Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day

Peter Lawford
Saturday morning I fell in love. I was watching the Esther Williams' flick On An Island With You, and her leading man was a tall, tan wonderful navy pilot. His soft voice, his big puppy eyes, his thick eyebrows, and his gleaming white smile made my heart melt. And I was completely transfixed by the 1948 version of Peter Lawford. (Don't we look cute together?)

British-born, Peter's parents were un-wed when he was conceived. This caused a scandal that drove the family to the United States, where they travelled constantly. Because of his family's travels, Peter was never formally educated, and his lack of education was a sore subject. It contributed to his feelings of inadequacy later on as a member of the Kennedy family (his brother-in-law was JFK), and throughout his adult life.

Injuring his arm in a childhood accident kept Peter from entering World War II, the greatest thing that could happen to his acting career. Hollywood was infatuated with heroic Englishmen and as war movies were being churned out by the dozens. Peter Lawford was just what America was looking for.

Once he signed with MGM, his mother insisted that studio head Louis B. Mayer pay her a salary as Peter's personal assistant. Mayer declined, so Mrs. Lawford responded by claiming her son to be homosexual and that he needed to be "supervised". When Peter learned of his mother's actions their relationship was never the same.

Perhaps to prove to everyone his sexuality, Lawford had a reputation as a ladies' man, even as he was married to Patricia Kennedy. He allegedly had many affairs with famous women, including Ava Gardner, June Allyson, Lana Turner, Janet Leigh, Rita Hayworth, Dorothy Dandridge, Lucille Ball, Judy Holliday, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Jackie O, Nancy Reagan, and Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few.

These affairs made Peter more of a celebrity than a movie star, especially when he was made member of the "Rat Pack." Later in life, Lawford fell into drug and alcohol abuse. This plus strained relationships and financial difficulties caused a great deal of stress on his increasingly fragile health. Lawford died alone in a hospital in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve 1984 of liver and kidney disease culminating in cardiac arrest at the age of 61.

Interestingly enough, none of the Rat Pack members attended the funeral. This is possibly due to a falling-out between Frank Sinatra and Lawford over Peter's involvement with Ava Gardner.

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