From Cooper`s autobiography:
I was seventeen, and I began to go over to Joan Crawford’s house to play badminton. She was a friend of my mother’s and, over the years, had offered me the use of her court. She didn’t have room for a tennis court, so had put in a badminton court, and I had learned to enjoy playing the game.
The court was right off the pool house, and one day, sweaty from an hour of exertions, I went into the pool house with Joan. I was thirsty, and she poured me a Coke. As she bent over, I looked down her dress.
“You’re growing up, aren’t you?” she said.
I was brash, fresh from some romantic triumph, I suppose, and I made some remark which I assumed was sophisticated, witty, and very sexually provocative.
“You had better get out of here, young man,” she said.
But I didn’t go. Instead, I made a move toward here, and she stood up, looked at me appraisingly, and then closed the dr*pes. And I made love to Joan Crawford. Or, rather, she made love to me.
Over the next six months or so the performance was repeated eight or nine times. After the first time, however, it was always late at night. I would set a date with her, then manage to sneak out of the house after my mother and stepfather had gone to sleep. I would roll my car down the street until I was far enough away so I could start the engine without waking them. And I would drive to Joan’s house.
She was a very erudite professor of love. At the time I suppose she was in her early thirties. I was seventeen. She was a wild woman. She would bathe me, powder me, cologne me. Then she would do it over again. She would put on high heels, a garter belt, and a large hat and pose in front of the mirror, turning this way and that way.
“Look,” she would say. I was already looking. But that sort of thing didn’t particularly excite me. I kept thinking: The lady is crazy.
But I recognized she was an extraordinary performer, that I was learning things most men don’t learn until they are much older – if at all. There was never any drinking or drugs with her. It was all business. She was very organized. When I left, she would put me on her calendar for the next visit. I could hardly wait.
One night, after one of our sessions, she said that was the last time. She said I should never call her again.
“And put it out of your mind,” she said. “It never happened.”
And then she gave me one last kiss and added, “But we’ll always be friends.”
I was floating during that period. Fortunately, I had enough sense not to blab my conquest all over town, but it was a magnificent secret to have. My friends might brag about some pimply-faced teenager or gawky sixteen-year old they had had, and I would nod my congratulations. And I would think to myself: But I have been with one of the Love Goddesses of the Screen. Maybe I didn’t say anything because I had enough sense not to. But maybe it was because I knew they wouldn’t have believed me.
The last time I saw Joan Crawford was when I was doing a guest shot in Peter Falk’s Columbo series. She was on the Universal lot at the same time, doing something, and the studio was buzzing with the news that Crawford was around. By accident, I happened to run into her, and she took my hand, looked into my eyes, and, I think, remembered.
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