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Episode 72

Women of Wealth & Women of Value featuring Marlene Wagman-Gellar

Episode  72
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We are joined by bestselling author Marlene Wagman-Gellar whose specialty is sharing the real-life stories of famous, infamous, notorious and celebrated women. Marlene’s books include Women of Means, Women Who Launch and Still I Rise and she’s with us to share stories about Maya Angelou, Gloria Vanderbilt, Patty Hearst, Sunny Von Bulow, Hattie McDaniel, Mrs. Gandhi, Mrs. Einstein and so many more! Plus Fritz and Weezy are recommending King Richard on HBO and Belfast in Theaters.

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Louise Palanker (00:00:05):

Welcome to Media Path. I am Louise Palanker.

Fritz Coleman  (00:00:07):

And I'm Fritz Coleman.

Louise Palanker (00:00:08):

If you struggle with a tendency to perhaps strain your brain with an over consumption of streaming media, we suggest you break the desperate cycle. Stop watching streaming media and listen to a podcast about streaming media. Press your mind. Relax from the strenuous effort of tracking storylines, relieve the stress of trying to remember which character in the show is Claire. There's always a Claire. And enjoy an hour of celebrating your obsessions. Plus today our guest is bestselling author Marlene Wagman Geller, whose specialty is sharing the real life stories of famous, infamous, notorious, and celebrated women. But first, Fritz, what have you been enjoying this week?

Fritz Coleman  (00:00:48):

I have a great movie to talk about. This is Belfast. It's playing in theaters, uh, I saw at the Laley in North Hollywood. And part of the beauty of this movie is it's timing. We're in a darkened, confusing moment on the planet, and it's exactly what we need to bolster our faith in humanity. It's written directed by Kenneth Brano, amazing actor, writer, producer. Most recently, he was part of the reboot of murder on the Oregon Express, which was really fun. This is the story of love and loss, family and friends in Belfast in the 1960s. This was a time when neighborhoods in Northern Ireland were being blown apart by what they called the troubles, the never ending battle between the Protestants and the Catholics. The story is the point of view of Buddy a young boy, 10 or 11 years old, played by Jude Hill, who will break your heart.


You just want this child in your family. <laugh>, we watch Buddy's world wrench from peaceful to war, torn. We see him ache for his father who has to leave town for periods of time to make a living. We see him develop a strong bond with his wise and amusing grandfather. We see him fall in love with an idealized young girl in his class. There's kind of a Romeo and Juliet aspect of this young love story. Let's just say, uh, the kids, the boy and the girl, are culturally different. I'll leave it at that. Now, the jeopardy in the story comes from the fact that the family may finally have to move away, move to England so that dad can have gainful employment, steady employment, and so that they can all escape the troubles. It's an awful decision because no one in the family has ever been outta Northern Ireland. Judy Dench plays the grandmother who is a silent strength and a prophet for the family. This film is just a salute to the mystical strength of family love. You feel good when you leave the theater. And I have to tell you, part of what puts you in a wonderful mood is that the entire soundtrack is cuts from the greatest albums of Van Morrison, one of the famous residents of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It's a beautiful, beautiful movie. I highly

Louise Palanker (00:02:58):

Recommend it. Do you have any idea when that's coming to streaming media?

Fritz Coleman  (00:03:01):

That's a good question. I don't know. You know, they're in this thing now where they're trying to figure out what's a good balance, right? They, they want the theatrical experience for people, but they don't wanna lose money because people are still tentative about going out. So, I don't know. I I I, it isn't in any of the literature online, so I don't know.

Louise Palanker (00:03:18):

I think it'll be soon enough. I'll wait. I'll look forward to seeing. That sounds amazing. Good. So I watched a film too that I think opened in theaters, but I think it opened on H B O Max at the same time, perhaps. And it's, uh, king Richard,

Fritz Coleman  (00:03:30):

You thought about this. I I can't wait to hear about that. The, the, the trailer looks great, cuz these young women grew up in South Los Angeles.

Louise Palanker (00:03:35):

Yeah, I thought it would be a good pick today for Marlene because she celebrates women armed with a basket full of balls, motivational slogans, and fixed determination. Richard Williams launched his daughter's Venus and Serena from the concrete courts of Compton into the tennis stratosphere. Despite, or maybe even because of his lack of tennis experience, either playing or coaching, Richard dominates every aspect of the girls' training and trajectory before they are ever born. He creates what he calls his plan and no expert or advisor will steer him from it. The film is engrossing and it has the feel of both mythology and vindication because as unlikely as it may have seen back in 1995, we all know how the story turned out. There's no question that Richard Williams nurtured and guided two young athletes to success, fame, and riches. But as the title indicates, he's a king, not a saint.


While vowing to never leave his children the way his dad left him, Serena and Venus have up to 19 half siblings that the king is not much talking about. The film may not be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But it's chockful of grit and inspiration. Yes, Venus and Serena broke down barriers, but there is no mention here of Althea Gibson or Arthur Ash, which are historically important nods. Richard Williams is played by Will Smith. Venus and Serena are portrayed by Sinnia Sidney and Demi Singleton. Ajak Ellis plays the girl's mom. Brandy, you'll find King Richard on H b o Max.

Fritz Coleman  (00:05:04):

I, I'm always, uh, cautious about sports movies because what you become preoccupied with is the sports skill of the actor playing the part. So how do these two young women do?

Louise Palanker (00:05:14):

I if they, if those girls were actually playing tennis, then they're very good at both acting in tennis. I mean, cuz Venus and Serena, what you think about when you think of them is just power. Yeah. So you've gotta be able to duplicate that sense of strength and domination of the court. And maybe they had doubles and they did something with C G I, I just don't know. But the girls are fantastic.

Fritz Coleman  (00:05:37):

Yeah, it's a great story. I remember when they were just coming into their full blossom and we would do news stories and go down to that south central tennis court where they learned how to play. And that's the hood. It's really, you know, that's one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Louise Palanker (00:05:52):

Oh, he'd get beat up all the time. Yeah. Because there'd be some guys, some guys trying to hit on one of his, of his older daughters and he's like, get away. And they just kick the crap out of

Fritz Coleman  (00:06:00):

Him. Yeah. And mathematically, what are the chances of two siblings being so phenomenally gifted in the same sport? That's crazy. Well,

Louise Palanker (00:06:10):

They didn't really have a choice because if he writes this plan before they're born, it's not like you can say to a three-year-old, would you rather be a lawyer if she's not given a choice? Yeah, she's told this is what you're going to do.

Fritz Coleman  (00:06:21):

But physically and emotionally, that's part of it too. Whether the father makes up his mind to have that happen or not, they still have to be prepared for being at the top of the game in this competitive area

Louise Palanker (00:06:32):

Of tennis. And he prepared them in every way, not just in terms of tennis and their ability in, in the game, but also in terms of their belief in themselves and their ability to handle the pressure that they would encounter as they walk through the world as important individuals, which they are.

Fritz Coleman  (00:06:49):

Yeah. Awesome. Well that's a good one. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:06:52):

Okay. It's time to introduce our guests. Are you super excited?

Fritz Coleman  (00:06:54):

I am excited. This woman has written about some really interesting people. Yeah.

