Today is sort of movie legend day. I originally was going to tell you only about a secret concerning Rita Hayworth’s legendary strapless satin gown from Gilda and details of the famous gown and coat Marlene Dietrich wore in Las Vegas, both designed by the late Hollywood designer Jean Louis.
However I got a very disturbed email this morning from my good friend Kathleen Fetner without whom there would be no blog. Kathleen came into my life when a friend in Atlanta, GA, Joan Aherns gave me Kathleen’s name when I needed someone to do my first website in 1998 for my first book, the once-again newly reprinted Splendid Slippers – A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition. Kathleen is a genius. What more can I say. She can deal with me trying to do things I’m incapable of doing on this PC for starters. She can get me out of all the messes I manage to type my way into. She can make photographs of shoes for bound feet and women with bound feet revolve in my blog, and my latest Tweets magically appear going round and round as well. She can find things like ancient video on Florence Chadwick swimming and Russian Cossacks marching in Shanghai in 1937 it would never occur to me to look for. Well, as I said there would be no By The Way nor Beverley Jackson blog without Kathleen. And further more I couldn’t be without her as a friend.
Now what upset Kathleen? A Terrible Tabloid she saw while checking out at the supermart. While I might sometimes secretly succumb to picking one up and peeking to see if someone famous is really having a wild affair with someone I know???? Kathleen would never dignify the TT’s by even a glance. But she had broken her rule when she saw the name Kirk Douglas in headlines. Knowing Anne and Kirk are adored friends of mine she sent me a very upset email. Is Kirk barely able to walk, is it true he’s never learned to talk again since his stroke, etc etc etc.
I immediately answered Kathleen with a quick email from my iPhone as I was walking to my car, late as usual. “Saturday before last I dined at Mollie’s Trattoria with Anne & Kirk & the super bright young man who is working with Kirk on the latest book he’s writing. We parked in the garage in Mollie’s building. That garage is in the basement & there are two flights of stairs up to Mollie’s. Still using the cane due to the fall I recently had I took the elevator. Anne, a fine athlete still, graciously took elevator with me. Kirk and his young pal TORE up the two flights of stairs to beat our elevator up. And they did! Then Kirk talked more than any of us at dinner. Don’t even glance at the TT’s anymore!”
Now with Kirk’s situation clarified in case any of you secretly look at the Terrible Tabloids, let’s get on to Rita Hayworth. For a very long time the strapless satin gown Hollywood designer Jean Louis created for her to wear in Gilda was the most copied gown in history. Now I suppose Princess Diana or the Duchess of Cambridge‘s wedding gowns will hold that honor. But in its day that Gilda dress was IT!
Maggie and Jean Louis, who lived in Santa Barbara/Montecito their last years, were very special friends. Miss Rosie O’Grady, my introduction to wirehair dachshunds, was a gift from them. Maggie always named all their dogs good Irish names. Rosie came to me because the five Jack Russells that the Louis had before they found neglected lost Rosie didn’t like the new addition to the Louis household and it got dangerous for Rosie. I learned Jack Russells in a pack cannot be trusted. The five at Maggie & Jean’s ultimately killed the family cat after living with it for years. And they killed a little white poodle who arrived with a friend of Maggie’s for a painting session after the owner disregarded Maggie’s warning not to take the dog out of the car. So Rosie came to me and had a very happy safe long life!
I delighted in getting Jean to tell me about gowns he had designed for Hollywood glamour queens — Gene Tierney, Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner, Claudette Colbert, Marilyn Monroe (he designed the much photographed gown she wore the night she sang “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.) I was particularly interested in the strapless satin gown Rita Hayworth wore in Gilda. And the incredible beaded seemingly see-through creation with great white fox coat with a seemingly endless train that trailed behind Marlene Dietrich which Jean produced for her last Las Vegas show. I flew to Las Vegas to see that show as I was a great Dietrich admirer and I did want to see the dress she supposedly had to be sewn into before going on stage. It was well worth the trip. She/it were fabulous!
At one point I read that some collector had paid a great deal of money to buy the original Gilda dress. That was before costume collecting became such a big thing and prices really skyrocketed. I asked Jean about it. He smiled that sweet innocent smile of his, looked at me and said, “I wonder which one they got?” Then after chuckling to himself he added, “I knew that dress was being worn in a major scene in the film and it would endure a real beating with take after take after take. So I secretly made three identical dresses.” Now the secret is out.
Maggie and Jean were wonderful people and they gave the BEST parties. Their New Years Eve parties were very special, always with interesting assortment of guests like brilliant American designer James Galanos and members of the Moroccan royal family. At one of their large parties my dinner partners were Rudolf Nuryev on one side and Alexander Godunov on the other. I’m talking MAJOR ballet greats here! This party was actually the beginning of a treasured friendship with Rudi Nuryev. One thing that kept that friendship going to be honest wasn’t that I made him laugh or he enjoyed my company. It was that he collected Chinese robes and I had much better ones than he. There was one robe in particular he coveted, an emperor’s robe with superb embroidery. I kept telling him I’d leave it to him when I died and he kept hoping to get it sooner. Then he went and died! The robe is now in an important American museum. I’d rather Rudi had had it.
Kathleen Fetner, Technical Advisor and Friend