Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I have to clarify what was not clear in my last blog. La Negra Maldonado is a daughter of a large Haciendado of a coffee plantation in San Lucas Toliman, at Lake Atitlan. After the bike accident they took me there, to the only doctor available around this mountain area of the lake, without going to the other side of the lake, where all the tourist area are. Jose met some friends walking with La Negra, while I was with the local doctor and they all agreed that I would be better off in her Hacienda because I would be much more comfortable there, with servants and such, which Jose did not have in his small cabana.

Grant and Ludmila going to the stables in Hollywood to horseback riding.

Grant and Ludmila going to the stables in Hollywood to horseback riding.

After my motorcycle accident, I could not walk, nor do modeling, but I could be a makeup consultant, with my large experience in cosmetics and makeup. I was very good at it, so I landed a fantastic job, on the top floor of a gorgeous salon in one of the most famous stores in Beverly Hills.

In the picture I am with Grant who was helping me remodel a horrible little nightmare house that I purchased for a very good price. I would lay on my living room floor with drinks, plenty of them, and pain pills, while my left leg was immobilized.

I started feeling an unfamiliar feeling that I was on my own, alone, with no one to protect me like Jack used to do– I used to feel so secure with him!

I don’t really know how I felt because I was always medicating with alcohol. In a way I reverted, to some degree confronting myself and taking responsibility of myself. Now that life showed me this, I was back starting where I began at birth!

I remember it well! The insane house purchase. Well, at the time it seemed like a good idea!

Jose and Ludmila sitting in the street of Guatemala

Jose and Ludmila sitting in the street of Guatemala

Before I had left for Guatemala, I purchased a house without even seeing it, just so we would have a house when we came back. Well, now Mr. Grant Lesley was working on remodeling this horror, and he was handsome, but short, with blond hair, blue eyes and an outgoing personality. Just what the doctor ordered, jajajaja!  He was very charming, so he convinced me to remodel this little garbage house into a mini-jungle in the guest room, wall-to-wall paper with jungle animals, tigers, panthers and lions, orchids and palm trees in the living room (for real) so you could not see in from the street but I could see out.

In the main bedroom was a white wall-to-wall carpet, white walls, white silk bedding, a white fox fur imitation bad cover, a night table with a red base, white and red roses, and a large mirror reflecting the light of the window and plants from outside. There was a mini garden outside, plus a white rocking chair.

Taking a ride whit Bud Harrod after modeling

Taking a ride with Bud Harrod after modeling

Today, I realize that Grant was a really good friend: he took my mind off Jose, my injuries, and the pain of mourning I was going through. (I thank you Grant– I hope you are reading this wherever you are. You were a fantastic decorator, carpenter, designer, everything!) The living room was Mexican with large wooden furniture made by him. It was in front of the new design red brick fireplace, that replaced the original one, with a large red hardwood mantel. The kitchen had a table which stuck out of the counter of the dining area, with a bar behind it, and a door to the small garden. The garage was on the other side to the living room and the hall away to the left.

Well, I spent most of the money from the divorce settlement, but I had a showplace that I loved and that made me grow. It was the most romantic place, tiny but enchanting! The hallway to my room was full of books on each side of the walls. I had many fantastic books, some that I lugged with me from Venezuela.  (How strange now I rarely read anymore!)  Books from Thomas Mann to all the collected works of Winston Churchill, philosophers all the way back to Socrates and Plato. (Socrates did not write, of course, he spoke and Plato wrote down his dialogues and his ideas and philosophy).

Smoking a tabaco pipe

Smoking a tobacco pipe

Grant and I became more than friends, lovers of course, but with no attachments. We had a lot of fun remodeling this ugly duckling into our fantasy of a beautiful fairy tale home. I loved it and everyone who came to my home loved it too. I had some really good parties. Jack came by with his new girlfriend Joy who he married later on, Jeff Cooper, and many other famous people and of course movie stars.

Then when I got better I went back to work, with my favorite designer Bud Harrod, who at one time was my boyfriend– and the only man that ever put a diamond ring on my finger! It was over a one karat rock that had belonged to his father. Not for a proposal, because he was scared of marriage after his last experience. We worked well together, in harmony you could say, and we went to Las Vegas for New Years and many other US cities for designer week– New York, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas. On one trip to San Francisco, I saw Walter again for the last time. He was back from Hawaii, and we had a farewell dinner at the Saint Francis hotel. We talked about his Cafe Imperial, the coffee I helped him sell door to door in L.A. It was a fantastic idea, but it did not sell at that time.

My set of friends had begun to change, and I was moving more into the business world instead of Hollywood showbiz. I was thinking about starting my own line of beauty products, facial creams. I contacted my ex-lover and dear friend Buck Rogers, who by then was living in Mexico City instead of Acapulco where I met him. Then in LA I was introduced to a Clairol executive.


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Jose had mentioned the day before that if I wanted we could go to see Guatemala everywhere, but we had to wait for my ring, which we recovered the next day. Jose went out yet again that evening, but I stayed home. His old aunt that had never been married, came to my room with a liquor bottle! She said, “I keep this for medicinal reasons.”

I was thrilled that I did not have to go out to hunt down some liquor store, let alone to get something to drink. I couldn’t stand being without alcohol, especially being under so much stress. So I definitely wanted a drink or two…or more. Jajaja!

" Back home in L.A. had to walk whit a cane for a long time."

