(My Travels with) Agnes Moorehead – The Lavender Lady

BOOK: (My Travels with) Agnes Moorehead – The Lavender Lady
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(My Travels with)
Agnes Moorehead-
The Lavendar Lady

More Bewitching
Than Endora

Quint Benedetti

Copyright © 2010 by Quint Benedetti.

Library of Congress Control Number:       2010901931

ISBN:         Hardcover                               978-1-4500-3408-1

                   Softcover                                 978-1-4500-3407-4

                   Ebook                                      978-1-4500-0409-1

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

This book was printed in the United States of America.

 

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75735

 

For Agnes and her mother Molly

PROLOGUE

 

Everyone in the world wants to be happy. Right? Now what if I found the easy way to happiness and passed it on. Wouldn’t that be a classic contribution to mankind?

Well, I did find it and anyone can do it. The three essentials for progress in life are good health, someone who loves you and a potful of money. Those I can’t guarantee but my exclusive, unique way to happiness has been proven by me over the years and I have seen others do the same. A crackpot, you say. Perhaps, but it worked.

Ready. You clone yourself. Definitely a crackpot, you say. No, listen. I became a great admirer of actress Agnes Moorehead. I earned my way into her good graces and besides living my own active life, responded to all her victories, defeats, temperaments, exultations, happiness, depression, all the human emotions.

I led a double life for many years. My own life, and my life with Agnes. It works. Two for the price of one. Double your pleasure. Have a slice of Doublemint gum and exult.

How does that affect you, you ask. Pick a hero or heroine and live your own life and their’s too. It works. Happiness will be yours. You will never be bored—the scourge of most people’s lives.

Let me know how you make out. After you do it, write a book about it. I’ll buy the first copy.

CHAPTER ONE

THE LAVENDER LADY

“Lavender is just pink trying to be purple,” she once paraphrased Proust. and now I can see all the hues of her personality in that statement: the royalty, the naïveté, the selfishness, the piercing intuition and sometimes the astonishing lack of it (her two marriages), the phoniness and the irrepressible humanity it contained, the coldness and the longing to be warm, and sometimes the warmth, the insecurity and the yearning to be loved, the human simplicity touching greatness.

Agnes Moorehead, in a way, did what so many actors and actresses never did. She left her mark on society, both as an actress and as a person. I knew her for ten years . . . I was her personal manager for five. In that capacity I did all her phoning, writing, investigating, arranging and traveled with her. During this time, I ran the gamut from friend to enemy, but I think I knew her better than anyone else. I was the center of her life, juggling all her fragments. She had other friends, close friends: Debbie Reynolds, Cesar Romero, Jonathan Winters. Then there was Kathy Ellis, and stand-in and traveling companion for years. There was Freddie Jones, one of her two maids, who worked for Agnes for over twenty years and Polly Garland, the other maid who lived in with Agnes almost as many years. Yet each touched only one side of her life. I touched all of it.

I thought I would be writing this book with her some day, but she died, and that is a story in itself. She would say to me, “Joseph, one day when I retire, we must write a book together about all this.” Secretly I said to myself, “She’ll never retire, so the book will never be done.” But she passed on, so the book will be done.

Judy Garland once walked out of a bathroom on a sunny Sunday morning and, to her ex-husband Sid Luft and the two children, put forth her arms to show she had sliced her wrists and said, “Look what I did.”

On the other hand, Agnes would sometimes show up with a deep bruise on her face or a slice alongside her head, or a bandaid somewhere and say, “Look what my husband did.”

Both said it with no emotion as if it were a part of life. She married a drunkard and she married a director who, she told me, married her to further his own career. It worked, too! She couldn’t pick a man. It was automatically certain that any man she showed a romantic interest in was less than good or decent. Her father once asked her, “Agnes, why do you always marry weak men?” She had no answer to that but it was clear to see that she was a poor judge of people.

