Time to collect odds and ends for the end-of-the-year trash bin, so that I can start fresh for the New Year. That the subjects are mostly women is entirely coincidental.
Julia Biryukova: Over two years have passed since the disappearance of Sky Metalwala, the infant that the Russian native allegedly left in her car while in search of gasoline. Bellevue, WA police determined that there was more than enough gasoline in the tank to make it to the nearest gas station, and in this regard and everything else Biryukova continues to be “uncooperative,” as is the rest of the tight-lipped Russian immigrant community she has likely been hiding out in. Biryukova—who has a history of mental illness—was apparently angered by a judge’s decision to allow her ex-husband visitation rights to the boy. Despite the fact that the police have received over 2,000 “tips” as to the fate of the boy, there apparently has been no “break” in the case.
Sarah Palin and Ann Romney: Their dreams of taking up space in the White House, thankfully at an end, hasn’t ended their habit of being major annoyances, thanks to the media. In between doing cooking tours on morning shows and riding her horses, Mrs. Romney continues to wail about how the media “elected” Barack Obama, and has been asserting that if hubby Mitt was president, he would have averted the recent government shutdown by killing “Obamacare,” despite the fact that Romney signed into law something very similar to it while governor of Massachusetts. For his part, Romney has stated that he would have opposed Republican tactics during the shutdown, which makes one wonder who is wearing the “pants” in the family.
Not that Romney hasn’t made any gaffes himself since the election; his suggestion that minorities voted for Obama because they expected “gifts” was offensively racist. Newt Gingrich called him out on the remark, stating that Asians are “hardworking” and don’t expect gifts, yet a large majority voted for Obama; the suggestion that blacks and Latinos expect “gifts”—especially given the fact than immigration reform has gone nowhere and black unemployment continues to be the highest among all demographic—should also be defined as a racist notion, Newt.
For now, the Romneys are living the idle rich life in La Jolla, California; Ann Romney apparently has nothing to do but pine for what might have been. Do we really need to suffer any more of that?
Palin, meanwhile, made news recently in her defense of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, who was suspended from the A&E reality show for racist and homophobic remarks. You never heard of the show? Don’t feel bad; I never heard of it before Palin opened her mouth. If you remember “The Beverly Hillbillies,” you’ll get the drift about what the show is about—except that instead of oil, it is duck whistles that made the family rich. Also, it isn’t supposed to be “amusing,” like Palin isn’t.
Palin often makes highly offensive statements herself, although the only reason she was relieved of hosting her own show on Fox News was because there wasn’t much there once you got past the “snappy” Palinisms (kind of like ESPN’s Chris Berman). This past November, Palin was talking about the government shutdown, and typically off-target she told an Iowa audience (she’s not really thinking of a presidential run, God help us) “When that money comes due – and this isn’t racist – but it’ll be like slavery when that note is due. We are going to beholden to the foreign master.” Well, any criticism of the president from the likes of Palin can’t help but have racist undertones understood by its target audience. I suppose she is talking about China, to whom we lost most of those 3 million manufacturing jobs to during the Bush years despite all those tax cuts.
It is absurd to suggest that the world’s largest economy—even in relation to China, despite its far larger population but far smaller per capita income—will become a “slave” to a foreign nation, and MSNBC’s Martin Bashir called her out, quoting from the diary of Thomas Thistlewood, a slave overseer, including these choice bits:
“A slave named Darby catched eating canes; had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.” Pickled refers to having a salt solution rubbed in the wounds caused by the flogging, which increases the pain; the other part is self-explanatory (I hope).
“Flogged Punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper; made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.”
Bashir was pointing out that Palin’s suggestion of “slavery” was an insult to the real sufferings of the actual slaves, not the petty “inconveniences” that people like Palin would “suffer.” Nor did he actually suggest that any of these things should be done to Palin for her many verbal offenses designed with either the evilest intent (remember the “kill him” at a 2008 rally during a Palin rant about Obama?), or symptomatic of the complete ignorance Palin has in regard to the “interpretation” of her rhetoric (remember the “Don’t Retreat. Reload” with targets on Democrats? Did Jared Loughner take that literally?).
Palin has never had to apologize for any of her ignorant, bigoted statements, and obviously is too mega maniacal to ever do so; but as might be predicted, any criticism of a right-wing hack brings down the thunder of the hypocrisy brigade from both the right and the mainstream media. Naturally MSNBC felt it had no “choice” but to fire Bashir.
Justine Sacco: I recall an incident in which a glorified waitress on an airplane asked me if I had the flu. The reason why this was an offensive inquiry was because it was during the alleged “swine flu” epidemic that was essentially a media creation that never happened, and it allegedly originated in Mexico, although this was never proved. I wasn’t displaying any “symptoms,” but the flight attendant apparently thought that I looked “Mexican,” and people “like me” were filthy carriers of disease; she probably heard this on Lou Dobbs’ “Broken Borders” show on CNN before he was fired for his many misinformation malfeasances.
This no doubt was the mindset that persuaded “public relations” executive Sacco of the media company IAC to opine via Twitter "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"
Is it not amazing how people get into trouble with Twitter? They say you can’t accuse anyone of racism even if their actions can be interpreted that way; they have to say something that “suggests” it first. Well, here you are. I suspect that Sacco wasn’t speaking so much of AIDs per say, but speaking to her stereotypes and fear of blacks in general, and a country in which at least politically is “controlled” by people of skin much darker than hers. Her stupidity in making her thoughts known for all to read was a public relations nightmare for IAC, and obviously Sacco was wrongly placed in her position; the company had no choice but to fire her.
Barbara Eden: Now for the “entertainment.” I have confessed that I am much more a “fan” of the “golden age” of television—encompassing the first 25 years of medium—than I am of the current variety. I have also mentioned that one of my favorite TV shows was “I Dream of Jeannie.” Thus it was with some disillusionment that I discovered that in real life Barbara Eden is quite a different “character.” Not that she is a “horrible” person or anything like that, but she is clearly an egoist who served no “master” but herself; in fact, she is more like her dark-haired alter-ego in the show, “Jeannie II,” at least in the way that character treated people as if they were her slaves.
Eden recently published an autobiography that spends very little time on the show that made her a household name and object of many a male fantasy; in fact, the point of even mentioning the show seems to be as an opportunity to abuse the memory of co-star Larry Hagman—which she never did during interviews before he passed away. Hagman was by all accounts a pain in the ass, but Bill Daily would later say that he understood his tantrums about derivative scripts, and noted that Eden would just sit and watch, allowing Hagman to be seen as the "heavy" in these battles. It says a great deal about Eden when she claims that her “favorite” episode involved a lion which roared and caused everyone on the set to run in fear except her; I’ve seen this episode, and the lion only appears for a few seconds at the very end, just before the closing credits.
The only true interpretation of Eden’s tome was that she was a “workaholic” who had little time for anything outside of her career, including Mathew, her son with actor and first husband Michael Ansara. She didn’t seem to have time to take into account other people’s feelings, save in hindsight. Eden seems to think that every male she ever met tried to “hit” on her, although I suspect that in her egotism this was the way she interpreted any interaction that was “friendly.” She drops a lot of names, but apparently she was in truth a bit of a prude, and never suggests that any of these guys got past halfway down the first base line with her—if in fact they tried. Eden was already in her mid-30s when the series began anyways, and you can tell she was no longer young by the series’ end in the close-ups, requiring the help of face powder to keep the fantasy alive.
I really hate doing this, because I am such a fan of “I Dream of Jeannie.” But Eden seems so consumed with self in her book that her son’s death by drug overdose seems less a tragedy for him than for her; instead of trying to understand what went wrong, she tells the reader to look how sad she looks in the picture at her son’s funeral. She apparently never really understood the impact of her absenteeism, and even confesses to being “hurt” when her son told her that he preferred to live with his father after she divorced Ansara.
I suppose some things should have been left in that Jim Beam bottle.
Paulette Goddard: I heard something on radio awhile back about a Canadian woman, Patricia O’Byrne, who was not going to be charged with kidnapping her daughter after 20 years on the run. She had abducted her 20-month-old child in violation of a custody order in Toronto, and disappeared. She was finally discovered in British Columbia, where she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of abduction. The prosecutor urged a sentence of 18 years in prison; instead, a judge sentenced her to an “extraordinarily” lenient 22 months (or less) of “house detention”—which is the adult equivalent of being “grounded.” Considering the fact that she lived life “underground” for all those years, this is probably less a burden for her than the judge believes.
According to newspaper accounts, O’Byrne’s attorney claimed that she was “sexually abused as a child by male caregivers and she also witnessed horrific domestic violence against her mother that required plastic surgery for her face.” Or at least this was O’Byrne’s justification for her actions, for “No abuses were reported to police” at the time. The attorney went on to say that O’Byrne "believed she was the only one who could keep her daughter safe." Yet to all accounts her father was a decent, caring man—and even O’Byrne refrained from making false accusations in court. In “explaining” the leniency of the sentence, Judge Mara Greene noted incomprehensibly that "At some point, the abduction became less about Ms. O'Byrne's concern for the safety of her child and more about protecting herself from detection and prosecution. Be as it may, “She took full responsibility for her actions and did not do anything to vilify (the father) Joseph Chisholm to his daughter or the court."
For most men who have had to deal with the court system in similar cases, this attitude of “understanding” of the woman’s point of view, even if there is strong possibility it is based on falsehoods meant to elicit sympathy, can be frustrating or even infuriating. But if you think cases like O’Byrne’s is a recent cultural phenomenon, or if the reasons given for these kidnappings (or abductions) do not have psychological effects on a child (particularly a daughter), then the following is a story for you:
Being a film buff, I have an appreciation for the work of Charlie Chaplin. Two of his films feature his alleged wife at the time, Paulette Goddard. I say “alleged” because there was never any official marriage ceremony, although it “officially” ended in a Mexican divorce sometime in the early 1940s. Although she was never a real box office star, Goddard had a reputation for having an uncanny ability for accumulating wealth through a succession of husbands. She was still a teenager when she married and divorced Edgar James, a lumber magnate. The $375,000 settlement in 1930 was the equivalent of $5 million in today’s money—quite a haul for a flirt then employed as a “dancer” during those Depression days. Her character in Chaplin’s 1936 film Modern Times is somewhat ironic; in a tattered dress exposing ample leg and bare feet for most of the film, one wonders why some sugar daddy hadn’t scooped-up this beautiful “gamine” who exuded as much carnality as rascality.
