The sixth chapter from Hollywood Undressed, a 1931 memoir attributed to the assistant of masseuse and health guru Sylvia Ulback, a.k.a. Sylvia of Hollywood (but actually ghost-written for Sylvia by newspaper reporter and screenwriter James Whittaker), includes anecdotes of such star clients as Ramon Novarro, Ernest Torrence, Jack Holt, Neil Hamilton and Lawrence Tibbett.
Why shouldn’t he be? He sleeps in a coffin.
That’s a fact. Ramon’s bedroom in the immense house he occupies with an old grandee of a Spanish father, his mother, and ten—count ’em—ten brothers—Ramon’s bedroom is a replica of the burial crypt of some saint in the Vatican City in Rome. The bed itself, high, narrow, and set on a pedestal, is a sarcophagus, under a purple canopy crowned with a wreath of thorns. A funny idea, this. All I can say is that Ramon seems to want to hurry his Cecil B. De Millennium.
Sylvia says that the daily massage she gave Ramon at 7
A.M.—waking him out of his embalmed slumbers with the laying on of her hands—always felt spooky. It was too uncomfortably like a miracle.
The boss promoted the job with Novarro herself, one day when she had finished touching up Elsie Janis and gone down into the Janis back yard to see what was going on in the swimming pool. Quite a bunch of actors were splashing about, showing off; and as Sylvia came along Ramon Novarro dived in and came up floating on his back. Right away the boss’s eagle eye noted something that promised a new customer and she thought up a salemanship scheme.
“Can you float like that indefinitely” she asked Novarro.
“As long as I want,” he modestly asserted.
“While you smoke a cigarette?”
He lit up and puffed away, and was good for ten minutes, stomach up, under a broiling California sun. Sure enough, when he puffed the last puff and called Sylvia to witness that he had accomplished the feat, the nice round central part of him was dried by the sun, making a cute little dry island in the middle of his bathing suit where it had been raised above water level by an undeniable protuberance.
Neat, what? All Sylvia had to do was kid him about the watermark and he had to say the expected thing and invite her to undertake the removal of the island.
“How could I help it?” he alibied. “I’m just back from a trip to Germany—and who can resist Münchener beer?”
ERNEST TORRENCE is a contrast to the soft and delicate Ramon Novarro, but not such a tremendous one as you’d think. What I mean is, all the boys get girlish and skittish when they have to take a professional interest in their looks, and Big Ernest is no exception.
Like all those oversize fellows, Ernest has a small, firm-minded wife who bosses him around as if he were a young St. Bernard. Elsie Torrence had been taking treatments from Sylvia, and she reported that her husband was threatened with nervous breakdown and ought to let Sylvia treat him.
“But he’s so shy,” Mrs. Torrence said, “and he just has fits when I suggest that he call in a female masseuse.” She set her jaw and added: “I’ll bring him round, though.”