Louise Palanker (00:06:59):

She's extraordinary. So, Marlene Wagman-Gellar is a writer of bestselling books which celebrate the lives of intriguing women. The books include Women of Means unabashed women, great Second acts, still I Rise, women Who Launch and the List goes on. Marlene is a teacher from Toronto who now lives writes and teaches English in National City California. Marlene had been submitting manuscripts to publishers for years with no success until in 2008 when she read the dedication in Peyton Place, which reads to George for all of the reasons he knows so well and she became intrigued. Marlene, welcome. And can you take the story from there?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:07:38):

Sure. It's sometimes things just happen strictly through happenstance. And I remember Gwyneth Paltrow was gonna star in the, uh, movie version of Peyton Plays. So I thought I'd read the book first, and after I read it, just through Chance the book opened up to the dedication page. And as you said, it said to George for all the reasons he knows so well, and of course Myta was he <laugh>. So I had to find out, well, who was George and what were the reasons he knows so well. So when I did the research, I found the story, the Interplay between Grace Metals, the author and her husband, George, equally as mesmerizing as in the pages of the book. And then it just dawned on me, well, why not take some classic novels and because it's only in the dedication page where the author truly enters the confessional. Mm-hmm. So then you sort of get an autobiographical tidbit and who is so special to the author when he or she pen their, their masterpiece. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that was sort of the genesis of my first book once again to Zelda. Um, the stories behind Literature's most Intriguing, um, dedication and the title of the book was of course the Loves. Um, the title of the Great Gatsby Zelda was his wife. Mm-hmm.

Fritz Coleman  (00:08:56):

<affirmative> you, you know, and it's a great left-handed way. For instance, you got interested in teaching because you fell in love with a great Gatsby. So in 10th or 11th grade, when you're teaching and discussing the Gatsby, what a great adjunct to give them your material, which really makes it interesting and human. And you learn the full story about the author. It's a great way to teach history as well.

Louise Palanker (00:09:20):

And it seems as though from looking at all, all of your, your the books and your author page on Amazon, that the most popular book is the book entitled Women of Means. Is that correct?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:09:31):

That's correct. So

Louise Palanker (00:09:33):

I guess we're obsessed with finding out that rich people are desperately unhappy <laugh>.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:09:41):

Well, well I think it is the Sha Freud, um, aspect of it. I think the reason I first started writing the book is people always said, you know, that, um, if I only had money, money would be the magic Alexa to open all the doors and all one's problems if I just won the lottery. And so I just started examining the richest woman in history like Lillian Bettencourt who owned L'Oreal, um, the lady who owned B m w Doris Duke from the Tobacco Fortune, the Woolworth Aris and their lives. Of course, their and their great wealth was not comme it with their happiness and it was just like a pee pull into the very top of the 1%. And I think, like you said, that's where I'm getting most of the views, cuz that's a window to into a world that's so far REU removed from the rest of us. So I think that's why it's sort of peaked interest. And it also burst the, um, you know, puts a pin in the B balloon of, if I only had money, everything would just be so wonderful.

Fritz Coleman  (00:10:45):

In the case of Doris Duke, though, there's like a third act payback with her because she took this family's wealth and became very philanthropic with it. She underwrites so many major projects, including NPR and public television and all these wonderful things. So it's as if she, she made herself happy, uh, in the end by, by donating bazillions of dollars to needy causes.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:11:12):

Right. And her father, that's how we got Duke, duke University. Right. Because her father financed and helped found, um, he gave so much money to Duke University that they changed its name to, you know, duke after him. Wow. So that was sort of the extent of his philanthropy. But Doris Duke had one child who died soon after birth. So I think that was her way of, you know, philanthropy. So she didn't have any, uh, children

Fritz Coleman  (00:11:38):

And assuaging their guilt at selling tobacco to the

Louise Palanker (00:11:41):

World. Right. Emphysema. You wouldn't have had the same <laugh>, the same ring. Really. Um, let's talk for a second about Patrizia Gucci, cuz I think there's a new movie. Is it telling the story that you tell in your book?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:11:53):

Um, I haven't seen the movie, but I was just intrigued because, you know, most people like, well, for all my books it's really the background story. You know, you scratch the story that everybody knows Gucci, the Double Gs, but when you read about that Italian family, it's like some vendetta, some, um, opera. Like opera because, you know, it was, yeah. She killed her husband, um, the Gucci heir because he, um, was seeing other women. And so, um, and you know, she was just, she just couldn't stand that. So she ended up killing him and left her children basically without a father or a mother. And

Fritz Coleman  (00:12:31):

She was already divorced from him when she put out the hit on him. Right. So,

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:12:34):

Well she was divorced, but she was just so incensed Yeah. That somebody would, you know, dump her, the mother of his children and she just, you know, destroyed every his life, her life and her children's life cuz she was so blinded by, you know, hatred and, you know, um, hella half no fury, like a woman's sperm sort of exemplified her.

Louise Palanker (00:12:55):

Oh, yeah. And I also wanna, there's a few people that I wanna talk about and I want you to tell the stories. Um, Huguette Clark, am I saying her first name properly?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:13:05):

As far as I know, yes. Oh,

Louise Palanker (00:13:07):

Yes. Okay.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:13:07):

But she has the house in Santa Barbara.

Louise Palanker (00:13:08):

Right. So we ride our bikes past that, and I'm always tempted to sort of turn right and see how far up the driveway I could get <laugh>. But I don't know if you've been reading the press lately, but there's some controversy around when this house is gonna be open for tours and who's living there and how it's being used for private events. And there's a lot of, i, I guess, abuse of that property that's been sort of going on lately. So let's back up and tell the story of Little Hge and how she wound up with all these empty mansions.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:13:40):

Well, I think the story about how it was found out was really interesting. So there was this man, and he was in Connecticut and just out of the blue, he said, what's the most expensive property in Connecticut? And there was, and they, he got the address and there was a gardener in the home. And the gardener said, you know, it's the weirdest thing. I've been with the gardener for 35 years, no one's ever lived here. And so the man, his interest was really peaked. Why would somebody have a beautiful estate in Connecticut and never go in there? And then he started churn into a, um, investigative journalist. And he found, well, there's one in Santa Barbara and, uh, penthouse in New York and the one in Connecticut, and she's never been seen. So he wrote a book called Empty Mansions, and that's how he examined her story.


And she was the daughter of a robber baron. For some reason he was equivalent and wealth to a Vanderbilt. He just didn't have the high profile. Like he started Las Vegas. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that was one of the things. He bought all the land and he was, um, and so his wife and older daughter died and he left everything to her, but she was like the female Howard Hughes. She just, uh, was extremely, extremely reclusive. And then for the last, I think it was 25 years of her life, she lived in a, a little hospital room. Um, and when she looked outside, she saw an air conditioning unit, yet she had all these fantastic homes. So, and she, but she, um, surrounded herself by these French dolls that she dressed with, you know, Christian Dior. And so she was a little bit, you know, she was a little bit off Absolutely. Which made her a prime target for the unscrupulous. Right.

Fritz Coleman  (00:15:27):

Yeah. This is, uh, really a fun book. Women of Means is fantastic. Yeah. Because you learn a little something about your

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:15:34):

Story. I love him, <laugh>. Oh,

Fritz Coleman  (00:15:35):

Love him. No, it's, it's really fun. Uh, I, I like history and I love these adjunct stories. Now, I'll set this next question up by saying that, you know, Downton Abbey two comes out in March Yes. Called it New Era. And, uh, you've written about, I I know I'm gonna blow this name. Almyra Carner Vaughn. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, is that close?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:15:57):

Yes, that's correct.

Fritz Coleman  (00:15:59):

Who is the real life counterpart to Lady Cora on Downton Abbey? Played by Elizabeth McGovern in the, in the series and the film? So describe this story.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:16:11):

Well, lady Carvan, she married, um, it was one of these situations where, uh, an American heiress, Mary's British royalty, it's sort of cash. Um, she had the cash and he had the title mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was one of those marriages. And one of the things that I found, uh, very, very intriguing was he was her husband, Lord Carni, was intrigued with Egyptology, and he was the one who financed, um, Howard Carter's, um, excavation of King Tut. And he paid for it. And then, um, and it was only when he was gonna, um, cut the finances when Howard Carter found it. And Lord Carni and his wife and daughter were there when he opened the tomb. And I and Howard Carter turned to Lord Carni and said, I see wondrous things. So I thought it was really fascinating. She was the illegitimate daughter of a Roth child. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And her father adored her, but he never married his mother because she was his, um, her mother was already married. And so, uh, he ex he unofficially acknowledged her, but that's why she was so wealthy from having her father who was a banker Rothchild. And, um, and that's how she, um, b basically financed her husband's mansions and amazing lifestyles. Wow.

