Wedding Bells Blues: “R” is for Revenge

Elizabeth Taylor had a long list of reasons how her first husband, Nicky Hilton, done her wrong, and she knew how to get even.

On their wedding day.

At eighteen years old, already a star beginning to taking on adult roles, Taylor thought she knew what she wanted.  And she wanted Nicky, 24, the son of Conrad Hilton of Hilton hotels, although he was an alcoholic playboy with a terrible temper.

Both of them were indulged and pampered, although not necessarily by each other.

Their wedding on May 6, 1950 was stage-managed perfection by her studio, MGM.

The first night of their honeymoon Nicky parked himself at the bar of the Carmel Country Club in northern California drinking.  He was there again the next night picking up other women.  But the third night the marriage was consummated.

On the next phase of their honeymoon the newlyweds took the Queen Mary to Europe.  Again, Nicky spent his time mixing and mingling in the lounge and the casino leaving Elizabeth to take care of herself.    One night after losing $100,000 at the tables, he returned to their suite and lashed out at her, verbally and physically.   The pattern of abuse began.

On December 1, 1950, the couple officially separated.  Soon after, she visited New York City and stayed at the Plaza Hotel, part of the Hilton franchise.   Upon checking out, the clerk presented her with a bill for $2,500 and announced she was “no longer considered a member of the hotel family.”

Not any more mature than her soon-to-be ex, she invited her friends Montgomery Clift and Roddy McDowall to her suite to share a pitcher of martinis while she packed.  Getting carried away and presumably drunk, they ransacked the room, causing substantial damage.  Then she made off with the hotel’s monogrammed towels, for which she received another bill.

At her divorce hearing, Elizabeth pleaded mental cruelty.  She didn’t ask for alimony, but she kept everything Hilton had ever given her, including stock and jewelry.  Throw in the wedding gifts her stack totaled more than $500,000.

In turn, Nicky asked for an annulment, so that he could remarry in the Catholic Church.  She refused.  And with that simple gesture, she got her revenge.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


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


Put on a happy face with Dick Van Dyke:

Sing along with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke:


When something itches, my dear sir, the natural tendency is to scratch.

–       Dr. Brubaker, a psychiatrist in The Seven Year Itch, 1955


Who Do You Trust?

Before becoming the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson was the emcee of the daytime game show Who Do You Trust?  Partway through its run from 1957 to 1962 Ed McMahon replaced the announcer.  Yes, Johnny and Ed were together for a long time.

Johnny Carson: How we miss you. Photo by: Alan Light

Amazingly, Johnny had already perfected his shtick for which he was so popular for decades.  In his opening monologue and, yes, he had an opening monologue, he told jokes and imparted observations, relaxed and casual, as if he had been in front of a studio audience his whole life.

One day after explaining he had gotten a haircut earlier, and that was why he was twitching and jerking, he noted, “Something just occurred to me.  When one barber gets a haircut by another barber, who does the talking?”  Ed got a big chuckle from that.

Johnny also liked spending time with the contestants.  One guest, a firefighter describing a blaze at a bra factory, asked him, “And you know what the smell was, Johnny? Burnt rubber.”  Without losing a beat, our favorite host replied, “Sort of a falsie alarm?”  Ed liked that one, too.

Like Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life, Carson seemed to prefer interviewing the participants than quizzing them.   On many occasions he’d ask his guests to demonstrate their unique talents or hobbies, always serving as their guinea pig in good cheer.  This resulted in his being chased off the stage by a saber-brandishing fencing instructor, diving into a tank of water in full scuba gear, and crashing into a wall driving a miniature racecar.

First airing on CBS, the program was originally called Do You Trust Your Wife?   When it moved to another station, ABC  changed the title, but the concept was the same.  Three couples participated on each episode.  When it was time to compete, the husband was given a category and asked to decide whether he or his wife would answer the question.

Watching YouTube clips, the husband usually took it upon himself to answer the question, not trusting his wife, or does it only seem that way?

