Sophia’s Secret

GettyImages-150638370-56f7491a3df78c78418e3fd3

Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Getty Images

My name is Sophia.  I have been living with a secret since I was eight.  It’s a shameful thing and every-time I think about it, I feel sick and I wish I could curl up and just die.  No one at school knows but I keep wondering if they could tell just by looking at me.  Do I look different?  They don’t treat me like I am but I feel different.  I feel that there is something wrong with me because of what’s happening to me.  Maybe if I were ugly or fat, he wouldn’t trouble me.  Every-time we are together, he tells me how pretty I am.  I don’t want to be pretty.  I don’t want him to notice me.  I wish I were invisible.

I wish I could tell somebody but who would believe me?  He keeps telling me that this is our little secret and not to tell anyone.  He warned me that no one would believe me anyway.  So, I keep quiet.  I lie there, staring up at the ceiling and let him do things to me.  I hate it but what can I do?  He’s my uncle.  He was my favorite uncle until he started violating me.  It happens whenever we are alone in my grandparents’ house.

During the day, I try to keep busy so as not to think about it and at night, I cry myself to sleep.  Whenever I visit my friends’ homes, I envy them.  They seem so happy.  They are not orphans like my little brother, Tony and me.  Our parents died in a car crash ten years ago.  We are living with our paternal grandparents.  I love my grandfather because he reminds me of my Dad whom I loved very, very much.  My grandmother and I aren’t very close.  She complains that I’m too much like my mother whom she never accepted.  She had wanted my Dad to marry an Italian woman.  My mother was Puerto Rican.  My grandmother is more partial to Tony because he looks more Italian and a lot like my father.

I wonder what she would say if she knew what her favorite son was doing to me.  One evening, I found out.  My grandfather and Tony had gone to a Baseball game and my grandmother had gone to visit a friend.  It was after seven when she got home.  She was at the end of the corridor when she saw Uncle Matteo coming out of my bedroom.  He froze when he saw her.  Then, he recovered, smiled and said, “Hi, Mama.  Sophia was just showing me the school project she’s working on for school.  She needed my input.”

My grandmother believed him.  She smiled as he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  “Have you eaten?” she asked.  “I can fix you a nice bowl of Tuscan Soup.”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I have to go.  I have Maybe next time?”

She looked disappointed.  “Where are you off to in such a hurry?” she demanded.

“I have a date.”

“Who is she?  Do I know her?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  One of these days, I will bring her here and she can have you delicious Tuscan Soup.”

“All right.  Run along.  Whoever she is, she must be special for you to pass up my soup.”

He kissed her on the cheek again.  “Ciao, Mama.”  He turned and hurried down the hall.  “Ciao, Sophia.”

I didn’t answer.  I stood there, happy to see him go.  I wrapped my arms around me, feeling dirty.  I felt so ashamed.  I wanted to run away and go where he couldn’t hurt me anymore.  I thought of my mother’s sister, Aunt Teresa.  I’m sure she would let me live with her.  Taking a deep breath, I turned to face my grandmother.  “Nonna,  I want to go and live with my Aunt Teresa.”

She stared at me.  “Why?” she asked.  “Aren’t your grandfather and I taking good care of you?

“I’m not happy here.”

“What do you mean?” she demanded crossly.  “We feed you, put a roof over your head and we let you do what you like as long you follow the house rules.  Do you think your Aunt Teresa can do a better job raising you?”

“Nonna, I’m not leaving because Nonno and you.”

“Well, it’s up to you.  I wouldn’t stop you.”  She turned and walked away.  I could tell that she was upset and I was sorry but I had to leave.   And I did that weekend.  My grandfather dropped me off at Aunt Teresa’s house.  He was sorry that I left because he would miss having me around but I think he understood.  He knew that my relationship with my grandmother was strained.  He promised that he would visit me with Tony every other Sunday.

My Aunt Teresa was more than happy to have me.  Her daughter, my cousin Natalia had moved out and into her own place so I got her room which was much nicer than the one I had at my grandparents’ house.  I settled in very quickly.  I helped with chores as I did at my grandparents’ house and I did some of the cooking too.  I wasn’t as good as my grandmother but I was improving.

One night, I had a nightmare.   I dreamed that I was back in my grandparents’ house and Uncle Matteo was in my bed.  His mouth and hands were all over me.  I woke up, sweating and shaking like a leaf.  The next morning when my Aunt Teresa and I were alone, sorting the laundry, I told her about the abuse.  She was visibly upset.  She hugged me tightly and I began to cry.  It felt so good telling someone.  I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off me.  When she drew back to look at me, she said, “The Bible clearly says,  that no one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations.  What your uncle did to you is criminal and he should be reported.”  And she reported him.

