Simon Liberati – Jayne Mansfield

My first encounter with an effigy of Jayne Mansfield dates back to the spring of 1977. She had been dead for ten years almost to date. Editor Regine Desforges had just made a facsimile of Kenneth Anger’s book “Hollywood Babylone” which came out in 1959 in Jean-Jacques Pauvert editions. I immediately knew that this character with a plunging neckline, her eyes pierced by night and her shiny teeth, framed by two columns of sex-shop pink letters would play an important role in my adult life. I was 17, I had just read the Satiricon, the chestnut trees of Paris were blooming, I was at this time of youth where tastes form. I already loved blood, wigs, and bleached blondes. I was less precise and more of a fetishist than I am today.

When I discovered several years later, in Italy, the first photos of the accident where Jayne Mansfield had been a casualty on June 19th 1967, my heart literally leaped with joy. Since the age of four, I have been fascinated by car crashes. I don’t know why God made me so, and God knows that car crashes were beautiful in the 60s. The news of her decapitation overwhelmed me to the point that I could no longer walk around, trying to contain this state of intoxication that was taking over me. I had cherished the mutilation of queen Marie-Antoinette of France whose image I would kiss in an old history textbook when I was a boy. It all fit together. Almost too well, up to the actress’s chihuahua dead on the ground, in the dust next to a ripped lock of blond hair. Il cane di Jayne Mansfield morto the caption of the photograph said. I loved this image, and its caption in Italian was so morbid chic.

Years passed. The airhead from 1100 Sunset Boulevard never really left me. I wrote her poems in Latin, I collected everything I could find about her. I ended up thinking that Jayne Mansfield would be one of those extras that give depths to backgrounds. A talisman.Finally, thirty years later, thanks to another encounter, I understood that Jayne was going to take the part of myself that belonged to her. Every day since, I spent with her the moments we had promised each other in the June of 1977. A novel of joyfulness and death. Forgetting the most auspicious years, I focused on the date of the crash : 1967. By mentioning her last living moments, I managed, or so I hope, to give her back the crown that the impact with the truck had knocked away on a Lousiana road, a morning of June, in the earliest hours of the morning

Simon Liberati

Jayne Mansfield died in a car accident on June 29th 1967, on route 90 between Beloxi and New Orleans. After the collision, one of her blond wigs was found on a tree branch, hence the legend according to which she had been decapitated. Far from a star biography, Simon Liberati starts his story with a clinical description of the accident. Only after forty pages will the reader finally learn the identity of the passenger whose skull was fractured when her head hit the windshield. As the reader follows him into the story, the star of “The Girl Can’t Help It”, who dreamed she was Marilyn Monroe’s rival, comes back to life.

Jayne Mansfield claimed an IQ of 163 , spoke five languages and was a trained classical pianist and violinist, but the public only knew her as a busty blonde from the 1960’s. After several bad movies and failed marriages, as a result of  which she had five children from three different fathers, Mansfield sunk into alcohol, LSD and nevrosis. By 1966, her downfall had started. Forgotten by the studios, balding, she was reduced to undressing herself in squalid hovels. “Deposed of her movie star status, she had become the greatest freak show, in the way of Lola Montès” Simon Liberati writes in this novel about the dusk of a blonde bombshell, who became a pioneer of kitsch.

Read and excerpt from “Jayne Mansfield” by Simon Liberati (in french)
Watch Simon Liberati in the famous french talk show “Tout le monde en parle(in french)

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