— David DeWitt
Archive for the ‘The Last Years’ Category
Beverly Aadland passed on recently. Today, few know her name, but a little more than 50 years ago, she existed amidst a scandal that would have made for a downbeat last chapter to Errol Flynn’s life, except that his Cuban adventure was even worse! Flynn set eyes on shapely, leggy, natural-blonde dancer Aadland on the Warner Brothers lot while he was making Too Much, Too Soon. He was 48 at the time; he figured she was 18 or 20, but her driver’s license said otherwise. Or it would have if she had have been old enough to obtain a driver’s license.
Flynn had always liked younger women, which wasn’t such a problem when he was 25 and a girl, say, Olivia de Havilland, was 19. But when he passed 30 and then 40 and continued to like ‘em 18 or so, it started to get creepy. The funny thing with Flynn was that in the beginning, he found older women attractive, like the society dame he squired in Australia, and like Lili Damita, who claimed to have been born in 1905 but was probably older when Flynn hooked up with her in Paris in 1934—when he was 24 and she was at least 30. Lili became Mrs. Errol Flynn number one. Flynn also went in a big way for the boss’s wife, Dorothy Lamour look-alike Ann Warner, wife of Jack L. Warner. In fact, on his climb up the Hollywood ladder, there were lots of older women who Flynn used, and who used Flynn.
It seems to have been the cunning, manipulative actions of Damita as she steered toward divorce that caused Flynn to make a conscious decision to stick to younger, less sophisticated types. After all, control was the thing with Flynn—control and conquest. Younger girls fit the bill in both cases. Added to that, he liked to love ‘em and leave ‘em, and, on the way out the door, he was less likely to have a shoe or a flower pot thrown at him by a younger girl than an older one.
He was 15 years older than second wife Nora Eddington, whom he married in 1944, and almost 20 years older than his third wife Patrice Wymore, whom he married in 1950. It wasn’t a tremendous surprise, then, when at age 48 he would score with an 18 year old, with the complicating factor being that she was really 16, and an extra complicating factor being that they quickly formed a close emotional attachment. Oh, and one more problem: years of debauchery had left him a bloated wreck who appeared to be far older than 48, meaning that his paramour looked like his granddaughter.
Even today, historians and journalists sneer at the association between Errol Flynn and Beverly Aadland, which went against the social grain of the 1950s in all respects. Flynn himself wrote transcripts of the byplay between the older man and the young girl that was infantile on both sides and tinged with cruelty on his part, but there can be no doubt that Beverly adored Errol and became his caretaker in the last year of his life when he had driven everyone else away. By now he was a brittle man who had survived many broken bones and a bad back. He had had a cancerous tumor removed from his mouth and perhaps a melanoma from his face. His lungs were shot from smoking and TB, and his liver from drinking. He had no money, was taking every TV appearance he could land, could no longer remember his lines on screen or on the stage, and couldn’t write when he used to be able to make a buck selling words. What a catch!
It was to Beverly’s credit that she stuck with him through the thick and thin of all that, and that she formed relationships with Flynn’s ex Nora and daughters Deirdre and Rory. Flynn’s October 1959 death was a nightmare for Beverly, played out on the world stage and what do you know; she reacted like an 18 year old and threw a tantrum and collapsed. But in subsequent days she pulled herself together and was sturdy through the funeral and aftermath.
Despite the notoriety of her association with Flynn, which led to a Mercury Records contract, TV appearances, and some discreet pictorials in men's magazines (see photo), Beverly Aadland had a hard life marked by diabetes and other ailments. Her passing at age 68 may go unnoticed, which signifies how much the world is changing and how far the flamboyant Errol Flynn, number-one Hollywood bad boy, has himself receded into the pages of history. But back in the day, the Flynn-Aadland scandal matched anything that today’s stars can offer, and at a time when America was far less shock-proof and, in fact, ready to send them both packing.
