This event, filmed in Sturbridge, MA on May 1, 2016, highlights the recent breakthrough of vital new information. Segments include Angela Messino’s tribute to Bernadette Schwartz, our wonderful social media moderator; I replay an audio interview of a January 2016 interview I did with a woman who was on the same hospital floor as Jeanette when Nelson was with her, he was running up and down the halls all agitated and patients were warned to stay out of his way; Katie Gardner discusses new information, photos and studio documentation regarding Jeanette’s pregnancies by Nelson; Angela explains her detailed inspection of Jeanette’s finances during 1954-5 and the financial abuse of her husband Gene (and Jeanette’s opening of a bank account as Jeanette A. MacDonald rather than Jeanette A. Raymond); the discovery of letters that were misleadingly quoted by others including the word LOVE in an original handwritten by Nelson Eddy that was whited out before publication (by the Jeanette fan club and also by another biographer); and I discuss two new sculptures by Nelson obtained by Maria Escano – Nelson as Vasilly from The Chocolate Soldier and a 1950 torso of Jeanette.
Literally hundreds of hours went into the preparation of this meeting. I want to thank Angela, Katie and Maria, and the excellent video editing by Tracy Wilborn.
This meeting video is entitled GAME OVER. Watch it and you’ll see why!
Perhaps no other club meeting to date was such a shock and tear-jerker as the one in which Madeline Bayless decided to share with the group a gold charm bracelet given by Nelson Eddy to Jeanette MacDonald in 1938.
We just learned a short time ago that longtime member and invaluable source and friend to us all, Madeline Bayless, just passed away peacefully in her sleep this morning. She was 92.
Madeline knew Nelson from 1933 when he first signed with MGM. Her father Jim Bayless was in the studio music department and became a trusted friend to Nelson. He built Nelson’s home recording setup and also taught Nelson how to record himself singing multi-voice harmonies. As we know, that later served Nelson well when he made commercial recordings singing 4-part harmonies and later did a myriad of voices for Disney including Willie the Whale in the 1946 film Make Mine Music.
The first time Nelson came over to the Bayless home in 1933, nine year old Madeline opened the door to greet him. She has been a fan ever since. Nelson was a guest to their home several times, she listened to him discussing his romance with Jeanette over the years, calling her “my girl” and talking about various things such as gifts he’d bought for her. In later years when both Nelson and Jim had departed MGM – Jim Bayless was one of the co-founding VPs of Capitol Records – Madeline accompanied her father on several occasions after Jim recorded Nelson’s radio shows, burned them to large records and drove them over to the house known as “Mists” so Nelson could listen back to these shows and critique himself and plan future programs.
Madeline is pictured below at last year’s Los Angeles meeting with Woody Van Dyke’s grandson, Woody 4, and Maria Escano.
Madeline was a very private person and was a club member for about 5 years before revealing to me her association with Nelson. We were at Lake Tahoe together and she broke down in tears at hearing others sneer that Jeanette was happily married to Gene, Nelson was happily married to Ann, etc. “It’s not true,” she told me and even though those attacks were against me, I comforted her as she wept…because she knew from experience how hard it was for Nelson to live all those years hiding his relationship with Jeanette.
Madeline did amazing research and understood Nelson’s re-writing of song lyrics and what was happening in his life as expressed in how he would rewrite a song for that occasion. Once I realized her expertise and knowledge about this, I encouraged her to start sharing her knowledge at the LA club meetings and so, even though she was shy and didn’t want to speak publicly, her friend Linda Tolman (pictured below) read aloud the presentations that Madeline prepared. We are so grateful that Madeline shared her knowledge with us. You can watch all of them at this link.
Madeline was also good friends with Shirley Jean Otto who as a young girl was a secretary in the Jeanette fan club and has been a team fan for decades. At the dedication of Nelson Eddy Drive near where Nelson is buried, Madeline and Shirley paid for the flower vases that were put next to the graves of Nelson and his mother Isabel. I am sure that all of us who have left flowers at Nelson’s grave appreciate their kindness. (The photo below shows Linda and Madeline.)
I will no doubt post more photos but we owe Madeline a huge thank you for being brave and sharing the information she knew first-hand and all her research over the years. Just this morning I was FINALLY finishing up our club Journal #72 in which we are publishing the transcribed interview in which Madeline described her entire association with Nelson. Ironic….and now I have go back and revise this magazine yet again to mention the LATE Madeline Bayless.
