be kind to your spouse…

…or you might wind up drowning in the ocean…like Natalie Wood.

The trick to enjoying celebrity and wealth is not allowing either to take on a life of its own. Unfortunately, too many in Hollywood lose their real identities to the ones portrayed on the screen, whether it’s in the movies or on television. Once he or she is bitten by fame, there’s an overwhelming desire to keep it going…at any cost.

Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour by Marti Rulli with former Splendour Captain Dennis Davern, reads like a thriller-soon-to-be made into a movie. Why it never made it that far is a puzzle all by itself. Probably because celebrity and wealth bought everyone’s silence…most of all…Hollywood’s.

After all, Robert Wagner was one of Hollywood’s own.

Too many lives, big and small, would have been affected…negatively. The tentacles of celebrity and wealth are far-reaching as was evident in the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Natalie Wood.

True. Natalie Wood was one of Hollywood’s sweethearts, ever since she charmed her way into our homes and hearts as the beguiling Suzy Walker in Miracle on 34th Street, an iconic favorite at Christmastime. However once Natalie Wood was found dead, there was no bringing her back. So why destroy another Hollywood star in a sordid investigation that would leave the public wondering about Tinsel Town’s morals. There was no fool-proof evidence of Wagner’s involvement in his wife’s death, so why have audiences turn away from the golden goose that was Hollywood for all who made a living within its protective confines.

What about those charged with investigating the death of Natalie Wood? Good question.

Remember Marilyn Monroe? O.J. Simpson? Robert Blake? Michael Jackson?   What they all had in common was celebrity and wealth…in varying degrees. Nonetheless, it seems anytime someone famous is involved…the rules go…bye-bye.

Everyone involved in solving the case is entangled in the celebrity and wealth surrounding the high profile personality. Whether it’s that they are overwhelmed and intimidated by the fame, or they want some of it to rub off on them.

Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour makes a compelling case against Robert Wagner as the person responsible for the death of Natalie Wood. 

The only person alive–Robert John Wagner–who undoubtedly knows how Natalie Wood got into the water, will obviously never talk about it, so exactly how Natalie got into the water may never be known, but what is known is that Wagner was with her when the “mystery” was born. What is known is that Wagner argued terribly with his wife. He was raging mad and acted upon the rage by taking a marital fight out to an open deck on his yacht. His wife was in her nightgown, arguing with him. Minutes later, she was in the water–wearing her coat–and crying to be saved.

The “mystery” of Natalie’s death would not have been too difficult to solve, certainly not for a police department and a medical examiner’s staff, had they pursued every angle of the case together. Many novices have no trouble solving it through the use of common sense. It seems the public is all that Natalie has left.

Wagner has never addressed his drastic delay in searching for Natalie. No one asks him for details. His fans defend that waiting for hours is logical, even though the number one rule in boating is to call for immediate help when someone is missing. Dennis Davern knows the proper procedures to follow when someone is missing from a boat. Wagner’s refusal to allow Davern to search for Natalie indicates that he did not want his wife to be helped: perhaps not ever to be found. Natalie’s jacket kept her afloat, helping her to be found shortly after a proper search.

Wagner then still balked on calling for professional help when harbormaster Doug Oudin pleaded with Wagner after three o’clock in the morning to allow him to call the Coast Guard. The harbormaster waited for Wagner’s approval.

Avalon Sheriff Kroll saw the inside of Splendour–the broken glass, the master stateroom in disarray–and ignored it.

While Baywatch divers hunted for Natalie beneath Splendour, diver Roger Smith said he was angry that professional help had not been called for sooner. Smith had asked Bombard not to touch Natalie’s body. “Homicide might be involved,” Smith had said. Smith obviously suspected something sinister.

Everyone’s peculiar deference to Wagner carried on throughout the morning, as each and every official in contact with Wagner after Natalie’s bruised dead body was found felt the loss of this remarkable woman and thus related to the pain they believed Wagner endured. Everyone allowed the man with the “most pain” to direct the aftermath of his wife’s death. Wagner’s grief was apparent to Duane Rasure, and although Wagner had primed Davern on what to tell authorities and on what not to offer, Rasure had been so overwhelmed with Wagner’s suffering that he let it slide when Davern reacted to Rasure with nervousness, offense, and outright lies. Rasure got mad at the “lanky, drunk guy from New Jersey” instead–and has stayed mad at him.

Wagner wanted off the island. A private helicopter was summoned. Wagner did not want to be interviewed by Rasure. Rasure let him go home. Legal assistance was ready and waiting for Wagner and Davern at Wagner’s front door. It’s what money can buy. All of the right people made the wrong decision to allow Robert Wagner to direct a crime scene.

Celebrity privilege was indeed alive and thriving on the morning of November 29, 1981, at the Isthmus of Catalina Island aboard the moored boat, Splendour. Celebrity “get out of jail free cards” may as well have been issued. Years later, when Davern told the truth, he was threatened with criminal charges and jail time if he changed the story that the attorney provided by Wagner had prepared for Dennis in 1981. Years later, that same attorney cooperated with Davern’s choice to speak with a writer from Vanity Fair.

What’s bizarre is that Robert Wagner told Davern to accompany the authorities and identify Natalie Wood’s body.

Dennis, unable to bring his eyes to focus on her, choked out, “It’s her.”

“You’ll have to look at her, Mr. Davern,” he was told. …

Dennis trembled as he forced himself to move his eyes from Natalie’s torso to her face. Her arms were exposed, and he saw the bruises. The fronts of her legs also showed bruises, far too many. Dennis wondered why her nightgown had not been pulled down to cover her exposed legs. He caught his breath when he saw that her eyes were still open. Her face appeared swollen, but not deformed, a bit greenish white in color, and her mouth had gone limp. She looks at peace, though, he tried to convince himself.

He dropped his eyes and whispered, “Yes, It’s Natalie Wood.”