My Aunt Teresa had a friend who was a social worker come and see me.  She told me that I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me and that I did the right thing telling someone.  That made me feel better.  I started to live again and I began to read the Bible my Aunt Teresa gave me.  I started to go to church with her and I loved it.  I met wonderful people and made new friends.

My grandmother was angry with me and doesn’t want me over at the house anymore.  It’s on account of me that her son is in jail.  My grandfather was broken up about it and he apologized to me for not being there to protect me.  He swore that if he had known, he would have reported the abuse himself.  He and my grandmother are no longer together.  Tony has moved in with Aunt Teresa and me and my grandfather is living with Uncle Alberto and his family.

It wasn’t my intention to cause any trouble for my grandparents but I had to tell someone my secret.  And now I’m a part of a Youth Program called Give Voice.  It encourages teenagers and youth to break the silence about their own abuse or to report to someone they trust when they suspect that someone they know is being abused.  It’s a support group where we feel safe talking about our experiences and there’s also a mixture of fun and other activities.

I created a pamphlet for Give Voice which we hand out at schools, colleges, universities, libraries, shopping malls, on the streets, subways, bus stations, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, hairdressing salons, barber shops and other public places.  We want to get the word out that there is help out there.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Tell someone you trust.  Put your abuser where he or she belongs:  behind bars.

When it comes to any type of abuse, silence is not golden.  Tell, cry, yell, do whatever you have to but don’t keep silent.  Abuse should never be kept a secret.

Sources:  Government of Canada; Bible Info; Bible Gateway

Janco’s Story (Part One)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209680I’m a Literature Evangelist and youth leader in my church.  I’m on fire for the Lord so I leave tracts on buses, trains, taxis, the waiting rooms of doctors, dentists, on sidewalks, streets–yes, I drop them as I walk.  Sometimes I would stand on the sidewalk and hand them out to people as they walk by.

Just recently, I left a couple of tracts in the changing rooms of a few department stores.  I’ve left tracts on the table before leaving a restaurant and in public washrooms, believe it or not.  Every opportunity I get, I make sure I leave or hand out a tract.  I take being a Literature Evangelist very seriously because eight years ago, someone left a tract on the a park bench which turned my life around.  You see, I was heading in the wrong direction.

Eight years ago I was 17 and living with my mother.  My father was a deadbeat who abandoned us when I was seven.  I haven’t seen or heard from him since he left.  My older brother, Jacquan was arrested and convicted of dealing drugs.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  My mother was an alcoholic.  She had fallen on and off the wagon since she first started drinking after my father left.  I was going to school and working at the same time. It was tough.  I had no life.  I couldn’t hang out with my friends because after school, I had to show up for my job at the grocery store close to school.   I did different things such as bagging groceries, stocking shelves and working the cash register.  I worked for six hours and by the time I got home it was almost nine-thirty.

I was tired but I had either had to do my homework, work on a paper or study for an exam.  I had to fix myself something to eat because my mother was passed out on the couch.  An empty bottle of Vodka lay on the carpet.  The room reeked of alcohol so I opened the windows to let some fresh air in.  I took up the bottle and cleaned up the room before I had something to eat.  Then, I took a quick shower, went to my room and spent two hours doing my school work.  After I was done, I went back to the living-room to check on my mother.  She was still passed out.  So, I got a blanket and spread it over her, turned out the light and went to bed.

That was my life.  I was tired of my mother being drunk and having to clean up after her.  It was like I was the parent and she was the child.  I was the one who cleaned the house on the weekend, went to pick up groceries, did the laundry and the cooking.  By the time I was done, I was too wiped out to go anywhere.  And when I did, my buddies complained because I didn’t want to do much.  If we went bowling, I would sit it out or if we went to the mall, I would find a place to chill because I was too beat to walk aimlessly about the place.  I dated a few times but whenever the girl found out that my brother was in prison they would act all weird and I wouldn’t hear from them again.  So, my social and love lives were suffering because of my dysfunctional family.  I started to get angry and resentful.  Sometimes, I found myself wishing I could just get up and leave but I couldn’t do that to my mother.  She needed me.  So, I stuck it out.

My mother was sober on the day I graduated from high-school.  She threw a party and invited family and friends over to celebrate.  Later that night, she got wasted and while she was passed out on the couch, I cleaned up the place.  After I was done, I went for a long walk, trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I wanted so badly to run away.  I was tired of dealing with my mother and her drinking problem.  I had tried many times to get her to go for help but she always promised that she would stop.

I walked and walked until I got tired of walking.  I went to the park which was nearby and found a bench under the light post and sat down.  I sat there for a while, my mind spinning.  The resentment for my mother and the bitterness toward my father filled my throat like bile.  Dark thoughts filled my mind.  I wanted to lash out at them because they had ruined my life with their selfishness and self-destructive ways.  At that moment, I wanted run away and leave my mother to drink herself to death.  Yes, I thought, why should I continue taking care of a drunk?  I was young.  I had my own life to live.  Why shouldn’t I go somewhere else and start a new life.  I decided right then and there that I would pack up and leave this wretched place.

I started to get up when my eyes fell on something beside me.  It looked like a pamphlet.  I picked it up and looked at it.  It was titled, Talking With God.  I was interested in reading it.  I knew about God but I didn’t know Him.  My parents were never religious.  I was always curious about religion but never pursued it.  I got up from the bench and went home.   I went straight to my room and lay down on my bed to read the tract.  I just ate it up and I wanted more.  I got down on my knees that night and prayed to a God I didn’t know but wanted desperately to know more about.

The next day, I showed my Christian friend, Gidea the tract and he recognized it.  “That’s one of the GLOW tracts,” he told me.  “I can get you the rest of the tracts if you want.”

My eyes brightened.  “Please get them for me.”

He smiled and promised that he would.  A few days later, before we went to our classes, he gave the tracts to me.  I put them in my knapsack, anxious to read them that night after I got home from work.  “Thanks, Man.  I really appreciate this.”

He clapped me on the back.  “No problem, Bro.”

I finished reading the tracts in a few days.  When I saw Gidea again I asked him if I could go to his church.  He was delighted and I went on Saturday.  The people from his church were so warm and welcoming.  I couldn’t wait to go back the following Saturday.  I met the pastor and his wife and I was given Bible Study guides which I devoured.  I got baptized a couple months later.   Unfortunately, my mother was too drunk to be there.

I first learned about Literature Evangelism from Amiri, another church member and I told him that I was interested in handing out literature.  And he helped to make that possible and I’m indebted to him.  When my mother was sober, I gave her the Breaking Addictions and Steps to Health tracts to read.  I invited her to come to church when the guest speaker was a former alcoholic.  She came and afterwards she spoke to the speaker who prayed for her and gave her the name of a social worker at a Drug and Alcohol Rehab center in Cape Town.  After some persuasion, I convinced my mother to check it out.  I went with her and a week later, she moved into the guest house.  I visited her every weekend and she’s doing well.  She looked so much better.  It was strange and good seeing her sober all the time.

I know she has been reading the tracts I left with her and the Bible.  I can see the changes.  I encouraged her to pray and I prayed with her.  I can see God working in her life and transforming her.  And she started going to church every week and it was the greatest moment in my life when she was baptized.

I’m still living at home.  I got rid of all the alcohol.  In my spare time, I do things around the house such as repainting the walls, polishing the furniture and making repairs.  I want my mother to come back to a nicely fixed up home.

The last time I visited her she asked me if I had visited Jacquan in prison as yet.  When I said no, she urged me to, saying, “God loves him too.”  That got me.  I needed to humble myself, swallow my pride and go see my brother.  The following Sunday morning, I went to see him.  He looked terrible and he hardly said much.  I told him about Mama.  “That’s good she got help,” he said.  A pause then, “No word from Dad yet?”

I shook my head.  “I don’t expect to hear from him again.  How are you doing?”

He shrugged.  “Surviving.  How come you’re here?”

“Mama encouraged me to visit you.  She reminded me that God loves you too.”

He looked surprised.  “God?  Don’t tell me that Mama has gone all religious.  How did that happen?”

I told him and showed him the tracts.  “I will leave these with you.  It’s up to you if you want to read them.  I hope that you do.  Do you mind if I prayed for you?”

H shrugged.  “Suit yourself.”

I prayed with him and promised that I would visit again soon.  I saw him take up the tracts before he got up and left.  I left the prison hoping and praying that he would read them.

I was standing on the sidewalk one day handing out tracts when I saw Nata, a girl who attended the same high-school I did.  She was in grade 8 when I was in grade 12.  Just recently, I found out that after she graduated, she run away from home.  Gidea told me that he saw her on the streets.  african-girl-portrait-scarf_iphone_750x1334

She saw me and smiled.  I watched as she approached me.  “Hi,” she said when she reached me.  “What’s that you’re handing out?”

“Gospel tracts.  Would you like one?”

She shrugged.  “Sure.”

I handed her the one about Connecting With God.  She took it.  I hope she reads it.  “How are you doing, Nata?” I asked.

“Surviving,” she replied.  “I hate to ask you this but could you give me some money?  Someone the money in my bag while I was sleeping.”

“When and where did this happen?”

She hesitated.  “Last night on the street.”

“Are you living on the streets?”

She nodded.  “I have been since I left home.  Things got so bad at home that I had to leave.”

“Nata, do you know how dangerous it is for a girl to be living on the streets?  So far you’ve only been robbed but something worse can happen.  You can’t stay on the streets.  Isn’t there a relative you can stay with?”

She shook her head.  “No.  My relatives have their own problems.  They wouldn’t want me around.  What about you?  Can I stay with you until I can find a job?”

