Ava Gardner and Yukio Mishima and the Requirement of Masks

Photograph by George Hoyningen-Huene 

"All of Us, I Feel, Require a Mask To Face The World and Ourselves." Tennessee Williams

The following notes were scattered across the bed in Tenn's second-floor room at the Royal Orleans during our time together. Toward the end of our time together, he allowed me to go through them. In one clutch of papers, there were numerous photographs, many by George Hoyningen-Huene and George Platt Lynes. The notes were not for a play, but a "novella, or whatever it falls into becoming."

Jagged Notes on Cream-Colored Paper 

"The overwhelming question of identity appears daily, a cloud or the hand of a malevolent angel bearing down upon the head and the spirit of the confused/Are we not all confused?/ Can we find a witness who might, at long last, bear witness to our struggles and our worth, as well as a supplicant who might feed our hungers and caress, in any small way, the open wounds, the engorged organs, and the vanities, those aesthetic mendicants of the dank hours, until they relax, sigh, function.

"Here are images I can summon, use, exploit, fog up the place, and get some questions going."

Ava Gardner by George Huyningen-Huene

"Ava [Gardner] appears to me again. Caramel and silk and gin; anger; joy; the pure expression of carnality. The gal from Grabtown, North Carolina, both a victor through and a victim of her beauty. 'This,' she always said, pointing to her face, 'is not who I am. It's a mad fluke.' She did not always feel lucky to be housed within so much abundance--of beauty, of flesh, of need. 'You can fuck the night away, and I do,' she told me (was it in Puerto Vallarta/New York/Los Angeles/Paris?), 'but you still wake up alone and with a choice of masks.' What were the masks she chose from? I don't know. Movie star? Woman? Country girl? Madwoman? Whore? I loved her, but I did not understand her, rich with gifts I did not have. Envious of those I did have, and which gave me as little comfort as she found with hers. 'Yeah,' she said, 'but you can create words and plays and books; I can only create scenes and diversions.'"

Scenes and Diversions: Seeds of  Play (?)

Yukio Mishima hid behind masks; created masks; wrote of confessions from behind a mask. An audience/a meeting between Ava Gardner and Yukio Mishima. Tortured beauties--of  different makes and models, discussing their lives and their application of masks.

A poem wedged between two photographs:

I always write with a mask upon my face,
Yes, a mask in the old Venetian style,
Long, with a low forehead,
Like a big muzzle of white satin.
Seated at my desk and raising my head
I look at myself in the mirror opposite
Me and three-quarters turned, I see me there,
That childish bestial profile that I love.
Oh, that some reader, my brother, to whom I speak
Through this pale and shining mask,
Might come and place a slow and heavy kiss
On this low forehead and cheek so pale,
All the more to press upon my face
That other face, hollow and perfumed.

-- Valery Larbaud

"Where is my beautiful and patient and giving, my 'brother,' who might place a slow and heavy kiss on my forehead and give me some idea of who I am, of who I might be beneath my many masks. Who came and kissed Ava and Mishima? Were kisses sufficient? Are the masks reward enough?"

Photograph by George Hoyningen-Huene

James Leslie Daniels, by George Platt Lynes
("My brother?" Tenn asked in a margin.)

Robert McVoy, by George Platt Lynes ("I have loved this mask before. I could rest it upon my own again.")

Gloria Swanson, by George Platt Lynes. ("Mask upon mask upon mask. Masks without end. Amen.")




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