Someone took hold of Dennis’s elbow to lead him away, but he pulled back and looked again at Natalie. He scanned his eyes across her body and concentrated on her legs and arms, noticing even more bruises. He started to count. One, two, four, seven…ten…he had seen enough, but there were more, including a scrape on her left cheek.

Neither the author, Marti Rulli, or I for that matter, is claiming that Robert Wagner did not love Natalie Wood. Far from it, the man was possessive of his wife and his jealousy got the better of him.

After years passed, it became easier to convince himself that his anger and actions were justified. And to write the autobiography he presents in 2008 shows that he thinks he is utterly immune to doubt and suspicion. He had wanted to stop books and movies and other people from telling about their lives. He had asked people in show business to stay away from people he disliked. He wants the laws changed so that no one can reveal his true colors after his demise. He thinks he has gotten away with his part in Natalie’s death. And he indeed had a big part in it. He smashed a wine bottle, screamed profanities and fought a deadly argument with Natalie after she had gone to their stateroom to go to bed. She would have awakened the next morning if only her husband had left her alone. He took the fight to the back deck, and minutes later, Natalie was no longer on board. …

Actor Christopher Walken, the only guest aboard, was the person to whom Robert Wagner directed his rage after smashing the wine bottle across the table…”Do you want to fuck my wife, is that what you want?”

Since Natalie’s death, Wagner has been sheltered by his insider network of secrecy and privilege for so long he appears to believe in the image he has created for himself. He has never had to bear the brunt of a direct, in-your-face accusation or questioning. His media buddies and selected interviewers tiptoe around him as if a twenty-seven-year-old death can still shatter him. Interviewers start their questions with their sympathetic eyes and condolences even decades later, as if Wagner is still the victim of love lost and innuendo. Wagner interviewers rarely express sympathy for Natalie’s experience. It is Wagner they have coddled, while Natalie is the truest victim.

The saddest thing about the entire affair is that Natalie Wood’s worst nightmare…dying in dark water…could have been averted.

Marilyn Wayne and her fiance, businessman John Payne, anchored in a sailboat within earshot of the Splendour, had heard someone calling out for help.

…they were sleeping in their stateroom aboard John’s forty-two-foot sailboat, the Capricorn, which was equipped with a silent generator. John always slept with an open window in his cabin, and this night, despite the rain, was no exception. A distant voice, crying for help, awakened him. John sat up to listen intently. “Help me, someone please help me,” he heard again. He awakened Marilyn and asked her to listen. Alarmed, Marilyn called out to her young son, Anthony, who also heard the cries. He wore a digital watch, and Marilyn asked him for the time. It was just minutes after eleven o’clock.

The cries for help continued. John went to the control panel and switched on their beam light. Marilyn went on deck to look toward the sound, but it was dark and damp, and she could not see anything. Marilyn had a bead on the plaintive cry for help, though, and thought if she swam just about forty feet, she might be able to help. Marilyn, an avid and strong swimmer, told John she wanted to jump into the water and swim toward the cries, but John convinced her it could be too dangerous. “You have Anthony to think of. Whoever’s out there could pull you under too.” He persuaded her to stay on board. They called the harbor patrol but no one answered. They called the sheriff’s office in Avalon, twelve miles away, and the person who answered told them a helicopter would be sent. They heard loud music, too, so they thought there was a party on a nearby boat.

Then they heard a man’s voice, slurred, and in an aggravated tone, say something to the effect of “Oh, hold on, we’re coming to get you.” Marilyn was not sure of the exact words used, but there was no mistaking that it was a man’s voice, and he sounded miserable.

But the woman’s cries continued: “Someone please help me, I’m drowning, please help me.” The voice did not seem to be moving further away. It was clear and concise.

For fifteen minutes, John and Marilyn felt helpless as they waited for a helicopter that never arrived. Their dinghy had already been deflated for the night and would take more than a half hour to prepare, so they were at a loss to help. After a fifteen to twenty minute wait, the cries for help ended. A few minutes later, the music ended too. There was utter silence–a haunting kind of silence. Terribly disturbed, John and Marilyn could only hope that the pleas had stopped because of a rescue. They went back to their stateroom for a terribly restless sleep.

The following morning the couple learned that Natalie Wood had drowned. “…they felt sickened by the news and had no doubt that it had been Natalie crying for help.”

Marilyn Wayne had believed the death was an accident and for a time felt sorry for Robert Wagner. However when neither she nor John were interviewed by the police even though they claimed to have talked with the couple, and when someone from the L.A. Times called to interview her, Marilyn became involved. She went so far as to call L.A. County Coroner Thomas Noguchi to “correct him on his ‘timeline,’ which she knew was off.” Although the authorities knew of Marilyn’s account, they chose to dismiss her. In fact “Detective Rasure was reported to have said that Marilyn Wayne was just someone who wanted her name in the papers–to be connected to a celebrity’s legend. Marilyn, like Dennis, had been bombarded with requests for interviews, but she never talked to anyone again” until contacted by another author who was writing a book about Natalie Wood.

Obviously someone didn’t want Marilyn Wayne to talk about what she knew.

“Three days after Natalie died, Marilyn found a scribbled message on a torn piece of paper…that read, ‘If you value your life, keep quiet about what you know.’ She immediately knew it was related to Natalie Wood’s death because that’s all anyone had been talking about. She suddenly became pretty vocal about letting everyone know she believed Natalie’s death to be accidental.

Marilyn Wayne was afraid.

When threats continued, she contacted her attorney to let him know about it and went so far as to make provisions in the event something might happen to her. John Payne did not experience any of that same kind of trouble, but John was a highly respected businessman, far wealthier than Robert Wagner. No one would bother John because of his status. Marilyn suspected she was targeted because she was the more vulnerable of the two. 

In the end…

Because of the condition of Natalie’s lungs, indicating she had by legal definition drowned, and because the coroner decided the drowning must have been “accidental,” the cause of her entry into the water was neglected. There was no way to know if her death was accidental, and in view of all her bruises, “undetermined” was the only logical choice.

