Paul Coates -- Confidential File, April 15, 1959
April 15, 2009 | 4:00 pm
There Was no Dame, That Was a Duchess
The telephone on my desk jangled.
"Hello," I said. It seemed a logical thing to say.
"You heard about Goya?" the breathless voice at the other end of the line wanted to know.
"You mean old Francisco Jose de?" I asked brightly, "The Spanish painter?"
"That's the one," the voice informed me. "He's been banned."
"Serves him right," I said knowingly. "Carrying on with that Duchess de Alba. Him with a wife and kids."
"No, no," said the voice. "Goya is dead."
"Cholesterol . . .?" I began hesitantly.
The voice cut me short.
"Goya's BEEN dead for 131 years."
I thought I detected a patronizing tone.
"It's a picture he painted that's been banned," the voice continued. My name is Scholl. I'm with United Artists."
"Oh?" I murmured. "I must have missed your last picture."
"I'm not in pictures," the voice assured me. "I promote pictures."
Ten seconds of oppressive silence followed while I digested the confession.
"Promote...?" I asked fearfully.
"Promote!" the voice declared.
"And that's my problem," he continued. "They won't let me promote 'The Naked Maja.'"
"Ruddy shame," I sympathized.
"Ruddy right," the voice agreed. " All I tried to do was use a reproduction of Goya's famous painting in newspaper ads. Papers wouldn't accept 'em.
"Just because the dame in the picture is nude."
"That was no dame, that was the duchess," I corrected. "Anyway, it does seem pretty narrow-minded."
"And that's what Goya's life is all about," the voice said.
"Really?" I replied.
"Really, About how Goya painted the Duchess de Alba in the nude. Andy how her husband, the Duke, found out."
I brightened. After all, these spicy little tidbits are always good. Even if they are 131 years old.
"You say the Duke found out?" I asked.
"Everybody did. It was all over town. Quite a scandal."
Try, Try Again
"I'll bet," I said.
"So Goya had to do it all over again," the voice said.
"You mean...?" I began.
"Yep. Goya painted her with clothes on."
"Ruddy..." I began.
"Shame," he concluded. "And how's it going to look if I use a painting of a dame with clothes on when I'm trying to promote a picture called 'The Naked Maja'?" the voice demanded.
"Beats me," I admitted.
"Wouldn't be right. No punch. No socko, No sell," the voice insisted.
"Just not box-office," I added helpfully. "But what can I do about it?"
"Write something," he said.
"What?" I asked.
"I don't know," he confided. "Just something to arouse the people."
I promised him I would. And I will.
So, all right, everybody, up!