“I’m sorry but that wouldn’t be possible.  I’m a Christian and it wouldn’t look good for me to have a girl I’m not married to living with me.”

“All right.  Do you have money you can lend me?  When I get a job I will pay you back.”

“I have a better idea.  There’s this house for street children.  I know the woman who runs it.  She goes to my church.  I can take you there and she will help you.  You can stay there until you decide to return home or find a place.  While there you can continue going to school.”

She considered it for a moment.  “My parents wouldn’t find out that I’m there?”

I shook my head.  “No.  Not unless you want them to.”

“All right.  I will go to this place but if I don’t like it, I’ll leave.”

“Fair enough.  I will take you there right now.”  I stuffed the tracts in my satchel bag and we headed for the bus stop.  In half-hour we were walking into the shelter.  I introduced her to Amahle, the church member I told her about and waited until everything was sorted out.  “Thanks, Amahle.  Take care, Nata.”

She stared up at me.  “You will check up on me, right?”

“I will.  And don’t worry, you will be well taken care of here.”

The anxious expression on her face faded.  “Thanks for the tract.  I promise I will read it.”

“Good.  The next time I come, I will bring more.  I’ll see you soon.”

She didn’t answer.  I could feel her eyes on me as I turned and walked away.  I knew I had done the right thing bringing her here.

Sources:  Ixande; SA News; Kindernothilfe;

Danny

img_2304-2

Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

I stood before the shed where they found my friend, Danny.

We used to hang out every day, daydreaming about how we were going to change the world.  He wanted to be a lawyer for the poor and disadvantaged while I dreamed of being a social worker.

Danny was more than a friend to me.  He was the older brother I wish I had.  I am the youngest of three girls.  My sisters didn’t have much time for me.  They were too busy with their friends and social engagements but, I didn’t mind because I had Danny.

He and I were thick as thieves.  We were inseparable.  That’s why his sudden change in behavior was a shock for me.  The sweet, easygoing guy I loved so dearly had become a stranger to me.  He had mood swings, was hyperactive and seemed to have trouble concentrating or staying on topic.  He became withdrawn and spent most of his time in this shed.  I learned later, that he was taking Crystal Meth.  It claimed his life and his dreams.

This morning, I wanted to stop by on my way to the Centre where I run a Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment Program.

199 Words.

This story was inspired by a program I watched last night on CNN about a mothers addicted to Crystal Meth.  The story that really touched me was that of a young man whose mother was taking it.  On the wall of their home hung framed photos of him as a boy and as a promising football player.  All those dreams of a bright future were dashed when he became addicted to Meth and if convicted of selling it, he faces life imprisonment.  What a waste of a young life.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Serenity Acres

Chantrea’s Crusade

photo-20180806154657691

“Thanks for doing this interview, Chantrea. It can’t be easy for you.” They were sitting by the lake just steps from the organization where the Cambodian woman worked as a social worker.

Chantrea smiled slightly. She had sad eyes and although she was in her late thirties, she looked much older which wasn’t surprising, considering the kind of life she once had. “I don’t want to do what’s easy for me,” she said. “I will do whatever is necessary to help the children.”

“What’s your story?”

“I was eleven when my father put me in an orphanage because they promised him that I would receive a good education and opportunities for the future. Instead, I was beaten, raped, starved and forced to work on the orphanage director’s rice paddies and farms without pay.

“And now you’ve dedicated your life to fighting such institutions.”

“Yes. I’m fighting to prevent the separation of vulnerable children from their families and orphanages that attract funding, volunteers and donations from well-meaning tourists.”

“What’s your biggest goal?”

“Shutting down these orphanages.”

 

175 Words

This story is inspired by true stories of children who are taken from their families and homes and placed in orphanages “where they may be exploited, even abused, malnourished, forced to work, and sometimes trafficked to other orphanages and forms of exploitation in order to repeat the cycle and elicit further funding.”

Written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  If you would like to read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Sources:  Freedom United; Cambodian Children’s Trust

Dame Angela Lansbury

I still watch Murder, She Wrote because I like the show and the character Jessica Fletcher played by the great Angela Lansbury.  My 7 year old son is also a fan of Jessica Fletcher’s.  Before taking on the role of a mystery writer in one of the longest running detective drama series in television history, Angela was a silver screen movie star.  My husband thought she was hot then.

Angela is a versatile actress, easily portraying an unlikable and cheeky maid in Gaslight opposite Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer to the music hall singer who, unfortunately and tragically, falls in love with the protagonist, Dorian Gray in the movie, The Picture of Dorian Gray to the frightening and domineering mother in The Manchurian Candidate.  Her performance as Mrs. John Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate is ranked #21 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains for villains.

