Monday, April 30, 2012

My mother's book reveals my father's "ménage" with conductor "Tommy" Schippers' secretary

My mother, Jane Heimlich (source)

From Jane Murray Heimlich's new memoir recalls life with famous father and husband by Lauren Bishop, Cincinnati Enquirer, April 25, 2010:

Based on this - and knowing my mother - I assumed her book, entitled Out of Step, would also fail to disclose what really went on in her life, first growing up as the daughter of dance studio moguls Arthur and Kathryn Murray, then being married to my father for about six decades.

To put it mildly, I'm not big on sweeping dirt under rugs. And, per the Enquirer story, I didn't appreciate being rendered invisible, so I was in no hurry to read her book.

Well, I just picked up a copy and it turns out that my assumption that she'd skirt some awful truths was mostly correct.

However, she did include a revelation that wasn't reported by the Enquirer or, to my knowledge, by anyone else.

Before getting to that, the book does mention me in passing a couple of times. There's also a childhood photo of yours truly, so I wasn't completely disappeared.

But my brother and my sisters got exactly the same treatment. We're all sort of bit players who turn up very occasionally, usually as part of an anecdote or a supposed life lesson.  

To her credit, she cops to being an absentee mother:

This mid-1970s episode is what interested me:

Thomas J. Schippers, 1930-1977 (source)

Thomas Schippers was an American conductor who in an all too brief career was highly-regarded for his work in opera...(In 1970, he) took up a full time position with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Regrettably, soon after building the orchestra's international reputation and recording with them, he died of lung cancer at the early age of 47...A good looking, reportedly gay man, rumours of intimate associations with Gian Carlo Menotti, mathemetician (sic) Sean Clarke and Leonard Bernstein ran throughout his all too short career....
More via WOSU-FM, Columbus, Ohio:
Schippers (sic) gifts as a musician were indisputable. Added to the mix, he was devastatingly handsome. Thomas Schippers was one of those people attractive to any gender or sexual preference. He was part of the Samuel Barber-Gian Carlo Menotti menage. The chilly and autocratic Rudolf Bing, director the Metropolitan Opera, was rumored to be besotted with Schippers.
In the mid-1970s when I was living in Cincinnati, my father, a lifelong opera devotee, was utterly besotted with Schippers, who had everything my father wanted: physical beauty, talent, and, above all, fame.

Interestingly, both Schippers and my father had humble beginnings, both married heiresses that enabled them to enter high society, and both attracted admirers of both genders.

My father (circa 1965?)

According to my mother, the relationship went further:

The story's no surprise to me.

At the time I was about 21. My father introduced me to The Golden Girl without giving me any indication that she was his lover. She tried to ingratiate herself with me, offering me free rock concert tickets she got through her job as Schippers' assistant.

It didn't take me long to figure out what my 55 year-old father was doing with the much younger hot blonde.

Plus the relationship included a perk: access to "Tommy."

The soul of indiscretion, my father flagrantly squired her around town and took her calls at our home. As a result, their "secret" blew up pretty quickly.

The blonde then skipped town, my father went back to the comfort and security of Arthur Murray's money, and "Tommy" dropped dead.

As to the nature of the relationships between my father, Schippers, and The Golden Girl, my mother teasingly calls it a "ménage," but leaves the reader to fill in the rest.

My father at an April 25, 2010 book signing party for my mother's book (source)