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I once was told there are three kinds of men I should never marry. Working actors. Non-working actors. Between jobs actors. That describes my husband to a T.
For twenty years I hung in with this guy. Supported him, massaged his ego, responded to his every whim, cried with him, rejoiced with him, and had his children. And, all the while, gave up my career in theater and film so I could stand by him until at last he knew success. And with his success came adulation, and with adulation, came sexual affairs, and with sexual affairs came divorce. If the marriage was hell, divorce proceedings were Armageddon. He did everything to intimidate me, belittle me and frighten me. Do I regret that I never married the boy back home? Absolutely not. If had stayed in Huron, South Dakota, I would have missed the experiences with: Marilyn Monroe, Mel Brooks, Vivian Blaine, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Daniel Mann, Jacqueline Onassis, Roy Scheider, Kurt Vonnegut and a summer living with Veronica Lake. My odyssey began when I attended the University of Iowa, Iowa City and, a year after graduating from The American Theatre Wing, I danced at NYC’s Copacabana as one of the “World Famous Copa Girls.” After that I went on to tour and to appear in summer stock when I was accepted into Lee Strasberg’s acting classes. It was there I met my charming future husband. How could I ever have guessed that years later, he would file for a divorce during the longest Screen Actors Guild strike in the union’s history? He testified in court that his leading man days were over, and he was now just an out-of-work actor. As for paying alimony, he was penniless. He conveniently never mentioned the many times I supported him in our earlier days of struggle. He forgot that when I made the movie, “Carnival of Souls,” which is now a cult classic, my salary freed him from his waiter job at a Manhattan hamburger joint. The judges were sympathetic to him and agreed with his lawyer that I should be tested by a psychiatrist to find out why I had this fantasy that I was an actress. A shrink would discover my true aptitude. I was encouraged to write. My psyche turned over as I took on the plight of an aspiring writer. However, the court found that my creative lifestyle was not worthy of support and reduced alimony to one dollar a year. After years of lawyers, and courtrooms, and legal machinations, when life was ‘running on empty,’ with no money left for the rent, my ultimate triumph came, thanks to a fortuitous inheritance, which gave me the time to finish this memoir.
Dear goddess, you were listening after all―
Candace Hilligoss is the Competition Coordinator for the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild--Julie Harris Playwright Award. This is the largest competition for new plays in the U.S.
She is also familiar to audiences for the movie "Carnival of Souls." After that she toured in a number of plays:"A Streetcar Named Desire," " Idiot's Delight," "The Boyfriend, " and appeared at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and at Olney Playhouse, Olney, MD. Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee cast her in their Broadway play, "Turn On the Night" opposite Joseph Wiseman. For a couple of theaters, she repeated her Marilyn Monroe roles in "Bus Stop" and "The Seven Year Itch."
Keywords: Humorous Memoir, with Mel Brooks, Jacqueline Onassis, Veronica Lake, Marilyn Monroe & Strasberg, Carnival of Souls--Cult Film, No-Fault Divorce, Comparable to Nora Ephron partnered with Anita Loos.