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Prince Philip, 97, takes a carriage ride through the grounds of Windsor Castle. ca. October 20, 2018

As I mentioned in my blog post, “Prince Philip’s Mum had a Habit,” Prince Philip of the United Kingdom, known as the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince Consort of Queen Elizabeth II, was born in 1921 on a kitchen table in Corfu, Greece, in a house that had no electricity or running water. But Philip was not of peasant stock. He was Prince Philip of Greece, born into a royal family with ties to German, British, Dutch, Russian, and Danish royal houses. Oddly enough, however, neither Philip’s parents nor his four beautiful sisters had a drop of Greek blood in them. Yet they were a branch of the Greek Royal Family.

Prince Philip’s mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg. Alice’s great grandmother, Queen Victoria of England, had been present at her birth in the Tapestry Room at Windsor Castle in England. Philip’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, had been born in Athens, Greece. The two married in 1903 in Germany, the native country of Princess Alice’s parents.

Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece, ca. their wedding 1903

Head spinning yet? There’s a reason Queen Victoria of England is called “the grandmother of Europe.” Her descendants fanned across the continent. She and other royal matriarchs and patriarchs were quite the matchmakers, shoring up old alliances and creating new ones, through arranged royal marriages. This proved to be a problem both health wise (hemophilia) and when European countries found themselves warring with one another, especially during both World War I and II, pitting blood relatives against one another in deadly warfare, a confusion of loyalties.

But I digress. My goal today is to shed some light on Princess Alice (1885-1969) and her struggle with mental illness. Alice was born with a large disadvantage in life: she was deaf. She learned to lip read and speak English and German. She studied French and, after her engagement to Prince Andrew, began to learn Greek.

Her husband, Prince Andrew (1882-1944), a military man, was a polyglot. His caretakers taught him English as he grew up, but he insisted upon speaking only Greek with his parents. He also spoke Danish (his father was originally a Danish prince), French, German, and Russian (his mother was Russian—a Romanov). Alice had spent her early years between her family homes in England and Germany whereas Andrew’s roots were in Denmark and Russia. She was Lutheran, although others say she was Anglican. He was Greek Orthodox.

Andrew—known to his friends and family as “Andrea”—had hoped that he and his new bride Alice could settle down permanently in Greece. From the beginning of their marriage, though, Prince Andrew and his family’s safety within Greece waxed and waned. The Greek political situation was always unstable. Prince Andrew fell in and out of favor with the reigning political parties. One moment he was forced to resign his army post and then, in 1912 during the Balkan Wars, he was reinstated. It was during the Balkan Wars that Princess Alice—sometimes referred to as “Princess Andrew”—acted as a nurse, assisting at operations and setting up field hospitals, work for which King George V of Great Britain awarded her the Royal Red Cross in 1913.

Writing to her mother, Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven, on November 2, 1912, Alice recalled a scene at a field hospital following the arrival of wounded soldiers from a victorious battle by the Greeks at Kailar:

Our last afternoon at Kozani was spent in assisting at the amputation of a leg. I had to give chloroform at a certain moment and prevent the patient from biting his tongue and also to hand cotton wool, basins, etc. Once I got over my feeling of disgust, it was very interesting….[A]fter all was over, the leg was forgotten on the floor and I suddenly saw it there afterwards and pointed it out to Mademoiselle Agyropoulo, saying that somebody ought to take it away. She promptly picked it up herself wrapped it up in some stuff, put it under her arm and marched out of the hospital to find a place to bury it in. But she never noticed that she left the bloody end uncovered, and as she is as deaf as I, although I shouted after her, she went on unconcerned, and everybody she passed nearly retched with disgust—and, of course, I ended by laughing, when the comic part of the thing struck me.”

The next day, Alice’s mother’s lady-in-waiting, Nona Kerr, arrived in Greece. She went to see Alice. Nona then wrote a letter to Alice’s mother, telling her how Alice seemed. Nona wrote to Victoria that it “would make you proud to hear the way everyone speaks of Princess Alice. Sophie Baltazzi, Doctor Sava, everyone. She has done wonders.” She also noted that Alice was “very thin…At present she simply can’t stop doing things. Prince Andrew wants to send her back to Athens to the babies [Alice and Andrew had three daughters by then: Margarita (b. 1905), Theodora (b. 1906), Cécile (b. 1911)] soon, but I don’t think he will succeed just yet….” Alice was suffering from mania, probably triggered by sleep deprivation, hunger, cold, exposure, and PTSD.

During the war, Andrew’s father was assassinated and he inherited a villa on the island of Corfu, Mon Repos. The family moved there.

In June of 1914, Alice gave birth to a fourth daughter, Sophie.

Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Baby Sophie in 1914

One month later, World War I broke out across Europe. Andrew’s brother, King Constantine of Greece, declared the neutrality of his country. However, the Greek ruling party sided with the Allies. During the war, Prince Andrew, unwisely, made several visits to Great Britain, one of the Allied countries. Rumors circulated in the British House of Commons that Andrew was a German spy. This stirred up suspicions in Greece. Was Prince Andrew indeed a spy for the Central Powers?

Prince Andrew and Princess Alice of Greece, 1916. Note Prince Andrew’s right eye monocle.

By 1917, the whole Greek royal family was forced to flee Greece, as they were suspected of consorting with the enemy. Most of the Greek royals, including Alice and Andrew and their family, took refuge in Lucerne, Switzerland. At the end of the war, in July of 1918, Alice’s two maternal aunts, Tsarina Alexandra (Alix) and the Grand Duchess Elizabeta Feodorovna (Ella), were killed by the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution.

So much suffering and tragedy, living in constant fear, doomed to exist in a world devoid of sound, living here, traveling there, led Alice to seek comfort in mystic religion. Together with her brother-in-law Christo, they performed automatic writing, a precursor to the use of a ouija board to receive supernatural messages from the spirit world. Alice was superstitious. She was often seen dealing herself cards and getting messages from this, especially when she had important decisions to make. She continued to read books on the occult.

After three years in Swiss exile, the political situation in Greece became more favorable to the Royals. In 1920, the Greek Royal family was invited to return home. Prince Andrew and Princess Alice happily re-established themselves and their family in their peaceful villa, Mon Repos. But the country was still in turmoil. Greece was embroiled in another regional military conflict, The Greco-Turkish War, AKA The Asia Minor Campaign. Prince Andrew was put in command of The II Army Corps.

All of this instability had transpired before their son Prince Philip was born on June 10, 1921, at Mon Repos. Prince Andrew was not present for his first son’s birth as he was on the battlefield.

Princess Alice of Greece holds newborn Prince Philip of Greece. June/July 1921

 

Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark holds his fifth child and only son, Prince Philip of Greece, born June 10, 1921.

Fast forward a year or so. The October 27, 1922 headlines in the New York Times read:

SEIZE PRINCE ANDREW FOR GREEK DEBACLE

Constantine’s Brother to Be Interned at Athens

New Tribunal Arrests Four Others

The Greek defeat in Asia Minor in August 1922 had led to the September 11, 1922 Revolution, during which Prince Andrew was arrested, court-martialed, and found guilty of “disobeying an order” and “acting on his own initiative” during the battle the previous year. Many defendants in the treason trials that followed the coup were shot by firing squad and their bodies dumped in holes on the plains at Goudi, below Mount Hymettus. British diplomats assumed that Andrew was also in mortal danger. They called upon King George V of England to act. However, King George V refused to risk inflaming the situation further, causing an international incident, by allowing Andrew to settle in London. In December of 1922, he sent the British cruiser, HMS Calypso, to ferry Andrew’s family to France. Andrew, though spared the death sentence, was banished from Greece for life. Eighteen month-old Philip was transported in an improvised cot made from an orange crate. The family settled at Saint-Cloud on the outskirts of Paris, in a small house loaned to them by Andrew’s generous sister-in-law, Princess Marie Bonaparte, AKA Princess George of Greece. Andrew and his family were stripped of their Greek nationality, and traveled under Danish passports.

Princesses Sophie, Cecilie, Theodora, and Margarita of Greece, sisters of Prince Philip of Greece. ca. 1922

Alice and Andrew celebrated their silver wedding anniversary on October 8, 1928. Each member of the family had made it a point to be at Saint Cloud that beautiful autumn day so they could commemorate the special event with a group photograph in the garden.

Prince Philip poses with his family for a photograph to mark his parents’ silver wedding anniversary in October of 1928. A young Philip stands to the right of his mother, Princess Alice, and father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. From left to right are Philip’s sisters, all Princesses of Greece & Denmark: Margarita, Theodora, Sophie, and Cecilie.

Five years into exile, the family of six often found themselves more apart than together, traveling a lot, scattered across the European continent, staying with relatives, enjoying the London social season, on holiday, or attending a royal funeral or wedding. It was an idle life which had no real purpose.

Two weeks after the anniversary, Alice privately gave up her Protestant faith and became a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. By May of 1929, she had become “intensely mystical,” and would lie on the floor so that she could receive divine messages. She told others that she could heal with her hands. She said she could stop her thoughts like a Buddhist. Her husband stayed away that summer and would not return until September. Alice wrote her mother that soon she would have a message to tell the world. She told Andrew’s cousin that she, Alice, was a saint. She carried sacred objects around the house with her in order to banish evil influences. She proclaimed she was the “bride of Christ.”

