Just Out --- Errol Flynn Slept Here
Errol Flynn slept here, there, and thither over fifty short years. That’s part of the joke that undermined recognition of talent seemingly unique to this actor. Others said it perhaps to diminish him, but Flynn really was about the only guy (in talkies) who could play believably with sword and sash. To Perform Well On a Horse may be the highest goal to which thesps can (should) aspire for all the times we've seen it done badly. How does one apportion credit between the man who declaims well on a stage and one who rides pell-mell off a canyon wall and delivers those words from astride old Dobbin? It’s time action men got their due, and I’m for placement of Errol Flynn among Best Stars (?), Best Personalities (??) --- no, let’s make that Best Actors of a Golden Age when athleticism came of something other than daily workouts under personal trainer tutelage. Having tipped my hand as a Flynn devotee (and that’s gone on forty years), may I convince those of you who aren’t that Errol Flynn Slept Here is a book you must have? Hopefully yes, for here’s one that goes beyond star worship from a fan’s afar and takes you into Flynn's private sanctum (in this case his legendary home on Mulholland) where the authors' exhaustive, and on-site, research finally reveal secrets Errol might better have taken to whatever his eternity amounts to (what is Heaven’s reward for celebrities?). Imagine if you dare what probing eyes might discover upon close inspection of your own homes, then factor in an outrageous public lifestyle Errol Flynn indulged throughout a largely debauched Hollywood career. Robert Matzen and Michael A. Mazzone found the trap doors, two-way mirrors, and casino outbuilding (that which also hosted orgies and cockfights). Both perused the house and shot rolls of film before it was torn down and replaced with a dwelling for Justin Timberlake (could anything sum up our cultural slide better?). The book, like Flynn’s life, is part comedy, much tragedy, and all insight. It’s then and now in that way good writers have of linking up a glamorous movie past with decay and waste such fame enabled when its objects had not judgment nor any sort of governors on offscreen behavior. I’m hackneyed perhaps in saying that Flynn’s dream house became his nightmare, but his was a loss I felt for being attached to a dwelling customized to suit myself. The struggle he maintained to keep that hilltop overlooking Burbank (you could and can see the Warners lot) was real-life equivalent to ordeals fought by Robin Hood, General Custer, and various Sea Hawks he played, but Flynn lost this one in a courtroom and was banished to a floating residence (his yacht the Zaca) he’d barely managed to salvage. I’ll be trite again: The man’s own saga was twice as dramatic as anything he did in movies. Matzen and Mazzone are the first to view it all from Errol’s own poolside. The book is coffee table sized and 184 pages. These authors have seen and read everything about Flynn that’s come before and have not duplicated any of it. Errol Flynn Slept Here is in effect their own Mulholland House, for by composing and laying out the entire thing themselves (and seeing to its publication), Matzen and Mazzone present here exactly the book they’ve dreamed of for the thirty plus years I’ve been friends with both (and yes, the result's a dream come true for those of us who like Flynn as they do). I asked Bob Matzen to detail a little of what all that entailed, just in case any Greenbriar reader might like to follow their example and self-publish a book of his/her own:
My wife Mary and I have both managed print projects for many years. She is a senior editor and project manager of high-end training materials; I do a lot of writing and print work for NASA. So we have both worked extensively with designers, we both know something of print specs (Mary knows more than I do) and we've both taken things all the way through the print process. We got the help of two designers to lay the book out for us with an art deco theme, something that fit Flynn's personality and the times. Then we had a professional production person create style sheets for us to work with in Quark XPress, a software program used to create books. The production person gave Mary a crash course in Quark, and Mary taught me, and we then proceeded to drop the entire book into Quark XPress files working on a Mac G-5 with external backup drives. We created the book chapter by chapter in spreads (a left-hand page and a right-hand page), and when it was laid out, we knew how much copy we needed to add to fill up a chapter, because every chapter has to end on a right-hand page. My idea all along was to have a lot of sidebars in the book--chunks of copy that told a story within a story. Some were one column, some were a page, but most covered an entire spread. And of course we wanted lots and lots of photos, color and black and white, and the design was burgundy and green on every page, so we wanted a four-color print job throughout, which is the most expensive way to go. Every photo had to be scanned at extremely high resolution, Photoshopped, and converted to tiffs for insertion in Quark.
