December 12, 1968: Actress and Bonne Vivant Tallulah Bankhead Dead.
Lizzy Carroll was only 12 when she read the headlines, but she was crushed. She had loved Bankhead's films and shows and everything the woman did! She made a promise to herself that one day, she would name her daughter after the infamous beauty.
It only took just shy of 13 years for Lizzy, now Elizabeth Buchanan, to have a daughter with her husband, Charles, and she fulfilled the promise she'd made to herself, naming Tallulah Emily Buchanan just a few hours into July 3, 1981.
As Tallulah grew up it seemed she would inherit her namesake's talent on stage and screen--though not her salacious lifestyle. By the time she was 15, Tallulah had already auditioned for hundreds of plays, commercials and television shows, and been in quite a fair number of them. When she was 19, she was cast in a summer blockbuster that brought her into the spotlight and made her one of the Hollywood elite
Through all of this, though, Tallulah kept her head. Her parents had raised her to manage her life, balancing acting with school and a social life and staying healthy through all of that. She never was one to work on too many projects at once, or let a leading role or bigger paycheck get to her head. Even as she got older and had things to pay for on her own, she kept giving a large hunk of her paychecks to her parents, repaying them for all they gave her.
She also did a good job of keeping out of the sort of trouble that seemed to follow young actors like magnets. She didn't have torrid affairs and stayed away from the wild parties of her peers. She dated, but mostly avoided any sorts of relationships with her peers, opting to meet people through the friends she'd made in her youth, before she got famous. Of course there were few of these boy who didn't recognize her almost as soon as she walked in the door, but some of them managed to keep their cool around her. She didn't think of herself as anything special; oh, sure, she knew she was pretty, and was a decently talented actress, but she just wanted to be a girl, and date, and fall in love. She didn't want all the drama of tabloid romances or infidelities. She wanted someone she could marry.
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She found that in Brandon Steward, a boy a couple years older than her, introduced by a friend of her parents'--he was their son. Their first date was something really special for Tallulah--Brandon didn't talk about her work at all. He asked her about other parts of her life, what she did in her free time, what books she liked, what music she listened to. Not once did he ask her what celebrities she'd met or if Bruce Willis was as cool in real life as he was in movies. It wasn't that every man she'd dated talked about that the whole time, but it--or something like it--always inevitably came up. But not with Brandon. In fact, none of that even entered their conversation unless Tallulah herself mentioned it, and even then, it was more often the usual types of job complaints than gossip about the Stars. And he would listen. And talk, and help her relax. And one night, right in the middle of her ramblings and rantings, he put his hand on her knee, looked her in the eye, and asked her to marry him.
She was floored. Their relationship had been going well and she really liked him, even loved him, but she hadn't been expecting this. He hadn't either, or at least, he hadn't been planning it quite for that moment, because he didn't have a ring or anything yet. That didn't matter to her, though, and as soon as she regained her faculties of speech, she told him that yes, of course she would. And of course, they celebrated the entire night.
She was hesitant to wear the ring they did eventually pick out, if only because she didn't want to draw any extra attention to the fact that she was engaged. She didn't want what had so far been effectively kept her (mostly) private life to become too incredibly public, which it would be bound to do soon enough.
When the press did find out about Brandon and Tallulah's engagement, it was all over the tabloids. They were shocked she was planning to marry someone "average" and "so below her" since she'd become something close to royalty in the Hollywood Hills. And that idea would only be bolstered by the coming news.
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Things seemed to be going great for Tallulah. She and Brandon had gotten married not long after their engagement in a small ceremony with both of their parents and his sister. Her marriage was now public, and while the tabloids had plenty to say, her friends were congratulatory and the actors she worked with didn't speak badly about Brandon. She was cast in what was promising to be the next big rom-com, another boost for her career and she was actually getting along quite well with her co-star, a huge relief considering they were playing characters in love. She didn't think things could get any better.