Andrew and Alice’s mother Victoria summoned Alice’s gynecologist who diagnosed her psychosis. Her sister-in-law the French Princess Marie Bonaparte, a great friend of the famous psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud, arranged for Alice to see one of Freud’s former co-workers, the psychoanalyst Dr. Ernst Simmel, just outside Berlin. Dr. Louros accompanied Alice in her journey and she was admitted to Simmel’s clinic. Dr. Simmel diagnosed Alice as “paranoid schizophrenic” and said she was suffering from a “neurotic-prepsychotic libidinous condition” and consulted Freud about it. Freud advised “an exposure of the gonads [ovaries] to X-rays, in order to accelerate the menopause,” presumably to calm her down. Was Alice consulted about this? Probably not. The treatment was carried out.

Alice did not improve. On May 2, 1930, she was involuntarily committed at the Bellevue private psychiatric clinic at Kleuzlingen in Switzerland. This event marked the end of their once-close family life. Though they did not divorce, Alice and Andrea’s marriage was effectively finished. Andrew closed the family home at Saint-Cloud and disappeared, moving to the South of France, where he frittered away his life drinking, gambling, and womanizing. The girls were ages 16, 19, 24, and 29, and would all be married by 1932, so they were less affected by the fallout of their mother’s breakdown and their father’s abdication of his family role. Unfortunately, two of the girls ended up marrying German Nazis. Philip, though, was only nine years old when his mother was institutionalized and his father abandoned him. Philip would have little contact with his mother for the rest of his childhood which was spent living with his mother’s relatives in England and in attending boarding schools in England, Germany, and Scotland.

Prince Philip of Greece, 1930 (AP)

Footnote: Philip’s aunt, Princess Marie Bonaparte, who had arranged for Princess Alice to be treated by Freud and his colleague, was very wealthy and influential. Her mother had owned the casino in Monte Carlo and Princess Marie had inherited this money. As you will remember, Marie had very generously provided Alice and Andrea with their house at Saint Cloud.  In 1938, Princess Marie Bonaparte paid the Nazis a ransom of 12,000 Dutch guilders to allow Dr. Sigmund Freud and his family the freedom to leave Vienna and move to London. The Nazis were rounding up and killing both Jews and psychoanalysts and Freud was a Jewish psychoanalyst.

Dr. Sigmund Freud arrives in Paris on his way to London, accompanied by Princess Marie Bonaparte and the American Ambassador In Paris William C. Bullitt. June 5, 1938

The Freud family relaxes in the garden at Princess Marie Bonaparte’s home in Saint-Cloud, France. June 5, 1938. Freud is lounging as he is deathly ill with oral cancer. He smoked 20 cigars a day.

Freud spent his first day of freedom in Marie’s gardens in Saint-Cloud before crossing the Channel to London, where he lived for his last 15 months. A few weeks later, Princess Bonaparte traveled to Vienna to discuss the fate of Freud’s four elderly sisters left behind. Her attempts to get them exit visas failed. All four of Freud’s sisters would perish in Nazi concentration camps.

Readers, for more on the European Royal Families here on Lisa’s History Room, click here. To read more about Prince Philip and Princess Alice, click here.

Sources:
Eade, Philip. Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II.
Vickers, Hugo. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece. 
wikipedia and various Internet sites

Prince Philip and his wife, Queen Elizabeth II of England, are both direct blood descendants of Queen Victoria of England. They are both her great great grandchildren. Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Greece, was born at Windsor Castle with her great grandmother Queen Victoria present. Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II are related in four different ways. Through their connection to Queen Victoria, they are third cousins.

 

Queen-Prince-Philip-family-tree-1132617

Wonderful Readers: For more posts on the British Royal Family here on Lisa’s History Room, click here.

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Frida in New York, 1946, photo by Nickolas Muray. Brooklyn Museum; Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, 2010.80. © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives.

Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Brooklyn Museum, New York, U.S.A.

February 8–May 12, 2019

The museum is charging a separate admission for the Kahlo show of $20 to $25, depending on the day. The museum will be open seven days a week for the run of the exhibition.

excerpted from the Brooklyn Museum website

‘Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving’ is the largest U.S. exhibition in ten years devoted to the iconic painter and the first in the United States to display a collection of her clothing and other personal possessions, which were rediscovered and inventoried in 2004 after being locked away since Kahlo’s death, in 1954. They are displayed alongside important paintings, drawings, and photographs from the celebrated Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art, as well as related historical film and ephemera. To highlight the collecting interests of Kahlo and her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, works from our extensive holdings of Mesoamerican art are also included.

“Kahlo’s personal artifacts—which range from noteworthy examples of Kahlo’s Tehuana clothing, contemporary and pre-Colonial jewelry, and some of the many hand-painted corsets and prosthetics used by the artist during her lifetime—had been stored in the Casa Azul (Blue House), the longtime Mexico City home of Kahlo and Rivera, who had stipulated that their possessions not be disclosed until 15 years after Rivera’s death. The objects shed new light on how Kahlo crafted her appearance and shaped her personal and public identity to reflect her cultural heritage and political beliefs, while also addressing and incorporating her physical disabilities.”

*Wonderful Readers: As of today, there are 19 more posts on Frida Kahlo on this blog, Lisa’s History Room. To see them, click here.

 

 

 

 

“Lost Battalion” in Argonne Forest by Frank E. Schoonover. Ladies’ Home Journal, 1918.

World War I, France

On October 1, 1918, about 550 soldiers of the U.S. 77th Division found themselves surrounded by Germans in the Argonne Forest. Major Charles Whittlesey was their leader. He was just following orders, to push forward at all costs, push the enemy further toward the border and out of the country. Instead, after traipsing through thick brush and tangled wires, old abandoned German headquarters, and dead bodies, they were behind enemy lines, trapped in the Charlevaux Ravine, between two high and steep hills. They were subject to an immediate and near-constant barrage of enemy fire. By the end of the third day, the Germans had killed or wounded a quarter of the men, and those remaining Americans were reduced to hunkering down in their funk hole, hoping the next grenade didn’t land there and blow them to bits. They were hungry, thirsty, and running low on ammunition. The nearest water source was a muddy stream which the Germans guarded zealously. The Americans had no medical supplies with which to treat the groaning wounded. They were cut off from any supply routes. The weather was cold, wet, and gray.

The Major sent runners for help; none made it up the hillside without instantly being picked off by German snipers. Worse, due to an error in a message sent by carrier pigeon, Allied artillery misunderstood their location and began firing upon the trapped unit. More men were killed, but this time, by “friendly fire,” bullets inadvertently fired on them by their own American troops. Their situation was desperate. They needed to contact headquarters to get their own troops to stop firing upon them.

They had dispatched many carrier pigeons with messages for HQ but many were shot down by the Germans. It was mid-afternoon on October 4 when pigeon handler Private Omer Richards reached into the wicker pigeon basket to release yet another pigeon with a message.

Photograph of the Western Front. Pigeons were used at the front to keep commanders in the rear up to date on the action and enemy movement. (National Archives Identifier 17391468)

There was one bird left and the embattled unit placed their hope on this two-year old bird. He was a seasoned carrier pigeon named *Cher Ami (which means “Dear Friend” in French). His home loft was Mobile #9 then stationed at the 77th Division message center about 25 miles away at Rampont. Cher Ami knew the way well. Private John Nell recalled,

“…Major Whittlesey turned our last homing pigeon loose with what seemed to be our last message….If that one lonely, scared pigeon failed to find its loft…we would go just like the others who were being mangled and blown to pieces….”

A war pigeon is fitted with a message.

The message, written by Major Whittlesey on a page torn from the pigeon message book, was slipped into a tiny aluminum tube and clipped to the pigeon’s leg. Richards picked up Cher Ami and, around 3:00, lifted him skyward to fly.  But the air was full of flying scrap steel and explosions, scaring the bird. He circled above the ravine before landing slightly farther down the hill in a burned-out, shrapnel-twisted tree.

Those men who had gathered around now began to yell at Cher Ami, “Go! Get out of here!” tossing sticks and rocks at him. But he refused to budge from his perch. Richards ended up shimmying up the tree after him. German shells exploded around Richards and bullets pinged off the bark near his hands. Cher Ami cocked his head at the soldier, preening his feathers out of utter fear. Finally Richards was able to reach up and shake the branch where the bird sat, roaring, “Fly!” Cher Ami took off, got his bearings, then headed back over the ravine in the direction of his dovecote.

The Germans took potshots at Cher Ami, trying to take him down, knowing full well his mission, but the bird continued to gain height and was soon lost to view. The American soldiers then scampered down the hill to move the wounded men to a place that was somewhat protected from the shelling. They piled up the dead bodies as a wall:

Bullets from across the brook thumped sickeningly into the corpse wall as the wounded hunkered down behind it.

It was 3:30 pm when the little bell of Mobil loft #9 rang, signaling that a messenger pigeon had just landed and passed through the gate into the coop. Corporal George Gault was on duty. What he found in the cage was a blood-stained gray and black checked cock pigeon squatting unsteadily and leaning to one side. He reached in and the pigeon collapsed entirely. Gently, he picked it up. Cher Ami was bleeding badly from a gaping wound in his chest and he was missing an eye. He was barely alive. Turning the hurt bird over to get the message, he found the little tube barely hanging on to what remained of the torn tendons of a missing leg. Gault read the message, gasped, then ran immediately to get the lieutenant on duty. They got General Milliken on the field telephone, reading the urgent message to him in words, not in code:

We are along the road parallel 276.4

Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us.

For Heaven’s sake, stop it.

The division vet arrived to take the barely breathing bird away.

By 4:22, the American shelling had stopped. The Germans saw the opportunity and began a ferocious attack on the trapped 77th Division.

Finally, the Americans were able to push west through the Argonne to force the Germans to abandon the front facing the 77th Division.  On October 8, reinforcements reached Whittlesey’s unit.  Of the men trapped in that wooded ravine, 194 survived. Whittlesey’s unit came to be known as the Lost Battalion. The next month, on November 11, an armistice was signed between the warring factions that brought the war on the Western Front of World War I to an end.

