Who considered portraying singer Russ Columbo in a biopic movie? Try George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Perry Como, for starters…

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo).51gcwn4yjsl

Who wanted to portray Russ Columbo either in a movie or in a television musical? George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Tony Curtis, Perry Como for starters. Some of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars and singers considered taking on the challenge of portraying the well-liked, handsome singer, violin virtuoso, and gifted songwriter, who had been engaged to marry film actress Carole Lombard.

Russ Columbo left a big imprint on Hollywood upon his death in 1934, with his handsome good-looks, velvety smooth baritone voice, and wonderful romantic songs, which he had made famous on stage, radio, and in the movies. Upon his death, Russ Columbo left behind thousands of fans, including some emerging Latin singers/actors who considered him to be a role-model to follow.

The year World War II ended, Paramount Pictures considered casting Andy Rusell in a bio-picture about Russ Columbo. Andy Russell was born in Mexico as Andres Rabago. He received his stage name from orchestra leader Gus Arnheim, who had worked with Russ Columbo at the Cocoanut Grove. Arnheim was Andres Rabago’s legal guardian, as he was underage when he started working in the orchestra. The young Andres Rabago performed as a drummer and solo vocalist. Arnheim suggested Rabago change his name in order to draw a bigger audience and to avoid discrimination as a Latin. Arnheim told him,  “I used to have a singer, a famous singer fella that took Bing Crosby’s place years ago. His name was Russell Columbo, one of the famous singers of the era. I’m gonna call you Russell–Andy Russell.” (Wikipedia) And so, Rabago’s name was changed to Andy Rusell. He, unfortunately, was not chosen.

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Andy Russell

Singer Perry Como had met Russ Columbo in Chicago at the Golden Pheasant Club in 1933, while Russ Columbo was performing there promoting songs for the motion pictures he was starring in. The experience of meeting his idol left a big impression on the young Perry Como and it was well-known that being a first-generation Italian-American himself, Como styled himself to be like Columbo.

Perry Como’s recording of Prisoner of Love, which Russ Columbo had co-written and made famous, went #1 on the Billboard Charts in 1946. Perry Como tried to take on the role of  Columbo in a bio-picture, but it did not come off.

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Perry Como

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1950’s Heartthrob Johnny Desmond (born: Giovanni Alfredo De Simone),  the singer who had made a “White Suit Coat and a Pink Carnation”  popular, had also recorded one of  Columbo’s biggest hits, “Guilty”, on his record label. Johnny Desmond, it was reported, had planned to make a musical out of The Russ Columbo Story and wanted to perform it on Broadway first, and then turn it into a movie with a Hollywood production company. His plans fell apart when he disputed with NBC who claimed the rights and were planning a TV series based on Russ Columbo’s life. Desmond, as late as 1975, still planned to do a musical motion picture about Columbo.  He was interviewed by The Chicago Tribune at the Playboy Club’s living room and told the reporter, “I think the movie is going to be done. I had always planned to play Columbo, but now I think I should play his brother Fury. (He meant Fiore, Russ Columbo’s older brother). I’d like to do the voice over for Columbo (singing).” He never did. Desmond passed away in 1985, not having achieved his goal to portray Russ Columbo’s life.

Don Cornell had a smooth baritone voice like Russ’s and was born into a large Italian-American family in Bronx, NY, as Luigi Valaro. Cornell changed his name during World War II, Americanizing it. He made himself more acceptable to audiences in order not be booed off the stage due to anti- Mussollini sentiment when they said his name, an event which had previously occurred during one of his performances. He had several Billboard Charted hits that went to the top of the charts in the 1950’s and also was rumored to have been considered for The Russ Columbo Story.

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Singer and actor Tony Martin, the husband of famous actress Cyd Charisse, had his own television show during the 1950’s and a long musical film career to back his ambitions. One of them was to portray Russ Columbo in a biopic movie musical. Martin went so far as to approach one of Russ Columbo’s sisters about the possibility of obtaining the rights to Columbo’s life story, but once again the production of another Russ Columbo Story fell through.

