13 Pieces Of Unmatched Luggage And My Poodle
'My journey was particularly amazing,'' writes Bernardo Puccio, in a memoir by the celebrated interior designer to the stars.
His book contains powerful stories of courage, faith, gay marriage, and battling liver disease--and some gossip-worthy interactions with Rock Hudson and Lana Turner.
''I was a fragile boy from a small community in Birmingham, Alabama,'' writes Bernardo. ''From that humble origin I became one of California's foremost interior designers. I walked with stars and luminaries who occupied the Golden Age of Hollywood. I tasted of every fruit and still craved more.''
Bernardo shares an inspiring story to share in his new autobiography, Thirteen Pieces of Unmatched Luggage and My Poodle.
It unveils a life story that begins with Bernardo s sensitive childhood and young adult life as the son of Italian immigrants who ran a small grocery in a tiny Birmingham town. He grew up in a segregated south. He was gay at a time of hateful discrimination.
His life takes a turn when he leaves home to be with his first love, a well-known, married radio disc jockey. Five years later, Bernardo pursues a lifelong dream and moves to Beverly Hills, California--in search of fame and fortune.
The years ahead are spent creating his persona, a meteoric career, glamorous life in the fast lane of movie stars and celebrities, the AIDS epidemic and a love story sealed by marriage to his longtime partner.
Later, a dramatic turn of events culminates in a life or death decision.
Early in his career, Bernardo got to hang with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Bee Gees, design the home of Emmy-winning actor Telly Savalas (of Kojak fame), and work with Liz Taylor on fundraising that raised millions of dollars for AIDS research and treatment. Contrast the high-life and globetrotting vacations with frightening moments a decade ago when he was throwing up blood while suffering the ravages of end-stage liver disease. Through it all, the good, the bad, and all that makes up a full life, the Catholic-raised man credits his faith as having been a bulwark of strength for his soul.
Even though he had a fetish for playing with his mother's wedding dress, lacing it up daily as a boy, he didn't identify with being gay as a child. ''Early in my teens, I wasn't dating,'' he writes. ''I didn't know that I was gay. I didn't even know what the word 'gay' meant. Attempting to fit in I started dating a lovely Italian girl named Rita. We remained friends for many years, thereafter without any romantic notions ever attached.''
Perhaps the most shocking moment in Bernardo's book is the retelling of the only time he had sex with a woman--Hollywood screen siren Lana Turner, who, after drinking a bit much, seduced Bernardo.
''In truth, I had enjoyed that moment of sexual pleasure--and won't ever forget it,'' he writes. ''I had sex with Lana Turner and physically liked it. So where was I to go from there? I wondered more than twice. Was I even still gay? What a strange thought.''
He also talks of the time he met Rock Hudson--and regretting that he turned the hunky movie star's invitation for coffee down. He writes ''I could not believe I said no to his offer. I have always wondered how my life would have possibly changed had I gone out with him.''
Bernardo's work, charity events, and socializing allowed him to interact with Danny Thomas, Tony Curtis, Burt Reynolds, Phil Donahue, Whoopi Goldberg, Carol Burnett, Shirley MacLaine, Rod Stewart, others. His favorite was Elizabeth Taylor, whom he said he was privileged to meet and work side by side with on a humanitarian cause.
Bernardo, whose work has been praised by Architectural Digest, LA Magazine, LA Times, Designers West, and numerous publications, says his memoir ''is a true story of survival.''