Wednesday, May 10, 2006


As Mothers Day approaches, I offer these stories about mothers. I got these in a newsletter from Mental Floss magazine, my favorite magazine (see sidebar for a link.)

** After just missing out on the Miss America Pageant in 1952, Shirley Jones went to Hollywood, where she married actor Jack Cassidy. She fit naturally into the star scene, winning an Oscar in 1961 and dividing her career between films and Broadway musicals. She seemed destined to play the mother when the idea for "The Partridge Family" was introduced in 1970, and won the role. The shocker came a few weeks later when she was introduced to the young man who had been hired to play her oldest son. It was David Cassidy, her stepson with husband Jack. Neither one knew that the other had even tried out for the roles, but the two worked well together and found great success both on the small screen and in the recording studio.

** In 1863, Anna McNeill Whistler moved to London to join her son James, who had traveled there from America to pursue artistic endeavors. Mrs. Whistler didn't much approve of her son's rather bohemian lifestyle in England, but she encouraged his painting and entertained his patrons with her Southern cooking. In 1871, the young model that James Whistler was expecting failed to show up for her sitting, so 67-year-old Anna gamely agreed to pose instead. The resulting painting was officially known as "Arrangement in Grey in Black," but we all know it as "Whistler's Mother." It's been reproduced and parodied hundreds of thousands of times since then, making Whistler's mother one of the most recognized models in the world.

** Gladys Presley was very protective of her only child, and doted on young Elvis. In fact, she and Elvis communicated in a strange "baby talk" that only the two of them could understand, and the two shared a bed until he reached puberty. Overprotective? Perhaps. She even sent him to school with his own silverware so he wouldn't catch any germs at lunch. Much like the famous scene in "Gone with the Wind," when Gladys Presley passed away, Elvis had her lie in state at Graceland for several days. It took quite a bit of cajoling from friends and relatives before Elvis finally allowed his loving mom to be buried.

** At the age of 17, June Nicholson became pregnant and gave birth to a son back in 1937. With his father nowhere to be found, the little boy was raised by his grandmother, Ethel May, and her husband John, whom he thought of as his mother and father. Everyone told him that June was actually his older sister, and even on their deathbeds, the women never revealed the truth to him. The youngster grew up to become celebrated Hollywood star Jack Nicholson. It wasn't until 1975, long after both of these women had passed away, that a reporter from Time magazine dug up the truth about Jack's mother. "Stunned" was the word he used to describe his reaction, in typically understated fashion.

One of the most embarrassing mothers in history was Hemingway's. She used to tart up little Ernest in girls' clothes right up until his teenage years!

A quick-witted cheapskate Mother was Minnie Marx. According to Groucho, the Marx family matriarch used to insist that her 20-year-old boys were all thirteen so that they could travel by rail on discounted fares. Upon hearing their supposed ages, one train conductor quickly responded, "That kid of yours is in the dining car smoking a cigar. And another one is in the washroom shaving." The coy Minnie simply shook her head and retorted, "They grow so fast!"

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