Margo and Ken- not like Bogey and Bacall

Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife - Margo HowardDidn’t this woman ever look around and notice other people making mistakes? Did no one in her circle ever unload a sad tale of their cousin’s brother-in-law’s former wife’s social secretary’s bad choice of third husband over a hot cup of tea? Did Margo have any friends? Did she never talk to her mother, you know, the advice columnist? Did she ever read her mother’s column?

It’s like she had blinkers on or made a very conscious effort to ignore every one else’s mistakes so she could make them all herself. After a couple disastrous mistakes in the matrimonial arena you would think that Howard would stop congratulating herself on lessons learned and start trying to figure out how to learn from other people missteps. You would think, you would, Howard however continues on her merry, merry way.

It’s 1976 and chapter 6 starts with a picture of Ken Howard, he really was quite handsome and together they must have made a visually stunning couple.

Eldest daughter is at a boarding school courtesy of her trashing a room in her father’s hotel with a group of her friends during her graduation party. Father ships her off in the tradition of his family with no protest from Howard because it was a tradition of his family and eldest daughter was “a handful”.  Cynical me thinks Howard wouldn’t protest anything for which #1 foots the bill and she was also relieved of having to make any effort to curb Abra’s behavior.

While not divorced, Howard was enjoying the dating scene yet again and writing celebrity profiles. She agreed to interview Ken Howard and went with her current date to see him in Equus. The next day she interviews him and they talk for 4 hrs over lunch, then 2 hrs over coffee, then 2 hrs over egg salad at her place after the theatre. Very soon he moves in. Finally Howard begins to sound more connected to her past, finally I can feel her connection to this man.

Howard finally gets several things right here- clearly there is love and chemistry between them, she writes that she believes this was perhaps the first time she had been in love and it feels like it (finally) in her words. This relationship seemed to have it all and Ken and her kids got on well together, something Howard wanted with #2. They marry one afternoon in March and party the night away with family and friends. The one weird note was her mention of her father, Happily, my mother was thrilled. I suspect my father might have been, too, except that he was in London, remarried to a woman six years my junior, and we were estranged.

There was no previous mention of her parents divorce (that I can find) so dropping this in just seems like Howard being petty again like when she wrote about her aunt and cousin.

They spend a few more months in Chicago and then Ken tells his agent to look for work on the West Coast and schools for the two younger kids. After shooting a movie down south, they return to Chicago and prepare to move and #1 decides to put all three children into boarding schools.  Howard doesn’t object because, I knew Coleman was trying to stick it to me, but I still felt overpowered by him and unable to fight back. On a semi-unconscious, lower frequency was the realization that being in a new marriage in a new town would be easier if I did not have the day-to-day obligations to the children. Yeah, how very comforting for them, Mom gets a new man and they get to stay on the east coast.

I do not want to forget to say that in this chapter show biz names are dropped like pigeon poop.

They move to Hollywood and Ken goes about creating the show, The White Shadow, with help from his friends, her friends and an assist from the son of a friend of Howard’s parents. I fondly remember Ken in this show. Shadow‘s success gave Ken a wide range of work and because they sometimes were on location Howard only wrote freelance for various magazines.

The first Christmas together the kids spent with them and stayed even when they were supposed to split the holiday between parents because they didn’t want to see their father. A few months later #1 sues for sole custody, considering Howard informs us that he considered her marriage “tacky”, the kids loved Ken, his nasty temperament, and their refusal to spend part of their holidays with him, I’m surprised it took him a few months to get around to this. She then describes a suit of such incredibly idiotic and screwed up proportions that it could only happen in real life, fiction would never support such mishigas.

Howard writes her first book, Eppie:  The Story of Ann Landers, and does not neglect to jab at her aunt again. The book made Landers very happy even if she and Howard disagreed about the treatment of Pauline.

More name dropping.

Just before or after the 10 yr mark the marriage begins to fracture. She thinks he drinks too much, he doesn’t. Haven’t we heard this before? He drank and became an angry man, her stomach troubles resurfaced. They moved back east and Ken returned to Harvard and their repertory company.

The marriage limps on, together, apart, apart, together. I rather liked Howard during this marriage, it seemed to make her less brittle, less shallow, but now as she starts to write about the inevitable end she becomes the woman she was and we’re back to a passionless recitation of events. I was aware, certainly, that this formerly marvelous union was on life support, but it took me more than three years to finally make up my mind to call it a day. This indecision (unusual for me)… WHAT? Good goddess, this from a woman who dithered about for two previous marriages. I haven’t forgotten that but either Howard has or she is trying  for sympathy because this marriage which should have lasted forever didn’t. She read some AA literature and a self-help book, Codependent No More, and decides to divorce.

Howard decides to live in Cambridge, a good decision because it is certainly a beautiful area. The kids have grown up and are living in the US and Europe. Look, I know this is about her marriages but, really, these poor kids seem to be such afterthoughts in this book.

After a years separation they divorce amicably. After Ken’s remarriage and a few years later Howard is rebuffed when she tries to go backstage to see him. She blames it on his wife, I think he just decided to leave the past in the past.

Goodbye, Ken, you had a good run.