Monday, July 7, 2014

Sean Ability or Who Is This Ernie Winkle Guy Anyway?

The Evidence
St Petersburg Times
May 5, 1977
New Abilities
In the idea stage: An Agnes Moorehead Memorial Physical Rehabilitation Center, honoring the late actress, to be run by and located adjacent to, Abilities Inc., on the property originally given by the late Ed Wright.
Ernie Winkle, Agnes Moorehead's son now living in Tampa, is enthused with the plans which will be announced May 17 before the Annual Banquet of Abilities Inc.  Director Hal Nunn will be announcing the committee to administer, plan and raise funds for the Agnes Moorehead facility.  Winkle suggests a celeb event and he offers to bring in name people for that proposed occasion.

My God What Deep Pile This Is
Of course, I started where any logical individual in this age of information would begin, Google.  My problem was the only Ernie/Ernest Winkle who turned up was way too old to be masquerading as Agnes' son as he was born in 1919.  Then I stumbled upon documentation that essentially would have put the screws to Ernie Winkle raising money for anything, he was convicted of major medical fraud in 1976.  I very nearly had a nervous breakdown on the spot.  I mean seriously who would make up a name like that anyway.  Undaunted, I soldiered on through the life of Ernie the elder.  

Ernest Albert Winkle was born in 1919 in England.  He emigrated to New York with his family and in 1940 he was still living in the home of his parents Ernest George Winkle and Elsie May Kentish Winkle.  In 1942 he was still single per his enlistment documentation.  Somewhere between 1942 and 1950 Ernie married.  It was a quick marriage to a young woman named Elizabeth.  It ended in divorce in Florida in 1950.  Elizabeth Winkle disappears and I can find no record of her remarriage.  What makes this all so totally plausible is the fact that Ernest Albert Winkle was Roman Catholic.  He believed in divorce but would never have suffered a child or children to be born out of wedlock.  It would make complete sense to name a son after his father and even more so when the name Ernest was also his grandfather's name.  These folk were Irish by way of England.  The progenitor of the family came from County Cork Ireland.  The other unusual thing is that Ernest Winkle the elder had two children during his second marriage to on Loretta T. Winkle and they were fraternal twins a girl, also named Loretta and a son named Paul.  Twins run in families and allegedly Sean Eric Ernie Moorehead Winkle was a fraternal twin having had a sister supposedly adopted by a prominent Hollywood family.

I therefore propose that the person who was mentioned as "Ernie Winkle" in the article above is, in fact, the foster son of our girl Agnes.  The Winkle's were and are a prominent New York family.  It was probably wrangled by lawyers who determined the best way to handle a potentially unwanted child without blow back was to foster that child out to someone who would be able to provide all of the same benefits that the child might have enjoyed had they stayed with their family.  If you deposited the child in an orphanage the potential for scandal would be enormous if the child became aware of who their parents were.

The Tear Jerking Back Story
The back story created for Sean was heart wrenching.  Poor, malnourished, ill and left in a hospital with his sickly twin sister.  His parents had 14 children and had to put six up for adoption because they couldn't care form them.  It's enough to make even the coldest person feel some warmth for the lad.  It was plagued by one question for many years, why leave the little girl alone in the hospital?  Why not take both children?  Agnes never really had an answer for it.  When faced with it she would usually change the subject.  It wasn't because she didn't want more than one child as she and Jack had talked about adopting four.  Robert and she had talked about adopting six, supposedly.  Most likely, the reason she didn't take the sister is because either the sister never existed or she was given to another prominent family before Agnes was given Sean/Ernie.  Supposedly Sean was born January 6, 1949, oddly enough the real twins were born near that date many years later.  Sean was ill with a spot on his lung.  He was cross eyed and had dental issues. He was a lost waif that needed a home.

Finale, Not So Much
Okay, the story is plausible.  I think it creates as many if not more questions than it solves.  I've always wondered how Sean got to Switzerland to even live with Paulette Goddard, if he was Ernie Winkle that wouldn't be an issue.  Daddy had cash and a son he likely wanted nothing to do with.  I think Sean left home at 18 not simply because he couldn't handle Agnes or her strictness but because the agreement that kept him there was only binding until he turned 18.  I also think that is why Agnes didn't freak out over him being potentially homeless.  She knew he had access to money and a place to live.  I also think it's why Agnes was so adamant about Debbie Reynolds not trying to find Sean when Agnes was ill.  Her part of the agreement was to keep the Winkle family out of anything that might be considered contentious.  I also think that everybody but Agnes was completely clueless as to who this young man really was.  If anybody had known for sure who Sean was it would be public knowledge by now.  The only person who ever mentioned that he was Agnes' son publicly, very publicly was Ernie Winkle of Tampa Florida.  Not only does he mention it but he is pushing for a Rehab Center to be named for her.  Does that sound like someone who hated her?  Not to me it doesn't.  For better or worse the lid is a wee bit further off of Sean's Pandora's Box.  As I said before, the truth is out there, somewhere.



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW! Fascinating detective work! Good sleuthing!

Anonymous said...

I knew an Ernie Winkle in the early 2000's in New York who said he was Agnes Moorehead's son, and formerly the business manager for Robert Conrad. He was in his 80's, very charismatic and likable, but the math of his parentage never added up.

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