Ludmila back home in L.A. walking with a cane

The next morning after breakfast, we were not talking at the table– no one cared to ask me anything. So I packed a few things and we took off on the big Kawasaki Ltd 1000 motorcycle that I bought for him. We went to the beautiful countryside en route to Lake Atitlan, stopping by the river and at the homes of some of Jose’s friends. As we rode through the indescribable beauty of rural Guatemala, there were flowers everywhere, pine trees, rivers with little waterfalls and the smell of smoke from the wood fires in the valleys and hills. Then suddenly, we slid and tumbled over, and I found myself underneath this big motorcycle with the motor still running, and it was hot… it was very hot.

Jose was screaming “Stay still, don’t move!” while trying to lift the bike, but of course he couldn’t and I couldn’t move at all! Finally some people came passing by in cars and one of them stopped to help him lift the big motorcycle off of me. It seemed to take forever, with me lying under the burning hot motor, the bike crushing down on my whole left leg. I can’t remember much, but later they said they took us immediately to the nearby clinic in the village of San Lucas Toliman to see if any doctor was available.

Well the only thing I know was that I was in excruciating pain. So I numbed by alcohol and with the drugs to, and layed in bed at the house of La Negra Maldonado, in her family hacienda with a coffee plantation. That delicious smell was my companion as I was healing.

Dancing whit William in Caracas to " It Was Fascination I know"

Dancing with Walter in Caracas to “It Was Fascination I know”

Jose was in the next room, laughing and smoking pot, and many other people were there. I barely could move, but slowly I was helped up to the living room, where not one was interested in my problems. They were so high including Jose who was busy making eyes at La Negra, and the gays were making passes at him. Wow what a group of weirdos! But there was one guy that looked half elegant with a little class, and he had a big new van like a Jeep and was proposing something. I felt like I didn’t belong there with the gays and dropout drug users and la Negra  making passes at Jose– this was not exactly a happy situation for me.

Well as always, I made the best of the worst! I heard one guy saying something about the beach and my ears perked up: The beach, yes! I needed to get out of this cold house in the mountains where we were. So when one of the boys said, “Lets go to the beach!” I was all for it. The pain was still bad, and although nothing was broken my whole leg was swollen like a big balloon. Some of the muscles were torn and muscle trauma had appeared, enough to make me scream with pain. So everybody was giving me pills and of course la Negra give me more stuff and aguardiente (alcohol), wowweee!

We took off to the beach; all the way there I wanted to drink more aguardiente until I reached oblivion. I drank enough for me to not remember the countryside, which was totally different than the one we drove from, justs that it was hot, tropical, and there was a smell of iron from the sea. The beach air was inviting, warm and nice. I don’t remember too much of the scenery as we arrived. Jose with the three other guys went into a fantastic looking hotel which I supposed was to get a room for us. I just sat by a fishing boat and waited.

Next thing I knew, I awoke with a cut on my forehead, inside the same boat. I remember sitting there, now inside of it, alone with no one there. Shortly Jose arrived and said something to his friends, “Look, she’s hurt, blood on her forehead.” I thought to myself that meant he left me alone and was with his male lovers in this luxurious hotel, which I didn’t even see inside. I just wanted to go back to beautiful Atitlan.

I did not speak to him the whole way back, until we arrived two or three hours later. No one cared to even talk to Jose, they all seemed tired. If he had any dignity or concern for me he surenhid it from me, but probably not from himself.

I was in no shape to argue or judge anyone. I justed wanted to be free from the pain and to be able to walk again. I went into the house with a mayan servant who helped me carry my things into a graceful, lovely small hacienda pueblo ranch home of the Maldonado family. It was in the middle of San Lucas Toliman in Atitlan, where the Indian women wore traditional clothes. They carried their babies on their backs, and did not dare look into anyone’s eyes. We couldn’t take pictures of them because they believed we’d steal their souls, and it would be captured inside  the camera.

I arrived at the hacienda ranch with the realization that this was her home. She was waiting for our return anxiously and she greeted me with a present. It was some kind of coins, maybe witchcraft– who knows?  They carried me into the bed, where they were smoking weed all the time and she was always high on pot or something else. She was obviously enchanted with Jose. He was tall, blond, slim and always very charming.

The servant handed me a cane,  so I could get to the bathroom or go to sit up for a moment, which was almost impossible, I had to lie down almost all the time, even inside the cars. Including the trip to the beach we went to at Lake Elizabeth. It was impossible to sit comfortably, so painful that I could scream. I lay in bed almost all the time. The local doctor said not to walk for a couple of days.

In the meantime, Jose and his friends went to parties and picnics, and as it turned out, the romance between Jose and La Negra had already started.

Incredibly, in this part of the world, I heard a song from My Fair Lady on the radio. It was “Fascination” I know! My goodness, tears were rolling down my cheeks, with my eyes closed and even now remembering dancing to that melody so many times with Walter, to that same music!  It was so vivid, because it was one of our favorite songs. The last time I spoke to him was in Sausalito, near San Francisco, in the “No Name Bar” where he said he still loved me. That was last time we spoke in person, kissed and loved each other. It felt so long ago. I guess it must have been, years were passing.  I had heard he moved to Hawaii and was still a rich, successful man, now an ice cream and coffee merchant.

It was like the wind carried all our promises away, on the lips of cocaine and alcohol.  Any promise seemed real, whether to the one who lies or the one who wants to believe them. Sure,  we would believe everything. I did for many years…ten years or so.  All promises “el aire se las llevo” (the air took them). With almost anything, to get what or who we want, if it feels good and looks great at that moment when we are high…then we will say goodbye.

