Tag Archives: Lauren Bacall

Mary of the Sun

mary sampas (smaller)My Aunt Mary wrote for The Lowell Sun for seventy-six years. She started while still a high school girl… under pen names… looong before women commonly reported for newspapers. She and my Uncle Charles G Sampas, a mild mannered news editor from a great historic city’s newspaper, were my God Parents. Often glued to Mary’s side, I recall The Sun as a chaotic place full of screaming, sweaty reporters desperate to read ribbons spewed forth from the wires. I still smell the ink and burnt coffee, and hear the deafening noise of the printing machines. “It’s a lot of work to bring news to the people,” she told me.

And remember those phones that had wires attached to walls? Mary Sampas was attached to one of those… always tucked under an ear, scribbling notes and trading in gossip and fact as she covered the glamorous stars of old Hollywood, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, David Niven, many others. Mary and Charlie even accompanied the Kennedys on their Paris trip with Charles de Gaulle and then off to Vienna for the Khrushchev talks. Even Jackie called on Mary for the inside scoop.

She slept late… till the calls began… then the typing would start. Evenings were usually spent socializing with those who were known to be in the know. Hers was a world of endless working parties with artists, writers or prominent Democrats. With non-stop, indefatigable charm and the brain of a word processor she would pursue secrets, discover, verify. What was show and what remained hidden in the backroom smoke?

She brought me to my first ballet when I’d just turned eleven. After the captivating magic and beauty on stage I decided, right there, that I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. She asked me if I’d like to see the ballerinas up close. I thought I was the luckiest girl alive as we sauntered behind the curtains with press pass in hand. But I was struck by the naked authenticity of costumes tossed, the smell of sweat, cold cream and wilting rose. This was typical Mary, don’t get lost in this dream, this takes a lifetime of hard work and practice. Search for the story behind the story, find what’s real.

It wasn’t that she set out expose the chaotic core trapped in the center of every bright star; she just sought truth and didn’t treat children like babies. I don’t think she could have read a fairytale without somehow exposing the dust between pages. Even during the Camelot sparkle of the Kennedy years I knew about the telling fingernails, bitten down to the quick and smartly hidden under Jackie’s gloves.

She loved the famous, the talented, and the informed. She filled her life and home with them yet she intellectually cartwheeled over most. The glamorous and entertaining Mary possessed the most astute mind in the room and damn if she didn’t know that it was true. I went to some of those parties full of important people but I, too young to know that this wasn’t normalcy, usually fell asleep in her bed.

Aunt Mary’s last party was her grand finale. Kidney failure and she’d refused treatment. Saints Medical Center in Lowell gave Her Majesty the largest possible room where she was surrounded by friends, loved ones and family, where fans came to pay their respects to a most beloved woman, toasted the One who had provided a lifetime of the beautiful usage of language. From her hospital bed she wrote her last piece for the paper.

She called to say good bye. I could hear Frank Sinatra music playing faintly behind her. I, unwilling to let go, asked her if she thought dialysis would really be so terribly bad.

“Yes it would,” she said, yet another truth. “They say it won’t hurt but it always does.”

She told me how much she loved me and I, with tears welling, tried to convey to her what she meant to me and what an honor it was to have her in my life. I wanted to be there with her but there was a Nor-eastern blizzard in the forecast. I had a sprained ankle and my car needed breaks.

It was Classic Mary and the last truth she told me before she died. “You know,” she said, “you were always an awful lot of work.” I was, indeed, and smiles still linger on the tears of my memory. On January 12th, 2011, just over 5 years ago and at age 93, the Great Woman passed onward.

 

Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old, familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always did.

                                                                                                Rosamunde Pilcher

 

                                                January 8th, 2016

Dear Auntie Mary,

You know… you could be a lot of work too,

But I would change nothing… because I had you.

Love,

Jonna

PS: You always loved my bad poetry.

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Compatibility

The other day I was watching the Turner Classic Movie station and they ran an ad where Robert Osborne and Drew Barrymore discussed the film Marty and paired it with the film How to Marry a Millionaire and which woman would be a good match for Ernest Borgnine as Marty. The ladies were Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. Robert Osborne thought Betty Grable might be his best match. For some reason, I didn’t agree.

If you have never seen the film Marty, it is well worth the time to see it. Ernest Borgnine plays a single, Italian man of about thirty-five who works in a butcher shop. He is not handsome, rich or a huge success. He is an ordinary, rather shy man who is overweight and gets tongue-tied around women. His family and customers all nag at him about why he isn’t married and starting a family yet, all his siblings have. The chatter does not help. He hangs out with his male friends and they do the same stuff all the time, bowling, the diner, and just hanging out. One night they go to the dance.

Marty is a shy man, who is reticent but he is a kind person. It is because of this kindness that he finally meets someone. A man offers him $5.00 to take a blind date off his hands so he can go score with a woman he already knows. Marty feels that is cruel and a lie. He refuses, but watches. He feels compassion for the lonely woman the man ditched and speaks to her. They hit it off. Though his friends don’t think too much of her, in the end, Marty feels something special for her, and they begin seeing one another, empowering Marty to come out of his shell.

The women in How to Marry a Millionaire are looking to ensnare wealthy men to keep them in style. Lauren Bacall is a savvy who knows what she wants and goes for it. She does not want to waste time dating the wrong men. She needs a man who will meet her eye to eye and be as strong as she is. Lauren and Marty would never go far. She would give him a look up and down and say; “No thanks, pal.”

Betty Grable seems weary of the chase, and may for a time give a man like Marty a chance. Where Robert Osborne sees her as a good match for Marty, I don’t agree. She may be able to hang out with the guys, be great fun at a party or on a date. She is a good person, also full of confidence. Where does her life really intersect with Marty’s? To me, Marty and Betty want different things out of life, and in the long run would not make one another happy.

Then we come to Marilyn Monroe. Mr. Osborne feels that she would be pursued by men for her looks and sex appeal. It really was the problem she faced in life every day. Yet is that what Marilyn wants? To me, she is a woman who is looking to love and be loved. She is not so taken in by the shallow surface appeal of a sexy body or drop-dead good looks. Marilyn Monroe, though she had an undeniably powerful animal magnetism, she showed her vulnerability. She showed her loneliness, and desire to find someone she could love. To me, Marilyn and Marty would be able to have a successful relationship. They want the same thing ~ to love and to be loved. They could each be vulnerable, open and honest with one another, the basis for a good, long lasting relationship.

It made me stop and ponder; what do we expect from relationships these days?

In writing, creating characters and in my everyday life, relationships need to have commonality on some level or they won’t work. In creating romance for characters, I need to be mindful of their core values, beliefs and desires. A psychologist friend of mine read my books and related to me the depth and intricacy of human relationships I achieved. I even ran a troubled character profile by her, and she was ready for me to refer him to her for treatment.

I strive for relationships in my writing that are able to stand the test of time if they are to last. I construct the relationship with the fatal flaw that will tear the couple apart. I study life, people, their relationships, what works and what does not.

The question that still remains at the end of this discourse is simple. What do you want from a relationship? As you ponder that question, know that the sage wisdom of the ages comes back as well: What you give will be returned.

May your relationships be a blessing to those who know you, because you give of yourself from your heart.

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