I Want to Know Who Your Heroines Are
“Everyone thought I was bold and fearless and even arrogant, but inside I was always quaking.” — Katharine Hepburn
The first time I saw Katharine Hepburn, and knew who she was, was when I saw an interview with her on tv. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember how amazing she was. She was witty. She was remarkably self-possessed. She had such confidence and grace. It was uncanny. I was impressed.
Of course, I made sure to watch all of her movies. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. I was raised on a steady diet of Abbott and Costello, Casablanca, National Velvet, and anything with singing and dancing. To this day, I cannot see a lamppost without swinging around it like Gene Kelly. At least I don’t have a horribly high fever while doing it.
Anyway, Hepburn left an impression. I admired her greatly. I still do. Because she did exactly what she wanted with her life, despite the difficulties inherent to her time. Plus, she unabashedly wore pants and mouthed off to Barbara Walters, who annoys me. Asking her what kind of a TREE she is? Really? *rolls eyes* So, it’s a win-win.
Hepburn, of course, had a fairly tumultuous personal life. It wasn’t quite to the level of the divine Ms. Taylor, but it wasn’t without difficulty. For one thing, Spencer Tracey (the love of her life) was married and Catholic, which ruled out divorce. He was also, by most accounts, a bit of a drunk. Not exactly the kind of person you hope your daughter will love, but love is a strange, unpredictable, and completely unruly creature. She stayed with him until the end of his life and did not attend his funeral out of respect for his wife and children.
Think about that. The man she loved and cared for had just died, but she had enough strength of will and respect for her dead lover to abstain from his funeral. I can’t imagine standing in her shoes and making that choice. Now, you can argue that the whole arrangement was silly, that she was basically living with a married man, but facts are the sun-blanched bones of things. They are not the whole, living picture.
I know a decent amount about Katharine Hepburn. Audrey, too. And even Elizabeth Taylor. I adore Ava Gardner and would’ve loved to have sat down with these women for a drink. These actresses weren’t just actresses. They were icons. They had style and grace. No one, to my knowledge, has a wardrobe malfunction or blacked out in a trashcan.
Cut to today. What passes for celebrity? Paris Hilton, whose acting talents are those of a shiny, wooden dummy? Or Kim Kardashian, who does what, exactly? Look pretty? Let’s not forget Lindsay Lohan, who once upon a time was amusing (I loved Mean Girls and The Parent Trap).
It’s a shame, really, that the media is saturated with people like that – people who might be nice, or whatever, but who seem to lack a certain level of substance. I grew up with the best of both worlds, really. I watched old musicals and movies. I was completely obsessed with My Fair Lady, although as a kid, I couldn’t quite figure out why Rex Harrison talk-sang.
Thankfully, I read a lot, too. I knew every librarian by name, and she (almost always a she) knew me by name, too. These days, I look at the news and realize that I still want to be a Hepburn, either Katharine or Audrey. Just throw in a little of Dorothy Parker and Mae West while you’re at it.
What famous women influenced you as a child? Who does now? (Sorry that this is girl-centric, today.)
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” — Audrey Hepburn
“I think the main reason my marriages failed is that I always loved too well but never wisely.” — Ava Gardner
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
— Elizabeth Taylor
“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”
— Mae West
“Now I know the things I know, and I do the things I do; and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you!”
— Dorothy Parker