Tag Archives: Renee Patrick

A day in the life of Edith Head by Renee Patrick

As reported by Miss Head’s close personal friend and confidante, Miss Lillian Frost, formerly of Flushing, New York and crowned Miss Astoria Park of 1936.

Los Angeles, California. December 1938.


Morning does not greet Edith Head, bespectacled queen of costume design at Paramount Pictures, as it does us lowly mortals. Morning comes for Miss Head, in the words of the poet Carl Sandburg, on little cat feet. She is awakened in her palatial estate by a chorus of birds chirping in flawless harmony. She dines upon a breakfast of the freshest eggs while contemplating the day’s wardrobe, selecting her attire being so time-consuming an affair that she rises out of necessity with the sun.

Soon she is whisked to work, police escorts from multiple jurisdictions stopping traffic at each intersection to speed her arrival. Miss Head’s mind is already awhirl as she travels. Inspiration is everywhere, the clouds overhead suggesting the drape of fabric. She arrives at her studio salon, a taste of Paris under the palm trees. Famous faces from the silver screen await, eager to absorb her acumen. Miss Head makes subtle suggestions, each accepted as gospel truth. There are no questions. There is only admiration. For luncheon, she—

Sorry. I can’t keep this gag up. I’m no Jack Benny.

Here’s all you need to know about my friend Edith Head: she’s busy. Proof of that pudding is you’re hearing about a day in her life from yours truly instead of the McCoy. Edith? She simply doesn’t have the time.

I can’t tell you when she wakes up because no one’s ever seen the woman sleep. I can tell you she doesn’t live in a palatial estate but a darling cottage on the Silver Lake Reservoir that makes you feel like you’re in Italy. Or at least I assume so. I haven’t yet sallied to the Continent.

Edith drives herself to work, her roadster a winged fury striking fear in the hearts of motorists and pedestrians alike. She’s the first person to arrive at the studio and will be the last to leave. Her office smells faintly of paint because she’s just finished redecorating. Edith hasn’t been Paramount’s top designer very long. Ignore the soft soundtrack of whispers suggesting she pushed her predecessor and mentor Travis Banton aside. It’s the bunk. Her job isn’t so much designing wardrobe for Paramount films as it is walking a tightrope. All day long she deals with directors who don’t understand clothes and actresses who think they’re the next Elsa Schiaparelli. I love Claudette Colbert as much as the next starry-eyed fan—Did you see her in Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife with Gary Cooper?—but she told Paramount brass Edith is no better than an art student. An art student! Yet Edith smiles and goes about her business, namely making everyone around her look better.

That includes me. I met Edith last year, when I was a lowly department store salesgirl who’d traded dreams of stardom for steady employment. Then my former roommate was found murdered, wearing an Edith Head original purloined from Paramount. The police initially suspected me. I don’t know why. I don’t look a thing like Peter Lorre. Fortunately Edith got me out from behind the eight ball. She figured out who the real killer was—with a little help from me, I like to think, plus a gracious assist from my favorite movie star, Barbara Stanwyck.

Edith also proved instrumental in my securing gainful employment as social secretary to movie-mad millionaire and all-around good egg Addison Rice. Addison loves pictures so much he’s always willing to let me slip away to visit Edith at the studio—and even, on occasion, to do her a favor.

For instance, she wants me to help Marlene Dietrich find a missing piano player. Marlene is toying with a nightclub act—if you ask me, she’d be swell —but her usual accompanist has disappeared. She’s convinced the Nazis had something to do with it, and I told her that world affairs are a good bit out of my league. But Edith insists that’s just Marlene’s flair for the dramatic. A few phone calls are all that will be required. So naturally I agreed.

I’d do anything to help Edith. And I know she’d never put me in a situation where I don’t look my best.

You can read more about Edith in Dangerous to Know, the second book in the “Lillian Frost & Edith Head” series.

Los Angeles, 1938. Former aspiring actress Lillian Frost is adjusting to a new life of boldfaced names and endless glamour as social secretary to a movie-mad millionaire. Costume designer Edith Head is running Paramount Pictures’ wardrobe department—though her position is precarious and her eight Academy Awards are far in her future.

Lillian recently attended a swanky Manhattan dinner party at which well-heeled guests insulted Adolf Hitler. Now, a vengeful housemaid with Nazi sympathies has all New York society running for cover—and two Paramount stars, Jack Benny and George Burns, facing smuggling charges. Lillian tries to lay low while the studio is in an uproar over the scandal, but she has no such luck. Edith asks Lillian to look into the disappearance of Jens Lohse, the émigré pianist in Marlene Dietrich’s budding nightclub act, as a favor to Dietrich. Lillian reluctantly agrees, and soon finds him—dead.

Dietrich blames agents of the Reich for his murder, and Lillian investigates further. Could Hollywood—thought to be a safe place for German exiles and émigrés—be hiding a sinister Nazi element beneath its glitzy veneer? As Lillian and Edith unravel intrigue that extends from Paramount’s Bronson Gate to FDR’s Oval Office, only one thing is certain: they’ll do it in style.