But we had a chief coroner being chased by celebrity.

…fame and wealth…is it worth it?

………hugmamma.

Natalie Wood, c. 1970.
Advertisements

errol flynn…an enigma

Remember him?  Errol Flynn…that swashbuckling, acting hunk who portrayed…Robin Hood…among many other memorable characters? 

I was absolutely delighted when I came across Flynn’s autobiography in a small, mom-and-pop type bookshop. It was sandwiched between a couple of other shops along the main road in a rural town where I often peruse for antiques, collectibles, and other vintage treasures.

Talk about unearthing a treasure!  

Errol Flynn – My Wicked, Wicked Ways – The Million Copy Bestseller – His Side of The Story in His Own Words has been more than I expected. Although the racy title was enticing, I was far more interested in learning about the man behind the gorgeous facade. What was he all about? What did he think of the actors with whom he worked? Did he and Olivia de Havilland, a leading lady with whom he’d starred in several films, have a yen for one another off-camera? Was he an alcoholic and a pedophile, as had been alleged and widely publicized while at the peak of his career?

In reading celebrity biographies I’m always curious to learn if, in fact, they lead such totally different lives from those of us whose lives hover below, if not completely off, the radar. Are they really all that special when not appearing as hot commodities on the big screen?

While a quick read on the surface, Flynn’s story was substantive enough to slow me down. He is definitely NOT the same man he portrays in all those super-macho roles. If what he writes is true, Errol Flynn was a man given to satisfying any and all curiosities regardless of the risk or devastating results. Sex and alcohol were his undoing, physically and financially. In the end, they were probably the cause of his departure from this world. Along the way, bouts of depression nearly did him in prematurely. It seemed he had a pact with death which he tried to cash in a couple of times, unsuccessfully. He got his wish at age 50, when he died of a heart attack.

In his journal entry dated 10/14/55, Flynn wrote of life as a contradiction.

I know I am contradiction inside contradiction. … I can love women and hate them and this may seem a contradiction. … You can love every instant of living and still want to be dead. I know this feeling often. …I might be quite famous, but not feel famous, only feel sometimes like a heel. I can be worth a million or two million and feel like a bum and be a bum and live like a bum. … I know that there are two men inside me. One wants to ramble and has rambled around the globe more than once, in the sky and below water. The other man is a settled fellow, who thinks sometimes he is or should be a husband-man, and that he should sit settled in a house by the side of the road or by the side of the sea. Both are inside of me. Each is true. … No, contradiction has a place in human nature, in social values, just as it has in mathematics. Contradiction is neither true nor false. It is.

As if he were a tragic figure soliloquizing in a Shakespearean play, Flynn lists his many contradictions.

If they say I am inconsistent let them say it, for it is true, because inconsistency is a part of living nature.
I am the epitome of the twentieth-century cosmopolitanism, but I should have been born an explorer in the time of Magellan.
I am sour on women but cannot do without them and I need them incessantly so as to feed my sourness.
I could have killed Bruce Cabot but I can forgive him.
I am bitter about what Lili Damita did to me, but I also laugh about it.
I crave the indulgence of my senses but this is countered by an interior desire that is even keener than my senses to know the meaning of things.
I want to be taken seriously. I feel that I am inwardly serious, thoughtful, even tormented, but in practice I yield to the fatuous, the nonsensical. I allow myself to be understood abroad as a colourful fragment in a drab world.
I have a zest for living, yet twice an urge to die.
I have a genius for living, but I turn many things into crap.
I am dangerous to be with because, since I live dangerously, others are subject to the danger that I expose myself to. They, more likely than I, will get hurt.
I will do a great deal for a buck; then when I get it I will throw it away, or let it be taken from me.
I am very tough, but also I am a patsy.
The pursuit of gold, pleasure and danger motivate most of my springs.
I am alternately very kind, very cruel.
I love art, but finance may be my forte.
I want faith, and I am faithless.
I look for causes, and they wind up with me a romp.
I love and hate myself.
I want to be loved but I may myself be incapable of really loving.
I hate the legend of myself as phallic representation, yet I work at it to keep it alive.
I despise mediocrity above all things. I fear it, yet I know some of my performances have been mediocre.
I generally deny that I was ever a good actor, but I know I have turned in a half-dozen good performances.
I call myself a bum, but I have been working hard most of the days of my adult life.
I portray myself as wicked, hoping I will not be regarded as wicked. But I may really be wicked in the Biblical sense.
Women do not let me stay single. I do not let myself stay married.
Cheers for Mama. Damn her too.
Give me the artistic life, except when I’m producing, directing, organising, banking, playing the stock market and in other ways being a businessman.
I hate the law and spend too much time with lawyers.
I have been called the eternal Sophomore, the perennial youth. I can do nothing to alter this. I am hung with it. The stamp is upon me. It is too late for me to become a scientist, saint or messiah. If I symbolise anything it is that I am the eternal sempervive.
I laugh a lot, and I weep secretly more often than most men.

I have requested all my life for truths and I wallow in bromides. The bromides themselves wallow in truth.
I live polygamously, but but I am fascinated by people who appear to live happily monogamously.
I am on the side of the underdog, except when I am on the side of the rich.
In me, contradiction itself, as a principle, finds its own raison d’ etre. I am convinced of the validity of contradiction. There are many worlds. Each is true, at its time, in its own fashion.

Parental relationships always interest me when I read about others’ lives. Oftentimes these relationships drive individuals to do what they do, for better or worse. In Flynn’s case, the physical absence of both parents since his teen years left the would-be actor to create a life for himself. And so he did.

All my life I have tried to find my mother, and I have never found her. My father has not been Theodore Flynn, exactly, but a will-o’-the-wisp just beyond, whom I have chased and hunted to see him smile upon me, and I shall never find my true father, for the father I wanted to find was what I might become, but this shall never be, because inside of me there is a young man of New Guinea, who had other things in mind for himself besides achieving phallic symbolism in human form.

