Mart Crowley on His Friend Natalie Wood



 Mart Crowley, author of the landmark play The Boys in the Band, is well regarded as one of Hollywood's great raconteurs. He has reason to be.

Crowley departed small-town Vicksburg, Miss., for the alluring lights of show business. While working for Elia Kazan on the director's 1961 tale of an ill-fated romance, Splendor in the Grass, Crowley befriended the film's beautiful leading lady, Natalie Wood. The beloved screen star asked the young gay man to work as her assistant. Crowley and Wood would not only have a professional relationship but become each other's confidant. Through Wood, Crowley would become a regular in the Hollywood party scene, frolicking with iconic figures such as Judy Garland, Rock Hudson, and Jane Fonda at Roddy McDowall's beach house. Wood would even become crucial in Crowley seeing his seminal gay-themed play produced in 1968. It was a close relationship that would last until Wood's premature, mysterious death while on the yacht she owned with husband Robert Wagner and with Christopher Walken, her final costar, in the sci-fi film Brainstorm.

Crowley's unlikely path to success is celebrated in Crayton Robey's entrancing documentary Making the Boys (now available on DVD). While discussing the film, Crowley also opens up about his close friendship with Wood, discusses her domineering mother, and vehemently disputes the claim by the yacht's captain, Dennis Davern, that Wagner was responsible for his wife's death.

The following is an excerpt from an in-depth interview with Crowley that will appear on next week.

The Advocate: What are your thoughts on this investigation into Natalie's death 30 years later?
Mart Crowley: I think it’s ridiculous. It’s obscene to suggest that R.J. [Wagner] could have harmed her. There isn’t a human being on the face of the earth that he worshiped and adored more than Natalie. He was besotted with her, and she with him in her own way. People outside of show business don’t understand that when you’re doing a film or play you sort of become like a barnacle. You gravitate onto somebody and the two of you just yada-yada about the project until everyone around you feels either left out or bored to death. They say, “For God’s sake, don’t talk about that anymore.”  Natalie formed that sort of association, as I did too, on every project. You just talk about it morning, noon, and night, whether you’re sexually involved or not, you’re just constantly talking about it. When I was doing Hart to Hart with R.J. and not her, we’d constantly talk about how to make the script better. That was the same with Chris [Walken] and her about Brainstorm. 

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