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In the 1950’s, finding the perfect singer/actor to portray Russ Columbo was a bit like a casting call of the singers Hall of Fame. This included young teen-idol, the dreamboat Alan Dale. He had made a hit of the songs  “Oh, Marie”, “Gentle and Sweet” (#10 Billboard) and “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”.  The teen was considered to be extremely talented and went by the moniker Prince of The Baritones. When he was still underage, he had his own TV show with Dumont and CBS  P51tnhutpsyl-_sy300_ictures (1948).  Alan Dale recorded the hit song “Heart of My Heart” with fellow Russ Columbo wannabes Don Cornell and Johnny Desmond. The song was on the Billboard Chart at #10 in 1953.  Alan Dale was well qualified to portray Columbo. He too came from an Italian-American family (bn: Alando Sigismondi) and was born in New York. His father had been a theater comedian and Alan Dale started performing onstage when he was nine years old.  It was reported in a couple of sources that in 1955 he was approached by film producers who intended on making a motion picture of Russ Columbo’s life. It seemed like the singer was a “sure in” for the role, but for an unknown reason (most likely the copyrights) the motion picture was never made.

Movie actor Tony Curtis had also set his sights in the 1950’s on making a musical about Russ Columbo for NBC, which was to be aired for one hour on tv. The planned production went as far as rehearsals, but for various reasons, including a dispute with Johnny Desmond about the rights, the show fell apart and was not aired.

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Tony Curtis

Comic Sid Caesar was a gifted linguist and musician. He performed on his own tv show with Benny Goodman, the big band orchestra leader, and drummer Gene Krupa, both of whom had worked for Russ Columbo when they were first starting out in the business. Contrary to what many biographers wrote, both Goodman and Krupa claimed on television that they had “enjoyed” working for Russ Columbo.

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Imogene Coca wearing a locket and comic Sid Caesar dressed and looking like Russ Columbo.

Caesar did a comic sketch titled: “Housewarming” for his television show. Housewarming Sid Caesar Show (click here to view show)  Imogene Coca wears a fur wrap similar in style to the one Carole Lombard wore to Clifton Webb’s housewarming party (lighter in color). Her date, according to movie actor Clifton Webb in his biography, was Russ Columbo. Caesar is dressed in clothing identical to what Russ Columbo wore in the wedding scene from Broadway Thru a Keyhole, speaks in the same range of voice and could pass for Columbo’s double. The sketch is also loaded with well-known Carole Lombard-isms connected to her life. Caesar was trying to show in a comedic manner that there were ways to go around the copyrights issues plaguing productions in the 1950’s wanting to portray Russ Columbo’s life. And as you can see from the photo above (Wikipedia), the comic often dressed and looked like Columbo on his show. By the way, yes, I think he was making a bid for the role, but as he had his own show, Caesar successfully went ahead and honored Russ Columbo and his romance with Carole Lombard in his own unique manner. Bravo!

Skip ahead a couple of decades…

Tom Cruise and Michelle Pfeiffer were in the 1990’s at the top of their movie careers. Michelle Pfeiffer’s ethereal beauty and comedic timing were being compared in the newspaper and movie reviews to that of Carole Lombard’s. Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Cruise both won Golden Globe Awards for their outstanding performances as actors in film at the same time. There begins a rumor that they should be paired together as a movie couple up on the screen. Michelle Pfeiffer as Carole Lombard, and Tom Cruise as her singing love interest (Russ Columbo). It would have made a great motion picture. A biopic, however, does not develop and the idea is dropped.

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Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Cruise

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George Clooney, the famously handsome actor/director who owns a villa in Italy, had also considered making a movie about Russ Columbo based on the book Crooner Mystique by Dennis Penna.

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Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby

George Clooney’s favorite aunt was the well-known singer Rosemary Clooney. She had once lived in the same house Russ Columbo had rented on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills at the time of his death. The house had been built by actor Monte Blue in the 1920’s and had been lived-in by the song composer George Gershwin. Rosemary Clooney lived there with husband Jose Ferrer, raising her children. It was said Bing Crosby came one day to visit Rosemary and to discuss the radio show. Crosby, wrongly thinking that Russ had died in the house, refused to step into the den. He shouldn’t have worried. Russ Columbo had been shot and killed by his friend Lansing Brown in Brown’s parents’ home, not there.

Rosemary Clooney’s children, a bit frightened by the idea of a ghost haunting the house, used to call out as they went downstairs at night. “Hello Russ, we’re coming down!” Sadly, despite protests not to, the house was torn down in 2005.  The other house, the Outpost Drive house, which Russ Columbo owned and lived-in with his parents, still remains in existence today.

The only singer to complete a project and sing with the title: The Russ Columbo Story, was singer Paul Bruno, who released an album in 1960, where according to Billboard Chart Magazine, Bruno “warbled tunes associated with Russ Columbo,” and the album cover featured several pictures of  Russ Columbo. For more information about Russ Columbo read my free blog: So how famous was Russ Columbo?

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Dressing Carole Lombard, her clothing designers and my book.

