This photo of a horse-drawn hearse has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $8.99.
Queen of the Dead – dateline August 6, 2012
• Good gosh I am feeling old—fifty years on August 4/5 since Marilyn Monroe died, and I remember the Life magazine my father bought when it happened. And in 1972 I bought all the tenth-anniversary stuff, as well as Norman Mailer’s horrible horrible coffee-table book. I’m of the age (right smack in the middle of “middle”) where I think of “grown-up ladies” as looking like Marilyn in Something’s Got to Give, or Judy Garland on The Judy Garland Show, or Jackie Kennedy—we are all baby ducklings, imprinted with this stuff. I recently saw a toddler chasing a girl in jeans and scraggly hair, yelling, “Mommy, mommy!” and I thought, “that’s not a mommy, that’s a hippie! Mommies have bouffant hair and wear heels!”
• When Rita Miljo, 81, died on July 27 in a fire in her 50-acre baboon preserve in South Africa, Shirley McGreal, founder of the International Primate Protection League, released a statement saying that “Just as Mother Teresa cared for the most persecuted human beings in India, Rita cared for the pariah primates of Africa.” If Miss McGreal is to be taken at her word, I am appalled that Rita Miljo denied baboons medical care and pain treatment, while traveling the world campaigning against baboons’ access to divorce, abortion and birth control. “The Mother Teresa of Baboons?” Baboons everywhere should be cheering her demise, then. (Happily, a close reading of her obit reveals that, unlike Ma T., Miljo actually did a lot of good for her charges, did not misuse funds, and kept her snoot out of politics.)
• I always got Tony Martin (who died on July 27, at 98) and Tony Bennett (still crooning, at 85) mixed up (then again, I sometimes can’t tell Joyce Compton from Iris Adrian—I’m sure many people have that problem, right?). Tony Martin was born in San Francisco, only six years after the earthquake and fire, landed in Hollywood in 1935, and appeared with such stars as Astaire and Rogers, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Shirley Temple, Betty Grable, Barbara Stanwyck, The Marx Brothers. More impressively, he was married to both Alice Faye (from 1937-40) and Cyd Charisse (from 1948 till her death in 2008). Which brings up the big debate my movie-nerd friends and I are having: did he trade up or trade down? Me, I prefer, warm, funny Alice to ice-queen Cyd. Cyd Charisse may have had gams that made Ann Miller look like Billy Barty, but I’ll take Alice any day.
• When did Gore Vidal (who died on July 31 at 86) turn into Grandpa Simpson? I was never a big fan of his writing (Vidal’s, I mean, not Abe Simpson’s), but enjoyed him as a raconteur (and, OK, his screenplay for Suddenly, Last Summer was hilarious, if unintentionally so). But remember when he and William F. Buckley and Truman Capote and Norman Mailer would fight and trade quips and make up and fight all over again on talk shows, in the days when Jack Paar, David Frost, Dick Cavett and even Johnny Carson were both literary and literate? Vidal appeared twice on What’s My Line? when that show and I’ve Got a Secret were like sophisticated cocktail parties. Vidal called Truman Capote “the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60,” and said that “There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water.” Also, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Then about ten years ago, he changed from hilariously evil Mr. Burns into batshit-crazy Grandpa Simpson, buying into every zany conspiracy theory the internet had to offer.