Life as a Hollywood Love Child
Huston, Allegra, Newsweek
Byline: Allegra Huston
The Arnold episode is a sequel to my own family drama: at age 12, I learned that my dad, director John Huston, wasn't really my father.
"Allegra, I have something to tell you."
I was 12 years old when my stepmother, Cici, sat me down in her sun-filled Los Angeles living room. I'd been living with her for two years by then--and not long before this day, my dad, the film director John Huston, had run off to Mexico with her maid. My mother, Enrica Soma Huston, Dad's fourth wife, had been killed in a car crash when I was 4. So I was a veteran of upsetting news.
"John isn't really your father."
She wanted it to be good news, but it wasn't. Dad was the center of my universe, and the sun around whom almost everyone I knew seemed to revolve. Because Dad was famous (he directed The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, and many others), I was so used to being identified as "John Huston's daughter" that I couldn't think of myself as anyone else. I felt myself spinning off into some outer darkness. If I cried, my tears would stain the suede couch. Suddenly, I realized I wanted them to. I wanted to leave a mark of my pain on the fabric of the material world.
"Your real father is an English lord. He's coming to visit you tomorrow."
My "real" father? This sounded more like a fairy tale, the unpleasant kind. When he left, after a long, awkward hour, I had no idea what role he would play in my life. None would be fine with me.
Yet despite the vertigo of feeling my identity disintegrate, and the hand-me-down shame that the secrecy implied, relief began to spread through me. At least this explained some things: primarily the memory that worried at me like a terrier, of being led into a hotel room at the age of 4 and introduced to a long-armed, long-legged man smoking a cigar--Dad, John Huston--and told, "This is your father." Normal kids don't have to be introduced to their fathers. Why did I have to be told, a few months later, to call him "Daddy"? Why, until I'd moved in with him and my stepmother, had I not lived in the house where he lived? Why had a local newspaper writer referred to me as "John's adopted daughter"? …