Vodka, Rancho Mirage and Constant Chaos: Finishing The Betsy


Sinatra and Agnew


Frank Sinatra and Spiro Agnew in the early 70’s, when Agnew was still Vice-President.

Of course, he was Sinatra’s guest partner playing golf at one of Palm Springs premiere tournaments. Harold Robbins was standing behind the photographer, possibly making notes for his next novel. Harold was staying in Rancho Mirage while trying to finish his latest novel, The Betsy, and he spent several hours talking with Agnew after this pic was taken. Who knows maybe the Agnew conversation became a character in The Pirate, written several years later! Those characters in his books were always formulating in his writer’s caldron of creativity.

Harold spent another two days in the desert to get The Betsy almost completed. He would make his final push (at least 50 pages were left once he arrived in New York). He thrived on the publisher’s deadline pressure, as well as his attorney’s, editors and others who were waiting completion that was always a horserace to the finish. This high energy atmosphere ignited Harold’s creative juices.

The scene was familiar by now to his posse. He went to the Hotel Elysee, his favorite at the time, get his regular suite which was in constant chaos with editor, Herbert Alexander sitting beside him and Harold hammering out his final pages; drinking coffee, smoking kazillions of cigarettes. Bob Gleason, an apprentice to Alexander at that time, delivering Beluga caviar, Scotch (for Harold’s attorney, Paul Gitlin and iced Vodka to serve with the caviar. Oh…I almost forgot there were girls wandering in and out of the bedroom, usually dancers from the Copa! And Harold would be deep into his characters and story despite the frenetic activity that always swirled around him. He was the “eye” in the storm and of the storm. The genius worked.

Harold was forever the brilliant master at creating his environment to complete the book, meet the deadline, and get the check…. and then he partied.  At 7 AM on the morning he completed The Betsy and all of his team ecstatic because this book would pay the taxes and Robbins would be debt-free they stood in the suite congratulating him. Between bites of bagel, lox and cream cheese, he smiled and accepted their kudos. He finished his breakfast, lit a cigarette, took a sip of hot, steaming coffee and proudly pulled out a photo of an 89 foot yacht he had just purchased (again putting him into debt). Hours later, he was off to Detroit to deliver the book to the Ford family and the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. Next stop…Cannes where the 89 foot beauty was waiting for him.

Harold’s was off to meet the next girl, the next book and his next adventure!


~ by haroldrobbinsnovels on September 27, 2010.

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