Angela was born to an upper middle class family on October 16, 1925 in Regent’s Park, central London. Her mother, Moyna Macgill, was a Belfast born Irish actress and her father was the wealthy English timber merchant and politician Edgar Lansbury.  He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and former mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar.  Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader and anti-war activist George Lansbury.  Angela was in awe of him and to her, he was “a giant in my youth”.  Angela had an older half-sister, Isolde from her mother’s previous marriage.  When Angela was four, her mother gave birth to twin boys, Bruce and Edgar, prompting the Lansburys to move from their Poplar flat to a house in Mill Hill, North London.  In the weekends, they went to a rural farm in Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire.

She was nine years old when her father died from stomach cancer.  To cope with her loss, she played characters, describing the event as “the defining moment of my life.  Nothing before or since has affected me so deeply.”  Faced with financial difficulty, her mother got engaged to a Scottish colonel and moved into his house in Hampstead.  Angela attended South Hampstead High School from 1934 to 1939.  She considered herself to be largely self-educated, learning from books, theatre and cinema.  She became a “complete movie maniac”, going regularly to the cinema and imagining herself as certain characters.

Angela’s grandfather died in 1940 and with the onset of the Blitz, her mother, Moyna took her and her brothers to the United States.  Her half-sister, Isolde remained in Britain with her new husband, actor Peter Ustinov.  Angela’s mother got a job supervising sixty British children who were evacuated to North America aboard the Duchess of Athol, arriving with them in Montreal, Canada in mid-August.  From Montreal they went by train to New York City where Moyna was sponsored financially by a Wall Street businessman and moved in with his family at their home in Mahopac, New York.  Angela got a scholarship from the American Theatre Wing which allowed her to study at the Feagin School of Drama and Radio.  There she appeared in performances of William Congreve’s The Way of the World and Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan.  By the time she graduated, she and her family had moved to a flat in Morton Street, Greenwich Village.

Moyna got work in a Canadian touring production of Tonight at 8:30.  Angela joined her mother who got her first theatrical job as a nightclub act at the Samovar Club in Montreal.  She lied about her age to get the job and earned $60 a week.  She returned to New York city but her mother had moved to Hollywood to revive her cinematic career.  Angela and her brothers joined her.  After moving into a bungalow in Laurel Canyon, Angela and her mother got Christmas jobs at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles but unfortunately, Moyna got fired for incompetence.  The family had to live on Angela’s wages of $28 at week.

Angela met John van Druten at a party hosted by her mother.  He recently co-authored a script for Gaslight.  He suggested that Angela would be perfect for the role of Nancy Oliver, a conniving cockney maid and she accepted the part although at the time she was only 17.  A social worker had to accompany her on the set.  She got an agent and was signed to a seven-year contract with MGM, earning $500 a week.  She used her real name as her professional name.  The movie received mixed reviews although Angela’s role was widely praised.  It received six Academy Award nominations, one of which was for Best Supporting Actress for Angela.

Following Gaslight, Angela starred in a supporting character in National Velvet which was a major commercial hit.  Angela developed a lifelong friendship with co-star Elizabeth Taylor.  I remember that the two friends appeared together in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d with Angela in the role of the endearing Miss Marple.

Angela next starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray with Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Donna Reed and Peter Lawford.  Surprisingly, at least to me, the film was not a financial success.  However, it garnered Angela her second Best Supporting Actress nomination.  She lost to her National Velvet co-star Anne Revere.

Angela married Richard Cromwell, an artist and a decorator.  When I saw a photo of him, I recognized him as the brother of Henry Fonda’s character in the marvelous movie, Jezebel.  Angela’s marriage to Richard was a trouble one.  She would later disclose that he was gay, something she was not aware of until after their separation.  The marriage ended in less than a year and Angela filed for a divorce.  They remained friends, however, until his death.

Angela met her second husband, Peter Pullen Shaw at a party held by her former co-star Hurd Hatfield.  Hurd would later be a guest star on Murder She Wrote.  Peter was an aspiring actor also signed with MGM and had recently left a relationship with Joan Crawford.  He and Angela became a couple, living together before she proposed marriage.  They wanted to get married in Britain but the Church of England refused to marry two divorcees.  So, they wed at St. Columba’s Church which was under the jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland in Knightsbridge, London.  They had their honeymoon in France.  They returned to the United States and settled in Angela’s home in Rustic Canyon, Malibu, each becoming naturalised U.S. citizens with dual British citizenship.

Angela’s contract with MGM ended in 1952.  She was miscast, playing older and often villainous women.  Earlier in her career, MGM loaned her to United Artists for The Private Affairs of Bel Ami in 1947 and then to Paramount for Samson and Delilah (1949).  Unhappy with the roles MGM was giving her, Angela instructed her manager to terminate her contract.  At the time she was pregnant with her first child, Anthony whom she gave birth to that year.  Soon after he was born, she joined the East Coast touring productions of two former Broadway plays, Remains to be Seen and Affairs of the State.  In 1953, Angela gave birth to her daughter, Deidre Angela.  Angela’s husband, Peter had a son by a previous marriage and had legal custody of him.  He brought the boy to California to live with the family.  They moved to a larger house in Santa Monica.

