Zsa Zsa’s Never Found in New Book

Finding Zsa Zsa: The Gabors Behind the Legend by Sam Staggs promises to finally uncover the truth about the mysterious, glamorous Gabors from Hungary. Claiming to have exclusive interviews and never before seen information, one is promised the removal of the iron curtain the Gabor women hid themselves behind.

Sam Staggs has written several books before tackling the bombshells from Budapest. I am familiar with his previous work, and have long held  All About “All About Eve” in high regard.  Eve is (for the most part) properly sourced and an excellent volume for behind-the-scenes gossip most movie fans enjoy reveling in. Let’s be honest with ourselves: we’re historical voyeurs. We take delight in finding out the nitty-gritty on our favorite movies and stars. I would put the Gabors (as a unit) in my top two favorite stars. I love reading about all four of them and have lapped up the few books released here and there, including their own tomes. Knowing Staggs from his previous work, I looked forward to seeing him delve deep into the most mysterious family in Hollywood.

Staggs opens his book with major events affecting the Gabors through the 1950s. They’re pretty well-known for Gabor aficionados but I understand that very few people who will read Staggs’ book are going to be deep in the fandom. The next two chapters deal primarily with Jolie and her recollections of raising three of the most famous women of the Golden Era. The rest of the book simply traces the family until their deaths, with a timeline concocted via their scandals. The book is basic, but, again, I wasn’t expecting a scholarly study on the family. As the title alludes, Zsa Zsa is the primary focus – the rest of the Gabors are more like footnotes in Zsa Zsa’s life. Unfortunately, we’re not really getting anything new. One of the biggest “mysteries” presented in the book is the Gabors’ real ages. Fact checks on the Gabors’ ages were accomplished years ago, with Zsa Zsa’s real age being paraded around once she was diagnosed with dementia. It was (again) confirmed when her estate auction transpired in April of 2018.

Staggs’ viewpoint is rather confounding. Does he like them? Does he dislike them? I believe he actually does hold some affection for the marvelous Hungarians, and I will be the first person to admit an author does need to remain as unbiased as possible, but the bitchery throughout the book is jarring. Look – I get it… Staggs wants this book to come across like the reader is having a proper dish-fest with the author but comparing Zsa Zsa to an old drunk or claiming that she was menopausal by 38 tends to become grating. These slight digs pepper the book like the Gabor’s paprika-d their chicken: they’re overabundant; but, unlike the satisfying ending you receive from the Gabors’ paprika-caked anything, you’re likely to just feel a burn all the way through.

I’m going to be blunt. The sourcing isn’t here for this book. There are no end notes or footnotes because the author apparently felt they were unnecessary even though he read “thousands” of papers and printed memorabilia related to the family. He also claims to have hours of interviews with Francesca Hilton (Zsa Zsa’s daughter and the only direct descendant of the sisters), and access to her unpublished memoir, but nothing is sourced besides a one sentence mention about contacting her in 2010 and (apparently?) having contact with her until her passing in 2015. When did these interviews take place? How? Is there any documentation? We don’t know. None of this is sourced. Anthony Turtu, author of  Gaborabilia, is mentioned throughout the book as well. Again, when did these interviews take place? Again, we don’t know. Staggs seems to have gleamed some of his documented evidence from Turtu. Most of the information in this book stems directly from the Gabors’ various memoirs. Staggs admits as much in his “notes” section (which also has a painfully self-serving review of every previously printed book on the Gabors and why this material sucks – yet is used throughout the book). The book also houses a fair amount of tittle-tattle with no supporting evidence such as Eric Drimmer (Eva’s first husband) being a spy (huh?) or the author’s convoluted thought process about why Zsa Zsa went to the ’59 Khrushchev luncheon when his answer was painfully obvious for anyone with a remote knowledge of mid-20th-century world history. Eva is also plagued by rumors regarding her sexuality, which have never been supported (if she was a lesbian, great, but there has to be some evidence – not hearsay from undocumented Francesca interviews).

