Hollywood Beat: The Tully Talk

On Sunday the 14th I got up in Denver at the crack-of-dawn (and anyone who knows me can tell you I hate the crack-of-dawn) and began punching the machine toward LA for the talk about Jim Tully in Musso & Frank, 6 p.m. on Monday. Ultimately, the worst part of that trip was going crosstown from near the Howard Hughes Center to Hollywood Blvd through the typical stopped and stopped again LA rush hour traffic. . . .

A trip of a thousand miles repeatedly ground to a halt, and we rolled up just as the talk began to get underway.

Somewhere in Utah or Nevada I got a call from my LA pal Leo Grin telling me that the talk had been moved from M&F just across the street to the Larry Edmunds Bookshop — the last bookshop standing of a one-time legion of bookstores in that stretch of road.

Apparently ticket sales had been too slow to justify opening M&F specifically for the salon (otherwise, M&F is closed on Mondays). I’m unsure of whether we can blame a lack of interest in Tully on this, or if the previous Tully talks that week took away some of the interest — or if the ongoing salon itself is going to have trouble keeping the momentum going. I’ve done such things in the past, notably the Maltese Falcon Society, and after the initial burst of publicity and interest, it’s hard to keep any kind of regular event going, especially in a venue such as M&F.

I wish them luck, and kind of wish I’d gotten down to LA for an earlier event actually in M&F.

Still, mostly I was there for Tully and to meet the Tully biographers. I agree with Mark that one way to finally kick Tully into prominence would be to get the still unpublished biography he wrote of Charlie Chaplin into print — that ball is in UCLA’s court, and it’s probably only a matter of time. A bio of Chaplin from someone who knew him as well as anyone ever did. Who could deny the importance?

And Mark also teased the audience by asking which guy in Tully’s loose crew of associates took the longest to grasp fame in his mitts? Lon Chaney Sr., Erich von Stroheim??? I knew the answer and pointed over Mark’s shoulder to the huge poster of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein hanging off the ceiling (hey, it is October, folks). In the photo above you can see the name of director James Whale visible near the bottom of the poster. But check out the back wall — I didn’t notice this at the time — where Boris also appears in a poster for The Mummy.

For my tastes, I’d rather have a book by Tully on Karloff and Chaney than the Chaplin deal, but then we have to take what we can get.

One very nice piece of ephemera given out after the talk deserves a blurb. Bookseller Howard Prouty put together a beautiful little chapbook titled The Dozen and One: A Field Guide to the Books of Jim Tully. Every actual first edition, with color images of the covers. I was surprised by the page which shows every single paperback by Tully issued in the twentieth century — exactly four items. Two reprints of Circus Parade and two reprints of The Bruiser. Whether he kicks into overdrive or not, Tully is doing a lot better in this century than he has since his death in 1947, even if he can’t sell out a dinner in M&F.

Oh, yeah: Prouty notes that his chapbook celebrates the centennial of Tully first moving to LA in 1912. I do admire the people who can keep up with these one-hundred year anniversaries.

And of course I got my copy of the Tully biography signed, and signed off on a copy of Willeford — the Tully boys came that close to having their bio also appear from Dennis McMillan, and more on that later.

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