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On the beach in Acapulco Buck, Ludmila and Ron lavender Children

On the beach in Acapulco. Buck, Ludmila, and Ron Lavender’s Children

While we were still in Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, I was having loads of fun with Buck. Finally Ruth had gone back to L.A. Of course she told her son about my promiscuous behavior. Jack kept calling and asking, “When are your coming back home?” But there was always another party to go to. I decided one last night out at the big disco in Acapulco. I loved the balloons at midnight, the confetti and serpentinas (streamers); it was fun dancing with Buck. I got carried away on the dance floor, then something terrible happened: I fell down to the floor drunk and shaking.
I got up, smiled and continued dancing. Then again, I fell down, and I remember saying to myself “What is this? Am I really so drunk ? How embarrassing!” And once again I fell down, so I said to Buck, “Let’s sit down at our table.” Finally I told Buck “Let’s go home.” But everybody came along with us, thinking that as usual I was just taking the party someplace else. I don’t remember how or when we arrived back at Buck’s, and I don’t remember who stayed behind and who came to Buck’s house, but apparently it included some other young ladies.

I was awakened by hands groping me and this young beautiful girl kissing me all over! l got up, took another drink and the sex party proceeded, until I passed out and woke up for cocktail time that evening. I went down these long beautiful stairs that went around above the living room to reach the bar, where Buck, Rudy, Anna, Ron and everybody else was standing. Arturo arrived with his wife Mary Arden and Buck’s sister. After the cocktails we went to dinner and someone said, “Diane is arriving day after tomorrow,” so I said to Buck, “Book me on a flight tomorrow to L.A. please!”

Going up the stairs to pack, I saw he had hung pictures and even a large portrait of me on the wall. In fact, there were many pictures of us everywhere in the home. I could not take them with me because there were too many things to pack, so I left them behind. I was too hungover to worry about packing more or think about anything. My head was pounding and I heard the sound of a voice: “It’s time to go home. I stayed too long at this party, it’s over.” It’s time for Jack to put me over his shoulder and take me home I thought. But he wasn’t there, or he would have done just that, so I had to do it myself! Jack was totally the opposite of this gentle Charles Rogers (Buck his nickname) from Boston, high society and descendant of the Boston tea party. One of his great grandfather’s was a pirate, and his ship had been confiscated by the first U.S. Navy to start the first naval fleet.

The next morning, as I was still posing for personal pictures at the airport, saying goodbye to all my friends and Buck, I was oblivious to the fact that Diane had changed her schedule and was already arriving in Acapulco. I headed out to the plane in the shirt that Buck gave me because I liked it so much. Just as I was almost ready to get on the plane, I saw her descending the ramp from her plane. It was just a miracle that we did not run right into each other that day, or the fur would have flown! That would not be a happy meeting! Somehow of course we missed each other, thank God, because I was too busy saying goodbye to Buck and to Acapulco.

Later he called me and told me that he was divorcing her and she was taking everything he had, including the Pierce Arrow– along with a Cadillac and some other cars, all of which poor Buck had gladly given her. Katy, one of his daughters, and I were good friends and she wrote me all the time. We had good memories of our friendship and she kept me informed of all these things. Our friendship continued for a long time, writing to each other. I learned that Diane burned all my things and all my pictures and he asked her for a final divorce. That was a big scandal. I never met the lady so I can only speak from what I heard and my own experience. I would see Buck a couple more times, but only as friends, not lovers.

Buck has a beautiful home with wide open spaces, a Mexican baroque style with a tile pool, palm trees, and separate quarter for the servants. They also did not like me because they were faithful to his wife Diane, who took him the cleaners leaving him with no balls! I guessed that was why all his friends loved me, because they said I restored him to manhood by “giving him back his balls.” Looking back, that was where I should have burned one bridge and chosen the other, but that’s the challenge. When we are in the moment, we don’t always know which bridge to burn and which to cross.

This was only a part of going down the torturous road of alcoholism. I should have quit then. But I didn’t. I was too obliterated and drunk to car. When I finally arrived home I received a bunch of photos of me in the mail, in the front row at Reni’s big funeral. Life was getting a little rougher on me, sending me a message that I did not understand at the time.

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The Jubilee was not as successful as we would have liked. Jerry Lee Lewis arrived with five trailer trucks and all his menagerie, and they kept him so high that he could fly and no one was allowed to talk to him, not even us. Well, his performances were not fantastic, maybe his years were already catching up with him. David Carradine did his folk singing gig, and one other artist performed, but some of them did not show up at all.

Jeff Cooper ( Caliman) and Ludmila

Jeff Cooper “Kaliman” and Ludmila

Per usual, after the Jubilee there was a party at the Millmans. Arturo Hanzel my dearest friend, David Carradine, Jim Maddox and the two Israeli brothers, and many more guests arrived. Everybody had a blast. There was champagne, whiskey, rum, gin was all going around like water, with a platter of cocaine, pot, quaaludes and LSD. God knows what else. I certainly don’t remember much of anything, but I assume I had fun.

When the buzz wore off that meant it was time to go to another party. Jose #3 was working with a very famous singer– a short black and Jewish fellow who was blind in one eye, a member of the rat pack– of course I remember his name, it was Sammy Davis Jr.! Well there was lots of cocaine at his party house, and good drinks, so there we went. Liza Minnelli was there and many other stars. They will all will be in the book– this is just a teaser!

 Ludmila holding the big fish

Ludmila holding fish

As we were all having fun, one of my Mexican fighting cocks was lose and would not leave any body alone, attacking everybody and wanting to fight very bravely. The people were going crazy, so finally we caught him and put him in a cage. He was a beautiful bird with gold and red,  and black under his chest, just so spicy and proud like a Mexican bullfighter.

