Fan Reaction

Doris Day in “Pillow Talk” (1959)

Q “Were you hurt by the reaction of some of the fans to your book?”

David Kaufman: “A number of things that have been written about my book have been hurtful and especially dismaying because they were false. Even before it was published, some Day loyalists began renouncing it. To spread false rumours about a book they had not yet read is to be guilty of the very things they accused me of: trafficking in gossip, slander, hearsay, and malicious lies. In fact, my primary aim with this book was to firmly establish Day’s legacy as an artist, which couldn’t have been more at odds with such mendacious and empty accusations. A large part of the expanding problem is that, due to certain tabloid stories in papers and on TV, more and more people are confusing my biography with another that was published the month after mine – with the same cover! Many of them don’t even know that the other book exists. Unfortunately, Doris Day herself has not read my book, but I gather that some fans have misrepresented it to her based on inflammatory media reports in some of the tabloids and some of the more salacious TV outlets.

I consider myself a responsible author who has written a serious book, based on four solid years of research—and then some—incorporating countless interviews and archival documents. From the outset, my publisher discouraged me from responding to derogatory comments or entering the fray, and I have refrained from sharing some of my reactions with anyone, except close friends. During the interviews I have already given to promote the book,

I’ve always emphasized that Day is alive and well in Carmel, and that is indeed how she is portrayed in the final pages of my book. In the course of promoting it, I have also discussed how Day communicates with her friends as Clara, a nickname given to her over 60 years ago by co-star and friend Billy De Wolfe.”

Suddenly, some people were writing that I claimed Day had “lost her mind” and that she has “changed her name” to “Clara Kappelhoff.” Where do such charges come from? Neither from me nor from my book. At a certain point, I began to realize that in the same way that Doris Day has often been misrepresented in the media, so have I.

Doris Day and Billy De Wolfe in Lullaby of Broadway (1951)

Doris Day and Billy De Wolfe in Lullaby of Broadway (1951)

Shortly after my publisher sent out advance copies to reviewers, there was a flurry of media reports all over the globe that my book reveals Doris Day had had an “affair” with Mickey Mantle. In fact, my only claim in the book is that Mantle “boasted” that he slept with her. That is far different from claiming they had an affair.

As far as my claiming, during an interview with the L.A. Times, that I don’t think Day is capable of being intimate, that remark was not referring to her decision not to talk to me – as certain readers responded – rather to a pattern throughout Day’s life, demonstrating how hard it has been for her to confront anyone in her life with anything unpleasant.

Having interviewed dozens of people who have either worked with and or lived with Day at different times in her life, I was told numerous anecdotes, describing what was perhaps best summarized by Barbara Flicker, as it appears in my book: “We had been so close,” Flicker recounted. “I was spending maybe sixteen hours a day with her for an intense period of time. And then suddenly it was over. And it made me sad, because I came to realize that you really only become good friends with someone when you work through disagreements and problems. And I don’t think Doris ever really did that with anybody.”

In my biography, I quote Day herself on the subject: “My biggest fault, or weakness,” Day claimed, in 1959, “was my inability to communicate. When I was upset about something, I wouldn’t discuss it. I’d avoid the issue, avoid the people, or both. Once, I even fired a woman who’d been with me a long time, when a heart-to-heart talk might have straightened out what was bothering me.” (For what it’s worth, she dismissed Barbara Flicker several years later under similar circumstances.)

Indeed, I have befriended five people who Day dismissed in an equally ambiguous and indirect manner – in each case, after a period of some years. And to all evidence, she brought the same non-confrontational behaviour to each of her four marriages – as well as to her own past. How could it be otherwise for a woman who, when she was an impressionable child, heard her father making love to her mother’s best friend, and had to keep the knowledge to herself, as Doris herself wrote about the traumatic episode in her 1975 memoir. I would never have made such a sad claim about a woman I so admire, otherwise.

Though I am defending myself, here, against a crescendo of what I feel are false accusations and innuendoes, I do not intend to engage in any ongoing battles or disparaging online chatter, which is often laced with distortion, without regard for truth or accuracy.”

Q “To pick up on the point of her breaking off relationships – don’t we all do that? We get to know a lot of people throughout our lives but, for whatever reason, we maintain relationships with some rather than others. Ultimately it’s down to personal chemistry and trust – doesn’t she have the right to make the same personal choices?”

David Kaufman: “Of course we all do that at one point or another in our lives. The point is, with Doris, it was a pattern she even recognized and discussed – as I’ve already mentioned and as I’ve included it in my book. But unfortunately, she has never gotten over it. The other point is, Doris Day behaved that way with people AFTER she selected them as partners, assistants, or companions. But it seems gratuitously nasty to harp on negative aspects of Doris Day’s psychology and development when there is so much in her life to celebrate about her boundless gifts and achievements, as my book very much does.

Q “I must admit that I fell out of love with her for a few days after I put your book down. It took a little while to work out why and then I realised that it wasn’t her I was reacting to, although she was a part of it, but rather the Hollywood system as you portrayed it and the wheeling and dealing – mostly by Marty Melcher – going on around the making of her final films. It made me feel quite cynical about the whole business – it removed the magic and I felt that Hollywood was a completely phoney place. Can you understand that?

David Kaufman: “Of course I can understand that. It’s a notoriously phoney place. It’s with very good reason that Hollywood has been called “the dream factory” for nearly a century. As I quote the ever-witty Oscar Levant in one of my chapter headings: “Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you find the real tinsel underneath.” Those readers who want to maintain their “dreams” of what the movies use to propagate – not to mention their notions of Doris Day’s innocence – should definitely avoid a good deal of what’s in my book.”

Doris Day, Terry Melcher and wife Jacqueline at Monterey Film Festival, February 1988.

NEXT: 5. Remembering Doris