After Pearl Harbor

Years later, despondent, broken in health and spirit, Hemingway took down a shotgun from the rack in his Trail Creek cabin and blew his brains out.

***

 At night it was very cold in the Valley. The snow crusted hard. During our stay, we headed into Ketchum for hot dancing and mild hell raising at a raunchy joint called the Sawtooth Club.

A ski bum at Challenger Inn had tipped us off that Sawtooth was a hangout for western musicians, skiers, cowboys and good-looking girls.

One night, however, we switched the venue. We decided to test the expensive, rarified air of The Duchin Room in Sun Valley Lodge. When we sat down at our table, a trio may have been playing soft jazz. Maybe not. I don’t remember.

What I do remember was the well-dressed crowd, an elegant atmosphere and classy Claudette Colbert sitting at a table directly across the dance floor from us.

Out of the blue, John Moore said that he was going to ask’ her to dance. Dick Lewis and I ventured the well- considered opinion that he was out of his mind. John thought it over, stood up, braced himself, walked directly across the dance floor and approached her table, wearing his engaging Irish smile. About this time, Dick and I spotted her escort, a distinctive-looking gent with snowy white hair, making his way back to her table. We watched with amusement from across the room to see how this screwball comedy would play out. We anticipated a slapstick finish.

To our complete surprise, we saw Claudette Colbert graciously offer John her hand as he introduced himself. A moment later, we saw what appeared to be John and the white-haired gent laughing and shaking hands. Then, unbelievably, we watched them invite John to join them at their table, where the three of them chatted for several minutes as if they were old Hollywood party pals. From across the room, Dick and I viewed this scene with disbelief, totally astonished.

John never did get to dance with Lily Claudette Chauchoin. But he returned to our table with a triumphant, ear-to-ear grin on his face. He reported that he had introduced himself, told her how much he admired her work in her latest film, asked a question or two and things just seemed to flow on from there. I think her latest film that year was called The Palm Beach Story— one I never did see.

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