Goddard was obviously something of an enigma. Information she supplied about her childhood and personal life were subject to personal whim, and the truth could rarely be pinned down. Julie Gilbert’s fawning 1995 biography about Goddard cannot be trusted, since Goddard usually provided the press outright lies about her past that Gilbert apparently accepted as “fact.” Even the available documents provide contradictory or misleading information, beginning with her date of birth. When asked for clarification on any point, Goddard often responded like a defendant being cross-examined on the witness stand; like Jodi Arias, she always seemed to be trying to “outsmart” the interrogator with contradictory statements with a touch of arrogant self-assurance. Caught in a falsehood contradicted by established fact, or in making a statement that made no logical sense, Goddard would claim loss of memory, make mock of the question or questioner, or claim lack of competence to give a proper answer.
There is an issue of LIFE magazine dated Dec. 17, 1945 that demonstrates this propensity, leaving no room for doubt. The following story appeared under the bi-line of Oliver Jensen, in a futile attempt to piece together her past:
In the case of Paulette Goddard, almost all of this information is confusing. Life’s reporter, studying the published record, found that Miss Goddard is without question the worst-documented actress in the land. So delightfully contradictory were even the basic facts that the reporter set them down on paper and arranged an interview with Miss Goddard at the Plaza Hotel in New York. She was sitting in the cocktail room in a black coat over a white dress.
“Miss Goddard,” began Life’s interviewer, “it says here that your real name is both Paulette Goddard and Pauline Levy.”
“Of course it’s Goddard,” she said.
“But it also says your father was both J.R. Goddard and Joseph Levy/or Levee, and when a national magazine said Mr. Levy or Levee wasn’t your father, he sued for $150,000, charging mental anguish. Didn’t he win the suit?”
“Wasn’t that silly?” smiled Miss Goddard. “All he got was $35 a week, just $35 a week. I thought it was so funny.”
“What was your mother’s maiden name?”
“But it also says that her maiden name was Hatch—Alita M. Hatch.”
“Oh yes, of course. That was before she married my father, J.A. Goddard.”
Goddard is alleged to have had a great-uncle named Goddard, but there is no record of her mother marrying or having a relationship with a man by that name.
The interview move on to her date of birth. It was pointed out that the dates most frequently given were 1911, 1905 and 1914.
“Isn’t that funny,” observed Miss Goddard, “because I was actually born in 1915.”
“And you were first married when you were 16?”
“Yes, to Edgar James.
“But that was in 1927. We know that. That made you 12.”
“I don’t know about that,” responded Miss Goddard. “Anyway, I don’t know that it was 1927.
“It’s in the record of the divorce proceedings.”
“I’m simply terrible at mathematics,” said Miss Goddard winningly.
“The record,” said the interviewer, “says you did definitely divorce Chaplin in Mexico. It also says that you did or did not marry him in the following places: aboard the yacht Panacea in London, Mexico and Canton, China.”
“Isn’t that silly?” said Miss Goddard. She then told how another reporter had sought the same facts years ago at the Chaplin ménage.
“He was assigned the job for a month and never found out,” she said triumphantly. “He used to accost me in the restaurants and bars and get fresh, and he hung around the house. Once he was in the driveway of my house when I was driving out. I told the chauffeur to run him down.”
The vital statistics on Miss Goddard’s hair record that it is naturally both blonde and brunette. Life’s investigator authoritatively established that at the moment it is naturally dark.
“According to the record, Miss Goddard, you spent your early life with your mother’s family, the Hatches or Goddards, either in Toronto, Montreal, Great Neck, Manhattan, Washington D.C. or in a convent.”
“Oh, I’ve lived everywhere, just everywhere,” agreed Miss Goddard.
At this point the interview ends when her then third husband, actor Burgess Meredith—probably best remembered as “The Penguin” in the 1960s Batman TV series, and “Mick” in the Rocky films—chimes in that “Yes, she looks out of the car all the time and says I’ve lived here—and here—and here.”
This is just a suspicion, but perhaps Goddard’s odd behavior and notions (referred to as “fun” by film critic Pauline Kael) could be accounted for by a childhood with a mother similar to the case noted above. The record states that when Goddard was very young, her mother sought a separation from Levy, and seeking to avoid sharing custody with him, went into hiding, moving from state to state, city to city, even country to country. Despite this life on the run, Goddard would claim that her father had abandoned the family, which Levy denied (oddly, Goddard’s mother did not seek a formal divorce until 1926, years later). Levy stated that Goddard’s mother simply disappeared with their daughter, and he knew nothing of her whereabouts until she became a well-known actress. Goddard would claim in a 1938 interview that Levy was not her natural father, which prompted a lawsuit by Levy. As revealed in the interview, Goddard at least admitted to losing the lawsuit, being forced to pay her father a weekly stipend.