Fritz Coleman  (00:17:32):

Wow. Fun.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:17:34):


Fritz Coleman  (00:17:34):

You talked about Lillian Bettencourt earlier. This is really fascinating that she, uh, was the owner of L'Oreal Cosmetics. First of all, what nationality was she?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:17:45):

She's fr she was French.

Fritz Coleman  (00:17:46):

Right. And, and, and that her father was the chemist who discovered the process. And what's the twist in his life?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:17:54):

Well, the father, um, he discovered he was in a little, um, second floor, um, story flat, and he discovered how to make blonde hair. And he called it L'Oreal, which is a French word, and he became fantastically wealthy, but he had blinders. The only thing that mattered to him was L'Oreal and his only daughter, Lillian. But when the, um, Nazis occupied France, he sort of went into bed with the Nazis because he was sort of an equal opportunity opportunist. So he didn't care that the Nazis had, you know, their own agenda as long as L'Oreal could exist. And sort of like, you know, Coco Chanel, she also had an affair with the Nazi because, you know, she had, uh, risen from an orphanage and she,

Fritz Coleman  (00:18:40):


Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:18:40):

Yeah, yeah. Nothing was letting, letting her go back to that orphanage. So she had an affair with the German officer and, but with the Twist, with Lillian Bettencourt, even though her husband, uh, was a collaborator in Vici, France. And even though her father was, her daughter married a Jewish man. So her grandsons had the unique perspective of one set of grandparents were in the Holocaust, and the other one were anti-Semites. So, oh my, they had a very interesting story, but I think Lillian Betten Cord's tragedy is her and that one daughter, they just basically were at dagger heads all the time. So that was her tragedy. She had everything but her, you know, her family dynamics, they were enemies. Mm-hmm.

Louise Palanker (00:19:28):

<affirmative>. Wow. And let's talk about Ruth Madoff, because a lot, everyone talks about Bernie, and I think we know a little bit about her, or we have assumptions based on just hearing the kind of overall story. We have assumptions about what she knew and what she didn't know. And now you don't pretend to know what she knew and what she didn't know. You just sort of talk about her loyalty to Bernie.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:19:54):

Right. She was fascinating because Yeah, because her husband, everybody knew him, but it, what about how much did she know? And it's like when she looked in the mirror, what did she really see? You know? And on one hand she, she denies to death that she knew anything about what her husband was doing, but like, she was collecting real estate. Like other women collect charms on a bracelet, <laugh>. And don't you, you know, he started off as a lower middle class Jewish guy. They were both from New York and your husband's getting these chalets in France and New York, and don't you sort of wonder, like, and there's never a bad day in Birdy rat off, like, what's, what's going on? And, you know, like she said, denied to death. And so, you know, if she was, what she claimed to be a 1950s Jewish housewife who had, you know, let my husband do everything, which was sort of the paradigm of woman at that time, the 1950s woman, then she was just another one of Bernie Madoff's victims, like all the others.


But if she was profiting and living the life of, um, you know, a gilded princess, knowing that her husband was exploiting everyone, Eli Weisel, I mean, he expl everybody hadasa. He didn't care who he destroyed, um, until the House of Cards fell down. So, but no matter what she knew or she didn't know, she out Jobb job because her husband was death by incarceration. One son died of cancer, and the other son honk himself. So, I mean, she was, you know, maybe more sinned against than sinning. We don't really know mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but what really, what a tragic story for her.

Fritz Coleman  (00:21:32):

She paid a higher price than anybody else in the entire equation there. Yes.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:21:36):

She, she paid a terrible, terrible price. And, and when she went to get a co-op in New York City, the red carpet, I mean, the welcome mat was withdrawn for her because she was guilty by association, and

Louise Palanker (00:21:47):

There really was nowhere she could go because all of her friends had their money invested with Bernie. So no one wanted to take her in. And this, and

Fritz Coleman  (00:21:54):

She's in Florida now, right? Didn't

Louise Palanker (00:21:55):

She move to Florida? Yeah. And the settlement was such that they said, like anything above basic cable, they were saying no to absolutely any expense. So go ahead and talk about that.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:22:04):

Will, the only one who didn't turn her back on her was her sister. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which had been a victim of her Bernie Madoff, and her and her husband at age 75. They were so reduced in circumstances that they drove cars to the Florida airport, but they didn't turn their back, but she didn't turn her back on Ruth. So it's, we, we can't really know, you know what, you know, when you look in your own looking glass, who knows what she really saw? Oh. Um, yeah. So, I mean, one of the books I wrote was on this premise, it was called Behind Every Great Man mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it was sort of like Mrs. Freud, Mrs. Carl Marks, Mrs. Gandhi, and one of them was Mrs. Hitler, and it was the same thing. Eva Braun, who is Mrs. Hitler for like 24 hours. You know, what did she really know? Did she, you know, she loved Hitler, but, um, what did she, you know, so it's like, I, I'm fascinated behind the woman behind these so-called great man.

Fritz Coleman  (00:23:03):

I love that premise because when we see a deposed politician mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and there's always the classic shot, the

Louise Palanker (00:23:10):

Good wife

Fritz Coleman  (00:23:10):

Of the wife standing by the husband at the press conference when he is denying his culpability or whatever it was, and they have to sit there with a, you know, a semi adoring look on their face, or at least not giving away whatever their emotions are. I always feel bad for them to appoint, but then I say, did they collude in this whole thing? You know? No,

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:23:30):

Exactly. Like in Pat Nixon when her husband Yeah, Richard was, I remember she stood there so stoic and you just can imagine him, she's humiliated in front of the world. Her husband, you know, was fell from the presidency and, you know, she stood by her, her man. But at what cost? I,

Louise Palanker (00:23:47):

I think that, you know, you study women and you, your, your books are just extensively researched and there's just so much great and fascinating information. You can tell how much work goes into, you know, you, you put a pour a lot of yourself and a lot of love into every chapter. But one of the themes that, that I find when you're, when we're exclusively discussing women, is that, you know, from from an early age, you know, we're sort of programmed that, or maybe we're not just programmed, maybe it's part of our dna n a to be nurturers. And so when you find yourself falling in with a guy as Ruth Madoff did at 14 when Bernie was 16, or as, uh, Mrs. Bill w did in, uh, another of your books that I read, uh, they, if, if, if a woman decides that her world and her identity are built around this man, it's almost like sh she would be destroying herself to remove herself from that. She doesn't know who she is outside of that

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:24:52):

Glow. The identity. It's like Mrs. Vogner, I remember sh her whole life was the cult of Richard. And when Vogner when, uh, died, she wanted to literally leap into the grave. And the only thing that saved her, she started a music festival in Salzburg, which still continues to this day. And that gave her the reason to keep going, like in memory of her husband. But, um, there's a word called Uxorious, when a man is slavishly devoted to his wife. Yes. There's not, for some reason, there's not a, a counterpart word when a woman is that for men. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Which is surprising. It's

Louise Palanker (00:25:25):

Almost expected.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:25:26):

Yeah. But it's like, you know, the stand by your man, like the country song Tammy, why not? She literally had a song Stand by your man. So what you said, a lot of times, if you know, like, especially when, uh, if you grow up at a time where your extension of your man, so death, do you part stand in his shadow, don't take the limelight. Yeah. These women would be destroyed their destiny's, you know, rise and falls on their, you know, their male counterpart. It,

Louise Palanker (00:25:50):

It feels like a similar dynamic to being in a cult where once this belief system is gone, who am I?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:25:57):

Exactly. That's a good point. It's very cult-like.

Louise Palanker (00:26:00):

And I think we can help girls, and especially you as a teacher, we can help girls discover who they are and what they're about and what matters to them, you know, before they get married. So that Absolutely. They always have

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:26:10):

That. Absolutely.

