We paced back and forth in front of the mausoleum and waited for the Mexican grave diggers to finish their lunch. Bruce Pedy, my father’s lawyer, looked very nervous and kept looking toward the gate of the cemetery while playing with the volume controls on his hearing aids, as if he expected the police to come screaming up the driveway with their sirens blaring.
We were there not to make a deposit, but a withdrawal, and maybe the papers were forged, but I still think Bruce was being a little paranoid. I really didn’t care. I had gotten very drunk with my father on the way over to the cemetery, and the whole undertaking (no pun intended) had already taken on a surreal quality.
My grandfather, John Barrymore, made a great deal of money in his time. He also managed to live in a style grossly in excess of what even his ludicrous income justified. When he died in 1942, he was destitute. Not only broke, but several hundred thousand dollars in debt. Everything he owned was sold by the executors of his estate to pay off these debts. Everything, that is, except what my grandmother, Dolores Costello (an actress in silent and talking pictures), managed to “acquire” from him before, during, and after their marriage. My grandfather was quite a collector. (more…)