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.





Margoing, or the adventures of a 15 watt bulb in a 75 watt world

IEat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife - Margo Howardt’s not that long a book but there is only so much oblivious stupidity and entitlement I can stand at a time.

Back in the early 60s it took quite a while to shed an unwanted spouse so while Howard is waiting to be rid of #1 she falls into writing feature articles for the newspaper for which she receives a generous amount of money. (I told you she just can’t stop talking about it.) She writes about whatever strikes her fancy and finds an audience.

I have a problem here. I can find no sense of appreciation in Howard’s writing for finding a career that she has engaged in in one form or another for most of her life. It just feels like Howard is coasting on minimal effort, minimal skill. So far the book is a shallow pool of heedless, careless decisions and actions, and it doesn’t get any better.

In chapter 4 Howard drops names, those she knew and those she only knew by reputation, like confetti at a wedding. Among other things she dated, rather seriously, J. Anthony Lukas but he dodged the matrimonial bullet and she went out three times with Erich Segal (Love Story).

I take heart from the saying, “Every woman should have a forgettable second husband.” First sentence, chapter 5. Charming.

The first few paragraphs are filled with so much wrong. Howard decides she needs to get married again. Let me just give you a couple sentences straight from the book:

…I decided it was time to stop entertaining myself and get back to being married.

It honestly never occurred to me to continue to do what I was doing-…

I wanted a second chance, a second husband and, most of all, a functional father for my children.

So now Howard wants to find someone to entertain her and a husband will do that, and be a father to those three children she had with #1 even though she wanted to leave while pregnant with the first.

This time the selection process was decidedly more thoughtful because I knew what I was looking for- or at least what I thought was required…

The next husband had to be for the kids; a surrogate father and a “normal” partner…

Uh… how screwed up is this woman?

So she “lands on” #2, a man from her social circle who she knew casually and then got to know a lot better and eventually wished she hadn’t made the effort. He asked me out for dinner, and by then I was thinking of him as a problem solver.  He was supportive and low-key, and he wasn’t a lot of work. He. Wasn’t. A. Lot. Of. Work. Yeah, good thinking, Margo, work is to be avoided as much as and as long as possible.

She then lists all the interests they didn’t share, reading (hers), theatre (hers), politics (hers), sports (his). She assumes he will be good with her kids and never thinks that he might not be as smart as she thinks she is. I bet somewhere there was a pool on how long #2 was gonna last. He was comfortable and “old Chicago” and he gave her an enormous engagement ring that was a family heirloom.

Howard settles into the life of a wife of a successful Jewish funeral director.

Name dropping in this chapter, too. What she says about meeting Ben-Gurion makes me want to throw something, specifically her.

After some months of pleasant domesticity, the fractures in our family framework started to become visible, and sadly, I began to realize that this husband was a mistake, too.

Oh dear, seems he didn’t care for her kids, Howard didn’t care for his son, and the kids didn’t like each other. Howard spends a few paragraphs explaining how now she know all about how difficult it is to blend families, and all that she has learned over the centuries about how to introduce potential mates and children to each other and hopefully make it work.

She also tries to convince readers that she has learned wisdom and patience and all sorts of good stuff that her present words and actions belie.

Okay, so this marriage was headed for the rocks after a few months and now we are in year 3 of said marriage and Howard has stopped her writing and is now weeping. Cause, you know, trapped.  With drugs and psychiatric help Howard divests herself of her interests in Kleenex and faces up to shedding #2. It only takes her somewhat less than four years.

She tells him to be gone, he is stunned and hurt, she says she will, of course, return the family ring (money-she haz it), and he could have the family dog as a consolation prize because he really loved it. The children weren’t happy about the dog but, I said it was the least we could do because Jules was so sad and we must always do what we can to help others feel better.

She then spends a couple more paragraphs on what she learned too late. She returns to writing. So endeth #2.




