1. I was an hour and a half late when meeting Christine Shields for the first time.
2. I forgot my camera.
3. I forgot my notebook. I did have a pen.
4. I didn’t record a thing all day.
5. Christine is a wonderfully warm lady, gracious and smart, with a great sense of humour and fun. She has her mother’s delicate features and her father’s tenacity. The biggest challenge of my day was to keep up with her pace. She has no doubt that her mother’s spirit is flitting around us, and has given her approval to however I choose to write this book, as long as I respect her memory.
WHAT A DAY.
Richie, the wonderful new man in my life, (our sat nav), and I have fallen out. He’s very lucky he wasn’t turfed out on the side of the freeway to fend for himself. But my connection with Christine was a lot better, and questions have been answered.
We visited the apartment on North Cherokee, and the house where Christine was born and Aideen died at 1535 Sierra Bonita. (While I was suggesting tentatively that we might ask to look around it, she was already ringing the door bell.) We also stopped by Barry Fitzgerald’s home and openly discussed his personal life. I saw the church where Aideen regularly attended mass, and learnt that the priest to whom she regularly confessed later married Boss and Laurie (his third wife). There were more photos: finally the photos of Aideen and Boss I’d wanted to see – together, happy, enjoying their young daughter. Much of what Christine shared with me, I’ve yet to process and some of it, I’ve agreed never to make public. But finally, there are things I know for certain.
That there were times when Aideen was desperately lonely and miserable and wanted to go home, but she hid her disgust with Hollywood from Boss.
That Aideen was never able to reconcile with her father, and that her younger sister went even further in disgracing in the family name, but Christine did meet with her aunts.
That Aideen did have girlfriends in New York to shop and have dinner and cocktails with, and that she did have a good female friend here in Hollywood after Frolie died, to take trams around the city and go to movies with.
That she was a much-loved stepmother to Adam when he arrived from Ireland, and that Christine grew up surrounded by aunts, cousins and wonderful friends, with Laurie as a fantastic step-mother who encouraged her to get to know her Mom. Christine also met Charlton Heston.
That Aideen had not just admirers, but relationships with other men. Possibly because I also finally know that she wanted to have children for a long time. Her love for Arthur Shields both defined and unmade her life.
‘All I want is to be with you, even if it’s in Timbuctoo …’ she wrote to him in January 1947, when he was staying in the Hotel Algonquin in New York. And boy, did she mean it.
But one new question: What would the good Catholic Irish colleen Aideen have made of having a daughter who worked in law enforcement in San Francisco, carrying a gun at all times?!
Enough for one day. I’m about to crawl into bed so that I can be up early enough to try and keep pace with a woman who is in her mid-60s and has a heart problem … And probably to try and make it up with Richie.