I can’t help it. I continue to be fascinated, if at the same time put off, by the strange, and bogus, tales told by “Baby June,” June Havoc.
I first wondered about June’s stories when I was just a teen reading her first memoir, Early Havoc. There’s a harrowing scene in that book of many eerie vignettes where the man June runs away to marry claims her mother, Rose, attempted to shoot him at a police station rather than let him take her daughter. He was saved by the alleged safety catch of Rose’s gun, we are told. Rose is allowed to walk out of the police station, in Kansas, yet, in 1928, after committing an attempted murder, and in front of several cops.
Even as a teenager, I felt this story did not ring true. If the police allowed this scenario to happen, I always thought, then I’m the Queen of Romania.
When researching June mother, Rose Hovick, for my book Mama Rose’s Turn, I found out that this story was, indeed, a whopper. I have the documentation from Kansas to prove it. It’s not the only one, either. Almost everything that June said, when fact-checked, turned out to be a blatant lie.
What I don’t understand about these “June tales” is why.
She had an “out” for the Kansas gun story, at least. She recounted it second-hand one as she’d heard from her husband. (She claims she was hiding out in a whorehouse while he was almost being killed by her mother in front of the cops, if you can believe it.) Yet she didn’t have any excuses for other things she told her unsuspecting, trusting public, a quick sampling of which includes:
-She took several actions to stop the Broadway musical production, GYPSY, yet later claimed up down and sideways that she “never did anything to prevent it”;
-She made up lurid stories about how several relatives died;
-She labeled a successful relative with a decent career “a wastrel;”
-She said she and her sister never appeared onstage as children in her act, yet I’ve got two photos of them on stages, together, right here in this blog post; and there’s more. A lot more.
Some stars’ lives may have been an open book, but June’s actual life remains hidden behind one untrue story after another.
Her more strident fans are none too pleased about the things I have uncovered, to put it mildly. A friend said the fans would rather rail at me than face the fact they were played for gullible fools by their idol, which I believe is exactly what has several of them in an uproar. They’d rather blame the messenger. Good thing they weren’t around during the Holy Roman Empire. One, who had worked with June but was primarily a June-sychophant, even contacted my publisher, hoping to get me in trouble, which didn’t work. I have documentation. The sychophant didn’t.
Still, I cannot help but wonder who this woman, known variously as Ellen June Hovick, Baby June, Dainty June, and June Havoc, actually was. What kind of woman was June? What motivated her? Why would anyone tell such voluminous collections of outright lies? Might there have been a real reason for so much obfuscation, or was it all just a dramatic woman’s fluke?
At first I wondered if a ghostwriter or agent had pushed her to do so in her memoirs, but it wasn’t just in writing that these confabulations were presented to the public, it was verbally in June’s interviews, too. She even lied to the New York Times. The content of the false stories is disturbing, too, as the intent of so many of them seems to be strictly to vilify. What, exactly, was wrong with her? In broadcasts, she always sounded stilted and a smidgen”off” to me, but this surpasses merely a little. The more information I found was not true, the more I couldn’t help but wonder whether she was suffering from an extremely serious level of psychopathology.
I had heard June’s personal papers were going to be donated to a college in Massachusetts and looked forward to going there to see what, if anything, might possibly be gleaned from them, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, they never arrived at the library where they were going to be housed.
Instead, I recently learned, after June, followed by her assistant, died, a lot of her personal belongings wound up sold to whoever wanted to buy them – at a Connecticut garage sale. They’d been found in a storage locker. What an unfortunate ending to the story of the magical child who once enthralled Jazz Age vaudeville audiences all over the country, so long ago.