Billie Greene - Former Secretary to Joan Crawford
“I believe I am quoted [in Christina’s book regarding the strangling incident] to have said something like, “Stop, you’ll kill her.” There was a point where they were having an argument. What precipitated it was possibly one of many misunderstandings. Or where Christina had lied to Joan, and the hostility was getting greater. Joan came towards her and give her a good swat, and hit her towards the neck area.
I remember at one point taking Joan’s arm when it was in midair and saying, “I want you to stop. You’re going to hurt her.”
This was not for Christina’s sake. This was for Joan’s sake. No one wants to see anyone out of control. I can tell you that I’d never seen any discipline towards Christina or towards the other children that I would call out of control.
There was not brutality that night. Possibly there was rage. I can’t conceive of the distortion, unless Christina had a deep-seated plan, a vendetta that was present even when she was 14.
Christina lied often for absolutely no reason. [The book] was a pack of lies that made your hair stand on end. I have utter contempt for Christina.
When Christina was at Chadwicks, she would tell some lies. Like the lengths Joan would go through to see that she had everything to get back to school. Shoes, dresses, etc. I don’t know what Christina would do with them between Brentwood and school, but she would arrive with a couple of beat up, old dresses and the call would come from Chadwicks. “Couldn’t you send this girl one decent thing to wear?”
I got Christina in my office one day and said, “Christina, what did you do? All those things we picked out and packed and got ready for you that you chose?” She said, “I gave them to my friends,” and I said, “What does this do? Make you a hero with your friends?” and she said, “No, I just wanted to.” I said, “Don’t you know what you do to your mother when you make her look cruel and evil and selfish?” and she said, “No, it’s just something I like to do. I like to give my clothes away.”
On more than one occasion I found Christina to be an opportunist, dishonest and distorting everything, every single actions of her mother.
I take such a terrible view of what she’s done and when I heard about the book and its contents, I was sickened about it because I knew what kind of mother Joan was. I remember we used to go to Chadwicks to see Christina in plays. There was no one more supportive in the world. I remember the look of Joan holding Christina by the shoulders and saying how proud she was, and Christina was looking around at everybody and thinking, “Look at my mother.”
Those children came first. She was a beautiful mother. A strong disciplinarian. She didn’t try to win points with the children. She didn’t woo them. She said “I’m raising them as good citizens."
I never once saw Joan drunk. I was there, working for Joan for a year and four months. I had formerly been a casting director. I thought I would like to work for Joan Crawford, and I sent a wire to her business manager and she called me. I would say I’ve never had a better employer. I found it easy to work for her because she was a total professional."
- Billie Greene, unpublished interview (1980)
Excerpts from Christina Crawford's "Mommie Dearest," regarding the incident Billie Greene rebukes in the above interview:
(These excerpts are offered here for the purpose of research, education and criticism per the Fair Use criteria of U.S. Copyright law)
"...Toward the middle of that week, things eased off a bit and settled into just the normal bullshit routine of whispering in the mornings and abiding by the rules. Mother had a friend who was visiting from the East and she’d invited the woman to have dinner with us one night.
...We were nearly home and I was literally counting the minutes until I could safely escape to my room when Dorothy asked me how school was going. I had been sitting silently in the back seat until then, seemingly unnoticed by either of them. I replied that I liked school very much.
Dorothy asked me about several people’s children that she knew who were also at Chadwick. One of the students had been expelled. I told her that I thought one of the students she mentioned had some trouble and had been expelled. With that Mother turned halfway around to momentarily face me, while driving full speed ahead, and icily inquired who was I to say anything about anyone else, since I’d been expelled too. Once we were inside the house I went to my mother when I found her alone and asked her why she’d told Dorothy I’d been expelled when it wasn’t true.
Mother hauled off and hit me across the side of my head so hard it made my ears ring. She told me in no uncertain terms that she’d decide what the truth was and that considering how much I lied no one believed me anyway no matter what I said. All I said was “That’s not true” and she slapped me across the face again. I was so mad I didn’t cry even though it really hurt. I just stood there staring right back at her, determined that I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of seeing one tear. She slapped me hard several times again and then stepped back saying, “You love it don’t you … you just love to make me hit you.”
By this time her friend Dorothy was in the room and saw the last time she slapped me. Only because Mother didn’t want Dorothy to have any more information about our happy Hollywood home, Mother called me into the bar to finish our conversation. I followed her into the little room where the drinks were fixed. She sat on the counter top and asked me why I insisted on arguing with her. I answered that I didn’t wish to argue, but that I also didn’t appreciate her telling people that I’d been expelled from school, which wasn’t true. I said I thought she was supposed to be the one who was more understanding since she was the parent and the adult. From the distance of this much time, it may not sound like it now, but this was the wrong thing to say to my mother at that particular moment in the time and space of our lives. It triggered something in her, the likes of which I never saw before and hope never to see again. It struck at some volcanic trauma in the center of her being that erupted with a violence, a hatred and a suddenness that plunged us both into an instantaneous struggle for survival. She leaped off the counter and grabbed for my throat like some mad dog … like some wild beast … with a look in her eyes that will never be erased from my memory.
I was caught totally defenseless and staggered backward, carried by her momentum. I lost my footing and fell to the floor, hitting my head on the ice chest in the fall. The choking pain of her fingers around my throat met the thudding ache of the blow to the back of my head. She banged my head on the floor, tightening her grip around my throat. Her face was only a few inches away from mine and she was screaming words at me I couldn’t even hear. Her mouth was twisted with rage and her eyes … her eyes were the eyes of a killer animal, glistening with excitement.
I gasped for air and felt myself sinking into unconsciousness as I tried desperately to fight back … to free myself. All I could think of was that my own mother was trying to kill me. If something or someone didn’t help me very soon I was going to die. I tried with the last bit of my strength to struggle free of those choking fingers and managed to wedge one of my knees between her body and mine and push upward on her ribs with my hands which loosened her grip slightly. It at least allowed a trickle of air down my throat and kept me from losing consciousness. Now I fought back harder. I didn’t want to die. I completely forgot that she was my mother. She was trying to kill me and if I had the strength I would try to kill her first. She was terribly strong and all I could do was concentrate on loosening her grip on my throat.
The next thing I knew the door opened and the secretary Billie burst into the small room, no larger than a hallway with counters on both sides. “My God, Joan … you’re going to kill her …,” Billie yelled. She tried to pull Mother away from me. Though Billie was also a strong woman, it took her some time to separate the two of us. When Billie had succeeded in pulling us apart, Mother continued to hit me across the face. I felt her ring cut my lip and saw some blood on her hand. “Joan … Stop … Stop … you’re going to kill her!” Billie yelled again. Finally Mother allowed herself to be pulled away from me and sank into Billie’s arms sobbing. I lay on the floor several minutes trying to catch my breath and get my bearings. My head was throbbing and I had a hard time swallowing, but nothing seemed to be broken. I raised myself to a sitting position slowly to test whether or not I was all right. Through her tears Mother ordered me to go up to the middle room and get into bed. Someone would be up to lock me in there."