WEIRDLAND: Happy Anniversary, Howard Hughes!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Howard Hughes!

"I’m not a paranoid deranged millionaire. Goddamit, I’m a billionaire." -Howard Hughes

In one extravagant gesture, Hughes spent $250,000 to coax blond bombshell Virginia Mayo into the cockpit with him. The occasion was the February 1946 launching of the Hughes-designed TWA Constellation liner, and the ostensible purpose was to introduce America to the luxuries built into the new plane. Howard planned this star-studded flight to center around the romance he envisioned with Mayo, the former showgirl turned statuesque star of Samuel Goldwyn spectacles. Howard's agent pal, Johnny Maschio, engineered the luxurious trip, which was to begin with a cocktail party in Los Angeles and to end with ten days of nightclubbing in Manhattan. The celebrities were invited in pairs, except for Mayo, who was escorted to the very first seat in the firstclass section.

The trip boasted a passenger list that included Cary Grant, William Powell, Veronica Lake, Paulette Goddard, and Celeste Holm, all of whom signed on for the full ten days. When the plane encountered head winds over the Rocky Mountains, it bounced up and down, buffeted by the air currents. Crusts of ice formed on the windows.

William Holden, Veronica Lake, Constance Moore and Ray Milland in "I Wanted Wings" (1941).

When Hughes sauntered through the plane and asked for a large tumbler of Dave Chasen's 90 proof vodka, Maschio's wife, the musical star Constance Moore, was alarmed. Grabbing her husband's arm, she asked, "My God, is Howard drinking? We must really be in trouble. Howard never, ever drinks." Maschio headed for the cockpit, where he found Hughes de-icing the windshield with a vodka-soaked towel. Said Howard matter-of-factly, "Works every time." The junket garnered headlines and newsreel attention. But it failed to impress Mayo, who lasted about five minutes in the cockpit. The air turbulence so affected her that she was dangerously dehydrated by the time the plane landed in New York. After seeing a physician, she immediately took a cab to Grand Central Station and a train for Los Angeles.

"I was too sick to realize that I was to have been his date," Virginia Mayo later recalled. Once back in Hollywood, she was admonished by her boss, Samuel Goldwyn. Shaking his head, he noted, "You were crazy to come back. He could have done a lot for you." More often than not, though, Howard's cockpit courtships were successful. -"Howard Hughes: The Untold Story" (2004) by Peter Harry Brown & Pat H. Broeske

No comments :