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« Salingaros on the Brahms Cello Sonatas | Main | Morning Coffee With Blogroll »

March 21, 2006

Liz and Dick and Eddie and Liz and ...

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Ever notice that those tabloids and celebrity mags on the display racks near the supermarket checkout seem to mention the same people week after week in the headlines?

That's nothing new.

My initiation to celeb-hed journalism took place during the winter and early spring of 1962, back when New York boasted seven daily newspapers.

Seven dailies? Yep. Count 'em: The New York Times and the Herald-Tribune were the quality morning broadsheets. Hearst's Journal-American was an afternoon broadsheet, but hardly "quality" (aside from in the imagination of Hearst management). The World-Telegram was another afternoon broadsheet. There were two morning tabloids, the Daily News and the Mirror. Finally there was the Post, a flaming-liberal afternoon tabloid that proudly proclaimed it had been founded by Alexander Hamilton, of all people. By the end of the Sixties only the Times, Daily News and Post remained.

I was stationed at Fort Slocum (site of the Army Information School) from mid-January 1962 till mid-May. Fort Slocum (closed in 1965) was situated on David's Island in Long Island Sound. To get there one had to take an Army-operated ferry from New Rochelle. Good soldier that I was, I got a pass every weekend I was stationed there. Of course I went straight to New York City every time I hit shore.

There were two reliable ways an automobile-less G.I. could get to Manhattan in those days. One option was to ride the bus to the north end of the Lexington Avenue subway line at 241st Street in The Bronx (it was an elevated line through much of The Bronx, going subway before reaching Manhattan if I recall correctly). The other option was to take the bus to the New Rochelle train station and catch a New Haven train (the Stamford Local). If you got the timing right, the train was faster. But the subway was cheaper and ran more frequently, so I suppose I mostly took it.

Regardless of transportation mode, I always wound up in the same place: Grand Central Terminal. And I usually exited Grand Central onto the 42nd Street sidewalk, where I would confront a news stand or racks with Friday's newspapers.

And Friday evening after Friday evening, nearly every paper save the Times, Herald-Tribune and perhaps the World-Telegram had a headline dealing with Liz, Dick, and Eddie. This went on for months!

Liz? Dick? Eddie? Who were they?

I'm referring to actress Elizabeth ("Liz") Taylor, actor Richard ("Dick") Burton and crooner Eddie Fisher. Eddie and Liz were married. Liz and Dick were filming the hyper-expensive eventual box-office disappointment "Cleopatra." Oh, and they were carrying on a torrid affair while Eddie was left twisting in the off-stage wind. The permutations of this love triangle kept New York headline writers on aspirin trying to avoid repeating themselves as the weeks rolled on.

Since I basically saw this only on Fridays, I've always wondered what the headlines were about during the rest of the workweek. My best guess is -- pretty much the same thing.

Nope, not much new under the media sun.

Later,

Donald

posted by Donald at March 21, 2006




Comments

This was before my time, but I think Liz-Dick-Eddie was Chapter 2 of the Liz-Eddie-Debbie scandale in the late fifties, when Liz made off with America's Sweetheart's (Debbie Reynolds') husband, Eddie Fisher. She then unceremoniously dumped Fisher about three years later for Burton. I think this was all the peak of celebrity journalism, for all people think culture is addicted to celebrity now. I think the Jen-Brad-Angelina thing was mild compared to La Liz' adventures in the tabloids. I mean, my God, the Vatican condemned Liz as a mother over the Burton fling. Can you imagine?

Posted by: annette on March 21, 2006 10:42 AM



By the standards of the times Liz Taylor's behavior was genuinely scandalous. After all, she was playing fast and loose with the institution of marriage. She was a serial adulteress. Divorce was still a terrible stigma. So the outrage was not all feigned.

Posted by: ricpic on March 21, 2006 11:18 AM



True enough...but still...Ava Gardner had "played fast and loose with the institution of marriage" and had broken up Frank Sinatra's marriage, and yet didn't generate the same level of scandal...at least not for herself, although Frank paid quite a price for it for awhile. Bette Davis was married...three times? Judy Garland was married five. So was Lana Turner, I think. Heck, Lana Turner's daughter shot Turner's lover, that mafia guy. Something about Liz also fueled the tabloid fire...maybe starting out as "National Velvet" makes it all more unacceptable...

Posted by: annette on March 21, 2006 12:02 PM



Shows the change in the Hollywood culture and the control the studios once had, not only over the lvies of their stars, but over the media and, to some extent, the police. Can you imagine what today's media would do with the Johnny Stompanato shooting? It would be Benifer, Bradifer and OJ combined.

Posted by: Sluggo on March 21, 2006 12:27 PM



I was too young for the Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Liz Taylor part of the scandal (Part I), but I do remember the Eddie Fisher, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton part (Part II).

It seemed to me that a lot of people were more bemused by the scandal than outraged (at least for Part II), but I had an aunt and uncle (very right wing conservatives, by the way) who seemed to absolutely hate Liz Taylor because of the scandals.

I kind of liked the way Liz and Dick actually seemed to have fun with the scandal at times, though. Here's an example:

When Richard Burton was playing "Hamlet" on Broadway, I found myself outside the theater as the Saturday matinee was about to end. I used to visit the theater district regularly in those days, but I also may have gone by the theater just to see if I could maybe catch a glimpse of them or to just check out the "scene" outside the theater -- the very spot on the globe where the world's most famous (infamous) couple happened to be at that very moment in time!

