Whatever happened to Rita Jenrette?
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that, even in days of yore – that misty time when we didn’t have 24/7 blare-a-thon news; numb-skulling reality shows; and real-time dissemination of “information” (about which half of the disseminators and two-thirds of the disseminatees can’t discern the difference between fact, fiction, and opinion) – we still had celebrities-for-the-day, an appetite for the weird and salacious tidbit, and sordid gossip.
Those of a certain age may recall Debbie “Tammy’s in Love” Reynolds’ break up with Eddie “Oh, My Papa” Fisher. Tiny Tim’s tiptoe through the tulips with Miss Vicky. And Rita Jenrette.
What I recalled about Rita Jenrette was: Married to disgraced (Abscam scandal) Congressman John Jenrette. Posing nude in Playboy. And something to do with sex on the Capitol steps.
Beyond that, I can honestly say that her name hasn’t passed through my mind until I saw her profiled in The New Yorker.
Where I was not only reminded of the things I’d remembered: Abscam, Playboy, sex on the steps. But of things that I had forgotten – if indeed I’d ever known: that she appeared in an episode of “Fantasy Island”, had a role in the film “Zombie Island Massacre”, and was the broker on the sale of New York’s GM Building to Donald Trump. (Wonder if they ever sat in a flivver in the Auto Pub and threw back a cold one while talking deal?)
But now, it seems, lovely Rita has come up in the world.
No meter maid, she, Rita is now Her Serene Highness Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, consort of Prince Nicolo Bomcompagni Ludovisi.
Well, I’d be plenty serene, too, if I lived in a forty-thousand square foot palazzo in Rome.
Hell, I’d be plenty serene if we had 200 more square feet of living space in our condo.
For Rita, serenity means speculating about whether Caravaggio – who painted a ceiling at her Villa Aurora – knew Galileo, sitting in her garden where there’s a Michelangelo statue of Pan rather than a garden gnome, an hypothesizing that a tunnel beneath the kitchen connects the Villa Aurora with what was once the Medici palace. Oh, yes, and thumbing through the treasure trove of historical documents that Rita and Nicolo came upon, including letters from Marie Antoinette and Louis the XV.
A far cry from her 1981 memoir, “My Capitol Secrets” – a best-seller that I guess I missed – that revealed Beltway sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
And then, in 2003, when Rita was in her mid-fifties, she was asked to be Nicolo’s broker.
At first, she thought it was BS – in her words “Everybody in New York calls themselves count or prince or whatever – they’re not.”
Well, you can’t be any too careful when it comes to deciding whether those counts and princes or whatevers are real or not. After all, parvenus have been known to buy a title.
And then there’s Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, who at the age of 37 got himself adopted by Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt (1898–1983), daughter-in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Not to mention all those pretenders to thrones that don’t even exist anymore.
Fortunately for Rita, Nicolo turned out to be the real-io deal-io.
Whatever things like “royalty” and “royal blood” actually mean, given that we all harken back to that first brave fish who got curious and stepped toe on land.
As an American of distinctly non-royal heritage – there’s no question what side of the moat my ancestors were on – I don’t have much truck with royalty: Euro-royalty, the royals on the walls of Thai restaurants, or American faux royalty who inherited wealth and fame.
Obviously, the guy in the way-back who got the throne the hard way, by sticking his rival’s head on a pike, deserved to be king – at least until someone could figure out how to get his head on a pike. But passing “it” down, ad infinitum, ad nauseam? Hiss boo!
Really, how can anyone in their right mind believe that what “royals” are is anything more than a) an accident of birth; b) the result of the ongoing credulity of those who buy into it.
Just because they’re entitled, doesn’t mean that they’re, well, entitled. (In the words of one Stanley Kowalski, a decidedly non-royal character: “Do you know what I say? Ha ha! Do you hear me? Ha ha ha!”)
Oh, maybe this is just sour grapes because I wasn’t born royal, I haven’t achieved royal stature, and I haven’t as yet had royal-ness thrust upon me.
Rita Jenrette Her Serene Highness Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi
What was Scott Fitzgerald thinking when he wrote that “there are no second acts in American lives”?
Here’s the link to The New Yorker article summary. You need to be a subscriber to get the full story.
And, having just googled the “second acts” quote to make sure I got it right, I found it on this site, which listed, next to Fitzgerald’s name, a group of “Related Authors” (their words, not mine):
Henry David Thoreau
I get the paring of Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins, but what do these folks have in common with each other, let alone with F. Scott Fitzgerald? Anais Nin and Thomas Merton? Anais Nin and Helen Keller? Zig Ziglar and Joseph Campbell?
I will definitely be wending my way back to this site to see what other curious combinations they’ve come up with.