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About the author
Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington. Their debut novel, Design for Dying, is nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery and a Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel.

You can friend Renee on Facebook , follow her on Twitter at (@RPatrickBooks) and Instagram at reneepatrickauthor, and find more information at her website: reneepatrickbooks.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Dangerous to Know is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.

A Day in the Life of Lillian Frost by Renee Patrick

Design For DyingLos Angeles, California. November 1937.

Coffee. That’s the first, second and third order of business after a restless night with a busy day ahead.

Step one, rinse out the percolator and pry open the coffee can. So far, not so good. There’s just enough java left to make an eyedropper’s worth.


I bought a new can last week. Didn’t I? I don’t understand how I can misplace food in a kitchen the size of a phone booth. It takes two sorties to unearth the unopened tin of Chase & Sanborn. Soon, the invigorating aroma of coffee fills the air.

While the pot perks away I don my lucky navy blue suit. With its high-waisted skirt and slim jacket I’ll look every inch the professional saleslady. Today it’s vital I look my best. I’m facing a test of sorts, hence the rough sledding through Slumberland.

Tremayne’s Department Store will be my proving ground. It may not be downtown’s largest or chicest shopping emporium. But we strive to outfit our patrons in elegant yet affordable ensembles. We even hold regular fashion shows spotlighting our exclusive lines.

Last week, after I’d hounded him daily, my boss Mr. Valentine finally relented and allowed me to select the peignoir set that would serve as the finale in today’s sartorial soiree. Blotting his forehead with a vermillion pocket square he’d proclaimed, “We shall see, Miss Frost, if your eye for fashion is as keen as your voice is relentless.”

Dressed and with half a cup of coffee in me, I consider nourishment. I scavenge two heels from the breadbox and a jar of orange marmalade from the cupboard. One of the girls at Tremayne’s made it herself. Her father owned an orange grove, she’d said. I didn’t believe her at first. I’m a city girl through and through. To me farmers are more otherworldly than movie stars.

If I make a good impression this morning, I’ll get a leg up in my new career. Not that my last career had ever taken off.

I came to Hollywood like so many others, convinced I’d see my name – Lillian Frost! – in lights. And why not? Bronson gateI’d won a beauty contest back home in New York (although my red velvet bathing suit deserved most of the credit). The prize of a screen test tempted me onto a westbound train. I soon learned movie star dreams come a nickel a gross.

My then-roommate Ruby Carroll knew that from the start. “Talent only gets you so far, mermaid,” she’d say, “mermaid” being the nickname she’d bestowed upon me because of that velvet swimsuit. “In this town it’s who you know. And who knows you.” And I knew no one. One disastrous screen test later, I scampered to Tremayne’s seeking steady employment.

I’m too jittery to think about work now. I need distraction. I slip downstairs and borrow my landlady Mrs. Quigley’s newspaper. On the front page there’s more about the “Alley Angel,” a mysterious young woman found dead close by. Too close by. I shudder and page quickly to Lorna Whitcomb’s gossip column, craving news of Hollywood notables.

I hope to find Ruby mentioned in Lorna’s column someday. She’s still plugging away for her big break, supporting EdithHead1936herself with the occasional day job. Her last was as a wardrobe girl at Paramount Pictures. I can’t deny I envy her, working behind the scenes making movie magic alongside a genius like Travis Banton. Paramount has a girl costume designer now, too, name of Edith Head. One of the movie magazines profiled her. I clipped the article, thinking that would be my dream job, tailoring togs for leading ladies. Too bad my drawing is as bad as my acting.

Breakfast done, I check my change purse for streetcar fare to Tremayne’s and send up a quick prayer to Saint Lucy, patron of salesmen (and presumably –women). I adjust my cream-colored hat in the mirror and manage not to wake the neighbors with a terrified yelp when I spot motion behind me. Miss Sarah Bernhardt struts across the window sill. The landlady’s dusky Burmese cat had deigned to visit my abode. I decide to treat her appearance as an omen.

“Wish me luck, Miss Sarah.” I close the door behind me, and set out to make my mark in the world.

Design for Dying is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Lillian Frost and real-life Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. It was published in April 2016 by Forge Books.

Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl … until she discovers she’s a suspect in the murder of her former roommate Ruby Carroll. Party girl Ruby died wearing a gown she stole from the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures, domain of Edith Head.

Edith has yet to win the first of her eight Academy Awards; right now she’s barely hanging on to her job, and a scandal is the last thing she needs. To clear Lillian’s name and save Edith’s career, the two women join forces. Unraveling the mystery pits them against a Hungarian princess on the lam, a hotshot director on the make, and a private investigator who’s not on the level.

All they have going for them are dogged determination, assists from the likes of Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, and a killer sense of style. In show business, that just may be enough. . .

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Meet the author
Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

You can friend Renee on Facebook, follow her at @rpatrickbooks or find more information at her website: reneepatrickbooks.com

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Design For Dying. The giveaway will end July 27, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!