Patricia Bosworth was an East End staple for years — at least for those who went to see plays (many by Joyce Carol Oates) directed by her late husband, Tom Palumbo, who died in 2008. The two lived in East Hampton and were frequent visitors to Guild Hall and to LTV when plays were produced there more often, as well as at parties, benefits, and the rest of the Hamptons social scene.
Bosworth, of course, is the famed journalist and author of a bevy of well-known biographies; those of actor Montgomery Clift, photographer Diane Arbus, and actress Jane Fonda were all at the top of the bestseller lists, and her first memoir, Anything Your Little Heart Desires, chronicled her own family.
Bosworth grew up in the palm of Hollywood’s hand — her father, Bartley Crum Sr. a dashing celebrity lawyer who also was one of the half-dozen attorneys who defended the Hollywood Ten during the McCarthy blacklist era, her mother, Anne Bosworth, a respected novelist, and she was very close to her brother, Bartley Crum Jr. But things took a dark turn when her brother committed suicide, followed by her father only six years later.
Now, Bosworth is back for the East Hampton Library’s Authors Night on Saturday, August 11, with two books, and in a way, they are both autobiographical, although one more than the other. The first, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan, may sound like a tell-all book of romantic liaisons. But more importantly, it’s a chronicle of her own rise as a young actress, working with the biggest names in the theater and film world, especially with the Actors Studio, her early short-lived abusive marriage, her harrowing experiences navigating the pre-Feminism world, and a way of coming to grips with the deaths of two of the most important males in her life.
The Los Angeles Times called it “urgent and essential” reading for all young women.
“I think that my experiences, even though they happened in the ’50s, are typical for a woman — trying to find my identity, experiencing marital abuse, having an abortion — and women’s lives haven’t changed that much, which isn’t good news. In those days, you didn’t talk about this stuff, you didn’t acknowledge it. Now, I think women are luckier, at least there are places to go, books to read on the subject. There was nothing in those days, especially about marital abuse.”
Also on the table is her most recent tome, Dreamer with a Thousand Thrills: The Rediscovered Photos of Tom Palumbo, a pictorial love letter to her late husband, who was a well-known photographer before turning to directing as a career.
“He was one of a kind, my Tomaso,” Bosworth writes in the introduction. “He once biked from New York City to Montauk — that’s over a hundred miles — just to see if he could do it. Afterward, he collapsed on the dunes, took out his Leica, and began clicking away, first at the sunset and then at two mysterious figures in raincoats embracing on a hill. He wanted to take photographs nobody else had ever taken — to prove that he could.”
“So, it wasn’t surprising that when we got together, he would talk off and on about doing a book of some of these photographs: ‘a book about my life in pictures.’”
Both books focus mostly on the same period of time, and even though Bosworth and Palumbo were acquainted during the ’50s, they didn’t get together until the ’80s. And in a book about the men in her life, Palumbo is noticeably absent.
“He had taken test shots of me in the ’50s, and I was absolutely entranced by him,” Bosworth said. “Our lives kept colliding through the years. But after he died, I was left with so much material, almost more than I could handle. I still have thousands and thousands of photos and negatives in boxes that I haven’t been able to sift through yet.”
“As far as The Men in My Life, where could I start when it came to Tom? It would have been too long. He deserves his own story.”
Putting the spotlight on herself was both energizing and harrowing for Bosworth. “There were so many wonderful, strange, bizarre, fabulous stories that I wanted to finally share, particularly the experiences I had as a young actress on Broadway. I wanted to be able to recreate those times — exhilarating, remarkable times — working with Elia Kazan, Helen Hayes and Audrey Hepburn. That was one of the real reasons I wanted to do the book, aside from the more serious level of wanting to write the story of my brother and his suicide.”
The younger Bart Crum shot himself while in his freshman year at college, after an alleged homosexual affair while at prep school (the other boy hung himself), and Bosworth suffered from survivor’s guilt. But, the day we spoke, she said that Deerfield Academy, that fancy boarding school in Massachusetts, which had always denied the story had ever happened, had just released a newsletter that is acknowledging that the other boy did commit suicide and that Crum was a student there and was kicked out. “That was what I really wanted,” Bosworth acknowledged. “This was the prime purpose of this book, to tell that story.”