LOS ANGELES -- The story goes that their love affair began the moment they laid eyes on each other, in the elevator of a swank Manhattan apartment building in 1947. A few weeks later, the exotic-looking writer and the strapping young actor were driving to California on an adventure that would eventually lead to marriage.
There was one problem: Anaïs Nin, the prolific diarist who would become a feminist heroine, already was married. Rupert Pole, the actor who left New York to become a forest ranger -- and eventually guardian of one of literature's most labyrinthian legacies -- spent years pretending not to care that his wife was a bigamist.
``We had a wonderful, deep relationship," Mr. Pole, who was 16 years younger than Nin, told the Vancouver Sun several years ago, ``and that is what counted."
Mr. Pole, 87, who was found dead July 15 in his home in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles after a recent stroke, was Nin's literary executor.
After her death in 1977, he oversaw the publication of four ``unexpurgated" volumes of her erotic journals, which exuberantly detailed her affairs with such men as the novelist Henry Miller, the psychoanalyst Otto Rank, and her own father, the Spanish composer Joaquin Nin. Seven previous volumes, which had been purged of much of the salacious material -- as well as most references to her husbands -- had established Nin as a cult figure, revered by many in the women's movement for her embrace of sexual freedom and exploration of the female psyche.
The uncensored diaries overseen by Mr. Pole sold thousands of copies and introduced Nin's work to a broader audience. Writer Erica Jong, a latter-day advocate of women's sexual freedom, called them ``one of the landmarks of 20th-century literature."
That they would be ushered into literary history by an actor-cum-forest ranger who later taught science for many years at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Silver Lake gave a uniquely Los Angeles tale an unexpected twist.
Mr. Pole, born in Los Angeles, was the son of actors Helen Taggart and Reginald Pole. Young Rupert spent his early childhood living among American Indians in an adobe house in Palm Springs, where his father had moved to obtain treatment for a respiratory problem.
After divorcing his father, his mother married Lloyd Wright, the architect-son of Frank Lloyd Wright. The younger Wright had designed a house for Taggart's mother in Griffith Park, where Mr. Pole lived before moving into Lloyd Wright's house in Beverly Hills around 1929.
A music lover who played the guitar and viola, Mr. Pole studied at Harvard University and earned a degree in music in 1940. He was briefly married to a Wright cousin, Jane Lloyd-Jones, and performed in United Service Organizations shows with her.
According to a Nin biographer, Noel Riley Fitch, Mr. Pole had completed a run on Broadway in ``The Duchess of Malfi" and was working as a printer when he met Nin in the elevator. Both were heading to a party given by Hazel Guggenheim McKinley, an heir to the Guggenheim fortune.
Nin conversed all evening with Mr. Pole, who was ``stunningly handsome, with the finely chiseled facial features and slim, muscular body found more frequently on Greek statuary than human beings," wrote Deirdre Bair, another Nin biographer. Not only did Nin find him physically irresistible, she was impressed by his emotional sensitivity and knowledge of Eastern philosophies. The night she met him, Nin, who was 44 to his 28, wrote in her diary: ``Danger! He is probably homosexual."
To her vast relief, she soon discovered that Mr. Pole was not only thoroughly heterosexual but far more adept in bed than Hugh ``Hugo" Guiler, the New York banker whom she had married in 1923. When Mr. Pole, who was under the impression Nin was divorced, asked her to go west with him, she told Guiler that she was going to help a friend drive to Las Vegas. That pretense was her first step toward bicoastal bigamy.
She accompanied Mr. Pole to Los Angeles, where he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, to study forestry. After a year, he transferred to UC Berkeley and lived with Nin in a San Francisco apartment. Upon graduation he joined the forest service and was assigned to a station in the San Gabriel Mountains. In contrast to her pampered life in New York, Nin lived with Mr. Pole in a cabin in Sierra Madre, where she scrubbed the floors, babysat the neighbors' children, and was known as ``Mrs. Anaïs Pole," though she and Rupert were not yet married.
Still legally Mrs. Guiler, Nin juggled both relationships by shuttling between the two coasts every several weeks. She told Guiler that she needed to spend time on the West Coast to escape the pressures of New York. She told Mr. Pole that she had to go to New York on writing assignments. Once, when Mr. Pole called her at the New York apartment she shared with Guiler, she convinced Guiler that Mr. Pole was just a deranged admirer.
Both men apparently chose to believe her lies, which became so voluminous that she wrote them down on index cards and locked them in a box so that she could keep her stories straight. She referred to the web of lies as her ``trapeze."
She often referred to her first marriage as an ``imprisonment" and was loath to take on a second. When she finally married Mr. Pole in 1955, she said she had ``exhausted all the defenses I could invent," according to a diary passage quoted by Bair.
She was Mrs. Pole for 11 years, until she finally grew too fearful of the legal consequences of having two husbands who claimed her as a dependent on their tax returns. Before invalidating their marriage in 1966, she told Mr. Pole about Guiler, explaining that she could not divorce the banker because of his decades of financial support and remarkable tolerance of her many absences and indiscretions.
Ultimately, Mr. Pole was the man with whom Nin chose to spend her last years. After scrimping from his salary as a forest ranger and later as a teacher, he built a small house in Silver Lake that was designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, Mr. Pole's half-brother and grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1962. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the mid-1970s, she gave up her bicoastal shuffle and lived exclusively with Mr. Pole until her death in 1977 at age 73.
Accounts vary as to whether she ever admitted her bigamy to Guiler. According to Bair, who had access to Nin's unpublished diaries for her 1995 book ``Anaïs Nin: A Biography," she did not. But Tristine Rainer, a Los Angeles writer who knew Nin and Mr. Pole, said the famous diarist told her that she finally did confess to Guiler. ``When Nin was dying," Rainer said, ``she asked both husbands to forgive her, and they did."
Asked once how he endured such an unorthodox relationship for 30 years, Mr. Pole acknowledged that he had often felt jealous. Nin had bifurcated her life so successfully that her obituary in the Los Angeles Times named Mr. Pole as her husband, while The
The uncensored diaries, collectively titled Nin's ``Journal of Love," received mixed reviews, with some critics, such as Katha Pollitt in an assessment of ``Incest" for The New York Times, questioning their reliability. In a published reply to Pollitt, Mr. Pole invited skeptics to check the original diaries, housed in a special collection at UCLA.
According to Wright, Mr. Pole completed work on another unexpurgated volume -- one that covers Nin's last years -- but arrangements for its publication have not been made.
Mr. Pole finally met Guiler a few years after Nin's death. They communicated periodically ``on a friendly basis, or a mutual-husband basis," Wright said.
When Guiler died in 1985, Mr. Pole honored his wishes and sprinkled his ashes in Santa Monica Bay, not far from where Mr. Pole had scattered Nin's remains.