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Russ Columbo and Carole Lombard). Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo by Beverly Adam

Dressing Carole Lombard for my book Two Lovers is one of the enjoyable tasks I had as an author. Carole was a stunningly beautiful movie star in the 1930’s and one of the most photographed women in Hollywood, having posed for photographers over 42,000 times by 1938.

 

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Travis Banton with Carole Lombard

 

 

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Gown by Travis Banton

 

Travis Banton was the head costume designer at Paramount Pictures, the studio where Carole was under contract during the 1930’s. Carole paid him as well to create street clothes for her, mostly pencil skirts with matching tailored jackets. She had to look polished on and off the set.

A young emerging star, Carole Lombard was twenty-five years old  in 1933, and had been gradually working her way up the entertainment ladder and that required looking glamorous. Travis Banton liked her and had a very friendly working relationship with Carole Lombard. He once was having such a good time chatting with her during a fitting that he arrived almost an hour late to a dinner party that he was supposed to be hosting.

 

Italian designer Elsa Schiaperelli  had arrived in California in the 1920’s. The daring designer was a noted rival of Coco Chanel

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Elsa Schiaparelli

and her surrealistic elements transformed Hollywood style, with her cloche hats, broad double breasted jackets and artistic notes of whimsy. Paramount took note and copied her style.

 

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Carole wearing Juliet cap. Drawing by Charles Sheldon.

Irene Maud Lentz was a twice nominated costume designer who freelanced at several studios in Hollywood, working at one point for Paramount in the 1930’s

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Irene Maud Lentz

and early 1940’s. She designed clothes for Carole Lombard for the films Mr and Mrs Smith and To Be Or Not To Be. Irene Lentz was known to have originated the dressmaker suit and her clothing  was popular at Bullocks. The actor Gary Cooper was reported to have been Irene’s lover and many believe she committed suicide when he died.

Carole Lombard wore on a date with her own lover, Russ  Columbo, one of Irene Lentz’s designs.

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Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo

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“We would have married,” said Carole Lombard about her romance with Russ Columbo.

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo).

“We would have married,” said Carole Lombard during her interview with magazine writer Sonia Lee for Movie Screen Magazine in 1934. Russ Columbo had been killed and Lombard revealed that she had been planning to marry the famous singer whose movie and radio career she had been guiding.

Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo were young, the same age (twenty-five years old), and very much in love. She helped run his career and was guiding him to film stardom. If any couple could be called soulmates they were. They were known to have premonitions about each other before they actually occurred.

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Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo

 

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carole Lombard’s and Russ Columbo’s Death Connection

 

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Hollywood Magazine

 

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo)

Carole Lombard’s unexpected death, as in life, was connected in the press to Russ Columbo’s.

“To account for her son’s prolonged absence, Mrs. Columbo was told he was in London, making movie pictures with Carole. In the course of her romance with Russ, Carole naturally had grown close to Mrs. Columbo. Thus, to keep the heartbreaking news from her, Carole wrote weekly letters full of gay chit-chat and news of their activities, which were supposedly postmarked London and read to the blind mother.” Hollywood Magazine.

 8829304249b63e3b4c319d7878989accBoth Russ Columbo and Carole Lombard died young. It is a sad twist of fate that they both had premonitions  that they would do so. Yesterday, January 14th, was Russ’s birthday.

When she sang the National Anthem on January 15th she must have thought of him. If Russ were alive how proud he would have been of her standing there singing her heart out, leading the audience. He had been the one, after all, who gave her voice lessons early on in their romance. And she in turn had encouraged him to consider a career singing  opera.

Carole Lombard knew she would die young. When she told her friend Alice Marble, the tennis-pro replied, “Did the fortune-tellers tell you that?”

“Yes, they did, but it’s more than that. It’s a feeling I have,” Lombard said. Original source:  Courting Danger by Alice Marble.

Russ Columbo had had a premonition that he too would die young. When he did his family decided he would be placed in the vault opposite his brother Fiore’s, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. When Carole Lombard  made her last will and testament, the first instruction she wrote down was her desire to be interred in a modest crypt at the same cemetery which is not in Hollywood, dressed wearing her favorite white gown.

The flowers that were laid on her burial casket were identical to the ones she had laid on Russ Columbo’s and the large heart shaped wreath display she had sent to the funeral she had arranged signed with his pet name for her, Angel.

Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard’s brother, Fred Peters,  were pallbearers at Russ Columbo’s funeral.

 

The last song Russ Columbo ever sang and recorded was Two Lovers by Allie Wrubel and Mort Dixon:27fab803b23bbdce0de3cd10eb669463

I see two lovers on the moonlit sand,
Standing face to face,
And as he takes her little trembling hand,
They slowly embrace.

I see two lovers in a world apart,
Heart to heart, what bliss!
And in my loneliness, I see them start
One heavenly kiss.
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Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo by Beverly Adam

Kindle Preview of Two Lovers.click here for first chapter e-book preview.

Two Lovers is the true love story between legendary Hollywood film actress Carole Lombard, and the famous singer known as The Valentino of The Radio, Russ Columbo.

Recently divorced from her first husband, William Powell (The Thin Man), Carole attends a performance to hear popular radio star Russ Columbo, sing at The Cocoanut Grove, beginning an unforgettable romance.

“Beverly Adam’s fascinating account of Russ and Carole’s star-crossed love story is a must read.” Damon Leigh, President of the Russ Columbo Society.

Comments from my Amazon editor about the new book “Two Lovers”: 
“I think you’ve done a great job in your portrayal of Carole Lombard, 
who comes across as someone who had an excellent sense of humor in the face of adversity and personal tragedy. I also found the descriptions of Hollywood life in the 1930s to be extremely well done and full of rich detail… This was a very enjoyable book to work on”: Editor, Bill (Amazon).

 

“I started reading it last night and found it hard to put down. Technically it is a work of
fiction, but Adam did a ton of research for the book and based what was going on with the couple’s lives and careers at this time on true facts. I especially enjoy having a chance to get inside Carole’s head, and learning what her life was like before Gable and when she was first on the verge of major stardom.” Bess Korey, Songwriter, DJ, Book Reviewer: Member of Carole Lombard FB.
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“Their story is beautifully and accurately told. I love seeing life through Carole’s eyes, knowing the depths of her heart. She was such a fiery brilliant woman, so full of life, a true shining star. The love Russ and Carole shared was epic, rare, and wonderful to read. ” Publisher Leslie D. Stuart (Destiny Rose Editorials and Destiny Whispers Publishing). ” (not the publisher)

You can read the first chapter for free at the following:

To order on Amazon click here large print

To order :KindleSmashwordsBarnes and Noble,

 

 

The Lady and The Captain

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Book reviewed by Christine Shoup of Rakehell Magazine

I believe this is the second book (The Honorable Gentlemen #2) series by Beverly S. Adam.

Lieutenant Robert Smythe of his majesty’s ship The Brunswick would do anything to save his commanding officer, Captain Jackson. The Captain turned deathly ill two days ago but had been mysteriously sick for almost two weeks now. His last hope was a healer west coast of Ireland – Varrick Island. Dark hair, tall and muscular – he was the male version of a siren and built like a veritable god. He had a powerful presence. His beautiful brown eyes were like whiskey on the soul. For years, Lt. Robert Smythe’s mistress had been the sea. Upon reaching Portsmouth he would be looking for a wife. At least that was the plan until the Captain took ill.

Wise Sarah Duncan was an orphan found abandoned and floating in a wee tar boat on the sea. The villagers on the mainland say she’s a changeling fairy. In reality she’s the daughter of Gladys Clougheen’s, a renowned healer whom some villagers believe to be a witch. Sarah had cornflower blue eyes and long golden hair. She now lived on her own in Urlingford village in the rolling green hills of Kilkarney, Ireland. Sarah was previously engaged to a blacksmith but he died of typhus upon the sea. Now she was just hoping to find peace and happiness and a life all her own.

Together, Robert and Sarah work to heal the Captain. In doing so they must also find a treasonous culprit. The plan was that Sarah would pose as Robert’s betrothed while aboard The Brunswick and they would seek answers from anyone and everyone who had any contact with the Captain.

I liked this book. The characters are strong and the story is well written. The supporting cast of nautical riff-raff gave a the book a wonderful and colorful spin that supported the protagonists perfectly. I feel as though there is another book in the making though. There is a lot more to this story to be told, I can feel it. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long. This book is a lovely quick read perfect for a flight or day at the beach. Honestly, I feel as though I learned a lot along the way too. Ms. Adam has filled the book chock full of interesting historical, nautical and various other factoids. I thought it was pretty cool stuff. I love to learn things when I least expect to be taught anything at all!

Order at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lady-Captain-Book-Gentlemen-Honor-ebook/dp/B00K114AS6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424731165&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lady+and+the+captain

or other online bookstores.

