The page above from Mac/Eddy Today, Issue #74 is an excerpt from an article showing Jeanette MacDonald’s 1948 handwritten desk diary, in which Jeanette notes that on September 5th, she and her husband Gene Raymond hosted a party at their home for singer Eleanor Steber. Nelson Eddy and his wife Ann also attended. It was all very civil. But the very next day, September 6th, Jeanette notes her trip to Lake Tahoe. At least once each year in the fall, she and Nelson went to Tahoe to renew their wedding vows made privately in 1935 while filming “Rose Marie.” If and when Jeanette ever announced publicly that she was off to Tahoe with “my husband,” she considered she was telling the truth. The Rise Steven article in the same magazine provides new details surrounding Jeanette and Nelson’s 1945 trip to Lake Tahoe. (The article is copyright 2017; all rights reserved.)
Happy Valentine’s Day 2017!
And what a gift for you… I’m glad this is a secret no longer. At last you can watch a short clip of them on TV together. The film reel can was labeled that this was the 1957 Patti Page TV show, The Big Record. However, the actual clip is from the previous year on The Lux Video Theater with Gordon MacRae.
If you have read Sweethearts you understand what Jeanette and Nelson were like in public settings together where he got to “show her off.” Particularly in the 1940s when certain fans attended every radio show and scrutinized carefully every movement and catching of breath, every glance, every touch, Nelson’s attempts to kiss her in front of the fans. This tenderness and familiarity was obvious elsewhere, at parties or social engagements, when Nelson was giving a concert and pulled Jeanette on-stage with him, them just walking down the street together, or sneaking a kiss and embrace in a restaurant parking lot. Many eyewitness accounts are detailed in the book; now you have a chance to see for yourself what they were talking about.
And here I want to publicly give a HUGE shout out to Katie, Angela, Mary Lynn and Lynda who pulled off an amazing feat in obtaining this and whatever was left of the old Jeanette fan club holdings, including many personal items and record-keeping and files that had belonged to Jeanette. One has to wonder why Gene Raymond didn’t trash it all but shipped it instead to her fan club, presumably understanding that Clara Rhoades would bury any sensitive information forever that might have been overlooked. And he had already gone through it for “obvious” stuff that needed to be destroyed and done two rounds of purging from the storage units. I was told this by Clara Rhoades herself, when she asked my friend Diane Goodrich to secretly make copies of the 16 mm films Gene loaned her each year for their annual banquets. Gene was so ornery, Clara said, that she wanted back-ups in case Gene decided at the last minute not to let her screen Jeanette’s copies of her own films or other footage. And in the years I knew her, Clara particularly complained about this TV show which Gene held back despite her repeated requests to him to be allowed to show it. This was the case at least through 1977; after Mac/Eddy was founded Gene apparently had a change of heart about these TV shows because we were told by those still attending the Jeanette club meetings that the footage was screened at later events…but not frequently. Now having watched this Lux footage, it’s understandable why Gene held back with it and why Clara did not screen it very often. Just as with This is Your Life, you’d have to be totally oblivious not to see the electric current between them.
When these Jeanette auctions began, I saw quickly that there was much invaluable information to be had. We made a coordinated effort to obtain certain items since buying it all outright at the start seemed an impossible task. Some auction items looked innocent enough but stood out to me as necessary to win. This went on for many, many stressful months and was generally overseen for our group by Maria Escano. But many others helped safe-keep the collection and I am grateful to one and all who bid on and won auctions for our cause. There was only one item I learned of that I regret slipped past us, an outtake from Jeanette’s proposed autobiography in which she ‘fessed up to one failed pregnancy. But we have more than enough documentation about that and in the home stretch, Katie Gardner boldly pulled off a coup to seal the deal. Kudos to her for the sheer guts it took to make this happen! We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the footage (and a myriad of other items) is safe with those who will share it with the world rather than hide it.
I trust you appreciate the irony as once again, what others sought to cover up has come full circle and right back into the public eye where it belongs. Not hidden as though it’s something to be ashamed of, or to lie about. Once again it’s Nelson and Jeanette speaking from the grave, as it were. And those certain individuals who did loudly protest too much have had their legacy finally put into proper perspective. Yes, they were the keepers of the Jeanette-Gene, Nelson-Ann flame but maybe somewhere in the spiritual universe, even they – like criminals who willingly unburden by finally confessing their sins – are glad the charade is over. After all, they hoarded a house full of possessions so that in the end, the rest of the collection came into the hands of those who will properly care for it.
Katie posted the video and wrote her observations at this link. No reason to add more commentary; her analysis is spot on. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words then is a video worth, pray tell? Enjoy… you will want to watch it a few times… and bring kleenex!
A 40-year old mystery is solved… the location in Ojai where in 1938, Nelson buried his and Jeanette’s premature baby, Daniel Eddy.
As Linda Knight discussed last week, when Nelson received the phone call that Jeanette had died, he phoned Linda and asked her to accompany him to scatter Jeanette’s ashes as had been planned.
This was so that when Nelson died, Linda would know the exact locations where his ashes needed to be scattered with Jeanette’s.
Remember that Nelson’s will specified that he be cremated, and he requested from Linda that part of his ashes be scattered in Lake Tahoe at a certain place in the water by the south shore…and at a certain location in Ojai. If you have read the 2014 edition of Sweethearts you will know why on both places.
Additionally, if you read my book you know that both Nelson AND Jeanette talked about being cremated many years earlier…and you will also know that neither one of them was in fact cremated.
After Nelson was informed that Jeanette would not be cremated and his “consolation prize” for not making trouble was to help arrange her coffin, he was still determined that his ashes should be scattered according to his wishes. Some six months later he showed Linda the exact locations both at Tahoe and Ojai.
Linda described the Ojai location to me and I asked her to make a precise drawing of the property. Once she did that and provided general area I looked at properties on google earth until lo and behold, I saw the exact configuration that Linda had drawn. Tracy Wilborn was making a trip to that area and I asked her to help and check some records and and not surprisingly, the ownership checked out.
So those who had helped on this particular project came with us and we went to the place in question. Linda had carefully memorized certain landmarks back in 1965 to get the correct position in case the landscape changed. It had changed, there were no original markers left and so she pointed out other landmarks still there that she had told us about in advance. She walked a certain number of paces here and there, looked again at her landmarks, and finally found the spot. We scattered some rose petals, listened to “Danny Boy” and “Song of Love”, wept openly and left.
By the way, as Linda described it in 1965, the original marker Nelson had placed on which he drew Daniel as a cherub was already gone. In its place was a series of 3 boulders; behind them was a half-circle of rose trees. Two other rose trees faced them. Nelson explained to Linda that the two separate trees were in memory of his mother Isabel, and Jeanette. He told Linda that the 8 rose trees grouped together were in memory of not only Daniel but a total of eight “forlorn” souls (Nelson’s words), their 8 lost babies.
This information stunned me…for if you read the 2014 edition of Sweethearts you will see that I took a hard look at every probable pregnancy whether we had definitive verification of it or not, but circumstances when Jeanette was hospitalized for “food poisoning”, for example, and Nelson was so distraught that the almost canceled his Carnegie Hall recital and couldn’t sing.
Eight lost babies.
I want to thank Linda for her graciousness in retracing those steps with us. It’s not important where exactly it was, only that we were there and paid our respects to Daniel and his family.