At least on The Newlywed Game that premiered in 1966, the husband and wife took turns responding to questions about each other.  This led to many arguments over incorrect answers and even some divorces, which is probably why the show was so popular.  Was the prize of their choosing – washers and dryers, bedroom sets, dining room table and chairs, home entertainment systems, you name it – really worth it?

But this begs the question, who do you trust?

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


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


I hate failure and that divorce was a Number One failure in my eyes. It was the worst period of my life. Neither Desi nor I have been the same since, physically or mentally.

— Lucille Ball



I Love Lucy. Who Doesn’t?

All dressed up. Photo by: elena-lu

I Love Lucy premiered on CBS on October 15, 1951.

The first four episodes put it in the top ten shows on the air.  In three months it was overshadowing Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts with its variety acts, then the most popular series on television.

By its second season, thirty-four million regulars viewers regularly tuned in to watch the madcap Lucy Ricardo, her husband Ricky, the fiery Cuban bandleader, and their neighbors the Mertzes go about their everyday lives that by the end of the day were turned inside out and upside down.

It was part of the pleasure that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz who played Lucy and Ricky were married to each other.

Looking back, if you love Lucy, not only the television character, but also the woman behind the comic persona, you have to admire Desi.

Without a doubt it was Ball’s innate comic genius that made her character Lucy as enduring as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Yet, it was Desi who gave her the support and encouragement for her to shine.

And it was Desi whose business sense created their television empire.

They formed Desilu Productions in 1950 to prove that the public would accept them as husband and wife.  Within a few short years, the company expanded to include a studio, and it bought RKO Pictures, bringing the total number of sound stages in its domain to thirty-three, more than either MGM or Twentieth Century-Fox in the same period, with over two thousand people on their payroll.

Meanwhile the couple had been starring in an average of thirty episodes for each of the first six seasons of I Love Lucy.  It was a labor of love, but they were drowning in work.

To keep their heads above water, they changed the format to one hour, reduced the number of episodes, and renamed the program The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.  It lasted another three seasons.

It must be love. Photo by: elena-lu

Life preservers only work if one holds on.  Desi couldn’t.  His schedule was jam-packed with meetings, phone calls, paperwork, and rehearsals.  He had always been a drinker, and he began drinking more.  He enjoyed the Del Mar racetrack, making it a second home, and he took pleasure in the company of women.  When he was arrested for driving drunk in a well-known Los Angeles red-light district, it was only a matter of time before the couple broke up.

As unhappy as Lucy was, however, she wouldn’t let go.  She tried to rescue their relationship, insisting on family vacations, consulting with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, doing whatever she thought might make a difference, but nothing changed.

The day after filming the very last episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in 1960, she filed for divorce, charging her husband with extreme cruelty and subjecting her to grievous mental suffering.

Their divorce was a bombshell.  Despite gossip columnists hinting at it for months, their fans believed that Lucy and Desi could work out their problems.  Hadn’t they been doing so for years right in front of their very eyes?

Despite the harsh accusations and angry words, Lucy and Desi remained friends.  And sixty years later we continue to watch, to laugh, to love.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


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


With Respect to June Weddings

Love is in the air in Las Vegas. Photo by Susan Marg.

Not everyone wants to get married in spring when buds are blooming, birds are tweeting, and the sun is shining.  Some prefer winter.

Weather not being an issue for a New Jersey couple who so wanted to marry, they robbed a bank in January 2010 and then took off for Las Vegas with a $10,000 payoff.  The roads must have been clear. They made it to Oklahoma before they were captured five days later.

Charles B. Koch, 28, half of the dynamic duo, had told the bank teller he carried a bomb.  His significant other, Cheri Harper, 27, had on her person a concealed knife.  No wonder no one stood in their way.

These days the average cost of a church wedding with the usual trimmings is almost $27,000.  If Bonnie and Clyde went the traditional route, it might be understandable why they needed some extra cash.

