce leave their hotel to have lunch at Windows, a restaurant with panoramic views from the 32nd floor of the Transamerica Building. Gawkers in the tower's atrium and elevators stop and stare at the elegantly attired women in their enormous hats. Lunch begins on an ill omen as Royce's club sandwich arrives aveccrusts. But before she can raise the matter with her waiter, she notices that her silverware has been placed on a paper serviette. "Oh, my God!" she says. "These paper napkins are unacceptable." Not only that, but all the restaurant's tables have been covered with paper instead of linen cloths for lunch time. "Paper here, oh! It's totally gross."
As the waiter searches for a cloth napkin, Marilyn and Royce reminisce about their occasional visits to the Santa Anita racetrack, where they are wont to spend an afternoon in the private Turf Club. "The first day I went to Santa Anita, I won the derby!" Marilyn confides.
Money for women on Social Security is understandably tight, and income from any source is welcome. Royce and Marilyn once worked as audience shills for an auctioneering firm, but haven't been on call since a new floor manager brought in her own crew of out-of-work actors. The only new money on the horizon is a possible settlement from the city and a private contractor for a fall Marilyn took near a construction site outside their hotel. As compensation for an injured ankle and arm, she hopes to receive a sum large enough to move away from downtown.
"I'd probably look at places in Beverly Hills that are quiet," she says. "Since Royce has no family, she'll be with me."
Royce: "I don't think so. I'm used to living in my own place."
Marilyn: "Well, maybe not."
Possibly thinking of a new source of revenue, Marilyn is considering trying to market her novel, The Copper Triangle, a work she looks upon as her lasting legacy. Again, one cannot help but discern a bit of the author in the central character, Claire Breese, the sensual, mothering guardian of the story's luxurious mountain club -- a woman who, by the way, shares Marilyn's middle and maiden names. "Oh, Claire," one character tells her, "you lead such a beautiful, exciting life surrounded by handsome men who adore you. Aren't you one of the lucky ones though." Perhaps the novelist has, in her own way, found the story's "wonderful parties and camaraderie" in the company of her glamorous friend, Royce, in whose shadow she has kept warm for 16 years and whom she regards as a celebrity in her own right.
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