— Robert Matzen
Dear Errol fans,
I have been besieged with negative comments as to why Errol was not buried in Jamaica as was his wish. Most of the comments blame Patrice Wymore Flynn and think she had a plan for an 'evil last payback' of some sort to punish Errol for any and all wrongs that she thought Errol had dealt her. The real reason could be not further from the truth. Errol died in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. That very fact had everything to do with how the events turned out. First; the Canadian law follows British law, i.e. Anyone who loses their life in Canada who is a foreign national is subject to an autopsy.(for obvious reasons) That being done, the remains are lawfully shipped to the deceased lawful address, (this being Los Angeles County, CA. i.e Errol's legal residence) Errol's remains stayed at the Vancouver Morgue for two days until Errol's friend came to claim the body. The remains were then put on a train for the trip to L.A. That trip took four days in an unrefrigerated baggage car, at which it was turned over to the proper authorities.
The L.A.County Health Dept. then at some point filed an 'immediate burial writ' and the the remains were then buried at Forest lawn within 24-48 hours. Note that this was 1959 and the threat of Cholera and Typhoid Fever was a very real concern. The authorities did not care who it was, only that the public good was to be protected. The story that friends put several bottles of liquor in the coffin at the wake is simply not true. ( It made for good pulp press though) The fact is: Due to the circumstances, the L.A. coroner filed a “closed coffin” order and Errol was buried in that manner. Also, for Errol to be re-buried in Jamaica would have been a logistical nightmare. In L.A. County, a dis-internment order was almost impossible to get. (unless the asking party was the police) There had already been an autopsy (in Vancouver) and no foul play was suspected. Indeed, the results pointed to a massive heart attack, liver cirrosis, and a laundry list of other ailments.(In fact it seems incredible that he lived as long as he did.) To request it for any other reason would have involved a court hearing, etc, that most probably would have dragged on for months. Let's say for argument's sake that it was actually done: The coffin would have to be encased in a airtight container, shipped by boat or air plane to Kingston, JA where customs would have had the final say. Let me tell you,(as I have extensive experience in JA goings-on) Bringing a body into a country such as JA for re-burial would have been another nightmare. All kinds of health concerns would have delayed the transfer, and the coffin would have most likely sat in the air-freight warehouse at the Kingston airport for two or three months while the bureaucracy slowly ground on, and even then, it would be a 50-50 chance that the remains would have been accepted. Let's not forget that the Jamaican people are very superstitious.(and still are.) They call ghosts: 'Duppies' and believe that have great powers, and there is no 'Duppie so evil' as one who is denied his final resting place. This belief exists to this day.(even in 2010)
To put it all in perspective, Errol lived a great life, and when he died, the portion left behind was not Errol, but just a shell for a soul. (at least, that's how I see it) As for me, when I pass on, I don't care what they do with the body. Hell, get rid of it in the cheapest way possible! What has made me me, is gone to another place.
Also, I have heard that there is a rumor that Patrice sent yellow roses to Errol's grave as a 'spiteful last insult'. Patrice at that time was almost penniless, and only had the property in JA and was in no position to do anything. The truth is, Errol's friend Bud Abbott (of Abbott and Costello fame, and a close friend) called a local florist and ordered an enormous amount of roses to be sent to the grave site. The florist was short of red roses, but had a line on yellow roses and did not think it would matter, so that is what was sent, much to the later embarrassment of Mr. Abbott.
I have often said that there is nothing more bitter and chastising as the pure truth, and I believe this is yet one more example. I hope I have not turned away any readers. There is so much more good in Errol's life that remains to be written, and I intend to do it,(with you readers support.) Errol was, at his core, just a man, a human being with all the faults and warts we all carry. He was a great man in his own way, and to quote Shakespeare; “Here, was a Caesar, When comes another?” It is easy to think of him in Hollywood terms, but Hollywood is make-believe. Errol was the real thing. And rather than to hide his true feelings due to some 'political correctness',(a term coined by Josef Stalin) he was his own man and 'let it all hang out' and if you accepted it, fine, if not, you could go to hell. In my humble opinion, that is the attitude of a real man. That is what made him the legend that he was and still is. That, my friends, is how I view him and I admire him all the more for it.
Thank You All, John
Dear Errol Fans,
In this last installment of the series, we see an aging, run-down Titchfield hotel. Although The United Fruit Co. had rebuilt it, and half-heartedly promoted it, World War II and the changing times all played a part in it's gradual downhill slide. Money was scarce, travel by airplane had largely replaced travel by ship, and Port Antonio's remote location combined to create a 'perfect storm' of sorts. It was in this time period that Errol, while traveling to the U.S. east coast by way of the Panama canal on the ZACA suffered storm damage and put into Kingston, JA for repairs. During this time Errol did some exploring and discovered Port Antonio. After the repairs were finished, Errol sailed the ZACA into the now sleepy coastal town and fell in love with the place.
