A fortunate convergence of timing and happenstance brought Busby Berkeley’s memoirs to my attention in the fall of 2009. While this book was being written, author and musical historian Miles Kreuger phoned me with the exciting news that famed cinema historian Marc Wanamaker of Los Angeles’s Bison Productions had presented him with the memoirs.
As noted within, Berkeley’s memoirs went up for auction in 1998, and I had assumed that they were in the possession of the anonymous highest bidder. The auction house (Butterfields) would not reveal the disposition of the memoirs much less the identity of the auction winner, so the search for the unique document ended before it started.
I later learned that there was no highest bidder. After the auction, the memoirs were returned to Etta Berkeley. She placed them in Buzz’s monogrammed briefcase and banished both to her small garage. After Etta’s passing, her house was being readied for sale, and—reminiscent of the final sequence of Citizen Kane—the garage was emptied without regard for the treasures it held. A nearby neighbor grabbed the briefcase and gave it to his friend Mr. Wanamaker, and it remained in his possession until Mr. Kreuger informed him of the work I was doing.
As stated, the memoirs amounted to some three hundred typed, double-spaced pages and were meant for publication as Busby Berkeley’s autobiography to be titled “Girls, Glamour, and Glory.” The pages contained proofreader’s notations, marginal additions, and crossed-out redundancies. Berkeley’s proficiency as an author was not evident, and one can assume that a skillful editor would have proffered numerous improvements.
The memories recounted in the memoirs were seen through Buzz’s rose-colored glasses. Although elucidating tidbits regarding his family,