Further Adventures in Margoland

Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife - Margo Howard“There was something else about my column that was unusual:  my stuff went straight to the Tribune lawyers to be vetted. Dr. David Reuben, for example, author of Everything  You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), threatened to sue me if I ever wrote about him again. All I had said was that his Q & A format read like a cross between Helen Gurley Brown and Popular Mechanics, that I found his to be a cutesy-Kinsey approach, and that his competitiveness with other authors regarding sales struck me as unseemly”-  Margo Howard, Eat, Drink and Remarry

She can dish it out but evidently can’t take it.

Finally she decided to divorce her cold, distant, alcoholic, cheating husband. There was an interlude with PIs and cameras and Howard tracking #1 down to the house of the other woman and how said PIs were impressed with her calm behavior after they left the scene of the dirty deed.

So now you might be thinking the divorce was on, right? We-ell, it yes and no, the lawyers had hammered out all the necessary agreements for children and finances and #1 begs for another chance “for the children”. Does our plucky heroine say oh hale no? Not hardly. Howard figures WTH and moves to his little large Tudor in the country for the summer, after all it wouldn’t mess with the financial agreement.  Nothing changed, except her address for a few weeks, and she returned to finalize the divorce.

At last. This woman is slooooww. Oh, she gave #1’s $15,000 camera to one of her elevator men because fuck you #1 and she didn’t need to sell it, money was no problem.

Okay, money seems to be a big problem because she keeps telling us, one way or another, how it isn’t. She has this thing about money, she can’t stop talking about it. And name dropping, yeesh. I think it is fascinating that she met so many well known or important people but the way she writes it is more like “I know all these people and you don’t”.

Howard waxes something or other as she tries to write off her first marriage as good experience for when she became an advice columnist. Somehow I just feel we haven’t come to the end of her bad decisions.

So she finally, finally is shed of #1 and is finally happy and has a “generous monthly allowance” (see what I mean about the money talk?). What’s next? A wedding of someone she grew up with and a meeting with his cousin, Gene Siskel. I regret that I’m not keeping count of the names but there has been Humphrey, Kennedy, and Stevenson. Dr. Bob Stolar, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, George Smathers, Wayne Morse, bought a house from Henry Marcus, Don Budge, Jonas Salk, Tish Baldrige was a neighbor, Arnie Morton, Hank Bradford, Gene Siskel. Notice anything? Yeah, at a quick glance so far only one woman on the “drop list”.

So she connects with Gene, they talk, and he introduces her to his editor and Howard starts writing pieces for the Sunday features section of the Tribune and now we are back to my opening paragraph.

Three more husbands to go.


[reblogged from Spare Ammo]

Further Woah

Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife - Margo Howard

“One thing I wasn’t doing when I was young was looking for quality or character,” she says. “I hope people can learn from my mistakes.”– Margo Howard

Um, yeah, trouble is Howard herself seems to have learned as little as possible.

Trying to read Margo Howard’s book but I am having issues with it.  I think that I’ve pinpointed one of my problems- she sounds so detached. It’s like she is relating a story that has no connection to herself.

I’m trying to remember that what life and marriage and divorce was like in the early 60s but even then I can’t feel anything but impatience with a woman who stays with a man for 5 yrs and 3 kids when all she does is complain about how bad her marriage is- and then how good she has it money-wise. Home and child care, good clothes, a Rolls and a Mercedes, jewelry, great addresses. But she is trapped, trapped she tells us.

So she goes to a therapist, has the third baby, tries to have an affaire, decides to work for the Adlai Stevenson campaign. But what should she do about her bad marriage?

Howard has called a number of people, including a few reviewers of her book, dim bulbs but if she isn’t the poster child for this description then she is hanging in there for the money and there is a term for that, too.


Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife - Margo Howard
So I started posting my thoughts about Howard”s book on BL and GR but in case you aren’t suffering following my progress there, here is your chance, you lucky, lucky, people.

