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Five Years Ago in Popular Culture: The Death of a Gentleman

Newman and Woodard 1960.

Newman and Woodard 1960.

Unflappable, Unbeatable. Unforgettable. Paul Newman, also known as King Cool, died five years ago at the age of 83.  Known for his philanthropic generosity and passion racing cars, as well as his stage and screen presence, his career spanned decades.

Newman made his movie debut in 1954 in The Silver Chalice, a historical drama, for which he later apologized for his performance.  No matter.  By 1958 he was one of the hottest new stars in Hollywood, going tête-à-tête with Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Eva Marie Saint in Exodus (1960).

Newman also went mano a mano with his equally celebrated male costars. In 1961 he appeared on the silver screen in The Hustler with Jackie Gleason.  Twenty-five years later he reprised his role as “Fast Eddie” in The Color of Money with Tom Cruise.

Fellow actor Robert Redford and Newman formed a special bond.  Their easy-going camaraderie, in evidence in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973), spilled over to life itself.

When asked if he would make a sequel with Redford following Redford’s Indecent Proposal (1993), Newman replied, “”Like a rocket!” Then he added, “I’d shack up with anyone for a million dollars. I’d shack up with a gorilla for a million, plus 10 percent.”

Redford might not have been as pleased to be on a set with Newman again.  “He tells the worst jokes.  And that wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t keep repeating them over and over.”

Newman’s relationship with actress Joanne Woodward also began on a movie set.  Their marriage, his second, reached the fifty-year mark, one of Hollywood’s longest lasting.  Although they briefly separated because Newman had an affair during the filming of Butch Cassidy, he famously paid her the ultimate compliment: “Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?”

If those aren’t the words spoken by a gentleman, what are?

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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True Romance

The newlyweds (my parents) married at home in 1947. Aren’t they a good-looking couple?

Everyone loves a wedding.  Why else crash? They’re so much more fun than a parade or a circus, although sometimes they are a circus.

In 2000 a FOX television producer attending a relative’s wedding, presumably caught up in the excitement of the festivities, conceived of the game show Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?  In the two-hour special fifty willing brides-to-be competed in a beauty-pageant-style contest, answering questions about themselves and parading in swimsuits and evening wear, although not tap dancing or tossing a baton.  By the time the predetermined groom, Rick Rockwell, slipped a thirty-five thousand dollar, three-carat ring on the finger of the so-called lucky winner, Darva Conger, twenty-two million wedding guests were enthralled with the proceedings from the comfort of their living rooms.

Like so many spur-of-the moment unions it was a bust, Conger filing for an annulment as soon as she could, and critics assailed the show, never to be aired again, as a new low in television programming. However, the ratings spoke for themselves.

Over the past decade several so-called reality television series have been based on couples meeting, falling in love, and getting married on camera.  That’s certainly the premise behind The Bachelor and its many spin-offs. On the first season of The Bachelorette, Trista Rehn chose Ryan Sutter.  They married – and happily so – on a three-episode special for which they were paid a million dollars.

None of the other contestants has faired as well.

And, of course, there’s Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, whose relationship, beginning, middle and end, was filmed as part of the on-going Kardashian money-making machine. The event cost an estimated $10 million, but the couple netted $18 million in network and photo rights.  Well, we all know how that turned out.

But sometimes true romance is captured for a viewing audience. Bride and Groom, an old time radio show in the late forties, featured a real-life bride and groom. The couple told their love story:  how they met, where he proposed, and what she said when she accepted.  The ceremony was then held in private at the chapel on the grounds of the Chapman Park Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.  When the program moved to television in 1950, the ceremony took place in front of the camera.

For sharing, the newlyweds were showered with gifts – silverware, towels, and appliances, those sorts of things, to set up their household.  As a memento, they received a 16MM copy of their marriage.

The weekday show was so popular it ran for three years.  For many of the participants the run lasted a lifetime.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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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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What’s Age Got To Do With It?

Make my day: make me smile. Photo by: Scott West

Dick Van Dyke isn’t the oldest fella to get married, but at 86-years old he’s certainly one of a unique group of guys.

On February 29, 2012, that’s leap day, if you missed it, he took the plunge and married Arlene Silver, a 40-year old makeup artist, whom he’s known for several years.  The small, private ceremony was held at a Malibu chapel near his home.

Dick says of his bride, “I was bowled over by her beauty.”  She loves to sing, too, but it’s hard to believe that she can keep up with the song and dance man of Broadway, movies, and television, even if he is more than twice her age.

Arlene says of her spouse, “Dick is the happiest person I ever met. He’s got an infectious spirit.”

Van Dyke deserves to be happy.  After all, he made us happy.

We adored him as Albert Peterson, the struggling songwriter with the overbearing mother, singing “Put on a Happy Face” in Bye Bye Birdie, and we wished that Bert, the chimney sweep Van Dyke played in Mary Poppins, were our friend, too.  Just try saying,  “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Now try spelling it.