I am living with this brand–even relatively happily–but I wish it hadn’t happened. I do not know whether I have conveyed it–or tried not to convey it–but I have been cut by my own sword, so deeply that I am ready for whatever befalls. Flynn is not always In. Sometimes he is far, far out–at the bottom of the chasm, at the bottom of the cleft.

It saddens me to think that Errol Flynn might have been so much more than…

…just another pretty face.  

………hugmamma.

NOTE: Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

 

 

 

romance…old hollywood style…

Cropped screenshot of Gene Tierney from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Gene Tierney from the trailer for the film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a huge fan of old Hollywood. An era when movie stars were glamorous and retained an aura about them. Perhaps that’s why my favorite biographies are about…Joan Fontaine, Gene Tierney, Doris Day, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Glen Ford and other iconic actors from yesteryear. I’ll scout every bookstore I happen upon in search of books I can add to my growing collection. It would be nice to house them in a room all their own. For now though, they’re part of my home’s cozy decor.

When I came across this YouTube video on the blog site…If Only I Had a Time Machine at http://mholloway63.wordpress.com , I immediately decided to share it with you.  

Of course I was doubly motivated to post it here because dance plays a huge part in our family’s life, being that our daughter has followed her heart…and dances professionally. She would have loved to have seen Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire work their magic on the dance floor.

And wouldn’t it have been thrilling to see Johnny Mathis off to the side, singing the accompanying love song…as only he can. Hubby and I were indeed fortunate to have seen the talented singer perform on stage. I think the audience was totally captivated, falling under the magical spell of Mathis’ silky voice. I know he had me in the palm of his hand.

…relax…and let romance fill your thoughts…

………hugmamma.

uncommon…but refreshingly common

While saddened to learn of Andy Griffith‘s death today, I could only think happy thoughts.

The Andy Griffith Show

The Andy Griffith Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up with The Andy Griffith Show, even though I resided in Wailuku, Maui, not Mayberry, TV land. With no dad of my own, mine having died when I was one, I latched onto Andy Griffith, as did hundreds of other children, I’m sure.

Lucky Opie. He enjoyed the hugs, the chats, the sing-a-longs,  the laughter…and the absence of spankings .

Yes, it was all make-believe. Fictional characters living in a fictional town. Somehow, I never saw Mayberry and its folks that way.

For me, Andy Griffith, family and friends in tow, stepped through the television screen, and made himself at home…in my home. He wasn’t larger than life…he always felt like he belonged…he fit in.

I’m certain I gained a lot from the wisdom intertwined with the humor on each episode. I’m definitely of the opinion “you can get more with honey than vinegar.” There’s no doubt that Andy’s drawl dripped with the sweet, amber goo. And I just lapped it up.

I didn’t dream of mansions and castles.

I fantasized about a bright, sunny home comfortably furnished, meat, potatoes and biscuits for dinner, a front porch where friends could sit a spell, and a loving dad to tuck me in at night. How I envied Opie.

Publicity photo from the television program Ma...

Publicity photo from the television program Mayberry R.F.D. Pictured are Ken Berry (Sam Jones), Buddy Foster (Mike Jones), and Andy Griffith (Sheriff Andy Taylor). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Married to Cindy Griffith  for 36 years, Presidential Medal of Honor recipient…I’ve never heard a bad word about Andy Griffith. Ron Howard, Opie’s real-life counterpart, speaks glowingly of the man he knew as his TV father.

Griffith’s on-screen persona doesn’t sound far removed from the real man. If his influence upon Howard is as he says, and little Opie has incorporated all he’s learned at the knee of his TV dad…so that Howard’s become one of the most revered and beloved Hollywood directors, then Andy Griffith is the genuine article…

…a man of integrity…above all else.

………hugmamma.    🙂

jimmy stewart’s bedford falls…the real deal?

It's a Wonderful Life

Image via Wikipedia

I never stopped to think that Bedford Falls of It’s A Wonderful Life might really exist. Perhaps the fact that so many films were made on Hollywood‘s back lot in the good old days, had me assuming that such was the case with this Christmas classic. That Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed graced the streets and inhabited the buildings of one lucky town, seemed unlikely.

New friend and fellow WordPress blogger, Judy Berman, wrote a fascinating post about visiting the real town of Bedford Falls. I was intrigued enough to comment that I might have to add it to my bucket list…to be fulfilled when hubby retires. 

You might want to take a trip back in time, reliving a vintage, black and white, Hollywood Christmas…strolling down memory lane…by clicking on http://earth-rider.com/2011/12/17/jimmy-stewarts-bedford-falls-comes-to-life-2/#comment-107. 

Maybe you already know which town she’s referring to…and maybe you don’t. You’ll only find out for sure if you hop on over to Judy’s blog, earthriderdotcom and have a look-see for yourself…

and tell her…i sent you…

………hugmamma.  🙂

something in common…an uncommon love affair

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reaga...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in the process of reading I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, and I must admit to loving it. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be interested in their relationship. Mostly because I have never, ever been a fan of hers. Silly reason being I always thought her head was too large for her body. Seeing the couple side-by-side only confirmed my opinion. I was always gaga about Reagan’s Greek god, good looks. As an actress, Nancy Davis had a pretty face in a plain sort of way, but it was larger than his, larger than anyone’s. But my opinion softened the more I glimpsed of her as First Lady. I’m certain her hairstyle did much to downplay the size of her head. In fact I thought she was very attractive while living in the White House. And now I know why. Nancy was radiant because of her all-consuming love for her husband.

Looking back now, I still can’t define what it was about Ronnie that made him seem so very perfect to me. I think we were just right for each other. And as the evening went on, I was more and more convinced. Ronnie had a great sense of humor, and he wasn’t like any other actor I knew–or anybody else in the movie business. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t talk about his movies. He talked about lots of things, but not about “my next picture, my last picture…” He was a Civil War buff, loved horses, and knew a lot about wine. In fact, he had a broad knowledge of a lot of different things. I loved to listen to him talk. I loved his sense of humor. I saw it clearly that very first night: He was everything that I wanted.

 Oddly enough I can relate to how Nancy Reagan felt. I met my husband when I was 17, and he was 18. I think it was “love at first sight” for both of us. Or maybe it was passion. Whatever the case, it seemed we were both hit by lightning when our eyes met.

I was a second semester freshman at the University of Hawaii, while my future husband was attending a small Catholic college nearby. Having returned from San Francisco a week earlier where he had been in a seminary, studying to be a priest, he was now one of many available “fish” in the sea. We met at the birthday party of a mutual friend. She and I shared a class at the University; he’d known her in elementary school. The party was in full swing when he rang the doorbell. When the hostess opened the door, all eyes were riveted upon the tall, dark, handsome guy standing there. If I’d have been a fly on the wall, I’m sure I would’ve witnessed all the girls eyes pop out of their sockets, and their mouths drop down to their chests, including mine! A huge Elvis fan, to me the guy in the doorway could’ve passed as a double.

I was introduced, as were all the other girls. But unlike most of them I was certain I didn’t stand a chance. Why? I’ve always had this perception that part-White, part-Asian girls are some of the most beautiful in the world. Still do. My husband is Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese. So of course he represented my viewpoint as it pertains to men. Naturally I assumed he and the girls with similar pedigree would go off and make beautiful music together. You can imagine my shock, and delight, when it was me he pursued! My best friend at the time watched with me, as he made his way from bar stool to bar stool to bar stool, until he was sitting right alongside me. The sizzles went right through me! I’m certain I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight, and I know I must’ve been grinning from ear to ear. I had only thought to make him comfortable when we first met, with my unflinching gift for blah, blah, blah. Well it seems I charmed the pants off my future husband from the get-go. And the rest is history, as they say.

Who would’ve thought that Nancy Reagan and I were sisters beneath the skin? Or in matters of the heart? Even as it applied to outsiders who seemed intent upon coming between her and her man. While we dated, and throughout our marriage, women seemed attracted to my husband. I could only wonder when a realtor asked me how it was he married me, or when a friend let me know that she was next in line for him, or when a sister-in-law teased that if she’d met him first, my husband would’ve married her. Then there were the sales women who lined up to kiss him on his birthday when he was in his early 20s, and a woman who offered her phone number should he ever visit her hometown, Chicago.

While in the White House, Nancy Reagan was unattractively depicted as being overly protective of the President. At the time I was probably swayed by the media to agree. But in light of what I’ve read, I give her credit for having the confidence and obvious self-esteem to stand up to the criticism, or ignore it altogether. I had neither, and so I felt like a doormat as women left their off-putting remarks and actions imprinted upon my fragile psyche. But like the Reagans, my husband and I have weathered the years like 2 buoys bobbing up and down in rough seas, or like 2 seagulls sitting atop the glassy surface of calm waters.

Of course none of us are saints, even though I called my husband one during one of our first arguments as a married couple.  With tears still glistening in his eyes he told me how hurt he felt when I had yelled “Do you know how hard it is living with a saint?” I promised never to say such a thing again. But I’m sure I failed to honor my word, at least once or twice thereafter. Any woman who’s lived with an ex-seminarian knows what I mean. When we’d argue, I’d be on both sides of the fence. I’d be just as vociferous about his inability to comprehend my woman’s needs, as I was about fighting for my rights as an equal partner. The nuns did a great job instilling guilt into my moral fiber. I’m still picking off the leftover lint to this day.

It came as no surprise that the Reagans were like other married folk. They didn’t always sail the ocean blue without so much as a white cap.

Like any other couple, we didn’t agree on everything, of course. But we never really argued. We worked on things. And I think that’s why, beyond our love for each other, our marriage has always been so happy. What we felt was right out there, just as it is the letters.

In response to a letter from a bride asking for tips towards succeeding in her marriage, Nancy wrote:

I’ve been very lucky. However, I don’t ever remember once sitting down and mapping out a blueprint. It just became “we” instead of “I” very naturally and easily. And you live as you never have before, despite problems, separations and conflicts. I suppose mainly you have to be willing to want to give.

It’s not always 50-50. Sometimes one partner gives 90 percent but then sometimes the other one does, so it all evens out. It’s not always easy, it’s something you have to work at, and I don’t think many young people realize that today. But the rewards are great. I can’t remember what my life was like before, and I can’t imagine not being married to Ronnie. When two people really love each other they help each other stay alive and grow. There’s nothing more fulfilling than to become a complete person for the first time. I suppose it boils down to being willing to try to understand, to give of yourself, to be supportive and not to let the sun go down on an argument.

I hope that yours will be a happy road ahead. I’m afraid I’ve rambled a bit, and of course, I can only speak for myself. However, when I married, my life took on an added meaning and depth and truly began. I’m sure yours will too.

I couldn’t have said it more eloquently myself. And like Nancy to this day I dread my husband’s business trips. In my 20s I would cry the entire week before he left. I no longer succumb to youthful self-pity, but I miss my husband’s presence. He likewise confesses to being unable to sleep when he’s not nestled comfortably in his own bed, with me by his side.

When Ronnie traveled now, I missed the little things most of all–the ways he loved and cared for me, how he would cover my shoulder with the blanket every night before we went to sleep, how we always slept on the same sides of the bed–him on the left, and me on the right–how we had breakfast on trays in bed together on weekends, which we started doing in our new house in the Palisades. I hated it even more then, when he went away. No matter how necessary it was for his work and the family, I never got used to it.

And then there’s Alzheimer’s. Those of you who’ve been reading hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul since the beginning of time, know that I’m proactive in my efforts to battle the disease which had my mom in its iron grips for nearly a decade before she died. Knowing of the Reagan’s devotion to one another over the course of 50 some years, I have great empathy for the loss she suffered when Alzheimer’s made off with her husband. All who have become one in body and spirit with their partner, would feel similarly. But thanks to Ronald Reagan’s propensity for writing, his presence lingered on in his love letters to Nancy.

President Ronald Reagan cutting in on Nancy Re...

Image via Wikipedia

When Ronnie and I were married, on March 4, 1952, I had of course no idea what the future would hold for us. I only knew that I loved Ronald Reagan, and being his wife was then, as it is today, the most important thing in the world for me. “My life really began when I met Ronald Reagan,” I said some years ago, and I also said, “I can’t imagine life without Ronnie.” Those statements, for which I was criticized back then are just as true for me today as they were five decades ago–despite Alzheimer’s, aging, and all the things that have happened to us. As the years have gone by and Alzheimer’s has taken away Ronnie’s ability to share our happy memories with me, his letters have come to mean even more. In fact, they are a kind of lifeline–preserving the past, Ronnie’s wonderful voice and humor, his character, and his special way of seeing things and expressing himself. As they bring back Ronnie in his own words they help me go on into the future. Many people have said to me after reading I Love You, Ronnie , “I had no idea Ronald Reagan was like that.” But I of course always knew, and I treasure these letters especially because they bring back the Ronnie I have always loved.

The inevitable, final parting awaits all of us. Perhaps it need not be without its own happy ending, “a la” Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

…as I reflect some more on the life Ronnie and I have shared, I would add that saying how much you love each other–to each other and also in letters that can be saved, read, and reread over the years–is a wonderful way to stay close. It is especially important in our busy lives to keep alive what really matters most: love, caring for each other, finding concrete ways to say it and show it, every day and in every way you can. It’s what endures, after all, and what we retain and hold on to, especially in our hearts.

…Ronnie’s letters move me to this day. They are his gift to me across the years, and throughout the decades of love.

Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady ...

Image via Wikipedia

…an uncommon love affair that continues to endure…

…like mine…hugmamma.

 

 

 

tv genie…real life mom

Have just finished reading Barbara Eden‘s autobiography. Remember her as the genie in the bottle in “I Dream of Jeannie?” A favorite sitcom of mine at the time it aired in the mid-60s, I’m sure she was the fantasy of every young girl who wanted to be like Jeannie, and every man, young and old, who wanted to be her master, aka Captain Tony Nelson. Because I looked nothing like Barbara Eden, blonde, blue-eyed, I don’t think I was as fixated on her as I was on her cute leading man, Larry Hagman. I probably tuned in as often as I could to drool over his good looks. I thought the show was funny, although I liked it a lot better when Tony finally stopped running away from Jeannie’s advances. They made a cute, TV couple; I thought they’d make a great pair in real life too. But I guess I was wrong.

It’s obvious that Eden admired Hagman’s acting, and shared a lasting friendship with him, but according to her, he was like the Tasmanian devil…hell on wheels!

On one unforgettable occasion, when Larry didn’t like a particular script, his answer was to throw up all over the set. Nerves? Method acting? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, but took refuge in the sanctuary of my dressing room instead.

In many ways, Larry was like a very talented, troubled child whose tantrums sometimes got the better of his self-control. The crew, however, quickly lost patience with him and vented their frustration by cutting him dead as often as possible and tormenting him however and whenever they could. Once when Larry demanded a cup of tea (as opposed to his habitual champagne), the crew, exasperated by his high-handedness and demands that a scene be reshot because he didn’t like that particular segment of the script, put salt in his tea instead of sugar.

When the unsuspecting Larry took a sip and spat the tea out in disgust, the entire set rocked with suppressed laughter from the delighted crew, who probably would have applauded if they could have, they so enjoyed humiliating poor Larry.

In real life, Eden was happily married to fellow actor Michael Ansara. Of Lebanese descent, he was two when his parents moved the family to America. She raved of him…

As far as I–and thousands of fans and love-struck female fans throughout the world–was concerned, Michael Ansara was a magnificent specimen of alpha-male masculinity. Six foot four and darkly handsome, with blazing brown eyes, a deep, resonant voice, and a powerful aura of strength and dependability, Michael was a Hollywood heart-throb with sex appeal to burn.

I think we get the picture. If Ansara had portrayed a genie competing with Tony Nelson for Jeannie’s hand on the TV sitcom, I wonder if Eden could’ve refrained from revealing to the audience which of her two suitors really had her in the palm of his hands?

I’m sure you’ve surmised that Eden and Ansara tied the knot. Seven-and-a-half years after marrying they were delighted to welcome son Matthew, a month before the premiere of “I Dream of Jeannie.”  ... with husband Michael Ansara and son Matthew - i-dream-of-jeannie photoBecause her career climbed while her husband’s nose-dived, Eden became the family breadwinner. For the most part the arrangement seemed to work just fine, for as she explained at the conclusion of her book…

The wonderful thing about my business and about my life is that I never know what’s around the corner. I’m very lucky to like what I do and to be able to work at it so happily and for so long. I’ve always considered my career to be a great joy and a great gift. I love it, and long may it continue.

But her career took its toll on her marriage, her son, and another baby boy as yet unborn. It was this chain of events that convinced me to share Eden’s story with you, which I’d intended to do yesterday, Mother’s Day. What she endured is a tragic example of a wife and mother who tries to do everything, to be everything to all people.

… Ten years into our marriage, I gave an achingly honest interview to a newspaper journalist about the problems Michael and I encountered in our marriage.

“My husband, Michael,” I said, “is becoming more and more annoyed watching me go to work every day while he sits home. He hates the thought of it. I don’t blame him. There isn’t a man around who enjoys the feeling that his wife is the breadwinner and brings home the bacon. I know it’s uncomfortable for Michael. What are we going to do about it? I wish I knew…All I’m sure of is that Michael would give anything to see our positions reversed.” …

Difficult or not, Michael and I had no plans to end our marriage, and we still loved each other as much as we ever had. Then in 1971, to our delight, I became pregnant with our second child.