 37 pages in and I must say it’s already quite an experience. First off, Howard covers approximately 55 yrs in 208 pages so it seems that maybe there just isn’t that much to tell. Howard starts out when she was 19, tossing in a couple sentences about having Ann all to herself until the age of 15 and that her parents gave her the example of a strong, loving marriage and all the advantages of a very well off lifestyle.Chapter 1 is prefaced with a headshot of a young Margo and she is gorgeous, too bad it’s only skin deep. As Howard starts her narrative she freely admits to having no ambition, no desire to do anything other than find a husband because that’s what girls after college, which Howard left after her first senior term.

The tone of Howard’s writing is jarring, she sounds like that 19 yr old girl. It’s unsettling. On page 1 she name drops Hubert Humphrey and Dr Bob Stolar, a dermatologist of some renown. Ann Landers knew a lot of powerful and influential people.


Talking about her internship for Humphrey (new dating pool!) Howard easily admits that not only does filing bore her she couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to do it correctly. Oh, well. She sounds a little testy about JFK never hitting on her. Page 6 and Howard name drops 4 names including JFK and Henry “Scoop” Jackson.

She talks about her suitors and marriage proposals, three proposals and one engagement before she settled on suitor number 4. She talks for one paragraph about the beginnings of the women’s movement and how it never interested her because she liked to bat her eyelashes. So do I but then I guess even at the same age I was already more complex than Howard. She comes off as completely self absorbed and rather dim.

She talks about learning later on the difference between loving and in love and we move on to chapter 2 which starts with a picture of the bride and groom, take 1. Husband #1 is thrown under the bus- he is cold, distant, ambitious, alcoholic and married. He proposed, she accepted and then this charmer tells her he needs to divorce wife #1. This does not deter Howard and I have this feeling that the dumber the decision the harder Howard is going to cling to it. Her parents and friends beg her not to do this but being the dumbest thing to do Howard keeps going.

I wore a demure Priscilla of Boston lace gown with seed pearls. The veil was anchored by a crown. (I would love a do-over on that one.) –from Eat, Drink and Remarry. My first thought? A bigger crown?

They honeymooned in Spain and Portugal, Howard remembers Beluga caviar and the really rich older man she met by the pool who was  a child of the shah and “endlessly fascinating”.

Home again and after the thank yous are written Howard discovers she is pregnant. Easy pregnancy, hard labor, beautiful, sunny baby. Howard has a baby nurse for the first three months. As the three month period we’d engaged her for neared an end, I realized I hadn’t been paying much attention to what she had done to care for Abra, and I still needed her to give me lessons in how to do this mothering thing myself. -from book

She talks of a difficult marriage, a distant husband and father and wonders if that is why she was so detached from her children when they were little and she says she regrets this and then wonders if a warmer, more loving husband would have made her a better mother. My younger two children seem to have some understanding of these early difficulties of mine and have forgiven me. The eldest, Abra, I feel has not- although it was she who had the most attention from me for the first three years of her life when she was an only child. – from book.

Am I the only one thinking somebody is angry and it’s not Abra?

She had a bad marriage and a lot of money. Sounds like a description from a 40s pot boiler.They bought the townhouse of the owner of Mogen David wines and she had her “own” saleswoman at Stanley Korshak.

Howard relates a little story of being invited to dinner at the house of someone Coleman knew through business. After dinner in the parlor Howard asked who was the woman in the portrait? The wife said, “Well, that’s me.” Honest to God the next thing out of my mouth was,”No! Who would have a portrait of themselves with their old nose?” We were, and this is no exaggeration, shown the door three minutes later and the evening was over. (But seriously, who would not get a new portrait?) – from book.

Somewhere, back a few pages Howard mentions her mother starting the Ann Landers column and moving away from “the twin thing” and how the “twin” piggy-backed on it and became Dear Abbie. The resentment oozes.

Indeed, there seems to be a lot of resentment and pouting going on and, so far, Howard comes off as having all the depth of onionskin.

37 pages, my friends, this is going to be a looong, bumpy ride.