And He Listened

It’s President’s Day, and as all but one have been married and surely have a love story, oh, why not?

As third cousins*, Abigail and John Adams surely had known one another since childhood. At the age of 27, John went with a friend, Richard Cranch, who was engaged to Abigail’s sister to the Smith home.

No one knows what transpired that day, but John was attracted to Abigail.  Shy, tiny, and all of 17, she was by even today’s standards, nice looking.

But it wasn’t just her looks that attracted the future POTUS to Abigail.  She was smart, well read and knew about poetry, philosophy, and much to John’s delight, politics!

Within two years, and after a struggle or two, the couple married.  Seems Abigail’s mum was not too keen on her daughter marrying a “country lawyer” who “reeked of the farm.”

But, at last she did give in and the lovebirds were married at the “home of the bride.”

After a simple wedding and reception, they both rode to their home, a cottage on a farm John had inherited from his father, on a horse.

One horse.

They produced a child in the ninth months of the marriage.

Over 12 years, they would welcome 6 children into the world.

We are very fortunate when it comes to Abigail Adams.  She was a prolific letter writer, and many have been saved.  Her correspondence with John as he traveled is voluminous, and detailed.

While John was away, Abigail pounded virtue, duty, and obligation in the kids, and ran the farm, ending the day with a missive, or at least part of one.

From the letters we see a couple who had a partnership of unique equality for the day in which they lived, and a man who genuinely valued his wife’s opinion and need her approval.

So much so, he often apologized for his “vanity” in asking for it.

They moved from Braintree to Boston so John could expand his law practice in 1768, rented a house, moving from time to time as the family grew and their needs expanded.

He moved the family back to Braintree so he could concentrate on his law work, but quickly decided that wasn’t the best option.  The family moved back to Boston and stayed there.

Until he went to the nation’s capitol of course.

Politics ran in her family and Abigail could claim kin to Smiths, Quincys, Hancocks, and was a great-grand daughter of John Norton the founding pastor of Old Ship Church in Hingham.

In what would become a new nation, old family mattered.

She was a preacher’s daughter.

She had no formal schooling.

She was a sickly child.

Her mother taught her and her sisters to read, write, and cipher.  They also read English and French literature and their grandmother read to them “whenever possible.”

That seed of education in a time when women barely mattered, would find its way into the founding of a nation.  Adams felt women should have rights and her strong beliefs would influence the man she married who would help to found the country and eventually be its leader.

Even today with the educational opportunities afforded women and the numerous First Ladies who’ve followed her, she’s considered one of the most educated and erudite.

So how, you ask, and why is this a love story?

Well, it’s like this.

In a time when women didn’t and couldn’t own property, she advocated to her husband that they should.

And he listened.

In a time when girls didn’t go to school and were barely educated at home, she advocated for educational opportunities for women.

And he listened.

In a time when obedience was demanded, she advocated that women should not submit to laws which did not have their interest at heart.

And he listened.

In a time when a woman’s place was in the home, she advocated for opportunities which would recognize their intellect, their capabilities, and for their contributions.

And he listened.

In a letter written to her husband during the Continental Congress, Abigail said, “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.  Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.  Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.  If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

She believed slavery was evil, and went so far as to defy her neighbors and enroll a free black youth in a night school when he knocked on her door and asked her to teach him to read.

Abigail preceded her husband in death, telling him, “…do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend.  I am ready to go.  And John, it will not be long.”

She succumbed to typhoid fever on October 28, 1818 at the age of 73.

The advocate that was Abigail Adams may have passed from one realm to another on that October day, but her influence survived in the generations to follow.

The advocate that was John Adam’s love left us her son, her values, and her ideals.

She was truly a woman of influence; and he listened.


*My parents were third cousins, ergo, I am my own fourth cousin as were all of Abigail and John’s children. 🙂


A Laugh A Minute?

When Saturday Night Live debuted in 1975, Gilda Radner and the rest of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players took the airwaves by storm.

Television was never the same.

Gilda doesn’t get all the credit, but she was my big draw – so much so, I named my dog after her!

Roseanne Rosannadanna, Emily Litella; all her characters were epic.

