She remembers cooking a hamburger. She stood in front of the stove, watching the hamburger, thinking about the best way to make certain it was nice and rare. She made some baked potatoes also. Already it was dark in Beverly Hills.
The telephone had gone silent.
In Chicago, the Ballantine Books people still huddled between bids in their hotel room; in midtown Manhattan, the Bantam people regrouped around the telephone, preparing for the final assault.
In downtown Manhattan, the subsidiary rights director from Crown Books sat by the night telephone line in the president's office and wondered whether she could still talk intelligibly if she ate another peanut chew.
At midnight Eastern time, 15 hours after the final round of bidding had opened that morning, Morton L. Janklow, literary agent extrardinaire, called Beverly Hills.
"You'll never believe what happened," he said.
Judith Krantz, a nice little blond lady whose most famous published work before 1978 was a Cosmopolitan article entitled "The Myth of the Multiple Orgasm," had just made publishing history.
For $3,208,875 -- roughly one million dollars more than had ever before been laid out in such a transaction -- Crown Books had sold to Bantam Books the paperback rights to Krantz's second novel, a 464-page work of fiction entitled "Princess Daisy." This comes out to $6,915.68 per page, rounded up, but it is probably not graceful to dwell on that too much. Besides, the $3.2 million does not include the foreign rights sales, which are gangbusters even now in Germany, France, Australia, and so on.
There is something altogether charming about imagining Krantz translated into German.
"Oh no!" she exclaimed in dismay, but as she spoke, Stash Valensky leaned down from his pony and scooped her up in one arm. Holding her easily, across his chest, he urged his mount after the wayward hat. It had come to rest two hundred yards away, and Valensky, still holding Francesca to him bent down from his saddle, picked the hat up by its ribbons, and carefully replaced it on her head. The stands rang with laughter and applause.
Francesca knew nothing of the noise the spectators made. Time, as she knew it, had stopped. By instinct, she remained silent and waiting, passive against Stash's soaking-wet polo shirt. She could smell his sweat and it confounded her with desire. Her mouth filled with saliva. She wanted to sink her teeth into his tan neck, to bite him until she could taste his blood, to lick the rivulets of sweat which ran down to his open collar. She wanted him to fall to the ground with her in his arms, just as he was, flushed, steaming, still breathing heavily from the game . . .
What she wants him to do next is not entirely suitable for reprinting in a newspaper of this nature, but it involves a great deal of chignon-unpinning and reckless clothes-flinging and resplendent flesh. It also takes place on a horse blanket, with Stash Valensky's polo ponies minding their own business nearby.
The issue of this union is the indomitable Marguerite Alexandrova "Daisy" Valensky, with her skin "like the part of a peach you bite first, knowing it will be the ripest part of the fruit," and her eyes "the color of the innermost heart of a giant purple pansy," and her thick brows and her slender waist and her proud, high, regally molded, peach-colored aristocratic but vulnerable, silver-haired head.
One grows short of breath, but never mind; Daisy presses on, betrayed by love, tossed like some noble young cork on the raging seas of fortune, burdened through life with a terrible secret which will not be divulged at this time but is variously described in the publicity handouts as "precious," "binding" and "shocking." The publicity kits are so energetic that you have to beat them back with a club. "Who is Daisy?" cries the giant glossy foldout that springs from the package. "The royal daughter of a Russian prince and a glamourous movie star? Another pampered little girl at Lady Alden's School in London . . . Horsewoman? Artist? Poor-little-rich-girl alone? Top producer on the TV ad scene? Princess? pWood nymph? Angle? . . . Woman?"
"I think what they feel," Judith Krantz says thoughtfully, addressing the subject of the helpless, page-turning delirium in which people read her novels, "is the way they might feel if they had binged on something."
She smiles, tugs absently at an earring, crosses her legs on the flowery pastel sofa. Her silver snuffbox collection is laid out on the coffee table, her 19th-century blue opaline glass collection is scattered around the formal living-room area to her right, and a vast curved window onto the garden lets in a bright pool of afternoon sunlight. v
She is 52 years old, rosy-looking and soft, happily married, and very, very rich.