Fritz Coleman  (00:26:11):

Let's talk about somebody with an odder relationship with men. And that would be Peggy Guggenheim.

Louise Palanker (00:26:16):


Fritz Coleman  (00:26:16):

<laugh>, uh, who's fascinating. I'm just interested in her because I've seen all these documentaries about Jackson Pollock and she was the great, uh, matron of the New York School of Artists in the Pollock era, the forties and fifties, and had, you know, they, her, her the Guggenheim Gallery and the, uh, uh, art of the Century Gallery and was a great supporter, as a matter of fact for Pollock. She underwrote him. She and, uh, and so, and a very interesting woman talk about her.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:26:45):

Well, Peggy Guam, I also find her very fascinating. As a matter of fact. She was like, she slept with everyone basically. And one of the few people who refused to sleep with her was Ja, um, Jackson Pollock. He said, I don't care if I'm not discovered, uh, I just can't do it <laugh>. But, uh, she was, yeah, she was the heirs to the Guggenheim, as a matter of fact, Solomon Guggenheim in New York City, the, the museum of, um, the Guggenheim Museum was her uncle. Um, she, um, the difference was he collected the old masters. She was fascinated by modern art. And, um, they, and she went to France and she collected Picassos and she, uh, collected modern art before the, um, modern artists were considered great, um, great painters. And when the, and she w um, had to leave France, of course, cuz she was a Jew, and she had to get out of France, and she approached the louv to take her modern art.


And they basically said, no, no, we are, we only have serious art. Not, you know, modern art. Mm-hmm. But yeah, her, I think her brilliance was recognizing the beauty of modern art. And as a matter of fact, in Italy, she had a plaza, which is right now her museum. And she hung all her paintings there, and she used to live there and it was right on the right on the water. And she lived there. I think she had like 12 dogs. I forget what kind of dogs. And even when you tie up the gondola, it, one of the things to tie the dog thing up was her dog. And she was just a real, real character. Yeah. But she had tragedy too because, um, her only daughter, um, ended up killing herself. And there must have been some feud with her sons because she left all her money to, um, the museum and none to her children. They contested the will, they weren't too happy about that, but yes.

Fritz Coleman  (00:28:40):

And she was the black sheep of the family. Right. So, uh, she, I I think her connection to modern art might have been a way of rejecting her father's more traditional art taste.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:28:50):

Right. Well, she was very, very close with her father and he actually went down on the Titanic. Yep. Um, so, and, and she was, um, close to her father, not with her mother. And that was the parent. She was, and that happened when she was a young girl. So that kind of traumatized her. But I agree a hundred percent what you said. It was maybe she loved art, but there was the rejection of the her family's traditional values.

Louise Palanker (00:29:15):

I wanna talk a moment about Gloria Vanderbilt. And I know that a lot has been written about Gloria Vanderbilt and the story. A lot of people know she's Anderson Cooper's mother. But talk about little Gloria. I read the book Little Gloria, happy at last when I was a teenager. And there's just, there's a lot there. It was called the Trial of the Century before we were very deep into the century, <laugh>. Uh, so talk about the story, because Gloria Vanderbilt, unlike a lot of the other women about whom you write, she did create herself despite all, all the riches with which she was, uh, gifted by, by nature of

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:29:52):

Her birth. Absolutely. Absolutely. She just didn't sit on her. I mean, she did have a tragic life because of the divorce. And just one interesting tidbit about the divorce is her mother was a twin. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and her twin sister was going out with, um, um, the, um, duke of Windsor, I mean the one, um, the Duke of Windsor. And when she left to America to support her sister in the custody battle, she said to Wallace Simpson, look after the little man. Well, Wallace Simpson looked after kind of literally, but had it not been for the divorce, maybe there wouldn't have been an abdication because she went to sort of relinquished her role as the girlfriend to, um, uh, you know, the king. The king. But, uh, yeah. So she sort of overclaimed the very, very, um, bitter custody battle. She had many, many, um, love affairs.


She was fanatically in love with Howard Hughes. He rejected her. She liked, um, she was crazy. But Marlon Brando, he also rejected her. She went through a number of, um, unhappy marriages. And then her son committed suicide. One of her son's, Wyatt, in front of her eyes. So he jumped, um, she had a New York, um, penthouse and he literally jumped out the window in front of her. And another son didn't talk to her for the past 35 years, but her and Wyatt, like were exceptionally, exceptionally close. So she did have the close relationship with, um, her son and Yeah. And the blue jeans, like she sort of left her swan on the butts of America. Yeah. So she was very much a business woman. And even when she became in her eighties, she wrote a steamy erotica novel. So she was, Wyatt's mother was quite the lady

Louise Palanker (00:31:42):


Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:31:44):

Anderson, sorry. And, um, and so she, um, so she didn't just rest on the Laurel, she was a writer and she was a closed designer. Uh, she was a society hostess, so she had many, many different reincarnations.

Louise Palanker (00:31:58):

And if you would like to read more about Gloria Vanderbilt's relationship with her son Anderson, there is a book they wrote together called The Rainbow, comes and Goes. And there's a documentary which is called Nothing Left Unsaid. And those are both beautiful works that were done, uh, before her passing. And so they kind of commemorate that relationship. And, uh, I, I think that Anderson always appreciated the Cooper side. He appreciated that his last name is Cooper. He really didn't want to be kind of like yoked by the, the burden of the, the Vanderbilt legacy.

Fritz Coleman  (00:32:32):

And the rumor is she didn't leave him any money on his request.

Louise Palanker (00:32:36):

That's right. Right. Did it, do you know where it went? Did it go to charity?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:32:41):

Well, you know, that's what I find confusing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Cause he's worth a hundred million on his own.

Louise Palanker (00:32:46):

On his own. Sure.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:32:47):

Yeah. And the mothers, and she always said, I am not going to leave it to my son. But at the end she did. Oh,

Louise Palanker (00:32:54):


Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:32:54):

So she did leave the money to her son. Now she had four grandchildren. One of her sons became a landscape gardener, very low profile, and has a bunch of grandchildren. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So maybe she left, but she did leave her money to her son at the end.

Fritz Coleman  (00:33:10):

Maybe she just didn't want him to count on it. So she said, I'm not leaving you any money. And then surprised him at, well, he meaning of the will.

Louise Palanker (00:33:17):

Yeah. Forti. But he said he didn't want it. He said it's cursed to inherit that kind of money. And he, he's proven that by becoming his own person Yeah. In his own right. He has a son. And I, I think he would like, he knows enough about life to know I want my son to have the joy experience the joy of accomplishing and earning mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because, you know, as, as the lesson that we take away from your book, Marlene, is that when something is given to you by virtue of you having done nothing, it loses its meaning. It loses its value. And it, it's not just that it's squandered, it's that it, it robs you of the life experience and the joy of making enough money to buy a couch and sitting on your couch and knowing that it's your couch because you earned it.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:34:05):

Well, Warren Buffet said, I wanna leave my children enough money so that they feel they can do anything but not enough so that they feel that they can't do anything. It sounds contradictory, but he says, if you give them too much, you're disabling them. So I'll give them enough, but I won't give them too much. And he's earmarking the rest for charity. Right. Bill Gates said he was going to do the same.

Louise Palanker (00:34:28):

I think so too. And I, I think you can design so that it come the in the will that it, they come into the money at the age of 45 when they would be needing to send their own kids through college and at like, money for doctors, money for education, money for the things that that can keep you up at night worrying, but not money that would leave you uninspired to go out and create yourself.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:34:50):

Exactly. Exactly.

Fritz Coleman  (00:34:52):

Let's talk about a fascinating character, and I just am am interested in this story because it, it occupied so much of our public consciousness about 20 years ago, son, Yvonne Bulo. Oh yeah. Who was poisoned by her husband Klaus. And in the retrial, the appeal trial, Klaus was represented by Alan Dershowitz, which was what made the trial so famous. And he was found not guilty. And there was huge acclaim for both Klaus and Alan and Klaus did all the talk shows and would sit there with that smirk on his face. He got a got away with something. But talk about Sunny von bi. Very few people only perceive her as this victim. And we really didn't know that much about her.