But for a wedding in Las Vegas?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Las Vegas.  My husband and I had a renewal of vows ceremony a few years back.  We danced to an Elvis impersonator singing “Viva Las Vegas,” which has nothing to do with love or marriage, and twenty of our friends joined in.

It’s a tradition that goes way back, Las Vegas weddings, that is.  It began in 1933 when a reverend opened his home on South Fifth Street, eventually renamed Las Vegas Boulevard, to out-of-towners who wanted to tie the knot.

Today a simple ceremony can be had for under a hundred dollars at one of the standalone chapels that still permeate the lower part of the Strip heading towards the Fremont Street Experience.  Witnesses, if needed, are part of the package.

What a deal!  The accommodations are not as upscale as at one of the resort casinos like the Bellagio, but it’s legal.  And dressing in nice clothes for the occasion is optional.

For their effort, Harper and Koch each received a seven-year prison sentence.  Whew!  That’s longer than most first marriages last.  Second and third marriages, too!  When they’ve their done their time, will the romantic robbers still be in love or, like so many others, will they be ready to move on?

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Zsa Zsa and the Prince

If Elizabeth Taylor was the last movie star, then Zsa Zsa Gabor was the first to be famous for being famous.  She was all glitz and glamour, and I mean that in the best possible way.

She had a witty sense of humor.  Known for her many relationships, she was often asked, “How many husbands have you had?”  Without a blink, she replied, “You mean other than my own?”

In fact, Zsa Zsa nine times, if you count her union with Felipe de Alba.  It was subsequently annulled because her divorce from husband number seven, Michael O’Hara, had not yet been finalized

She is now married to  Frederic Prinz Von Anhalt. They tied the knot in 1986, making it her longest lasting relationship.  And he came with a title, even if it wasn’t one to which he was born.

Zsa Zsa Gabor by Classic Film Scans

Zsa Zsa is twenty-six years older than her spouse.  Does that make her a cougar? I think she’d rather like the title and all that it implies.

At 94-years old, Ms. Gabor is in very poor health.  She’s been partially paralyzed since a car accident in 2002, and she suffered a stroke in 2005.

Almost a year ago she broke several bones falling out of bed and required surgery to replace her hip.

In January of this year, she had her right leg amputated above the knee to stop the spread of gangrene.

Since then she took ill with pneumonia, suffered complications from a feeding tube into her stomach, coughing up blood, and slipped into and out of a coma.

Throughout her trials and tribulations the Prince, has been by her side, sort of.  He’s always been distracted by various extracurricular activities.

As an example, in 2007, he threw his hat in the ring along with Larry Birkhead and Howard K. Smith, claiming to have fathered Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter.  Paternity tests showed otherwise.

That same year police found him naked in his Rolls Royce Phantom.  He maintained several women had mugged him.  Presumably, the family jewels were left intact.

Last year, Von Anhalt filed papers to run for governor of California, pledging to legalize marijuana and prostitution, taxing all vices.  He said then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, warts and all, had inspired him.  He should have found a better role model.

Late fall he was hospitalized for swallowing a bee while sunbathing in the backyard.  Soon after he was back in the hospital after accidentally gluing one of his eyelids shut.  He had picked up a bottle of nail glue, mistaking it for eye drops.

A few months ago Von Anhalt announced he and his wife were trying to become parents using an egg donor, artificial insemination, and a surrogate.  It was something he said she had hoped for ever since they got married – a quarter of a century ago.

He put her Bel Air mansion on the market for $28 million, intending to move his bride to a condominium, something else he said she always wanted to do.  A few months later he reduced the asking price to $15 million.

To cover her medical expenses he has made known his plans to auction off her treasured fur coat collection and her fancy designer dresses.

Justly concerned, Francesca Hilton, Zsa Zsa’s daughter, only four years younger than her stepfather, now 68, is preparing to take him to court to protect her mother’s dignity and keep him from trashing her estate.  But that doesn’t seem to concern him.  He’s a prince with no charm, a cub that never grew up.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved