Monday, June 20, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: The Marking Down of Beauty

Our latest contribution to the Magpie Tales series
We all knew Latrice Williams would come back one day when 20 years ago she swaggered out of Joliet to seek her fame and fortune. How fitting that she is now working the fountain counter at the same Woolworth's where photos of her are stacked 10 high in the remainder bins next to LPs of Milton Berle singing Yellow Submarine and dakron aprons with rooster patterns.

She has even reverted back to her original name, Agnes Blanchburn.

Edna Cosgrove and Coeta Healdton whisper over the lime aids and pimento grilled cheese sandwiches Agnes serves them. They can remember the days when Agnes was better known for "putting on airs" after she came back from elocution and posture lessons from a tutor in Evanston.
Agnes always tried to present herself as the artistic type ever since she won the contest of Miss Studebaker of Kendall County and that artist from Ann Arbor breezed through town and painted so many portraits of her. He said he was going to submit some of them direct to the Studebaker designers and insist that her likeness should be used in the design of the hood ornaments for the 1932 model. Agnes had visions of dozens of chrome versions of herself coming down Michigan or Park avenues, glistening in the sun.
It was Detroit not Hollywood that came calling for Agnes when she entered the contest for Miss Buick 1935 but came in only fifth place but was featured as Miss August in calendars in the men's rooms of dealerships in the Upper Midwest. It was then that she adopted the name Latrice to avoid too much scandal back in Joliet. Soon she was actually off to California and making films, but in Encino not Hollywood or Culver City.
She adopted a number of other names -- Lillian Lushmore, Bernice Babcock, Colleen Coobaugh -- as she made a series of increasingly squalid potboilers. And before she knew it, she was 35, a marginally employed "actress" who primarily supported herself working at Van de Kamp's. Finally, she got a speaking role, albeit one line ("I think he went that way.") and in a B-picture, Revenge of Tarzan.And now, here she is back in Joliet. "This job at the counter is just transitional," she tells Coeta and Edna who nod in polite albeit mock understanding as they struggle to quiet their condescending giggles. "I think I will either teach acting or piano lessons. And I still have my ceramics. I could always pursue my craft in ceramics. I find glazing much more rewarding than the glare of the spotlight these days."

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At 6:33 PM, Blogger Sioux said...

What a marvelous, rollicking trip you took us on, beginning with just one photo and then adding your own.

I look forward to reading more of your "stuff."

At 7:25 PM, Blogger (Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

That was very interesting. Had no idea where it was going. Great job.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Reflections said...

Great piece of what seems a historic journey, tied together with the sale priced photograph of a long ago star.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Lucy Westenra said...

Enormously entertaining. Thank you

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Margaret said...

her one line break in Tarzan. LOL Hey, at least she tried for her dream. The others just stayed back in town. They really have not right to laugh! :)

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Tumblewords: said...

It surely feels like a biography complete with 'asides'. I love it!

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Donna B said...

You are flat out mind blowing amazing!

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wonderful piece! I very much enjoyed the journey =)

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Tess Kincaid said...

You know what I like best about your stories? The fabulous named you draw out of your hat...or head.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Templeton's fury said...


At 4:47 PM, Blogger Poetry Potluck said...



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