Louise Palanker (00:35:34):

It's hard to get to know her when she's in a coma. Yeah,

Fritz Coleman  (00:35:37):


Louise Palanker (00:35:37):

Point. She's not that chatty.

Fritz Coleman  (00:35:38):

So talk about who she was. She was royalty adjacent. Right. And, uh, talk about her.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:35:44):

Well, sunny Vo, um, her, her nickname was Sunny cuz she had a sunny disposition, but she, her father was a railroad, um, Barron. So she came into a lot of, lot of money. Millions and millions of dollars through her, um, father and mother's side. She, um, and her first husband didn't work out and that she married, uh, Clavon Buro. Um, and she had a daughter with him and he, the marriage wasn't working out. And it's like something we'll never really know because her two children from her first marriage were convinced that he murdered the mother because in his, in her mother's will, she had said if, um, the, if I'm predeceased and where divorced, he gets nothing. It was very much he stood to gain a fortune if, um, if sh she died before, um, without giving, um, him the money. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So he had the motive to kill her.


But did he get off because Alan Dershowitz was so brilliant mm-hmm. <affirmative> or, you know, we don't really know what happened, but he seemed like, to me, he seemed like, yeah, he always had a smirk. And when he was out on bail, he always had the three piece suits and he was at sum upscale restaurant and somebody started choking and fell to the floor and he said, I didn't do it. I didn't do it. Like he was so, like being into dramatic, et cetera. And so, um, but it was, and it was such a family dynamics because her two children sided, said, you basically left our mother in a coma. His daughter that he had with Sonny stuck with him. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So the family was torn asunder. And it was just such a high profile case. Not just cuz of Alan Dershowitz, but because, you know, it had everything. It had money, it had murder, it had a family feud, it had it all in terms of salaciousness. And,

Fritz Coleman  (00:37:33):

And the, the interesting thing was that Dershowitz got him off in a real technicality in the appeal case. So you always wondered if they just, you know, he didn't, you know, left-handed way win this thing. It had something to do with, uh, you know, uh, uh, too much, uh, diabetes medication being on the needle or whatever it was. It was a real technicality.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:37:54):

It was a really, yeah. So he was like the OJ Dream team sort of <laugh> Exactly. Get you off. Because he said, did she die of diabetic shock because she had all this stuff and she over, you know, but it left out and that's all. Yes, exactly. Very needed. Exactly. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, I mean, it's just one of these we'll never know, we'll never know. It's

Louise Palanker (00:38:13):

A mystery. Um, we do, before we move on to, um, still I Rise, which is another book of yours about inspirational women who overcame great adversity to, uh, to achieve, uh, triumphantly. I wanna talk first about Patty Hurst. I think she's one of the last people cuz you do write about your women in chronological order. And I, and I love your writing style, it's just so enjoyable. So I'm just gonna let you tell the story of Patty Hurst because it's quite fascinating. She is the granddaughter of William Randolph Hurst,

Fritz Coleman  (00:38:42):

And you have a great line in your description that you probably wrote yourself. She went from Aris to terrorist <laugh>, which is a great description of what happened.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:38:50):

Ire. Yeah. That was quite, I mean, her story is like, you can't make this stuff up,

Louise Palanker (00:38:55):

Right? You cannot,

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:38:56):

You just, you just cannot. And well, it was so, um, yes, she was the granddaughter of William Randor Hurst of Hearst Castle fame. Her family owns the, uh, you know, magazine, um, very, very wealthy. So she was in Berkeley and she was, you know, and Berkeley in the sixties was a hotbed of course of political activism, but she was not part of that at all. And then this group, uh, like you said before, a cult, it was almost like a cult. The Siese Liberation Army, uh, broke into her apartment, um, kidnapped her for an agenda. And it wasn't for a self, a Grandes man to get their own money, but they wanted her father to give out money to the poor. And so anyways, that's how we get the idea of the Stockholm Syndrome. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's another one. Like where does the truth lie?


Did Patty Hearst voluntarily reject her extremely wealthy family and buy into this? And was, did she become Tanya the terrorist by choice? Or as she said on her trial, look at, I was a young girl, I completely coddled in a Catholic school. I'm kidnapped from Berkeley. They locked me in a, um, a cover. Uh, they locked me in a closet. I was subjected to multiple rape and brainwashing, and they made me Tanya the terrorist. So, which, which incarnation, and of course I remember the story a as it was happening, and everybody was shocked, here's this tear, um, this huge terrorist, and she's wearing a beret and she's carrying a, a gun and she's robbing a bank. So, I mean, you know, people were just going absolutely nuts with her. And then at the end, she, um, added her trial. Nobody like, and when she was, I remember when she was apprehended, nobody knew was gonna be Tanya the terrorist, or was gonna be the, the the million multimillionaire's daughter. And I remember when she was arrested, she said, call me Tanya.

Louise Palanker (00:40:55):

Well, let me, let me point out. And I do think that the Stockholm syndrome or hostage syndrome, I do think it's a thing and it may be a special, especially a thing that, that women are vulnerable to. Because if you notice, it's the exact same pattern with Elizabeth Smart, who was four, they were 14 and 18, perhaps close in age. And Elizabeth Smart was stolen from her home. And for maybe six months she lived with these people. And when, when an officer finally said, I think this is her, and pulled her over, you know, she's wearing all the garb and she's wearing the hood and everything. And when the female officer said to her, are you Elizabeth Smart? She didn't say say, oh my God. Yes. She said, what thou [inaudible]. So she was speaking like them. She had become one of them because that is what you do to survive. You acclimate to your surroundings for the sake of survival. And I truly believe that that's what Patty Hurst did.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:41:49):

I truly, I truly believe she was a Vic, um, a victim. Absolutely. And now she's, um, like this suburban mom. She raises dogs and she's very much the society matron again. So her life sort of came full circle.

Fritz Coleman  (00:42:05):

And what gave the story energy was, it was, you said shot Freud earlier. It's, you know, rich people getting what they deserve kind of a thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and they, people love to watch and, uh, and, and wonder if, uh, it wasn't a setup, did she collude with the Symbionese Liberation Army to get his parents, get her parents to donate this vast amount of money. So it had all of those, uh, areas of intrigue for the general public to watch for years.

Louise Palanker (00:42:34):

Absolutely fascinating. So I, I read, uh, a book of yours and you have many collections. I think before I delve into the next book, which we're only gonna have time to kind of like dabble in two of your books, but there's so much to discover if you go to Marlene's, uh, page on Amazon. But you have written all kinds of different books and I guess you get inspired that if, if you, maybe you're inspired by one person and then you're thinking, oh, this would make an interesting collection of other women of similar ilk. Um, similar backstory. But the one that I was drawn to is called Still I Rise. And you talk about Madam CJ Walker and you talk about Betty Shaba and Selma Langer Laugh and Fannie Lou Hamer and Bessie Coleman, Wilma Rudolph, Sonya Sotomayer. Let's, let's talk about Hattie McDaniel. First of all, she's the first, uh, African American female to win. She didn't live a very long life, but she was just a really extraordinary individual. In 1939, this woman is nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actors. She was not, they had the, the premiere, I'll let Marlene tell the story, but they had the premiere in the south on a plantation. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, great place to have a premiere of Gone With the Wind. Right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, she was not allowed to be that at the premiere. Go ahead and talk about it, Marlene.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:43:56):

