We celebrated my 75th birthday aboard a private dining room and deck of the Queen Mary. Somehow, there was a slippage in time, and we arrived in 1936, on the ship’s maiden voyage. It was a very different night, as you can see.
There was quite a crowd, and it was a gorgeous evening.
We began with drinks and appetizers on the deck.
Congressman Marion Zioncheck tried to sell his New Deal Politics to Brazilian polo player Lincoln Moreira. Moriera had just spent a fortune on an Irish stud for his stables, but feigned interest.
I was there, of course, with Margaret Sanger, who was offering birth control to any woman who looked young enough to use it.
Bill Bacardi from Puerto Rico was making even more money now that Prohibition was over and he could run his rum legally. He was going “all respectable” now, hoping for an appointment to the Reconstruction Administration. He avoided the Chicago crowd.
Janet Gabbler, the society gossip columnist, tried unsuccessfully to get information out of the ship’s photographer Flash Wilcoxen. Flash could have told her a lot, as he seemed to know a great deal about the passengers and had been a news photographer from Chicago until recently.
He made a point of telling passengers that he never forgot a face.
Marilyn Fisher, lady detective from Australia, was there, enjoying a conversation with the famous
silent screen actress Barbara Bow,who was talking.
Later, she had a long discussion with Margaret Sanger and Lucia Magliocco. It was rumored that Lucia was a spy for Mussolini. No one knew for sure. Perhaps Margaret Sanger was educating her new friends about the benefits of a Dutch cap.
Russian Countess Anna Vladimirovich had her most valuable jewel stolen in Monte Carlo. She was devastated but knew she had better find a rich American to marry before the ship docked in New York. She seemed to spend a lot of time with the famous medium Madam Madelyn Blatvinski. Perhaps she thought the medium could tell her who the thief was.
French chanteuse Colette Flaubert was aboard. She sang for us. She was traveling with RCA Victor executive Tony Marconi.
He was trying to avoid people from Chicago, but it was not clear why. He also managed to avoid Flash’s camera.
Malvina Petrov, the prima ballerina with the Kiev was traveling with her handler, Dimitri Sardonavich, who had just failed to assassinate Trotsky. He was keeping a very close eye on her, because if anything went wrong in America, the Kremlin would not give him another chance. Janet Gabbler was trying to figure out their secrets.
The amazing medium Madam Blatvinsky and Mathew Rockefeller seemed very interested in each other. Did he think she could tell what would happen to oil during the coming war? Had the spirits told her something about his secret dealings?
Lady Beatriz Spencer seemed to get around and talk to almost everyone. She had promised her friend the Queen that she would keep an eye on the hussy Wallis Warfield Simpson, as the Queen was very concerned that her son was about to do something rash.
In the meantime, Wallis was having a lovely time. She always had liked strong men.
And Hollywood cowboy Tumbleweed Morris looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
So was the stunning Barbara Hutton Von Haugwitz-Reventlow, the heir to the Woolworth fortune and America’s “Poor Little Rich Girl.”
It looked like she had a new amusement in sight.
William Anderson was pretending to be a businessman, although he really was a professional gambler looking for a patsy.
In the meantime, he was chatting up the ladies.
Carmen Casadillo de Vargas, illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso of Spain, was leaving Europe forever. Rumors said she did secret work for Generalisimo Franco. But what were she and Barbara Bow smiling about?
Conservative head of the House of Lords, Lord Nelson Stuart was there with his lovely American wife Lady Caroline. Orphaned quite young, she had survived as a nanny and had only been in England a few years. Lord Nelson saw her and fell madly in love with her, in spite of her sometimes unorthodox ideas. He did not seem to notice Wallis, fortunately. He thought the whole affair with the Prince of Wales was disgraceful!
Olympic gold medalist Eleanor Holm, champion of the 100-meter backstroke, now seemed to prefer her water with her scotch.
The quiet ones are always suspicious.
Jack Strong was very evasive about his past, even his accent.
This was especially true when he was around Carole Hamer, the American Immigrations official. He managed to avoid cameras.
On the other hand, Brigette Twomey, guerilla fighter for the Irish Republican Army was completely comfortable with Carole Hamer, even though the former was going to the USA to raise money for guns for the IRA. Perhaps Carole was of Irish descent.
James Lincoln seemed to respond to several names. His passport said had been in Monte Carlos recently.
There was definitely something suspicious about him. But why did Mathew Rockefeller seem chummy with him?
Best-selling novelist Judith Halstead had writer’s block. She was hoping something on this voyage would inspire her next book and the words would begin to flow again. Perhaps her conversation with the Italian spy and the lady detective would give her some ideas.
We were called into the dining room for dinner. There I introduced some of the celebrities among us when I noticed that Flash was missing. Assuming he was still at the bar, I asked Colette to ask him to join us. She opened the door to the deck and let out a terrible scream.
FLASH HAD BEEN KILLED!
Chaos broke loose. The lady detective went through the corpse’s pockets for clues while Brigette tried to steal his gold ring to sell for guns. I said I had no idea who would want to hurt Flash, but I didn’t know him very well. He had asked for the passenger list well before our departure date, which was a little strange. The bartender said he had gone to get ice and had not seen anything.
We decided to solve the mystery ourselves and went back inside to discuss what we had learned.
It was pointed out by someone that Bugs Moran, the famous Chicago gangster was there with his wife Chrissy. Flash had worked on a newspaper in Chicago. Perhaps there was a Chicago connection.
Or maybe Irish artist Josefa Brinski had drawn something in her sketchpad that would be a clue.
She appeared to be traveling with Hans Heilman. It made sense, She was a famous artist and he an art dealer.
But why did she keep insisting that she was Irish and why did he leave Germany so suddenly? He certainly looked suspicious!
After considerable discussion and a delicious dinner, Judith Halstead discovered Flash’s briefcase had been left at the table where he was supposed to sit. She opened it and these things fell out.
Was that Al Capone? Who was the woman fondling his gun?
The passengers took the photos around from table to table, trying to match faces.
You can imagine the buzz in the room. Little by little people began to identify the people in the photos. All of these people were more than a bit suspicious. Maybe they had motive for murder. But who had the opportunity? Wern’t we all inside when the murder happened?
Another scream rang out. Flash’s ghost made an appearance!
He didn’t say a word, just sort of floated through the room and around the bar on the deck, sniffing.
Someone announced he was sniffing out the murderer.
The ghost disappeared when another clue was discovered in Flash’s briefcase.
But, what on earth was this about (besides the obvious)?
Madam Blatvinski decided she could handle this. She pulled three candles out of her purse (where mediums always carry them in case of emergency) and began a séance. Everyone held hands and chanted Flash’s name.
Lady Caroline Stuart!
It was Lady Caroline who, in her younger days, had worked in the Carnival of Dark Desire – as a knife thrower! Flash was trying to blackmail her and she was terrified her super conservative husband would divorce her if he found out. She really had no choice but to kill Flash. She was the last person in from the deck, but had been standing by the doorway, far away from the criminally-inclined photographer.
It was wonderful to see how much my guests were into their roles. Two men even had business cards printed up with their characters’ names!
Of course, Jimmy “Fingers” Remmington put “James Lincoln” on his card.
Another alias, alas.
Doug, no longer Flash but still ghastly looking, gave a loving speech about the importance of family and community. Everything he said was all true. Finally, I thanked everyone for being willing to come out and play with me.
It was the best birthday ever!
For more pictures, including those you can download, go to
Wendy’s 75th Party Photos
(more added as they come in)