Photo: An April 15, 1882, issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, with an etching of a coffin, is listed on EBay at $375.
Queen of the Dead – dateline January 23, 2012
• Lindsay Masters, the sales and marketing genius behind the British publishing company Haymarket, died on December 30, age 79. Haymarket is well-known for such magazines as Town, Gramophone, Sportscar, PrintWeek, Stuff, and the always popular Mineral Planning—I never plan my minerals without consulting it first. Masters, hired in 1958, “looked and behaved nothing like a salesman at all,” said founder Lord Heseltine. “He belonged to what in those days we called the Chelsea Set: late nights, parties, jazz, the arts. But behind his rather louche exterior lay a mind of rapier sharpness and an unshakeable determination.” What really stands out is a line dropped with cool nonchalance into his Telegraph obituary: “He sold lederhosen door-to-door in Germany . . .” At which Baby fainted dead away with delight. Can you imagine? “Mütter, it’s the door-to-door lederhosen salesman again.” “Ach, thank goodness—I hope he has some new Trachten hat pins, the edelweiss clip for my Gamsbart has fallen off!” I am cursing my high school guidance counselor, who sent me off to be a secretary, when I might have been a door-to-door lederhosen salesgirl.
• Lady Runcie, the widow of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, died at age 79 on January 12, and—wait, what? The Archbishop of Canterbury was married? Can they do that? You learn something new every day. Born Rosalind (“Lindy”) Turner, she married Archbishop (“Bishie”) Robert Runcie in 1957 and it seems she kept him in line. “Too much religion makes me go pop!” she once said, and her son James recalled her as “larky, jolly and vibrant, like a naughty girl in the sixth form. She didn’t have much time for saying the right thing, wearing the right thing and curtsying.” I think I love Lady L.: The Telegraph notes that “In the 1970s, when Runcie was Bishop of St Albans and the homosexual Labour MP Tom Driberg was employed by Private Eye as a compiler of obscene crosswords, it was noted that on one occasion the prize was won by a Mrs. Rosalind Runcie of St Albans.”
• Downton Abbey may be all very well and good (though it has been ruined for me by the brilliant parody Uptown Downstairs Abbey), but it is not fit to lace the corsets of Upstairs Downstairs. I have that whole series on DVD, and I give you my word I watch it beginning to end once a year. So, sad news: Jenny Tomasin, who played put-upon kitchen maid Ruby, died last week, at 76. Ruby was in the series nearly from the beginning, and all the way to the end: scheming, lazy, devious, dimwitted, always dodging the barbs (and fists) of Mrs. Bridges (“Rooo-bee! What is that girl up to?”). So many episodes to re-watch: Ruby nearly gets blown up in a munitions plant; Ruby hires out to the Middle Class; Ruby plays “Poor Little Belgium” in a war pageant . . .
• The L.A. Times reports the death at 102 on January 9 of Mae Laborde, 102, who did not start acting till after her retirement as a department store clerk and as a bookkeeper. A neighbor, Times writer Steve Lopez, remembers that “Mae was old-fashioned, didn’t drink and spoke softly, calling friends ‘honey,’ but she wasn’t shy. Once, when she needed a ride to an appearance on a radio show, she called the Santa Monica police department to ask for a lift, and the chief himself obliged, curious as to who would ask such a thing.” Laborde wound up on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Pineapple Express, The Heartbreak Kid, Blue Collar TV, and on the Funny or Die site. Which really makes me rethink my aborted acting career (I did some commercials, summer stock and extra work back in the silent era—curse those talkies and my too-posh Main Line accent!). I would be the only woman in L.A. with her original face—perhaps I could become the Margaret Dumont or Mrs. Drysdale of the new millennium!
—Eve Golden, aka the Vitagraph Girl