Arturo Hanzel (related to the Morgan Bank) invited me and Jack’s mom Ruth to go to Mexico for a long vacation. His wife Mary was my hostess, introducing me to all her friends including Buck Rogers, who impressed me immediately. He was handsome, well mannered, relaxed, educated, and witty.  After going with Mary and Mrs. Lavender to operas and ballets we went to the discos. Mary said, “Let’s go to Acapulco!” So we all went to Acapulco, and had an incredible time. Even Jack’s mother came with me so she could enjoy Mexico.

Arturo Hanzel and daughters of Buck Rogers

Arturo Hanzel and daughters of Buck Rogers

We arrived in Acapulco to stay at Ron Lavender’s house. At that time he was just beginning to grow his real estate business; later he became a huge success. Charles Rogers, whose friends called him Buck, fell for me immediately, as soon as we were introduced that evening during the cocktail hour. Ron had a typical Mexican home; with an open bright living room. It was a small house in comparison to his famous rich friends, a modest bar followed by a little patio with palm trees, and at the end a small pool with a very Mexican fountain decorated in gorgeous tiles. It was a charming place, cozy everywhere you looked. There was fabulous Mexican artwork in the upstairs second floor and the guest rooms. It was a magical time, everything was new and beautiful, different from Hollywood or anything we had seen before, even different from Spain. That night my husband carried me out over his shoulder shouting to me that I had had enough!  I thought maybe he had enough but not me! The great part is that I did not get mad at that,  actually in a strange way I liked it, I felt protected and cared for.

There in Mexico I was free, so I had to get rid of Ruth, then I could really do whatever I want. We disappeared all night to the bars, without Ruth. We all went, Mary ,Buck, Ron, Ana and her husband Rudy, after dinner to a bordello to see how it was. We laughed, joked, and drank champagne while watching the parade of men going and coming. I was even invited to see one of the private rooms, where the prostitute conducts her business. I think I asked the girl if it ever repulsed her, a man that was not appealing? She said, “I just close my eyes and think of Errol Flynn.”

After Ruth left, Buck took me to every society party, to the Yacht Club in Acapulco, and we went to Merle Oberon’s, the gorgeous actress’ house, and other celebrities– including the beach house of Señor Cantinflas himself.

The next day Arturo Hanzel arrived, after he finished La Novela he was filming in Mexico City, with Jeff Cooper, the Canadian actor who played the Mexican hero “Kaliman”. Then we all went across the jungle in Jeeps and then took a boat to a clean beautiful beach. The workers and fishermen prepared a feast on a long wooden table in the sand by the old palapa, with fishing nets hanging around and hammocks between the palm trees. We ate all kinds of seafood, and drank more tequila. We went to lie down in the warm soft golden sand. At sunset, we returned back on a sailboat to Acapulco bay.

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As usual the Holidays were full of busy social events for the Millmans. We went to the house of Dean Martin for Christmas, for the second time, our third event there. This time I invited my  sister and my niece. Every time was an adventure, fantastic parties full of 60s stars who were as big as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in our era. After the party Rex Harrison called our home again, but I was too busy to get to know him better. My lifestyle was modeling, partying and drinking, which took up all my time– so I guess I will never know what he wanted!

Then it came time to prepare for the Country and Western Jubilee. We tried to sign on Jerry Lee Lewis, David Carradine, and Johnny Cass as well as invite some famous stars.  Our hope was to have a great turn out, so with only a few months to go, we went to as many parties as we were invited to, signing every star we could, either to perform or as a guest at the Festival.

Ludmila with red hair

Ludmila with red hair

Friends called our ranch home Sherwood Forest. I called it Piggy Pig Farms. I had so many animals there and I started selling them. In those days, the flower children were calling the police officers “pigs”. I loved pigs and so did my niece. Pigs are very intelligent animals and I don’t understand why it’s considered an insult.

One day, we ordered a whole piglet for New Years, and left it hanging in the cool room just beside the big garage. We were going to roast the pig over an open fire by the pool. That was for a New Years party, but it was only December 30 and we had another party going already.
The 30th was my sister’s birthday so after a quiet dinner with my blood family, we retired to our Hacienda. We should have called it Las Vegas– what happens here stays here! My dear husband disappeared in the middle of the party, though I did not even miss him with so many young men around me, flirting and wanting me. I later discovered that he was in the “pig room” with the girlfriend of Gus Savalas– doing what animals and people do. She was quite different from me bodywise, and I think she was a nymphomaniac, so they had really lustful, promiscuous sex. I was more open to my sexual behavior than my husband, he knew every one I had been with. I did not suspect nor worry about him though, because I thought we had no lies or secrets regarding our behavior at the parties of sexual indulgence. Later I found out that was not his way.

Gus Savalas, Jack Millman and Ludmila, having lots of fun

Gus Savalas, Jack Millman and Ludmila 

If the only value my book will have for anyone, besides entertainment, is to make the reader see how an alcoholic functions and what makes him or her that way, it will serve a purpose.  It is the same with all of us, a sickness. It shows up in different forms with different people, but it is really all the same. No matter if you are white, yellow, black, or purple, it is always the same. I don’t like to generalize but I think we are all borderline genius, idiot, artist. Of course this is only my opinion, and for sure it is an unscientific one, but by the same token the doctors will confirm one thing that I mention here. Alcoholism is a disease that only a Power greater than ourselves can remove– but how? The only way I personally found out was through Alcoholics Anonymous, where the members showed me by their example, and I did the work. After fifty years of drinking every day, God still let me live and sober up, so that today I am a writer and have a reborn life.  Though things became real, instead of remaining an unreachable dream, I am only now rediscovering the greatness of every minute of life.

