Monday, November 21, 2011

I was reading the Globe and came across an article about actor James Garner and a new book on his life called The Garner Files: A Memoir.

The article mainly focuses on Garner's use of pot (seriously, an actor who is a pothead, is there anything more cliche?) but more interesting to me was a short paragraph about his abusive stepmother who left him damaged and with a "hair-trigger temper." Garner's mother died when he was four and his father, Weldon, remarried a woman named Wilma, who was nicknamed "Red."

"That's when his real troubles began.

"Red was a nasty b**h, Garner writes. "She enjoyed beating the bejesus out of us.

"On top of the beatings, Red liked to put me in a dress and make everyone call me 'Louise.' Whenever I did anything wrong, I'd have to go put that dress on. I became introverted, and it took a long time before I came out of my shell."

Garner finally exploded, flattened Red with a punch and started choking her. His father kicked his wife out, but not before the damage was done.

The actor admits he now has a hair-trigger temper...

I'm surprised that "being the card-carrying liberal" that Garner says he is, that he related this story as it is hardly PC, but it sounds like turning the tables on his stepmother was the only way out of her clutches and at least the father put her out of the house. Maybe that was his turning point.

I wonder if you could get away with "punching a woman" and starting to choke her in today's PC climate? More than likely, a boy being abused today would be hauled to juvenile court if he hurt a woman and might even be told that wearing girl's clothes was good for him and step-mom was just teaching him to be more empathetic towards girls. The dad might be warned that if he "put the woman out of the house," he would be sorry. Or maybe not.

What do you think?


Blogger Oliver Crangle said...

I think for a card carrying liberal, he was was culture's poster for masculinity for quite some time.

And I think's a god.

(I grew up to Maverick, and Rockford, although not in that order.)

3:06 PM, November 21, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

I wonder if you could get away with "punching a woman" and starting to choke her in today's PC climate?

Only if you were a member of OWS.

5:30 PM, November 21, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

"...(seriously, an actor who is a pothead, is there anything more cliche?)..."

An actor who's a coke fiend.

7:02 PM, November 21, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

It is weird that his father tolerated the behavior until Gardner took matters into his own hands.

My father and a classmate were put into the school room closet every day for over a year. They would be in there for over two hours. My father kept wearing out the knees of his pants as he was forced to sit on his knees. His mom thought it was from his playing marbles, so she sewed bbs into his patches to stop him! He was too afraid to tell her what was really happening.

But the other boy told his father. And that father went to see the teacher the next day and said he needed to see the woman's husband that evening at the school after work. The abusive school teacher's husband was beaten by the other boy's father and the abuse stopped.

It is interesting to me that the father would not hit the woman who did the abuse, but he was quite comfortable beating up her husband! This would have been in the early 1930s in rural Louisiana.

I think Garner was a rough contemporary. And I seem to recall a story that Cary Grant was dressed as a girl until he was three or four. But that may be one of those gross rewrites of history.


8:01 PM, November 21, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I always liked Garner as an actor. He had good range too.

The one thing you left out is that in today's world who may well have been medicated for much of his youth for his actions.

Trey - I like your story. I doubt any teacher dared try to abuse my father. His mother, 100% German, although born in the U.S., was one tough lady. She once punched a man and knocked him over a chair because he had pushed my father down chasing him out of his yard.

My father wasn't spoiled though. His mother was quite strict, but fair. Plus, growing up in the Depression, things were pretty tight some times.

8:50 PM, November 21, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

@Trey: Ernest Hemingway was dressed as a girl until he was 3 or 4. That was not uncommon for the time.

At his first wedding (to Hadley), he kissed his father and shook hands with his mother. His mother was a total bitch. His father was sensitive and introverted. After his father took his life with a pistol, his mother made a gift of the gun to Ernest.

Family values.

9:39 PM, November 21, 2011  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

All I know is this. My cousin Butch is a former Marine. But he didn't marry well.

One night, he came home and his wife attacked him. He had too much honor to defend himself against her. She broke his nose, bloodied his face, and their daughter called the police.

When the police arrived, they arrested him for spousal abuse.

That was in Houston, Texas, circa late 1970s. Does anyone really think things are different today?

4:50 AM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Things are different today. Somebody turned me on recently to the Tampa Bay mug shot site:

Click on the mug shots of the women and notice how many of them are charged with domestic abuse. In Florida at least, the women are being arrested long enough to have their picture taken by the booking facility.

6:36 AM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Zorro, that was news to me. Thanks for the info pal.

And about the mom giving the suicide weapon to Ernest, wow, that is fracked up big time. Mind boggling.


9:34 AM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

my father re-married after my mother died, and i came back from a year in england to a new mother.....she used to hide food from my brother and i so that she could feed hers.

i threw her across the kitchen one night when she tried to take the phone out of my hand while i was speaking to my girlfriend.

my dad was a drunk so whatever she said got lost in his head and so their relationship rolled on a few years longer while i moved out.

9:56 AM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Rats Dr. Sorry you went through that pal. But I am glad you got it sorted out. Have a great Thanksgiving!


10:56 AM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

@Trey: I tend to binge on authors. When I was in my mid-30s I spent 2-1/2 years reading only books by or about Ernest Heminway. (I also spent three glorious years reading nothing other than P.G. Wodehouse.) One of the 37 biographies I read was The Young Hemingway by Michael S. Reynolds. Even more than the Carlos Baker A Life Story, which is the granddaddy of all Hemingway bios, the Reynolds goes deeply into his childhood.

His mother was a serious head case. A bad father will be recognized by a son for his badness. A bad mother will normally be loved by the son she destroys.

It's been decades since I read all that material, but I seem to recall she mailed the suicide gun his dad used along with a letter stating something like, "It's important for you to have this." From that day forward, Hemingway always referred to his mother as "that bitch" in correspondence and conversation. Everyone knew that he meant his mother when he said "I got a call from that bitch."

"Ze Muzzer. Alvays look to ze muzzer." Robert B. Parker deliberately misquoting Sigmund Freud.

12:11 PM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

ZorroPrimo -

I am deeply bucked to find that you are also a Wodehouse aficionado; indeed, it is a Wodehouse story from which I take my nom de plume here.

12:35 PM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

@Ern: Much as I pride myself to the point that my waistcoat swells like the mainsail of a racing yacht on my expansive knowledge of All Things Plum, I am at a loss to place the character of Ern.

Lord Emsworth I have known ab ovo.

Gussie Fink-Nottle, same report.

I have to claim, as Christopher Hitchens once did (probably twice, but he can't remember it) that Wodehouse is the greatest writer ever. His stories had the philosophical depth of a tea saucer, and he wrote them with more genius than that chap Shakespeare ever could. Funniest bloke that ever bit a tiger.

Joe Keenan, one of the greatest writers of the TV show Frasier is also a Wodehouse fan. His three novels show it. The farces he wrote for Frasier show it.

P.G. Wodehouse just may be funnier than Groucho Marx or Mel Brooks.

Interesting bit of trivia about Wodehouse (since I have a trivial mind and I've already dished on Hemingway): Wodehouse met his mother when he was seven years old.

He met his mother when he was seven.

I'll spare you the details.

12:51 PM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger vanderleun said...

"I wonder if you could get away with "punching a woman" and starting to choke her in today's PC climate?"

Getting away with it don't come into it at the start. Might be a jury question later, might not. But at the time a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

And Maverick could suss out a woman:

Maverick: "After you is ugly Annie Bransford. When she was born, she came out backwards and no one noticed. Hell, when she was little, her parents had to tie a pork chop around her neck so the dog would play with her. When she's making love, she has to pretend SHE'S someone else! "

8:40 PM, November 22, 2011  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

@GawainsGhost: too much honor? He had too much honor to defend himself? Would you say that of a woman who defended herself against assault? Against rape? Your cousin had too much self-hate to defend himself. The difference between a victim of abuse and a victim of a crime is that the victim of abuse lets the abuse define him/her while the victim of a crime does not allow that crime to define him/her (in other words, the victim of abuse is mentally ill while the victims of abuse is not (at least not in a way that allows him/her to accept being abused)).

Personally, I would treat a woman who assaulted me in the same way that I would treat a man who assaulted me: I would hit her back as hard as I possibly could until she stopped assaulting me - consequences be-damned. I have a total-home video surveillance system in my home to protect myself from intruders and crazy women (courtesy of I may go to jail (until my lawyer presents the evidence that I'm innocent, after which I would sue the woman and police for whatever I could get away with), but I, unlike your cousin and so many other sexist men who believe that women are better than men (what other reason could a man possibly have - aside from mental illness - for believing that men should not hit women in self-defense), will not be a victim of abuse.

12:44 AM, November 23, 2011  
Blogger M said...

Dr. Ali says:

i threw her across the kitchen one night when she tried to take the phone out of my hand while i was speaking to my girlfriend.

So you and others on this blog are okay with bragging about physical abuse?

5:41 AM, November 23, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

Much as I pride myself to the point that my waistcoat swells like the mainsail of a racing yacht on my expansive knowledge of All Things Plum, I am at a loss to place the character of Ern.

That estimable character Ern appears in the story "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend", found in the collection Blandings Castle. Noted author and literary grouch Evelyn Waugh, of all people, called it "a perfect story".

8:05 AM, November 23, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

@Ern: I much enjoyed that story in the Penguin collection Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best. I think "The Go-Getter" and "The Crime Wave at Blandings" were better stories, but neither captured the sentimentality of Girlfriend. It's been years since I read Girlfriend, but I do recall Emsworth was much troubled by Constance's insistence he wear his top hat, and Gladys's concern for her younger brother (Ern), who was "a rather hard-boiled specimen with freckles."

Wow. How it all comes back to me (especially with the book in hand).

9:49 AM, November 23, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

in response to the mysterious "m", who hides behind anonymity, i take no pride in throwing a 100 pound woman across a kitchen, but do pride myself on self-assertion in confrontational situations...whether the attacker is male of female.

she made the gross error in judgement, not me. she merely flew away from me in the course of my action to retrieve the phone and continue my conversation. afterwards she had the common sense to stay out of my way.

this is the same woman who, after she split from my father, sold all of his possessions, many of which were things from my childhood.

special woman that.

6:42 PM, November 27, 2011  

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