She is also famous, all of a sudden. Her first novel, "Scruples," with its smoldering, scarlet-lipped beauty gazing out from under a widow's veil on the cover, made every best-seller list in the country. The paperbook version has gone through 13 printings in 10 months, with 4.6 million copies in print, and now -- with a "Scruples" television mini-series currently steaming up your set -- the 14th printing is on its way.
Clearly Judith Krantz is onto something.
She has a guiding principle, which shapes her characters, gives form to her stories, and earns her large quantities of money.
Here it is:
"Like so many of us, I have the idea that being young, rich and glamorous is more desirable than being old, ugly and poor."
Krantz breaks up. "What can I tell you? It's as simple as that . . . If you're writing for a commericial market, and you start off with an old, ugly heroine, you have immediately eliminated yourself from the marketplace. It simply won't sell. It won't. I did not consider that I was going to write for the ages. I was not thinking of becoming this generation's Jane Austen. I consider myself an entertainer. And I write for women -- and men, too, lots of men read it -- to escape. I write for people who want to escape. And I write for people who want to have fun."
What Judith Krantz writes are long, panting, mildly pornographic fairy tales, rich in gossipy detail and convoluted plot, and she is perfectly cheerful about that. "I'm not at all embarrassed about using some of the more basic fairy tales of our times," she says. "The reason they're fairy tales is because they endure. The Ugly Duckling story endures. The Cinderella story endures. The Sleeping Beauty endures.All of those things. And I don't really feel there's any harm in writing what could really be called a fairy tale for modern life."
Three years ago, without an advance or a contract or a book agent or even the certainty that she could pull a whole novel out of her own imagination, Judith Krantz sat down at her old Smith-Corona electric portable and began a book about an inordinately elegant specialty store on Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive. She was inspired, she says, by the gradual discovery that all her favorite places, like the nice little tearoom she liked so much, were being pushed out by rich boutiques.
In addition, she was inspired by the asparagus. The asparagus came up in conversation with her husband. It had been particularly good asparagus -- delicate, buttery, no thicker than a stringbean. She was recalling it, raputrously. Her husband was mystified. "Where did we have that?" he said. "Outside of Venice," Judith Krantz said. "But that was on our honeymoon," said Steve Krantz. Since their honeymoon had taken place 23 years earlier, Steve Krantz then told his wife what he used to say all the time -- that her head was so filled with detail, with description, with remembered conversation, that she had to be a natural-born novelist.
She started out writing five days a week, and every Wednesday afternoon off to get her hair done. When she was really immersed in the writing, the tips of her fingers went numb.
When she was finished nine months later, Steve Krantz called New York to ask their old friend Morton Janklow whether he might like to take a look at it. Janklow said yes, took the book home with him the day it arrived, and read it cover to cover in one sitting.
"I knew instantly what I had," he says. "When I began to talk about it at the office, I said, 'We have here a No. 1 trade best seller.' This had drama. It was very well-written . . . it was about people you cared about . . . it was descriptive, and analytical; you learned things; you came out of this with a full awareness of what the fashion industry is about, what richness is about . . ."
It was the first fiction Judith Krantz had written in 25 years.
There had been one short-story-writing class, in her sophomore year at Wellesley, but the professor gave her a B, so she dumped fiction-writing. She had spent a year living in Paris, working for a firm that did public relations for the fashion industry (to "Scruples" readers, smelling autobiography here: She was NOT a fat little kid who got beautiful; she was born in Manhattan, to a lawyer and an advertising man, and she has never in her life had to worry much about her weight or her income). When she got back to the United States she worked in the fiction department of Good Housekeeping magazine for a while. Then she was "accessories editor," which meant she ran around a lot looking for the perfect handbag-scarf-gloves. Then she met this television program director named Steve Krantz and fell in love and got married, and got pregnant, and began free-lancing articles from home.