I Love You Miss #3198 (short story-romance)

I Love You Miss #3198

Sunnyvale, California. Jeff stared grimly at his computer screen. The letters materializing from the online lovelorn network were less than inspiring. Such personals as “SFSM for nite of pn”- Single female seeks single male for a night of passion, didn’t exactly add up to someone looking for a lifetime commitment. He had checked countless personal ads, matchmaking agencies and been on more blind dates in the past few months than any healthy American male should be forced to endure. But let’s be real, what did he have to show for all this activity? Nada. Nothing. Not even the slightest proverbial zing had passed between himself and the women he had dated.

 He took stock of himself as future husband material. At thirty-five, he was in good physical condition from weekly workouts with his personal trainer. He held a challenging job in one of Silicon Valley’s foremost computer companies. As a product manager, his income was more than decent. He was considered a pretty nice guy, at least that is what his sister-in-laws told him when asked. So why was he having such a hard time finding the right woman to setup house with? He had experienced what most men would consider the ultimate smorgasbord of available women, from nose-pierced students to silk bloused lady executives.
Sure, at first it had been fun meeting a new woman every night, taking them out to different restaurants and movies. But lately the awkward good nights and milquetoast handshakes had, well, become less than satisfying, try damn frustrating. He wanted to see the same face every night, to be invited inside, to lie down in bed with her and to stay for the rest of his life. It just wasn’t happening.
Pulling a hand through his thick black hair, Jeff faced the computer screen and clicked-up the menu to the network message board. Maybe wonder of wonders something new had popped up since the last time he looked? Right now he was open to any suggestion that would get him out of his present dating funk.
The computer star burst into action with the click of the mouse, as if he were light-speeding into another universe. There, in the magical world where modern technology became part of the mythic legend of love potions, millennium man expected to find the tonic pat answer to all of his heart’s befuddling demands. An animated cupid shooting arrows appeared on the screen. The little cherub winked at him, aimed and let fly an arrow. It hit the heart dangling from a nearby message tree. Upon contact with the arrow the heart split open to reveal the paid message: EASTERN BLOCK WOMEN EAGER TO MEET WESTERN MEN. FIND YOUR IDEAL MATE. ORDER YOUR CATALOGUE TODAY. Below the message was a phone number to call. Jeff tapped the screen and leaned back in his swivel chair, reaching for the phone.
He had tried everything known within the North American hemisphere, so what did he have to lose? With the Cold War over, the Pacific was just separating two large land masses containing fairly similar populations. He dialed the number. An operator with a heavy Slavic accent answered the phone. He decided to order ten catalogs, knowing that they would contain an estimated one thousand faces. Surely he could find one that met his idea of the perfect mate?
Yeah, right… he frowned, recalling all the women he had met and dated. He ordered ten more. Two thousand suddenly sounded a safer number. Feeling as if he had just taken a giant step in the right direction, Jeff poured himself a cup full of his favorite percolated mud.
Holding a Chip-tech logo imprinted mug, he saluted the air around him. “To the future Mrs. Jeff Morgan, wherever you may be found…” Taking a sip, he sighed with contentment. Tomorrow night was the beginning of the weekend and, for the first time in weeks, he was looking forward to staying home and ordering pizza-in.
St. Petersburg, Russia. Natalya Trvosky paced her friend’s small living-room apartment reading aloud the typed paper before her. “Number 3198 likes music, books, and cooking. Never been married, she’s a 27 year old single looking for a man who will make both a good husband and father. Write her today and she may become yours truly.” She paused and looked incredulously at the tiny brunette seated on the faded sofa in front of her.
“You’re crazy. This may have worked for you Anna, but me?” She shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“Please,” pleaded her friend, the engagement ring on her left finger flashing as she placed a hand on Natalya’s arm. ”’Give it a try, I know it will work for you too.”
Two weeks ago, Anna found herself engaged to an American commercial photographer named Bob White. She was divorced from an alcoholic husband, and with an eight year old son to care for, had never expected to fall in love again. But Bob had miraculously accepted both of them. She owed her present happiness to the marriage-broker service which helped arrange for her to meet her future husband. Now, as she sat waiting for her visa to arrive from the American embassy, she wanted to help her friend.
Skeptical, Natalya continued to shake her head. It couldn’t possibly work. She just wasn’t nearly as pretty or as vivacious as her outspoken friend. Within minutes anyone knew where they stood with Anna, but with her? No, not likely. A relationship, she told herself, took time.
 Noting the defiant look in her friend’s brown eyes, Anna said, “Listen, Natalya, every time I come to see you, you’re thinner and sadder. You have to do something before you fade away altogether.”