Even their son Matthew was excited at the prospect of a baby brother. Good fortune seemed to bless her with more good news when she was offered the opportunity to tour America for 10 weeks in not one, but two musicals, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” and “The Sound of Music.” She signed on against her better judgment, for she was in her late thirties and was already feeling the effects of already having acted, sung, and danced “nonstop all over the country for so many years.” For once in her life she was “overcome by a burning desire to refuse not just one job but two.”

But Michael was not working, and if I didn’t take this opportunity, our family would go hungry. Although I knew in my heart that this wasn’t the case, against my better judgment, I agreed to star in both musicals and tour the country right up until I was eight months pregnant.

She took precautions, checking in with doctors wherever she toured, who were recommended by her L.A. physician. But upon finally returning home and being examined by her own doctor, she learned what no mother wants to hear.

My baby was dead. His umbilical cord had been crushed, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him. I say him, because the doctor told me that my unborn baby was a boy. The doctor also told me that in all his many years of practice, he had never encountered a case like mine.

Worse yet, Eden says…

I only knew that I had to carry my dead baby inside of me for six more weeks, because were the doctors to deliver his lifeless body before then, my own life could be endangered. In hindsight, this is a barbaric, outmoded medical practice, and thankfully it is no longer done.

Upon reading this, I recollected overhearing adults whisper of such instances when I was growing up. I didn’t know what it all meant, except that a woman had to carry the dead fetus the entire nine months. There’d be no shortcuts. Needless to say the ordeal took its toll on Eden, who unknowingly succumbed to postpartum depression. After 15 years of marriage she divorced Ansara who was bewildered by her decision. And in retrospect, she regrets not having sought counseling to save her marriage. For the consequences took its toll on their son. “But I still regret our divorce, because the repercussions it would one day have on Matthew would turn out to be cataclysmic. Had I been able to look into a crystal ball at that time, I would have stayed in the marriage until Matthew was an adult. but I didn’t.”

In 1974, Michael, Matthew, and I were living in our ranch-style home in the San Fernando Valley, a prosperous community of well-heeled, well-educated people. Little did we know that someone who lived close by, a wealthy hippie, a man with children of his own, was growing pot in his garden and smoking it with the neighborhood kids. I guess that particular person thought that what he was doing was fun, cool, harmless. If I ever came face-to-face with him, I’d happily kill him.

Fate is so strange, and I often ask myself this question: if Michael and I had lived in another neighborhood, not one where our neighbor was growing pot and handing it out to kids like some kind of candy, would Matthew have avoided becoming a drug addict?

But the reality may well be different. Marijuana can be an extremely addictive drug, and the addiction is intensified if a child not only starts smoking when he is extremely young but also has a marked genetic predisposition to addiction. Sadly, Matthew fell into both categories. Michael and I both had alcoholism in our respective families. Michael’s grandfather was an alcoholic, as were both my mother’s older sister and her brother. Matthew’s early addiction to marijuana easily led to an addiction to harder drugs later on.

Another factor, one for which I will blame myself to my dying day, is that Matthew was only nine when I asked Michael for a divorce, and he never really recovered from having his hitherto happy home broken up. …

…on the morning of June 26, (2001) all my worst fears came true. Matthew was dead. …He was just thirty-five years old.

Barbara Eden’s life continued in the same way that all our lives do…with its ups and downs. Although Michael Ansara remains the “love of her life,” she has found happiness with her third husband, Jon Eicholtz, a builder/developer.

a mom who tried to do it all…and in my estimation…remained a classy lady despite her tragic losses…hugmamma.

 

“approachable,” ellen de generes

Saw Zorianna today, my hair stylist. As is commonplace among stylists and their customers, we chatted about this, that, and the other thing. I told her what happened when I clicked onto Ellen de Generes‘ website. How I was excited, though flummoxed, at winning a grand prize of $1,000 gift cards for Wal Mart or Best Buy, or an IPad. And then how I thought I might be scammed if I followed through on the contest, by having to pay $9.99 a month for some cell phone product.

Our conversation led to our commiserating that Ellen seemed a genuinely nice person, approachable, unlike other celebrities. There’s no knowing for sure. But she hugs as many normal people as she does famous ones. Audience members, contestant winners, guests who are not widely known, all get the same treatment from Ellen. Her smiles are huge, her words are reassuring, her laughter infectious, and her hugs, real. No “air kisses” from this down-to-earth Hollywood personality.

Ellen DeGeneres in 2009.

Image via Wikipedia

Ellen’s shows are fun, upbeat. Even an elder stateswoman like me “gets” her humor. Don’t know if I’d play her games. They can be high energy, scream fests. I mightn’t have the energy, but my screams would be heard all around LA. Falling through a hole carved out of a prop that stands 6 feet above the stage is not how I’d want to end my life. And believe me, I’d have a heart attack going down.

One of my favorite segments of Ellen’s show is the giveaway. Fans write in with stories of their misfortunes, and Ellen gifts them with what it is they might need. The segments I’ve seen involved people whose cars were ready for the junk yard. Of course, they were thrilled to be the recipients of brand, new cars donated by local dealerships. It is usually accompanied by a $10,000 check to take care of other problems. Today’s giveaway was to a single mom of 17 years, who raised 2 teenage daughters wonderfully. The girls seemed a tribute to their mom’s upbringing. These moments always bring tears to my eyes.

helping one person at a time…hugs for…hugmamma.

not a job for everyone, ballet

Hollywood is coming out with yet another ballet film, The Black Swan, starring Natalie Portmann. My daughter and I saw the trailer for it before the feature film Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera  and Cher. We couldn’t say enough great things about Burlesque. On the other hand, The Black Swan will not get my money. Out of curiosity, my daughter may see it with her dancer friends. I’m not a fan of Stephen King books or films, and this latest dance movie seems to fit that bill.

Last night on one of the entertainment news shows, Natalie Portmann and Milla Kunes spoke briefly of their experience during filming of The Black Swan. They both implied that there was a mean-spiritedness among ballet dancers. There was no indication whether or not they worked with a real ballet company, or if they were speaking from hearsay. Generalizing that ballet dancers are one thing or another in a news clip, doesn’t make it true.

 The media has done a good job to help stereotype people from all walks of life. Don’t we all know more than we care to know, about Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears? According to the news that drones on about these two, they are out-of-control, spoiled-rotten, alcoholics. I’d just as soon leave them alone to sort out their own lives. Give me a break, and them.

I personally think ballet is not the right fit for everyone. Moms wanting their toddlers to dance prettily in ballet slippers, pink leotards and tights, should be very careful not to overstep their children’s enthusiasm for the art form. When it stops being fun, or when the children have mastered all that they can, and can do no more toward advancing to higher levels, moms should accept that their children may want to, or need to, involve themselves elsewhere, where they may be happier, and more successful.

As with anything in life, parents need to walk a “fine line,” between what they want and what their children want. I think the best approach is to involve our children in the direction their lives take, on an ongoing basis. As we help them strategize we should pay heed to the signals they give off, whether vocalized or not. Of course they don’t always know what they want, but often times they know what they don’t  want. I think both are equally important. Steering them through a maze of choices is not easy for us or them.

After seeing a close friend perform in a recital, our 8-year-old daughter decided she wanted to dance. So she enrolled in jazz, tap and ballet classes at the same studio as her friend. During the three years she danced there, our daughter advanced into classes with students older than she. After year-end recitals, audience members approached my husband and I to congratulate us on our daughter’s dancing. Those were the first times I heard words I have continued to hear at her performances, “I couldn’t take my eyes off of her” or “She has tremendous stage presence.”

When we moved west, our daughter enrolled in a private studio originated by former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal, Deborah Hadley. When she first saw our daughter in a ballet class, her arched feet had Hadley inquiring “Who’s that girl?” That December, our daughter was cast in the role of ballerina doll in The Nutcracker’s  party scene. Her joy at receiving such an honor dissolved when upon opening night, the Russian teacher responsible for staging the ballet, told our daughter she had not “performed” the role, but only executed the technical steps.

When our daughter told us what had happened on the ride home, we were, of course, upset. But not wanting to cause her additional grief, I advised her instead to perform for herself, not for her teacher. I also told her something I’ve continued to tell her “Dance every role, no matter what it is, as though you’re a star. You’ll have done your very best, and that’s all you can do.”  The only thing I tell her now, before a performance is “Have fun!”

Throughout her entire journey towards a career in ballet, our daughter has received encouragement from all who have seen her dance. Teachers, artistic directors, choreographers,  and fellow dancers,  have consistently told us that she had great potential. Audience members have congratulated her performances. I was most moved when a brother-in-law, who saw her dance for the first and only time, said his eyes welled with tears when he watched her perform a solo with Northwest Professional Dance Program in Portland a few summers ago.

With what our daughter seemed to have going for her in talent and work ethic, becoming a professional ballet dancer was still no guarantee. There was competition, disappointments, stresses, politics, tears. Having been a corporate career person before becoming a mom, I suffered the same traumas in my workplace. The difference is I was paid better, but my daughter has more passion for her job than I had for any of several I worked.

When I moved to Atlanta to enable our 16-year-old daughter to train with Atlanta Ballet in the hopes she’d become a member, moms of students there would ask the secret to her success thus far.  I would tell them it took 50% talent, and 50% a combination of other things.

From what I could see, the right candidate for a professional dance job needed to be able to withstand the extraordinary pressures of competing for company openings, and then roles, socializing with older, more senior dancers, speaking on one’s own behalf with staff, maintaining a healthy body, physically, mentally and emotionally, and living within one’s means, on salaries that are below minimum wage in some cases. Who could, or would, want to subject themselves to such a career? Not me, but then I’m not cut out for such a life. Not many are, but my daughter is.

Just as not all people are created equal, not all ballet companies are cut from the same cloth. Probably unknown to the lay person is the fact that there are many, many, many dance companies throughout this country, and abroad.  Some are big, with 50 or more full-time dancers, and then there are companies like my daughter’s where there are only 15 members, 8 men and 7 women. Besides the difference in numbers, there’s a huge difference in budgets. Bigger companies, like Pacific Northwest Ballet, enjoy $15 million to $20 million budgets; my daughter’s gets by on a shoestring budget of $4 million.

Just as a corporation’s modus operandi  reflect the style of the  “head honcho,” the CEO/President, so too does a ballet, or modern, dance company reflect its artistic director’s style. And we all know that the top man can run the gamut, from monster to saint. Having witnessed both styles in my former career, and my husband’s and daughter’s careers, it seems what kind of boss and work environment we get is in the “luck of the draw.” I’ve always subscribed to the belief that within any organization, be it a household, a company, or a church, whatever occurs, filters from the top down. Bad management begets a bad environment begets mostly cranky, negative whiners.

So while there are ballet, and modern, dance companies who fit the descriptions of Portmann and her fellow actor, there are those like my daughter’s, whose artistic director has shown courage and concern by allowing her a 3 month leave to address health issues, with a guarantee that she can return to her job in January. He and his staff have shown her great love and support. So I know, first-hand, that one size does not fit all in the ballet world.

neither is ballet a career for everyone…hugmamma.

wins the contest, and the girl

Two videos of the “guy next door,” Michael Grimm, the first of his win on America’s Got Talent, the other of his commitment to red-headed Lucie, his girlfriend of 3 years. This young fellow may be the 21st century Renaissance Man all women have been praying for, talented, enterprising AND faithful. Can we clone him? Putting in an order for a son-in-law. And 2 major corrections to previous posts, Grimm is from Waveland, Mississippi (not Memphis), and the other semi-finalist Jackie’s last name is spelled Evancho (not Ivancko).

hugs for grimm, and his lucie…hugmamma.