We will miss you terribly, Madeline. Thank you for your years of friendship, help, support, loyalty and unwavering dedication in setting the record straight on the Nelson-Jeanette love affair. You were there, you knew Nelson, you saw some of it yourself and you verified several important points. Your brother Jim’s poignant recollection of the tenderness between the young Nelson and Jeanette is one of my favorite moments between them and the last paragraph of my book Sweethearts.
Per her own wishes, Madeline is being cremated with no funeral. However, we will have a special memorial and tribute for her at our upcoming LA club meeting on June 26, 2016. Join us if you can.
The ironies of life…
Above is a picture of Jeanette MacDonald’s sister, actress Blossom Rock, in the only film she made with her brother-in-law, Gene Raymond. This shot is from the 1964 film The Best Man and they are pictured here with Cliff Robertson.
A letter has recently surfaced regarding Blossom’s death, 13 years to the day after her sister Jeanette, on January 14, 1978. In particular, a friend’s lunch date with Blossom is described in detail just two days before her death.
But first let me provide the background and setting…so you can fully appreciate the letter reproduced below.
Those of you who have read Sweethearts know that despite Blossom suffering a stroke in 1966, her mind was just fine, thank you, regardless of her impaired speech. She was a spunky, upbeat personality who refused to bow to self-pity, and spent much of her time reaching out to and caring for others. When I met her as a teenager, I was able to, in short time, converse with her with no problem. She is the one who confirmed her neighbor’s statement that Jeanette was very much in love with Nelson Eddy. And Blossom went on to give me the basics of that story…if not by talking, demonstrating or showing me photos and other items to make sure I understood. And possibly even more important, she confirmed or corrected information I learned from interviewing others. There were also brief times that her speech returned to normal (documented here), whether medically understandable or not.
The only reason I did not learn more information from her than I did is simply because I didn’t know all the questions to ask. In hindsight, there is much more I could have asked her and she would have answered freely. But it was easier for her to answer me than to originate a lengthy, detailed communication.
I have written extensively how, over the years, I not only hung out with her at the Motion Picture Home (where she permanently resided after her executor Gene Raymond sold her Beverly Hills house without her knowledge), but we usually went out for the day, shopping, to lunch and to get ice cream. Blossom’s favorite restaurant was the Sandcastle in Paradise Cove (Malibu) and it was easy to get to, I drove over Topanga Canyon from the San Fernando Valley to the beach. Or we went to other restaurants in the Valley or Hollywood or elsewhere, if we were taking a long drive to see various haunts in the lives of Jeanette and Nelson. Long before GPS, Blossom would give me or whoever the driver was (as we sometimes went out with others) driving directions. She always sat in the front seat passenger seat and would point as appropriate to turn right or left at some street, or to get the freeway at this exit or that. And when she would comment about the often insane LA traffic or some car that got in our way, we’d all laugh. It was fun driving with her.
There were many restaurants on Ventura Blvd and we ate at some of those. Or we shopped and ate at nearby Topanga Plaza, the first California indoor mall that opened in February 1964. My favorite store inside was Pickwick Books (they had another store on Hollywood Blvd.) but Blossom’s was the May Company. And we used to sit and look at the “Rain Fountain” which was actually droplets of glycerin but was amazingly high tech for that day and age.
The above shot of the mall is from 1964, the year it opened. Below is the amazing Rain Fountain.
After shopping, we might also eat lunch in the mall, either at the Terrace Restaurant in May Company overlooking the Rain Fountain or the Jolly Roger. And then our day always ended with ice cream and there were two choices, either Thrifty Drugstore on Topanga and Ventura or later the first “gourmet” ice cream place I remember, Swensen’s, with high prices for the day.
It depended on whether we wanted two scoops or one. You see, Thrifty’s was famous for their 5 cent cones. I think by the time I knew Blossom, the price was raised to 10 cents a scoop and two scoops for 15 cents. Blossom was very “scotch” and the price of Thrifty’s ice cream made sense to her. So we could “splurge” on two scoops instead of one!
Swensen’s was also on Topanga Canyon Blvd. and it boasted changing and interesting flavors such as pickle ice cream…which was frankly disgusting although the staff swore it was a popular flavor whenever they infrequently offered it. But their other flavors were delicious and tasted more like homemade ice cream.
One last place we visited a few times was the Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor in Woodland Hills. My father was the accountant for that place and on one’s birthday they gave you a free sundae. I remember taking Blossom there a couple times, sometimes for a birthday visit, or otherwise we shared a banana split.
The problem with Farrell’s was the noise level, it was so high we couldn’t really talk. They had an amazingly huge ice cream offering called “the trough” and if you could eat it all they rang firemen’s bells and clapped and cheered and gave the customer a pin to wear announcing that he made a pig of himself at Farrell’s.
The reason for my trotting out these memories is to show the reader that my spending full days with Blossom doing normal and fun things was our routine over the years. We didn’t just sit and talk about her sister. I last saw Blossom about a couple weeks before her death. I was now married and my hubby and I went to visit and give her some Christmas gifts, including some chocolates as I recall. She seemed a bit down and said she was tired and ready to die. But she perked up being around my then-husband who was tall and blond, she always had an eye for a good-looking guy and enjoyed visiting with him. She was back to her more cheerful self when we left.
And now to the point of this post. There are those who have tried over the years to negate Blossom, citing her speech issues and even questioning her mental capabilities.
The attempts to deny Blossom as a credible source are now once and for all proven to be bogus per the letter below written Dorothy Cassidy. Dorothy and her husband Thomas Cassidy, for many years host of the the Los Angeles classical music radio station KFAC, were longtime friends of Jeanette and Gene. Jeanette’s entire record collection was given to the Cassidys following her death. That is, except for Nelson Eddy’s solo albums – God forbid anyone would think that Jeanette actually WANTED Nelson’s recordings for herself – that might suggest that she liked him or admired his voice. So Blossom ended up with Jeanette’s Nelson solo record collection.
Dorothy Cassidy and her daughters were in quite thick with the Jeanette fan club and promoting (and I think honestly believing) the happy Jeanette-Gene marriage. In this letter written to Clara Rhoades, the Jeanette fan club president, dated January 19, 1978, Dorothy details the time she spent with Blossom just two days before she died. And was Blossom a blithering, incompetent idiot? Of course not! Dorothy writes:
I’m wondering if you heard the news of Blossom. She passed away on the 14th. I was out to see her on Thursday, the 12th and we went to lunch at the Westlake Inn, took a drive like she always likes to do, and stopped for an ice cream cone at Swenson’s (sic)…another “must” when we are out. She was fine and really enjoyed her day.
She took ill on Friday and died early Saturday morning (around 2:30 or so, I believe). The funeral was yesterday, the 18th…just thirteen years after Jeanette. So it’s been quite a week…Blossom’s services were lovely.
Emily is still in St. Croix, but I had her phone number there so Nannette (sic, their grandneice), did get in touch with her.
Guess what, folks, this letter is absolute verification of the Blossom that I knew. And have written about for years.
As an interesting footnote, Thomas Cassidy died in 2012. Some time before that, one of our club members, Patrice Messina, told me that a good friend of hers knew the Cassidys and he was soon heading over for a visit to their house. Patrice plied him with information and while there, this man gently brought up the subject of Jeanette and Nelson and what the real story might be. Not surprisingly, they supported the Jeanette-Gene scenario…until Thomas said to his wife, “Come to think of it, after Jeanette died Gene did bring a different young man with him whenever he visited us.” At which time the subject was abruptly changed.
Our thanks to Maria Escano for sharing the Dorothy Cassidy letter. And as an additional footnote after seeing this letter, Angela Messino shared a letter she owns, written by Emily West (Wentz) also covering the news of Blossom’s death:
Thank you, Angela, for sharing this as well as your notes about Emily’s letter:
A couple of things struck me, Emily is writing this almost 3 months after the fact. In time for the next Comet [fan club magazine]?? Also, she gets the date of Jeanette’s death incorrect and whoever filed it just blindly copied it on the envelope, at some point it was corrected in a different pen. The letter is all about Emily and her woes and she includes a clipping about her and her family and trip, etc. which mentions Blossom’s passing and her relationship. This was all about her, all PR for how great Emily is. Wow. But she’ll certainly miss Blossom. What a cold one she was.
There were two women in Jeanette’s life that Nelson Eddy couldn’t tolerate: her mother Anna MacDonald and her secretary Emily West. As I wrote in Sweethearts, Nelson had nothing but anger when discussing what he felt was their treachery toward Jeanette.
Folks, we have a person from the “other camp” inadvertently verifying what I have said tirelessly all these years. Sad that it was suppressed all these decades but, well, we have it now. Again, the ironies of life…
Most of all, Bern had unshakable loyalty. That’s a rarity when you’re dealing with anything Hollywood. I’m just glad she’s not suffering anymore and I’m certain she’s broken free and is soaring now.
Calling all Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy fans in Dublin!
Join Sandra Oman and Simon Morgan for their tribute show, “Will You Remember?” on Friday, August 19, 2016 at the National Concert Hall. From the promotional material:
Sheldon Nulty Music presents soprano Sandra Oman and baritone Simon Morgan in an unforgettable tribute to Silver Screen Icons of the ’30s and 40s, Jeannette MacDonald andNelson Eddy, in song and projected images. All of their famous cinematic hits – Will You Remember?; Rose Marie; Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life; Lover Come Back to Me; Wanting You; – will be interspersed with stories of their public persona and private lives. A concert for all lovers of opera and the Silver Screen!
The Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy events upcoming are going to be AMAZING. Two are upcoming and information about each plus tickets are at these links: Sturbridge, MA on May 1st, and Los Angeles on June 26.
I am not going to discuss the literally mind-blowing new information that will be presented at these meetings, and anyone who is helping me put either of these events together is advised NOT TO MENTION A WORD OR HINT ANYWHERE or on social media as to what will occur at either one of them.
The program that was originally scheduled to be presented in Los Angeles contains very vital information that most people were unaware of. For this we had a few guest speakers lined up to present this jaw-dropping info and get it on record.
However, the speakers scheduled for LA have as of this week all been shifted to the Sturbridge event which will begin, by the way, by my playing my recent audiotaped interview with the gal mentioned in an earlier post, who was in the Houston Methodist Hospital on the same floor as Jeanette because Michael DeBakey was her doctor as well. She discusses how one particular day Nelson, who was staying in the hospital “family room”, was frantically running up and down the hallway, alternately angry or in tears, going in and out of Jeanette’s room trying to get faster help for her, etc.
Then in Sturbridge I will speak on other matters and we will present the fascinating program that was originally planned for LA.
As for the Los Angeles meeting, may I suggest in no uncertain terms that you find a way to be there. These events are open to the public, you do not have to be a Mac/Eddy Club member to attend. (That is, like-minded folks are welcome to attend. We have a very clear policy stated in the “Terms of Service” posted on this website, and any potential dissenters should not purchase tickets, will not be admitted and/or will be escorted out.)
In my honest opinion, if you are able to manage it you should attend BOTH meetings, as the Sturbridge in a way sets the stage for some information that will be discussed later in Los Angeles. In recent years, probably the most important and highly emotional LA event was the one in which Madeline Bayless brought the actual gold charm bracelet that Nelson gave to Jeanette. Last June’s event was also one of tremendous emotion and new information.
This June promises to AT LEAST match the the intensity and revelations of those mentioned above. We will have to make a decision on how much of the event video will be posted online due to the nature of the material.
So if you care about finally solving some decades-old mysteries that have eluded us with this story, or want to be there to witness a truly amazing afternoon, I again suggest that you make every effort to attend these events if at all possible.
We need a fairly accurate head count for food so I’m asking you to make your reservations THIS WEEK for either event. Again, the ticket links are here: Sturbridge, MA on May 1st, and Los Angeles on June 26.
The photo above is Bernadette Schwartz standing next to the mailbox and entrance gate of 1330 Angelo Drive, high up in the hills above Benedict Canyon, overlooking the city of Los Angeles. There on the adjoining property behind the gates, further along the private road was a Jeanette-Nelson hideaway home, a bunkhouse that Nelson remodeled and that they called “Mists.”
Since 1998, Bern Schwartz has admirably run our Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy social media groups. Back when Yahoo was the only game in town, Bern started a Mac/Eddy Yahoo group where fans could chat, share information and photos, and discuss their films and lives. Five years later Facebook became in the “in” place to hang out and Bern in time moved our groups there and has continued moderating them.
This last weekend Bern, who has been ill but doctors initially misdiagnosed, stopped breathing and it took some time for the paramedics to get her pulse going again (the true test of whether oxygen administered is actually able to be utilized in the body and brain). Bern has been on life support since and although as of this writing she now has some reflexes working and has increased her ability to breathe on her own, she still has not woken up. Prayers are in order both for Bern and her family during this awful and uncertain waiting period. Bern’s blood pressure, which at one point spiraled pretty high, came right back down when her beloved Jeanette and Nelson music was played on her cell phone. She’s a fighter and we pray for her full recovery. Love to you, Bern, from all your friends around the globe!