Members of the Lost Battalion getting their first meal at a regiment kitchen after the fight in the Charlevaux Ravine. Oct 1918. Public Domain

Cher Ami became the hero of the 77th Infantry Division. Army medics had saved his life. When he recovered enough to travel, the one-legged, one-eyed bird was put on a boat to the United States, with General John J. Pershing seeing him off.

For his heroic service, Cher Ami was awarded the French “Croix de Guerre” with palm. Eight months after his heroic flight, he died at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey on June 13, 1919, as a result of his wounds. Cher Ami was later inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1931, and received a gold medal from the Organized Bodies of American Pigeon Fanciers in recognition of his extraordinary service during World War I.

Cher Ami, war hero, on display at the Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D. C.

His stuffed body is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s “Price of Freedom: Americans at War” exhibit in Washington, D.C. Cher Ami is one of the heroes of World War I. Although the Germans had shot him through the breast, blinded him in one eye, and shattered his leg, he continued to fly to reach help for the men of his division. He gave his life for his country and so that others could live.

For more on what scientists are learning about the homing instinct of pigeons, check out the new book, The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman.

*Cher Ami, at the time, was a 2-year-old black and gray checkered English National Union Racing Pigeon Association cock #615, U. S. Army serial no. 43678 of the Signal Corps 1st Pigeon Division.

Sources:

The knitting women of the French Revolution. Pierre-Etienne Lesueur’s Les Tricoteuses Jacobines, 1793. (Wikimedia)

At the start of the French Revolution, the market women of Paris, hungry for bread, marched by the thousands to Versailles to confront King Louis XVI and his government over rising food prices and food shortages. Surprising everyone, their demands were met and, in addition, they convinced the royal family—including Queen Marie Antoinette—to relocate to the French capital city. Working class women had never before demonstrated such political clout. These women were hailed as sisters of the Revolution and were invited to important political events. These “mothers of the revolution,”  or “bonnes citoyennes,” became overnight heroines for the cause of liberty. They came to be known as the knitting women, or tricoteuses  (pronounced trick uh TUZZ).

Over time, though, the tricoteuses grew swollen with power and inflamed by the fury of the Revolution. They became rowdy and blood-thirsty, harassing aristocrats in the street, insulting them and urging the radical sans-culottes, or lower class militants, to carry out dreadful atrocities against them. The tricoteuses were like the Greek furies that punished culprits they thought were guilty by hounding them relentlessly.

The French Revolution lasted ten years. Before it was over, it descended into an all-out savage bloodbath known as the Reign of Terror (1793-1794). In just that one year period, 17,000 French people were executed. Shown here are rabid revolutionaries parading shorn heads on pikes. (wikipedia)

The behavior of the tricoteuses became so dangerous that they became a liability to the more authoritarian revolutionary government. On May 21, 1793, the women were banished from government proceedings. Later that week, they were forbidden from forming any political assembly. The tricoteuses were reduced to hanging around the guillotine.

The Tricoteuses of the Guillotine on the Steps of the Church of Saint-Roch, 16th October 1793. Henri Baron (Pinterest)

They were the ghoulish women who sat and knitted while the public executions took place during the French Revolution (1789-1799). Many knitted liberty caps, their sharp needles clackety-clacking, while head after head fell beneath the blade and into the basket.

A French man is transported to the guillotine to be beheaded. In the upper right hand corner of the picture, the tricoteuses jeer, bellow, hurl accusations at him, and call for his immediate execution. Etching from Harper’s Weekly, August 1881, from a painting by Carl Piloty, “The Girondists.”

Charles Dickens popularized the tricoteuses in The Tale of Two Cities (1859), set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. One of the main villains of the novel is Madame Defarge, a tricoteuse, a French Revolution fanatic obsessed with the extermination of real and imagined enemies of the Revolution. She knits and her knitting secretly encodes the names of people to be killed.

The tricoteuse Madame DeFarge (r.) confronts Miss Pross over the whereabouts of the Evrémonde family. Scene from the novel, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, 1859. Image by Fred Barnard, 1870s (wikipedia)


**Read more about the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette here.

Sources:
wiki: "Reign of Terror"
wiki: "tricoteuse"
The Telegraph: "QI: How Knitting was Used as Code in WW2"
Timeline: "Horror Spectators: The Lady Revolutionaries who Calmly Knit During Executions"
Geri Walton: "Tricoteuses: Knitting Women of the Guillotine"

									

Marie Antoinette by Gautier-Dagoty, 1775, Palace of Versailles

While Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) cannot take credit for inventing the pouf, she is certainly responsible for its popularity.  In 1774, when she became Queen of pre-Revolutionary France, over-the-top luxury was still very much the rage. For over a decade, fashionable French women had been raising, or poufing, their hair with woolen pads, coating and stiffening it with pomade made of beef lard or bear grease, and dusting it with wheat and corn powder. But, with the help of her Parisian milliner, Rose Bertin, and hairdresser, Léonard Autié, Marie Antoinette adopted the already established mode and took it to outrageous new heights. She made the pouf her signature look.

Marie Antoinette

Fashion plate a la Marie Antoinette

The rumor mill buzzed with tales of her many lovers, gambling debts, and shopping addiction. Of Austrian blood, the French were suspicious of foreign queens. Could they trust her? They might love her or hate her, on this they could disagree. But on one point the French were united. They couldn’t take their eyes off her. Although the Queen was criticized for her extravagant fashion statements and excessive spending, aristocrats and commoners clambered to imitate her style. Paris—and soon, Europe—broke out in a rash of copycat poufs. 

French fashion in the age of Marie Antoinette

The pouf was halfway between a hairstyle and a hat. The thickly-powdered hair was teased away from the face then arranged high on the head on a wire scaffolding resembling a cone-shaped garden topiary. Next, the hairdresser added and intertwined false curls—curly, wavy, crimped— sometimes made of horsehair, diamond jewelry, ropes of pearls, yards of gauze, lace, and ribbon, pompoms, ostrich and peacock feathers, bows, rosettes, butterflies, figurines, and props. With such ornamentation, the stylist then set about to create a miniature still-life upon this rickety foundation. The theme of the elaborate, yard-high headdress could be a sentiment, a commemoration of an event, or an expression of a political opinion. The creativity was inexhaustible.

One of Marie Antoinette’s earliest poufs was the pouf à l’inoculation to publicize her triumph in persuading the King to be vaccinated against smallpox. Perched in the hairdo was a serpent in an olive tree (symbols of wisdom and Aesculapius), behind which rose the golden sun of enlightenment. When the French supported the Americans in their revolution, Marie Antoinette showed her support by wearing a pouf à la Belle Poule. The intricate hairdo featured a French ship that had won a decisive victory against the British in June 1778.

The ship itself, with its masts, rigging, and guns, was imitated in miniature on the pouf. This elaborate creation, a celebration of sorts, was an overnight success. It should be noted, however, that many such coifs were supported with wired scaffolding and were very heavy.

Marie Antoinette’s fashion nod to France’s role in the American Revolution. The hairdo is the Pouf á la Belle Poule.

The poufs were almost impossible to wash and became breeding grounds for vermin. They were itchy and uncomfortable. Women used special head-scratchers to alleviate some of the agony. Because they were so expensive to create, many women wore them for a week or more and were obliged to sleep virtually upright upon a mound of pillows. Top-heaviness made dancing difficult. Riding in a carriage was problematic. To keep from ruining her towering pouf, a woman might end up kneeling on the floorboard on the way to a ball or even leaning her head out the window. Satirical cartoons poked fun at these slaves to fashion.

This British satirical etching commented on the French fashion for tall hairstyles, circa 1771. Image courtesy the British Museum.

Ever establishing new and exotic trends, Marie Antoinette spent a lifetime creating her identity as the nation’s most celebrated and reviled fashion plate. The attention she commanded came at a price. During the French Revolution, she was blamed for the country’s financial crisis.  Hidden away in luxury at the Palace of Versailles, she and her husband, King Louis XVI, were oblivious to the plight of the French working classes, starving for bread and suffering from years of poor harvests, rising food prices, and an unfair tax system. Their anger boiled over. In October 1789, an angry mob of perhaps ten thousand market women and their allies descended on Versailles with spears, pikes, kitchen blades, and cannons, calling for the Queen’s death. At the Palace, they beat and slaughtered guards. They compelled the King and Queen to return with them to Paris. The twelve-mile return walk took nine hours as the mob had swelled to sixty thousand. Some of the marchers paraded the shorn heads of royal guards on their upraised pikes.

An illustration of the Women’s March on Versailles, October 5-6, 1789. Artist Unknown. Bibliothèque nationale de France

Over the next two years, the Revolution moved to The Terror. The King was executed. Nine months later, on October 14, 1793, Marie Antoinette’s trial began. Two days later, the Queen was convicted of high treason by the Revolutionary Tribunal and executed by guillotine on the Place de la Révolution. Marie Antoinette’s reign as Queen of France had ended but her reign as Queen of Fashion had not:

Shortly after the guillotine sliced its own bloody version of a necklace in the Queen’s throat, well-born women in Paris began tying thin red ribbons around their necks as reminders of what they might soon suffer.

Sources
Weber, Caroline. Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Erickson, Carolly. To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie Antoinette
Fraser, Antonia. Marie Antoinette: The Journey
The Smithsonian. "Marie Antoinette"
wikipedia. "Marie Antoinette"
History Hoydens. "Can You Top This? Marie Antoinette's Hairstyles"
Collectors Weekly. "Fashion to Die For: Did an Addiction to Fads Lead 
Marie Antoinette to the Guillotine?"
Huffington Post. "Marie Antoinette's Craziest, Most Epic Hairstyles"
BibliOdyssey. "Waiter, There's a Hair in My Satire"
wikipedia. "Women's March on Versailles"

Photo Card No.101, Dancer Josephine Baker posing with a cheetah wearing a collar, photograph by Piaz Studios of Paris, Early 1930's. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

American entertainer Josephine Baker (1906-1975) with Chiquita. ca. early 1930s. Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum.

Ernest Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” Pablo Picasso painted her, seeking to capture her alluring beauty, saying she had “legs of paradise.” She was Josephine Baker, the glamorous cabaret star that took Paris by storm during the Jazz Age of the 1920s and 30s. In her signature stage act, she appeared onstage wearing only high heels and a skirt made of bananas. She danced and sang with erotic frenzy and wild abandon. She was often accompanied by her pet cheetah, Chiquita, who wore a diamond collar and often escaped into the orchestra pit, terrifying the musicians and adding to the overall sensation of the moment.

Josephine Baker was the first person of color to become a worldwide entertainer and star in a major motion picture (“ZouZou,” 1934). Although born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1937, she married a French man and became a French citizen.

josephine-baker1In 1939, France declared war on Nazi Germany for its invasion of Poland. Within nine months, the Nazis invaded France. Baker was recruited by the Deuxiéme Bureau, the French Military Intelligence, as an “honorable correspondent.” She was so well-known and popular that even the Nazis were hesitant to cause her harm. She made the perfect spy. As an entertainer, she had good excuses for traveling, which allowed her to smuggle secret orders and maps written in invisible ink on her musical sheets. On some occasions, Baker would smuggle secret photos of German military installations out of enemy territory by pinning them to her underwear. To operatives in the French Resistance as well as U.S. and British agents, she relayed information on German troop movements she had gleaned from conversations she overheard between officials with whom she mingled following her performances or at embassy and ministry parties. She also exposed French officials working for the Germans.  She hid Jewish refugees and weapons in her 24-room château in the South of France.

Her steadfast work for the French Resistance helped Baker to rise to the rank of lieutenant in the Free French Air Force. After the war, Baker was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance for her invaluable intelligence work in aid of her adopted country. She was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by General Charles de Gaulle.

Read more about Josephine Baker here on Lisa’s History Room.

Sources:
http://artdaily.com/news/18219/Josephine-Baker--at-The-National-Portrait-Gallery#.W7Ta2WhKiM8
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/top-spies-suspect/story?id=15528916
https://www.vogue.com/article/josephine-baker-90th-anniversary-banana-skirt
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Baker
http://historyofspies.com/josephine-baker/
https://www.bedsider.org/features/450-talented-seductive-courageous-getting-to-know-josephine-baker
http://mentalfloss.com/article/23148/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-josephine-baker

 

Roald Dahl (1916-1990), one of the world's best storytellers for children, among illustrations for his books by Quentin Blake. Undated photo.

Roald Dahl (1916-1990), one of the world’s best storytellers for children, among illustrations for his books by Quentin Blake. Undated photo.

British children’s writer Roald Dahl ate chocolates and sweets “pretty much every mealtime,” remembers daughter Ophelia Dahl:

“He…was fascinated by the cross section of the Mars bar – the layers of chocolate, caramel and nougat. He would never just bite it, but always cut it and have a look at it like it was a section of the Earth.” (1)

Mars bar with wrapper

After dinner, whether dining alone or entertaining guests, Dahl would pass around a little red plastic box full of Mars Bars, Milky Ways, Maltesers, Kit Kats and much more.

He knew the history of all the sweets and could tell you exactly when they were invented. 1937 was a big year when Kit Kats (his favorite), Rolos, and Smarties (his dog, Chopper’s favorite) were invented. He wrote a history of chocolate, lecturing schoolchildren to commit such dates to memory such as 1928 when “Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bar popped up on the scene,” (2) saying,

“Don’t bother with the Kings and Queens of England. All of you should learn these dates instead. Perhaps the Headmistress will see from now on that it becomes part of the major teaching in this school.” (3)

chocolate ad

Roald Dahl as a teenager at Repton, UK. Undated photo.

Roald Dahl as a teenager at Repton, UK. Undated photo.

According to Dahl, the Golden Years of Chocolate were 1930-1937. In 1930, Roald Dahl was 14 years old. He was a student at Repton, a prestigious boys’ boarding school in England. It was a harsh environment: those in authority were more interested in controlling than educating the students. In Boy: Tales of Childhood, Dahl writes :

“By now, I am sure you will be wondering why I lay so much emphasis upon school beatings….The answer is that I cannot help it. All through my school life I was appalled by the fact that masters and senior boys were allowed literally to wound other boys, and sometimes quite severely. I couldn’t get over it. I never have got over it. It would, of course, be unfair to suggest that all masters were constantly beating the daylights out of all the boys in those days. They weren’t. Only a few did so, but that was quite enough to leave a lasting impression of horror upon me.”

 

Chocolate with cubesIronically, it was at this difficult period that chocolate became Dahl’s passion. Near Repton was a Cadbury chocolate factory. Every so often, Cadbury would send each schoolboy a sampler box of new chocolates to taste and grade. They were using the students – “the greatest chocolate bar experts in the world” to test out their new inventions.

This was when Dahl’s imagination took flight. He pictured factories with inventing rooms with pots of chocolate and fudge and “all sorts of other delicious fillings bubbling away on the stoves.” (4)

Cadbury chocolate factory workers, UK, 1932

Cadbury chocolate factory workers, UK, 1932

“It was lovely dreaming those dreams….[and] when I was looking for a plot for my second book for children, I remembered those little cardboard boxes and the newly-invented chocolates inside them, and I began to write a book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, 1964.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, 1964.

For the record, Roald Dahl did not like chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream. He said,

“I prefer my chocolate straight.”

(1) The Daily Mail

(2) Dahl, Roald. “The Chocolate Revolution,” Sunday Magazine. September 7, 1997.

(3) The Roald Dahl Museum

(4) Dahl, Roald. Boy: Tales of Childhood. New York: Puffin Books, 1984.

LBJ: The Amphicar

436-287-WH64_-Lyndon-and-Lady-Bird-at-the-LBJ-Ranch-on-election-day-in-1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson relax at their Stonewall, Texas ranch following LBJ’s election to the Presidency. November, 1964.

When she was First Lady of the United States (1963-69), Lady Bird Johnson felt that she was often in a moving vehicle. In her diary, she wrote:

LBJ Ranch [Stonewall, Texas]

Saturday, April 10, 1965

“We arrived at the Ranch last night around 10:45 on the Jetstar….

[This morning] Sarge and Eunice Shriver, Ann Brinkley, Lyndon, and I helicoptered to San Marcos to Camp Gary, to the dedication of the Job Corps Camp….”

Lady Bird Johnson (1)

President Lyndon B. Johnson (back to camera at right) speaks with Mathilde Krim and Lady Bird Johnson First Lady of the United States Lady Bird Johnson and Mathilde Krim are on board a helicopter en route from Krim Ranch to LBJ Ranch, near Stonewall, Texas. President Johnson has his back to photographer. November 7, 1966. Photo by Mike Geissinger. LBJ Presidential Library. 3837-37

First Lady of the United States Lady Bird Johnson and Mathilde Krim are on board a helicopter en route from the Krim Ranch to the LBJ Ranch, near Stonewall, Texas. President Johnson has his back to photographer. November 7, 1966. Photo by Mike Geissinger. LBJ Presidential Library. 3837-37

After some emotional speechifying, the ceremony ended, and, around noon, the group was back in the chopper, flying to yet another of the Johnsons’ many Texas properties. This one – the Haywood Ranch – lay northwest of Austin near Kingsland on Lake Granite Shoals (which, by the end of the month, would be renamed Lake LBJ). Though the Haywood Ranch was 4,500 acres of mostly pasture land, undeveloped, it was a lakeside retreat where President Lyndon Baines Johnson kept his many boats. He loved his boats, maybe as much as he loved his Lincoln Continentals.

Then American Vice President Lyndon Johnson entertains guests on his Glaston boat. July 16, 1961. Note Lady Bird Johnson in green. She recalled being “often in a moving vehicle” during the White House years.

LBJ loved packing his boats with guests (especially pretty girls, according to Lady Bird), taking the wheel himself, and zigzagging at top speed across the lake, spray flying, bouncing hard across his wake, oftentimes pulling a skier or two and dropping off guests for a quick dip in the fresh water. Then, around noon, he would head over to Coca-Cola Ranch, slip into the peace of the cove, and – after cutting the throttle – spread out a picnic lunch to enjoy in the warm Texas sun.

At 1:17 p.m., the Presidential party – the Shrivers, the Johnsons, and others – landed at Haywood Ranch. The spring countryside was blanketed in fragrant Texas bluebonnets. LBJ made telephone calls inviting more friends to join the happy party – and to bring bar-b-q and swimsuits. Then the President and guests “went to the boats.” (2)

LBJ diary April 10 1965

excerpt from LBJ daily diary for April 10, 1965

President Johnson couldn’t wait to show Eunice Shriver his new toy. It was a “lagoon blue” convertible. Built in Germany, this Amphicar – half-boat, half-car – was one of only 3,878 produced. The President took Mrs. Shriver and Sgt. Paul Glynn out for a spin in his very unusual car. They drove straight from the land out onto the water and the car didn’t sink. Granted, it only went 15 m.p.h. tops, but it managed to keep the water out. It was a hoot and the President loved a hoot.

President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Amphicar with Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Paul Glynn. April 10, 1965. Photo by Yoichi Okamoto. LBJ Presidential Library A263-8

President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Amphicar with Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Paul Glynn at the Haywood Ranch, near Kingsland, Texas. April 10, 1965. Photo by Yoichi Okamoto. LBJ Presidential Library A263-8.

