My Starry Nights with Sue

By O'Neal, Tatum | Newsweek, October 31, 2011 | Go to article overview

My Starry Nights with Sue


O'Neal, Tatum, Newsweek


Mengers was more than just a Hollywood agent. And she threw the best parties in town.

I first met Sue Mengers in 1973. She was my dad's agent, and we would go to her fabulous house in Bel-Air, where she always had these amazing parties. She had her own butler, and I still remember the green candles that made the whole place smell like pine trees. Even with all the famous people gathered in her house, Sue stood out. She'd swoop into a room wearing one of the Zandra Rhodes silk kaftans she loved and just barge into conversations: "Hello! Hello! I'm here. It's my house. Shut up!" I remember whispering to my dad, "What's the matter with her?" Of course, at the time, I didn't really understand what an agent was.

One of the first people I remember meeting at Sue's house was Elizabeth Taylor, who was flirting with my dad. She asked him for this jean jacket he used to wear with an American flag on the sleeve, (it was the '70s, after all), and he took it off and gave it to her. In those early days, you could (and I did) meet Michael Caine, Robert De Niro after he made Taxi Driver, Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Diane von Furstenberg, and even Princess Margaret. I was once seated at a dinner next to Woody Allen. When I started cutting my food, the knife squeaked, and he glared at me and said, "Please don't ever do that. You cannot cut your food like that!" He was dead serious. I remember thinking, "This is so hard, to be a kid dealing with these neurotic people."

On other nights, I would wander around Sue's house while the grown-ups were talking, and I would snoop through her things. I'd sneak into her walk-in closet and gaze at all the clothes, especially the beaded gowns. I was always obsessed with older women's clothes. My dad was raising me, so I didn't have many other women in my life.

In 1974, when I got all the acclaim for starring in the movie Paper Moon, Sue became involved in my career. She never treated me as a child; she always treated me like I was an adult. Sue didn't have maternal instincts, but she could be like a Jewish aunt to me. She wouldn't give advice--she would just scold me. …

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