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Mommie Dearest, Brothers Grimm: Thinking about Cleveland’s House of Horrors

Ariel Castro's crime is the stuff of the grislier fairy tales. Which invites the question: Just where did those fairy tales come from?

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

May 21, 2013 - 7:00 am


I like to think that’s how it happened.

I hate to think the other stuff is true, though.

Like how Joan Crawford would give Christina’s lavish Christmas presents away to orphans after the LIFE magazine holiday photo-ops were over.

(Although I do share the actress’s purported aversion to wire hangers, one exaggerated by the child Christina’s imagination. Having once blogged off hand that I hoped one day to replace all my wire hangers with padded ones, a longtime reader shipped me a huge cardboard box of the latter –all sorbet pastel silk and bows — after his grandmother’s death.)

Anyway, these old movie stars mean a lot to me.

My mother was named after Joan Crawford, because my grandmother — who so closely resembled Crawford’s lifelong rival, Bette Davis, that she won look-alike contests — whiled away her pregnancy compulsively watching Crawford films.

Amusingly, my mother was blessed with very thick eyebrows, which we jokingly attributed to all those “shop girl” late shows.

This was especially funny because my grandmother had plucked all hers off in an attempt to better replicate Davis’s early look, and they never grew back.

I got the “Joan” eyebrows too, but the Bette Davis face.

I really wish my grandmother had been a bigger fan of, say, Elizabeth Taylor…

My mother and I also shared similar birthmarks. Not somehow-alluring Liz Taylor moles, either.

When I complained about them, which I did from about age five onwards, my mother used to chirp:

But just think: if someone ever kills you, I can use it to identify your body.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
A thousand pardons, Ms. Shaidle. Every single word you write is sheer genius and not one of your columns, this one included, has ever been sub-par or off the mark. Anyone criticising any of your work could only be a person of low intelligence and/or a substandard education. They clearly have only the basest of motives, including but not limited to a desire to aggrandize themselves by nipping at the ankles of your once-in-a generation talent.

There. Feel nice and validated now?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No - she's right. You usually write pretty well, but this was a rambling mess and I still have no clue as to your point? Why go on about Christina Crawford? Mention of both the Grimm Brothers and Miss Crawford might have helped to make a point - i.e. bad people preying on children - but you never make it.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (14)
All Comments   (14)
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RMR
God is the place which we rip open
Again and again, but which heals.
We are severe ones, for we would know,
But he is serene and bestows.

But he does not bring the pure
And sanctified gifts into his world
Unless he, himself immovable,
Obstructs their uncontrolled purpose.

Only a dead man drinks
Of the spring which is heard here by us,
If God silently winks at them, the dead.

To us is given only uproar.
And the lamb requests his little bell,
Out of the greater quietude of his instinct.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Some of us still tell kids the old stories. I was banned, however, after some of my alterations. In my version the second little pig is an NRA member and the story is considerably shorter. There's only one Billy Goat Gruff, but he's an accomplished liar able to convince the troll to wait for his brother. Goldilocks does 3 to 5 for breaking and entering. Little Red Riding Hood has a concealed carry permit. Et cetera. After my wife put her foot down I switched to the Three Hundred, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and so on. The hamster was named Leonidas. My kids don't seem any the worse for wear, but they are fairly heavily armed for teenage girls.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Write. Self-publish. Sell on Amazon.

I'm not kidding man, people will buy your updated fairytales, starting with me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am surprised that the Crawford woman is still droning on about her oppressive mother. Having had an idylic childhood on a farm with loving parents I seem to have missed something. However, no child with any imagination is spared the dread of evil lurking somewhere in the dark. Fairy tales were pretty tame compared to Tom Sawyer's confrontation with Injun Joe---terror in a cave vaguely tinged with boyhood longing for Becky Thatcher.

That stuff is passé. Imagine! A child reading a book (!) with an "Indian" villain! The child today has multiple Mommies Dearest to inflict optional gender roles and self-loathing so every childhood can be a living Hell. Coat hangers are nothing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't feel qualified to speak to the main points of this essay (except to say that I congratulate you, Ms. Shaidle, on overcoming whatever it is you have so well overcome, and wish you a future that's much better than your past!), but here's the latest on the Brothers Grimm: Philip Pullman has edited and published a first-rate new version of his 50 favorite Grimm stories, which I can recommend to any reader with a taste both for folklore and good storytelling. He used all 7 editions the Grimms themselves produced, and provides interesting endnotes about his process. Pullman the storyteller is front-and-center, and Pullman the smug professional atheist only shows up in 2 (out of 50!) endnotes: a bizarrely intense rant against one of his own selections, and a simple omission that proves that this intellectual denouncer of the Bible has likely never read it. If you want to reacquaint yourself with fairy tales, this just might be the best first step available.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hasn't she got her revenge against he mother already? She's completely destroyed her reputation. When is enough, enough?

I recall in that period, writing a book against your folks or your ex as "therapy". That's not therapy. Therapy is writing the book, reading it, having your spouse reading it, and burning it. Publishing it is called revenge.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
read it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Germany was quite obviously headed down a terrible road much earlier than is often supposed…”

Um, just check a Jewish History, not the recently whitewashed versions. For example, the Reindfleish (sp?) massacres, where a mob went from town to town, burning alive every Jewish man, woman, and child. Ironically, the good guy in the story was named Adolph.

Although the Germans were possibly better than the other Europeans.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why, yes. The Lindburgh kidnapping. I remember being warned in kindergarten. Regarding the impact of same also see the intro of Little Gloria, Happy at Last, IIRC.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is a rambling, poorly written piece. I got 3 pages in, and I'm still not sure what your point is.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
by your own admission, you didn't read the whole thing. I realize literary non-fiction isn't something everyone is familiar with, but if you are looking for a "point" then it would help to persevere to the conclusion :-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No - she's right. You usually write pretty well, but this was a rambling mess and I still have no clue as to your point? Why go on about Christina Crawford? Mention of both the Grimm Brothers and Miss Crawford might have helped to make a point - i.e. bad people preying on children - but you never make it.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Too much to ask readers to "make the point" themselves once in a while? Maybe broaden your reading horizons? Joan Didion, perhaps?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A thousand pardons, Ms. Shaidle. Every single word you write is sheer genius and not one of your columns, this one included, has ever been sub-par or off the mark. Anyone criticising any of your work could only be a person of low intelligence and/or a substandard education. They clearly have only the basest of motives, including but not limited to a desire to aggrandize themselves by nipping at the ankles of your once-in-a generation talent.

There. Feel nice and validated now?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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