There are a couple rare gems in the book, such as a photo of Zsa Zsa after placing in the Miss Hungary contest, but the supposed footage of the contest (which has never been seen by previous authors) is written off as “in a Hungarian library.” Most researchers attempt to help their colleagues by properly sourcing their finds. We want people to use our work as a stepping stone to further the narrative. Staggs has set the narrative back. I know of at least one book in the works on Zsa Zsa as well as eternally hoping Turtu releases a book as well. Hold out for the confirmed project. If you need a Gabor fix now, buy their memoirs (Zsa Zsa: 3, Eva: 1, and Jolie: 2 (one is a cookbook), double check their ages on Wikipedia, and have fun.

Final Rating: 1/5

Three Really Quick Tips for Grauman’s (and a map)

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Map and legend from 1992’s Hollywood At Your Feet

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As usual, I visited Grauman’s when I went out to Los Angeles this week. While I wish that TCL (it’ll always be Grauman’s to me) Chinese Theatre sold an updated map, this one will do. Here’s a quick guide to the world famous theatre.

First off, Grauman’s is always packed unless you’re going at 10 pm.

Second, Grauman’s does not move or remove their prints. The map above lines up exactly with what is seen there today. Some prints have been cut down, such as Cantiflas’, in order to make more room. If a print is removed it is for one of two reasons: it needs to be restored or it was temporary *side-eyes Herbie*.

Third, people are rude and will not get out of your way. People tend to flock around the prints of modern people (Michael Jackson is a big one right now). Because of this, certain areas are less congested (especially the center right and left).

P.S. Some stars are in really poor condition. I am hoping that they are fixed:

 

Who Was Virginia Rappe?

Virginia Rappe was a woman many would not know of today but in 1921 she was headline news: she had allegedly been killed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. But who was Virginia to the public before her death made headlines? The Day the Laughter Stopped by David Yallop dedicated a little under a page to a biography on Virginia:

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Room 1912 pays Virginia the respect she deserves with an entire chapter dedicated to Virginia’s life, a debunking of the supposed venereal disease that Yallop alleged, as well as Andy Edmonds’ claims in Frame Up that Virginia was trying to blackmail Arbuckle for abortion money. The abortion story comes from Josephine (Roth) Rafferty, who testified that Virginia had come to her for four abortions, and a birth, starting in 1908 and ending in 1910. I personally cannot find anything that either proves or disproves Rafferty’s claims but it should be noted that Rafferty’s story changed midway through her testimony – Virginia went from having five pregnancies to four. What became of the child who was supposedly birthed is unclear.

Virginia Rappe was actually born Virginia Caroline Rapp on July 7th, 1891, to Mabel Rapp, who was 17 or 18, in Chicago. Her father is unknown. Mabel was a part time chorus girl and model (and theorized to have been a prostitute or escort) who made headlines at least three times in Chicago papers. The first time as on December 23, 1892 when Mabel was locked in the Veteran’s Protective Association and Ebert’s restaurant building by a janitor after she refused to walk through a saloon.

The second time Mabel made the papers was after she had been shot by Eva Bennett after attempting to speak to Joseph Culbertson in 1893. The full story follows:

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Finally, on March 8, 1898, Mabel was accused of whipping a dressmaker and owing her money along with an associate. Again, the story follows:

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To say that Virginia’s life would have been a whirlwind during her early years is an understatement. By 1902, Mabel had passed away and Virginia moved back to Chicago to live with a woman she assumed was her grandmother, named Caroline Rapp, but Merritt insists Caroline was of no relation in Room 1219. It’s possible that Caroline, who was aided in the rearing of the child by a former friend of Mabel’s named Kate Hardebeck, had been an employer of Mabel or simply someone who had adopted Mabel in everything but name. Regardless, Virginia began to earn her keep by 1907, when she changed the spelling of her last name from “Rapp” to “Rappe” (pronounced Rap-pay) and embarked on a modeling career. In 1908, Virginia, like her mother before her, made the pages of the Chicago Tribune albeit for reasons more positive than attempted kidnapping, being shot, and passing bad checks.

