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The Kid Stays in
the Picture 

The Kid Stays in
the Picture 


Lana Turner's lesbian daughter, Cheryl Crane, has penned her second memoir about her late, great movie star mother -- Lana: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies. Crane sits down with The Advocate to relive that fateful night she killed her mother's mobster lover, share some untold stories, and give us a sneak peek at the new photographs of their life together.

Cheryl Crane's life is like a classic Hollywood movie. Even when it swerves wildly off track every now and then, ultimately it heads right back toward a happy ending. Crane is the lesbian daughter of the late Lana Turner, one of film's most iconic women. In her new memoir, Lana: The Memories, The Myths, The Movies, Crane reveals untold stories of her life with her mother and publishes never-before-seen photographs. The book reveals Crane as a strong woman too -- someone who endured a life shrouded by melodrama only to emerge an LGBT advocate and ultimate survivor.

Crane's father, Stephen Crane -- Turner's second spouse -- was the famed restaurateur who put Luau in Beverly Hills on the map in the 1950s. He and Turner were already divorced when Cheryl was born in 1943 -- they later remarried and divorced again -- but she remained extremely close to both of them. And as a daughter of the Hollywood elite, she led a privileged life. Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli lived next door; Art Linkletter and Bing Crosby were also neighbors. Frank Sinatra was called "Uncle Frank." She was even given the proverbial pony on one of her birthdays.

But all of that couldn't keep the emotional storm clouds from blowing in -- and staying put -- for more than a decade.

In 1953, Crane was sexually molested by her stepfather, onetime Tarzan portrayer Lex Barker. Several years later, when Turner discovered the truth, Crane says that her mother held a gun to Barker's head and sent him packing. But even with Barker gone, Crane was unsettled. She ran away when she was 13.

"I think I rebelled against the whole fishbowl life that we were living," she revealed on Larry King Live in 2001. "You know, every move was fodder for somebody ... and I resented it. I just wanted to be Jane Doe."

Crane was found in downtown Los Angeles and immediately sent back home. Afterward, life became better -- for a while. Then everything went south. Suddenly, Crane was the central figure in an incident that shook Hollywood, spawned endless headlines, and found her confined to a detention cell for killing her mother's boyfriend at the time, mobster Johnny Stompanato.

On the night of Good Friday, 1958, Crane was in her bedroom when she overheard Stompanato arguing with her mother down the hall. Turner, attempting to sever her ties to Stompanato, wanted to kick him out of the house, Crane recalls. The argument escalated and Stompanato began a series of vicious verbal attacks. When Crane overheard the man threatening her mother's life -- he also said he would harm Crane and her maternal grandmother, Mildred Frances Cowan -- the 14-year-old panicked.

The next thing she knew she was downstairs in the kitchen reaching for a knife. She made her way back upstairs and found herself standing several feet from the door to her mother's bedroom. Moments later Stompanato suddenly emerged, his hand high in the air. Frightened, Crane took a step forward and stabbed him. Unbeknownst to Crane, Stompanato's hand was raised because he was carrying clothes on hangers over his shoulder.

"I was hysterical," Crane says of the event. "It was a great shock."

Afterward, she was put in custody for three and a half weeks until a jury ruled that the incident was justifiable homicide. From there, Crane was whisked away to a home for problem girls. In 1960 she escaped to live with her grandmother.

"I don't think one ever could forget something like that completely," says Crane of the stabbing, her voice drifting off. "But it's not a driving force in my life. It's something, thankfully, I lived through, with the help of both of my parents. It makes me who I am today but it's not something I dwell on."

Crane documented the incident in her 1988 bestseller Detour: A Hollywood Story, but 20 years later, she addresses it again in the new memoir, coauthored with Cindy De La Hoz (Lucy at the Movies and Marilyn Monroe: Platinum Fox). She refers to the tragedy as "The Paragraph."

"'The Paragraph' became our euphemism for the events in 1958 that made mother and me notorious the world over," she writes in the book. But the authors' true mission is to present Turner in a new light through rare photographs and personal vignettes. The result is one of the season's more engaging reads, a coffee table-size tome that cleverly balances the surreal with the sublime as it gently moves along a creative catwalk loaded with lovers, liars, and hundreds of classic Hollywood stars.

"Every section adds layers to who she was, as an actress, mother, daughter, lover, friend, and idol to legions of movie fans," Crane says. "We tried to show the real person and to fill in a lot of the things that were wondered about in public over the years, but with a humorous slant. Because the one thing about mother was that she didn't like anyone that didn't get the joke."

Turner, who died at the age of 74 in 1995, was forever idolized after being discovered at the age of 16 by Hollywood Reporter publisher Billy Wilkerson while she was sipping a Coke at a soda shop in Beverly Hills. When asked by Wilkerson if she wanted to be in motion pictures, Turner said, according to Crane's account, "I don't know. I have to ask my mother."

Turner fans may appreciate Crane's frothy nuggets throughout the book. Like Carrie Bradshaw after her, the star was a bona fide "shoe girl." At one time she had accumulated 698 pairs. Meanwhile, a 20-foot jewelry vault, built in her home closet, was where she stored valuable diamonds, pearls, and emeralds.

The memoir really shines, though, when Crane narrows her focus on more intimate details. Her mother was shy, for instance, and of her film debut in 1937's They Won't Forget -- a fitting title -- Crane writes that her mother "was absolutely mortified and wanted to crawl under the seat" when she saw herself.

But that was the film that found Turner, a 36B, wearing what would become the most talked-about formfitting sweater in cinematic history. She was immediately christened the "Sweater Girl," a moniker Crane says her mother abhorred, having once quipped, "I have done more for the sweater than the sheep, the silkworm, or the Yale football team."

Still, it only fueled Turner's ride toward superstardom. By the mid 1940s, she was starring opposite Clark Gable in several films, and her unabashed portrayal of an adulteress in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), costarring John Garfield, sent her celebrity soaring higher. The legend's steamy personal exploits, much like the case with today's celebrities, generated the most buzz. In a lengthy chapter dubbed "Lanamours," Crane chronicles the "many" men in Turner's life.

"I think men are exciting," Turner is quoted as saying in book, "and the gal who denies that men are exciting is either a lady with no corpuscles or a statue." Later Crane writes, "Marrying was a sincere desire for her. Simply put: when she fell in love, she married." Turner was married eight times, twice to Crane's father.

Of her own homosexuality, Crane says she knew she was gay when she was 8 and came out to her mother at the age of 12.

"It wasn't a great surprise," she notes. "When I first told my mother she gave me the usual, 'Oh, darling, I had a crush on my gym teacher too; you'll outgrow it.' And I was, 'No, I don't think so.' And I didn't 'outgrow' it. It was always that way."

Crane, now in her 60s, is a real estate agent and lives with her partner of 37 years, Jocelyn "Josh" LeRoy, in Palm Springs. Their first encounter is tres Hollywood, in fact. They met at a party, underneath a pool table with Marlon Brando. (Apparently Brando enjoyed having deep discussions under the billiards.) In time, the author has proven to be a true advocate for gay rights, getting the LGBT ball rolling (a bit) faster in 1985.

"Nobody [at that time] had come out happily and said, 'I am gay, I am in a relationship,'" she says. "A few people had been drug out of the closet, but Jocelyn and I were never in the closet. I was really one of the first [in Hollywood circles] to come out -- with Bryant Gumbel on the Today show -- and the reaction, all in all, from that point on, was 99% positive."

More interesting, perhaps, may be the fact that friend John Waters officiated over Crane's commitment ceremony at Pia Zadora's home in 1992. Today, she says both she and LeRoy both strongly opposed Prop. 8 and plan to "officially" marry soon. "She's my best friend, and we have an awful lot of fun together," Crane muses.

Beyond the tragic events that generated headlines in the 1950s, Crane also survived a mastectomy in 1998. "I had a lot of inner strength; I still do. It's what propped me up all these years. I learned I was capable of handling more than I thought I was. We're very strong people -- my family. "We know how to survive when we're knocked down. My mother certainly had that and I think I do too."

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