Changing the title of my biography of Doris Duke, especially after more than six years of work, is a big deal.
I wonder what Doris would think if she could sit at the breakfast table with my editor and me and talk about who the book’s readers will be.
I am now reading, and occasionally wrestling with, what might be call the collision—or the creative cooperation—of two minds, essentially different: the mind of the writer and the mind of the editor.
Almost the only question people asked me about her is, “Did Doris Duke marry her butler?” No, she did not. But does that question really matter, in a long, complex and accomplished life?
Doris Duke practiced with Martha Graham’s company in New York and proudly wore their black satin jacket with her name and the company’s name on the back.
I sometimes think that love never touched her, although she knew many lovers. Always she seemed to be asking as she did of one of them, “Are you doing what you’re doing to please ME?”
Today I find myself in complete sympathy with Doris Duke’s passion, even with the uncomfortable assumption that dogs are sometimes better companions than complicated, changeable humans.
Was Doris Duke in love with, or—more cogently—did she love any of these men, or the six or seven others who took up portions of her life? Hard to say.
Getting dirty as a child allowed Doris Duke to develop into the daring woman she became. I wonder how many eight year old girls today would be allowed to wander on the beach in a dirty shift, with mud up to their knees?
Doris, high-diving, surfing in Hawaii, battling the waves on a stormy day off Newport as she had ever since childhood, might have resisted pop music’s anthem of female submission.