Sat. Oct 24th, 2020

Book Beat: Tallulah, Darling & Little Gloria … Happy at Last |1980-8-3

Tallulah, Darling
by Denis Brian
Macmillan, $10.95

Tallulah Bankhead did it all. As an actress, she starred on Broadway in “The Little Foxes,” and on the Hollywood screen, she kept the shipwrecked afloat in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat.” As a humanitarian, she was on the original board of directors of the NAACP and she was the first white woman to appear on the cover of Ebony magazine. She drank like a fish, had a mouth like a truck driver, and used cocaine long before it became fashionable.

Her weekend orgies were legendary and her bass0 profundo voice was feared by everyone. When she met Joan Crawford for the first time, she said “Darling, I’ve had an affair with your husband. You will be the next.”

Bank it was a southern politicians daughter, a ravishing beauty, who grew up in the lap of luxury and see if she lost her virginity at the age of 11 in the driveway. “It was terribly, terribly painful. All the gravel, you know.”

Tallulah was selfish, spoiled, arrogant, rude and crude… She was totally fascinating. In spite of her personality, she was loved and adored by millions. Ted Hook, owner of New York’s Backstage and Onstage restaurants, and Tallulah’s personal secretary for four years, calls her “the kindest, most generous person in the world. She taught me more about dealing with people than anyone else I’ve ever known.”

Dennis Bryan’s book is a superb study of a body, beautiful bride. He could have titled it “this Trump is a lady” and hit the mark perfectly.

 

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Little Gloria … Happy at Last
by Barbara Goldsmith
Alfred Knopf, $12.95

If, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The rich are different from you and me,” Gloria Laura Morgan, Vanderbilt, di Cicco Stokowski, Lumet, Cooper is a case in point. Born with an illustrious name and a $2.5 million trust fun, she was ignored by her penniless mother (the money was Gloria‘s name) and doted upon by her aunt, the fabulously wealthy Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. The custody battle and trial between little Gloria’s mother and aunt became the scandal of the 1930s. The 10-year-old “poor little rich girl” told a judge she was terrified of her mother: “Don’t let her hurt me… I’m frightened. She’s going to kill me!” The wise old judge made the wrong decision and Gloria ended up mostly with aunt Gertrude, who forgot her, and partially with her mother, who could neither tolerate nor afford her.

After the trauma, the rest of her life has been run-of-the mill-rich girl stuff. She’s been married four times (her husband was famed conductor Leopold Stokowski. Her third husband Sidney Lumet, later married Lena Horne’s daughter), has put her name on fashionable Tushies around the world, and has been more recently turned down for a co-op apartment because she likes a black man, Bobby Short.

This well researched, well documented story of her life is captivating. Read it to find out how the upper crust lives… And suffers.

—Christopher Vaughn

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