She was only a superior woman in front of a camera or on a stage. You might say that Agnes lived a double life, a life on the stage and on a movie set, and her life off it. In one she was strong, certain, direct, capable. In the other, she was vacillating and unsure. Life was not an extension of her work, unfortunately. If her work was a 24-hour-a-day job, she would have been a superior personality and gloriously happy. Unfortunately, her life was evenly divided: work and living. At one she was adept, the other, inept.

Perhaps, as with so many women, she should never have married, merely had someone like me, sympathetic to her career and an extension of her own work who she cared for, and, on the other hand, someone who loved her, with whom she felt secure. Perhaps that would have been the answer, but that’s just conjecturing.

That word “security” was important to her and she felt secure with me. She often entertained me like she entertained the world. She needed an audience always. Agnes had avarice. She loved money. Yet there were rare moments when she was vulnerable and she delighted in her successes. It all sums up to the fact that she was human. She also had a multifaceted personality. I shared all these passions and excesses. Money ruled the roost. Yet other people would make deals for her as I did one day, saying, “Agnes, I made a deal for you for three thousand for one night plus air-fare and lodging.” She was delighted. Yet the very next week she made a deal for herself for nine hundred. There was no continuity to her greed. The main thing is that she wanted a deal made now and immediately and the money to follow as soon as possible. She trusted no one, though I came close to being trusted the most.

When you live with a woman for four years on the road, you know everything about her. We were never romantic or sexual. The thought crossed my mind a few times. She admitted it crossed her mind. She never did anything about it. “We’re too busy. We have too much to do.” I agreed.

She was the delight of critics on the road. They wrote brilliant words about her. I was astounded by her brilliance even though it was continuity. It never changed. She was a goddess to so many and yet human. “Where are you going?” I asked. “I want an ice cream cone.” She gobbled it in a few bites. I’d see her on stage and say to myself, “This woman has fire and beauty and excellence.” Then I’d see her in her dressing room without her eyes on and she looked ordinary.

“Oh God,” I said to her one day, “what are you doing?” She said, “I love this baby pig.” She was holding it to her elegant $10,000 Christian Dior dress. I thought, “She’s just a person, just a girl, not a famous actress when she’s off stage.”

Sometimes she’d talk incessantly, sometimes there was just quiet. Mostly she was quiet when she had great success. If things weren’t going right, she’d cover it up with words, loads of words pouring out. She’d have a hundred things for me to do and talk it, sentence by sentence, fast.

Agnes always had plans . . . she was always enthusiastic about some project. “I’m going to do it. You watch. I’m going to do it.” Seldom was it done. She did try to rebuild her childhood farm, but when it came to stage and screen, she played by the rules. As with all excellence, she dealt in details. She played her part with every nuance. She had failures and successes, but mostly successes. She’d say, “I’m human. Don’t forget; don’t ever forget that I’m human.” She also boasted, “I’m a whole woman.” That she was and a dazzling star.

A special and unique friendship.

Hollywood is noted for female feuds. . .the friendship between Agnes Moorehead and Debbie Reynolds is unique.

My friends learning that I was working for Agnes often asked me about her friendship with Debby Reynolds. In spite of the age difference Agnes and Debby have been good friends since the days they were both Contract players at MGM Studios.  When I asked Agnes about her friendship with Debby, she told me “we met a studio party, but it was our working together  in “HOW THE WEST WAS WON that really brought us together after being together in the movie  over  period of weeks.”  She further added, “you know,it’s a rarity to form a friendship that has lasted”

Agnes had a wonderful sense of humor which is the Main reason  that she and Debbie hit it off so well. “Debbie has an incredible sense of humor” Agnes confided to me several times during our travels. “It’s the main reason that keeps we actors going.  Debbie and I have always  managed to see the funny side of things. . . our survival  mechanism.

“Debbie is also a wonderful impersonator, as you are well aware . . .she spots a person’s weakness and immediately picks up on it.  This is the secret of mimicking.”

“When Debbie was caring for Harry Karl’s  three children  by his marriage to Marie Mac Donald this was another area that we shared our marital problems It is difficult to find someone with whom you can share these private experiences.

 

 

 

Photo of Agnes and her foster son

 

BOOK: (My Travels with) Agnes Moorehead – The Lavender Lady
12.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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