Joe Califano Jr., then LBJ’s top domestic aide, remembered when the President took him out for a ride in the Amphicar – without LBJ telling him first that it was amphibious:

“The President, with Vicky McCammon in the seat alongside him and me in the back,was now driving around in a small blue car with the top down. We reached a steep incline at the edge of the lake and the car started rolling rapidly toward the water. The president shouted, ‘The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!’
The car splashed into the water. I started to get out. Just then the car leveled, and I realized we were in an Amphicar. The president laughed. As we putted along the lake then (and throughout the evening), he teased me. “Vicky, did you see what Joe did? He didn’t give a damn about his President. He just wanted to save his own skin and get out of the car.” Then he’d roar. (3)”

President LBJ's Amphicar

President LBJ’s Amphicar

 LBJ’s Amphicar is displayed at the LBJ Ranch.

ad Amphicar arrives in America 196o New York Automobile Show Program

Amphibious cars for the civilian population was a trend that never took off.

Sources

(1) Johnson, Lady Bird. A White House Diary. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1970. p. 259.

(2) Lyndon B. Johnson’s daily diary, April 10, 1965. LBJ Presidential Library.

(3) Califano, Joseph A. The Triumph & Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years. NY: Simon and Schuster, 2015.

What would the American Civil Rights Movement have been without the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? On September 20, 1958, we almost lost him.

The weather boded well for a good turnout. It was a sunny Saturday in New York City and Blumstein’s Department Store – at  230 W. 125th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, Harlem – was hustling to get ready for their big guest. On the ground floor, behind the shoe department, clerks had roped off an area where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would sit behind a desk to autograph copies of his first book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. 

The book related the success of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of segregated transit systems.

wo black ministers who were active in the long boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama were among the first to ride after a Supreme Court integration order went into effect on December 21, 1956. At left, front seat, is the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, while at left in the second seat is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beside King is white minister, Rev. Glenn Smiley of New York, who said he was in Montgomery as an observer.

Two black ministers who were active in the long boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama were among the first to ride after a Supreme Court integration order went into effect on December 21, 1956. At right, is the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, while at left is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Black Americans no longer had to sit at the back of the bus or give up their seats to white people.

Dr. King, with his powerful oratory, had rocketed to fame nearly overnight and had become a significant figure on the national political scene for his participation in the victory. He was making four speeches a week to persuade the nation to stop the practice of racial segregation. It was the dawn of the civil rights movement.

“Dr. King is a rather soft-spoken man with a learning and maturity far beyond his 27 years. His clothes are in conservative good taste and he has a small trim mustache.”(1)

Izola Ware Curry

Blumstein’s Department Store – the site of the autograph party for Dr. King – wasn’t far from where Izola Ware Curry, 42, lived in a brownstone, at 121 West 122d Street in Harlem. Izola was a drifter, a sometimes maid, who had been in Harlem only two months. Izola had Dr. King on her radar. She detested him and all black preachers, calling their boycotts and protests a sham. She felt that blacks should move for social change through appeals to Congress. She hated the NAACP in particular – thought they were controlled by Communists – and white people in general. By 1956, paranoia had taken over her thinking. She started writing the FBI claiming that Communists were out to get her. She was anti-social, tended to babble and rant, her words often unintelligible and ungrammatical. Her neighbors wrote her off as “eccentric.” Izola Ware Curry was African-American.

The Rally The Night Before the Signing

The night before Dr. King’s book signing, just around the corner from Blumstein’s, a rally was held for Dr. King in front of the Hotel Teresa. On the podium he was joined by other dignitaries, among them baseball great Jackie Robinson, New York Governor Averell Harriman, and gubernatorial hopeful, Republican Nelson Rockefeller, with music provided by Duke Ellington. The crowd numbered 5,000. Izola Ware Curry, in her unstable mental state, was there.

When Rockefeller spoke:

This business about [Eisenhower] going slow on integration….I know the man!….Who sent the troops to Little Rock?”(2)

Curry heckled him, calling white people racists. King’s escort in the city, William Rowe,

“did his best to calm her down. And Frederick Weaver, a platform guest, motioned for police officers to make her stop. But the police were reluctant to get tough with her, fearing…an incident…that could escalate into a larger racial disturbance.” (2)

When Dr. King spoke, Curry jeered him, too, as did a few others. Curry shouted that no “negro” should ever try to cooperate with a white person. Rowe had to calm her down once more.

Miraculously, the rally ended without dissolving into chaos. Rowe feared more trouble at the next day’s signing, suggesting a bodyguard for Dr. King, an idea that Dr. King rejected.

The Booksigning

Saturday, September 20, 1958

Blumstein’s Department Store

3:30 p.m.

Izola Ware Curry, 42

Izola Ware Curry, 42

As she pushed her way through the crowd to the desk where Dr. King sat, bystanders couldn’t help but notice the elegantly dressed black woman in her stylish suit, showy jewelry, and sequined cat’s-eyeglasses. Nothing on the surface betrayed the insanity beneath. Little did onlookers suspect that, secreted in Izola Curry’s bra, was a loaded Italian automatic pistol, and, in her enormous leather purse, a 7-inch steel letter opener.

With her purse slung over one arm, Izola Curry strode with purpose straight up to Dr. King, where he was seated, signing a book for a customer.

“Are you Martin Luther King?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied, not looking up. (3)

She reached into her purse and withdrew the letter opener in an arc. Instinctively, Dr. King yanked his left arm up to block the weapon, cutting his left hand as she plunged the blade into his chest. Dr. King recalled:

“The next minute I felt something beating on my chest.”

A bystander knocked Curry’s hand away from the blade before she could withdraw it and stab Dr. King again.

“I’ve been after him for six years!” shouted Curry, starting to run. “I’m glad I done it!” (2)

A group of women chased her with umbrellas, shouting, “Catch her!” A journalist jumped out and grabbed Curry by the left arm and turned her over to the store security guard, who handcuffed her.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sits calmly with a letter opener protruding from his chest as Nettie C. Jackson tends his cut hand. September 20, 1958

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sits calmly with a letter opener protruding from his chest as Nettie C. Jackson tends his cut hand. September 20, 1958

Meanwhile, Dr. King sat still and calm and clear-thinking, with the letter opener protruding from his chest. Someone called for an ambulance to Harlem Hospital. Dr. King was carried, still seated in his chair, to the back of the store. When the ambulance arrived, he was placed carefully on his back. He was told, as was everyone present, that he must not touch the letter opener.

The stabbing nearly cost Dr. King his life, as the blade of the letter opener had lodged in his sternum, within millimeters of piercing the aorta. At Harlem Hospital, surgeons extracted the blade in a delicate operation. He developed pneumonia and had a long convalescence.

Surgeons performed a delicate 2 1/4 hour surgery to extract the letter opener from Dr. Martin Luther King's manubrium, the top bone of the sternum. September 20, 1958

Surgeons performed a delicate 2 1/4 hour surgery to extract the letter opener from Dr. Martin Luther King’s manubrium, the top bone of the sternum. September 20, 1958

A rare photograph of the operation on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, when he was stabbed in Harlem on September 20, 1958

A rare photograph of the operation on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, when he was stabbed in Harlem on September 20, 1958

Izola Ware Curry, Dr. Martin Luther King's assailant. Following her arrest, psychiatrists evaluated her and diagnosed her with paranoid schizophrenia and an I.Q. of about 70. She was institutionalized and died in 2015, at the age of 98. (Getty Images)

Izola Ware Curry, Dr. Martin Luther King’s assailant. Following her arrest, psychiatrists evaluated her and diagnosed her with paranoid schizophrenia and an I.Q. of about 70. She was institutionalized and died in 2015, at the age of 98. (Getty Images)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is embraced by his wife Coretta Scott King during a news conference at Harlem Hospital in New York, Sept 30, 1958, where he is recovering from a stab wound following an attack by a woman. At left is his mother, Alberta Williams King. (AP Photo/Tony Camerano)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is embraced by his wife Coretta Scott King during a news conference at Harlem Hospital in New York, Sept 30, 1958, where he was recovering from a stab wound following an attack by Izola Ware Curry. At left is his mother, Alberta Williams King. (AP Photo/Tony Camerano)

Ten Years Later

On April 3, 1968, ten years after the Harlem stabbing, Dr. King recalled it in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tennessee:

“The x-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And, once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood – that’s the end of you.”

The surgeon told him that, if he had sneezed before the operation, he would have died. To lively applause, he continued, in his “Mountaintop” speech:

“And I want to say tonight – I want to say tonight that I, too, am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting in at lunch counters. 

 “If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in interstate travel.

“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Ala., aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream I had.”

He closed his speech with remarks about the possibility of his untimely death. The next day, in Memphis, he was assassinated by James Earl Ray, a white supremacist.

(1) “Battle Against Tradition: Martin Luther King, Jr.” The New York Times, March 21, 1956

(2) Pearson, Hugh. When Harlem Nearly Killed King. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.

(3) “Izola Ware Curry, Who Stabbed King in 1958, Dies at 98.” New York Times. March 22, 2015.

My husband Tom and I just returned from touring “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles!” (June 13, 2015 – January 10, 2016) at the LBJ Presidential Library here in Austin, Texas. This fantastic traveling exhibit focuses on the years 1964-1966, when the British rock band landed in America and took the world by storm.

While some of the memorabilia in the museum was standard Beatles fare – clips of the Fab Four performing on the Ed Sullivan TV show, photos of George, Paul, Ringo, and John running from the ceiling to the floor,

George Harrison

George Harrison

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr

John Lennon

John Lennon

videos of fans being interviewed,

Interviewer: Do you have Beatlemania?

