Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saluting our Real-Life Auntie Mame


Auntie Joy and Mom in Florida, 2007
Auntie Mame has done it all!  Author Patrick Dennis (pseudonym of Edward Everett Tanner III)  took irresistible, unforgettable Mame Dennis’ fictional exploits, inspired by Dennis’ own free-spirited aunt, Marion Tanner, and let them happily run amok in every form of storytelling, including Dennis’ original 1955 novel and its sequel, Around the World with Auntie Mame as well as:
  • The 1957 Broadway stage hit Auntie Mame, earning a Tony nomination for leading lady Rosalind Russell and a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress Peggy Cass as naive stenographer Agnes Gooch;
  • The 1966 Broadway musical hit Mame, starring Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur, with both actresses winning Tony Awards. The show  was adapted for the stage by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee;
  • And of course, the Oscar-nominated 1958 Warner Bros. film version of Auntie Mame!  Broadway.com reports that Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) is working on a new film version!
  • 1974 brought us the Warner Bros. musical version, Mame (1974), starring Lucille Ball. It was a mixed bag at best,but that didn’t stop Mame from becoming a box office hit at Radio City Music Hall, where I saw it with my Girl Scout Troop.  I guess it just goes to show that some movies are bulletproof, especially with Jerry Herman’s wonderful musical score (like Mame's "Bosom Buddies")!

But in a way, I feel like I’ve always known all these versions of Auntie Mame so well, because our family had our own real-life Auntie Mame:  our beloved mother, Jacqueline Tenore Kehoe (1927—2009), or “Jackie,” as friends and loved ones called her.  No doubt you’ve already realized this post is as much about Mom as it is about the classic 1958 movieWith Mom’s warm, loving, colorful, multifaceted personality, we’ve enjoyed many memorable family anecdotes about her exploits and her overall amazing life, including this one (click here). 

Enter the Dragon! Patrick and Norah
find Auntie Mame in Asian mode
Patrick meets Auntie Mame's spectacular coterie!
Mame wigs out when Babcock makes a surprise visit!
On January 22nd, 2013, our family will commemorate what would have been Mom's 86th birthday.  Those who knew and loved Mom can attest that she was strong, stylish, and mesmerizing, yet also kind, warm, and witty in the great Cherry Girl tradition. Yes, Cherry happened to be the maiden name of Mom and her sister, our late Auntie Joy (they died a few months apart from Pulmonary Fibrosis).  And yes, The Cherry Girls were equally smart, witty, and soignee, as well as being Auntie Mame fans.  In their teens, Mom and Auntie Joy were sometimes the subject of racy jokes about their surname from those naughty boys—but of course, the Cherry Girls would glide past those insolent youths without a second thought!  Mom and Auntie Joy also loved Auntie Mame on both stage and screen.  As my cousins and I grew up (variously in New York and Wilmington, Delaware), Mom and Auntie Joy were both dubbed “Auntie Mame” at various times.  With both the Cherry Girls gone now, but by no means forgotten, I sometimes wonder if Mom and Auntie Joy each thought the other was the Vera Charles of the pair!  For more about Mom’s fond, funny life and times, feel free to check out my salute to Mom and the movie that became her favorite during the last two years of her life, The Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men:

http://doriantb.blogspot.com/2011/01/no-country-for-old-men-tell-mother-i.html

In a delightful parallel to Mom, even Auntie Mame’s kaleidoscope opening credit sequence is perfect in showing how multifaceted Mame Dennis is, just like our mom.  The music by Bronislau Kaper (Whistling in the Dark; Gaslight; Them!) is perfect, sprightly yet swanky. And who could bring the lives and times of such real and fictional characters as Mame Dennis and our real-life Cherry Girls better than Betty Comden and Adolph Green?  Comden and Green, both fellow native New Yorkers (Betty was from Brooklyn, Adolph was from The Bronx) were legendary for their hit musical comedies such as Singin’ in the Rain; On the Town; Bells are Ringing; Applause; Wonderful Town; and so much more.  However, Comden and Green adapted Auntie Mame as a straight comedy for the movie version, and it was as sparkling and delightful as if it were indeed a musical.  I like the theatrical way the film’s scenes fade out on Rosalind Russell’s face just like on Broadway.  For those who thought Comden and Green were husband and wife, sorry—they were only good friends and collaborators, both happily married to others.  Even Mom had been sure Comden and Green were a married couple!

