Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Tale from the Hollywood Canteen

At 22, Gene Tierney was living a fairy tale. She was a beautiful rising starlet in Hollywood, married to designer Oleg Cassini and pregnant with their child. As the country was thrust in to World War II, Tierney, like many of her colleagues, threw herself into volunteer work at the Hollywood Canteen, a hospitality club for U.S. soldiers. Sadly, while working at the cantina, Tierney contracted German measles; her child was born severely disabled.

Many years, later, Tierney was at a Hollywood tennis party. A fawning guest approached her. Excitedly, the woman told Tierney that they had met before. During the war, she had been stationed at a Marine Corps camp. The camp had been quarantined because of a measles epidemic, but she sneaked out one night to go to the Hollywood Canteen just to see her favorite movie star—Gene Tierney. She had kissed Tierney on the cheek, the gushing fan remembered.

Soon after this chance encounter, Tierney lapsed into a severe depression and attempted suicide. Eventually, she was briefly committed to a mental institution. While she recovered enough to continue her career, Tierney was never quite the same after that fateful meeting at the tennis party. She later retired to Houston, Texas, where she died of emphysema in 1991.

---From David Wallace, LOST HOLLYWOOD (2001)


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