Female Fan: Yes, but we don’t know why we act as we do.

IMG_3064

“Love Me Do,” the Beatles first single, was released on Oct. 5, 1962

there were still plenty of choice nuggets to be discovered among the trove, including this “Love Me Do” 45 RPM record, signed by all 4 Beatles the day after it was recorded.

Included were John Lennon‘s first pair of granny glasses.

IMG_3082

John  Lennon 1967

John Lennon 1967

The centerpiece of the show was one of John Lennon’s beloved Gibson guitars.

John Lennon's Gibson Guitar

John Lennon’s Gibson Guitar, 1962. John Lennon bought this electric-acoustic, Gibson J-160E guitar at Rushworth’s Music House in Liverpool, England, soon after the Beatles signed their first recording contract with Parlophone Records. The guitar cost £161 (approximately $450). Lennon used it on several famous Beatles recordings from 1963 to ’64, including “Please Please Me,” “She Loves You, and “A Hard Day’s Night.” The guitar made a limited appearance in Austin (June 13-29).

While we’re talking about John, here is a lock of his hair he bestowed on a British fan, signing his autograph with ‘love from “Bald” John Lennon xxx.’

John Lennon's autograph with lock of hair

John Lennon’s autograph with lock of hair

Featured was the original Ludwig drum head Ringo played on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

IMG_3069

Ringo’s drums

At an oral history booth, I made an audio recording of my personal recollections of the Beatles. I was nine years old when the Beatles made their first appearance – live – on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was August, a Sunday night, and a hot one. I grew up in South Texas, in the days before air conditioned houses. Our casement windows were cranked open.

When the Beatles debuted with“All My Loving,” the teen-aged girls in the audience went wild, screaming. Then we heard screams in the neighborhood. The next door neighbor children were screaming as they watched the performance.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Feb. 9, 1964

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Feb. 9, 1964

Instead of playing house, my sister Loise, my neighbor, Katie, and I played a variation on that theme that we called “Beatles Wives.” We pretended we were each married to a Beatle and were waiting for the men to come home. We would get dressed up and plan the (imaginary) dinner we would serve them. I thought I was Jane Asher (Paul’s girlfriend at the time), as I was “married” to Paul McCartney.

My mother loved the Beatles as much as we children did. She would put one of their records on the stereo and we – my mom, my sisters, my neighbor friends, and I – would hold hands and dance around and around in a big circle in our living room. The album, “Beatles 65,” was a favorite.

Back at the LBJ exhibit: At the entrance, there was also a huge wall map of the United States pinned with ticket stubs for Beatles concerts.

In 1966, $4.50 bought you a ticket to a Beatles concert. The Candlestick Park, San Francisco, would be their last official concert. The 11-song set included hits such as  “She’s a Woman,” “Day Tripper,” “I Feel Fine,” “Yesterday,” and “Paperback Writer.”

In 1966, $4.50 bought you a ticket to a Beatles concert – in this case, the Beatles’ last official concert – at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Their 11-song set included hits such as “She’s a Woman,” “Day Tripper,” “I Feel Fine,” “Yesterday,” and “Paperback Writer.”

(l. to r.) Paul McCartney and George Harrison perform at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, in August of 1966. This was their final official performance. They were burned out and complained that the fans were so loud they couldn't hear themselves playing the music.

(l. to r.) Paul McCartney and George Harrison perform at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, in August of 1966. This was their final official performance. They were burned out and complained that the fans were so loud they couldn’t hear themselves playing their music.

One wall case was devoted to Beatles products sold by Woolworth’s department stores: Beatles bubble bath, bobble-headed dolls, “Build a Beatle” kits, Beatle lunchkits, record holders, and rings.

Bobble headed Beatles

Bobble headed Beatles

I saved the best for last. Here is a song written in longhand by Paul McCartney.

IMG_3079

This is an early draft of the song, “What You’re Doing,” written by Paul McCartney with help from John Lennon, 1964. During their first U.S. tour, the group rested in Atlantic City, where McCartney tossed this draft in the trash. It was retrieved by a maid and given to Atlantic City concert promoter George Hamid.

Our tour ended with a photo op of Tom and me walking across Abbey Road.

Tom

Tom

IMG_3093

Me

Readers: For more on the Beatles, click here

Constance Keane brushes her lustrous honey-blond hair. Undated photo. ca. 1940

Constance Keane brushes her lustrous honey-blond hair. Undated photo. ca. 1940

Constance Keane, 19, was sure she had blown her Paramount screen test. It was August of 1941 and the film was “I Wanted Wings.” Keane auditioned to portray a nightclub singer:

“We did a scene in which I was supposed to be tipsy at a table in a small nightclub. Things were going nicely until I leaned my elbows on the edge of the table….My right elbow slipped off the table edge sending my long blonde hair falling over my left eye. I spent the next few minutes trying to continue with the scene as I kept shaking my head to get the hair out of my eyes.” (1)

She knew she had lost the chance to play the part and left the studio sobbing. But then came the phone call from the picture’s director. He wanted her for the part. Her acting may not have been perfect, but she had a magnetism on film and, the biggest surprise of all, her hair had been a smash! He liked the eye-hiding gimmick of it. The picture was going to be a hit, he said, and that would make her Connie a star. A star, however needed both a gimmick and a good name. He hated the name Constance Keane so he rechristened her “Veronica Lake,” borrowing the “Veronica” bit from his secretary and adding the last name “Lake” because “her eyes are calm and blue like a lake.”

Veronica Lake liked to say that she didn't do cheesecake shots like Betty Grable but, rather, used her hair for sex appeal. Photo undated, ca. 1942

Veronica Lake liked to say that she didn’t do cheesecake shots like Betty Grable but, rather, used her hair for sex appeal. Photo undated, ca. 1942

“I Wanted Wings” was indeed a runaway success. It was the biggest picture of 1941 and Veronica Lake’s breakthrough hit. Veronica Lake (1922-1973) , all 4’11” and 90 lbs of her, became a big star overnight.

To get an idea of how tiny Veronica Lake was, she is shown here to the left of actress Dorothy Lamour. Undated photo, ca. 1942

To get an idea of how tiny Veronica Lake was, she is shown here with fellow film stars Paulette Goddard (l) and Dorothy Lamour (center). Lake is at our far right. From movie, “Star-Spangled Rhythm,” 1942.

The public loved her playful yet seductive, one-eyed look.

The poster for Paramount’s 1941 film, “I Wanted Wings” launched Veronica Lake’s career and her trademark peekaboo hairdo.

Lake’s honey-blonde hair – flat on top because women wore hats in the forties – was worn with a deep side parting and swept over to the opposite side. Soft waves draped her cheek and a single S-curl fell seductively over one eye. Long and loose, flowing over the shoulders and down the back, the hairstyle known as the “peekaboo” became a fashion must-have.

Veronica Lake at her most iconic. Ca. 1942

Veronica Lake at her most iconic. Ca. 1942

Women flocked to beauty salons all across the nation to get “The Lake Look.” The Fuller Brush Company advertised that Lake gave her hair fifteen minutes of stroking every day with one of their brushes.

Veronica Lake wore looser curls than actresses of the day. Photo undated, ca. 1942

Veronica Lake wore looser curls than actresses of the day. Photo undated, ca. 1942

Life magazine devoted an article to her hair and the sensation it caused, divulging such personal information as

“the fact that my head had 150,000 hairs, each measuring about 0.0024 inches in cross-section….[B]ecause Hollywood’s water was so hard, I rinsed [my hair] in vinegar,” wrote Lake. (1)

Veronica Lake at the height of her beauty and fame. Photo ca. 1942

Veronica Lake at the height of her beauty and fame. Photo ca. 1942

For the next several years, Lake’s hair would have the tendency to droop over one eye.

Veronica Lake was a great beauty. Ca. 1942

Veronica Lake was a great beauty. Ca. 1942

Her role in her next picture, “Sullivan’s Travels,” (1942), costarring Joel McCrea, won her both popular and critical acclaim. It was straight comedy and Lake proved to be very good at it.

Note the doodle in the bottom left of the poster. It is instantly recognizable as Veronica Lake.

Note the doodle in the bottom left of the poster. It is instantly recognizable as Veronica Lake.

Her next film, “This Gun for Hire” (1942), a film noir, was the first of seven she made with Alan Ladd. Both Lake and Ladd were short – Ladd was only 5’5″ – golden-haired, attractive, and aloof. The public loved the Ladd/Lake pairing (and Ladd didn’t have to stand in a pit when filming scenes with his leading lady).

Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in the film, "This Gun for Hire." 1942

Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in the film, “This Gun for Hire.” 1942

In “I Married a Witch” (1942), a romantic fantasy comedy, Lake is cast as a witch whose plans for revenge against costarring mortal Frederic March are foiled. Her characterization is a funky combination of kittenish allure and goofiness. The film was wildly popular and later sparked the creation of the TV series, “Bewitched” in 1964.

In filming "I Married a Witch," Veronica Lake played tricks on Frederic March, because she hated him, like kneeing him in the groin during a tender scene while the cameras were rolling.

On the set of “I Married a Witch,” Veronica Lake made Frederic March miserable because, in real life, she hated him. In one tender scene, the camera is filming Frederic March from the neck up while Lake is kneeing him in the groin. That was not in the script and March kept a poker face despite excruciating pain.

In "I Married A Witch," Veronica Lake plays a witch burned in the Salem witch trials, out to seek revenge.

In “I Married A Witch,” Veronica Lake plays a witch burned in the Salem witch trials, out to seek revenge.

In 1943, Veronica Lake was as popular as ever with the movie-going public. She was on a roll. She was one of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars.

