Kay Thompson:
From Funny Face To Eloise

Sam Irvin

Simon & Schuster / ISBN 1439176531 (2010)

 

As I was reading this, I kept thinking, "How could I NOT know who Kay Thompson was?"

The answer was, of course I'd seen her name many times, and forgotten it.

"Kay Thompson" is a sadly forgettable name, unless you're a fan of Eloise.

 

Today Kay Thompson is mainly remembered as the author of the Eloise books,

but she was also an actress, singer, music arranger, vocal coach and theatrical

jack-of-all-trades in New York and Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s.

 

How could she possibly have accomplished as much as she did, being a woman

in a notoriously male-dominated era where ladies didn't even wear "slacks"?

(And she most certainly did.) Well, never having anything approaching a

normal life -- no children, expect her beloved Eloise -- and regular "vitamin"

shots from the legendary Dr. Feelgood helped, but they also destroyed her

once-gracious personality and left her paranoid and mean-spirited.

 

They turned her from being a kind mother-figure to a young girl hired to play

her book's character in a TV play, to loathing the poor girl for becoming

identified with the character. She, Kay, was Eloise -- and no one else!

 

Her one big film hit, the musical Funny Face, was achieved at

the expense of constantly irritating and upstaging a fifty-seven year old

Fred Astaire. When critics wrote that she stole the show as a

wild fashion stylist she was delighted, but Fred would act at

parties from then on as if they'd never met. (I'm a great Astaire fan

and tend to think he was an excellent judge of character.)

 

Her love affair with Andy Williams when he was barely out of his

teens and she was nearing forty? Pathetic. She would see him grow up

and marry a lovely young French dancer. Could there be any more

painful way to admit your time on top is over and all of

Dr. Feelgood's shots can't restore the foundation of your megalomania?

 

Luckily, she had her godchild, Liza Minnelli there for her at the end.

As she had once tried to help a pregnant, helplessly out-of-control

Judy Garland try to make it through the terrors caused by

too much fame, so Liza repaid the favor in her last years.

Bravo, Liza.

 


dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.3 in / weight: 1.5 lb / volume: 432 pages


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