Timeline: 1951; Needing a base of operations, Errol set about inquiring as to the ownership of the hotel and found out that it could indeed be bought. The owners probably could not believe their luck. Instead of a savvy real estate broker who would have bargained the price down to almost nothing, they had no less than a real-life Hollywood movie star with deep pockets on their hands. And what was even better, he was in love with the place! The words 'ca-ching!' must have came to mind. Needless to say, the deal was quickly struck and Errol was the proud owner of his very own hotel / bar. (Now he could cut out the middle man.)
Soon after the Titchfield deal was consummated, Errol bought a huge tract of prime land in the Priestman's River / Boston Bay area from the same folks who owned the Titchfield with the idea of setting up a cattle ranch and coconut plantation. There already existed a large 'great house' on the property that was built in the banana heydays and Errol moved right in. The house was to be used as a getaway from the Titchfield until another, more modern one could be built. (to Errol's design, of course) That 'Errol designed' house still exists and is occupied by Patrice Wymore Flynn. Meanwhile, the hotel needed a vast amount of repairs and there still exists a check from Errol for the 'a/c for $10,000. That was a ton of money in those days. (especially in JA) Errol also had the famous artist, Olga Lehman paint a large mural in the reception area depicting Cpt. Morgan, pirates and Cpt. Bligh in a sort of running history of JA.
Errol brought in his parents to stay at the Titchfield whenever they liked, and stay they did. Errol's mother took over as the defacto manager of the hotel and by all accounts, ran the place with an iron hand. Her word was law and pity those who would try and cross her. All opponents soon 'laid down their shields' and did her bidding, even Errol. Errol had the bright idea of changing the name of the hotel to 'Flynn's Inn'. Mama Flynn put the kabosh to that idea, But Errol succeeded in re-naming the hotel to 'The Jamaica Reef Hotel & Bar. Errol also considered buying the Demontevin Lodge and converting it into a 'New Orleans' style brothel. (and with the fancy gingerbread woodwork, it looked the part)But it never came to be. Errol's father did what he did best and took a position at the Fort George middle school as the master teacher of biology and by all accounts was quite happy. I have a picture of Father Flynn(center) Pat in the foreground and Errol on the Left hand side laughing at some forgotten joke. The lady who provided the photo said Mr. Flynn was a very good teacher who delighted at a student's ability to dissect a frog successfully than most anything else.
The year is 1958, Errol and his 'small companion' Beverly Aaland (to whom he referred to as 'Dhondi') arrived at the Titchfield. By all accounts, things went smoothly enough in the beginning, although the proper English ladies were soon inquiring about Beverly's 'function' without really seeming to 'inquire'.(in other words, being nosey) They got more than they bargained for when Beverly, a veteren of the cut-throat 'child actor' business in Hollywood, and anything but a 'shrinking violet,' (plus possessing a vocabulary that would do a sailor proud,) smiled sweetly, looked them in the eye, and said “As a matter of fact I'm screwing him, and for 5 bucks each, you old bats can watch us!” This news sent them running like wet hens straight to Errol, who laughed it all off as 'youthful indulgence'. Beverly also had a habit of cavorting through the place dressed in a string bikini.(remember, this was 1958) To the old regulars, she might as well have been stark naked. She would pick out the oldest, most uptight looking pensioner, wait until he was surrounded by his friends and then run up, sit in his lap,stroke his thigh, whisper in his ear and kiss him on the cheek until his face turned beet red. This behavior was 'Errol at his best', who loved nothing more than to put someone on the spot. Once when Errol bought her a goose with goslings for her birthday, she set them loose in the hallways. The reason was (I guess) just harmless fun or to 'raise a little hell'. In that endeavor, she succeeded. The formidable 'Lady's and Gentlemen” of the old order had more than met their match and steered clear of Bev. from then on.
