What Was Left OUT of “Little Gloria…Happy at Last”

The LITTLE GLORIA HAPPY AT LAST television mini-series poster.

I was sorry to hear of the death of designer Gloria Vanderbilt this week.

The news that she died reminded me of all the books I’ve read about how she lived, the first one being the magnificent Little Gloria…Happy at Last by Barbara Goldsmith.  It told the true story of the infamous custody battle that was waged between Gloria’s mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, and her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, back in 1934.  It told it so well that it became a television mini-series.  I’ve been watching it again in my spare time for the past two days.

What’s most interesting about the case is neither mother nor aunt, however.  It’s the cast of supporting characters, and I do stress the word character here.

But first let me back up a bit.  The Vanderbilts were a very rich family.  After little Gloria’s father, who had squandered his millions in, ahem, gambling debts, died, there wasn’t a sou left in his estate – but his child did inherit an airtight trust fund.  The only way her mother could be supported financially was through the fund’s interest.  She promptly packed up little Gloria, the child’s nurse, Emma Sullivan Kieslich, and went to live in Europe.

Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, who was Swiss born with a South American mother, could have settled  in Europe in one place but didn’t.  She bounced all over the place, and also made numerous trips back and forth from there to the United States and back again.  I remember reading that whenever she got on a boat, she’d claim the expense as a trip with her daughter to appease the guardian of little Gloria’s finances.  The child’s money, or rather the interest from it, was paying for  a lavish, rather gadabout lifestyle for Mama…and her mother’s various friends, lovers and brother, too.

The child’s money was also paying for her nanny, Emma Kieslich, but strangely, the nanny, along with Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt’s mother Laura Kilpatrick Morgan, began poisoning the little girl’s mind with lies that her mother was “dangerous” and out to “use her” for the loot.  It seems the nanny dictated letters for the chld to write to her grandmother, Laura, that her mother was “a rare beast” and that she was “afraid” of her.  Recently Gloria Vanderbilt said that the nanny and grandmother were causing her to feel afraid of her mother.

After little Gloria stayed with her Aunt Gertrude following minor surgery, and remained with her to attend school, Mama’s allowance from the fund was cut, since she was no longer caring for her daughter.  Uh-oh!  That’s when her mother suddenly decided she wanted the child back…

The trial was a circus, and it is beautifully depicted in the television miniseries – I’ve provided a link to that below, but please keep reading a bit further before you click on it.  The piece of work of a nurse, portrayed by Maureen Stapleton, goes berserk against Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt on the stand, offering answers to questions that weren’t even asked and trying her damndest to destroy the woman’s character.  Little Gloria’s mother’s mother, played by the incomparable Glynis Johns, testifies against her own daughter – clutching a crucifix.  Barnard Hughes plays the judge who is deciding who will get custody of the child.  The judge is a drunk.  The miniseries is worth watching to see these three in action alone, and young Jennifer Dundas also does a brilliant job as the over-the-top hysterical little Gloria, who repeatedly claims she “hates” and is “afraid of” her mother – though when questioned in the judge’s chambers, can’t quite explain why…

But several elements of the real story of what went on behind the scenes of what as called “the trial of the century” only recently came to light in a book Gloria Vanderbilt wrote with her son, Anderson Cooper.  Little Gloria was coached by her aunt’s lawyers on what to say.  She also realized, as an adult, that her “fear” of her mother was instilled in her by the nanny and her grandmother.

In addition, I remember hearing somewhere that one of the main witnesses against the child’s mother, a French maid, was paid off to smear her.  And Grandmother Laura Kilpatrick Morgan was on the receiving end of moolah from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney as well.

So as good as the mini-series was, and it’s superbly done, I think a second movie on this subject is in order.  I’ve got to wonder about this Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, not to mention Laura Kilpatrick Morgan and Nurse Emma Kieslich.  What a group!  Yes, Gertrude did the right thing in taking the child in and letting her stay when she expressed a desire not to be returned to her mother.  But…winning by bribing witnesses?  Having her attorney coach the child in what lies to tell to the judge?  Banding with the poor kid’s crazy grandmother?

And that nurse!  The mind-games she was playing on that child should have been a violation of the law.

Anyway, RIP, Gloria Vanderbilt.

And if you want to see a wonderfully well-done but who-could-believe-this kind of mini-series, here it is.  Enjoy!

 

Happy Birthday, Annette and Cecile Dionne!

The Dionne Quintuplets during the 1930s.

On May 28, 1934, five enchanting little girls were born in Canada and quickly won the hearts of the world.

Their names were Annette, Yvonne, Cecile, Emilie and Marie Dionne.  French Canadian children, they were the first set of quintuplets to survive for more than a few hours or days.  The children were identical, and they were absolutely beyond adorbale.  Take a look at the photo above.  I won’t have to convince you.  A photo’s worth a thousand words, and this one says it all.  They were credited with cheering a whole lot of people up during The Great Depression.

Two of them are still with us and they’re about to have a birthday.  Happy Birthday et Joyeux  Anniversaire, Annette and Cecile Dionne!   Here’s a song for you in French.  Hope your year is a happy one!

Harlan Coben’s THE FIVE on Netflix

THE FIVE is one of the best mini-series I’ve seen yet.

Have I got a mini-series for you!

THE FIVE is a mini-series on Netflix that had me riveted while I watched it.  Many moons ago, four teens do not want the five-year-old brother, Jesse, of one of them to join them on a walk through the woods.

Jesse tries to make his own way home – and vanishes.

The teens grow up, haunted by the event.

Jesse’s parents grow apart, also haunted by the whole mess.

The lives of all those involved are, in some ways, on hold thereafter.

And then, what do you know? Jesse’s DNA shows up at a violent crime scene, which can only mean he’s still alive.  Isn’t he?

I’ll say absolutely no more, except THE FIVE, by author Harlan Coben, is quite a terrific mystery, and one with a solution you won’t see coming.  It’s on Netflix.  Check it out, and enjoy!

Palmdale California Noose Case Proves We Need Background Checks on Teachers!

Take a look at this lovely litte sign I just found online.  “To teach is to touch a life forever.”  A nice sentiment, yes?

Or is it?

This past week, right after I wrote a blog post on the Teacher from Hell that, unfortunately, I knew so many decades ago, a photo surfaced of teachers at Summerwinds Elementary, a Palmdale, California elementary school, posing, laughing and smiling while holding…a noose.

Yes.  A noose!

How, exactly, are those teachers going to “touch” the lives of their students forever?   Does anyone ever wonder about the flip side of teachers?  The ones who are rightfully not applauded, but are abusive or destructive to their charges in one way or another?

What, you’ve got to wonder in the wake of a story like this, is being taught in their classrooms?  Or perhaps it might be more to the point to ask what’s being left out of the teachings they’re imparting to the little ones?

The parents of children attending the school are reportedly “in an uproar,” and I’m glad to hear it.  There have been complaints of racism at this school before.  The teachers, and the whacked principal who took the photo in the first place and then distributed it to the entire faculty, over email, yet, have all been suspended and “put on administrative leave.”  It means they get paid for sitting in a room while the matter is investigated, but what the hell is there to investigate here?  The photo is proof of the true characters hiding within these flakes, it already exists, and it’s all over the Internet!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we need to have background checks performed on anybody who wants to call himself or herself a teacher.  They might not reveal everything, but hopefully they’d reveal enough to weed out the crazies before they’re given the platform of a classroom.  Otherwise, it’s scumbags like these Summerwinds Elementary School teachers in Palmdale who will be “touching students hearts forever.” A chilling thought!

 

Faridi McFree’s Book: PEACE ON EARTH BEGINS WITH YOU

PEACE ON EARTH BEGINS WITH YOU by Faridi McFree.

I get so many blog visits from fans of my late friend Faridi McFree that I thought I’d add a post about her wonderful book.

It was called PEACE ON EARTH BEGINS WITH YOU, and it’s terrific.  It’s filled with ideas for creating more peace in your life.  Faridi was one of those people who didn’t just talk the talk but tried to walk the walk.  And you should’ve heard her laugh!  It was one of the best ones I’ve ever heard.

It’s odd that she’s best known, these days, for having been one of man, many girlfriends of that old-time singer Bob Dylan.  Faridi was so much more than that.  She was an artist and a writer and, above all, a very good person.  Bob Dylan threw her under the bus when his ex squawked at their relationship.  I’m glad I don’t know him, but if I ever meet him, there’s a few choice words I’d like to say to him on my late friend Faridi’s behalf.  I mean, peace on earth could’ve begun with HIM, too, although in her case, it didn’t.  All he created there was heartache for a nice lady.

Anyway, copies of Faridi’s book are still available online.  Give it a look.  You’ll enjoy it.

Faridi on the beach in NJ.

 

A Change of Pace Post for Teacher Appreciation Week

Think this is a crazy teacher?  The one I’m remembering was worse!

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week.

All over the country, people are thanking the best teachers they ever had, which is, of course, terrific.

However…

What about the flip side of this kind of thing?  What about the nuns wielding rulers and the private school crazies who somehow talked their way into classrooms and spent more time on creating havoc than anything else?

I went to six different schools growing up, three public, two Catholic, one private.  I will be kind here and NOT mention the name of the worst of them, except to say it was NOT one of the wonderful public schools I attended.  Public schools get a bad rep just because they’re wide open to the public.  Private schools are – somehow, and it beats me how – automatically imbued with a “better” reputation, even though in my humble opinion they don’t deserve it.  I’m speaking as an eyewitness here, and what I saw in those places was appalling.

I don’t know how it is now, but at the time I was in school in New Jersey, Catholic and private school teachers did not need to have a state certification to teach. This could not have created a worse environment.  Literally anybody could walk in the door and call itself “a teacher,” but is the moniker always appropriate if just anybody uses it?  We’ve all already heard about how many schools have had sexual predators running around on their campuses.  They are the worst, but what about some of the other crazies who slip in through the cracks?  How much do we really know about these people, these strangers, really, who get to have temporary power over our children?

The other day I was surfing the Internet in search of a good genealogical website and found a great one that is releasing information about vital records in the state of New Jersey.  It’s called Reclaim the Records. It’s terrific, and it’s free.

After I was finished playing around on there to find when certain of my ancestors got married, I suddenly remembered a story I’d been told, long ago, by a nice former employee of the worst school I’d attended about the most insufferable “teacher” in it.

To say this woman was a piece of work would be an understatement.  She was a nightmare.  She was a snake.  She was, my parents later found out, also a substance abuser, on top of everything else, which probably explained her profound sense of paranoia.  Two other children and I were her favorite targets for verbal abuse, vicious daily insults and even outright lies.  She thought we were, ahem, “out to get” her.  Three kids, a threat?  Yeah, right!  She should have been put away, not put near children.  I still wish I could sue her for all the trouble she caused me over nothing at all, while she abused her chemicals and trailed after the demons rattling around inside of her own head.  All the damned fools who think it would be “adorable” to legalize their revolting illegal drugs should get a load of people as insane as she was – and be careful what they wish for.

Her husband, who also worked at the school, almost never talked, which seemed appropriate for anyone hooked up to such a magpie of a wife.  A few times when he did open his mouth, what came out were the lyrics to what was once considered a dirty World War I song (depending on the version), namely, “Hinky Dinky Parlez-Vous.”  I tell ya, I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Wifey liked to rampage.  Her man liked to sing “Hinky Dinky Parlez-Vous.”  Neither one realized I was the sort of child with a very good memory for details or that they might wind up in something called my blog some day.

Anyway, one year this bizarre duo returned to school in September and announced they had been married over the summer.  I remember it very well because when I told some of my classmates about it, they absolutely would not believe it.  That ought to give you an idea of what an “Odd Couple” this pair was.

After that, Her Majesty would get very mad if the kids called her by her maiden name rather than her “married” name.  I vividly recall her sighing and moaning, in a performance that would have put the Best Actress Oscar winner of that particular year to shame, when a girl called her by her maiden name by mistake.  “Ohhhhhhhhhh, I give up,” this teacher wailed with exaggerated misery.

“Oh!  Why would she say that?  Maybe it’s true, then,” the student who had used the “wrong” name said.  “Maybe they really did get married.”

“Why would I tell you they were married,” I asked, “if they weren’t married?  They told me they were!”  Having to put up with that teacher was bad enough, but not being believed by other students about what she said made it even worse.

Anyway, getting back to the nice former employee of the school…she had told me, many years after the fact, that those two had not been married at all.  “They were just saying that,” she said, “to keep the head of the school off their case about living together.”  (This was quite a long time ago, keep in mind.  Living together wasn’t legal then, any more than the crazy teacher’s drugs were.)  The comment about the shrew from the nice woman stuck with me…

So once I found the free vital records site, this old story came to mind.  I thought, what the heck?  I’ll check the viper’s name and see if they really were married or not.

And who turned out to be right?  The former employee, of course!  It turns out this horrible woman was NOT married when she said she was.  When she was carrying on like a nut about my schoolmate not calling her by her “married” name, it wasn’t yet her married name because she had yet to be married!  The child using her maiden name had been right, not wrong, rude, or out of line.  The Odd Couple did marry, yes, but not until about nine full months AFTER this particular incident.  What a bizarre subject to lie about!  It’s another thing I couldn’t make up if I tried.  However, it’s on the Internet!

In the scheme of life, of course, this is not a major catastrophe, but nevertheless it has me on the floor.  It is proof of the woman’s blatant lies, of which this was only one.  There were so many more.  But this one has been refuted by a vital record from the State of New Jersey.  If the statue of limitations for child abuse lawsuits ever gets extended and I can sue this witch, I’ll use it!

As my 91-year-old mother said last night, “For all the money we were paying in tuition to that awful school, wouldn’t you think they’d have hired a slightly higher class of people than ones like that?”  Indeed!

Again…you have to wonder about some of these strangers who get access to your children!  Know what I think?  In addition to Teacher Appreciation Week, the world needs to enact some laws requiring Teacher Comprehensive Background Checks, too!  Otherwise, you never know what kind of an abomination might be standing before your little ones – or what type of trouble such an adult might make for them.

Here’s Reclaim the Records.  https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/?v=7516fd43adaa

For your listening pleasure, here’s a little “Hinky Dinky Parlez-Vous,” too.  And as for the Teacher from Hell and her fake  husband, wherever you are, you’d better hope my next book isn’t a memoir.  Hinky Dinky Parlez THIS!  

 

There’s a New Movie of GYPSY in the Works!

The Marvelous Amy Sherman-Palladino.  (Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock (9883800y)
Amy Sherman-Palladino – Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series – ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’
70th Primetime Emmy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA – 17 Sep 2018)

Wonderful news, folks!  There’s a brand new remake of GYPSY in the works!  This time it’s under the auspices of Amy Sherman-Palladino who created “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”  Awhile back I was on 34th Street one fine day to see it decorated for a retro Christmas, complete with a film crew, which of course intrigued me no end.  I love anything vintage.  I found out the show they were filming was “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and it’s a superbly well-done show.

So I am delighted to hear that its creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, will be in charge of this new GYPSY.  Pretty soon yet another “Rose” will be running down a theater aisle, urging her daughter to “Sing OUT, Louise!”

Here’s one of the articles.  If you want to read the good news, here it is:

http://www.playbill.com/article/gypsy-film-back-in-development-with-marvelous-mrs-maisel-creator-amy-sherman-palladino