As the theatergoers left the theater, a number of them hung around the stage door which was right next to the main entrance of the theater (the Lunt-Fontanne on W. 46th St.). I decided to hang around also -- and ultimately I wasn't disappointed.

I suppose the big question in everyone's mind was whether they would actually leave the theater for a break before the evening performance was to start, or just have food brought in. But Liz and Dick (still unmarried to each other at the time, I believe) apparently decided to give their "fans" a great show!

If I remember correctly, maybe about 15 or 20 minutes after the show was over, a horse drawn carriage pulled up in front of the stage door and Liz and Dick emerged from the stage door, smiled and waved to the crowd and stepped right up into the carriage. Again, if I remember correctly, at one point Liz planted a big kiss on Dick and then they rode off westward along 46th St. "into the sunset."

- - - - - -

P.S. -- When you emerged at Grand Central and saw all those newspapers, you probably saw them at a newspaper stand -- not in news boxes. I don't think New York City had newspaper boxes until rather late in the game (in the 1970s or 1980s). New York City had plenty of newspaper stands, though, and I believe many of them were operated by the blind.

Before news boxes proliferated in NYC, I kind of thought of them as a very suburban kind of thing. (I believe for some reason I associated them with suburban Washington, D.C., although I've never actually been to suburban Washington, D.C. Maybe the first ones I read about were in suburban Washington?)

In some ways, the proliferation of newsboxes (and the decline of newspaper stands) bothered me as much or more than the proliferation of suburban chain stores in that newstands lend a certain humanity to the streets, seemed to be a nice way to provide employment to the blind and provided "eyes on the street" -- even if the eyes were sometimes blind.

# # #

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on March 21, 2006 8:34 PM



Annette, ricpic, Sluggo -- Thanks for the background and observations. Celebrity doings are yet another instance in my grossly long list of things I pay little or no attention to. Now that you mention these things, dim memories emerge. Can you believe I'd forgotten about Eddie and Debbie? And Sluggo, I wonder how much the studios used to wink at a certain amount of the sex stuff (so long as it wasn't too extreme, immorality-wise), given that it generated a lot of publicity

Benjamin -- Nice anecdote. Yes, you're probably right about the news stands and paper boxes. But I don't recall the blind part. But then, I didn't buy many papers from street locations -- mostly I got 'em in news stands at Grand Central, Pennsylvania Station or the Port Authority bus station and I don't remember blind people running them. On the other hand, there were blind folks running the news stand at the A.E. Smith state office building in Albany in the early 70s. So it's possible that having blind vendors was a government thing.

Finally, when I typed "Port Authority" it rang the bell about (at least some) New Yorkers calling it the "Port of Authority." Do they still do that?

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 22, 2006 1:16 PM




I haven't noticed anyone saying Port OF Authority. But now that you mention it, I'll have to keep an ear out for it. (Strictly speaking, by the way, I believe the name of the organization was "the Port of New York Authority," and it was later changed to the "Port of New York and New Jersey Authority.")

The phrase, "Port Authority bus station," also strikes me as strange (although it may not be). It seems to me that most people call it the "Port Authority Bus Terminal" or the "Port Authority" or, possibly, "the" bus terminal. (Grand Central is officially Grand Central Terminal, but it seems that one hears "station" as much as, or even more so than, "terminal.")

As far as I can recall, I've personally never said Port OF Authority, however, and, off hand, I don't recall anyone else saying it -- but now that you mention it, it does sound familiar! Maybe I've forgotten that some people (or even myself) said it that way at one time? Or, then again, maybe any recollection of people saying it that way is a "false" memory?

As you seem to be suggesting, it's likely only certain subgroups of New Yorkers -- people from a certain part of the NYC metro area or of a certain age or work or ethnic background -- who say/said it that way.

In Queens, my family once had a neighbor who was from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and he said Greenpoint in what I suspect is classic "Brooklynese" -- Green pernt -- while no one else I ever met said it that way. And I've noticed that various friends and relatives seem to have different New York accents / ways of speaking, depending on age, neighborhood, ethnic background.

I remember some people pronounced Ziegfield as ZiegFELD, while others said ZiegFIELD.

Also, older relatives and neighbors used to call stereos or record players "Victrolas," and some neighbors / classmates called refrigerators "ice boxes," or "Fridgedairs," while most relatives and neighbors didn't.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on March 22, 2006 6:24 PM



Benjamin -- Being lazy, I didn't bother to Google to determine the official name of the bus station, so I wrote "bus station" lower case so it would be a desciptor, not a proper name. It was only recently that I discovered to my chagrin that Grand Central was a "Terminal" and not a "Station." I still sometimes hear people call refrigerators "fridges" and even used the word for the hell of it in a post or comment not long ago. And, having literally spent 4 or 5 years of childhood with an icebox instead of refrigerator, I called refrigerators ice boxes for years thereafter.

Outside of TV or movies I never heard GreenPERNT. But I'll stand by the Port OF Authority. Not many people used it, but enough did that it struck me when I heard it. And every time I did hear it, I thought "How did they come up with that?!?"

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 22, 2006 6:45 PM






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