In the mid-fifties Angela entered the world of Broadway theatre.  In 1957 she debuted in Hotel Paradiso, a French burlesque set in Paris, at the Henry Miller Theatre.  Although the play ran for only 15 weeks, earning her good reviews, she later stated that had she not appeared in the play, her “whole would have fizzled out”.  Next she appeared in A Taste of Honey, playing Helen, a boorish and verbally abusive absentee mother of Josephine played by Joan Plowright who was only four years younger.  Angela became friends with Joan and Laurence Olivier, Joan’s lover.  It was from Angela’s rented apartment on East 97th Street that Joan and Laurence eloped to get married.

Angela didn’t feel comfortable in the Hollywood social scene.  She chalked this up to her British roots. “In Hollywood, I always felt like a stranger in a strange land.”  In 1959, the family moved to Malibu where they settled into a house on the Pacific Coast Highway where she and Peter were able to escape the Hollywood scene and send their children to state school.

In 1962, Angela starred opposite Lawrence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, playing his manipulative mother even though she was only three years older than him.  The role earned her her third Best Supporting Actress Award nomination.  It bothered her that she didn’t win.  Angela starred in several movies in the 1960s but although her performances were well received, the kind of roles she wanted evaded her and she became dissatisfied with the minor roles she was getting, feeling that none of them allowed her to explore her potential as an actress.

I was a wife and a mother, and I was completely fulfilled. But my husband recognised the signals in me which said ‘I’ve been doing enough gardening, I’ve cooked enough good dinners, I’ve sat around the house and mooned about what more interior decoration I can get my fingers into.’ It’s a curious thing with actors and actresses, but suddenly the alarm goes off. My husband is a very sensitive person to my moods and he recognised the fact that I had to get on with something. Mame came along out of the blue just at this time. Now isn’t that a miracle? – Angela Lansbury

In 1966 Angela took on the title role of Mame Dennis in the musical Mame, the musical adapted from the novel, Auntie Mame.  The director’s first choice for the role was Rosalind Russell who played Mame in the non-musical adaptation but she declined.  Theatre critics were surprised that Angela was chosen for the role, believing that the role would go to a better known actress.  Angela was forty-one at the time and this was her first starring role.  She trained extensively for the role which involved over twenty costume changes throughout the play and ten songs and dance routines.  Auntie Mame opened on Broadway in May 1996, gaining Angela rave reviews.  She received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.  Following her success as Mame, Angela appeared in Dear World, the musical adaptation of The Madwoman of Chailott, as a 75 year old Parisian eccentric.  Angela found the experience “pretty depressing” but received positive reviews for her performance and her second Tony award.   The show, however, received critical reviews and ended after 132 performances.  After Dear World, Angela played the title role of the musical Prettybelle, based on Jean Arnold’s The Rape of Prettybelle, set in the Deep South.  It was a controversial play because it dealt with issues of racism with Angela as a wealthy alcoholic who seeks sexual encounters with black men.  It opened in Boston to poor reviews and was cancelled before it even reached Broadway.  Angela would later say that the play was a “complete and utter fiasco.”  She felt that her performance was awful.

In the early 1970s Angela turned down several cinematic roles, including the role of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which went to Louise Fletcher who won the Oscar for Best Actress.  In 1970 Angela appeared as the middle-aged English witch in the Disney film, Beadknobs and Broomsticks, her first lead in a screen musical.  1970 was a traumatic year for the Lansbury family.  Peter underwent a hip replacement, their son Anthony suffered a heroin overdose and went into a coma and the family’s home in Malibu was destroyed in a bush fire.  They bought a farmhouse constructed in the 1820s located near the village of Conna in rural County Cork.  It was there Anthony was taken to receover from his drug addiction after he quit using cocaine and heroin.  He enrolled in the Webber-Douglas School, his mother’s alma mater and became a professional actor before becoming a television director.  Angela and her husband did not return to California, instead, they divided their time between Cork and New York City.  They lived opposite the Lincoln Centre.

Angela returned to theatre in 1972, performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatrical production of Edward Albee’s All Over in London’s West End.  Although reviews of the play were mixed, her performance was widely praised.  She did a revival of Mame which was touring the United States at the time.  She returned to the West End to play Rose in the musical Gypsy.  Initially, she turned down the role because she didn’t want to be in Ethel Merman’s shadow.  Ethel had portrayed the character in the original Broadway production.  Eventually, Angela accepted the role and she received a standing ovation and rave reviews.  Not at all in anyone’s shadow, she was in demand among the London society, having dinners in her honour.  When Gypsy went to Broadway, it was a critical success, earning Angela her third Tony Award.