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Virginia would continue to model and penned a column in 1913, advising women to work outside of the jobs typically reserved for them, like becoming a stenographer. She also made news for the outfits she wore, with vivid descriptions such as the following, both from 1913:

In 1914, Virginia made headlines when she danced in her nightgown on a passenger ship:

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In 1915, Virginia became more of a household name when she started designing her own clothes. Virginia had a special affinity for millinery:

Virginia also announced her engagement to an Argentinian diplomat, Alberto M. D’Alakine, on July 28th, 1915, but the engagement was over by September of that year.

From 1916-1919, Virginia’s relationship with the public began to decline a bit. She would still model but her own designs weren’t featured like they had been before. In 1917, she made a picture with Metro entitled Paradise Garden. It was announced in 1918 that she had signed with Henry Lehrman, whom she would eventually embark on a romantic relationship with and who would be buried next to Virginia when he died nearly twenty years after her.

Contrary to what Yallop alleges, Virginia hadn’t been out of work for nearly two years. Her first movie with Lehrman, Twilight Baby had a gradual release between 1918 and 1920. Virginia took a tour of the US and Canada during this time starting in 1919. Whatever her reason for taking the trip is unclear but she was praised as being a fine comedian in Twilight Baby. In December of 1920, Lehrman released The Punch of the Irish which once again received praise from critics for Virginia’s performance. A popular photo run after her passing was this one, which was from the movie:

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Whatever happened to Rappe over the course of Labor Day weekend in 1921 is a mystery but her death shouldn’t be her legacy. She was a fashion innovator and gifted comedian who was sadly taken from us too soon.

 

Book Review: Barbara Payton – A Life in Pictures

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A few years ago my friend Heather got me onto the beauty that was Barbara Payton. For those who don’t know whom the blondeshell was, Payton was an up-and-coming actress in the late 40s and 50s who would pass away, destitute, in 1967. I have written an article about her before which you can find here.

Author John O’Dowd wrote the only biography on her called Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, The Barbara Payton Story. O’Dowd’s biography truly is the only one needed. It is sentimental and caring while being tactfully blunt about Payton’s poor life decisions. The book was obviously done with a huge amount of love and respect for Barbara without the burdensome undertones of “I could have saved her” that are common in fan-written biographies. Using some Facebook stalking skills that I have acquired over the years, I found O’Dowd and was happy to see that he planned to release a photo book on Payton. My eyes gleamed and I’m pretty sure I let out an audible squeak of happiness. That was over a year ago. Now, the book has been released by Bear Manor and I happily have it in my pudgy little clutches.

Let me start by saying that the book is huge and heavy. Coming in at seven pounds and 560 pages, you are going to need a large amount of bookshelf space to hold this beauty. O’Dowd begins his book by talking about his love for Barbara and giving a brief biography of the star. As far as introductions go, it’s not long (only encompassing 5 pages) and O’Dowd discusses his love for Barbara and how he views her.

O’Dowd then gets into the meat of the book relatively quickly (starting on page 18) and shows us the life of Barbara. We see her life laid out from her childhood to her tragic demise. You can’t help but cheer for Barbara, even when she is knowingly in the wrong (such as the Tone/Neal fiasco). We see a bright, beautiful woman, just on the cusp of super stardom, lose everything within a few months and O’Dowd provides the pictures to show this destruction.

O’Dowd’s captions are well thought out and include his own words, snipes, or quotes from others about Payton. The reader truly does get a full picture of Payton. An especially emotional part of the book is where O’Dowd included newspaper lines from her passing.

Now, what this book is not is a biography on Payton. It can most certainly appeal to those who want to learn about Payton but I think it is best purchased as a companion piece to Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. While O’Dowd lavishes the reader with over 1,000 pictures, it helps to read his biography on her as well to receive a more complete picture of Payton. This is not a slam against O’Dowd, if he had included the text of Kiss and this book, it would have been well over 1,000 pages.