Yeah. Well, Hattie McDaniel, I was recently thinking about her cuz when there was a big bruja over Gone with the Wind, remember they were saying they shouldn't stream gone with the wind. Right. And because they were saying it really d depicts a Dixie in a positive life, the anti Bellum South mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But then, you know, having done the chapter on Hattie McDaniel, the thing that she was the most proud of in her life mm-hmm. <affirmative> was winning and starring in Gone With the Wind. So to deny the film is to deny, um, her great accomplishment. And I think it was so special when she won. Um, and you're right when they had the premiere for Gone With the Wind, she wasn't invited. And Clark Gable said, I'm not going to go because unless she's invited, I'm not gonna go. And she said, you know, please don't start. Uh, and, and so she just didn't go. But she said when she went to the Academy Award, she was put in a, um, for the award ceremony, she had to sit in a table, a segregated table, right next door to the kitchen. Even

Louise Palanker (00:45:01):

In Hollywood. My god. Even in Hollywood, that's

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:45:03):

Just even in a

Fritz Coleman  (00:45:04):

Mind blowing to me.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:45:05):

Yeah. And when she gave her acceptance speech, she was very nervous. She dressed in white Gardenia in her hair and a big purple suit. And she just said, I hope I'm the credit to my race. Oh. And um, she basically left, but it was interesting. So she won the best supporting actress as ma uh, mammy in Gong with the Wind. And for, I think it was 75 years, no other African American won the Academy Award until, um, I forget who did it when she won for, um, uh, in the help she won for Academy Award, also as the maid in the help. So 75 years later, I can't remember the actress's name, but she also won, um, for a role. And she dressed exactly the same and the same outfit as Hadie McDaniel had done 75 years earlier.

Louise Palanker (00:45:56):

The difference being that they both played maids, but the help is specifically,

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:46:01):

They were both, both one

Louise Palanker (00:46:03):


Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:46:03):

Supporting actress, but of course, you know, it was for the maid. But, um, and then, you know, Heidi McDonnell's, she went through and then what was really interesting because it was so controversial because when she accepted the role as Bammy and Gone With the Wind, both the black and white community ostracized her because the black community said, you are playing the role of the 300 pound mammy with a thing on your hair and the big plantation dress who talks Yes Master, no master. And they said, you're being like a, a white uncle Tom, and you're completely, this, this movie is a Valentine to the slave owning South and you're buying into it. And they ostracized her. And then, um, and then, and then the north basically, you know, and then the other side, um, the black community ostracized her. And the white community didn't let her have, um, like, like I said, she couldn't be part of the Peach Tree. That's where the opening was, um, academy Award. So I mean, she got it from both sides.

Fritz Coleman  (00:47:06):

OC said

Louise Palanker (00:47:06):

Spencer Octavia Spencer, yes. She said, I can make $35 a week playing or being a maid, or I can make $3,500 a week plan.

Fritz Coleman  (00:47:14):

<laugh>. And the other side of that argument, the greener is there weren't, aren't that many blacks that had dominant roles in white films at that time. So it was about the employment. They, it was slight gaining employment as well, whether or not she won the Academy Award. So it's just a complicated

Louise Palanker (00:47:30):

Word. Well, the, you know, gone With the Win is an extremely well-known film, but there are many, many films that you could easily argue should never be shown again, <affirmative>, they're completely racist. But I like the way they handle it. And they must have had meetings and discussions. And the way that they handle it on turn classic movies, which Fitz and I are both obsessed with, is they, they just say like, Ben Banquet says, we're just gonna let the films roll and you can take away from it whatever wisdom you, you have that that wasn't in the minds of the people who created the film. But we're not gonna censor these films. We're just gonna play the

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:48:04):

Films because, you know, people don't do, artists don't do anything in a vacuum. Right. And Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With The Wind. That was what she knew. Like, like the pyramids aren't the less because they were built by the Jewish slaves, they're still wonders of the world. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So you can't say, oh, we we're gonna ostracize the pyramids because it was built on the backs of the Jewish slaves.

Louise Palanker (00:48:25):

Cancel culture, no more pyramids.

Fritz Coleman  (00:48:28):

You know, that's the,

Louise Palanker (00:48:29):

You can expand pyramid,

Fritz Coleman  (00:48:30):

You can expand that argument out. This is exactly the argument we're having right now with, uh, the, uh, with with the argument about what to teach in school. Do we, do we teach Huckleberry Finn? Do we teach Beloved by, uh, Tony Morrison? Uh, because there's a real expressions of the black experience and the vernacular at that particular time. So that, that, that argument has not gone down one bit since we argued about it. We've gone with the win.

Louise Palanker (00:48:59):

No, but I think that like, if we're gonna make a straight up comparison between the Maid portrayed and Gone With the Win and the Maid portrayed by Octavia Spencer and the help, the help is specifically designed to help white people understand the, like relentless indignities of being a black person in the South. It's just absolutely atrocious. And reading that helps me understand,

Fritz Coleman  (00:49:24):

Plus not only that, look at the power difference. Octavia Spencer in the help ended up having the power in that movie. Oh yeah. She manipulated all the circumstances. Hadie Ang was just, you know, she

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:49:37):

Come Mamie.

Fritz Coleman  (00:49:38):

Right, right.

Louise Palanker (00:49:39):

She had to learn by experience how to birth a baby. Mm-hmm.

Fritz Coleman  (00:49:42):

<affirmative> <laugh>.

Louise Palanker (00:49:43):

So she did learn something. But yeah, the only way for people with white privilege to learn is to read, is to read about the experiences of other people. So, you know, these, these books and these movies are important if they can help us understand what it's like to walk in the skin of another human. And, and you help us with that through, through your writing, you know, through, through exploring the lives of these people. Uh, so let's talk about Sonya. So my ear, I didn't know anything about her and uh, I guess she's written an autobiography, but you know, she's not, she's the third female and the first Latin

Fritz Coleman  (00:50:18):

Latina Latinx

Louise Palanker (00:50:19):

On the Supreme Court talk about her. She has an extraordinary back backstory.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:50:24):

Well, what you were saying before about Venus and her sister, uh, Serena, like how they came from Compton to dominate, you know, usually the elite world of tennis. Well, Sonya Soyer, she was, um, a of, um, Puerto Rican descent and um, they ended up in the tenement in New York and her father died of alcoholism. And what is success story? Because instead of, you know, being another victim of the tenements of the, you know, um, she basically put herself through law school and she sits on the Supreme Court of the United States, which is absolutely mind boggling, you know, for anybody. I mean, when are we ever gonna meet somebody who sits on the Supreme Court of the United States? But, you know, usually I would think if we looked into some of their backgrounds, they came from, you know, very, you know, probably, you know, affluent homes.


But she came from that. She said her mother never even wrote a check. She didn't, they didn't have anything to being on the Supreme Court of the United States, which is was just amazing. Yeah. And just as a little aside, one of my friends, she, um, took a special degree cuz if you wanna argue in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, you can't just be a lawyer. You have to get a special certification. And one of my friends, she just had a challenge. So she got that special certification, and when you pass it, one of your rewards is you get to have lunch with one of the justices. So she was, Emily was peer, my friend Emily, she was pair with Sonya Sotomayer <laugh>. So she buys like a red power suit, you know, she's all excited and she goes to Washington, DC and she's having lunch.


And at first, you know, it was very stiff conversation and she's being very much, you know, the Supreme Court justice. And then her mother calls, her mom calls <laugh> and she says, well, you put me in this home and I don't like the food. And she was yelling and that sort of broke the ice. And then, then she said, we were talking just like, she wasn't the Supreme Court justice, she was just somebody having mother is, she was like anybody to relate to. Oh, wow. So that was just a little bit of a side. But you know what a remarkable, remarkable woman. Woman.

Louise Palanker (00:52:29):

Yeah. Just truly, I mean, what a mind and, and to know the, the strength of her mind and to go ahead and exercise it to its greatest

Fritz Coleman  (00:52:36):

Capacity. I'm feeling her job is very lonely right now.