We loved him as Rob Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show, whether he was trading quips with his fellow comedy writers at work or attending to domestic crises, which really weren’t crises, at home.  Can’t you just hear Mary Tyler Moore as his wife Laura sighing in exasperation, “Oh, Rob”?

Nor was he a bad dad in Diagnosis: Murder.  He played a doctor who did double duty as a police consultant, helping his son, a detective on the force, solve crimes.  It was one of his real-life sons, too.

Van Dyke’s first marriage in 1948 produced four children. He and his wife separated in the seventies and divorced in 1984.  Well, it happens.

Dick took up with Michelle Triola Marvin, whose lawsuit against Lee Marvin, to whom she wasn’t married, brought the word “palimony” into the lexicon.  She loved show business as much as he did, and they were together for thirty years until her death in 2009.   They had only a contract, not a license, to protect them, if it didn’t work out, but it did.

This is a guy who likes being in a relationship.  May Dick and Arlene have a long and happy one.  And the rest of us should take notes.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Put on a happy face with Dick Van Dyke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0GyZwQFOW4

Sing along with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-WacNOvXxw

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Who’s Counting?

It’s difficult to pin down statistics on celebrity divorce.

While 43% of marriages among the general population come to an end, it’s estimated that 75% among the well-known and well-heeled do so.  The source of this statistic is unknown, but it certainly seems accurate.  Just peruse the National Enquirer while waiting in the grocery line.

Celebrity marriages don’t seem to last as long either.   And then the movie stars, rock stars, and other Hollywood types try it again.

“I do. I do. I do.” Photo by: brtsergio

This isn’t a recent phenomenon.  We’re all familiar with the conjugal histories of Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elizabeth Taylor, and Mickey Rooney.  They started young and kept going and going and going – Energizer bunnies, all of them.

Gabor first married in 1937 in her native Hungary when she was twenty years old.  Her husband was a Turkish ambassador.  She left him four years later to immigrate to the United States where her stage background gave her entree to Hollywood.  She’s been married to her eighth or ninth husband, depending on how you count, since 1986.

Elizabeth Taylor also wed eight times beginning in 1950 at the tender age of eighteen.  Her first husband, Nicky Hilton, was a playboy with a mean temper and a drinking problem, and she left him less than nine months later.

But, boy, was Hilton good-looking with lots of sex appeal!  Zsa Zsa had an affair with him while she was married to his father, Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton hotels.  It lasted through her divorce, into her marriage to actor George Sanders, and beyond Nicky’s betrothal to Taylor.

Zsa Zsa also had an affair with Richard Burton in his pre-Elizabethan days while he was married to Sybil Williams.  She certainly got around, as did Burton.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, once stated, “I’ve only slept with men I’ve been married to.  How many women can make that claim?”  Certainly not Zsa Zsa, although they were the best of friends.

Mickey Rooney and Ava Gardner, the first of his eight wives, couldn’t keep it going much more than a year.  In 1942 he was only twenty-one years old; she was nineteen and on her way to stardom.

Ava next married jazz musician Artie Show.  She was the fourth of his eight wives, and their union was short.  Frank Sinatra, whom Zsa Zsa also slept with although she didn’t like him much, was the love of her life and her third and last husband, but they were both too tempestuous to make it last.

Mickey, however, has now been happily married to the same woman since 1978.   His secret?  “Don’t marry anybody you love… Marry somebody you like,” he advises. “Love is sex, love is drunkenness, but it never lasts.  But when you marry your best friend, love grows.”

At one time Mickey also suggested, “Always get married in the morning. That way if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted the whole day.”

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Countdown to Blast Off!

Photo by: mae.noelle

It’s official!  Before contracting the seven-year itch, one must first get through the three-year glitch.

According to a recent British study of 2,000 adults in steady relationships, couples start taking each other for granted after thirty-six months.

The wife thinks one more potato chip won’t make a difference and gains five pounds.  The husband assumes his dirty socks are part of the bedroom decor and leaves them strewn all over the floor.

She burps, and he farts.  The romance has vaporized, and they have sex once in a blue moon.

It’s true here, as well.  CNN, Fox, CBS, etc. – they all covered the study when the report was released.

And it might not even take three years to fall out of love, or, at least, to become disillusioned by one’s beloved.   Of the four situations when infidelity is most likely to occur during a relationship, the first is after the first year of togetherness.

Here’s more statistics.  Twenty percent of U.S. marriages will dissolve within five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  One in three marriages will dissolve within ten years.

The average length of marriage has been slowly falling.  Thirty years ago couples were together for thirty-seven years; today, data shows that the average marriage only lasts for twenty-four years.

First marriages, which end in divorce, last eight years on average.  Second and third marriages are even shorter.  This is despite the fact that seven out of ten adults believe marriage should last forever, or so they claim.

Want to beat the odds?  Consultants say one of the best things to do is talk to each other.  However, beware the partner who says, “Let’s take a break.”  That pretty much means it’s over — with or without the fireworks.


© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Betty White: Not Just Hot, But Trustworthy, Too.

Would you trust this woman? Yes! Yes! And, yes! Photo by: Hysterical Bertha

Every time Allen Ludden, the bespectacled, gentlemanly host of the popular 1960s television game show Password, proposed to the queen of television Betty White, and he proposed often over the course of a year, she said “no.”  She said “no” for so long that when she finally said “yes” Ludden had used up most of his vacation courting her.

Rather than waiting until there was more time to plan a lavish ceremony and go someplace exotic for their honeymoon, the couple opted instead for a quickie wedding in Las Vegas followed by a short holiday in Laguna Beach, California.

But sometimes there are hitches when getting hitched.  Allen, who had never missed a plane in his life, missed his plane from New York to Los Angeles because he was caught in a traffic jam on his way to the airport.  Betty, upset and angry, thought it was a bad sign.

But she believed in him.  When Allen caught the next flight out, the soon-to-be-newlyweds were on their way to Las Vegas as planned. Betty’s parents were witnesses to the ceremony that took place in the wedding suite at the Sands Hotel on June 14, 1963.

The Luddens had a strong, happy marriage. It lasted until Allen’s death eighteen years later. In her book In Person Betty wondered why she hesitated for so long before accepting his proposal. Yet she knows that they stayed together because they thought of themselves as a unit, rather than two separate entities

Ah, it’s a matter of trust.  She trusted him to have her back, and he trusted her.  Trust goes a long way in building a relationship.

It turns out many of us trust Miss White, not in love and marriage, but when shopping.  In a recent survey, more respondents named Betty as the celebrity whose endorsement they were most likely to consider when deciding between one brand and another.  Paris Hilton, not so much.  She was at the bottom of the list.

A sense of humor helps, too.  And Betty has that in spades.

She starred in sitcoms in the fifties, including Life with Elizabeth and Date with the Angels.  Okay, not too many of us remember either show. But who can forget her as Sue Ann Nivens, the host of “The Happy Homemaker” on the Mary Tyler Moore Show? She was ingratiating on camera and just the opposite in the office.

Or what about sweet and caring, if a bit naïve, Rose Nylund on Golden Girls?  Now that was a character audiences could get behind.

As Catherine Piper on Boston Legal, she said what she thought, never playing softball.  Telling her boss, lawyer Alan Shore, what she thought of him, she declared, “Most people aren’t able to see that beneath your slick and sensitive exterior, deep down you really are douche bag.” Still, he kept her from a life behind bars for murdering her murderous boyfriend.

Betty’s role in a 2010 Snickers commercial brought her new fans. After a vigorous Facebook campaign lobbying for her to host Saturday Night Live, she finally said “yes.”   In her introduction on the show, she noted, “Many of you know I’m 88 and a half years old.  It’s great to be here for a number of reasons.”

Now she’s beloved in Hot in Cleveland.  Paris, no longer hot, can take a cue from Betty White.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Here Comes the Bride Again

Initially, an outpouring of good cheer greeted the announcement of Marie Osmond’s remarriage to her first husband, Stephen Craig, this past May twenty-five years after they had divorced.  As her brother Donny pointed out, “They decided you know, ‘We still love each other, and it’s time to get back together again.’”

Then came the comments and criticism, as bloggers took to their computers.

A marriage counselor recommended not trying this yourself unless you’re ready to trust again.

A relationship expert warned that the same troubles arise and cause heartache all over again.

Another quoted Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Gossip columnists called up similar situations and made comparisons to other celebrities, warning that the odds weren’t good for the newlyweds.

The on again off again over-heated love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was most frequently mentioned, their off screen lives garnering as much attention and publicity as their movie star turns on the big screen.  They tied and untied the knot twice as the world watched.  “You can’t keep clapping a couple of sticks (of dynamite) together,” Burton philosophized, “Without expecting them to blow up.”

Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner also did it twice.  The first time jealousy and petty disagreements drove them apart.  Nine years into their second marriage she died tragically in a boating accident.

Certainly neither of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson’s two trips down the aisle ended well for them as a couple.

While this doesn’t bode well for the Craigs, it seems dire for Barbie and Ken.

Kiss and Make Up. Photo by: madelineyoki

In 2004 the playful pair split up after forty-three years of fun and games in the sun.  Rumors were going around that Barbie had hooked up with an Australian surfer dude called Blaine.  They were apparently true.

Earlier this year Ken decided all was forgiven.  He went public, professing his love on billboards in Times Square.  “Barbie,” he sentimentalized, “we were made for each other.”

Barbie fell for it.  “No doll can resist a sweet talker like Ken,” she said in an interview.  His role in Toy Story 3 undoubtedly improved his stature.

No one knows what the future holds.  But it’s a pretty good guess that for better or worse little girls everywhere will be buying diminutive wedding dresses, small-sized evening clothes, and lots of tiny accessories for the happy couple to celebrate their reunion.


© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved