Just the same, The Richard Burton Diaries ended up on my Kindle Fire. At first, I thought I had made a mistake. As I swiped through the digital pages, I was kinda bored, and even when "E" entered the picture, it didn’t help things. (You know who E is, right? Yeah, Elizabeth and Richard were Brad and Angelina forty-five years before. Still, wasn’t interested ... never understood celebrity and probably won’t in this lifetime.) I almost gave up on the read, but then—this is going to sound weird—I felt like I was starting to relate to this Welsh-born thespian on a personal level. Maybe it was just his thoughts on being exhausted at the end of a long work day and how he just wanted to finish the latest novel on his nightstand. That sentiment is universal, right? With pithy diary entries, I kept reading on. More often than not, the diary is dedicated to what he ate, drank, and read for leisure. Burton was a voracious bookworm and could finish a novel in a day. He lists many, and I jotted down a few he recommended. He comes across as just an average guy, and his humble way of proclaiming the absurdity of the media circus about him kept me going.
Many, many pages are devoted to E. No doubt he loved her deeply. He worries about her tiniest fears and dotes on every aspect of her life. Almost too much but obviously they were river deep, mountain high in love. They divorced in ‘75 and got together again for work on the disastrous Private Lives play. At first everything went well with their public reunion but fairly soon Burton wrote:
"ET as exciting as a flounder temporarily…. This is going to be a long seven months. ET beginning to bore which I would not have thought possible all those years ago. How terrible a thing time is."
By the way, if you like reading about the famous knocking the famous, there are plenty of those moments sprinkled about. Franco Zefferelli and Jean Moreau get hit predominantly hard. As does the director of The Maltese Falcon, “Huston is a simpleton. But believes himself to be a genius. And a self aggrandizing liar. Cunning at it.”
Still, I find the best entries to be the quiet ones devoted to the women he loved and the children he adored ... the ordinary guy—the guy I get—who just so happened to become one of the most famous actors of the 20th century.
And somewhere across time—October 5, 1966 to be exact—RB was scrawling, “In case there is any mistake. This diary is written for my own benefit.” Maybe so, sir. But I came to enjoy your ramblings and thoughts on life. I was sad when your life in these pages ended. Salud.