She was truly a comic genius.

But much of Radner’s life wasn’t funny at all.  Born in Detroit to Jewish parents, she grew UP with a nanny who would be the inspiration for her Litella character.

She would later write in her bio that she fought numerous eating disorders from the time she was nine.  Her weight fluctuated from 93 to 160 pounds, and at the age of 10, her doctor put her on Dexedrine.

Her dad ran the Seville where night club performers and actors stayed while performing in Detroit.  Seeing her glee in meeting them, he took her to Broadway shows and introduced her to stars.

When she was 12, her dad developed a brain tumor which took two years to kill him.

Off to college at the University of Michigan, Radner made friends, took classes, did well in school, and continued to fight eating disorders. On a trip to Paris, rather than enjoy the wonders of the city,  she worried about eating the country’s cuisine known for its richness and calories.

Later in life the discovery of the cancer that would take her away from us was masked by eating disorder symptoms.

Her career began in Canada with Second City and she wound UP a regular on The National Lampoon Radio Hour.

But her big break, and where I first saw her was SNL.

For me, she was the show.

She battled bulimia her entire run.

While on the show, she met and married guitarist, G. E. Smith.

There are no stories, no dramas, no celebrity flare UPs from the marriage.

It fell apart because she fell in love with Gene Wilder.

Who wouldn’t?

Radner met the star of Willie Wonka on the set of a film; Hanky Panky.  She described their first meeting as love at first sight.  For her.

Unable to resist her attraction to Wilder, her marriage to Smith deteriorated.  She went on to make a second film, The Woman in Red, with Wilder.  During this working experience, their relationship grew.

A psychotherapist, Pain Katz, Gilda’s close friend told People Magazine that she had seen “sparks” between them while visiting Radner on the set of HP.  She reported chemistry, and electricity.  They hadn’t been together yet, but Katz knew they eventually would be.

They were married on 9/18/84 after living together for three years.  He resisted marriage thinking her too dependent on him.

“I thought she was a baby.  She couldn’t be without me, do without me, “ said Wilder in an interview with Larry King.

Oddly Wilder’s mind was changed en-route to France when Radner’s dog became ill from eating rat poison.  Radner persuaded Wilder to go to France without her, and according to him, it was all he needed to hear.

He went on to tell King, that she said words that changed his life.  When she told him to go without her, that he needed rest, and she’d be waiting for him when he got back, Wilder realized that’s what he’d been waiting for.

Realizing she’d finally grown UP, he decided then and there to marry her.

Radner succumbed to her cancer in 1989.  People ran an interview with Wilder, who had actually testified before a House subcommittee earlier.  Radner’s cancer had been misdiagnosed for months and was advanced before they figured it out.

Wilder believes she’d be alive now if they’d known then what they learned too late.

He went on to tell People, “Of all the mistakes I made dealing with her illness, and I promise you, I’ve made some I’m too ashamed to talk about, it was never an issue when Gilda lost her hair.  Those little bean sprouts growing on top of her head were adorable, lake a new born baby.  It thought it sexy.  And the more I thought that, the happier it made Gilda.  But still, we had rough times.  No matter how often she went in for chemo, the night before would be bad because she knew she’d be so sick after.”

“Gilda was going through hell, but for a while the doctors thought the treatments were working.”

One internist told them they were lucky, she was on the way to a cure.  Sadly, not enough was known about advanced ovarian cancer at the time.

After her death, Wilder helped establish a cancer research program at Cedar- Sinai in her name.

He said later, “I feel relieved now, and I sleep better at night.  The old story that one person can really make a difference…I was lucky,” Wilder said in an interview with the LA Times in 1991. “I think I was one spoke in a wheel that started to turn at this time.  Actually, Gilda was the main horsepower behind the whole thing.”
Prior to knowing the story behind Gilda Radner’s illness, I imagined their life together as a laugh a minute.

But, it wasn’t.

Life is life, and sometimes no matter how many laughs there are along the way, there’s just not a happy ending.

The Best Man

The first time he saw her, his heart jumped into his throat.

Like the scene from The Godfather when Michael was thunderstruck upon meeting Apollonia, he fell for her then.

