Tears, laughter, and a little Tammy Wynette

The last we talked, I was getting ready to jet off to New York City to tie the knot, to make it legal.  I did, and I am! At least in a handful of states in our great union.

In my last post shortly before my trip, I envisioned myself in some of Hollywood’s most famous weddings: Eleanor Boardman to King Vidor, Mae Murray to Prince David Mdivani, and on and on. The ceremony itself turned out to be different from any I had ever imagined.

Early in the trip, I had lunch with my old (in years known that is!) friend, Eve Golden, one of my favorite writers.  Have you read her biographies of Theda Bara, Anna Held, and Jean Harlow?  Read them!  Add them to your library.

I had last seen Eve a number of years ago when we had tea one afternoon at the Algonquin.  This time, Eve suggested we have lunch at Andrew’s Diner, near her office in Midtown Manhattan. She still has lovely pearls and can tell a story like none other — you should see her imitation of Adela Rogers St. Johns.

Eve had agreed way back in the summer to “give me away” at my wedding. Our food orders made, Eve brought from her purse a little gift for the occasion. A spoon. A very old spoon. A Mae Murray collectible spoon from the 1920s. I was  stunned beyond words. I vowed to  — and did — carry it down the aisle as something “old.”  Have a look.

My very own Mae Murray spoon

Similiarly, before I left home, I thought of that special little something I could do for Eve. About 20 years ago, I came into possession of a treasure from the past.  It was a silver-topped, cut-glass powder jar. The name “Anna Held” was inscribed on the lid. On the occasion of the 100th performance of Anna Held’s The Little Duchess in 1902, Florenz Ziegfeld presented every woman in the audience with one of the powder jars.

The Anna Held Powder Jar

Knowing that Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld’s Broadway was Eve’s favorite of all her books, I realized the time had come to part with this piece of history. The powder jar that I had proudly displayed on my mantel clearly belonged to Eve. She was thrilled with my selection.

As you know by now, Mae Murray, the subject of my current biography, is never far from my mind. So, when time allowed, I did a bit of research for my upcoming book. I made pilgramages to places where Mae lived and worked. The New Amsterdam Theater has been restored to its former beauty and the Hotel Des Artistes still retains its glamour.

One chilly, rainy afternoon, Mae’s granddaughter, Cee Cee, and I took a subway to a cemetery where a number of Mae’s close relatives are buried. To my great disappointment, not to mention Cee Cee’s, there were no markings or headstones on the graves. Another piece of Mae’s mysterious puzzle fell into place.

Cee Cee and Michael

The next day, I met another of Mae’s relatives, Elisa, a great-neice, for coffee at Lincoln Center. She, like Cee Cee, bears a remarkable resemblence to the famous silent movie star. Mae’s talent for dance was passed down to Elisa, who has taught the art in the New York City schools for over 30 years.

Michael and Mae's great-neice, Elisa

When I conjure up wedding scenes, I think of a rain-drenched Stella in Stella Dallas as she watched the marriage of her daughter from the street.

A joyous Stella Dallas watches the wedding of her daughter

I jokingly recreated the scene outside the church the day of my ceremony.

Michael as Stella Dallas

Don’t laugh, I know I’m no Belle Bennett.

My wedding, attended by some of my closet and dearest friends, turned out to be the single most joyous day of my life.

The knot is tied

As it played out, the ceremony was nothing like the Banky-La Rocque union or the Murray-Mdivani nuptials (although Mae’s granddaughter was on hand to witness my special day). And, it lacked the drama of the Westmore-Clair wedding, as there were no ex-wives or children on the steps outside pleading for alimony or child support.

It was your typical Episcopal ceremony–with the exception of a boisterous rendition of Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man at the end of the service.

As one friend noted, there were tears, laughter, and a little Tammy Wynette. What more could any man wish for?

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3 thoughts on “Tears, laughter, and a little Tammy Wynette

  1. First off Best Wishes to you and your new Husband ! I wish you well and many years together! I have 2 out of 3 of Eve’s Bio’s in my library I am missing the Anna Held Bio but will be on the lookout for it. Theda Bara is a favorite of mine and loved her Bio of her. I can’t wait for your book On Mae to come out I am waiting anxiously and I am so sad to hear that so many of Mae’s family is buried in unmarked graves. I marked Peg Entwistle and I believe that everyone deserves a headstone and would hope that in the future something can be done to mark Mae’s Family.

  2. Great story Michael! You were always great with words! I love showing my daughters the great silent movie and the greatest stars ever. You have you favorites and you know Benjie has Olive but mine will always be Rudolph Valentino. I can not wait to read your new book.

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