Unfortunately, Miss Lake’s rise to fame coincided with America going to war (World War II, 1941-1945). Men left for the battlefield and women went to work in war industry factories.

Women were invaluable in the war effort. Soldiers without Guns poster, Office of War Information, ca. 1944. (National Archives)

Women were invaluable in the war effort. Soldiers without Guns poster, Office of War Information, ca. 1944. (National Archives)

Some of these factory workers wore their hair down in the factories, peekaboo style. Their drooping locks began to present a safety issue. The U.S. government intervened, asking the one-eyed beauty Veronica Lake not to wear her hair down for the duration of the war. She obliged, putting her hair up, and was praised widely for her patriotism, giving up her peekaboo look for the war effort.

In this Life magazine photo, movie star Veronica Lake illustrates the danger of loose hair for female factory workers. Her hair is tangled in machinery. Photo Undated. Ca. 1943

In this Life magazine photo, movie star Veronica Lake illustrates the danger of loose hair for female factory workers. Her hair is tangled in machinery. Photo Undated. Ca. 1943

Here is the public service announcement, “Safety Styles” she made to urge women to follow her example:

At the end of the “Safety Styles” video, the announcer says that, with her new updo, Veronica Lake’s “hair is out of the way and combed in a simple and becoming fashion.” That fashion was called a “victory roll,” making a “V” shape when seen from the back and a “victory” because of the gesture of choosing country over vanity. In the 1943 film, “So Proudly We Hail!” (1943), Lake wears her hair in a “victory roll” in her portrayal of Lieutenant Olivia D’Arcy. The movie was a success.

Veronica Lake in "So Proudly We Hail" (1943)

Veronica Lake in “So Proudly We Hail” (1943)

Veronica Lake shows her "victory roll" hairdo. 1942-43

Veronica Lake shows her “victory roll” hairdo. 1942-43

In 1944,  Lake’s career faltered with her unsympathetic role as Nazi spy Dora Bruckman in “The Hour Before the Dawn” (1944). The movie was a flop. Again, Lake is wearing her hair up in a severe style, as the war is still in progress.

"The Hour Before the Dawn" (1944) with Veronica Lake.

“The Hour Before the Dawn” (1944) with Veronica Lake.

Veronica Lake would make 26 pictures. By 1950, however, her career in films was effectively over. Some biographers say that abandoning her classic peekaboo hairstyle damaged her box office appeal. In truth, though, it was Lake’s heavy drinking and her devilish behavior that undid her hard-earned success. From the beginning, she was difficult to work with; she made enemies on every movie set, often running off and disappearing in the middle of filming. No one wanted to work with her. The studio stopped giving her plum roles.

Eddie Bracken, her co-star in “Star Spangled Rhythm” (in which Lake appeared in a musical number) was quoted as saying,

“She was known as ‘The B—h’ and she deserved the title.”

Joel McCrea, her co-star in “Sullivan’s Travels,” reportedly turned down the co-starring role in “I Married a Witch,” saying,

“Life’s too short for two films with Veronica Lake.”

(However, McCrea did co-star with Lake again in 1947 in the western, “Ramrod.”)

In Ramrod, Veronica Lake can let her hair down once again, as the war has been over for 2 years.

In Ramrod, Veronica Lake can let her hair down once again, as the war has been over for 2 years.

During filming of the film “The Blue Dahlia” (1946), screenwriter Raymond Chandler referred to her as “Moronica Lake”.

Lake’s romantic entanglements were a disaster. She grew tired of her children. Her mother claimed that Veronica had been diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen and that she took her to Hollywood to study acting as therapy. Few people trust her mother’s words since she later sued Veronica Lake, wanting part of her estate. Nevertheless, Veronica Lake had a complex and volatile nature.

By 1948, her movies had become flops. Paramount Pictures did not renew her contract.

Veronica Lake  (1970)

Veronica Lake (1970)

Veronica Lake’s decline in mental health and descent into full-blown alcoholism was both severe and dramatically rapid. Her beauty faded; her health crumbled. In 1973, after years of ill health, menial jobs largely in hotels and bars, loneliness, numerous brushes with the law for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, and poverty due to untreated alcoholism, Veronica Lake, 51, died of cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis in a Vermont hospital.

Veronica Lake’s iconic look is still copied today. Countless Youtube tutorials teach how to achieve the peekaboo look, a classic style, a relic of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when Veronica Lake reigned.

How to get that retro look of tumbling waves.

How to get that retro look of tumbling waves.

Source:

(1) Lake, Veronica with Bain, Donald. Veronica. New York: The Citadel Press, 1969.

“The Luncheon of the Boating Party,” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. (1880-81)

Many of you will recognize this impressionist masterpiece.

Technically, this is a great painting. Forget that. Get inside this dreamy scene. It’s a breezy Sunday afternoon. After rowing down the Seine with your friends – see the river in the background? – you stop at a charming little French café for a good meal in the fresh air.

Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973), actor and collector of fine art,  loved this painting, known in French as Le déjeuner des canotiers. Robinson once said:

“For over thirty years I made periodic visits to Renoir’s ‘The Luncheon of the Boating Party’ in a Washington museum, and stood before that magnificent masterpiece hour after hour, day after day, plotting ways to steal it.” (wiki)

Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney gaze at one another in "Rings on Her Fingers" (1942)

Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney (1920-1991) gaze at one another in “Rings on Her Fingers” (1942)

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, actress Gene Tierney, age 21, and film star Henry Fonda were filming “Rings on Her Fingers” on Catalina Island, 22 miles off the southern California coast.

The cameras were getting ready to roll when a man came running down the beach screaming:

“The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor! “

Pearl Harbor was in Hawaii, just west across the Pacific from Catalina. Catalina was a dangerous place to be. No one knew exactly what was happening – or what would happen next – just as Americans felt as the events of 9/11 unfolded. Everyone had to get off that island. Since the attack on Pearl Harbor had come without warning and a formal declaration of war by the Japanese, the American people were in shock. They expected more attacks, possibly on California.

Gene Tierney, her husband Oleg Cassini, costar Henry Fonda and the rest of the film’s cast and crew piled into a boat and sailed hurriedly for the mainland. It was a nervous crossing. Rumors flew that the waters had been sabotaged with mines.

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On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. All but one (Arizona) were later raised, and six of the eight battleships were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. (2)

The next day, the U.S. declared war on Japan. Days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. Overnight, the United States was plunged into war in both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.

The U.S. government enlisted the help of Hollywood stars to aid the war effort by boosting morale at home. Americans were urged to plant backyard “victory gardens” – vegetable patches – to help feed civilians at home. Suddenly, farm production was heavily burdened by having to feed millions of military personnel, as well as coping with fewer men on the farms.

War is expensive. The U.S. government encouraged people to buy War Bonds. You could purchase a $25 War Bond for $18.75. The government used that money to help pay for tanks, planes, ships, uniforms, weapons, medicine, food, and for the military.  Ten years from the time you purchased your War Bond you could redeem it and get $25.

Gene Tierney did her part for the war effort, whether it was planting a “victory garden,” promoting war bonds, or entertaining the troops.

Gene T tends her own "victory garden," in Fort Riley, Kansas, where her husband is stationed in the army.  She is pregnant with her first child, Daria. 1943. (photo courtesy Lou and Mary Jo Mari)

Gene Tierney tends her own “victory garden,” in Fort Riley, Kansas, where her husband is stationed. 1943. (photo courtesy Lou and Mary Jo Mari)

Gene Tierney encouraged Americans to buy war bonds.

Gene Tierney appeared in posters and went on campaign drives to encourage Americans to buy war bonds.

Gene Tierney took time to entertain the troops at the Hollywood Canteen. From 1942-45, three million service personnel on leave – men and women, black and white – would pass through the doors of that converted barn to rub elbows with the stars. On any given night, Bob Hope might be on the stage cracking jokes while Rita Hayworth made sandwiches, Harry James played trumpet, or Hedy Lamarr danced with the soldiers.

Film star Shirley Temple gives cookies to the soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen. Ca. 1942-45.

Shirley Temple passes out cookies at the Hollywood Canteen. Ca. 1942-45.

During the war years, Gene Tierney was at the height of her popularity. Her image graced countless magazine covers.Gene T Life Mag Nov. 10, 1941 Shanghai Gesture wardrobe gene-tierney-movie-stars-parade-magazine-cover-1940-s_i-G-54-5494-2D3WG00Z March 1946 mag cover tierney april 1943

Gene Tierney smiles broadly while husband, Oleg Cassini, looks away. ca. 1945

Gene Tierney smiles broadly while husband, Oleg Cassini, looks away. ca. 1945

Gene’s best pictures were made in the forties. Her beauty was extraordinary then. Her presence on screen was fresh and captivating. She had expressive green eyes, high cheekbones, lustrous, dark hair, and a sensual full mouth that revealed, when parted, an unexpected yet terribly endearing overbite. (Her contract with 24th Century Fox forbid her from correcting the crooked teeth.)

American film actress Gene Tierney. ca. 1941

American film actress Gene Tierney. ca. 1941

And she could act. She was only 23 when she appeared in “Laura” (1944), directed by Otto Preminger, a stunning film noir masterpiece, so richly layered with plot twists and great casting (Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson, Clifton Webb) that you can enjoy it again and again. It is her signature film. Also fantastic are “The Razor’s Edge” with Tyrone Power (1946) and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” with Rex Harrison (1947). All three are available to rent on Amazon Instant Video. She plays against type – still classy in manner, yes, but devious in heart – in the film she received an Academy Award nomination for: “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945).

Gene Tierney smolders as "Laura." (1944),

Gene Tierney is smoldering as “Laura” (1944), one of my top five favorite films of all time. Gripping.