I own over 700 books on Old Hollywood and the stars that participated in it. I buy a lot over the course of the year, both new releases and old. I can honestly say that this was my best purchase of the year. It’s beautiful, well researched, and introduces the world to one of Hollywood’s brightest (and most notorious) stars. You can purchase the book by clicking here.

A Nation in Grief: The Death of Carole Landis

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Before I begin, I’m not posting any of Carole’s death pictures. You can find them quite readily on different sites if you really want to see them but I have no interest in sharing them.

On July 6th, 1948, Carole Landis was on the front page of newspapers across the United States. Was it because of a new film? A reconciliation between her and her fourth husband, W. Horace Schmidlapp? Sadly, no. Carole had been found dead the day before in the bathroom of her Brentwood home, reportedly from suicide. The press was left in disbelief. Why had a beautiful, successful actress chosen to die by her own hand? The press, and public, wanted answers and from the 6-13th, Carole’s death and the immediate ripples from it were headline news. I haven’t put any of my own thoughts in this piece. The piece is filled with numerous links to newspaper stories from the time so that one can get a “feel” for what Americans were told about Carole’s death in 1948.

July 4th, 1948

Carole hosts a large party for the Fourth of July. The party began at noon and ended around 4 pm being Carole was expecting her married boyfriend, Rex Harrison, to join her for dinner. Harrison and Carole shared a dinner of chicken, salad, and a lemon chiffon pie that Carole had made herself. Harrison would say that he left at nine but there are unconfirmed reports that he left around midnight. The couple supposedly broke up and Carole proceeded to pack up all mementos of her relationship with Rex, drop them off at actor Roland Culver’s home. She also left a note saying that she was going to kill herself. Culver wouldn’t find this package until the following day and proceeded to burn the contents. You can read more on Carole’s last day here.

July 5th

Carole overdoses at roughly 3 am although the police initially believed it to be at 1 am. Carole’s body would not be discovered until 3 pm by her maid, Fanny Mae Bolden, and Harrison, who had been trying to talk to Carole throughout the day being they had lunch plans together at 11 am, in the bathroom. Carole was wearing a white lace shirt, a blue-and-white plaid skirt, and gold sandals. She was curled up in a fetal position, her head laying on a brown leather jewelry box. She was wearing a St. Christopher metal and held the Lord’s Prayer, inscribed on a ribbon, as well as an envelope (“Red – quick – two hours. Yellow – about five – can take two. Use for severe pain” was written on the front) containing a single, white pill in her left hand. She wore a wristwatch engraved with “C.L.” Bottles of Seconal were found on Carole’s bathroom counter. A note, addressed to her mother, was found on a table in her dressing room, next to a perfume bottle. Bolden would recall Harrion’s face twisting up while he asked Carole’s lifeless body, “Oh Honey, why did you do it?”

Here is where Harrison’s behavior becomes rather odd. Harrison and the maid both agree that Harrison discovered Carole and then came down to tell Bolden that Carole was dead. He then went up with Bolden and felt for a heartbeat, claiming that he felt a pulse. Harrison claims to have gone through her address book to find her doctor’s number but wasn’t successful. He then went home, called his doctor, discovered that his doctor was away, but agreed for the doctor who was temporarily overseeing Harrison’s doctors practice should come at once. Harrison then called his neighbors to find a doctor who was closer. One of them suggested calling St. John’s hospital which suggested calling the police. The police arrived at 4 pm. Carole’s mother, Clara Ridste, and sister, Dorothy Ross, arrived around 7 pm, with Carole’s mother asking, between sobs, why nobody called her before.

