Sunday, September 15, 2013


Was over in the park at Essex and Hester on the Lower Eastside this afternoon to support my sister-in-law Luloo's EMPANINAS food stand. Sold out quickly and deservedly, they're delicious (she'll be there again for the Grub Street festival in two weeks if you're anywhere near there, totally uniquely artisan empanadas, a bargain at twice the price).

The rest of the stands were mostly flea market tables. But there was one that caught my eye. Besides a few used books and some cards with original art work there was a pile of books and magazines devoted to Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. It was one of those beautifully out-of-nowhere kind of moments when you go wha?

Now you know I watch a lot of old movies on TCM, and I know a lot of others do too, but still, if you'd asked me I'd assume very few people alive today know about Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and even if they did my guess would be they wouldn't be that interested in them.

But the woman at the booth, Sharon Rich, disproved that guess. When I asked her about the books and the magazine devoted to Nelson and MacDonald she explained she had grown up in Southern California and met MacDonald's older sister when she was in the old actors home in the Valley (after playing granny on the TV show THE ADDAMS FAMILY, something I didn't know til today) and when Sharon told her she was going to college to study film history, the old actress suggested she write a book about her sister Jeanette someday, and Sharon Rich did.

I love learning things I don't know, especially from the experts themselves, and here before me was probably the world's greatest expert on Jeanette MacDonald (including her relationship with Nelson Eddy). I had a crush on MacDonald when I was a boy watching her old movies on the old black and white TV, especially remembering how she glowed (lens filters probably) so gorgeously in SAN FRANCISCO.

I mentioned to Sharon how MacDonald probably had never been as beautiful as she was in that film with Clark Gable, and she informed me that that was because she'd never been thinner, a result of her being so upset with Gable because he was so difficult to work with, and that that was because Gable thought MacDonald had done something to hurt his friend Nelson Eddy.

She explained what that was too. We must have talked for close to a half hour or more and in that time I learned more about MacDonald and Eddy (and Gable) than I'd known before, even though I've been a print junkie all my life voraciously devouring books and magazines and newspapers as well as movies and books and articles and histories about the movies.

Rich not only has written numerous books about MacDonald and Eddy, as well as puts out a very polished magazine about them, she also runs a web site devoted to them at: where you can go to find some stuff out about them as well as how to order the books and magazines.

How wonderful is the world, or at least as I seem lucky enough to encounter it, that I can grab a train from Jersey at 2, be in the park at Hester and Essex in lower Manhattan at 3, eat three of the best empanadas I ever had by 4 and meet an interesting and interested fellow human who happens to be an expert on an obscure couple of movie stars who became famous worldwide before I was born and yet I feel connected to because of my crush on one of them and my own experiences in Hollywood a half century later, be heading back to Jersey by 5 and home by 6 for the evening news and a get together with friends here.

As always, I feel enormously grateful to be alive and right where I am, wherever that may be at any moment.


-K- said...

I'm certainly no authority on the man but I had never heard that Gable was hard to work with.

JenW said...

I love Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy & I can thank my mom for that. Her generation spent a lot of time "going to the pictures" and at the dance hall (war time escapes) so they were movie buffs and terrific dancers. That's a splendid Sunday you had-Life is full of magical surprises when you are open to them :-)

Lally said...

K, I didn't want to give away what Gable's pique was about in case people wanted to read Rich's book about MacDonald and Eddy called SWEETHEARTS. She says that MacDonald became pregnant by Eddy and the studio wanted her to abort it and Eddy didn't but she ended up having a miscarriage and Eddy didn't believe her and thought she had what would have been an illegal abortion then and was hurt by it and Gable being a friend of Eddy's heard his side and treated MacDonald on set between scenes with disdain.

And JenW, "magical surprises" can occur when we "are open to them" indeed.