IT’S THE LAST DEATHBLOG HOORAY.
Maybe not last ever ever, but last for right now. I’ve been taking great pains to say everything I can think of to say right now, because I want to leave this bizness alone for a while. What was originally conceived as a 3-part blog (because of the 3 new chunks of footage we had to reveal) became a 5-part blog, but I would like to think I’ve been as complete as possible with the data we have right now. Anyone who sticks with this story in a serious way for a long time knows that, even all these years later, pieces of information are STILL being brought to light. It’s pretty amazing.
The story of Nelson’s death is well known. He was performing in Miami, March 5th, 1967, just after having returned from touring in Australia, when he became unable to speak and the side of his face went numb. He asked the audience to bear with him a moment, he was having trouble getting the words out. He then asked Ted (Paxson, accompanist and longtime friend) to play Dardanella, and maybe he’d get the words back. Ted, seeing that something was way wrong, jumped to his feet and got Nelson off the stage. Offstage, Ted and Gale (who had been offstage changing her costume–Nelson was getting ready to do the solo “special” song he sang for Jeanette every performance) helped him into a chair and called an ambulance. Nelson was unable to speak by the time the ambulance arrived, and would never speak again. He lost consciousness and died at 7:30 the next morning: March 6, 1967.
Ann Eddy didn’t go to Florida, she just waited for Nelson’s body to be shipped home.
The funeral held for Nelson goes directly against his long-held wishes, which he even went so far as to state in his will in 1959. Despite him telling the press that he was going to go change his will after witnessing the “circus” of Jeanette’s funeral, he didn’t actually do this. The 1959 will (and codicil dated June 19, 1964) is the one that stood. Nelson’s will and codicil are printed in full in Issue #53 of Mac/Eddy Today.
The final clause in Nelson’s will is as follows:
I believe the body is useless after death; therefore, I request the simplest and most inexpensive funeral possible, in any Protestant form, cremation and disposal of the ashes according to law. Let there be no sorrow over the remains, for at that time the soul will have found its destined way to the infinite.
The man is a poet even in his flippin’ will. Its destined way to the infinite…. Oh, Nelson.
A sad comment on Nelson’s tiny circle: Jeanette’s will is full of many thoughtful personal bequests, and it is easy to take away even from that that she had many friends. The only personal bequests in his will are to Ann, her son Sidney Franklin, Jr., Ted, Gale, his dad, his half-sister and his manager. And he didn’t even LIKE two of those people. The World O’ Eddy was very, very small.
Just like Gene’s display of bad taste before her, Ann Eddy, eager to snatch her 15 minutes of fame, merrily chucked Nelson’s PRINTED WISHES right out the window and did exactly what the heck she pleased.
Was he cremated? Nope. It was an open casket service, just as Jeanette’s was.
Was it the simplest and most inexpensive funeral possible? No way.
Here is the third installment of the footage that Angela and I paid to have digitized—color footage from Nelson’s funeral. Like the others, it has never been seen since 1967. Don’t share it around the internet without our permission—it can only come from one possible place at this point, so we’ll know. 😀
Yes, Gene was a pallbearer. Yes, he looks pretty sad about it all. Yes, I still want to punch him in the mouth when he calls Nelson “Nels.”
Fun fact: He remarried and HIS WIFE’S NAME WAS NELSON. Bahaha. Nelson Ada Hees, known as Nels. You can’t even make this stuff up. So at the end of the day, Gene got what may have been his fondest wish. (She was a wealthy heiress from Canada, and though their marriage was reported to not be a happy one, it also lasted until she died. Absolutely no liking-to-freeload-on-wealthy-women pattern here at all.)
Lloyd Nolan, on the other hand, looks absolutely devastated. He was, along with Z. Wayne Griffin, also a pallbearer for Jeanette. His remarks are very interesting in their wording, and his grief is palpable.
The funeral proceedings were broadcast over loudspeaker to those outside. Doesn’t sound very small and private, really. Granted, there are WAY fewer members of the general public there, but even so, hoopla was not what Nelson wanted.
AND THEN THIS HAPPENED:
Why, oh why, didn’t you two darlings get married? You’d have been so stunningly perfect for each other.
During the exchange pictured above, Ann was overheard making a remark to Gene which has been reported with two different wordings, nevertheless, both “sides” acknowledge that it happened.
“Now they can sing together forever,” is how Ann is quoted in Sweethearts.
Similarly, in Edward Baron Turk’s Hollywood Diva, Ann is quoted saying, after walking over to Gene and kissing him, “Now they will sing beautiful music together again.”
Well, I mean, EITHER WAY, right…???
It’s a fitting end to all this.