September 15, 2006

Superman's fiancee

How else dignify, in 1959, the relationship between my father's first and only cousin, Lenore, and George Reeves, aka Superman? Did she have a ring? Or did she think the third time would be a charm? Annulled once, married to a wife-beater next, it seems no wonder that the 35-year-old Cafe Society socialite-aspiring starlet (the Jewish Brenda Frasier, as she was known in the 1940s), would have clung to the label. What 1950s newspapers called "socialite," we now know as a party girl.

Fiancee has a much better ring to it than homewrecker. (At 17, Lenore was a co-respondent in a divorce case, in the days when the term had a very specific meaning.) Aspiring starlet means approximately now what it did then: long on beauty, not so much on talent or on ready cash. I think Lenore lived on what can charitably be described as "no visible means of support." Draw your own conclusions.

The day following Reeves' death, in an Earl Wilson New York Post column, Lenore said, "the [Hollywood] system is what killed him." Wilson continued to follow Lenore's adventures in his column throughout the rest of his career. Did she or didn't she pull the trigger? Not even Hollywoodland has an answer.

Can Ben Affleck act? Do I care? I will see the film for personal reasons; critical acclaim or lack thereof is beside the point.

I never met Lenore. We communicated via telephone, echoes of my late grandmother's voice, slightly slurred, in her speech. I let the social worker be our go-between. She was estranged from her father, my great-Uncle Arthur, to the point she didn't attend -- and her absence was noted -- his funeral. Uncle Arthur was as close to a grandfather as I had.

The Superman fanatics I encountered 12 years ago, in the days of Web search infancy, all considered Lenore the evil Eastern influence. Given her capacity to overindulge, I rather doubt she had the coordination to hold the gun. And it is my adult experience that no one can influence you unless you permit it, whether you are over it or under it. For generations my family has thrived under it.

Our family maid, sent to clean Lenore's apartment at my father's behest, was allowed only to bartend, she told me. From what I could see in the 1980s tabloid TV shows, Lenore's fabled and chronicled looks swam in a case of empty vodka bottles.

Robin Tunney, who played her in Hollywoodland, has said, in essence, "she had balls." Welcome to my family: strong women, however willful, are our specialty. Our dulcet tones could kill. Needless to say, no wusses need apply. Since I can't hold my liquor beyond the first glass, it is a wonder we are related.

Lenore died a year before my father. Only I know where the bodies are buried. And I'm not telling.

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Blogger The Misanthrope said...

I was going to wait for the DVD, but now I will go see the movie. My great uncle used to write for Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. If I go into my cousin's DVD store I can see pictures of him with Sinatra, Monroe, Elvis, George Harrison and many others. I have know doubt he may have crossed paths with Lenore.

4:40 PM  
Blogger sporksforall said...

I just saw the movie last night. It's always funny when paths cross through popular culture.

I liked her in the movie, for what it's worth.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

This is what Hollywoodland is about? I had no idea...

4:42 PM  

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