Onstage, Mame's jewels go jingle-jangle-jingle!
Peachy-keen Mame in Georgia!
Superstar Rosalind Russell’s long, triumphant career ranged from her 1934 film debut in Evelyn Prentice (co-starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, though this was definitely not a light-hearted comedy-mystery a la The Thin Man!) to her final role in the made-for-TV 1972 mystery The Crooked Hearts.  Russell was nominated for four Oscars in addition to Auntie Mame: My Sister Eileen (1942); Sister Kenny (1946); Mourning Becomes Electra (1947).  Russell won plenty of Golden Globe Awards, though, for ….Electra; Sister Kenny; A Majority of One (1961); Gypsy (1962); the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1973.

Good thing Patrick brought Auntie Mame's copy of
Riding Side-Saddle on Horseback for Dummies!
Patrick Dennis’ beloved fictional heroine walked into my life one rainy day when my family and I happened to be watching the 1958 movie version on TV on one of our local movie programs (on WPIX, if I recall correctly).  We were all delighted by the warm, funny film about the irrepressible Mame Dennis, with Russell reprising her Broadway triumph. Sitting there enjoying ourselves, we kids affectionately dubbed Mom “Auntie Mame.” In particular, Mom was pleased as punch when I said, “Mommy, she’s like you, only you’re even prettier.”  High praise, considering Rosalind Russell was stiff competition (no, I don’t mean Auntie Mame’s morning sidecars)!
Foxy Auntie Mame wins Beau's heart, and Patrick has a dad!
Auntie Mame’s zany yet tender saga ranges from the days of bathtub hooch and the Charleston, through The Great Depression, the 1940s and the 1950s.  We first meet young Patrick Dennis (Jan Handzlik, reprising his Broadway role) at the tender age of  9, coming to 3 Beekman Place with his adult companion Norah Muldoon (Connie Gilchrist of A Letter to Three Wives; Long John Silver; Song of The Thin Man; and many TV appearances) to live at Auntie Mame’s luxurious (and constantly changing) pad  after his dad dies unexpectedly. It’s one of Mame’s wild parties, but she makes them feel at home right away, with Mame’s fabulous coterie of wild-and-crazy yet likable Bohemian types. Patrick jumps into life with Auntie Mame feet-first, bless him.  I like the kid's willingness to go with the flow of Auntie Mame’s cheerful screwball antics, trying new foods and such, unlike many modern kids. Maybe kids were less finicky back then. (Can you tell I’m the mother of a finicky yet adorable kid?)  I love when Patrick reads from Auntie Mame’s list of new words to learn:  “‘Karl Marx.’  Is he one of The Marx Brothers?”  Although young Handzlik was talented and endearing in the role, he eventually dropped out of acting completely, and grew up to be a successful law partner at the renowned law firm of Kirkland and Ellis in Los Angeles, where he's a specialist in white collar crime.  He's  been listed several times in Who's Who in America. (Kids grow up so fast!)  I’m glad to hear Handzlik didn’t become one of those child actors who came to a tragic end— but I digress!
At Peckerwood, Mrs. Burnside is not to be sneezed at!
But Mame and Patrick’s happy household is in jeopardy when The Great Depression wreaks havoc on the nation.  A battle of wills begins between our heroine and Patrick’s trustee, Mr. Dwight Babcock (Fred Clark, one of the masters of the slow burn, deft at playing everything from a vicious villain in Ride the Pink Horse, to comic foils in Bells are Ringing, as well as many TV classic sitcoms).  Mame’s longtime friend, stage star Vera Charles (Coral Browne of Theatre of Blood; The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone; The Ruling Class. She was also Mrs. Vincent Price!) lands Mame a small role in her new play, Midsummer Madness, to earn money to get Patrick back. (Mame’s name is dead last and in teeny-tiny letters on the theater poster; gotta start somewhere!) Mame's jangly jewelry infuriates Vera, but wreaks hilarious havoc for us viewers. But Rosalind Russell wasn’t the only scene-stealer.  Look and listen very carefully to the actors onstage, and you’ll recognize Margaret Dumont of The Marx Brothers fame!  Nobody looks and sounds as much like Margaret Dumont as Margaret Dumont, by golly!

A tip of the hat to Mom & all us Cherry Girls!
Russell and young Jan Handzlik reprise their Broadway roles here, and you can’t help loving the mother-and-son-style bond between Auntie Mame and the “little love” she takes under her wing, eager to open new windows for her nephew after his dad’s death. It’s soon clear that Patrick’s late dad wasn’t exactly the “open new windows” type, but the endearing lad quickly takes to Auntie Mame’s joyful approach to life. I know Patrick’s dad died of a combination of too much exercise and arrogance, but I’ve always wondered whatever happened to Patrick’s mother?  Did the poor dear woman die of Old Movie Disease?  By the way, that’s director Morton DaCosta (The Music Man) playing the voices of both Edwin Dennis and “Manny, Moe, and Jack” of Pep Boys fame during the Christmas scene.

Invasion of the Patrick Snatchers?!  Oh noooo!!!


Peggy Cass thinks it's hilarious to tell the truth!
I love the wonderfully theatrical fade-outs with Rosalind Russell; very appropriate, since the book became a Broadway hit, and then, of course, a hit movie!  I especially love Auntie Mame’s priorities.  Her response to her publisher beau Lindsay Woolsey (Patric Knowles of The Adventures of Robin Hood as Will Scarlett; The Charge of the Light Brigade; Another Thin Man) makes me smile when he suggests they marry. Mame replies:  “How can I be a wife?  I’m too busy being a mother.”  I also like the irony that Patric Knowles was a bookbinder in his youth, and went on to play a publisher in Auntie Mame!  Knowles also has the funniest double-takes when responding to Mame’s wacky wit.  Other members of the Broadway cast  (at the Broadhurst Theatre, appropriately enough) include Yuki Shimoda (Career; A Majority of One; the British TV series A Town Like Alice) as playful houseboy Ito, and Peggy Cass as Mame’s “Boswell,” the hapless but lovable stenographer Agnes Gooch who, to borrow a lyric from Bye Bye Birdie, finds herself with a lot of living to do, getting a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination in the bargain. Cass’ long career also included one of Vinnie’s favorite game shows, To Tell the Truth! 

Brian O'Bannion approves of Agnes Gooch's' makeover!
Mame, Patrick, Ito, and Norah end up having a Merry Christmas after all when her goof at her Macy’s salesgal gig results in love and marriage between kind-hearted Southern oil millionaire Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Forrest Tucker of The Yearling; Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood; TV’s F-Troop).   Soon the family are off to Peckerwood, Beau’s family ancestral home.  It’s The Big Apple vs. The Georgia Peaches! But if Mame can’t outsmart them, nobody can.

With rakish memoir-collaborator Brian around,
will Mame become a merry widow?
When Beau is accidentally (albeit in a dark comedy way) killed on the Matterhorn, the now-adult Patrick comes home from college to help, and he’s engagingly played by 1950s/1960s heartthrob Roger Smith (Man of a Thousand Faces;  TV’s 77 Sunset Strip; *snap snap*; and the TV series version of Mr. Roberts. He’s also Ann-Margret’s husband of many years).  Patrick suggests this would be a great opportunity for Auntie Mame to work on her memoirs.  He hires poet Brian O’Bannion (Robin Hughes from Dial M for Murder as Police Sgt. O’Brien; Cyrano de Bergerac; and many TV series episodes, including an episode of 77 Sunset Strip!)  With Beau’s death and Brian’s brooding Irish charm asserting itself (and eating them out of house and home; good thing Mame can afford this chowhound!), Patrick is starting to feel jealous, making him susceptible to Mr. Babcock, or as Patrick has begun to call him, “Uncle Dwight.”  Yikes, brainwashing!  Under Babcock’s influence, will Mame’s “Little Love” wind up a Babbitt, an “Aryan from Darien”?!  Would Auntie Mame let that happen? As if!


Patrick Dennis, the gent
behind the woman!
In her wily yet ultimately helpful way, Mame tackles snobbery, stupidity, and bigotry in the form of Patrick’s  beautiful but dreary fiancĂ©e Gloria Upson (actress-turned-writer Joanna Barnes, from both the 1961 and 1998 versions of The Parent Trap) and Gloria’s jolly yet equally dreary parents Doris (Lee Patrick, so memorable as Sam Spade’s Girl Friday Effie Perrine in The Maltese Falcon) and Claude (Willard Waterman, who deftly filled in Harold Peary’s shoes as The Great Gildersleeve on Radio and TV from 1950 to 1955).  Don’t get me started on the Upsons’ recipes for the clam juice-and-peanut butter ground-meat hors d’oeuvres, not to mention Claude’s diabetes-inducing daiquiri recipe; makes me glad I’m a teetotaler! 

Peggy Cass won the 1957 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Drama for Auntie Mame, and she reprised her scene-stealing role in the film.  As an understudy, Cass took Jan Sterling’s role in a national tour of Born Yesterday.  Cass was finally cast in her own right in the 1949 Broadway musical Touch and Go. The mid-1950s brought her the defining role of Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame.  Her stage and screen performances earned her a Tony and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Of course, my quiz show-loving husband Vinnie first knew of Cass from her regular television quiz show appearances, such as Password All-Stars and To Tell the Truth, as well as guest appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Phil Silvers Show, among others. The IMDb adds, “She was very smart and very funny, but her signature was her unmistakably raspy voice.” (Which I’ve always liked, by the way!)  Sadly, Cass died of heart failure on March 8, 1999, at Manhattan's Sloane-Kettering Hospital, but for her fans here at Team Bartilucci HQ, Peggy Cass’ delightful performances on stage and screen live on!

Actual dialogue from Auntie Mame:
Secretary Pegeen Ryan (Pippa Scott of The Searchers) and adult Patrick discuss Mame's Danish designer.
Pegeen: "It's by the famous Danish designer Yul Uhlu."
Patrick: "Who?"
Pegeen: (slowly, with innocent yet sensuous lips): "Yul Uhlu."
Patrick:"Say that to the right fella and you'll get kissed."

I bet the Upsons think Mame is serving fish for dinner!

And what became of author Patrick Dennis in later years?  Well, according to Wikipedia, he led a double life:  conventional husband and dad by day, bisexual man-about-town by night.  In later life, Dennis became a well-known participant in Greenwich Village's gay scene. Sadly, Dennis' rollicking tales fell out of fashion in the 1970s, and all of his books went out of print. In his later years, he left writing to become a butler—and he liked it!  In fact, Dennis  worked for McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc!   Apparently, although he was finally using his real name, Dennis was in essence working yet again under a pseudonym, since his boss hadn’t a clue that their butler, Tanner, was the world-famous author Patrick Dennis!  I wonder if Dennis thought it was a hoot to play butler after all his escapades?

Alas, Dennis died of pancreatic cancer in Manhattan in 1976 at the age of 55.  But a memorable character can never truly die:  the 21st century has gotten Auntie Mame and Patrick new young readers and movie buffs interested in Auntie Mame’s exploits — HOORAY!  With many of his novels available in print again, Dennis’ son, Dr. Michael Tanner, wrote introductions to several reissues of his dad's books, as well as some of Dennis' original manuscripts at Yale University and Boston University.

And remember Auntie Mame’s wise advice:
"Live!  Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!"

23 comments:

  1. Well, as long as we're talking about moms, my mother is named Mayme, with a 'y' instead of an 'i' (Mamie, like Mamie Van Doren), which I never realized was unusual until recently. But then, it's not exactly a popular name anymore.

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    1. Hey, Rich, glad to catch up with you; it's been nutzoid busy here lately with the new DARK PAGES and other deadlines! I love that your mom's name is Mayme! But you know, retro kind of names from back in the day have been making a comeback in recent years. For example, Meryl Streep's daughter (also an actor, which I guess isn't unusual for an actor :-)) is named Mamie Gummer. I guess it's like the Christopher Guest comedy A MIGHTY WIND; these vintage names are so retro, they're now-tro! :-) Thanks for dropping by, Rich, and have a fine weekend!

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  2. Tilda Swinton as Auntie Mame???? I am SO there!

    But of course, as you pointed out, when one has had a Mom like the Unsinkable Miss Jackie, it's hard for even Rosalind Russell or Angela Lansbury to do anything but pale by comparison (Miss Jackie would've also looked so appropriate showing up at the Harmonia Gardens, but I digress). My Mom of course had her most excellent points, but one of the most memorable nights of my life will always be when you related your mother's personal history to (fantastically fortunate) chat room audience. I felt as if I should've had popcorn, and there should've been a Bernard Herrmann soundtrack backing up your commentary (with Edith Head providing the costumes).

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    1. Michael, dear friend, we of Team Bartilucci have always found your affection for our beloved "Miss Jackie," as you put it so charmingly, to be one of your most endearing qualities! Of course, Team B. is the first to agree that Mom was one in a million, but I for one am especially touched that, among other things, you remembered that chat room discussion where I shared a number of highlights of Mom's remarkable life with you and other friends. Not to sound cliched, but it DOES feel like yesterday! I got such a kick out of your comments about backing up my comments with a Bernard Herrmann soundtrack and Edith Head providing the wardrobe! Thanks for the memories, literally, because when you and others remember Mom's anecdotes and escapades, it keeps Mom alive for all of us. Thank you so much for being a Boswell as well as a close friend! Where's the Harmonia Gardens when you need it? :-)

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  3. I have always loved that quote, "Live! Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" We watched Russell's Mame right before we moved from Maine, and the house was filled with packing crates. The film made me laugh and cry so much that I forgot the stress of moving. I love how often she rearranged the decor...and the music, well, nothing get's me more weepy than good song writing. And this film's got it...I think it's lovely your memorial to your mom. She sounds like a sage and wonderful character. This was a great post as usual. I'm glad that Peggy Cass got recognized for her role as Gooch. Too funny, with that pregnant belly...So happy you finished this post, and I hope our theatrical mothers are singing away on a stage in Heaven somewhere.

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    1. Joey, hon, I'm right there with you: I'm happy to have written this AUNTIE MAME post, but I'm even happier to have finished it so I can catch up with you and the gang here! :-D Having moved a number of times over the years in my youth, I can sympathize with the nuisance and poignancy of moving, to say nothing of the schlepping and agita! In any case, Jo, you and I are on the same page, including the decor - my mom was an interior decorator at one point in her life, and she was good at it - so good that she was constantly moving furniture and tweaking things! And when it came to MAME, the musical version, even with its flaws, Jerry Herman's gorgeous score and the fabulous costumes and set design pretty much always puts me in a forgiving mood, especially when Lucy and Bea belt out the hilariously bitchy "Bosom Buddies"! Besides, going back to AUNTIE MAME, who doesn't love Peggy Cass? :-D Thank you so much for your kind words about this loving tribute to Mom as well as AUNTIE MAME; I don't doubt for a moment that your theatrical mom and mine would have gotten along like gangbusters, singing, dancing, and clowning, and getting standing ovations every night! Have a beautiful weekend, dear pal!

