“As a young man, I always found her the sexiest of all the movie stars, even sexier than Marilyn,” he says.“And the lascivious nature of her life contributed to that sex goddess perception.” Yet on the night of their first meeting 26 years ago, instead of the Barefoot Contessa, in walked “a prematurely old woman”, the left side of her face “frozen in a rictus of sadness”.She and third husband Frank Sinatra fought all the time (“It was madness, but he was good in the feathers”) before saying with a shrug: “But I fought with all my men.
She described how, as a 19-year-old on her first day on the MGM lot, she met first love Mickey Rooney, who told her, “I wanted to bed you the moment I saw you” — then cheated on her in the first week of their marriage.
She told Evans how Howard Hughes taught her to be a better lover, adding that she nearly killed him with a marble ashtray in a fit of rage once, but MGM hushed it up.
Certain words invariably crop up when describing Victor. His charmed life is divided between his Regent’s Park home and a 17th- century oak-beamed Long Island “barn’’ where he and his wife Carol spend four months of the year, kicking off the summer season with their famous July 4 party.
But spend time with the man they call the “Mr Big” of publishing — he is both my friend and agent — and you learn he is not above passion projects.
She wasn’t sure she wanted all this stuff coming out while she was still alive.
But when Frank Sinatra, who probably remained the love of her life, condemned Peter to her, that spelled the end of their relationship.” Evans always believed that Sinatra had paid Gardner to suppress the book, but in the late 1990s he resurrected the memoirs. As he sat down to finish the book on August 31, 2012, he had a fatal heart attack, leaving Victor to finish the book himself.
And on every occasion that we met — except when I arranged for her to meet [Simon & Schuster executive] Dick Snyder — she wore velour tracksuits. The meeting with Snyder was a very big deal and she transformed herself into a movie star in this wonderful black dress and high heels, showing off the legs she was still proud of. “She had hired a lighting man to make sure she looked her best and a butler to serve Cristal champagne.
'I have to get a little pie-eyed to talk about myself, honey,’ she said.
He may sell Eric Clapton’s memoirs for a reported £2.6 million one day and have his client John Banville win the Booker Prize the next, but he also likes quirky endeavours such as the The Obvious Diet, which he wrote in 2001 after shedding 40lb from his 6ft 4in frame.