Tuesday, August 30, 2011

September 11, 2001

In a little less than two weeks it will be the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11.  National Geographic has a series on this week called “Remembering 9/11.”  The show they have on tonight “9/11 Where Were You?”  For me that part of the process is simple, I was at home watching planes hit the World Trade Center and initially thought I had left my television on a movie channel.  Then the gut wrenching reality kicked in, this was not a made for t.v. movie it was real life. 
Suddenly the world became a different place.  A plane hit the Pentagon.  I knew people that worked there who have never been the same since.  A group of flight attendants and passengers on Flight 93 took control of their plane, slamming it into a field in Somerset County Pennsylvania not far from where I was born.  My great Aunt attended the very first Memorial Service there just a few days later.  Life was no longer the open joyful thing it was before.  The future was no longer a bright place.
Now we find that the men and women who went in to help after the attack to find the remains of loved ones lost by others are dying from diseases caused by the caustic material they breathed for months while trying to ensure that every person who perished was found.  Nobody is willing to help them.  Our bureaucratic government has hog tied the hands that might help these heroic men and women live longer lives but there is haggling over the money that is endless.
In circumspection reliving this, watching it over again, I wonder when we will remember the lessons we should have learned that day.  I wonder when we will realize that we are human beings who should simply accept and respect each other as human beings.  Our differences have cost too many lives.  I wonder when we will realize that this planet we live on is one planet not many.  Our differences have cost too many lives.  I wonder when we will realize that no idea is so perfect, so pure that anyone should be willing to commit murder to further it.  Our differences have cost too many lives, our differences have cost too many lives, our differences have cost too many lives.
Let us all take the time at 8:46 am on September 11 to remember that we must heal this planet, we must heal ourselves, we must heal the future, our differences have cost too many lives.

Monday, August 29, 2011

She Was A Pious Woman

Just recently I had the opportunity to listen to the interview between Robert Osborne and Debbie Reynolds regarding Agnes Moorehead.  In the interview Debbie says some absolutely wonderful things about Agnes.  Each and every statement about her talent is so true.  Debbie says she was a great actress and should have been given far more accolades than she was accorded during her lifetime.  It is the manner that Debbie chooses to end the interview that I find, I guess irritating is the word I'm looking for, and so totally unnecessary.  Debbie insists that Agnes was not gay, a fact, I might add, that I have stated repeatedly cannot be technically proved nor disproved, because she was so religious, so pious.  I do not doubt that Agnes was religious.  Her father was a pastor and she was raised in a church.  I do doubt that this idea of religion precluding a sexuality outside the box.  It simply doesn't.

The Book of Ruth talks openly of love between women.  The love of Ruth for her daughter in law Naomi.

1:8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.

1:9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
1:10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
1:11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 1:12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; 1:13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.
1:14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
1:15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
1:16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 1:17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

Is this not simply the deepest love of one person for another.  Where you go I will go.  Your people will be my people.  Your God my God.  Where you die I too will die and also be buried.  Only death will part the two of us.  This dear people is love in its purest form.  Considering the fact that her father had her memorize bible passages and that she read the bible herself it is doubtless that she was unaware of The Book of Ruth.
I believe that her ideology that love had no sex but was a  joining of spirits, souls stemmed from these readings.

I don't doubt her piety.  I don't doubt her religious nature.  I see her natural gravitation to women.  I know she was married to two men.  She herself says "I am no paragon of virtue."  I believe that her wisdom in allowing her words to be published only after her death was a "god given" ability to know that we as humans would become so obsessed with understanding her sexuality that we would loose touch with who she wanted us to know.  She was a wise, wise woman.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

1928 Letter to Lucille Hynes from Agnes Moorehead

1928 Letter
On letter head that reads:  Agnes R. Moorehead
                                         Studio Club
                                         New York City
I was glad to read another letter from you.  I know I owe you more than a letter for your thoughtfulness.  I’m fearfully busy Lucille, much to busy to think of  anything but my work.  I really have to be on the jump constantly, which is nothing out of the ordinary with me-but which is most annoying sometimes when I realize certain things demand my attention and my time.
I was interested in all the news, especially that of Eunice.  Poor dear, life is very tragic for her and she is so young to have to face such things.  I feel sorry for her.  When you see her again, give her my love.  I would like you to find out just the exact date of the local contest at the hall- I think Miss Ogilive has been so desperately busy that she has neglected telling me- so you do it for me.  I know how rushed I used to be at that time.  I hope the usual standard will be maintained.  You will have to go and criticize for me.
New York is surprisingly gorgeous now the weather is ideal and the shops are just bursting with lovely spring clothes.  It is a joy to dash down 5th Avenue and window shop, or to take a brisk walk in Central Park.  One can do so many interesting things here in New York.  It never ceases to be gay and thrilling.
My examinations start in a few weeks and I’m rather keyed up about them.  I can hardly realize that in another two months I will be headed for the west again.  Sad isn’t it?
I must stop now and get to my study.  Don’t work too hard-drawing-etc.
Much Love,
Agnes R. Moorehead
Sent to Lucille Hynes March 6 1928 in Soldier’s Grove.

