Sunday, October 13, 2013


IMDB has this to say about Robert Gist:
"Robert Gist was a tough kid who grew up around the Chicago stockyards during the Depression. Reform school-bound after injuring another boy in a fistfight, Gist instead ended up in Chicago's Hull House, a settlement house where he first became interested in acting. Work in Chicago radio was followed by stage acting roles in Chicago and on Broadway in the award winning "Harvey."

As far as I can tell pretty much everything written above outside of stage roles in Chicago and appearing in "Harvey" on Broadway is absolute tripe.  Robert Gist was no more a tough kid who grew up around the Chicago stockyards and was reform school bound than my chihuahua, although the latter is inclined to bite people in the face when they try to kiss him, which could be interpreted as "reform school" behavior.  Let's talk about some of the information from opposite land that I've found.

Opposite 1: Robert grew up around the Chicago stockyards during the depression.  Not so much.
In 1920 when Robert was 3 years old he lived with his parents at 355 East 71st Street in Chicago. That is 10.1 miles from the Chicago stockyards.  In 1930 at the start of the depression Robert lived with his parents at 7187 Paulina Street 11.9 miles from the Chicago stockyards.  He was 7 miles from Hull House.  Suffice it to say that he grew up in a much nicer area than his biography would lead anyone to believe.

Opposite 2: Robert was Reform school bound after injuring another boy in a fist fight.  I'm not saying Robert didn't get into fights but his junior year information at Calumet High School just doesn't sound like someone who was reform school bound  According to his high school Robert was involved in:
A.C.C.L. The All Calumet Civic League
Public Speaking Club
Welfare Delegate
Commercial Law Club
Fencing Club
Student Forum
Civic Forum
Mixed Chorus
Thespians, President
Track Team

See for yourself:

Not exactly Reform school bait my friends...nope not at all.

3.  Worked in Chicago radio and theatre.  I can find record of him working in theatre but in radio, not so much.  That is not to say he didn't but in all honesty I just can't find it.  He did appear in a production at the Goodman Theatre. "Robert Gist of the Rhodes Avenue Gist's has a leading role in "Gangster" which opens Monday at the Goodman Theatre."
November 3, 1938
Southeast Economist
I can't find mention of him in any other productions outside of this.

Robert was a creative boy and we'll leave that as it is.

In addition, at some point, Robert found time to go to college for four years, according to his enlistment documents.  Nothing is ever mentioned about his college career so I don't know if he graduated or not.  He did graduate from Calumet High School in 1936.  In 1938 he was still listed as living at home as his parents not only moved but took time to post that in the Southeast Economist newspaper. "Mr. and Mrs. Marion Gist and their son, Robert, formerly of 461 East 83rd St., are now settled in their new home at 7930 Rhodes Avenue."
November 10, 1938
Southeast Economist

7930 Rhodes Avenue, Chicago Illinois

I have not found any documentation of a college career but I have found documentation of a military junket and given the miraculous nature of his surviving malaria and 3 battles, according to him, none of it is even mentioned in his bio at all. "First Lieutenant Robert Gist was a gunnery officer during the Guadalcanal invasion and went through three major engagements without a scratch although in one of them his company suffered 73 percent casualties. Then a mosquito got him down.  Recovering from a malaria attack he went from 175 pounds to 128.  Now he is coming to Broadway in Frank Fay's supporting cast of "Harvey," which opens in New York on November 1."
November 1, 1944
Hayward Review

What survivors guilt he must have had.  You would think that something this impressive would have made its way into his biography.  Yet we never see a mention of it anywhere.  It is important to note that Robert enlisted on the 28th of January 1941 11 months before Pearl Harbor.  He is represented on his enlistment document as an enlisted man not an officer and his branch is Warrant Officer.  He is listed as single with four years of college and his occupation is actor or actress.  A reasonably far cry from the First Lieutenant of the 1944 article.  You don't go from enlisted man who is a Warrant Officer to First Lieutenant in less than 3 years while fighting umpteen battles at Guadalcanal and contracting malaria.  Typically a First Lieutenant isn't a Gunnery Officer that would be a Warrant Officer.  In straightforward terms Robert is full of crap.  He elevated his status pure and simple.  That is likely why it was left off his bio as he became a name in Hollywood.  It would be a lot easier to portray himself as a bad boy with a bad reputation that nobody would likely question.

The other thing Robert hid reasonably well was his first marriage to Louise Van Dyke.  On the 18th of August 1943 in Cook County Illinois, Robert M Gist married Louise Van Dyke.  The marriage license number is CA5BAECA-BDD8-4AE9-9EA7-E1A057F5CC57.  Strangely enough the 18th of August is about four months after the battle of Guadalcanal so he must have been a really fast healer.  Perhaps Louise was nurse?  Don't know.  What I do know is that by November of 1944 Louise ceases to be. Come to think of it she's never mentioned so, at least, in Roberts mind she has ceased to be.  Makes me scratch my head in confusion just thinking about it.

By 1949 Robert had hauled ass to the big league by landing Agnes.  Heaven only knows what enormous line of crap he fed her.  We know he told her about the malaria because many years later when they were in the midst of the lengthy divorce proceeding she referred to him in a conversation with Paul Gregory as the "malaria kid."  I would hazard a guess he neglected to mention Louise at all especially since he neglected, later on, to mention the fact that he had fathered children with two different women.  But Agnes played host to his parents, "Mr. and Mrs. Marion Gist, 7930 Rhodes Avenue, have returned from a motor trip to Hollywood where they were guests of Agnes Moorehead.  They visited with their son, Robert, who played a role in the motion picture "The Stratton Story," as did Miss Moorehead."
November 3 1949
Southeast Economist

He was on his way and Agnes would be used by him as a foot stool to greater things.  By 1952 he was using Agnes' address as his voter registration address, 1952 California Voter Registrations
Robert Gist 2720 Monte Mar Terrace,Democrat.  Agnes was registered at the same address as Mrs. Agnes Moorehead Lee 2720 Monte Mar Terrace, Republican.

Robert appears to have been a prevaricator in oh so many ways.  It is unfortunate that so many people were left in his wake.

And Baby Makes Three, Four, Five, Six.......

I have no doubt that O.L. Colon got out of bed and went to work on November 19, 1955 at the office of the County Clerk Harold J. Ostley in Los Angeles without ever knowing that a license for marriage issued that day would be come the subject of in depth interpretation some 58 years later.  You see two people applied for a license to marry on that day, Jack Griffith Lee and Joanna Jayne Johnson.  To the average reader unimpressive.  The names are rather typical, ordinary names, however at least one of those two people had some four years earlier been embroiled in a contentious divorce with an actress named Agnes Moorehead.   That is where my interest in the unassuming piece of paper began.  Until I read it a few months ago I had no idea that Jack Lee had ever remarried.  Then last night at about 3 am I sat bolt upright in bed after a rather peculiar dream and said out loud "What if they had children?"  I got up this morning and after coffee I sat down to my computer to search.  A little while later I found myself sitting in front of my computer with my mouth hanging open saying "Oh my GAWD" over and over again.  Not only did I find a child but his name was Jack G Lee Jr.

Jack G Lee Jr. was born on May 4th 1956.  What makes that date so damn special is that Jack Lee and Joanna Johnson had just actually been married on February 18 1956.  Do the math folks.  Joanna was over 7 months pregnant when she married Jack Lee.  In fact, Joanna was pregnant when they got the marriage license in November and why it took them that long to get married is beyond me.  But there you have it Jack G. Lee Jr.  He was the first addition to the Lee family.  The second addition to the Lee clan was Susan L Lee.  Susan was born August 3 1958 in Los Angeles.  Susan was apparently named after Jack's mother Susan Ping Lee.  So we are up to two children so far.  The third addition came in the form of George M Lee a little less than a year after Susan's birth.  George, named for Joanna's father, was born on the 26th of July 1959 in Los Angeles.  Dad, Mom and the 3 little Lee's were all on their own until 1963 when the fourth and final Lee joined the family.  Joanna Virginia Lee was born on the 30th of December 1963.  So Jack's legacy was assured with the four children he had with Joanna.

A newspaper many years ago had run a short snippet that Agnes and Jack were going to adopt four children.  The same article contended that Jack was readying the farm for their soon to be brood.  I find it extremely odd that when Jack did, in the end, have children he had four children.  As I was doing this research the very first thing I wondered was if this might have been the reason that Agnes told people that Jack was dead.  He managed to have the very thing he had likely wanted all along, a family.  Perhaps that was part of the dysfunction in their marriage and she resented him for it.

That Jack's marriage to Agnes was an unpleasant abusive 19 years is not at issue.  Jack drank.  Jack was violent.  Agnes earned the money and suffered, apparently for an extended period of time at Jack's hands.  What I find confusing is that Jack's marriage to Joanna lasted from 1956 until his death and produced, without any apparent difficulty, four children.  I think it bears asking why Jack and Agnes never had children. Jack was obviously capable of producing offspring.  He was 16 years older than Joanna and yet they had four children within 7 years of their marriage.  Of course we'll never know why Jack and Agnes never had children since neither of them is talking but it does add even more mystery to their already peculiar relationship.

In the end Jack had a family and Agnes had her career.  Since Jack died when his youngest daughter was 11 years old he never got to see her grow up but in the end he did manage to leave a genetic legacy.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Interpretive Interpretation

I know there is no such thing as interpretive interpretation but there should be.  How else can one explain the complete lack of cohesiveness in the life time line of Agnes?  It simply boils down to who writes what, who reads what, and how one feels about what.  Just for the sake of my own sanity and that of my fellow man I attempted, with not one wit of luck, to figure out just what happened in the public arena called Agnes' life from 1952 to 1958.  This involves, divorce, marriage, career, adoption, domicile shifts, and, of course, more divorce.  Sounds like the plot of a fabulous movie but it is real life my friends, real life.

You all know I have piles of articles about our Aggie.  I turned to the medium of newsprint to track the alleged happenings in her life.  I began in 1952:

January 18, 1952, Mansfield Journal, Mansfield Ohio:
Agnes Moorehead now has the final adoption papers on her one year old son.

Okay, adoption, well, alrighty then.  We all know, now, that Agnes never adopted Sean.  He was her foster child, period.  If there is adoption paperwork out there it was consumed by some paper eating bacteria because many an intrepid biographer has attempted to find it and guess what, it does not exist.  I must take a moment to point out that at this point Agnes was still in the process of finalizing her divorce from Jack Lee.  If that child had been adopted Jack would have been involved because even in Hollywood adoption takes a little while.  But none the less the majority of the newspaper reading folk in America in 1952 would have believed that this was true because we all know everything that gets printed in newspapers is true, ahem.....

March 29, 1952 San Antonio Express
Agnes Moorehead bought the home of the late Sigmund Romberg.  And when a lady buys a big house cherchez a soon to be husband.  I didn't have to cherchez too far to come up with Bob Gist. Okay engaged and not yet divorced it does happen.  The house underwent a major renovation at some point in 1952 and we know that Agnes did her fair share of renovation on the property.

June 11, 1952
Agnes' divorce from Jack Lee becomes final.  It is reported in all the major newspapers and is a matter of court record.

July 2, 1952 Albuquerque Journal
Agnes moved into her new home, the Sigmund Romberg house, Saturday. Helping her was a handsome Robert Gist.  Living together?  Yes, they had been for some time.  Not married yet and wouldn't be, at least according to the divorce paperwork later filed by Agnes, until February 14, 1953.

July 31, 1952
Agnes and Robert are now sporting matching red hair.  I know he was a red head as well but honestly I don't know if she dyed to match him or he dyed to match her.  It really doesn't matter anyway.  But it was considered news.

October 28, 1952 Pottstown Mercury
It says that Agnes and Robert Gist have been married for some time?  Define "some time."

March 12, 1953 Daily Redlands Facts
The grapevine has it that Agnes Moorehead and Robert Gist, secretly wed, have adopted a red haired baby. They're both fire tops.  What, I'm confused.  I thought that baby was adopted in 1952 by Agnes and now Robert is a father?  Well, technically, not yet but he will be, eventually.

January 13, 1954 Nevada State Journal
The Journal reports that Agnes has postponed her upcoming performance of  "The Fabulous Redhead" in Reno until April.  Robert Gist was to perform with her but because of conflicts involving the production "The Caine Mutiny" he is unable to be in Reno for the performance.

April 20, 1954 Nevada State Journal
Agnes will be performing a one woman show of monologues and dramatic readings sans Robert Gist. Surprised?  Me neither.