Unfortunately, the truth was, they wouldn't. At this point there was still potential for her life to stay good. She wasn't on a path to ruin all the things she had, like so many actresses before her, so her fall was more than a little unexpected. And it wasn't the kind of fall typical to women in her position. In fact, she had almost nothing to do with it.
Things were going well. The movie was coming along well. The cast were becoming something like a second family and the director treated them well. There was some tension with the producer, but he wasn't cutting pay or threatening to cancel the project, so everyone more or less brushed it off as something wrong with him
rather than them
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No one's exactly sure what happened. Even Tallulah is fuzzy on some of the details, but she remembers leaving the set late, after reviewing some notes with the director and heard people talking. She figured it was some of the technicians, or else paparazzi, but either way she didn't think to go investigate. Then she clearly head the producer's voice and some things she was sure she wasn't supposed to hear. She had meant to keep walking, to get home to Brandon and continue pretending that everything was just fine
with the producer, but she froze, just long enough for him to finish up with whoever it was he was with and for him to see her standing there, obviously a witness. He stopped, obviously guilty, obviously furious he'd been caught. She definitely remembers him pushing her against the wall, hard, so her head slammed against the drywall. She remembers the smell of his breath, his sweat. One hand squeezing her collarbone, just an inch below her windpipe. His knee between her legs. His threats. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Where did this come from? She had never done anything wrong in her whole life. She hadn't been planning on telling anyone what she'd heard--she wasn't even entirely sure what it was she had
She tried to act normally the next day, and the following few weeks, but it was hard. She felt like people looked at her strange, and maybe they were because she was so nervous. She wanted to talk to her husband about what had happened, but wasn't even sure if she could do that. He knew that something
had happened, obviously, despite her efforts to brush off his concern.
Apparently her acting was only good on stage, not in her real life, because it was obvious to everyone that something was wrong. The producer didn't feel secure that Tallulah would keep her trembling lips shut, and left threatening messages on her voice mail at home.
That was it. She was already having a hard time handling the threads he'd made to her, and her career, but now he was bringing her family in things. Her parents, her husband. She couldn't have that. She called him back, sobbing, begging him to please, please leave her alone. She would leave, leave Hollywood, stop acting. She didn't want anyone to get hurt. Fine, he said.
The crash looked like an accident, except that Tallulah's body was missing. And the brake lines were cut. And Tallulah wasn't known for drinking, or rash behaviour. Or leaving notes for her husband that said nothing more than "can't take it. better for you" in a shaky hand. But these things had happened and for a year Brandon was subjected to police investigations and interrogations. They finally let him relax when they realized that his grief was genuine, and that he hadn't touched a cent of Tallulah's money, even when they'd backed off of him to see if he'd do just that.
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Tallulah was lucky she had an expensive car with the most airbags that could fit into one of its size, so that when her brakes failed and she steered off the road, hitting the tree did more damage to the car than it did to her.
She had left, grabbed what clothes and personal items she could fit into one small bag and jotted an incredibly vague note to Brandon. She didn't want to break his heart, to make him think she left because of him, but she wanted him to be hurt by whatever powers were out there even less, so she knew she couldn't say much either way before she disappeared.
She was also lucky that she had crashed her car not far from a circus that was in town. It was actually its last day, they weren't even open anymore, but she went through what would have been the front gate before they'd taken down the poles and signs marking it. She asked around, how she could join up. She had plenty of talents. She would do anything. She just needed to go with them. She didn't know what else to do.
Eventually she found herself sitting in front of a desk, a contract in front of her, and then she couldn't remember much.
Over the past ten years, Tallulah has fallen from grace. Her name comes up from time to time in magazines and tabloids, but usually just being compared to some new starlett that's actually nothing like her. She misses her husband gravely, but does what she can to keep from thinking about him. She drinks, too much. She sleeps late, and with most men she meets, especially if they even think of giving her a second look. She pulls the levers and pushes the buttons that make the rides go, and makes the patrons put on their lap bars and belts. She is so, so lonely, and nothing she does will kill the memories she has of her happier life.