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The Girl with the Pet Dragon

Photo by: Oolong

Betty White doesn’t really have a pet dragon, but I bet she would if she could.  She adores animals –fast or slow, tame or wild, or on the land or in the water. She considered Koko the gorilla her friend, and she fell in love with a great white whale named Beethoven.  She has a collection of stuffed animals, too.

Betty’s love affair with all creatures big and small are just some of the many anecdotes she recounts in her book, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t), published in 2011.  She was eighty-nine years old when she wrote her latest memoir long hand and starring in the hit television comedy Hot in Cleveland.  It’s a wonder she found the time – or the energy.

There are no surprises here, but some great stories.

Okay, I was surprised to learn that Ms. White joined The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the Happy Homemaker, Sue Ann Niven, in its fourth season, and at most she appeared in less than half of the twenty-two episodes produced each year.  I distinctly remember her entering the newsroom to look for Lou or rub Murray’s bald spot at least once every program.

With Betty playing against type, her husband Allen Ludden was frequently asked, “How close to Sue Ann is Betty?”  To which he replied, “They’re really the same character – except Betty can’t cook.”

I wasn’t surprised that Ludden was the love of her life, and she believes that he is always with her.

Betty admits she occasionally meets someone she might like to know better, but she has always preferred men who are older than she is.  At her age, they’re very hard to come by.

As far as getting older, Ms. White points out that it helps to be in sound health and have a good sense of humor, while best friends are a joy all life through.  They gathered around on her televised 90th birthday party to wish her well.

During the special, some very good-looking young men swept her off her feet in a song and dance number.  Although no cougar, she is young-at-heart and handled the situation with the spirit of a twenty-something.

She has no comment on getting a tattoo.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Wedding Bell Blues — Another in a Series

All show business.

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries have nothing on Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine.  Who?  Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine!   They were among our shiniest stars with humongous egos to match, and that was their problem.

Merman, the grand dame of Broadway musicals, was known for her big, brassy voice.  In the late forties she performed as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun for almost three years, and she owned the song, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”  She later starred in the Irving Berlin movie by the same name along with Dan Dailey, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray, and, get this, Marilyn Monroe who had a small role as a hatcheck girl.

In the fifties Merman played the domineering stage mother in Gypsy.  Belting out, “Everything’s Coming up Roses,” nothing got this woman down, professionally or personally, although the movie role went to Rosalind Russell.

Borgnine was a dramatic actor with a good sense of humor.  He won Best Actor Oscar for Marty in 1955 and the adoration of audiences with his portrayal of Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale in the 1962 to 1966 sitcom McHale’s Navy.  When he met Ethel at a party, he was a little miffed that she didn’t recognize him from the movie, but took some satisfaction that she knew he was “that funny guy” from television.

A Navy man to the core.

It didn’t take long for the couple to become an item.  Ethel moved to the West Coast to build up her movie career following It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, a hit comedy.  They married in a beautiful ceremony at Ernie’s Beverly Hills home in 1964.  Lovebirds flew overhead.

These were no spring chickens, and they had both been around the world, so to speak.  Ernie, 47 years old, was Ethel’s fourth husband; Ethel, 56 years old, was his third wife.  The marriage barely lasted longer than their honeymoon to Hawaii, Japan and Hong Kong.  Apparently they were both seasick, but only Merman had medicine.  And she wouldn’t share.

By the time they returned home the newlyweds weren’t talking, at least to each other.  Ethel complained to anyone who would listen that Ernie hogged the spotlight.  As far as he was concerned, nothing was further than the truth, and after being continuously harangued and harassed, he left, never to return.  After thirty-two days of marriage Ethel filed for divorce.

Some thirty years later Borgnine came across Merman’s memoirs in a bookstore. Upon noting that the chapter titled “Ernest Borgnine” was left blank, he commented, “At least she didn’t say anything bad about me.”

I told you he had a good sense of humor.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved