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Susan/Bette/Julia versus Jessica/Joan/Maud


I gotta stop doin’ this. Last night, I finished writing an important and emotional scene for a new book, “Julia and Maud,” an historical novel, developed and written with coauthor, historian Tom Wing. It was about 11:30 pm and my brain was fried. However, sleep wouldn’t come—so I checked out new material on Hulu.


After many hours of living in the crazy world of Julia and Maud, the first thing I saw was a movie I couldn’t resist. It’s not like the Bette Davis/Joan Crawford story hasn’t been around the block a few times. And it isn’t like they didn’t warn me since the series is titled “Feud.” However, this particular series focused on the making of the “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” flick…a 1962 movie I love to hate. I was just going to peek at the series and then crash—I swear. But as everyone who knows me knows, I have no self control.

It was Susan Sarandon’s fault. She rocked as Bette who I always enjoyed because she was so outrageously good at being someone else. And Susan melded right into Bette so much that I forgot it was Susan I was watching and not Bette herself. Especially when she was playing Bette playing crazy. Is that crazy Bette squared? Cubed?

And then there was Jessica Lange. She either does a pretty good job channeling Joan or she actually was Joan in another life. Back in the day, I cringed whenever I saw Joan Crawford on TV. Let’s face it, that woman didn’t live in the real world…and her made-up one was a b-movie. In “Feud,” Jessica did a yeoman’s job playing nasty Joan, but I had the skin-crawling suspicion that she wasn’t really acting but was actually channeling the ghost of a very pissed-off Joan C. Eek!

I’d already watched several episodes when I realized it was 2am and I’d spent those precious moments of my life watching fright-night reruns. And then I had an ominous thought. (Ominous thoughts are my literary forte.) What if I was asleep after all and dreaming that Joan/Jessica was pretending to be the good sister gone wrong when actually she’d always been the bad sister out to ruin the life of actual good sister Bette/Susan? But in reality, it didn’t take a whole lot to turn the good sister into a drunken maniac with wackadoo makeup because Bette/Susan already lived on the edge. Especially since good/bad sister Joan/Jessica had already taken the leap…if you get my drift? And then I lay there in bed wondering how these same dynamics worked in Julia and Maud‘s relationship.

So now it’s morning and since I never did sleep, I’m working on my fifth cuppa joe, wondering how long it’s gonna take me to stop thinking about our 1890s’ Fort Smith version of a crazy ladies’ feud when we do finish this book. Will it be a relief to get back to my own “abbynormal” existence? Or will I continue seeing battling female ghosts in my dark roast…in my dreams…in old buildings…in museums…on Hulu?

Soon, Tom Wing. Soon.

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