Louise Palanker (00:52:39):

<laugh>, she's got a couple of friends. Yeah. <laugh>. Yeah. I mean even maybe in one of the books that I didn't read, who, who would you like to talk about that you think people should learn more about?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:52:49):

Um, well say which book? And I'll say which one? Any particular? Say a book and I'll,

Louise Palanker (00:52:54):


Fritz Coleman  (00:52:55):

Do it, let's put it this way. Is there

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:52:56):

Somebody, the mother loves all her children. So,

Fritz Coleman  (00:52:59):

Uh, is there a wishlist? Is there somebody that you would love to interview before your writing days are over?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:53:05):

Mm, I would, well I was really interested in Maya Angelou mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because she's in, she was from still I Rise. Yeah. Um, and she was just amazing too because she had every strike against her. She was born in Arkansas when it was. And so she was going through when she was growing up in the thirties in Arkansas, and she was fighting poverty, she was fighting racism, she was fighting sexism. She has that trifecta if that's not enough. Then she was raped by her mother's, um, boyfriend. And she was so, and then her uncles did vigilante justice and they took the man out and he killed him. So she wasn't traumatized and she was only nine. She wasn't traumatized so much from the rape, but she said, my voice because telling on this man got him killed. And she literally stopped talking for five years. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>


And her life stories, how she got her voice back. And when she spoke at Pres and, and President Clinton during his inauguration, he invited her to be the poet, um, to, um, to speak at his inauguration. And before when they were sitting backstage, he turned to her and said, Hey, not bad for two kids born from the wrong side of the Arkansas Track. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so, I mean, what an inspiring story. And just everything that happened to her. She lived so many lives in one. And so she was just such a remarkable woman. And that's why the book I called Still I Rise after her poem cuz she said, no matter how many times I'm beaten down, I'll still get up again cuz I'm stronger than anything life can send my way. And like how Inspira, how inspiring that is. And

Louise Palanker (00:54:44):

May I also add that we're not all going to become Maya Angelou. We're not all gonna become so Sonya Sotomayer. But the, the woman that Maya Angelou talks about in her book when Maya was not speaking, was a woman who recognized how bright the girl was, how much she was reading. And I can't remember the woman's name, but she said to Maya, she said, if if you want another book, you're gonna have to speak. Cuz it's it, it does us, it does us no good for you to read and not speak about what you've read. And this woman, we can all be that person in the life of a child. We can all look around us and recognize which the children in our lives need a little bit of special attention from us. We can all be that hero in the life of, in the life of a child. And that, that woman, I think

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:55:32):

Mrs. Flowers was really

Louise Palanker (00:55:33):

Mrs. Flowers. She, she's the hero of that story. She saved that child. She, she gave the world Maya Angelou.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:55:40):

That's right. And that's an interesting point because for everybody who sung the um, there's the unsung people behind them that capitulated or sort of like were the foundation, which they couldn't have climbed otherwise. So Yeah. That's a very good point. So Ms. Flowers, she was the hero of that story. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Absolutely. I love that.

Louise Palanker (00:56:00):

And what are you working on now and where can people find you?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:56:03):

Well, my editor said because, um, I'm actually working on two books. Okay. Um, cause um, so my editor said because, um, people are interested in Woman of Means, she said, my next book I should profile like Royal Woman. Hmm. So it doesn't have to be necessary princesses or Queens. It can just just be countesses or duchesses. And they're like the woman of means on steroids because not only do they have the money, they also had the pedigree. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so it sort of, the book is sort of gives pee into the palaces. So it's gonna be similar to the Woman of Means, but it's going to be, uh, like the Duchess of Alba, the Spanish Duchess, she was such, she was hysterical. Or you know, just the story behind the stories, the royalties. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And the other one that I'm working on is I'm really having a lot of fun.


I think I'm gonna call it. Um, it's the Lady and then later the gentleman Vanish. Like for example, we all know Mercedes-Benz, but who was Mercedes? Mm. Great girl Mercedes, where we all know Peter Penn, but there was Peter Lou Ellen, who was he mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, we all know Craig's List, but he's Craig Newkirk, um, from, uh, Northern California. So it's sort of like the names we all know and all of a sudden it dawns on you. Oh yeah. It was Porsche, uh, like Ferdinand Porsche. He des he was brilliant. So you think Porsche the car, but Ferdinand Porsche, he designed for Hitler. The Volkswagen. Hitler said the people's car. And then he designed, um, with his son, designed the, um, the Porsche for the luxury car. So behind the well-known names, it's like, or like we all know the Eiffel Tower, but we don't really know much about Gusta. I fell who created the tower. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it, like, I'm having a lot of fun with that because I'm learning as much as I write because I didn't know these stories. So, um, I'm really learning a lot as I write about,

Fritz Coleman  (00:58:01):

It's a great way to learn history because when you plug in something like you mentioned Craigslist or Porsche or words that are part of the culture right now and part of the fabric of those of us alive, that's an, that's a, a launch point to get kids and other people interested in that topic. I think it's a brilliant way to teach. I

Louise Palanker (00:58:21):

Really do. Do you have any research secrets? Do you just use the internet or do you pick up the phone and boldly call people and try to get interviews or visit places and try to speak to someone who knows?

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (00:58:33):

Well, I did at, in the past I was hammered cuz I had to do it in the context of a full-time job. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So like, I mean, I would work all day and I'd come home and I'd write. So I wasn't really free to interview people that much, but I remember from behind every Great man mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I tried to interview people I was on. Um, and so one of the men, one of the women I did in that book was Timothy Leary. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I have, and I said, I, what was it, what would it be like to be married to Timothy Leary? Can you imagine? Be trippy? Like, so his wife was, um, uh, had passed away, but I was able to interview her roommate. Mm. And she told me a little bit about Timothy Leary firsthand. And another one that was kind of interesting is Thomas Beckett, um, his long-term girlfriend, um, that he was, um, with for many, many years.


He had an affair on his wife. And I actually contacted her daughters and the first daughter, I said, you know what was like your, your mother was the long-term girlfriend of, um, Thomas Beckett. And the woman who I talked to, she was the dean of the University of Edinburg. And she said, I don't wanna talk about it. I have mother issues. Wow. I thought, wow, you know, we all have mother issues, but Beck had paid for your whole education. This is her bond. I had mother issues. Nobody paid for anything for me. <laugh>, you know, hey, I would, I would do it. You know. And then her other daughter was head of women's studies or Chinese culture studies in Berkeley. And then she, she said, I won't talk about my mother. Oh yeah. Oh wow. So I mean, but I did try to talk, um, to them.


And then another one who I was able to talk to was, um, it was, oh, I just, um, Samuel Beckett, um, he was, um, I was able to talk to his, oh wait a second. Know it wasn't Samuel Beckett. It was, um, I just lost it. But I was able to speak to his Thomas Huxley mm-hmm. <affirmative>, ales Huxley. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I was able to speak to, uh, the best friend of Adel Huxley's wife. And so what was Mrs. Huxley like? And she did L S D with, you know, Adel and stuff like that. So she told me a few little tidbits. And then she says, and then she, some people have such characters and she said, you know what, I am the largest marijuana in Porter in the North coast. And I said, oh wow. You know, what do you say to it? I go, oh, ah, that's, you know, that's nice.

Louise Palanker (01:00:53):


Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:00:54):

Wait, you So, uh, but you know, so Mazeltov.


