It was in 1975, while Bobby De Niro was filming "Bogart Slept Here,” that we had a romance.
His director, Mike Nichols, was giving Bobby a hard time. "I have to work on my lines,” Bobby said, repeatedly.
The details of my affair with De Niro, who turned 70 on Saturday, are in my latest memoir, "Picasso’s Ghost,” about my engagement to Picasso’s son, Claude. When Claude stalled about a wedding date, I fled Paris to New York. After being offered a screen test, I moved to Hollywood with my dog,Tutu. If Claude wanted me, he was going to have to find me.
I stayed in the Chateau Marmont, which was one big mattress. It was sleepy, sensual and mysterious, and in 1982 would be the scene of John Belushi‘s death from a heroin overdose. Robin Williams and De Niro had left Belushi at about 3 a.m., and were the last to see him alive. A cool, hip hotel, the Chateau was known for its rock n' roll clientele and stars who wanted privacy.
One night, I stepped into the elevator. A man slouched in the corner with a tam over one eye. He resembled a garage mechanic. He stared at me. The elevator door closed.
"Are you a guest here?” he asked.
"No, I live with my dog on the fourth floor.”
"So do I. No dog.”
We were passing the third floor.
I recognized the voice. The sly smile.
"What's your name?” he asked.
"I'm Bobby De Niro. Are you a New Yorker?”
Oh, My, God! I thought. "Yes, just moved here.”
We were passing the second floor.
He took off his hat, stood up, studied my eyes. "You look like a New Yorker,” Bobby said. He was smaller than I expected, but he had that earthy sex appeal he exuded on screen. "We're a rare breed out here.” He chuckled.
"I've noticed,” I said, trying to hide my nervousness. "Do you miss New York?”
"I only come to L.A. when I'm paid. Do you want to have a drink later?"
"Sure. I'll be back about 11.”
"Me, too, I have to meet a director. How about if I knock on your room about 11? What is your room number?”
"402. That would be great,” I said, wondering, "What Claude would think?”
The elevator had arrived at the garage. We went our separate ways. I was stunned.
Bobby De Niro moved fast. I met him on the fourth floor and by the first floor he had picked me up for a date at 11.
This night Berry and Tony Perkins had invited me to dinner. Because they had two small children, they ate early. Rarely am I on time, but I returned from dinner by 10:30 p.m.
At 10:45, there was a knock. I opened my door to see Bobby De Niro slouching in my doorway wearing that sideways smile.
"Come in,” I said.
Bobby entered slowly. "My meeting was shorter than expected.”
"Do you want something to drink?”
"No, thanks, just a glass of water." Bobby stood, hands in pockets of his faded jeans, and stared into my eyes.
"What movie are you filming?"
"Bogart Slept Here."
"How's it going?
"Problems. That's why we had the meeting."
There was only one chair in the room, a coffee table, and a bed.
"Mind if I sit down?" He sat on the bed. "These things are terrible, aren't they?" Bobby patted the mattress indicating that I sit by his side.
"Are you all Italian?" I asked.
"Part Italian, German, Dutch. French … a mixture, but mostly Italian. I was raised by my grandfather, who was Italian."
"What happened to your father?"
"He left my mother when I was born."
"You ask a lot of questions.'
"I'm trying to get to know you."
"I don't like to talk it away."
"What do you mean?"
"I like to do it."
"You mean shoot the scene?"
He then took my wineglass, placed it on the coffee table, put his arms around me, and kissed me. His lips were sensual, lingering, promising more. I loved the mole on his right cheek. He reminded me of French royalty. All he needed was a ruffled shirt and a white wig with ringlets. But he was too down-to-earth to be French nobility — though he could act any character he chose.
Shy is not a word to describe Bobby De Niro. Shy is not a nice word. Shy means ego turned inward. I felt Bobby was frightened of public opinion and wise to understand that the press could be some willowy monster he could not control. Bobby De Niro thrived on control. Secrecy provided safety to Mr. D.
After two weeks, Bobby De Niro quickly checked out of the Chateau. He had been fired from "Bogart Slept Here” by the director Nichols, who claimed Bobby could not do comedy. How wrong Nichols was and Bobby has proven this repeatedly over the years, most recently with "Meet the Fockers.”
"Bogart Slept Here” was later renamed "The Goodbye Girl”and it starred Richard Dreyfuss. Herb Ross directed from a script by Neil Simon.
Later when Bobby married Diane Abbott, I realized he must have been engaged to her which would explain his sudden departure.
I still have warm feelings for him and cheer each new success.
Years later I quit acting and became a journalist who interviewed Gore Vidal, Baryshnikov, Erica Jong, Joe Heller and Kurt Vonnegut and reviewed movies. When I reviewed "Meet the Fockers,” I wrote an article, "Bobby De Niro is Fireproof.”
About "Bogart Slept Here,” Bobby De Niro had the last laugh.