Anna passed a critical eye over her taller friend’s willowy frame. She tried to see her through the eyes of a stranger. Natalya’s large, slightly slanted brown eyes and long honey-blonde hair were all to her benefit. The fact she did not have a classical jaw line and did have a pert nose did not detract from her sweet appearance, which could be summarized as naturally pretty. No, her friend may not look like a Miss World contestant, but she was a definite contender for a cherished Mrs. title.
“Anna, I know my books won’t keep me warm at night. But… ” She made a wry face and said, “the men here are so boorish.” She rolled her eyes and admitted, “Finally I just prefer to be-“
“Alone,” finished Anna for her with sympathy. “That’s why I want you to try this. It’s simple, a little expensive, but well worth it. Who knows?” She flashed an impish grin at her. “Maybe there’s someone out there waiting for you, just as there was for me.”
Someone waiting for her… the phrase rang through Natalya’s thoughts and into her heart. Three days later she telephoned Anna and told her to send the application in. None of the men here seemed to understand her quiet, but strong-minded ways. As a translator from a relatively well-to-do airplane designing family, she stood out noticeably from the other young women who had neither the education nor her privileged status. The combination of status and wealth made the majority of the men she met uncomfortable, and absurdly competitive. Often she found herself having to defend what she and her family had worked so hard for.
And if she couldn’t find a man who respected her intelligence and warmly applauded her family’s hard-earned achievements, hadn’t she better look elsewhere for someone who would? Ideally someone better-off than her own family? Yes, but where to find such a man? Most of the men who did come close to fitting her wish list were either already married, divorced with children to support, or so tiresomely full of themselves she found herself staring blankly into their eyes when her turn came to speak. The seeds that Anna had sown in her thoughts began to take root.
She considered cautiously the almost impossible odds of falling in love with a man from halfway around the world and came to a decision “Make certain they take a picture of me smiling,” she said. “I wouldn’t want him to think I’m desperate.”
“Never,” laughed Anna. Then, talking a mile a minute about what she should say and wear for her video interview, Natalya arranged to meet with her the next day at Cupid’s Arrow Office where she would become Miss #3198.
Sunnyvale, California. Two weeks later, Jeff held the package covered with stamps and blue ink from the customs office with the exact same excitement he had felt when, as a young boy, he had received a cereal box top toy in the mail. This time inside the package, there was no plastic whirly helicopter waiting for him to unwrap. He hoped his future was and that of someone else.
He kicked-off his shoes and began to read the neatly typed letter of introduction enclosed. He stopped upon noticing that two of the ten CDs he had ordered were missing. It would appear that number 3306 and 2814 had already found husbands. Didn’t that prove how well their service worked? the letter slyly boasted. Not necessarily so, the skeptical side of Jeff voted. It could simply mean that the Gregorys and Viktors who lived next door to the ladies might have scored points for home side courting. There was after all an advantage to living on the same continent as the one you are courting.
He noted that of the two missing CDs, one had been recommended to him by his mother, Betty Morgan. He smiled as he recollected how the whole family had taken an active interest in his scheme to find a wife. When, after wading helplessly through the catalogs, he discovered he couldn’t keep focused on both the faces and interests, he decided to use his secret weapon- the highly opinionated Morgan clan.
Arriving at his parents’ home with the look of one who has spent too much time in front of the pastry shop, he knocked on the door. His mother answered, greeting him with a kiss on the cheek. She eyed the stack of catalogues. “All of those women for you to choose from… Give them to me Jeff,” she said, and before he could utter a word, she swept them out of his arms.
His twin brother Gary and his wife, Lynn, greeted him from the family room. Joe Morgan, the patriarch of the family, stepped inside from the garage and nodded his head at him by way of greeting. “Better be careful before you entrust any of those books to your mother, son,” he said, “or you’ll find she has picked out a bride and booked the church even before you can say your name to the girl.”
“Really Joe, I’m not as bad as all that,” retorted his wife, carefully arranging the pile of catalogs on the coffee table. She sat down and began writing down numbers. Family chatter stopped. All stared at the intent mother-in-law to be as she peered through her reading glasses down at the semi-glossy photos, completely engrossed.
Joe, a grin as wide as the streak of oil on his cheek, bent over his wife and stage-whispered into her ear, “Jeff might want a pen and paper too, honey.” At this the room broke into a roar of laughter. Flushed, the mother of the noisy brood stood-up, placed a swift kiss on her exasperating husband’s face and went to fetch pens and paper for all. By the end of the evening candidates were submitted for his final scrutiny. The determined gleam in his mother’s eyes seemed to silently telepath to him that hers were by far the very best of the batch.