Yeah. So, but now then I'm retired. I'd like to do more. So, you know, because I was hampered in the past. And you know, Marilyn, her best friend was Diamonds, her best friend. But, you know, for a researcher it's the internet. And as long as you go through very reputable sources like the New York Times mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the Washington Post. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> The Guardian. Um, sometimes I had to go through secondary sources like Mrs. Gandhi for, um, behind every Great Man. I said, everybody knows Gandhi. What was it like to be Mrs. Gandhi? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I remember there's a little Indian, um, restaurant around me. And I said to them, oh, could you tell me a little bit about, um, Mrs. Gandhi? They go, no, no, there's no Mrs. Gandhi. There's uh, you know, and they go, even the Indian people forgot her. Wow. So there was very, very little research, but I finally found a book which is under the genre of a hagiography, which means a biography that's very slanted in favor of one person. Hmm. And her grandson wrote about her. Okay. But she had such a fascinating life because, um, you know, when he fasted, she fasted. Oh. Um, and when she married him, she thought, oh, I'm getting to marry an a British educated lawyer. I'm gonna have such a nice life. No,

Louise Palanker (01:02:16):

No, but, but let me just say, not a lot of laundry, not a lot of cooking

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:02:21):

<laugh> not a lot of laundry. Not a but, but at the last part of his life, he said, my whole life is to have power over my body. So we started sleeping in bed with naked teenage girls. Oh. Always did something because he always had one mid-age crisis. And he says, you know, the only clothes you can wear, you have to spin yourself. And she had such a hard life because when the British, um, arrested Gandhi to get him to call off his resistance, they said, well, um, well, um, arrest his wife to lean on Gandhi. But it didn't work. Gandhi said, you know, she died. She died for the cause.

Louise Palanker (01:02:58):

Oh my goodness.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:03:00):

So it was, yeah. And, but she was such a remarkable woman. And even when she was dying in the British jail in India, her oldest son, um, they had four sons, the Gandhi and the oldest son completely rejected his father. He said, you know, you were so be busy being the father to our people. You are never one to ourselves. And the son broke Gandhi's heart because he dressed in British. No. He dressed in British clothing. He smoked, he drank alcohol. And even at the end when he was visiting his mother, he said, there's a new thing, penicillin, take it. And Gandhi said, no, no, that's Western. You know, black magic. Oh goodness. Just drink from the Gandhi River. And she, I think at the end she said, just,

Louise Palanker (01:03:43):

I'm so over this guy.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:03:44):

Let me go. Lemme go. Wow.

Louise Palanker (01:03:47):

You know? But That's so interesting. Yeah. Really. But,

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:03:50):

But what was interesting about the book is we like, it humanizes these great men. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> like whenever before I read the book, I always thought of Karl Mars as you know, the world's foremost e economist. But basically he was living in a slum in London with his wife and seven children. And the foremost economist in the world didn't know anything about money. They were living, one of their children died of rickets cuz they couldn't afford food or fresh fruit. Oh my goodness. And he would leave his wife and he would go every day. Cause he couldn't stand the noise. And he'd go to the British Museum. But he was very much, um, a romantic figure too. You wouldn't think it, but they had four daughters and each one was called Jenny after his wife. So it was like, you know, it's just mind boggling. How did these women who were married to these great men, they just completely got sideswiped into the dust.

Louise Palanker (01:04:42):

You have to swallow yourself into it. And

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:04:45):

Just, I guess, you know, great men not no offense fits well. I I great men are sometimes not big on sharing spousal credit, perhaps.

Louise Palanker (01:04:53):

Oh my goodness.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:04:54):

These woman were amazing. Like even the chapter I loved on Mrs. Einstein, when Einstein, he married Malena Bena, she was from the Ukraine or Yugoslavia at that time. And she was so brilliant because Einstein took three times to get into the Missouri Polytech, which is equivalent to the American m i t. She got in first try.

Louise Palanker (01:05:15):

Oh, she was, didn't she have a little bit of polio? She was brilliant.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:05:19):

Yeah. She had a little bit of polio. She was brilliant. And when Einstein wrote her a letter and he wrote, and these letters were in Jerusalem or they were published 50 years after his death. And one of the letters that he wrote her said, when our great theory of relativity, so why did he use our, unless he was using the royal hour. So did she work on the e equals mc square?

Louise Palanker (01:05:43):

She, she worked on a lot of the research

Fritz Coleman  (01:05:45):

And she was e

Louise Palanker (01:05:46):

He did, he she was the e he didn't credit her. And I think that was part of what, you know, because he, and to

Fritz Coleman  (01:05:51):

Add fuel to the fire, he was a, he was a notorious philanderer too. Right?

Louise Palanker (01:05:55):

I think he took up with his cousin or something ultimately.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:05:58):

Well, he married his cousin. But one thing that bothered me about him is with Malena, he left her in Europe cuz he had to escape because, you know, he was Jewish. He left his wife and two children behind in Europe. And his oldest son became a professor at Berkeley. And he said, you know, how do you feel about your father? And he said, the only scientific experiment my father ever gave up on was me. Wow. Very bitter to his father and Einstein's younger son. He was a hopeless schizophrenic. Right. In the last 30 years he spent in an institution and his Einstein never visited once, never sent money. So

Fritz Coleman  (01:06:34):

That's a theme that you've established between Gandhi's children and Einstein's children. But really, I mean, the brilliance and the drive that goes along with being a genius and the responsibility, uh, takes away your family connections. And that's a really, maybe there's another book, although it'd be very depressing, I

Louise Palanker (01:06:53):

Think if you're, if you're awful,

Fritz Coleman  (01:06:54):

The forgotten children of Famous people.

Louise Palanker (01:06:56):

I think if you're all the world in that way,

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:06:58):

Love that. I love

Louise Palanker (01:06:59):

That. If you're of the world, it's intoxicating and you're, the immediacy of your home is just kind of PAing in comparison to being the father of all of science or the father of all of

Fritz Coleman  (01:07:10):

Indian. Well, I say, when you're, when you, when you, you know, you're Einstein, you're driven, you're so driven that all of your time goes into whatever you're working on.

Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:07:18):

Right. He said, you know, as the, as I still haven't conquered the world of quantum physics, what matters if I wear mismatched socks? <laugh>. Like he said, you know, don't bother me with details. Yeah. So I think sometimes when you're so above beyond other people, like if you're a Steve Jobs or an Einstein, you sort of write your own laws. You don't feel like the common morality applies to you because you're outside the pale, maybe on the basis of your genius. I'm not saying that's how I feel. I think that's how these people sometimes have a sense of entitlement because they're so beyond the pale in terms of brilliance.

Louise Palanker (01:07:50):

Who needs combs?

Fritz Coleman  (01:07:52):

<laugh>. Right, right,

Louise Palanker (01:07:53):


Marlene Wagman-Gellar (01:07:54):

Like you united. Yeah, exactly.

Louise Palanker (01:07:56):

Who needs a comb? All right. So we're gonna tell people how they can help us get our show and share it with those they love. Go ahead, Fritz.

Fritz Coleman  (01:08:05):

If you enjoyed this episode of Media Path, it would help us to be more discoverable by potential new listeners. If you leave us a quick review on Apple Podcast and if you're new here, here, and this is your first time with us, please check out our back catalog. It's all binge worthy. And I'll just give you an example. Lee Lar was one of our great interviews. He's the world's greatest basis. He's got more recording sessions than any other single musician who was part of Carol King's original band. Well, last Saturday night, he played on her induction ceremony, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So you'll see the face and the long beard, which is part of the talent that you heard about. On our show we had Gary Puckett, Elaine Busler, bill Medley, who's found the new righteous brother and his back on the road, Tony Dowell and Bill Mumey with great stories of being huge stars at a very young age. Thank you for spending an hour with us and we would be overjoyed if you took a moment to share your thoughts with us or recommend us to a friend.

Louise Palanker (01:09:01):

We would love for you to join us online on Instagram and Twitter where we are at Media Path Pod and on Facebook where we are. Media Path Podcast. You can find full episodes with all kinds of bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast. We would love to know what media you've been enjoying. You can contact us at our social media or email us at Media Path We wanna thank our guest, Marlene Wagman Geller. Our team includes Dina Friedman, Francesco Desmond, John Maddox, Sharon Beo, bill Filippi, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Madox. I am Luis Planker here with Fritz Coleman and Merlene Wagman Geller. And we will see you along the media path.

Fritz Coleman  (01:09:42):

It was really interesting one, honestly.

Louise Palanker (01:09:45):

Now don't go, don't go anywhere cause we're gonna stand in front of the TV screen so we can take a picture.

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