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  4. Dorian, I really enjoyed reading your wonderful, memorial to your mom. This time of year, I also.. think about my own mother and her passing. My mom was very much into decorating the stage for a small town theater group. I think the one that I remember the most.. was when she spent months decorating the stage for a play called the, "Factored Follies"(all the men dressed up as saloon girls, doing the can can)..

    One of her favorite films was, "Moulin Rouge".

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    1. Dawn, thank you so much for your kind comments on our memories of both of our beloved moms! How cool that your both your mom and mine each both worked in theater groups. (Mom also did fashion shows for charities.) I hope you and your family have pictures; "Factored Follies" sounds like it was a blast! Did she like both the recent version and the Jose Ferrer version of MOULIN ROUGE?

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    2. I don't know for sure, if she had ever seen Jose Ferrer, version of Moulin Rouge! I do know.. she loved the 2001 version of the film directed, produced, and co-written by Baz Luhrmann, with Nicole Kidman.

      After, I left my comment here yesterday, I re-watched the Moulin Rouge(2001) version. I can see why she loved the film so much..


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  5. I really enjoyed this post as a tribute to both film and family. Auntie Mame is a fun film, and I love Roz and the rest of the cast in it. While the direction is stagy, it's the cast that makes it fun. I also like how you connected the film to your mom and aunt; they must have been great fun to be around!

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    1. Hey, CFB, thanks for your positive comments about our fond salute to both Mom and AUNTIE MAME! I can vouch for our beloved Cherry Girls being great fun to be with! :-) True, director Morton DaCosta's direction is stagy, but I felt that elements such as the spotlight's tight iris-out gave it a charming Broadway feel, as if we viewers were actually at a live stage show. Besides, who can resist Roz and that great cast? :-D Glad you dropped by to join the chat!

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  6. I loved your post, Dorian. What's not to love about Auntie Mame? - the cast, the clothing, the sets, the witty dialogue...

    I also love the photo of your mom and Auntie Joy. Beautiful women with beautiful smiles.

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    1. Ruth, thanks for your enthusiastic comments about our combined salute to AUNTIE MAME and Mom, as well as your flattering comments about our photo of our beloved Cherry Girls! With your good-natured wit and charm, you and Mom and Auntie Joy would have been great pals!

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  7. Dorian, This is a wonderful tribute to your mom and your sister as well as one of my personal favorites. Have always loved Mame and have enjoyed imagining that I'm something of an Auntie Mame inthe eyes of my godsons. I had no idea what happened to Patrick Dennis - his tale is as wild and woolly as Auntie Mame. It seems someone ought to be writing another book - "Uncle Pat" or "Tanner." Great piece!

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    1. Eve/Patty, beaucoup thanks for your enthusiastic comments about both the film and our wonderful mom and aunt! I'm delighted to hear you are your family's Auntie Mame! Isn't it great when you can "open a new window" to your godsons and other young folks you can inspire in positive ways? You've also got me smiling at the idea of a book about the merry exploits about "Uncle Pat" or "Tanner"! :-) Happy to have you joining the conversation, my friend!

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    2. Dorian - Meant to say your mom and HER sister, by the way...

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    3. No worries, Patty! I knew what/who you meant! Besides, I often type too fast myself! :-D

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  8. Dorian, I am very sincere when I say this is your best work to date. It is not just because of your wonderful writing, but the love and fun you bring out so beautifully, about your Mom and Aunt, the movie, the author -- just everything. I have always loved the straight play best, and agree completely about the fade-outs being a marvelous technique. Rosalind Russell -- well, it's HER part, no matter the other good actresses who have done it. I adore that woman.

    I am really impressed by the enormous amount of research and work that you put into this article, Dorian, and it pays off in a big way. If I were the judge for a "Best of" contest, you would be the winner. Congratulations on a great article -- your dear Mom and Aunt must be hugging each other right now!

