Victor, arguably the most famous literary agent in the world, had been called on to broker a deal for the Hollywood star’s memoirs, co-authored by the celebrated British journalist Peter Evans.(“I either write the book or sell the jewels,” Gardner had told Evans when she first contacted him about the project, “and I’m kind of sentimental about the jewels.”) As a man with a client list that includes Nigella Lawson — one of his closest friends and about whom he is tight-lipped amid her marital trauma — Frederick Forsyth, Keith Richards and U2, Victor, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, has never been easily star-struck.
“And the lascivious nature of her life contributed to that sex goddess perception.” Yet on the night of their first meeting 26 years ago, instead of the Barefoot Contessa, in walked “a prematurely old woman”, the left side of her face “frozen in a rictus of sadness”.
It would have been a hard for any woman to bear, he says, but for one called “the world’s most beautiful animal”, it was unbearably sad.
'I have to get a little pie-eyed to talk about myself, honey,’ she said.
Ava knew that she had to perform and perform she did.” Although Gardner’s default setting was flirtatious (“she really couldn’t help herself”), she could also be belligerent, foul-mouthed and pathologically late. Celebrities feel that they can be late with impunity because people will always be happy to see them.” Victor, who once came second on Tatler’s list of London’s most frequently invited guests, behind Sir Elton John, loathes being late himself, “but I’ve dealt with stars for so long that I know how to suck it up when they are”.
Gardner once turned up at 5pm for a lunch date, declared “I need a nap” and disappeared for the next five days.
As for the book, Evans was having a tough time with the ageing star, and the project was abandoned after she died, and for much of the 1990s, during which time Victor suffered leukaemia.“The stroke had really taken it out of her,” Victor sighs.“But there was a tension in the situation because she still behaved like a sex goddess.Oh, we told ourselves that we were very much in love, and our sex life helped us in that particular piece of self-deception.Once Ava got into the spirit of things, she wanted to do it all the time.However after reading excerpts from his biography , I want nothing more than to scrub that horny little perv from my brain.