Happy New Year! From Cindy Marshall and Anne Sweazy-Kulju

Helen Kane

If you took all the Cindy Marshalls and all the Helen Kanes, and laid them
end-to-end…I would not be the least bit surprised.
A Dorothy Parker-ism

It is New Year’s Eve, and a small part of me wonders if she chose me because she knows how much I adored the holiday, or because of how much I adored champagne. I had such a penchant for those little French bubbles! I know I let it get the better of me just that one time, but sometimes that one time is all that it takes. I guess you could say that champagne hastened my downfall–or that it awakened me to the mess I had left behind me. No matter the verdict, I did have fun while it lasted! My author loves champagne as much as I do; she prefers the brut variety of an enormously economical brand. I think it’s fine to share that. It is no trade secret. Goodness, where are my manners? Without further delay, my name is Cindy Marshall. I am a hero in Anne’s debut historical-fiction saga, “the thing with feathers”. I would like to have been able to say I am the hero, but I suffered a frailty that required me to share the designation with another unfortunate character, as well as with another– oh dear! I nearly bobbled it! There is a thing that Anne calls a “spoiler”; I dare not say too much. Speaking of spoilers, perhaps my own New Year’s Resolution should be to make peace with my life’s sorrows, so I might begin anew to reminisce about the sweet things. Regrettably, when I do think about the darker times, I often think of my friend Helen Kane.

When I first met Helen, I had been living in Chicago for a couple of years. Many of my important and affluent clientele referred to me as, “the toast of Chicago”. Helen Kane was a popular nightclub singer and stage actor from New York City. The starlet had a love for champagne to equal my own, and we traveled among the same social circles, so it was only a matter of time before we met. It happened at a nightclub where Helen was singing; we hit it off immediately. This was after her shiftless second husband, Max Hoffman, Jr., a mediocre actor at best, left her penniless and alone in Chicago, in 1933. Months later, Helen and I shared a magnum bottle of champagne with the director and one of the producers from her last Broadway show. We over-indulged, just a bit. When Helen got up to sing, she finished the number with a slight shoulder roll and a batting of her eyelashes–which she borrowed from me, plus a little, “oop-boop-be-do,” which she borrowed from a young black girl she saw perform with a jazz group in Harlem. Then Helen giggled like a little girl herself, and all the men in the club went mental! It was the resurrection of my slightly pudgy friend; she was suddenly more popular than beer. Every girl wanted to copy Helen’s Flapperesque style, and every man wanted to date her. Her writer-friend in New York, Dorothy Parker, once complained of her, “You can’t throw a brick in any direction without hitting a Helen Kane.”

Betty Boop Flapper Girl

Then the poor dear had to sue her studio, Paramount, for the theft of her persona and signature phrase, which they copied for a comic-strip character they named “Betty Boop”. The lawsuit dragged on almost two years. Surprisingly, it did not look to be going in Helen’s favor. Soon the Betty Boop character was more popular than Helen was herself. She had no love interest in her life and everything seemed to be heading south: career, wealth, the lawsuit, her failed second marriage. Helen grew depressed. But hope is the thing with feathers. I got Helen to snap out of her depression with a pep talk and a fountain of champagne, one wild New Year’s Eve–where it so happens, Helen met husband number three, the love of her life.

None of this ever made it into Anne’s novel, but it is true just the same. Speaking of that first novel, even though Anne was not suffering depression, it took her a lot more time, a LOT more champagne, and a great, big, giant pep talk, before she would query publishers…but the pep talk didn’t come from me. It came from Glenn Beck, the cable television host. Mr. Beck was performing a Christmas Special from Wilmington, Ohio, a town that was successfully toughing out the hard times by working together. He prodded viewers to do like Wilmington. He issued an impassioned challenge to the folks watching his show, to get up and do something to better their situations, stop blaming others for their failures, and effect positive change in their lives. My creator took up that champagne-induced challenge as her 2010 New Year’s Resolution. Just look how things turned out for her (big smiles here).

Now the anniversary has rolled around again. It has been my humble pleasure to share with you, this story. Maybe it will suffice as a pep talk for some of you. Perhaps it can inspire folks to take a chance, or prompt a positive change in their own lives, beginning with this brave New Year. It is almost midnight–Let us all drink a toast to that!



If you agree with Anne Sweazy-Kulju (and Anatole France) that history books that contain no lies are extremely dull, visit Anne’s website: www.Historical-Horse-Feathers.com, and read more of the
author’s fun perversions of the past!


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9 thoughts on “Happy New Year! From Cindy Marshall and Anne Sweazy-Kulju

  1. Micki Peluso

    What a delightful piece!! I love the way you narrated it , yet your characters came to life. Ken is right. Women of the ‘Betty Boop’ days opened the doors to a whole new world for women who, for the most part, were just shadows of their husbands. Next time you have a champagne party, call me.


  2. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Anne, Same for me-call the next time you having a party to celebrate a New Year! Betty Boop has long been a favorite and have always enjoyed stories that surround her-just imagine your next celebration -costume party with her as a theme! What fun.

    Betty Boop aside, this was an amazing piece that made me feel as though I was with you celebrating with such excitement you spurred on with the very way this is written.

    Thank you for this slice of entertainment.

  3. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    I like a real life look at Betty Boop! Thanks for the information and encouragement too!!

  4. James L. Secor

    And…she did the voice for Olive Oyl. La! Champagne is my favorite, any time, anywhere. Call me and I’ll be there. Lovely way to put it: Betty Boop became more famous than Helen Kane. Lovely voice. Carry me along.

  5. Sharla

    Remember ‘growing up’ with Betty Boop very well! Did not know the story so thanks for sharing such wonderful trivia. Loved the style of writing that drew me in immediately!


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