Eager to move on from musicals, Angela decided to tackle a production of one of William Shakespeare’s plays and landed the role of Gertrude in The National Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet.  The play received mixed reviews.  Angela later admitted that she hated the role because it was too restrained. To make matters worse, she learned that her mother had died in California. Angela had her mother’s body cremated and her ashes scattered near to her own County Cork home.

Angela appeared in Edward Albee’s Counting the Ways and Listening.  Her performance was praised.  She followed this with another revival tour of Gypsy.  She appeared in the revival of The King and I musical at Broadway’s Uris Theatre.  After seven years, she starred in her first cinematic role in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, opposite her brother-in-law Peter Ustinov and Bette Davis who became a close friend. Of Bette, she had this to say, “She is an original. There has never been anyone, before or since, who could touch her.”

In 1979 she earned her fourth Tony Award playing Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  In 1982 she played an upper middle class housewife in A Little Family Business which also starred her son, Anthony.  The movie was panned and accused of racism by the Japanese-American community.  She co-starred with friend Bette Davis in the film made for television, Little Gloria…Happy at Last.  She appeared in other television movies, one of which was BBC’s A Talent for Murder which she jumped at the chance to take in order to work with co-star Laurence Olivier.

Then in 1983, Angela was offered two television roles–one was in a sitcom and the other was in a detective series.  She was unable to do both so her agents advised her to accept the sitcom role but she decided to accept the other role.  And we are thrilled that she did!  Angela described her character Jessica Fletcher as “an American Miss Marple”.  It’s interesting that she said that because she played Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack’d.  She played the sleuth the way Agatha Christie described the her unlike Margaret Rutherford who made the role famous.  The role of Jessica Fletcher had been offered to Jean Stapleton first but she turned it down.  I must say that I am happy that she did because I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.  Angela was the perfect choice.

Angela took her role as Jessica Fletcher very seriously and had creative input over the character’s costumes, makeup and hair.  Network executives wanted to put the character in a relationship which Angela strongly rejected, believing that the character should remain a strong single female.  She changed any script which did not fit Jessica’s personality.  She saw Jessica as a role model for older female viewers and praised her “enormous, universal appeal” and admitted that, “It was an accomplishment I never expected in my entire life.”  Murder, She Wrote was described as a television landmark in the U.S. for having an older female character as the protagonist, paving the way for series like The Golden Girls, another show I enjoyed tremendously.  “I think it’s the first time a show has really been aimed at the middle aged audience,” Angela said.  It was the most popular show among senior citizens but it gradually gained a younger audience.  By 1991, a third of the viewers were under fifty.  It gained high ratings throughout most of its run.

I know why [Murder, She Wrote was a success]. There was never any blood, never any violence. And there was always a satisfying conclusion to a whodunit. The jigsaw was complete. And I loved Jessica’s everywoman character. I think that’s what made her so acceptable to an across-the-board audience – Angela Lansbury, 2014.

As the show went on Angela assumed a larger role behind the scenes with her own company, Corymore co-producing the show with Universal.  After a while, though she began to get tired of the series, especially of the long working hours and said that the 1990-1991 would be the show’s last season.  However, she changed her mind after she was appointed executive producer for the 1992-1993 season, which made it far more interesting for her.  For the seventh season, the show’s setting moved to New York where Jessica had taken a job teaching criminology at Manhattan University in an attempt to attract younger viewers.  Angela encouraged this move.  The show aired on Sunday where its ratings improved in the early 1990s.  People had gotten used to tuning in every Sunday night to see what murder mystery Jessica Fletcher would be solving so it was unfortunate when CBS executives got the bright idea to move it to Thursdays opposite NBCs new sitcom, Friends with the hope of drawing a larger audience.  Not surprisingly, Angela was angry at this move, believing that it ignored the show’s core audience.  The show’s final episode aired in May 1996 and ended with Angela voicing a “Goodbye from Jessica” message.  The role of Jessica Fletcher would prove to be the most successful and prominent of Angela’s career.  It must have been hard saying goodbye to Jessica Fletcher for Angela and the faithful viewers.  All good things must come to an end.  Sigh.

After the end of Murder, She Wrote, Angela returned to the theatre.  Fast forward to March to June 2014 when Angela reprised her 2009 Tony winning Broadway performance as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, marking her first London stage appearance in nearly 40 years.  She picked up her first Olivier award, Britain’s most prestigious prize a the age of 89 for Blithe Spirit.  It’s worth mentioning that Angela received an Academy Honorary Award for her lifetime achievement at the Governors Awards on November 16, 2013 and received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre on November 16, 2015.

