Eve Golden describes herself as: a biographer, show-business historian, photo archivist and obituary writer. And a haughty dowager.
Queen of the Dead—dateline June 18, 2011
• Mildred Wolf, who played piano accompaniment to silent films, died on June 5 at the age of 101. As a silent-film fan, I know how important a good pianist is—once, the accompanist at a New York revival house didn’t show, and that was one ruined Marion Davies film. Wolf was one of thousands of musicians thrown out of work by the advent of talkies (which I still insist are just a fad). Her son, Charles Bernstein, became a film composer, which is either ironic or inevitable, I suppose.
• Jeanne Bice, who died on June 10 at 71, was a genuinely nice gal who was responsible for more godawful fashion than anyone since . . . well, honest, she may have been unrivaled. Her Quacker Factory churned out Day-Glo plaids, bedazzled headbands, holiday-themed horrors, all sold on QVC. But you couldn’t hate Jeanne Bice—and believe me, I tried. She “got the joke,” which I always admire: “I’m an overweight woman who wears funny clothes and a headband for God’s sake! That’s funny,” she happily admitted.
• Catching up on a few older obits, we find real-life film-noir dragon lady Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu (sister-in-law of South Vietnam’s president, Ngo Dinh Diem), who died on April 24, age 87. OK, she was kind of evil: when Buddhist monks immolated themselves, she said she would bring mustard to the next barbeque. The Eva Peron of South Vietnam, her influence was decidedly mixed: according to one obit, “she pushed through measures that increased women’s rights [but] orchestrated moves to ban contraceptives and abortion, outlaw polygamy, forbid divorce and close opium dens and brothels. Wrestling, cock-fighting and boxing followed on the forbidden list.” But here is where I reveal my utter shallowness—did you see the photos of her? All I could think was, “omigod, she is gorgeous.” In an early-’60s “gowns by Jean Louis” way. She made Jackie Kennedy look like a Cockney chimney sweep.
• And we lost several real heroes recently: Mietek Pemper (91, on June 7) was a Plaszow concentration camp inmate who compiled and typed Schindler’s famous list of 1,200 Jews to be saved for factory work. Maurice Craig (also 91, on May 11) saved Dublin, in a way: the architectural historian worked for decades (with only middling success, sadly) to preserve the city’s ancient buildings from demolition. “Architecture is the most accessible of the arts; yet paradoxically it is the least noticed by people at large,” he wrote. Crusading lawyer Dana Turner (who died at 57 from heart disease, on April 28) fought for the rights of the transgendered, particularly in employment. She was seen in the 2006 documentary Cruel and Unusual, about transgender women being sent to male prisons.