She interviewed Golda Meir, and Peter Sellers. She wrote "Living Together Is a Rotten Idea" and "The Anatomy of the Obsessive-Compulsive Personality," and "E is for Envy." She understood herself to be a journalist. "Journalists have notebooks. Journalists have tape recorders. I thought if I tried to do something from my imagination, there wasn't anything there. I didn't realize I had an imagination until I wrote 'Scruples.'"
She says her husband was delighted with her new career. Indeed, when "Scruples" took off like a Formula I, Steve Krantz starting writing a novel of his own, about assorted Los Angeles phenomena that include a mysterious death, drugs, movie stars and a female theatrical agent who is -- surprise! quite beautiful. One does not tamper with The Principle. Krantz is a producer, whose recent works includes "Which Way Is Up?" and the X-rated cartoon "Fritz The Cat," which is advertised on an Italian movie poster in their breakfast room: "Arriva II Pornogatto."
He sold his novel, called "Laurel Canyon," to Pocket Books as a paperback original.
The selling price was $285,000.
It broke all records for paperback originals.
"THIS NOTE COMES FROM A BEAUTIFUL, RICH, FAMOUS, THIN, CHIC PERSON." Somebody sent Judith Krantz an embossed notepad, and she liked it so much that she tacked one of the sheets on her workroom bulletin board. At the center of the board is a picture of Collette, leaning on her hands and gazing into the camera. In the corners are best-seller lists, the pencilled outline Krantz made to keep "Princess Daisy's" complicated plot from tripping over itself ("1952-born . . . 1972-20 . . . 1965-miniskirt"), and a few of the little notes Krantz scribbled to herself all through the writing of "Princess Daisy."
She wrote compulsively by this time, determined to prove she was a real writer of fiction and not a one-book wonder; all over the house, in the kitchen and the bedroom and the bathroom, Krantz left little monogrammed "Daisy" notepads on which she jotted small flashes of inspiration: "Nanny Romanoff, so called by D's father because she was so bossy." "Daisy plays dressup with grandmother's court Dresses." She put most of the notes into file folders marked with the names of the major characters. She put newspaper clippings into the file folder, too; and the Connaught Hotel restaurant menu with its Salade Caprice Des Annes Folles; and some notes about an old-money English family that practically owns half of London; and a pamphlet about Berkeley Castle.
"I'm a stickler for detail," Krantz says. "I don't know if anybody doing the so-called commericial fiction researches as thoroughly as I do . . . then I try to create caracters who are a little bit larger than life."
Or thinner than life, as the case may be.
Krantz smiles. "Thinner. And taller. And with much better hair. Hair is my thing. They always have great hair, because I have thin baby hair."
She says she gets two kinds of mail. There are letters from women all over the place, who tell her "Scruples" is just about the best read they ever had and then there is the occasional note which starts out, "I just finished your fifthy book." Her mother read "Scruples" (in which the central character pursues various amorous activities with persons she does not know too well) and hesitated some before commenting. "She finally came up with the observation that it was sociology," says Krantz.
Book reviewers, on the whole, have not been kind to Judith Krantz.
"I mean, here is a princess, with silver hair, and black eyes. Now, I know as well as you do, and as well as any educated person does, that this is a cliche.But what is fun for me is to give myself the challenge of taking this golden-haired princess and turning her into a real person."
She is warming to her subject. Krantz has walked this ground many times before.
"I am aware -- because, after all, I did major in English literature, and I am a reader -- I am aware that I'm asking for it when I have a golden-haired princess, or a California blond blue-eyed young god. I am aware of it. But I don't care. I do it 'cause it's fun for me. That's nothing manipulative about it. When Daisy drives off, on the last page, in a troika with three white horses -- talk about a clinched ending!
"But it makes everyone so happy," says Judith Krantz.
She looks bewildered.
"What do they want her to do -- trudge in the snow?"