July 6th

The press actually learned about Carole’s death on the 5th, even before her mother did, but because it was too late to print in night-editions of the paper, it was reported nationwide on the 6th. The police made a statement saying that Carole’s death was “definitely a suicide.” Carole’s suicide note was hastily printed. You can see the note here. Harrison declared that he had discussed business with Carole the night before but insisted that they were not having an affair, even though Bolden claimed otherwise. The press wanted to know a motive. Carole’s attorney, Jerry Gieseler, insisted that the suicide wasn’t because of her upcoming divorce. Carole’s press agent, Ed Ettinger, spoke of Carole having financial woes but insisted her career hadn’t made her unhappy and that she had plans for the future. Carole’s fourth husband said he was “shocked.” Carole’s friend, Mary Kline, insisted that it must have been accidental. Columnist Dorothy Manners was depressed but not shocked, insisting that Carole died from poor finances and a broken heart. Carole’s father, Alfred Ridste, insisted it couldn’t be suicide.

July 7th

The press intensified their hunt for a motive for Carole’s death. Carole’s mother’s thoughts on Carole’s death were released. She thought that Carole’s death may have in fact been suicide because of financial issues. Giesler rebuked the claim, stating that Carole was financially “sound.” Harrison, facing scrutiny for his overly friendly relationship with Carole, agreed with her mother. A relative by marriage, Evelyn Ross, declared that Carole was despondent over her inability to hold a husband or have a family, and theorized that those two factors led to her suicide.

July 8th

Papers announced that Harrison was to make an official statement with the coroner at 2:30 pm that day. Carole’s brother, Lawrence Ridst, also released a statement that day, saying that the family knew nothing about a supposed second suicide note. Whispers of this note have come under fire over the years although it is now generally accepted that Carole had written a second note, addressed to Harrison, that was destroyed by a police officer who was bribed by Lili Palmer, Harrison’s wife. More of Carole’s autopsy report was released. It detailed that Carole was unable to have children, that her blood alcohol content was .12 (three points under “very drunk”), and that she had passed away from a “large amount” of Seconal. It was also announced that there was fight over who would be the executioner of Carole’s will, her mother or her former attorney. Carole’s family also demanded an inquest into Carole’s death while Geisler theorized that her death was a “sudden shock.

July 9th

Harrison’s inquest was partially released. Harrison claimed to have left Carole’s home at 9:30 pm on the fourth and Carole’s time of death was estimated to have occurred four hours later, at 1:30 am. It was also announced that Carole’s funeral had been planned for Forest Lawn.

July 10th and 11th

Carole’s funeral is held on the 10th. She wears a blue dress with sequin butterflies on the sleeves and shoulders – described as her favorite. While she was originally holding an orchid bouquet in her right hand, it was replaced by one made of roses. Hundreds of people attended the ceremony (for the best coverage click 1 and its continuation 2) and her pallbearers included friends Cesar Romano and Bill Nye (Carole’s makeup man). Harrison and his wife, Lili Palmer, attended as well although Harrison left before viewing Carole’s body.

July 12th

Carole’s will was scheduled to be read this day. Jerry Geisler was the decided upon executioner. He made a statement saying that Carole’s mother was the likely beneficiary of the entire estate but that her estate was likely worth less than $100,000.

July 13th

It is announced that Carole’s will reading will be held on this day instead of the 12th due to time conflicts within Carole’s family. Carole’s will is reported by family to be worth roughly $20,000. Geisler said in a statement that her estate was worth just south of $50,000 after Carole’s fourth husband agrees to pay out his divorce settlement to her, which was an additional $30,000. Everything went to Carole’s mother, who would get certain material things at the time of her death and everything else put in a trust.  A soldier writes to the Tampa Bay Times, declaring that the publication of Carole’s death pictures was unnecessary.

Today: Carole’s family maintains to this day that Carole was likely murdered by Rex Harrison or possibly found by him and left to die. You can read their thoughts here. Jessica P., from Comet Over Hollywood, disagrees with their theory. You can read her thoughts here. Whatever happened to Carole, her death was a tragedy and she deserves to be remembered for the sweet, bubbly person that she was.