1927 Letter to Lucille Hynes from Agnes Moorehehead

1927 Letter
Dear Lucille,
This heat, tripled with a number of various and sundry duties have delayed answers to ever welcome letters.  It was certainly a joy hearing from you-even the easily recognizable script was a thrill.  I do hope you are considering school this fall.  I should be quite perturbed if you do not go on with your education.
Everyone feels the need of more knowledge as they live on.  No doubt you heard of my work in broadcasting these days.  It has been so much fun-and as things lead on to bigger ones-I am scheduled to sing at one of the Saint Louis theatres for a week.Its rather interesting doing things on a big scale once in a while.
Have been doing some interesting coaching with a Frenchman who has only been in this country a few months.  His broken English is delightful-you would enjoy him.  He certianly knows French Drama to perfection.  Be a good girl and write to me again.  I’ll be more prompt next time.
Agnes R. Moorehead
July 26, 1927
Addressed to Miss Lucille Hynes in Soldier’s Grove

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Follow up on Tanya Hills

Tanya Hills is still alive.  She is 76 years old residing in the western u.s. and is a chiropractor.  She was a tennis player back in the day and Agnes actually mentions her tennis game in one of the handwritten letters I had.  She is also a Registered Nurse.  It appears that she never married and has a twin sister named Sandra. The more I read about this woman the less inclined I am to take Quint Benedetti’s observations about her being some sort of trouble maker.  Benedetti alleged that Tanya lied about Agnes’ driver to insinuate herself into Agnes’ holiday at the farm in Ohio.  I think his observations are a colored a great deal by his jealousy of Tanya and her expanding roll in Agnes’ life.  I think that if Mollie did not like Tanya it most likely had to do with her daughters closest relationship at the time was with a woman.  That says to me that Mollie was aware of her daughter’s attraction to both sexes and determined to prevent anything untoward, in her opinion, from happening.  I still don’t think contacting Tanya will produce any answers because if her relationship with Agnes was as intense as it seems to have been given her age Tanya is unlikely to talk about it.  Food for thought.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Forensic Conclusions Are Harder Than You Will Ever Know

I started this whole process of dissecting Agnes' personality with a decision to be surgical and clean in the process.  At the end of it I find that to be pretty much impossible.  There are many reasons for this but the frontrunner on that list is her humanity.  I have found this wonderful, complex, determined, strong, weak, protective person under that veneer.  In other words human just like the rest of us.

I know very few people who are utterly and totally predictable.  I know even fewer who show themselves for what they are one hundred percent of the time.  I have been through trauma but, unlike her, I have had the opportunity to speak to professionals about it, to be monitored and assisted when needed.  We have all had moments in our lives when everything we thought we knew was swept away and we were forced to learn how to live again.  Some of us have even been where she was, controlling mother, sibling suicide, deaths in rapid succession amoung close family members, divorce, financial woes, lonely, petrified that someone would learn the truth of who we were, failed relationships, failed business ventures, overwhelmed by success, under a microscope, child behavior issues, fearing for our future but how many of us have come through it unscathed?  Very few I would imagine, very few indeed.

This is the point of it all.  I was once told by a very wise person that each person in our world acts as a mirror for our soul.  We are generally interested in those who, on some level, remind us of ourselves or reflect a situation we may be trying to deal with or are an idealized image of what we wish we might be.  I felt by reflecting Agnes' humanity back toward us we might indeed find that we had so much more in common with this woman than we had ever dared to imagine.  I found this to be true of myself during the process.  I wanted to make her human and I believe I have to an extent.

I found her to be damaged by so many things.  Her mother, her sisters death, her fathers death, her abusive husbands ( I make this plural because Robert Gist was just as abusive as Jack Lee ever thought about being but he did it without outward physical marks.  He did it psychologically.), her money problems, her fame.  She was emotionally crippled in the largest sense of the word.  Terrified of what other people might do to her.  Terrified of loosing control of her life.  Terrified of loosing her youth, her money, her career.  She lived in constant terror of so many things.  The only creatures on this earth she really trusted implicitly were her animals and her love for them speaks of a person harmed by humans to the point of only trusting the unconditional love of an animal.  Do you know what it takes to reach that point?  How much damage must be done to the psyche for this to occur?  It is symptomatic of several psychological disorders you know.  I read over and over again, "Will develope an affinity for close emotional ties to animals because it is unconditional."  Agnes herself said "You can't depend on human beings, you know."  This sentence was one of the most telling of all of them save for Boze Hadleigh's interview.  Humans are not dependable.  They will find a way to let you down and to hurt you.  How tragic an outlook that is.

Agnes was tragic.  It is a part of her beauty.  Look at her eyes in those candid pictures taken when nobody is looking or when she is tired.  Those eyes are the saddest I've ever seen.  They are the mirrors of her soul.  Even when she's smiling there is something so distinctly sad in the back of them.  But just think about the strength of this soul too.  This magnificent phoenix of a soul that drags itself up time and again from the ashes of some occurence that would have killed a weaker person.  She rises and keeps right on going forward even in the face of death.  That is impressive people, so very impressive and without, so far as we know, one iota of psychoanalysis.  Nobody there to put out a medical hand to hold her up.  She stood up through sheer force of will. 

On the topic of psychoanalysis why buy one when you can be one!  Agnes said all the time, "I know what I'm about."  I think the quick glimpse afforded us of her acting school by Quint Benedetti told us all something very important about Agnes, why pay for psychoanalysis when you can do it yourself.  She says several times that you must understand psychology to be a actor.  You must have a knowledge of it.  She was a highly educated woman and she read all the time.  Believe this, she read books on psychology.  She understood what was going on inside of her better than anyone who might have attempted through guided conversation and psychological symptom analysis.  Like every person with a mental illness there were times when it momentarily slipped beyond her control but unlike the rest of them she would right her ship and get it on course through self discipline.  It blows me away actually...totally...I've never seen anything like it in all my years.  It's like breaking an arm and setting it yourself because you've read every book on medicine you could find.  Then when it's healed a professional says "What doctor set this for you? They did an amazing job!"   Your response, "Thanks Doc I did it myself with some paper towels, a rubberband and duct tape!"  "Hello 911 my doctor has just had a heart attack.  Could you send an ambulance but not to worry I'm giving him CPR as we speak.  He will be just fine but do hurry."  AMAZING.

Agnes was so very aware of the dangers of mental illness that she did a large number of public service announcements about it.  Stressing the need for care and concern.  She understood what it did and how it did it.  She watched her own sister self destruct because she was not strong enough to bear up under the weight of it.  Agnes worked it like it was hers to control and not vice versa.  Keen understanding of who you are.  A willingness for self examination.  Strength enough to steer around the rocks.  All of this while maintaining a public image of coolness, control, and style.  Like I said earlier the clinical, cold, calculated forensic examination goes right out the window when you are talking about Agnes Moorehead.

This is not to say she did not have the capacity for some immense failings because she did.  Her isolationist personality put her in the position of having nobody to fall back on, ever.  She lacked the intimacy that the average person has.  She was unskilled in this behavior because she spent so much time not trusting anyone.  Her volatile relationship with her foster son was a prime example.  Agnes had no business bringing a child into her world.  It didn't stop her from doing it but it should never have been allowed to happen.  Sean was doomed from the moment she took him home.  The only example of child rearing she had was that of her mother and in small bits her father.  Agnes became as domineering as her mother had ever thought about being.  She wanted total and absolute control over Sean without any thought of the changing environment he was growing up in.  Her goals were unrealistic.  Her style of raising him was unrealistic.  Like her own parents she was gone for weeks or months at a time then back in his life with all the force of a hammer.  He didn't stand a chance.  He was emotionally damaged himself when she took him in and then as he grew confronted with the idea that this was not his mother and the idea of having parents who cared so little for him that they left him in a hospital to be adopted even more damaged.  Then throw on top of that a very strong will to dominate coming from his foster mother, damage.  But he's been loyal none the less.  I think in his own way he loved her and respected her.  He could have given umpteen interviews cutting her to shreds but didn't.  He never profitted from his life with her and that says something about the sense of loyalty she instilled in him.  The very same fierce loyalty she demonstrated to a mother and a father who had unwittingly damaged her.  Again, the standards are out the window.

In conclusion, yes Agnes had some grievous mental issues.  She had Emotional Detachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and perhaps a smattering of Borderline Personality Disorder.  She had at least two perhaps three maybe even four different personalities in the same conciousness functioning on different levels at all times.  Today if she had sought treatment, like that ever would have happened, but there are those who said the same about me come to think of it, she would have been on medications to assist her in day to day life and she would have promptly lost her magic.  Agnes had it right when she said that actors sell fantasy and that to tamper with the psyche of an actor was to destroy his or her magic.  I know it would have taken that sense of the fantastic away from her.  It would have removed the part of her that so many people came to know and love at a distance.  For all of her foilbles and issues I find that I am quite happy with the woman who had magic in her voice and mischief in her eyes but lived in a world so mysterious, so unreal, that it riveled the beautiful land of Oz.  I know I loved going there with her.  Didn't you?