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Going to the Chapel of the Stars

A popular GI slogan during World War II was “I want a girl just like a girl that married Harry James.”

Here’s looking at you!

That girl was Betty Grable.  Everyone was crazy for her.  Ten million copies of her dressed in a one-piece, backless swimsuit, smiling coyly over her shoulder, were distributed, and the poster was plastered on billboards and barrack walls everywhere.

When the couple met, she was the number one actress at the box office. He was the leader of the country’s hottest band and universally regarded as the greatest trumpet player in the world.  After extricating herself from her relationship with actor George Raft (a public  fist fight he lost to James took care of that) and he got a quickie Mexican divorce from his first wife, they made plans to marry quietly at the Little Church of the West on the grounds of the Frontier Hotel, giving rise to the myth that they were the first celebrity couple to wed there.

But it wasn’t so.

The ardent fans and eager photographers who crowded the grounds so put off the soon-to-be newlyweds that they retreated to their hotel.  A Baptist minister performed the ceremony in their room in the early hours of July 5, 1943.  Despite James’ penchant for drinking, gambling, and philandering, they were married for twenty-two years.

Still, the Little Church of the West does have a roster of famous names who crossed its threshold to marital bliss, if only for a short period of time, giving it the nickname “Chapel of the Stars.”  Here are some of them.

Zsa Zsa Gabor married British actor George Sanders in 1949.  While he was purportedly the love of her life, they divorced in 1954.  By the way, Gabor also married her sixth and seventh husbands in Las Vegas.  As we all know, those marriages didn’t work out either.

Back at you!

Judy Garland took Mark Herron to be her fourth, but not her last, husband in an impromptu, middle of the night ceremony in 1965.  He left her several months later when he learned that he was responsible for half of her debts.

For one of Hollywood’s most glamorous couples, Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford showed up casually dressed in 1991.  Their marriage ended in 1995 due to personality differences.  He was a Buddhist, and she wasn’t.

And there’s Angelina Jolie and Billie Bob Thornton who wed in 2000.  They took up wearing vials of each other’s blood around their necks, purchased joint grave plots, and shared a love of tattoos.  Just over two years after they had gotten together, Billy Bob took off on tour to promote his rock album and Angelina stayed home with baby.

For a Vegas wedding among the stars that didn’t come off exactly as planned, Betty and Harry didn’t do so badly after all.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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To hear Harry James play “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxS7llr8x_4

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