Has anyone ever looked around at today's world and wondered how our generation got to be so diverse from our parents on terms of society's opinions of homosexuality, sex, femminism, drugs and even mental illness? Wondered why these things are so celebrated today yet were so "hush hushed" about when our parents where growing up in the 60's and the 70's? Answer ladies and gentlemen: Jackie Susann. Though associated typically with "Valley of the Dolls" and its dwellings on the early drugs world of the 20th century, Jacqueline Susann inadvertantly formed the world of freedom and expression that we know today, by daring to write and dwell in such taboos that were shunned, ignored or completely misunderstood during the mid-20th century.
Her major credit was the drug scene. Drug dependency and abuse did exist long before Susann started publishing her novels, it was simply misunderstood. After 'Valley of the Dolls' was published in the early 60's, drugs dependency statics as well as Jackie's book sales soared. Whether the two instances are related or simply coincidence would be left up to the intellectual to decide. With 'Valley' Susann glamorized the world of drugs leaving the public obviously fascinated for by the 70's Valium had become the leading number one prescribed drug. Today if we look at society and no matter of what economic position they are in or even if they have even heard of 'Valley of the Dolls' if they practice the "art" of pill popping, it stems almost directly from Jacqueline Susann's best-seller.
Though the number of dependencys, suicides, and in some rare cases murder associated with such drug abuse would make Jackie look like the equivelant of Hitler on terms of human suffering, what we must remember is that when Susann wrote her novels (especially 'Valley') she wrote them as exposes(accent e). As in to say "this is what goes on behind all closed doors, people". But with 'Valley' and her other succession of novels and novella, Susann unbeknownst to even herself was pro-femminist in style. Jackie's 'Valley of the Doll's (along side contemporary Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar') gave birth to the femminest revolution, be depicting the inner turmoil and madness of the female world dominated by the patriarcal society.
Yet Susann's novels not only launched the femminist revolution but also went a step further and layed seeds for the sexual revolution. Susann's depictions of homoerotica can literally be chronologically charted like a fever. Her first novel 'Yargo' which wasn't published until after her death, had no depictions or homosexual references, though some depictions of her Yargonian society organized by intellectual sexuality and libidinal freedom in the novel could arguably be considered the beginning of Susann's literary bi-curiousity. Her second work and first official publishing was 'Every Night Josephine' which contained homosexual references and by doing this showed that Susann as a writer recognized that homosexuality existed. Susann's third work and second publishing 'Valley of the Dolls' reached a fever pitch when it came to Jackie's bisexuality. Jackie's 'Dolls' broke literary and social barriers, when it came to sexuality (even pushing to the max with heterosexuality), Susann depicted sex scenes of every orientation (homo as well as hetero). And when it came to logistics and reasoning behind acting upon bi-urges or any sexual tendancy, Susann backed the reader with explaination and thoughts from the characters as to why they felt the way they did, be it whatever sexual orientation. There is most notably between her characters Anne Welles and Jennifer North towards the end of 'Dolls' where Jennifer explains to Anne that there is no difference in emotion when it came to heterosexuality and homosexuals. That love was universal no matter which body it was expressed through. This attitude of "queer fever" heightened as her novels succeeding 'Dolls'. Susann's 'The Love Machine' was the first of its kind to depict gay sex between two men, while 'Once is Not Enough' was dripping with lesbian sex and was reknowned for its orgy scene. Unfortunately her fever was abruptly broken with her last work, the novella 'Dolores', for although it depicted a gay character, did not contain the same amount of sexual intrigue that her preceding works did. This was most likely do to the fact that Susann penned this work out while she was on her death bed. Subsequently she did not have opportunity to make revisions to the work. We will probably never fully recieve Susann's true creative vision of scandol and taboo for after her death her husband Irving Mansfield allowed contemporary writers of the time to finagle the manuscripts and make as many editations to it as they pleased. In doing so they reduced it to novella status that it today, and Susann's original notes for the story where either destroyed or are hopefully still kept by her estate.
We know for a fact that Susann was bisexual and the reader with a trained eye can see in 'Dolls' and her later works that she may well have even been bourderline lesbian. For we often see in several of her main female characters(Which she frequently said she based a little bit of herself on) that she even revulsed at kissing a man. Mainy friends of hers and her biographers have said that she may well have only married her husband Irving Mansfield for economic reasons, while Susann went off having affairs with such stars such as actress Carole Landis(whom the lesbian affair in 'Dolls' is based), fashion designer Coco Chanel and actress Ethel Merman (whom Jackie tried to kill herself over and was sent to an institution for which).
In every sense Jacqueline Susann crowned herself Queen of the Bi Nation, being loved to this day by Bisexuals, Bipolars and Biphetamine addicted fans, by showing the worlds that this is life. Susann wrote it all, and wrote it in style. The world was a different place when Susann was alive. But Jackie changed all that by merely lifting her fingers in conjunction to the lettered keys of her hot pink type writer from which spawned the novels that allow the generation of today to openly express and ultimately celebrate and ingulge in such things as homosexuality, women's rights, insanity, suicide attempts, depression and ultimately Love.
- an essay by D. Babcock