For another hour he looked over the photos of the women they had selected. When he reached his father’s choices, he couldn’t help but laugh. Apparently, Dad’s idea of the ideal wife for him bordered on theatrical fantasy. All of the women looked like the glamour vamps from the Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie cataloge. They stared out at him with pouty lips, thick eyelashes and Dolly Parton hairdos. Obviously his father thought he needed a sexy woman to warm his bed, Jeff chuckled to himself. He had chosen one of the sexy women with a fake fur-lined sweater to humor him. Now, he leaned back against a bean bag chair and plopped down in front of the television. He planned on viewing all eight of the tapes that night.
Moscow, Russia. Natalya stared at the Texan in front of her. It seemed almost surreal that the man she had been corresponding with for the last two weeks by e-mail was actually sitting right across from her in this small café. His light blonde hair had been closely shaved into a short military cut, and above his mouth, was a neatly trimmed mustache. His pale blue eyes watched her as she came in and sat down. Natalya remembered from his letters that Mr. O’ Keefe was in his early forties, had been married before, but had no children.
He was one of the handsomest men she had ever met. She felt a tad uneasy. He looked too good to be true. He in turn was looking her over, taking in the in the pinstriped linen suit she wore, the way her shoulder-length hair was pulled fashionably back with a gold leaf clip.
“Well, how do I measure up?” she asked, her accent hanging thickly in the air with the noise of the people talking behind them. It was nearing lunch hour and students crammed the tiny Café Margarita to order late morning pastries.
“Fine, fine,” he said slowly, as though trying to picture her in some other way. He grinned at her with a large, boyish smile as she looked at him quizzically. “You’re the first one I’ve met today who actually spoke English to me. That’s a point for you. I’ve had to use an interpreter my lawyer hired for me with the others.”
“I am the first one?” she asked, a frown lightly crossing her brow. She looked around her to see if there was someone else he knew there. “What others are you talking about?”
“I thought you knew. Well, at least I wrote you, didn’t I? I’ve been meeting with women since early this morning,” he said as if he were talking of hiring a woman to be his wife. “I wanted to meet with you all. You know, to figure out which one of you would make the best wife for me.”
“Oh-” said Natalya, a sick feeling fluttering in her stomach, suddenly embarrassed. Naively she had thought she was the only one he had written to setup an appointment with. When he had written and said he wanted to meet her and contact some of his other friends in Moscow, she had foolishly thought he meant other Americans like himself, not other single, Russian women.
“How many more are you going to meet?” she asked carefully, trying to keep her voice light, even though her pride hurt.
“You’re number four. I’ve got one more rendezvous with a lady at three and then I will make-up my mind.” Then, as if he suddenly remembered that she was one of the women he was supposed to be interested in, he brought out an expensively wrapped package.
“Here, honey, this is for you,” he said handing it to her.
“Thank-you,” she answered and politely put it beside her. He looked at her expectantly.
“Well, aren’t ya going to open it, Natalya?”
“Oh, of course,” she smiled at him. And while she undid the wrapping paper he sat back and drank his coffee.
“I had been told you ladies all love clothes from the west, so I thought I’d bring you all a present from back home.”
Natalya forced a smile. It was very considerate of him to think of such a gift, even if it made her feel as if she were some sort of fashion doll he was trying clothes on. She took the lid off the box. Beneath the tissue paper lay a pant outfit with black velour leggings and matching bodice. She noted that the waist was elastic.
“The description of you all was small,” he said as way of explanation. “But I thought it best to buy one outfit that would fit any size. The last gal I met was so excited she jumped right-up and gave me a big kiss.”
“Yes, it was most thoughtful of you,” she said politely. Then looking at him as if to summarize her own feelings about their present encounter she asked shrewdly, “You have already come to a decision, about us, haven’t you? You are just meeting with me today out of politeness, because we agreed to, correct?”
He sat up a little straighter. The look he gave her told Natalya that she was putting him on the spot. Some innate sixth sense had told her just from the few minutes that they had spent together that he had already decided whom he wanted to marry.
“Yes,” he answered, some of the good ol’ boy facade slipping. She stood-up and held out her hand.
He stood as well, and she gave him a genuine smile of friendship.
“Then, I think I will be going, Mr. O’ Keefe. I hope the rest of your stay in Moscow is a pleasant one. It was nice to meet you.”
“No ma’am, the pleasure was all mine,” he said, shaking her hand, obviously relieved that she was not sore at him.
