I want to reach out here to anyone who has a story to tell about Jeanette MacDonald or Nelson Eddy and has not yet contacted us. Please do. Whatever your age, if you know something, it’s time to share. If you’re getting on in years, don’t delay. Or if you have a parent or grandparent who knew something or had an anecdote to tell, please share. Photos, letters, information, personal experiences, whatever…
If you think there isn’t more to learn, you’ll see otherwise when you read the story below. It’s new information that I learned this very week. And one of several interviews done over the last weeks and months. Don’t think that new folks aren’t always coming forward…because they are. I spend literally hours and hours talking with people, learning new facts. Some of you can vouch this because I answer your texts or emails, or phone call very late at night my time. Thankfully the world is a very small place now that we can easily chat with anyone, anywhere. Whatever continent you’re on, it doesn’t matter.
For some, it takes a certain degree of COURAGE to come forward and speak publicly. I understand that, I’ve been through it. I’ve helped others with it. If you have sensitive data, I understand that it’s a matter of wanting to ensure that Jeanette and/or Nelson are presented as the good people that they were. Their kindness toward others and their good deeds outshine any human frailties. But many people still ask why this or that happened. We are still filling in the pieces, the nuances, understanding beyond basic facts that they were at this event or that on such and such a date. There are layers to knowledge. As always, your anonymity is ensured if that is your preference.
Only when we understand the adversities that they faced over the decades can we understand the level of caring and the love that endured, perhaps differently than we would have wished if we were writing the scenario, until Jeanette’s death.
The following story is a summation of an interview with a woman who lives in Houston, Texas. She allowed me to tape her and told me to share it as I chose. During one of Jeanette’s hospital visits in Houston, this woman was on the same hospital floor. Not for a heart condition, but her son worked with Dr. DeBakey and so she was a patient with her room near to Jeanette’s.
The woman had occasion to see Jeanette a few times, she reported that Jeanette was very thin and looked to be in pain, and that she was so pale that her freckles were clearly visible.
One day the woman was alerted to the fact that she should stay out of the hallway, as Nelson Eddy was there literally running up and down outside their doors, and if she ventured out he might run right into her! Of course she had to check it out and indeed, there was Nelson, periodically bursting out of Jeanette’s room to go find a nurse or someone because Jeanette needed something, they were waiting too long for a nurse or whatever. The woman described Nelson as silver-haired (note: he didn’t use a color rinse when he wasn’t working), it was flopping over his forehead, and during that day he was very agitated and emotional, his face red, even in tears.
I asked how long Nelson was there; she said a few days and that he stayed in a private room there in the hospital, used for family members. Was Gene or Blossom there, I asked? Yes, she remembered Blossom but Gene was not there at the time Nelson was in residence.
When I asked what was happening and why Nelson was upset, she answered that DeBakey was doing what he could for Jeanette but it really did not help, whatever treatment was not going to make a difference or prolong her life much. The needed research and procedures came a bit too late for her.
And by the way, the woman commented, only two of Jeanette’s visits to the Houston Methodist Hospital and/or to consult with DeBakey made the newspapers. But there were a few others and she knew for a fact that Nelson was there with her on other occasions, though it was kept quiet. But this was the one instance that she came face-to-face with Nelson.
When I asked her if people didn’t think that was strange, after all, Nelson Eddy wasn’t married to Jeanette MacDonald in “real life” so wasn’t it a scandal? What was he doing there? Didn’t people talk or wonder? She answered that no one cared, they accepted and understood there was a relationship there. You didn’t talk about those things. No one made a fuss.
By the way, I have verified from another source the fact that Nelson was in Houston with Jeanette more than once for her health issues, just as the woman above claimed.
This just an example of tidbits of info that come our way. The Houston-based gal was actually speaking with my husband when he handed me the phone and said, “I think you need to talk to this lady.”
While she prefaced her encounter with Nelson with a “It’s no big deal…” I let her know that in the Mac/Eddy universe, this surely WAS a big deal and I thanked her for sharing her story.
February 9, 2016 @ 5:19 am
What a great article, Sharon. That’s the kind of phone call you don’t mind taking any time, night or day. Nelson must have been frantic, knowing there was little or nothing that could be done for Jeanette. This is indeed a big deal and yes, I’m sure there were many more people out there who knew of the relationship and accepted the fact. Let’s hope for a few more recollections such as this.
March 9, 2016 @ 2:50 am
Excellent piece of writing, Sharon!