“I’m not saying Michelle was Helen of Troy, leading men to war while she remained unscathed, but that’s close,” says her onetime musical partner Marshall Brickman.
“She was a very clever, centered girl, to have kept afloat in that environment.
“I have never been late for work a day in my life, I refused to ask John for alimony, I have never been in rehab,” she enumerates proudly.) But young Michelle needed more than a male guide.
“In retrospect, I see that I was looking for a girlfriend/mother figure.” In 1958 she found, through her sister’s boyfriend, a 23-year-old who had an unsurpassable store of harrowingly acquired female survival skills to impart.
(Michelle’s eventual serial conquest of its three top young lions—Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beatty—nailed for her its femme fatale sweepstakes.) And then, just as fast as they’d streaked across the psychedelic sky, they burned out in some unseen solar system.
‘Clean up your messes.’ ‘Be a good citizen.’ ” (The code stuck.
What has recently come to light, by way of two startling investigative books (2003’s Hodel was the killer, and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office conducted extensive surveillance of him.
There were numerous arrests, but no one was ever charged with the murder.) A striking, graphic array of evidence in the two books strongly suggests that it was Hodel who, on January 15, 1947, killed actress Elizabeth Short, then surgically cut her in two and transported the halved, nude, exsanguinated corpse—the internal organs kept painstakingly intact—to a vacant lot, where he laid the pieces out as if in imitation of certain Surrealist artworks by Man Ray.
And so, by last January, only Denny, 66, and Michelle, then 62—like the little Indians in the children’s rhyme—remained standing, their old, red-hot affair, which had nearly torn the group apart, self-protectively excised from their frequent reminiscences.
That two people in the seventh decade of their lives would need to try to bury several months of ancient lust is a testament to the mystique that has long outlived the group’s thin songbook and brief domination of the pop charts.