Yes, today I am still beautiful and attractive, but now I am also grateful for everything– for my friends and admirers, and especially to the men I loved and that loved me in return, though there are too many to remember each by name. Each one left a lesson that was whether good or bad, it was a lesson never the less. . Above all I am happy, and I still have a lot of love to give to the world– to humanity, animals and nature. Today at last I can stop and smell the roses, even laugh at myself when it is appropriate!

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Maestro Aldemaro Romero and me celebrating the success of Onda Nueva in ALejandro's Bar, (Penthouse)

Maestro Aldemaro Romero and me celebrating the success of Onda Nueva in Alejandro’s Penthouse Bar

At a party at Reni’s house, Jack and I met some people that were talking about holding the First World Festival in Caracas, called Onda Nueva. They suggested that we might like to help, especially since I was in show business, rubbing elbows with lots of stars and knew lots of interesting people. Jack decided to send me with mama to Caracas to organize things. By now Walter was living in Sausalito and I was married and apparently happy, so there was no reason to go home except for business.

We arrived in Venezuela at Maiquetia Airport where my sister’s husband picked us up. As we drove to Caracas, he thanked me for “that wonderful introduction to that pilot with Alitalia airlines,” because he was very helpful to him in Rome. The pilot took him to his home for lunch and escorted him to many places. This handsome Italian pilot, Giovanni, showed Valery great hospitality; he was not my lover or anything, but he was a good friend that liked me very much. It was a kind gesture for him to take care of Valery Chechelev, my ex brother in law.

Mama and I arrived at the Tamanaco Hotel and I had invitations to the Penthouse of my friend Sr. Alejandro Rodríguez, where I had been before. I went alone while mama stayed in our room at the hotel with some Russian lady friends of hers. There at the party was everybody I needed to meet for the Onda Nueva festival: the President of the show and creator Aldemaro Romero in person. Maestro Aldemaro was a great Venezuelan composer, musician and director of the Symphonic Orchestra of Venezuela. So officially we were the people to be contacted for the invitations for the first world music festival Onda Nueva.

This was the most exciting thing happening in all of the music industry. There would be artists from all over the world and I invited famous friends from Los Angeles and Hollywood. One of the greats at that time was Peter Graves, since his “Mission Impossible”TV show was playing everywhere in the world. My dear niece went with us a day before, and we began the preparations from for staging. It was probably the greatest musical event Venezuela ever had!

We were back again at my favorite Hotel Tamanaco, where almost every one of our guests was staying. In entering the elevator you might encounter Manzanero or Daniel Rio Lobos, or Peter Graves’ wife Joan, or Aldemaro himself. It was a great high energy atmosphere that was electrifying and alive, with gay, happy, smiles on every face, flowers everywhere and full preparations for the guests. Every salon and dining room in the hotel was a magical atmosphere.

The fantastic energy of the opening night was indescribable. We all wore formal dress, and we walked down the red carpet at the entrance of Teatro Municipal, where the event was taking place. The theatre was full of celebrities and people anxious to hear the new sound call Onda Nueva (New Wave). After the acknowledgement of the special guests present, including Jack and I, with a very brief applause, many thanks were given to all that were part of the magical night. The first night was powerful, glorious, strong and everyone loved it. When the music started playing everyone stood up!  It was phenomenal, with remarkable sounds blaring at our ears, Aldemaro at the piano, playing music with composers like Manzanero. They played the rhythms of Onda Nueva and the festival made many artists and composers very famous overnight.

Afterward, everyone was invited to the hotel to celebrate the great success of Onda Nueva. We celebrated late, some of until the morning dawn, still partying at Alejandro’s Penthouse, as seen in the picture.

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Filming a movie, “ready for your closeup!”

I am grateful for all the men in my life, and especially grateful for all the places they took me and the lessons that they taught me. To me they are worth solid gold and pure Fort Knox!

My marriage with Jack was open, but I did not understand that completely. In any case, I did what I wanted, regardless of my husband. I was invited to incredible parties as a model, without him. Like the one at Paul Newman’s house that I took my sister to. Naturally, first thing that afternoon I went to the bank, opened the security box for jewelry, and got a little cocaine from my stash for the night. My sister had no idea I was using coke yet.

The house of Paul Newman was full of stars, like Ali McGraw, but also hippies, motorcycle riders, and other types. Later on there was a big fight, I can’t recall if I provoked it or not. My sister was singing Russian songs with the pianist, when I ran into the room grabbed her by the hand and said, “Let’s get out of here!” Bottles were flying overhead, drunk and high people were screaming, and we just ran out until we reached where the taxis were. We were laughing and bewildered! I lost a beautiful brooch that Walter had given me during that mad dash. I didn’t know where we were in the Hollywood Hills. That was the craziest experience I had at a house of the rich and famous. I had met Ben Gazzara and we had a couple of encounters, he loved “poppers” which were very common at the time.. more of this in my book.

Dancing whit Bernard Apteker

Dancing with Bernard Apteker

Christmas time came and we were invited to Dean Martin’s house in Beverly Hills for Noche Buena. There was Lucille Ball, Shirley MacLaine and many big names– they were all there, but especially Rex Harrison. I was fascinated by him, looked him up and down in his dark blue tuxedo with velvet sandal slippers. Of course I had seen him in “My Fair Lady” in London with Walter, so memories creeped back into my head. But I was amazed to meet him, flabbergasted, almost speechless that there was a man I dreamed of meeting years ago right in front of me, talking to me!  He saw me look at his feet, as I was surprised by the dark blue slippers that he was wearing, and he said with a beautiful Henry Higgins attitude, “A man of my age is allowed to be comfortable!” I could not help but have a wicked smile when I heard him speak. As I looked up into his fantastic eyes, I listened to him say “I can always be well-dressed but can’t tolerate being uncomfortable on my feet!” He proceeded very elegantly to ask where I could be reached. Of course, I was always prepared and had a little gold pen, yet another present from Walter, and a little notebook. This was part of my work, since I never knew when I might meet someone that could give me a job; that was all part of show business. I gave him my number. He was incredibly charming and well mannered, and I loved that immensely.

