Still, Machado remains very much a product of her past. Until now she has hesitated to discuss the juicier details for fear of exploitation. And colorful they are—so much so that as late as last December, she waffled on whether her book should focus more on the exotic family history or on her own quite scintillating exploits that started with that luncheon in Lima. (The first draft, she e-mails later, “starts in Shanghai with some references to my mother’s family and ends here in my house in Sag Harbor.”)
“He was brilliant; he was funny, handsome,” Machado recalls of Dominguín. “[I was] swept away. Of course, he swept away 10 million women, also. But it wasn’t a one-night stand. It lasted quite a long time.”
The relationship exposed her to the world of the bullfight, of which she had known nothing. “It had all the romance, the mystery, pageantry, which at this time I didn’t know.” And a cast of characters to match, worthy of a Hemingway novel. But then, Hemingway observed Dominguín’s bullfighting family relentlessly, and would soon chronicle his fierce rivalry with his brother-in-law, Antonio Ordóñez, in a Life magazine series, later published as The Dangerous Summer.
Part of the matador’s inner circle was his brother, who was also his best friend and became something of a companion-protector to Machado. Though married with children, “he was wonderful to me,” she says. “He kept me company, brought me places when Miguel couldn’t.” And there was “the little dwarf,” who “was like his jester. He was a bullfighting aficionado, and he worked in the national museum in Madrid. But whenever there was a big group, he traveled with us.”
Travel was constant, and along the way the couple spent time with a who’s who of the cultural elite of the day, many whose photos grace the walls of Machado’s den. She found Picasso “charming, flirtatious, old.” But not so Errol Flynn, whom she met at a lunch on his boat. If the vessel was glossy, she saw its owner as more slippery still. On board were his 17-year-old girlfriend and the girl’s mother. Flynn was “a punk,” Machado says, and the girl, “what you call in London a scrubber.” A visit to another boat afforded an introduction to its owner, Revlon founder Charles Revson, “a typical businessman—charming.” (Incidentally, much later she would, for 17 years, style the Revlon commercials shot by Avedon.) Machado met producers, actors, artists. “All these people. I was just there. What can I tell you?” she muses. “It wasn’t that I was running around dancing with them.” Which was for the better, as Dominguín was, “you know,”—Machado nods her head—“very jealous.”