In the spring of 1943, Gene finished filming “Heaven Can Wait” in Hollywood. She was expecting her first child and, gratefully, not yet showing signs of pregnancy. She had kept that a secret for fear of being replaced in the film. She longed to be with husband Oleg in Kansas, where he was stationed in the army.

Before leaving Los Angeles and starting her maternity leave, Gene decided to make one last appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. So, that night, Gene showed her support of American troops by signing autographs, mingling with the crowd, and shaking hands. The troops were homesick and sad; a little stardust lightened their load.

A few days after that visit, Gene woke up with red spots covering her arms and face. She had the German measles, or rubella. In 1943, there was no vaccine to prevent contracting the measles. That would not be available for 22 more years. Obstetricians advised patients to avoid crowds in their first four months of pregnancy, to avoid contracting the measles. At the time, it was believed that measles was a harmless childhood disease.

Little did Gene know at the time, but, just two years earlier,

“…[B]y studying a small cluster of cases in Australia, [eye doctor] Dr. N. M. Gregg first noted that the rubella virus could cause cataracts, deafness, heart deformities and mental retardation [in an unborn child].” (3)

Of course, this was before TV and Internet gave us 24/7 news cycles that would have immediately alerted the public to this critical finding. Gene didn’t know that her small act of kindness at the Canteen would have tragic and long-term consequences for both her and her baby’s health.

After a week of doctor-ordered rest, Gene rested, got better, then packed her bags for Fort Riley, Kansas, to join Oleg. The next several months were devoted to making her Junction City home ready for the baby and being a couple.

Gene Tierney and husband Oleg Cassini celebrate the birth of their first child with a night out in New York City at the Stork Club. Mid 1943.

Gene Tierney and husband Oleg Cassini await the birth of their first child with a celebratory night out in New York City at the Stork Club. Mid 1943.

By the fall, Gene was living in Washington, D.C., while Oleg was awaiting orders in Virginia. On the morning of October 15, 1943, Gene gave birth to a premature baby girl, weighing only two and a half pounds. Oleg flew to Washington and joined his wife at Columbia Hospital. They named their baby “Daria.”

Doctors informed them that Daria was not in good shape. She was premature and going blind. She had cataracts in both eyes. After reviewing Gene’s medical chart, the doctors concluded that Gene’s measles were responsible for the baby’s defects. They cited the studies done by the Australian eye doctor, Dr. Gregg.

Daria continued to have health problems and delayed development. She had no inner ear fluid and became deaf. It was clear that she suffered from mental retardation. Gene and Oleg hoped against hope that a doctor somewhere could cure Daria. But, after consulting one specialist after another (much of it paid for by Howard Hughes), they had to face the fact that Daria was permanently disabled and needed more care than they were capable of giving her at home.

When Daria was about two years old, Gene got an unexpected jolt. She was at a tennis function. A fan approached her.

“Ms. Tierney, do you remember me?” asked the woman.

Gene had no memory of having met the stranger. She shook her head and replied, “No. Should I?”

The woman told Gene that she was in the women’s branch of the Marines and had met Gene at the Hollywood Canteen.

Gene never would forget what the woman said next.

“By the way, Ms. Tierney, did you happen to catch the German measles after that night I saw you at the Canteen?”

The woman revealed that she had had the measles herself at the time but had broken quarantine just to see Gene at the Canteen.

Gene was dumbstruck. That woman had given her the measles! She was the sole cause of Daria’s disabilities. Gene said nothing. She just turned and walked away.

When Daria was four, Oleg and Gene made the difficult decision to institutionalize Daria (1943-2010). Daria spent most of her life at the ELWYN, an institution for specially disabled in Vineland, NJ.

Gene Tierney never fully recovered from the blow that Daria was disabled. Although she gave birth to another daughter that was healthy, her marriage to Oleg ended in divorce, and her mental health began to deteriorate. She couldn’t concentrate. On the movie set, she would forget her lines. She began to fall apart and live a life of “stark misery and despair,” said ex-husband Oleg.

In much of the 1950s, Gene went from one mental health facility to another seeking help with her bouts of high and low moods and suicidal thoughts. She received 27 shock treatments, destroying even more of her memory. It is believed that Gene Tierney suffered from bipolar depression during a time when effective treatment for that disease was in its infancy.

If Daria had been born after 1965, Gene Tierney would have been vaccinated against the German measles and Daria would have been born healthy.

Currently, in Mexico and California, there is an outbreak of measles due to the antivaccination movement. Some parents in the western part of the United States have decided not to vaccinate their children due to unfounded worries about it causing autism. These few anti-vaxers are putting our whole population at risk.

Make no mistake. Measles is a highly contagious disease and is anything but harmless:

“Symptoms of measles include fever as high as 105, cough, runny nose, redness of eyes, and a rash that begins at the head and then spreads to the rest of the body. It can lead to inflammation of the brain, pneumonia and death.” (4)

AND

“Worldwide, 242,000 children a year die from measles, but it used to be near one million. The deaths have dropped because of vaccination, a 68 percent decrease from 2000 to 2006.

“The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles’ heel,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don’t realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine.” (5)

Postscript: In 1962, Dame Agatha Christie published the detective fiction, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, using the real-life tragedy of Gene Tierney as the basis for her plot.

SOURCES:

(1) Vogel, Michelle. Gene Tierney: A Biography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2005.

(2) wiki: Attack on Pearl Harbor

(3) Altman, M.D., Lawrence K. “The Doctor’s World; Little-Known Doctor Who Found New Use For Common Aspirin.The New York Times, July 9, 1991.

(4) LA Times

(5) New York Times

 

Jessica James at Jose Luis Salon, Austin, Texas.

Jessica James at Jose Luis Salon, Austin, Texas.

Everyone talks to her hairdresser and I am no different. Jessica James is an awesome hair stylist and a terrific conversationalist. We talk about everything. I don’t know what it is about sitting in a hair salon that makes it so easy to talk about the most personal of things while someone is standing behind you, messing with your hair, but there it is. Jessica is marvelous company. We start talking the moment I get there and carry the conversation on through to the end.

Anyway, the other day I was at my regular six-weeks appointment at Jose Luis Salon, getting a cut and some color. I was in the chair wearing the snap-up gown. Jessica was sectioning off pieces of my hair, brushing on highlights, and wrapping the pieces in foil while we did some catching up. It’s kind of awkward because you can’t turn and look each other in the face while you talk; you have to look at each other in the mirror. Plus, she’s standing up and I’m sitting down.

As I was saying, we were talking. We talked about the book, Unbroken, which we have both read, and whether or not we will see the movie, “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie. I volunteered that I wouldn’t see it because I didn’t want to see the scenes at the Japanese prisoner of war camps. (I had to skim those parts in the book. Unbelievably brutal) Jessica had heard that a good chunk of the movie is devoted to that part of Louis Zampirini‘s life and wasn’t sure what her plans were regarding seeing the movie.

Next we compared notes about what each of us had been writing. We like to encourage each other in our writing because writing is a lonely business and writers are so hard on themselves. Jessica is writing a picture book inspired by her 3-year old son’s delight with the night sky. It is her first book. I told her that I had been blogging (on this site) about Bob Mackie.

“Bob Mackie?” she asked. “You mean the clothing designer, Bob Mackie? The guy who is sometimes  the judge on ‘Project Runway?”’

“Yes,” I said. “That’s the one. I’ve been blogging on the clothes he made for Cher and Carol Burnett. He’s really a funny guy. You can see his interviews on…” I started to say but was interrupted.

“You’re kidding!” said Jessica, laying the paint brush down in the bowl. “You aren’t going to believe this! The girl who cuts hair over there,” she said, pointing at a 45 degree angle to an empty hair cutting station, “Her name is Mandy – she’s wearing a Bob Mackie original today!”

“Get outta here!” I said, copying Elaine Benis from “Seinfeld” but without shoving her as Elaine does Jerry.

At that very moment, a petite and shapely woman came into view, taking her place at the work station Jessica had just pointed out.

“There she is,” said Jessica. “That’s Mandy.”

At first I could see only the back of her.

Mandy Denson

Mandy Denson poses in her Bob Mackie original blouse.

Fringes of her dark, asymmetrical bob peeked out from under her felt matador hat. Then she moved to the side and I caught her reflection in the long mirror.IMG_2655

The Bob Mackie shirt had a Spanish look, with embroidered neckline and sleeves, with sunny gold and orange paisleys cast against a blue background.

Mandy had some time between clients so she came over to Jessica’s station to talk to us. She told me all about the Bob Mackie blouse she was wearing. Mandy Denson is one-of-a-kind, a lovely girl. She has bewitching beauty. She is an accomplished hairdresser, fashion model, style maven, and vintage clothes hound – and a genuinely nice person.

IMG_2657 Here’s what Mandy has to say about shopping for vintage clothes here in Austin:

“The places where I shop most for vintage around town are Charm School Vintage, Frock On Vintage, and Prototype Vintage. The fabulous Bob Mackie shirt was scored at Frock On for a very reasonable price. The hat is from Charm School.

The tag from Mandy Denson's vintage Bob Mackie shirt.

The tag from Mandy Denson’s vintage Bob Mackie shirt.

“I’ve been hunting vintage for about ten years now, and what I love about the culture in Austin is that most of the shops support and admire one another. My favorites around town are owned by women who really take the time to get to know their customers. I visit them almost weekly just to catch up, look around, and talk about the beauty of our common interest.

“Vintage clothing has helped me shape my personal style into something that feels unique and interesting and a true reflection of myself.”

Mandy Denson in her vintage Bob Mackie.

Mandy Denson in her vintage Bob Mackie.

READERS: For more on Bob Mackie, click here