Errol was also not without his little quirks: After some drinking, he would remove his clothes in full view of all present and do a little 'skinny dipping' when the mood came over him. One story stands out above the rest: Errol, tipsy after 'one too many', mistakenly stumbled into the ladies restroom at the hotel to take a 'relieve himself'. One of the ladies who happened to be also in the room walked up and said. “Sir! This is for ladies only!” whereupon Errol pulled out his 'member' and replied'”So is this madam! But I must water it every now and again!”
Errol hosted many famous stars at the Titchfield. A short list would read: Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Peter Ustinov, Peter O'Toole, and Truman Capote. All the guests were said to be on their best behavior when at the hotel, save one: Truman Capote. Truman was a curious and irritating fellow. He seemed to be allergic to almost everything,(even sand) had to be carried to and from the beach like an invalid, never dared to venture into water more than 2 ft. deep, would bundle up like he was at the arctic to protect himself from the sun, wear his canvas shoes even in the water, and would constantly whine and bitch about everything and nothing at all. Beverly hated him, and never being at a loss for words, called him a “dirty little fag”. All the more puzzling was why he kept coming back to the Titchfield over and over.(that puzzle would soon solve itself.) Things came to a head when Errol and a group of friends (Truman included) went rafting on the Rio Grande. Somehow, Truman managed to fall off his raft and nearly drowned. Now for those of you who have not participated in this little adventure, the water is never more than 2 or 3 ft. deep and the current is very lazy. To drown there would be akin to drowning in a plastic kiddie pool in the back yard.
After this episode, Errol had had just about enough of “old Tru”, as he called him. One of the group privately asked Errol just what the hell was wrong with him, to which Errol replied, “The fact is sport, he's absolutely worthless. But don't worry, I'll get rid of him if I have to do it myself.” So Truman, pale and shivering, was bundled into Errol's convertible and Errol, with cigarette holder firmly clenched in his teeth, took his place behind the wheel for the journey to the Kingston airport. Everything was fine until they reach the outskirts of town. It was there that Truman, (who had a huge crush on Errol) lost control of his 'unrequited love', and 'seized' the moment. (by grabbing Errol's crotch with both hands in a vise-like grip) Now make no mistake, Errol was capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, and even sword fighting at four to one odds, but now he had to juggle driving a twisty, mtn. road, smoking his cigarette, and trying to dislodge love-sick Truman, all the while trying to avoid injury to his 'particulars”. Well, the whole charade ended with Errol plowing through a large wooden wall and into the backyard pool of an unlucky resident. It is said that Errol sprang from the car so fast that his cigarette was still burning when the owners rushed to see what was the matter. One of the owners said that Errol stood for a moment, hands on hips, surveying the carnage, then coolly asked to use the phone, while ignoring the half-drowned Truman.
After Errol's death, the hotel was purchased by a self proclaimed 'friend' of Errol's. (one Rex Rand) A man of questionable references and reputation. Most referred to him as a 'con man'. He had an old Grumman Goose seaplane and would land it at the beach at the foot of the hotel. He would stage large parties at the hotel and try to get guests to invest in one venture after another and all the while shamelessly dropping Errol's name. Eventually he was broke and his properties were mortgaged to the hilt. It was at this point that one night in 1969, a mysterious fire seemed to spring up from at least two different places in the hotel. The local firetrucks were out of service as a direct result of JA declaring Independence in 1962 and the UK no longer paying for their upkeep. So the trucks stayed in the station and the hotel was pretty much burned to the ground. Mr. Rand immediately packed up and walked away, never to come to the area again. Insurance eventually payed Mr. Rand but only after a protracted court fight.
Little stands today that would hint of the Titchfields grandeur. Only an open field with the remains of the large foundation and the deck of the bar, the empty swimming pool that Errol and friends frolicked in, and memories, like the breezes that seem to whisper something just out of ear shot. The palms that ringed the hotel are still there for the most part, as is the now enormous banyan tree that graced the entrance, now growing over the long unused concrete pathway. It is a sight worth seeing, and as for me, provokes happiness and sadness at the same time.
Hello Fellow Errol Fans,
Although most of you are familiar with Navy Island and the 'Errol Connection', There are some facts that are not widely known. (At least I was not aware of them until recently) Navy Island has a rich and varied history that goes back to the 1600's. Originally, at that time it was named 'Lynches Island' after being given to Sir Thomas Lynch (the then overseer of that portion of Jamaica) for “Services to the British Crown”. In the 1700's, the Royal Navy constructed a small cannon battery to provide crossfire to Fort George, (which is just across the inlet some 200 yrds. or so) The remains of this battery still exist(Photo 1) on the barren N.E. portion of the island. Also constructed were several rough buildings for Naval Stores and a small barracks, and the island took on the name; “Navy Island”.
