Guys, I gotta say something, concerning this entire estate auction deal that is happening with the living estate of Tessa Williams, co-president of the now-defunct Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club. In a previous post that reflected my sadness over the plight of these items (okay, treasures, to us), I expressed my sympathy even for Tessa, that she is 90+ and her life is ending with the ravages of dementia and that her estate is being liquidated to pay for her care. (I should interject here that the guy who is handling the sale of these things is a GEM, we have all enjoyed dealing with him, he’s awesome and he’s doing a great job. I hope these feelings are in absolutely no way taken as any kind of statement about him and his company. He is the messenger, hired by Tessa’s remaining relative, and is doing his job and doing it well. The end.)
That is sad. It would be sad no matter who the person is.
I know, WE ALL KNOW, that the money that is spent on these things is going towards her care. We can’t do anything about that and I don’t think any of us are actually horrible enough to begrudge a dying woman decent and humane care in her final days. (We leave that to ol’ Gene.)
That, however, is where my sympathies end.
There’s going to be a lot of language in this post.
For anyone to suggest that we are HAPPY about this is a load of fresh, steaming bullshit. The idea that we are bidding on things to “support Tessa”, as has been put forth by someone I’d actually given credit for having more of a brain than that, is complete nonsense. The idea that this person is worthy of the “support” that comes from being a MacDonald Hoarder is ludicrous, as is the notion that Tessa and Clara (the other co-president) did anything to “protect” Jeanette’s good name, character, integrity, etc etc. Yet these thoughts and ones like them are circulating on the internet, to which I must ask:
ARE YOU PEOPLE COMPLETE FUCKING MORONS?
Lemme tell y’all a little something about what Tessa and Clara did in the name of this so-called “protection” of Jeanette.
Fact Laundering is a really big thing with this crew. Everything from screening potential club meeting speakers to make sure they wouldn’t say anything that gave any sort of vague clue that Jeanette had a spark of life in her (see: Sydney Guilaroff and the wig-throwing story) to getting 309 kinds of pissed off when Sharon Rich PROVED, by producing a baptismal record, that Jeanette was born in 1903, not 1907 (even though 1907 is–incorrectly–on her crypt). If it went against the “PR” version of the MacDonald and Gene Raymond marriage, OR against the squeaky clean Jeanette-on-her-mile-high-pedestal image that they perpetuated, it had to go. I’ve heard everything from these people from “she didn’t drink alcohol, coffee, or tea” (we have MANY pictures and anecdotes told BY HER to say otherwise) to “she was a virgin on her wedding night” (after years on Broadway and in Hollywood, sure…..we have many letters that testify otherwise) to “she never swore” (ditto) and on and on: these ridiculous generalizations that are not only unrealistic, they’re completely false. This inane mess all adds up to a cockeyed picture of this sort of Virgin Goddess (to borrow from The Philadelphia Story) who never existed!
Jeanette had many, many, beautiful, wholesome, good, ladylike qualities. She was a good citizen, a good patriot, she was breathtakingly talented and awesomely beautiful. She did many, many, many kind and generous and sweet and wonderful things. She was, by all accounts a marvelous human being, but to generalize about her entire life like that is wrong and inaccurate. To hold her to such an impossible standard is both grossly unfair and also does not allow anyone to fully appreciate the great-yet-fallible human being that she was. Yet that’s just what they did and that’s just what the last dregs of their followers still do. I once got kicked out of a group of these charming folks because I insinuated, teasingly, that she snitched her film costumes and wore them in private life (despite the fact that this can be proven with many photos). They just won’t hear of her doing anything the least bit…..spicy. Ever.
It’s my personal opinion that certain of these people begrudge her a decent, realistic sex life with Nelson (a good looking man who is her EQUAL, not her allowance-kept little bitch) because they don’t have one, never have had one and so they don’t get it. Just a hunch.
These people threatened lawsuits against anyone who wanted to speak to Sharon when she was doing her initial research. Why in God’s name would they need to do that if they truly had nothing to “hide”? (You can read about that in the afterword of Sweethearts.) If things really were as the club would have you believe, anyone should have been completely free and clear to talk to anyone they chose about the Jeanette they knew, with no worries or restrictions. There would be no need to try to do crisis management in the form of threats and bullying.
I’d like to point out that a “well-respected” “researcher/biographer” on the Saint side of the fence (not naming names but the first name starts with a P) distanced from the JMIFC to do independent work for this exact same reason. So it doesn’t matter if you think Jeanette and Nelson were hot and heavy in the sheets or not, the fact is that Clara and Tessa laundered facts. Made shit up, in fact.
And for this, they were handsomely paid by Gene Raymond. Every month, Clara (until she died in 2011) and Tessa got money. Tessa, to this DAY, is still collecting from Gene’s estate. Why? Because they made him look good? Because they kept up the charade? Because they hosted the Annual Fiesta of Debauchery known as the Clan Clave? You could say oh oh Jeanette and Gene were such wonderful generous people……….but come on. Since when does being nice to a fan club president translate into a lifetime of monetary support? When “monetary support” is really “hush money”, that’s when.
Which brings me to my next point: Clara and Tessa allowed, ON THEIR WATCH, Jeanette’s “fan club” to disintegrate to being little more than a (homosexual) speed dating frenzy. That type of event may be fine in its place, but that’s hardly the purpose of the Jeanette MacDonald club. What’s more, the sexual intrigue that went on during these weekends occasionally involved minors. We’ve know this from a number of different parties who were there. Two of them were victims.
Jeanette would have been horrified by that, I’m pretty sure we can safely assume. She would be sickened.
The very damn idea that these two people would allow things like that to go on among the members of their club, when these people were gathered together in Jeanette’s name…!! And they damn well KNEW that was going on and do you think they spoke up? Nope. So, at best, they’re a couple of liars and at worst, they’re criminals. The idea that they would be aware of and continue to allow this sort of thing to happen without expelling (or, you know, turning in!) the offending members, but then turn around and get all “moral” about Jeanette’s perfect squeaky clean marriage and image is really hilariously hypocritical.
So, no, you idiots, we are not buying Jeanette’s things to support Tessa. We do not support Tessa. We are buying the things to keep them safe, to keep them from being thrown out, to do–at this late date–the best for Jeanette that we can by looking after her things because we weren’t around to look after her. The money we have to spend to do so is for Jeanette, not Tessa.
Which brings me to something else I’d like to ask. When Jeanette was so, so ill, there at the end, where the hell were Clara and Tessa? Where the hell was Emily? Where were these people who supposedly cared about her and yet did not one goddamn thing to care for her or make her suffering and ultimate death more bearable?
But oh, sure, when Tessa is in HER final illness, Jeanette—fifty years after her death—is gonna come in and save the day, one more time.
PS: I know this is not a normal blog post, and I hope to soon be back on the plane of more photo-and-research-driven posts, but with this stuff being on the front page of “Current Events” in MacEddy Land, I simply had to address it. I had to be completely clear about my feelings, motives and thoughts on the matter. You can argue that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter why we are spending money on this stuff, the money ultimately still goes to Tessa, and that’s true, but I know I can speak for my friends when I say it’s worth it to us. Jeanette is worth it to us. I’m not sure how much Clara, Tessa, Gene, or any of the other players on that stage really cared about the person, Jeanette. I think they were all much more concerned with what they wanted her to be. I think—no, I know—that that is still going on.
Thanks to Angela for not letting me post this when I was still freshly pissed off. 😉