Of course it looked like I was there alone; no one realized that I was married and my husband wasn’t with me. Jack was off in the Martin library reading, then trying to wheel and deal with some gentleman I did not recognize; anything to promote Jack’s music company. In fact, Jack rarely went to parties since he was not a drinker like all of the rest of us. Soon I was chatting with Ginny and Dean Martin. Dean was complaining that his bartender did not know how to do his scotch and soda drink. Of course I knew because that is what I drank. I just assumed he liked it the same way I did, so I went over to the bar and I told the bartender, “Please pour two shots of whiskey over 3 cubes of ice with just a splash of soda!” Dean loved it, and we became friends. People at the party smoked pot openly. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and thought aren’t they worried about being seen?  Later I learned that in Hollywood stars homes, what goes on among them, stays among them. Just like they say in Las Vegas: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

Dean Martin's house in the library Jack and Ludmila in Christmas party

Dean Martin’s Christmas party:  Jack and Ludmila in the library

The party went on, but most of the big stars had left. As we were leaving, my dear hubby still with the music businessman talking until we got in the car, two police cars arrived and parked outside Dean Martin’s door. We were parked a little ways away, looking at the show. They asked everyone in the house to leave. Later I heard that Dean had gone upstairs to his bedroom and called the police, so he could get some sleep.

Each man that I met in my life gave me something of themselves, and for that, I love them all.

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Alejandro's Penthouse. He is in the center, Ludmila next to him in one of the parties.

At Alejandro’s Penthouse. He is in the center, with Ludmila next to him

We headed to New York again for the big Fashion Week, staying in a luxury penthouse by the East River across from the United Nations Building– a gorgeous little apartment for my boss, Bud, and me. Although I adored New York, I still had a beautiful home, many friends, and my mother to go back to in Hollywood. Not to mention the dwindling hope of being with Walter. What started with him as antipathy had become a burning love, full of admiration and respect, of course frustration and pain as well, but as the saying goes, there is no light without dark. Inside my heart there was still a light keeping my love for him alive.

At that time in New York everywhere I would go reminded me of the time Walter and I had together. Sometimes the work and social life kept me busy enough to forget him. Every day after work I went for a drink or two, or three. I left my modeling things with my enormous bag in our apartment. In the same building there was a great bar, overlooking Manhattan so I went there, while Bud got ready to go out. If I was very tired then I made dinner in our penthouse, but it was tempting to go out, have some cocaine, dance, and drink all night; especially in that famous discotheque that belonged to the wife of Richard Burton. After a few sniffs and dances we would inevitably start talking about how our day was, and we consistently had two drinks together with my boss Bud who would say, “Why can’t you train the other models to walk like you?” Then he would go home and I still lived up la vida loca (the crazy life) until morning. I would walk to our place with a glass full in one hand (not coffee) and on to the set of my shows. My poor feet had enough activity and so did I. Bud was such a nice person and he let me sleep until the show started and everybody was ready. I would be in a private little dressing room of my own. This treatment only happened when the designer needs your body for his or her creations, and you are a great model on the catwalk or in photos, and you sell every piece of garment you’re showing, then and only then, you will get away with a lot. I was modeling again, all day long and then maybe I would go out to dinner at some really exquisite place. Next day, it was the same routine all over again, for the entire week. Discotheques at night, and modeling all day.

Ludmilas birthday party in her house. Daud  proposing her in front of all her quest and mama.

Ludmila’s birthday party, 1964: Daud proposing to her in front of mama and all the guests

One day we went to work in our showroom, on the 30th floor. As usual when we finished work it was dark already, and the last buyer had left. All of a sudden the lights started going out; we stood by the big window and watched as area after area of Manhattan and greater New York were shutting down the brilliant lights and everything turned pitch black!  People, like us that had stayed late, were just coming out of the showrooms and boutiques, and other people started coming out from everywhere. It was a great commotion, and panic started. None of us knew what was going on? Maybe an atomic bomb attack from the Russians? There was no radio transmitting, no electric power, so now people started walking down the escalators but it was not easy as it is a long way down, besides we were in fear not knowing. It was a very scary moment to say the least.

Thank God Bud and I were healthy and strong, so down we went, all 30 some floors, nervous and not sure what to expect. When we finally arrived to the main floor, Bud went immediately to stand in line with another maybe 50 people or so wanting something from the lobby desk manager of the building hotel. The hotel management was trying to accommodate us with what they had, just some snacks and drinks. The showrooms for fashion week generally are in big flashy hotels. People started playing cards, drinking and talking, not in a real panic anymore, but anxious because no one knew for certain what was going on. The people of New York behaved amazingly well, actually, with no robberies or vandalism. Somehow Bud got help from the lobby manager and put us up in the basement on some cots. Among all this, we met a black man who became our supplier, even offered us some for free. I thought it was kind of him, giving us free cocaine and wishing us a good trip back, and that soon we will see him back in L.A. Later back in Hollywood he did contact us. The great New York Blackout …what an experience!

