“Patsy, you could fall in a sewer and come out wearing a new hat. You are just plain lucky”, friends say. What some might call luck, I call a positive attitude and a slightly off-kilter sense of humor. If I fall into a sewer, and I have, I make quite a splash. But then I take a shower, think about why I fell into that sewer, beat pillows and sob, and vow not to do it again.
One outstanding example of luck and good sense abandoning me, although I don’t regret it, was when I got married in a Shinto Ceremony in Japan.
In 1966 I was living on San Francisco’s famous crooked street, involved in a television career and writing a book. When friends said that Mel Belli wanted a date with me I didn’t know who he was. I was quickly told that Mel was a famous trial lawyer, that Life Magazine had dubbed him the King of Torts and that he had represented the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald. “Go out with the guy.” They said. ‘You’ll have a ball”.
Dating Mel was an exciting, crazy experience. I had never met anyone remotely like him. When I went to New York to meet with my publishers at McGraw Hill Mel went with me. At the publishing house Mel hijacked a desk, a telephone and two secretaries to help him with a legal matter. The whole place was agog.
Mel’s boundless energy was matched by a penchant for illegal misbehavior. In New York he put Plaza Hotel room-service silverware in his suitcase and had the bellman stow it in our taxi. When I protested, Mel had a lawyers answer. “I’m innocent,” he said. “The bellman was the one who put the suitcase in the cab, I didn’t.”
We were photographed at opera openings, film festivals, and wherever we went. Mel made sure that our entrances and exits were timed to elicit the most coverage. It was fun.
But my beau was a scoundrel and a heavy drinker. I soon realized that although I thought I was in love with him, I had to end our relationship. “You drink too much, “ I said. “It can only lead to trouble.” Mel persuaded me to have a farewell drink at his historic Montgomery Street office. It was evening, the interior garden, adjoining his red brick building in San Francisco’s financial district, was softly lit, a fountain splashed. Mel greeted me with a flute of Perrier Jouet and immediately embarked on an extravagant toast. “French bubbly for the woman I love, the beautiful girl who inspires me to ever greater acts of daring.” He drained his glass in one sustained gulp, and then he dropped to one knee and proposed. “Marry, me baby,” he beseeched. “If you do, I’ll never touch alcohol again and I’ll prove it.” He leapt to his feet and threw open the doors to his liquor cabinet. In a spray of broken glass and booze, he sent bottle after bottle crashing across the courtyard.
Hands on hips, a bad boy smile playing across his handsome face, he said, “I’m General Counsel for Japan Airlines, baby, and I’m going to Tokyo in three days. Come with me. We can be married in a Shinto ceremony there.”
Luck was not with me. Against my better judgment, I said yes. We flew to Hokkaido, Japan, where the sacrament was to be performed. Driving from the airport, I was calmed by the tranquility of the countryside. Mel, however, was far from calm. “Did you see that caged bear back there? That’s cruel and unusual punishment. I’m going to liberate that animal!”
Addressing the hapless Japanese associate accompanying us, he ordered, “Buy that goddamn bear and see that it’s sent to San Francisco.” The man scurried off, to do Mel’s bidding. Putting his arms around me, nuzzling, Mel laughed. “Baby, that goddamn bear is your wedding present. I hope you know how to cook it.” Mel loved jokes, and I was a great audience.
In the wedding pavilion I was dressed in three layers of silk kimono over which I wore a gold embroidered brocade robe cinched by a red obi, into which a tiny dagger was tucked. “To protect honor,” an attendant said. Mel wore a swallow-tailed morning coat and white socks. Tabbies, the traditional Japanese cloth covering for the feet, were too small, he said.
We sat on big white cushions, as priests, wearing stiff white robes and black lacquered headdresses waved tassels over our heads.
Mel’s vow to stop drinking ended with ‘I do’. Our honeymoon was a booze filled nightmare. I had made a huge mistake. “I can’t be married to you, Mel. Please, let’s end this with what dignity we have left” I begged. My attorney said we weren’t legally married because we hadn’t signed certain papers in Japan. Mel sent messages through the press. “Pat has gotten lousy advice. Most lawyers couldn’t attest to the validity of a dog license. We’ll be remarried anywhere she says.”
Eventually our 29 day “marriage” was legally set aside. Like a political event in the PRC, my marriage to Mel was deemed an event that never happened.
Causes Pat Montandon Supports
PETA, Women for Women, Amnesty International, Children as the Peacemakers, Peace to The Planet