She never noticed; no matter what he did, she always seemed to look right through him.

He tried, oh, man did he try.

But to no avail.

And today as he stood there watching her walk down the aisle while he played the part of best man, he knew his broken heart could sink no lower.

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. Click on the link right here to find out more and link your own post. While you’re there, click on the blue frog button to find more stories from some wonderful storytellers.

This week’s prompt was sink.

Call of the Wild “Love Child.”

In an interview after her mother’s death, Judy Lewis said, “Mom used to tell me that every performance involved falling a little bit in love with her co-star.”

That may have been the case for Hollywood beauty Loretta Young, but many think her “affair” with Clark Gable was not only just a one night stand that resulted in a pregnancy, but was actually date rape.

According to Forever Young, the star’s biography, Loretta discovered she was pregnant after she and the then married Clarke Gable hooked UP in a berth on a train on the way home from filming Call of the Wild.

Young, a devout and by the book Catholic, vanished from Hollywood and gave birth in a cottage surrounded by doctors who used chloroform to hide her screams.  Prior to her departure, she conducted an interview with one reporter in which she claimed she’d been ill for weeks from all her touring and needed rest.  The interview took place while Young was in bed, covered in blankets to conceal her every growing baby-bump!

Extreme measures had to be taken.

The scandal of an illegitimate child would have ruined her career.

Oddly enough, Loretta was considered almost puritanical in Hollywood.  Her prim and proper attitudes, her religious devotion, and her judgmental attitude on the set were to blame.

The child who would become known as Judy Lewis was whisked off to an orphanage and retrieved 19 months later by Young’s mother.  Hollywood gossip columnist, Louella Parsons reported that she’d adopted two children but had to give one back to its biological mother.

It was all a smokescreen to cover UP Loretta’s scandal and give some credence to the complete and total fabrication.

Lewis suspected something was amiss most of her life.

In her book, Uncommon Knowledge, she brought her suspicions to light, but Young continued to deny the story.

By then it was unconfirmed but accepted truth in Tinseltown.

Finally, at the age of 31, Lewis confronted her mother demanding the truth.

There was much “hemming” and “hawing.”

Nothing was said of the liaison that resulted in the pregnancy that would lead to Judy’s birth.  But Young did admit to being Lewis’ biological mother.

When Judy was four, Young married Tom Lewis a businessman, and although never adopted because the process would have revealed her true paternity, she took Lewis as her last name.  The unsuspecting step-father believed all along that Judy was the bastard child of Loretta’s sister due to her resemblance.

Young and Lewis added two sons to their brood the old fashioned way, they reproduced them.

Meanwhile back at the Gable household, all was quiet.  Clark had no idea he was a father, and Loretta wanted to keep it that way.

Once the child was born, everyone realized she’d inherited Gable’s ears, and as soon as possible, Loretta put the child through a painful operation to pin her ears back!

Until the surgery, the child wore a bonnet whenever in public.

Mom fail!

There would be more.

Most of Hollywood realized that even if Loretta Young wasn’t her biological mother, it was for sure Clark Gable was Judy’s daddy.

When Judy was 15, Gable paid Young a visit and after asking her about her life, kissed Judy on her head as he was leaving.

Frankly, he must have given a damn.

At the age of 23, Judy met her future husband who told her that A. Gable was her dad, and B. everyone in Hollywood knew it.

She was stunned.

For all this drama, Lewis turned out pretty normal.

She spent her life as an actress, writer, producer, and therapist.  She and her husband divorced after having one child.  Lewis died in 2011 from cancer.

In the late 1990s, Loretta Young was watching a Larry King interview along with her daughter-in-law.  During the interview the subject of “date-rape” came UP and the person on set said there didn’t have to be force and violence, it’s when your no winds UP not being no.

Loretta turned to her daughter-in-law and said, “…that’s what Clark Gable did to me…”

Linda Lewis, said it was a revelation for Loretta Young; prior to that she had believed it was a woman’s job to fend off men’s “amorous” advances.  She believed the fact that Clark Gable was able to force himself on her in a rail-car berth was a moral failing on her part.

It was not.