Now I had to go back to Caracas again, although this time I was going on my own business. I flew down with my portfolio, my composites and my ideas for a show of models in Venezuela. I don’t really know how or when this came about, but there I went with mamachka. We stayed in El Hotel Tamanaco, that is so familiar to me, and where thoughts of Walter suffocate me! With so much going on in my life I thought I had almost banished that memory, but now here I am confronted with all our past, reminding me that I was not cured of his spell, and the pain, anger, and sadness came back to me forcefully. The horrible awareness of what I had done trembled within my body. I killed those innocent souls, and I will have to live with it the rest of my life, paying for my sin– can I ever forgive myself?

Renee called me and asked if I could come to an interview? Everyone wanted to know how this girl from Venezuela made it in Hollywood. On his show was the men who played in the French film “Papillon” and the men from the hit film “Asphalt Jungle”. I really felt like a star in Caracas, it was fantastic! I was someone people recognized and saw on the cover of magazines, with my pictures larger than the President of Venezuela. I was invited to many fancy places, including a very private penthouse party for Mr. Rodriguez. Anybody who was anybody in the society of Venezuela was there, and some of the prettiest ladies too– Miss Venezuela Susanna Duin, Miss Universe, and Miss Mundo!

Of course the party included a very formal dinner under a bougainvillea tree that must have been there since the building was built. It covered the whole outdoor terrace like an umbrella of deep red flowers, and seemed to bloom all year round. The table was laid with exotic seafood dishes, and plenty of wine and champagne but then I went to the bar, like this was not enough!  I had to drink some more and I took a couple of pep pills that were there under the bar top behind the bottles. The bar was next to the terrace, with the living room to the side. The room was very cozy, warm with soft pillows and chairs, wide open French doors and windows, and full of light music. It was just right, with the fragrance of the flowers and the moon peeking in, on this wonderful tropical night of Caracas.

I was sitting in a big cushioned chair, with albums of pictures of famous faces of past visitors on the tables in front of me. One of them I remember is Natalie Wood. That was my favorite bar room in the world. The bar was usually attended by Alejandro himself, when he wasn’t busy in his boudoir making love to one, two or three ladies. Once I “brought a sandwich to a party” on one of my flights down to Caracas. I was picked up at the airport by Alejandro who never goes anywhere, but for me he made a real gesture of friendship and showed up in a black limousine. Once inside the limo, I told him I had cocaine with me. He almost jumped out of his skin! Here he was kindly picking me up, and how scandalous I was! He was a very prominent socialite and from a good family, with a good name to protect. I laughed and told him nothing could happen. Well that is how nonchalant I was about that at the time. Later we became even better friends as he realized what a silly worrier I actually was, with my innocent nature, totally naive and gullible in many ways. We became the best of friends. Ever since that day, I was invited every night to his Penthouse parties, and I met many people there– important politicians, film and TV stars, spies, and people from all over the world. There I met the grand Venezuela maestro composer Aldemaro Romero and Luis Felipe Herrera, my dear friends. I met his father Reynaldo, who was married to a very lovely dear lady, although he had tried to take my virginity a long time. I had an incredible love for that family, pure class in my eyes.  They are probably the most aristocratic and old money family in Caracas, besides the Lord Boulton’s family.

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Teaching Gala how to do manicure

Teaching Gala how to do manicure

I had my very own apartment! I was astonished walking into this three bedroom place, with all the basic furniture, a refrigerator and stove. It was all I needed! I just had to call and tell mama and Gala the good news, where life had taken me! Here now, living in Hollywood, in Beverly Hills, three blocks from Rodeo Drive, four blocks from the Wilshire Hotel where many stars stay, near Beverly Hills Hotel and Bel Air Hotel. There were gorgeous people around, going for cocktails, shopping, playing tennis, and meeting other beautiful people.

Outside my apartment was a newspaper. Although I could barely understand anything, I saw an ad for “Models Wanted”. I wrote down the address and off I went! I walked into Jocelyn Ryans studios and the receptionist wanted to sell me a modeling course. The place was more like a school than an agency. I said, “I don’t need a course, I’m here to model.” So indignantly I got up and headed for the door to exit, when a lady in the far office stepped out and said: “Please wait a minute and do come into my office.” Jocelyn offered me a job, and I became the top teacher for her students. At the time, I needed a job and money so I said, “okay, but I never taught before.” She said, “Your etiquette and manners are perfect, and you walk fantastically! That is what I want you to teach.”  I trained her clients and other teachers as my first job in Hollywood.

When I left, I had no idea how to get back to my apartment, but there was another young lady, Cathy, and she said, “Can I give you a lift?”  The Americans seemed so kind and graceful, simple like children!  She said she was friends with Bob Denver, the star of Gilligan’s Island TV show. On our way she somehow conveyed to me that she had a date with two brothers for dinner, and asked if I would I like to go?  I agreed, and that night a white big Lincoln town car, came for me, with Daud at the wheel and his brother in the back. With my new friend Cathy. Daud opened the door for me in front and I sat next to him. I soon found out he was a Muslim, born in Baghdad. I thought, how romantic! I had read “The Arab” and was fascinated by that novel, where the Arab steals the girl and takes her to the desert to a passionate romance. Daud was very attractive, but a little short and kind of round, divorced with a ten year old son, Douglas, who was away in school someplace, and he did not see his ex-wife.

Daud fell in love with me, but being of two different religions complicated things. ‘Baba’ the chief of this group of Hollywood Arabs was okay with him loving me, but marriage was not a sure thing. Of course we talked about other Arabs with children born in America and with a very open mind, but marriage was the furthest thing from my mind at that time. So we went out, the four of us, again and again. One night we went to a belly dancing cabaret, very sexy, until the wee hours of the night. There was lots of champagne for me and Cathy. Daud, being a very religious man, read the Quran all the time in his house and did not drink. But his younger brother Ali did. We all wound up at their beautiful newly constructed house in the Hollywood Hills. There was a large Arabic rug on the floor where we made love. Soon he became almost like my shadow, a good person to have as a friend. He was very helpful and generous when a need would arise.