She walked out the café door. At least, she told herself as she headed towards the train station, she had not invested herself too much in the Texan and gotten her heart broken. Although Mr. O’ Keefe had behaved like a perfect gentleman, she was lucky to have escaped becoming his future wife. She was not certain that a man who bought clothes for her on their very first date would want to limit himself to choices involving her wardrobe.
The encounter with the Texan did not put Natalya off from the idea of finding a foreign husband, but she told herself she would be more particular about the letters and e-mail she chose to reply to in the future.
Sunnyvale, California. It had been almost four months since Jeff had begun corresponding with the eight women from The Cupid’s Arrow Catalog. One woman had written him openly asking for money, so she could come and visit him, she had said. But Betty Morgan hadn’t raised a fool and he told the woman that he would be happy to repay her expenses once she arrived in the states. He never heard from her again.
Only two had made him feel as if they were writing to him and not to his bank account. He had begun corresponding exclusively to one of them over the last two weeks. She had been the only one who had written to him without the help of a translator and appeared to be seeking not just a husband, but a close friend. Their conversations by e-mail and in online chat rooms had become more and more intimate and personal. She sent him her home phone number.
They had gone beyond the typical chitchat of strangers meeting for the first time and he had recently found himself daydreaming about her sitting next to him on the living room sofa of his townhouse, talking and laughing with her after a hard day at work. He had begun to have a clear vision of introducing her to the Morgan clan and their becoming more than just pen pals.
That night he spoke to her on the phone, “Natalya, I have been thinking it over, and I think it’s time that we met. I’ve enjoyed our communications, but I want to meet you in person. Do you want me to come to St. Petersburg?”
“To meet face to face…” she murmured breathlessly, then with firm certainty. “Yes, Jeff, I would love for you to come!” Her reply caused his heart to skip a beat. He could hear the happy delight in her voice.
The next day he began to make arrangements to take time off from work and to book a flight to meet her. Saint Petersburg, Russia. Natalya looked at Jeff. He stood a head taller than her and she had to look up to see into his warm hazel eyes. Since the moment he had stepped in front of her in the reception area, she had not been able to take her eyes off him. The way he smiled down at her made her melt.
“Natalya?” he asked, looking at her.
“Yes,” she said flustered and excited, at last meeting the man whom she considered to be her special friend these last few weeks. She almost wanted to pinch herself to make certain that the moment between them was happening, that it was not just a figment of her romantic imagination. He had come all the way to Russia just for her.
She put a hand on her heart. “I am so happy to meet you at last, Jeff.”
“Me too,” he smiled back.
That night they went to a little restaurant not too far from his hotel. They laughed and talked for hours. Natalya said goodnight and they agreed to meet the next day when she intended to take him on a sight-seeing tour of the city. By the end of the third day, as he walked with Natalya on his arm around the city, Jeff knew that everything between the two of them was going to work out.
Since the moment he had locked eyes with Natalya, everyone and everything around him hadn’t really mattered, except this beautiful woman. In the evening, he sat staring at her from across a candlelit table. She was so pretty and refined, he felt like the luckiest man in the world to be there with her.
“Is something the matter?” she asked. “Do I have food on my face?”
“No, no,” he had smiled. “It’s just the restaurant, the wine, the candles, the conversation and well… being here with you, Natalya.”
“Me?” she asked, pleased. “What about me?”
“Adorable!” he said, “You are beautiful inside as well as out.” He shook his hand expressively as if he had just touched a hot stove. They both laughed.
But the seriousness of their conversation returned as Natalya confessed, “When you wrote and told me about your family, I knew that you were a good man. I think you will make a wonderful husband and father, you are such a sincere person.”
Jeff said, “I like you too, Natalya. You are an amazing lady. I never thought I would meet someone interested in me. A lot of women back home think I am a computer nerd.”
“They must be fools, then,” she said, dismissing these others with the wave of her hand.
“Not to mention, they lack your intelligence, your wit,” he swallowed and whispered boldly, “your sexiness.”
She smiled, a light blush making her cheeks rosy.
“Would you like to come up to my apartment and meet my mother?” she asked, ready to take a leap of faith concerning their relationship and introduce him to her family.
“I’d be honored,” he said as he felt the small box weighing heavily in his right hand pocket with the diamond pear shaped engagement ring inside. The zing he had been feeling in his heart was definitely there. He turned towards her as they reached the apartment door.
Holding her face gently in his hands, he said softly, “I think I am falling in love with you, Natalya,” and kissed her the way he had wanted to since the very first moment they had met. It was a kiss full of promise…
The Author: Beverly Adam is a romance author living in northern California’s Silicon Valley. She lives with her two children in the Silicon Valley.