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    1. Aw, Becks, you're a sweetheart; I can't thank you enough for your comments! I'm both moved and delighted at your kind words about my post about our beloved Cherry Girls and AUNTIE MAME. I think if Mom, Auntie Joy, and the amazing Rosalind Russell had somehow met, they'd have gotten along like gangbusters! :-) But I guess you can tell I truly wrote this one from the heart. Mom and Auntie Joy were really amazing, unforgettable women, and it means a lot to me that you loved it and them as well; thank you, dear Big Sis - they're hugging each other right now, and I'm sending a big thank-you to you, too :-D!

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  9. A most terrific piece, Dorian. Loved it. I haven't seen the movie in many, MANY years, but I remember parts of it and reading your post brought back memories. I loved Rosalind Russell too. She was a good dame. A righteous broad.

    In GUYS AND DOLLS, one of the gamblers calls someone a 'righteous broad' and I never forgot the term. It always makes me smile. I consider it a high compliment.

    I would love to have been a 'dame'. I had a neighbor who used to call me 'Doll' and I lapped it up. He was the only person I've ever known who called me that. I loved it.

    I always wanted to be an Auntie Mame but I just never got the hang of all that joi-de-vivre. (Did I even get the term right?) Ha.

    I loved reading about your mom and her sister. Dorian, I recommend that you write a book about 'em. Absolutely.




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    1. Yvette, thanks a million for your comments; you had me at "righteous broad!" :-) As I may have mentioned here at TotED or elsewhere, my late dad was a bookie, but he was funny and charming, too, more of a Damon Runyon type than a Mario Puzo type. For 25 years, my Cherry Girl mom and my Runyonesque dad made a handsome and colorful pair! While I never actually heard anyone call my mom "a righteous broad," she knew plenty of people who'd say such things as a compliment, and that always made Mom smile! To make a long story short, Mom and Dad eventually got divorced, but they actually became great friends AFTER the divorce! Oh, those crazy kids! :-))

      Yvette, I like the way you think: I've been wanting to write a book or at least an article about my colorful family life for ages; it's just a matter of getting time to do them justice (and making sure I don't unwittingly say anything that could get me sued; people are so touchy nowadays!). Mom and I had talked about writing a playful comedy-mystery novel inspired by our family's escapades, but we'd barely gotten started before she died. I'm hoping the notes Mom took haven't gotten tossed away. I've still working on getting my novels published. I need to write a schedule or something! But I keep plugging away; stay tuned! Thanks for your praise and encouragement, my friend, and hugs to your granddaughter from all of us here at Team Bartilucci HQ!

      P.S.: Don't worry about spelling "joie de vivre," Yvette; even I had to look it up on Merriam-Webster Online! :-D

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  10. Many of us have an "inner" Auntie Mame, but few are lucky enough to be shown the way by the real life article and your family had two!

    My son Gavin has never been quite sure what to call his grandmother (my mom) then one day we ran into her on the bus and his eyes lit up and he called her "Angela Lansbury". (She has short grey hair and dresses nicely.) You have never seen a more pleased woman in all your life! Every time the two of them are together, "Ma" to the rest of us, looks forward to her true name being mentioned. Now all the folks at Gavin's group home are in on the act. I think it might go to her head.

    PS: I played Mrs. Upson in a community theatre production of "Mame". My daughter was about 5 when she saw the play and about the scene with the Japanese furniture asked "Were you supposed to fall down?" Proud of my pratfall I told her "yes", to which she smiled with relief and said "You were the best one".

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    1. Caftan Woman, thanks so much for your kind feedback! I was absolutely tickled and delighted to read about how your son Gavin came to call your mom "Angela Lansbury"! If I were her, I'd be pleased as punch, too! I also loved your anecdote about playing Mrs. Upson in your local production of MAME; I bet you stole the show! Ironically, in my teens, my Auntie Joy had always thought I looked like a young Angela Lansbury (circa GASLIGHT and THE HARVEY GIRLS). OK by me! :-)

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