June 14, 1954 Winona Daily News
Agnes Moorehead and her husband are adopting six kids.  No, really, you read that correctly six kids and with Robert Gist, prolific pro creator at large.....or soon to be prolific pro creator at large anyway.

July 14,1954 Long Beach Press Telegram speaking on the divorce proceedings dated  April 2, 1957
Agnes separates from Robert Gist and only thirty days ago they were talking about this couple adopting six children.

December 10, 1954 Long Beach Independent reported by Johnson In Hollywood
There may be fireworks over their adopted son if Agnes Moorehead goes through with her reported plan to divorce Robert Gist.  He's in the New York Company of "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial," and yes that is how the newspaper reports the title of  "The Caine Mutiny." From 150mph to zero in nearly four months to the day of the report of adopting six kids.

April 22, 1956 Nevada State Journal byline Walter Winchell
They say Agnes Moorehead and the husband she divorced (a few months ago) may give it another whirl.
Nope, nope, definitely nope. Robert did give marriage a whirl again 3 more times.....but that is another volume unto itself.  In actuality the divorce would not occur for nearly two full years.

April 2, 1957 Long Beach Press Telegram
Agnes has filed for divorce from Robert Gist.

March 12, 1958
Agnes is granted a divorce from Robert Gist

I can see you scratching your head and thinking what is this all about anyway.  It is about perception and information.  As far as most of the average public reading the news of the day this was all true. Fifty plus years after the fact we now know it just isn't the case.  This was the public interpretation of what was going on in her life.  It was more like a game of telephone where information is shared and shared and shared again until it doesn't actually resemble fact.

Here are the tangible facts:
1. Sean was never adopted by Agnes and certainly not by either of her two husbands.  He was reared in a single parent environment the majority of his young life.
2. Agnes' marriage to Jack Lee was a nightmare.  He beat her.  They separated in 1945 and got back together.  On June 15, 1949 Agnes separated from Lee and they counter sue each other for divorce both alleging cruelty in 1950.  It takes three years just about to the day from separation to divorce.
3. Agnes hosted Robert's parents as her guests at her home in 1949.
4. Robert M Gist was married before Agnes in 1943 to a Louise Van Dyke and I can find no record of a divorce, however, Louise did die in Tallahassee, Florida in 1981 and is listed as Louise Sedore. Louise is listed in the 1940 census as the "partner" of one Evelyn Lucinda Graves, a trained nurse.  It is a possibility that term didn't mean then what it does now but that they are recorded as partners is a fact.
5. Robert Gist had seven children with two women.  The first was born in 1956 while he was legally married to Agnes.  Two women had two children in 1958 with him.  Frankly, it's mind boggling but there you go.
6. Robert was married, that I know of, a total of five times including Agnes.  Agnes did say during divorce proceedings that she was harassed by telephone by a number of women asking her to get a divorce.  Who knew he'd married at least two of them, I think.
7. Agnes plainly said her first husband had died and the second one she divorced.  We know that Jack Lee died a few months after Agnes.  Perhaps she mentally killed him off.  Robert continued to work in Hollywood.  Jack actually remarried in 1956 to Joanna Johnson and stayed married to her until his death.  Joanna never remarried and was buried in 2005 as Joanna Lee.

Agnes was a deeply complex woman.  She hid so much of herself from people that I doubt that any one person, including her mother, knew every little detail about her.  We are able to view the timeline of her life as it should have happened now because of the Internet and because of newspaper archives that are available for research from our living rooms.  To assume, however, that any one of us is an authority on her public or private life is just us wishing.  I've read as much ,and in most cases more, about her than anybody else I'm aware of .  Even so, I could not and would not say for certain that she thought or felt or behaved in any particular way about anything.  She was phobic about allowing people to get too close, she didn't trust them, her own words not mine, and she made an art of being aloof.

Her words:
"My profession is sacred to me.  I'm happy when people like a performance.  I can't help it when they don't.  This is a responsibility I have to shoulder.  I seldom read any criticism.  There seems to be a human tendency to destroy.  Destructionism seems to be one of the foibles of mankind."

We, none of us, own her memory.  We are, instead, graced by it and allowed to bring our interpretation to new audiences with the fervent hope that they, like us, read all of the archives, the books, watch the films, listen to the recordings and love her for exactly who we all, in spite of ideological differences, know she is.