As we were working on the book, we began a nationwide search for a printer. We worked with our production person on the exact kind and weight of paper we wanted, 80-pound coated stock, and how we wanted it to be bound. Early on we had thought we'd do a softcover, but we could see how incredibly well the book was coming together; to do it justice, we had to go hardcover, which meant spending roughly 2.5 times the money we had budgeted for softcover. We wanted a high-gloss dust jacket as well, and our designer worked with us on many designs. This was in some ways the hardest task, because we couldn't find the cover design we wanted. At one point she said, "let go all of your beliefs in what the cover should be, and let me try something new." And she came back with THE cover design. Flynn and Lupino are in full color because symbolically, Lupino is the one woman that Flynn should have married and didn't, the one woman he adored. She was at Mulholland a lot in the 1940s. Damita poses seductively in front of the house that she would claim from Flynn in lieu of back alimony payments. And Rick Nelson, the devoted Flynn fan, looks great in an unpublished candid in the corner. So we had a design and specs for the dust jacket, and specs for the internal pages, and for the number of pages, and we entered this information in an online printing industry exchange, and received bids from all over the world. It was important to us that the book to be printed in the USA, and we asked for samples from our finalists to assure a quality product. We feel we were very fortunate with our final choice, Bookmasters of Ashland, Ohio.
After months working in the Quark XPress file, we turned it over to our production expert and she fixed little problems we had created with photos, captions, and columns. We gave it a couple of final proofs, and then sent it off, nervous as cats that we had missed something. We saw proofs in a week and got our first finished samples seven weeks after that. Then in early February, four pallets of hardcover books, 146 cases, and 6,800 pounds, arrived at our door. And that's how we published our own book.
Errol Flynn Slept Here demonstrates what now can be achieved on one’s own desktop. The book is as handsomely mounted as any film book I’ve come across this or any year. The photo reproduction is superb. One thing I’d mention is that virtually all these images are rare and previously unseen. They represent the best of numerous Flynn archives (including Greenbriar’s own). I’m betting even seasoned fans will find much that is surprising and unfamiliar (my recurring question during recent conversations with the authors … Where did you find that?). The book isn’t confined to Flynn’s own residency at Mulholland. Others attempted living there. Varied incidents convinced some that this was a house possessed. Rick Nelson’s family saw/heard any number of visions/bumps that convinced them Errol was still Master Of Mulholland, never mind his having been gone and buried decades by the time they arrived. There’s a chapter called "This Old Haunted House" that spins tales of latter day visitation from a swashbuckler’s beyond. Maybe there was good reason for tearing the joint down. Rick Nelson’s stay has its own gothic flavor, considering the singer’s isolation there and tragic premature finish. Matzen and Mazzone got his sons’ cooperation and their spin on weirdness round and about those troubled grounds. Christian songwriter and performer Stuart Hamblen also lived a number of post-Flynn years at Mulholland. The book finds him posed beside a mini-freezer into which a dead mountain lion’s been stuffed. If Flynn had a born-again counterpart, this flamboyant character might have been it. Maybe Errol was soul mate of a kind with all these subsequent owners. In any event, he seems to have made his ongoing presence felt with each. As is clear enough here, I found values to this book well beyond those of ordinary star gazing and Hollywood memory banking. That house he built had a life as compelling as Flynn’s own, and I salute these authors for having turned an even hand toward documenting both. Errol Flynn Slept Here can be ordered now from Matzen’s website and his price is $34.95. For what you’ll get, it’s both a bargain and an undoubted collector’s item to come.