In Bedford Village, N.Y., Tallulah Bankhead owned a Tudor-inspired home she christened Windows. (It had 75!)
She threw frequent parties and, if the mood struck her, she’d perform for her guests standing on top of her grand piano wearing only pearls. “Live in the moment,” she said.
Born into an old Southern family, Tallulah grew up overshadowed by her prettier older sister.
She compensated by being outspoken and outrageous, a habit which would make her a star of the London stage and a subject of gossip columns.
“My father warned me about men and booze,” the husky-voiced diva once purred, “but he never said anything about women and cocaine.”
In fact, she carried on affairs with both sexes, smoked, drank and drugged to excess, and claimed to have only come to Hollywood to sleep with Gary Cooper.
Tallulah’s politician father, who became Speaker of the House, didn’t know what to make of her.
“Her mother and father had been frustrated actors, so her family was proud but also horrified,” Joel Lobenthal, author of Tallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady, tells Closer.
Even fans who have never seen Tallulah’s films know the persona she created: The chain-smoking, fur-wearing actress is said to have inspired 101 Dalmatians’ Cruella de Vil.
Throughout her life, she never tired of her notoriety. Shortly before her death in 1968 from emphysema, Tallulah played Black Widow, a bank robber who called Batman’s Adam West “Bat Doll.”
When directed to be arch in the role, Tallulah bristled. “Don’t talk to me about camp, dahling,” she said. “I invented it!”