John Harding’s book, Escape from Paradise – Paperback and Kindle Versions


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It took me two and a half evenings to complete your un-put-downable book...it is a unique contribution to the appreciation of a life in Singapore. Thank you for having written it. C. V. Devan Nair, former President of Singapore.

Bought the book from Select this weekend and can't put it down! It's a great read! And so nostalgic for me—the good old days! Glen Goei, writer and director of the Miramax film That's the Way I Like It and who played the title role opposite Anthony Hopkins in the London production of M. Butterfly. Mr. Goei's latest film is The Blue Mansion - Click for the trailer!

It is a remarkable story and so full of intrigue that it reads at times like fiction.Jonathan Burnham, Editor in Chief & President, Talk Miramax Books.

“It's quite a story The legendary Alice Mayhew, Vice-President & Editorial Director, Simon & Schuster.

This book out-Dallas, Dallas. No one has written so well of the other side of paradise,Francis T. Seow, former Solicitor General of Singapore

Escape from Paradise – the Promotional Trailer

The Movie Star – from Escape From Paradise

The Movie Star

(A sample of my writing style)

Frank Sinatra, Jack's wife, Isobel Lennart (screenwriter of Funny Girl) & Jack

Frank Sinatra, Jack’s wife, Isobel Lennart (screenwriter of Funny Girl) & Jack

Jack was nothing like John. He spoke with a cultivated theatrical accent, broad as and British rs. His mannerisms, while masculine, bordered on the foppish, something from the Noel Coward era. He was dressed simply, slacks, a sports jacket, and shirt with no tie.

“Dad, why don’t we go to Alberto’s,” said John.

“Where else?” came the answer. Alberto’s was Jack’s favorite restaurant. He ate there several times a week.

The Mercedes was a bit of a squeeze for three people, so we decided to go in two cars. Jack and I would go in the Mercedes, and John would follow in the rental car.

The ride with Jack was harrowing. He was Mr. Magoo, one better. Fortunately, Alberto’s was not too far away, on Melrose, and we pulled up to the curb safely, with John right behind. Valet parking took care of the car.

Alberto’s was dimly lit, with dark wood paneling, flickering candles, and maroon tablecloths set off by a piano bar.

A tall, thin, white-haired headwaiter in a tuxedo stepped up quickly to meet us. “John, so good to see you,” he said, meaning, of course, John’s father. As we were ushered to the table, the pianist stuck up the chords of “The Way We Were.”

“Oh, God, they’re playing my theme song,” said Jack as he slid slowly into the booth.

“Your theme song?” I asked, taking the bait.

Jack arched a jaded eyebrow, “It’s from that dreadful movie that Ray Stark made about Isobel and me.”

“Yes,” John chimed in with an irreverent chuckle, “Robert Redford played Dad, and Barbara Streisand, Isobel. How could Robert Redford ever hope to play Dad?”

Jack made no response, but looked away with a bored-you’d-better-please-me face.

The crowd at Alberto’s consisted exclusively of very senior citizens—very well turned out senior citizens. Jack was the least formal of the lot, but then, I guess, he rated.

Even though we had not ordered, a fifty-something waiter, in a white shirt, with a short red jacket, arrived at the table with a single drink, which he placed in front of Jack. “Good evening, Mr. Harding, your rusty nail!”

“Thanks Bob,” said the star picking up the small glass and taking a long sip. I looked at my water glass, not knowing quite what to do. Take a drink, as though I too had been served, or just sit and shut up, which is what I did.

The menus arrived and we ordered. The food was steak-house Italian, and quite good. Given the geriatric crowd, I had been expecting hospital fare.

Jack took only a bite or two, and pushed the rest of the food around on his plate. He was an easy conversationalist, smooth and witty, but nothing very deep. I did my part by trying to tell him a bit of who I was, and that I had come to America to look into the possibility moving to Los Angeles. I don’t think Jack listened to one word of what I said—he was far more of a talker than a listener, his preferred subject being himself.

He loved to talk about old times, very old times. John did a beautiful job of steering the conversation his father’s way, with such straight-man lead-ins as, “Remember the time when . . . ?” or “Whatever happened to . . . ?”

“Oh God yes, Nobe, that was so embarrassing!” Jack turned my way. “I had just fired our cook, a Filipino, named . . .”

“Eugene,” John filled in.

“Well I had been very upset with MGM because they cut a line out of the Kissing Bandit. In the scene, Frank Sinatra was sneaking into Kathryn Grayson’s garden. The maid came running in, and the line I wrote was, ‘Your lover is coming over the garden wall.’ Well, the studio thought it had a double meaning, and so they cut it out! I had this incredible argument with the producer, Joe Pasternak, and the studio. I had written the line, and was not about to compromise my standards. Can you imagine what happened?”

“No, what happened,” I said responding quite professionally to Jack’s queue.

“Well, they let me go. They fired me! After that, I thought, why not get unemployment? Well, I went to Santa Monica to see about getting a check, and who was in the line with me, but . . .”

“Eugene,” interjected John.

“Yes, Eugene, the cook I had just fired the week before!” And so it went . . .

Dinner over, we moved for a final drink, to the piano bar. The piano player was quite good, and did a great job of accompanying anyone singing anything in any key. He did so without ever looking at the keys, and while managing a cigarette.

“John, how about ‘Makin’ Whoopee?’” the piano player said, squinting through his cigarette smoke, and playing a couple of intro chords.

Jack gave a bemused smile, and a nod. It was showtime!

Jack sang in a casual and natural voice. He was every bit as blasé as Dean Martin, and surprisingly good. Hey, was I in a scene from an MGM musical, or what? Jack’s performance was rewarded by a smattering of applause, and a standing handshake from the piano player. This drew the curtain for the evening, and, his repertoire exhausted, Jack said, “Time to go.”

Outside Alberto’s, Jack bade us a quick goodnight as the valet parking attendant eased him into his car.

“Will he be all right?” I asked John, as we drove away from Alberto’s. “He’s far more aware of what’s going on than he lets on—he’ll be just fine.”

“Was it true that ‘The Way We Were’ was about your father and Isobel?”

“Sure. I even thought so when I saw the movie. Of course, in the movie, my father was the successful one, where, in reality, it was the other way around. Dad’s career consisted mainly of Hitchcock-type walk-ons in Isobel’s movies.

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