It is worth noting that Captain Bligh himself spent 6 months docked at navy island on his ship, 'Pandora' after returning from Tahiti. This time was spent careening his ship in the shallows, making urgent repairs, offloading some of his Breadfruit specimens to replant in the rich soil, and even exploring for new species of plants. He even collected samples of Ackee fruit and introduced it to the Royal Society of Britain, who gave it it's current name: “Blighia Sapida” in honor of Bligh.
How ironic it is that an island that was once commanded by Capt. Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame should end up being owned by one Errol Leslie Flynn, a descendant (by way of his mother) of Midshipman Edward Young who served aboard the HMS Bounty with Fletcher Christian and Capt. Bligh! No doubt it is a small world indeed.
In the early 1800's, the Royal Navy abandoned the island and it passed through several hands, both Govt. and private until Errol sailed into the harbor on that fateful day and fell in love with both the island and the N. coast of Jamaica. Although rumor has it that Errol won the island in either a poker game or a roll of the dice,(Both being very “Errolish”) The truth of the matter is that he contacted a local attorney by the name of Vincent Grossett and arranged the sale of the 64 acre property for the sum of approx. $80,000 in the winter of 1946. He then purchased the Titchfield Hotel across from Navy Island, and at his wife Patrice's good advice, a very large chunk of prime property in the Boston Bay area from the Lorenzo Baker Dow family. This was the same family that had brought tourism to this part of Jamaica and had built the Titchfield Hotel some 50 yrs. earlier.(another ironic twist)
The island was virtually barren due to various hurricanes which swept over the island unabated, so Errol went about planting Royal and Coconut palm trees(over a hundred) and also planting various vines, flowers and lemon, lime and avocado trees. These still exist, and I helped myself to a half-dozen avocado when I visited there last. The palms still stand and have provided the island with much needed windbreaks so the local fauna has not only survived, but thrived.
Errol also laided out pathways that criss-cross the island. To add to the “paradise” atmosphere, he brought in peacocks and other exotic birds and animals. Later he even brought in chickens, goats, cattle, and even horses to the menagerie. There has also been heated speculation as to whether or not Errol ever built a house there. When I visited there last(oct-nov 2009) I vowed to explore the island by foot and solve this mystery once and for all. Aided by a detailed map and a large photo taken by satellite(Google Earth) I set out. Dear readers, I almost got in over my head! I found the remains of a large house at the S. end of the island, straight up the hill from the now deserted 'Admiralty Club' on the highest part of the island. It looked to have been a fairly large, substantial home with a proper foundation of concrete and a detached kitchen. This was not a 'rude slat house for a caretaker'. There was even a large cistern for storing water nearby. Hmm. So I pressed on. I did not have a machete, (Mistake) so I plowed on as best I could.
Anyone who has not had to make his way through sub-tropical jungle in 90+ degree heat has no idea just how hard it can be. The vines and branches(half of them stinging or poisonous) seem to reach out for you and a person can lose sense of direction very quickly. Add smothering, steaming heat, and you have a bad recipe. By dumb luck, I had brought a large bottle of drinking water and a compass, and believe me, I used them both. I finally made it out to the clear where I continued to the N. end. The foliage got shorter and more stunted until I suddenly broke out to the jagged, windswept cliffs. There I saw the remains of the Battery, but the cannon were long gone. Only a large metal tangent used for aiming remained.(Photo) I circled back around W. till the cliff ran out and jungle began. Having no choice, I dove in again. I saw a huge clearing that looked like a large manicured lawn, and what seemed like the way back. No such luck. The 'lawn' consisted of 3ft. deep vines that made the going impossible. What next?