I still had no money to pay the rent for my apartment, because I hadn’t received my first check yet, but Daud helped, and then he helped me to call my sister and invite her to live with me and bring mama too! He took me to interviews and to photographers, and was a good person. He felt like a Godsend. Every time I was lonesome or wanted to go out I could go to one of the houses that he had bought, fixed and prepared to resell. I always knew where the keys were.

I worked a very short time in a boutique as a mistress assistant to pin the dresses on the customers, and of course I was fired. At first I only taught a few times a week at the modeling agency, but by November when all the family was together, I was teaching almost every day.

Of course I had kept communication with Walter, who asked me to come be with him for a few days. So off I flew to Caracas! Like the saying, just whistle and I’ll be there. Walter would say, “Yes, I will marry you, but after I sell the business.” It was just another promise he would make and never keep but in my naive spirit I would hold onto the hope that it would one day come true. How stupid I was to believe him, but I thought that I really loved him. Then I saw Oscar, told him how I missed him, where I lived, and gave him my address.

You are probably wondering, what was going on in my mind? Did I think I could have as many husbands as I wanted? I read about a place where a woman had a husband for every day! Can I even explain that to myself? I was supposed to be a decent girl who believed in God. Was there something wrong with me? Was I alright? Well, no, I don’t think so. I was a sick puppy in a sick world.  I was already an alcoholic, but of course I did not know of such a sickness. Nobody ever told me that I was drinking too much, and I had no parents smart or rich enough to send me to get help.  I never thought that there was something wrong with me. I thought I was just living life, the way it came, moving with the breeze like a feather, with no rhyme or reason, only enjoying it day by day. I honestly enjoyed my life back then, just like always, creating my own reality, but the fantasies and dreams were soon evaporating like water from the sand. I was getting worn down. I went to a doctor for Benzedrine so I wouldn’t eat. I thought I was heavy and wanted to lose a miserable five pounds. No one ever told me that I was not going in the right direction.

Now I had some modeling jobs. One of them was with Johnny Mathis, as the announcer to a big party in Bel Air. When he introduced me he said something like, “I present to you, Ludmila, the top high fashion model of Hollywood!”

I started going to beauty salons, one of the very famous Paganos, which was later sold to John Peters, the boyfriend of Barbra Streisand. Soon an idea came to me– why not tell my sister to become a manicurist; after all she had that beauty salon on Porlamar? So I did, and we started practicing at home. Then she had to get a cosmetology license to work at Paganos where I introduced her.

We went to the city hall to the board of cosmetology.  She wouldn’t go unless I took the exam with her. We did the paperwork and took the exam, but of course we flunked! So the person in charge said, “You can stay and do it again, you have another chance.”

We ended up with three in the room, after everybody left including the examiner.  With the exams there was a cardboard template with holes on it, that had the correct answers.  So, intelligent me said to Gala, “you look at the door to warn us if the lady is coming. I will get that paper and mark our exams” and also I helped this little Italian guy that wanted to work as a beautician. So we sat back after I had copied all the correct answers for the three of us, and guess what? We passed!

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 Arriving on U.S.A.

Arriving in U.S.A.

Hello New York! I had been there twice already but landing at Laguardia airport was still exciting. To get to our new home at Syracuse we took the Greyhound bus. The air is different to me in New York, smelling of opportunity, success, money, and fame. I was thrilled to be on American soil with my mama so she could see for herself the American dream. The Statue of Liberty stood in front of us, shining for all mankind to come and work for freedom in an honest way.

In Syracuse, we stayed for a couple of days at a friend of mama’s house. Then mama went to work as a waitress, washing dishes at night in an Italian restaurant. I went straight to a local television station and told them how great I was, showing them my pictures dancing on TV in Caracas. A Greek producer director gave me a chance to perform one day on one of his shows. He was Orthodox like me, so we went together to the Greek Church. In no time, he was ready to propose marriage, but I just stalled for some time. I did not want to be married yet! I wanted to be free, although I did like him a lot.

I took a bus to New York and went to see Oleg Cassini, who was one of the favorite designers of the new first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. First, I worked in the showroom, modeling fur coats; I always looked good in fur and in hats. I was 5’8” and half, and weighed only 120 pounds, with big shoulders and a great walk, so I did not have any trouble finding work. But it was only in the showroom, because I had no agent and did not speak English yet. I was still very green, a kid in the biggest city in the world of fashion. But I noticed they were paying much more money to the models with agents who worked the one hour show, than I made for hours of working. I had to stand for hours so they could wrap fabrics around me to create new designs. I will never forget my job in the showroom of “Schwartz Furs Creations”, wearing mink, chinchilla, Russian Savel– Wow! How sensual it was to feel that expensive fur on my skin.

I lived in Riverside with a Jewish widow, in the second bedroom. The place was very small and we could hear everything between the room, so not much privacy.

My niece Vera arrived alone when she was 10 years old. At the airport I picked her up, and my mother came from Syracuse. We had a fantastic two days exploring New York, of course to central park, the Empire State building, and more. My mother went back two Syracuse and Vera stayed with me awhile. She went to work with me and behaved so well, just watching what I was doing and imitating me when we were back at our small room. Poor thing being so far from her parents. Then Galina Fedorovna arrived and they went to Syracuse.

Walter flew in from Caracas to spend a weekend with me, but this little room was no good for us. When he left, he left me 1000 dollars and said, “please take it and do what you think is right.” I took it and I decided to…

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