Today Kay Thompson is mainly remembered as the author of the Eloise books,
but she was also an actress, singer, music arranger, vocal coach and theatrical
jack-of-all-trades in New York and Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s.
How could she possibly have accomplished as much as she did, being a woman
in a notoriously male-dominated era where ladies didn't even wear slacks?
(And she most certainly did.)
Well, never having anything approaching a normal life -- no children, except
her beloved Eloise -- and regular "vitamin" shots from the legendary
Dr. Feelgood helped, but they also destroyed her once-gracious personality
and left her paranoid and mean-spirited.
They turned her from being a kind mother-figure to a young girl hired to play
her book's character in a TV play, to loathing the poor girl for becoming
identified with the character. She, Kay, was Eloise -- and no one else!
Her one big film hit, the musical Funny Face, was achieved at the expense of
constantly irritating and upstaging a fifty-seven year old Fred Astaire. When critics
wrote that she stole the show as a wild fashion stylist she was delighted, but Fred
would act at parties from then on as if they'd never met. (I'm a great Astaire fan
and tend to think he was an excellent judge of character.)
Her love affair with Andy Williams when he was barely out of his teens and she was
nearing forty? Pathetic. She would see him grow up and marry a lovely young French dancer.
Could there be any more painful way to admit your time on top is over and all of
Dr. Feelgood's shots can't restore the foundation of your megalomania?
Luckily, she had her godchild, Liza Minnelli there for her at the end.
As she had once tried to help a pregnant, helplessly out-of-control Judy Garland try
to make it through the terrors caused by too much fame, so Liza repaid the favor in her last years.