I turned and made my way to the rocky beach, intending to wade my way out by following the W. coast. It was there I discovered a large concrete foundation.(Photo) I am still puzzled at it's origin. As I went on, I also discovered a fresh-water spring coming out of the side of the hill, and after gingerly testing it, refilled my now empty bottle. The going got easier and firmer and before long, I was in familiar territory on “Trembly Knee Beach”. I must confess my own knee's were more than a little 'trembly' at that point. From then, it was a short walk to the pier where a cell phone call brought the boat for the ride back to the mainland, in a tropical, pouring deluge of a rainstorm. Checking my watch, I was surprised that over 5 hrs. had passed! Other than being filthy, exhausted, and humbled by Mother Nature, I was O.K. (Although when I reached my apt., I stripped off my clothes and flopped on the bed in a dead sleep for about 12 hrs. and was sore all over for about two days afterward)
Two months later, I still have the scars on my shins, a new found respect, and a story to tell from this old Errol fan. John
P.S. There is a lesson to be learned from all this. I got lucky that day. If I had fell and broke an ankle, or hit my head or forgot water, or a hundred other things, I probably would not be writing this. I got to be 'Indiana Jones' for a day and the good Lord, who protects children and fools (in my case, old fools) cast his eye on me that day. My wife almost crapped (can I say that?) when she found out. For the record, never travel alone, and be prepared. Having said that, I can truthfully say I was never more alive than that 5+ hrs. I spent on my own. Sometimes you just have to go for it and 'Devil take the backside', eh? Errol would agree, I think. Nevertheless, I will cherish that memory for the rest of my days. John
Some people might be surprised that these three men, with their wildly different backgrounds were ever even acquainted, much less close friends, but friends they were and were part of the “British Mafia” as they were often jokingly referred to in Jamaica at that time. They made a habit of visiting each other for drinks and stimulating conversation.
Usually, Errol and Patrice would make the drive from their base in Port Antonio to The sleepy town of Port Maria to Noels “Firefly” bungalow or Ian's “Goldeneye” beach house in Oracabessa. Other times, Errol and Pat would host the get together on the ZACA, which was moored at his Navy Island pier. Noel was better suited for visitors and owned the Blue Harbour hotel just down the hill from Firefly to accommodate his many famous guests.
By all accounts, the get togethers were memorable, with Noel and Ian having diametrically different viewpoints on almost everything. i.e. Noel being unabashedly liberal and animated, and Ian just as apologetically conservative, stoic, and possessing a razor-sharp biting wit. Add Errol, who's views were someplace in the middle acting as defacto referee.(with Pat and Ian's longtime lover Annie Rothermere, whom Ian referred to as “Pussy Galore” in the cheering section) and you had the recipe for dynamite.
Errol being Errol, would play one off on the other and it was “off to the races”. The squabbling would begin and just when it was whipped up to a fever pitch, Errol would burst into raucous laughter, fall out of his chair and roll on the floor while Noel and Ian would look on dumbfounded, and the situation was defused.
Although the three truly loved and respected one another, it almost didn't happen. Noel wrote,”I was very hesitant about meeting Errol as I had heard many things about him, and not all of them were good, but I found him to be most gracious and pleasant, one of the most charming individuals I've ever met, So it worked out fine”
Sometimes Noel and his long-time partner Graham Payne would make the trip to see Errol and Pat. An entry in Noel's diary dated Tuesday 27 March, 1951: “Left for Port Antonio 7:30 A- arrived 9:30 A. Rafted down the Rio Grande. Lovely weather. In the evening dined with Errol Flynn and his wife Pat. Drinks on his yacht, which is beautiful, then barbecue dinner on his island – palm trees – lit by torches. Both of them extremely nice; a really lovely evening.”
Today, much has changed but a few things have luckily been preserved. Firefly is a virtual time capsule, looking for all the world as if Noel has just stepped out for a moment. Twin baby grand piano's in the living room, Noel's typewriter with paper still inside and unfinished correspondence, towels with Noel's monogram “NC” hanging in the bath, and even shirts still hanging in the closet, waiting for an owner who will never return. Ian's Goldeneye is much the same, with letters and memento's under glass in the living room, typewriter ever handy and my favorite: Ian's outdoor bathtub gracing the back yard.
Navy Island and Port Antonio haven't fared as well, with the island overgrown and deserted. (Although the 100+ Royal palms that Errol had planted are doing fine) and the grand old Titchfield Hotel, long gone by a devastating fire in 1969. To visit those places is to visit history and memories that I, when going there today, could easily imagine and feel, even 50+ yrs. later.