Camp David

CAMP DAVID SEPTEMBER 2006

By • Sep 1st, 2006 • Pages: 1 2 3

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THE HAPPY COOKER

Monique Van Vooren

Monique Van Vooren has been a scene stealer ever since she appeared in TARZAN AND THE SHE DEVIL (1953). As Lyra, the She Devil of the title, Monique made a spectacular villainess although Raymond Burr kind of steals the show as a vile creep who finally gets his just desserts by being trampled by elephants in the last reel. Monique had already made her film debut in an Italian film entitled DOMANI E TROPPO TARDI with Vittorio De Sica and Pier Angeli in 1950. The Belgium-born entertainer arrived on the planet earth in 1933 and has been trying to figure a way to blast off of it ever since.

Monique has always turned heads with her ample figure, and later on by the sheer power and determination of her need to attract attention, which she craved like a drug. Long a front page fixture in New York club life as a society icon and jet setter, Monique hit her peak during the “Warhol years” when she managed to capture the imagination of the world’s most famous ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev. Rudy stayed for weeks in her New York penthouse posing for Interview and Vogue while nightclubbing at Studio 54 in the company of Halston, Liza and Andy. In this period it was impossible to not see Monique in total diva mode, dressed in the latest by Georgio Sant’Angelo, a “late night fantasy” as the disco song goes.

Monique tried to encourage an affair, especially for the tabloids, but alas Rudy was just too Gay to think of her in such terms. Later Monique would get her revenge by penning a veiled account of this relationship in her book the gossipy “Night Sanctuary” (1981), a promised glimpse into the boudoirs of the rich and famous. Unfortunately this attempt at prose, purple though it may have been, was decidedly dull and lifeless upon execution.

Monique’s claims to fame have almost always centered on someone just a little more in the limelight than herself. For years she dined on the story of renaming a young dancer (who was hoofing in one of her early reviews) Christopher. His last name was Walken. Thus Christopher Walken was born and went on to a lasting career in films. However it was her relationship with Nureyev that provided her with a blueprint for a lifestyle that could have only existed in that particular space and time.

While all this drama with Rudy was spinning away, leaving her to ignore her husband, the long suffering George Purcell by whom she would have her only child, a son named Eric. The marriage lasted until Mr. Purcell died at the age of 86 in 2001.

Monique would on occasion do her “act,” a Cabaret revue involving her life as a socialite as well as a confidant to the rich and famous. She tried to do a bit of Dietrich by way of talking her songs including “La Vie a Rose” and of course “falling in love again”. Nureyev was a part of this act whether he liked it or not. She provided a slide show during her revue that included photos of Rudy in which she would say very loudly to her audience “Is this MY forbidden fruit?” this always got a laugh as her audience was usually a combination of Gay men and fans of her Warhol tour de force FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN, which most of us saw in 3-D. I could never forget seeing Monique Van Vooren as the Baroness Katrin Frankenstein slurping madly into Joe Dallasandro’s armpit with such abandon that it quite simply stopped the show, and in 3-D no less. Monique earned her place in film history right on the spot.

My Monique experience took place around 1978 at the infamous Studio One (formally the old Factory) at 652 N. La Peer Drive in West Hollywood in their equally famous BACKLOT cabaret directly behind the disco. In that hallowed space I saw and mingled with Bette Davis, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Sally Kellerman and the fantastic Francis Faye. (A future Camp David on all that is in the works never fear!) Monique was quite the rage that week: she played the club and I was taken to opening night by her “Frankenstein” director Paul Morrisey and Tab Hunter. Paul laughed at everything she did that night and promptly took us back stage afterwards to congratulate the Diva, who managed to keep her wig on throughout the evening when all about her were losing theirs.

Paul, it appears, had an ulterior motive in inviting me that evening as Monique needed an agent in Hollywood.. Well I could say nothing but yes and found myself at her hotel the following afternoon, The Westwood Marquis was the perfect setting for this encounter as it possessed certain glamour and Monique was nothing if she was not glamorous. She kept me waiting in her suite for about an hour as she adjusted her appearance just for me. Soon she appeared all in white, complete with a matching turban and a large MVV embroidered on her silk blouse. All she lacked was a long cigarette holder and within seconds she had that as well, waiting for me to light it for her as she asked “Can you get me the same parts Faye Dunaway is offered ?” After pondering that concept for a moment I replied “anything is possible. Let’s give ourselves a few weeks and see what happens”.

Well she had yet another surprise for me in that she had just written her first cook book, “The Happy Cooker” with such recipes as “Spanish Fly burgers” as well as “stoned chicken” made with a generous helping of marihuana in stuffing and so on, It was very clever and fun so I agreed to try and book her on the Dinah Shore morning chat show in a few weeks. Within days I received a box of cook books with a note “Get Cooking, Love Monique.”

Well as hard as I tried I could do nothing for the bombshell from Brussels. Dinah said no and would not change her mind as Monique was on Burt Reynold’s shit list and I never found out the reason, so that dashed what would have been a classic encounter with those two Divas in the kitchen cooking with dope!

During this time I was seeing quite a bit of Hiram Keller, as was everybody else in Hollywood apparently. When he discovered I was representing Monique Van Vooren, Hiram began laughing about her famous “quickie facelift” that was demonstrated to him one evening when they were club hopping in New York with ever present Rudy, of course. It seems Monique had a trick she learned from the divine Dietrich herself: if she pulled her skin tightly around her hair it would act as a lift if only for the evening. With her trademark hauteur Monique pulled both slides of her face up at the same time and did not tighten one as securely as the other so during the evening one side dropped dramatically, unbeknownst to Monique, but it certainly caught Rudy’s attention and soon the whole restaurant was howling at the poor woman as she ran to the ladies room for an adjustment. This gave Hiram and Rudy a chance to depart on what would prove a momentary affair, as they did resemble each other in more ways than one. Much like Rudy, the highly sexed Monique did like her “boy toys” even if they for the most part fancied each other. Amour tous jour Amour.

I still have my inscribed copy of the “Happy Cooker” and fond memories of this one-of-a- kind celebrity the kind they just don’t seem to make anymore. However the story does not end there. As luck would have it, several years later in the middle of 2000 I was doing my radio show in Palm Springs and who should walk in, chic as always, dressed in white and yellow with a large hat decorated with yellow roses – Monique Van Vooren, who was there to promote her appearance at a small venue known as “the Rock Garden restaurant and grill” on Palm Canyon Drive.

We embraced after nearly two decades, and she told me she was living at her country estate in Bayside Queens with her son Eric not far away. Good for her I thought, and we chatted away about her revue and her amazement at the following her Frankenstein film had with the kids nowadays, so later that night I sat once again in the audience as Monique stopped her singing long enough to bring out her well-worn slides and ask that famous question just as Nureyev’s image passed the though lens “Is this MY forbidden fruit?”

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One Response »

  1. David,
    Was sent the piece on Izabella. Nice piece.You were much too kind to this witch.
    Hope your well. Have you read Phallic Frenzy? I think it’s the best book on Ken. I should think you of all people would love it.
    Leonard

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