I read a few interesting things about Angela.  I will just mention a few.  In the late 1940s, MGM planned to cast her as the female lead in a film entitled “Angel’s Flight” with Clark Gable but the project never came through because Mr. Gable disliked the storyline, so the studio had to squash the entire project.  She was considered for the role of Miss Caswell in All About Eve (1950), but Marilyn Monroe was cast in the role instead.  Frank Sinatra wanted Lucille Ball for the role of Mrs. Iselin, the manipulative mother in The Manchurian Candidate but Angela got the part and played it convincingly.  I don’t know if Lucille Ball would have pulled it off.  Angela is a staunch Democrat and a solid supporter of Barack Obama.  She was very close friends with Bob Hope.  She gave a speech at his memorial service on August 27, 2003.  Her nephew David Lansbury was married to actress Ally Sheedy, The Breakfast Club.

Angela was self-professed homebody who preferred spending quiet evenings inside with friends to the Hollywood night live.  She is a supporter of the United States Democratic Party and the British Labour Party.  Notes to Women celebrate this remarkable woman who is a staunch supporter of charities such as Abused Wives in Crisis which combated domestic abuse and those who worked toward rehabilitating drug users.  She supported charities dedicated to fighting against HIV/AIDs.  She was a chain smoker early in life but gave up the addiction cold turkey in the mid-1960s.  We congratulate her on her promotion to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy.  Last year she was made a Dame by the Queen at Windsor Castle.  This honour couldn’t have happened to a more deserving lady.  Dame Angela, we applaud you for the work you have done in movies and in theatre and most importantly, your charitable deeds.

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have missed because I was so busy entertaining that audience and so busy pursuing a career.
I just went along for the ride. It was a God-given gift. It is. So you can’t say well, you wasted your life because you spent all of it acting, but I think gosh, I’ve never been to China, I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve never been to Yellowstone Park.
I had no idea that such a thing could happen. It never occurred to me.My son told me. He called me and said, “Darling, I just wanted you to know that you have been chosen to receive an honorary Academy Award.” I was in the back of this car, and I said, “Oh,” and burst into tears, of course, because it was so unexpected and quite wonderful. I thought it’s been worth hanging around all these years.
I honestly consider that the greatest gift to me, is the reaction that I get from my work. That is a given which I never, ever take for granted. But to be given that by audiences, individuals, on the street, in the theater, is an extraordinary feeling.
My mother was one of the most beautiful women, I have to say, of her generation. She was absolutely lovely. She was a very, extremely sensitive, Irish actress. She came from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and she came to London, and she was sort of discovered by several people.
~Angela Lansbury~

Sources: azquotes; Wikipedia; IMDB; Hollywood Reporter; Deadline Presents

 

Shriya Shah-Klorfine

She had a dream and she pursued it.  Shriya Shah-Klorfine was the 32 year old Toronto woman who was among three (some reports say four) people who died on their descent from Mount Everest late Saturday night.  Born in Kathmandu, Nepal and raised in Mumbai, India, Shriya, the entrepreneur, political activist, social worker saw herself as a primarily as a daring person.  She was adventurous so jumping at the opportunity to work on cruise ships so she could travel around the world was expected.  It was while she was abroad the cruise ship that she met her future husband, Bruce Klorfine.  The couple married in Mumbai and then moved to Toronto to start a new life.

On her facebook page, Shriya announced that she was finally going to realize her dream.

I am pleased to announce that I will be the first South Asian woman from Canada to make the attempt to raise the Canadian flag at the top of the world’s highest mountain -Mount Everest. My ambition is to become Canada’s 4th Canadian woman to make the climb and encouraging the youth and helping SickKids Foundation.

“This is my dream and passion, and want to do something for my country. I tell this all the time….Nothing is impossible in this world, even the word ‘impossible’ says ‘I M POSSIBLE’!

Shriya died after after living her dream to scale the world’s highest peak.  “My wife was someone who lived life to its fullest, with irrepressible energy and vitality,” her husband Bruce Klorfine said in a statement emailed to The Canadian Press.

I read on a blog that climbers were heading to the summit as late as 2:30pm when it is advised that they should not to try for the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at South Col is nicknamed the “death zone” because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.  Four of the main dangers they can face are frostbite, hypothermia, snow blindness, and acute mountain sickness (AMS). According to the blogger, hypothermia and snow blindness are not that common on Everest but frostbite and AMS are.  Read more.

This is  a sad story but inspiring at the same time.  Shriya had a goal, a dream and she went for it head-on.  She must have heard about the dangers of the climb to Mount Everest but that did not discourage or deter her.  It was something she had to do.  It was in her blood.  It was who she was–a woman who believe that nothing was impossible.  Notes to Women mourn the loss of this woman of courage and tenacity.  Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband, Bruce and the rest of her family.

“Climb every mountain in your life. You will reach the top. Best Wishes To You. Best wishes to you in whatever you do. God Bless and Keep Smiling.”

Shriya Shah-Klorfine

Source:  http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/21/canadian-climber-shriya-shah-among-three-dead-in-mount-everest-death-zone/