You may (or may not!) be wondering why a 20-something cares about this very controversial love affair that began eighty years ago and ended in the sixties at the deaths of the people involved…all I know is, I’ve loved old movies my entire life, and ever since I was a tiny tot playing dress-up with my grandmother’s evening gowns and twirling in front of the TV pretending to be Ginger Rogers, I’ve had a real penchant for the “teams” — it’s a fact, every old movie star I’ve been seriously obsessed with (with the exception of Barbara Stanwyck) has been half of a team—Ginger (Fred), Kate (Spencer), Joan (Gable), Myrna (Bill Powell), Judy (Mickey), Lauren Bacall (Bogie), Maureen (The Duke), Rita (Glenn Ford)—you get the idea. SOOOO Jeanette and Nelson were a natural for me.
My high school best friend and fellow old movie nut, Ashley, actually was present when I saw my first MacEddy movie, Maytime. We watched it with my grandmother, who was, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, a big, big fan. Here she is when she was young, with Nelson on the wall behind her (the same picture that is in the frame on the piano in the family home in Sweethearts). The sharp-eyed viewer will also notice the side of the picture next to Nelson and recognize that our girl Jeanette was on the wall with him. That’s the side of a Jeanette publicity photo.
I owe so much of who I am to that lady. From the inheriting her huge legacy in the horse business, to living in what used to be her house, to being filled with total love of all things Old Hollywood (which includes all the amazing music from that era)—which, in turn, motivated me to seek out the theatre, which resulted in me graduating college with a degree in Musical Theatre Performance—this was a remarkable woman to grow up with. We went to horse shows and to the opera with the same air of panache. Her name brings up fond memories and boundless respect everywhere in this town to this day. I miss her!
It is likely that I wouldn’t even know who Jeanette and Nelson were, much less care this deeply about them, had Nanny not started me down the bunny trail. And it was from her that I got my first pro-Nelson, anti-Gene leanings. I’ve said this before: she would have been SO THRILLED to know that a MacEddy Club Meeting was held in her home last September.
It wasn’t long before I found my way to the Yahoo Group (back then called Yahoo “clubs”) for the Mac/Eddy Club. Yahoo clubs and livejournal used to be THE PLACE TO BE, man. I miss those days. The people were kind and welcoming and Bern, who is still the moderator for that group, mailed me my first copy of Sweethearts. Shortly after that, I was sitting in a high school French class, sneakily (I thought) reading it under the desk instead of paying attention to class. Mme. Mayhew caught me, snatched the book, and I had to spend the rest of the period mournfully looking at my beautiful MacEddy sitting on Madame’s desk. I couldn’t put the thing down. My college notebooks are littered with MacEddy lyrics in the margins. My mom bought me Jeanette’s autobiography manuscript one Christmas, and the Irving Stone Letters after that (HIGHLY recommended–that book will teach you more about the Jeanette you think you know than any other–all in her handwriting and before she learned how to be famous and filter herself) and my obsession went from bad to worse. Then it was announced that there would be a MacEddy Club Cruise to the Bahamas in February, 2010, and my friend Amber and I pretty much decided we had to be there. A week on a ship going to beautiful locales in the middle of winter and MacEddy the whole time and getting to hang out with THE Sharon Rich? YES PLEASE. Sharon, in my head, was someone I was really starstruck about because she knew all the cool stuff and had been ballsy enough to put it out there (by this time I was well, well versed in all the Sinners vs. Saints crapola that is part and parcel of loving the Redheaded One), but I never imagined I’d be friends with her.
I emailed her about some cruise stuff late in 2009 and a day or so later, my phone rang. “Hey Katie, it’s Sharon Rich—” and I seem to remember shrieking like a little girl. I knew I was in for an awesome trip. Amber and I counted the days for months.
As it happened, we had rotten awful blizzard weather right as the cruise was happening, and only a handful of us actually made the boat. So I got to spend a week picking poor Sharon’s brain at all hours of the day and night (just ask her—sleep was not something she got a lot of on that cruise. Sorry I’m not sorry, Sharon….), running my own mouth a lot (nothing’s changed) and learning a ton about Jeanette, Nelson and the dynamics of our group. I met Elsa Glass, the retired judge who had done her own research which agreed with Sharon’s and found the documentation for Nelson, Ann, Gene and Jeanette sitting down in New York with lawyers in the 50s to discuss two divorces happening (Nelson walked out of that meeting when he realized how Ann would clean him out and he’d never make his money back). We got to watch MacEddy movies on the “big screen” and I came home loaded down with tons of Mac/Eddy Today and a Jeanette and Nelson craze that had tripled.
Here I am with Sharon in the dining room at the Captain’s Dinner on the Carnival Pride:
And here we are at the meeting at my farm, in September of last year:
Sharon rocks, guys. She’s been at this since the seventies, fearlessly and tirelessly, at the expense of perhaps more lucrative jobs and sanity–people who would not have the truth out about this have been unbelievably nasty to her–without ever really listening to her or knowing her. She is truly encyclopedic in her knowledge and having time to sit down and chat with her is really enjoyable and informative. She’s taught me a lot—about Jeanette and Nelson and the field of biography, encouraged me as a writer, allows me to use her research and material for this blog and put my “spin” on it, and on a couple of occasions, she’s talked me down from lamblasting someone who I felt really, really deserved it. All I know is, she’s got a lot more diplomacy than I do. When I have questions for the blog or frustrations or need an opinion on what color to paint the office space in my house (you know, so I have a dedicated space to do more of this!), she’s just a text away. It is my (and I know Angela feels the same way) complete pleasure to add to our collection of material and back up her decades of work by having footage digitized, etc.
And, not gonna lie, it’s super fun to call your favorite biographer and have her answer the phone with just a “Hey!” 🙂