Back from the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy cruise…

Hello all! It’s taken me a couple of weeks to “recover” from the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy cruise, get my life caught up to date and now I’m ready to get back to my normal Mac/Eddy schedule! Pictures to follow…I’ll let you know where and when they are uploaded.

Let me say that we knew the Valentines’ Week Cruise would be wonderful but it apparently surpassed everyone’s expectations because by the second day, folks were already asking when the NEXT one would be scheduled!

We had planned to screen three full-length movies but I brought a lot of other “short subjects” just in case. It was a good idea, since it quickly became evident that three days of Mac/Eddy events planned was not enough for our gang. Many of them had been on several cruises and had no interest in the port excursions. Others were physically unable to participate in excursions. And even those that went on excursions wanted more Mac/Eddy time! So, we arranged for a private lounge to set up more morning screenings on port days. The ship was pleasantly empty those days and so it was more leisurely for us! After meals, some folks met up in a somewhat quiet area of the Lido dining room to continue chatting and visiting. We learned a lot about each other’s lives, dreams and goals.

K.T. Ernshaw’s talk was an eye-opener for the group, most of whom had never met her before. She was especially candid and answered questions that she had not previously discussed on a public forum. As soon as I can figure out how to get the video uploaded, I’ll let you know the link so you can watch it.

For many, meeting Ms. Ernshaw was a highlight. There is no better way to “research” for yourself whether Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy had an off-screen relationship than to talk to one of their friends, who was there in those years, and actually discussed it with Nelson at the time. In fact, Ms. Ernshaw’s decision to leave the U.S. and study acting in London was based in no small part on the fact that by 1949, Nelson was going through emotional turmoil with Jeanette and there looked to be no end in real future with Nelson. His life was too tangled emotionally. So apparently Ms. Ernshaw finally headed to London the following year without knowing that the Jeanette-Nelson breakup was “final.” Ms. Ernshaw was a young woman with her life ahead of her…would she have left America for 8 years had she known that Jeanette was soon to be out of the picture…at least, for the time being?

If I may digress for a moment, that is why I find it particularly sad that some folks questioning the Jeanette-Nelson relationship, didn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to meet Ms. Ernshaw. Hallie Neill, who coordinated and booked our cruise, later told me that one woman contacted her, saying that she and others were interesting in joining the cruise but could the part about the Jeanette-Nelson relationship be left out? These are the same folks that loudly proclaim there is no documentation or evidence that any Jeanette-Nelson affair ever happened, or that none of my sources are alive and therefore I made up all the quotes, etc., etc.

The musical production of “A Scandalous Affair” as an eye opener as well. The cruise group director saw one rehearsal and realized this was a class act with excellent singers. She immediately began to help us promote the show on the ship, informing a senior’s group and others about the show which took place on Thursday afternoon. In a lounge that held 400 or so people, it was very well attended. Afterwards one woman came up to tell me that this was the best event she’d attended on the entire cruise! I asked her to pass that on to the cruise group director who was standing right there – and she did. Brownie points for us – it was a real success!

That evening, we adjourned from dinner to another lounge for a book signing and CD signing (of “A Scandalous Affair”). It had been a long day with a screening of “Maytime” in the morning, the show’s rehearsal, the show itself, and me typing up programs and other notes on my laptop that had to be printed for the show. I sat by myself for a few minutes in the lounge before our group started trooping in. It was one of the few moments I had to sit quietly by myself. Awhile later Hallie and Ted joined me. Hallie was at last able to relax, with the show behind her. We talked about all the hard work it took to put the cruise together. We watched our group now filling the room, sitting together, chatting and laughing, good friends now.  I watched people that had been very shy at the beginning now outgoing and beaming…just a pleasure to observe. Hallie and I discussed it and decided yes, this trip was really worth it.

Our last day at sea, Saturday, Darryl Winston worked with the other singers and put together an entertaining show of singing, comedy and anecdotes. He himself was a bit under the weather, suffering from an allergic reaction that gave him sinus problems. But always a trouper, he rose above it and sang a few numbers along with singers Maria Nazarenko, Carrie Renwick and Liz Wells. We will upload this show for you as well to watch.

Raymond Hughes, the excellent Metropolitan Opera pianist, accompanied both musical shows. He was not really a Mac/Eddy fan before the cruise. He had also never seen “Maytime,” so we all joked that he was a “Maytime” virgin. (He loved it, obviously.) After watching the films and asking questions along with everyone else, it wasn’t long before he felt compelled to read “Sweethearts.” Took it back to his cabin and later told me he stayed up half the night reading it and couldn’t put it down. For me, that was a validation that Jeanette and Nelson still sell themselves as artists – all one needs to do is watch a movie or two and you’re hooked! The off-screen story just adds to the interest.

One exciting outcome of the cruise was Hallie was a connection made that would allow “A Scandalous Affair” to have its New York City debut on April 19. There’s more exciting news about this but this post is lengthy enough so…watch for an from me tomorrow morning. In fact, there’s a lot going on right now, so stay tuned!