A Surprise Ripple of Memory

Would you believe - this week my face broke out like I was a teen-ager. Since I have a performance of the Hello Girls next week I asked my doctor to send a prescription for the usual antibiotic I take when this happens.

The quick fix concern reminded me of a conversation I had with actress Polly Bergen in the early 1980s when we were working together for the ERA. During our three years together on a Project - The National Business Council for ERA we got to know each other pretty well and had some good times.

Polly was a smart and savvy woman who was also charming, warm and very funny with a down home Southern sense of humor. She was also a very strong feminist. Polly gave three years and her own money to the effort to pass the ERA as the public face for the National Business Council for ERA - a project I organized for the League of Women Voters. Once she came on board she was an "in the trenches" player not just a paper figure-head.

One afternoon she and I were working on some plans at her apartment in New York. When we took a break from the paper work and telephone calls we were gabbing about girlie things when she noticed that she had a possible break-out on her face. "Ellouise, would you look at this - you could get one of these and go on with your life - -  depending on what I am doing I might have to hide in the hospital for a week while they fix it."

We laughed and giggled about the hard life of a public performer.  It never crossed my mind that there would come a day when I would be picking up an antibiotic to take care of something on my face pretty much like she showed me. I am sure she would laugh and give me a hard time about it.

Polly Bergen died last year. I was surprised and sad that she was not mentioned in the Memorial Rembrance list at the Academy Awards Sunday night.  

Surely they remembered her films like Cape Fear (1962) with Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck. Polly was very effective as the frightened wife who was kidnapped by Mitchum and I remember being quite scared by this movie of revenge and danger.

and in the 1980s TV mini-series Winds of War, again with Mitchum at the top of the cast, to name a few. She was a member of the movie community for years and active as a fundraiser for many causes. I was working with her when she was filming "Winds of War" so her role in that film was a favorite for me because I knew some of the back-story.

One of the personal benefits for me of working for ERA ratification was the opportunity to work with and have a lovely friendship with Polly during that time. Our paths rarely crossed over the campaign was over outside of occasional phone calls.

I cheered her from the side-lines as she continued her performing career on television and in the movies.  As always a gutsy lady, she successfully appeared in a character role in Cabaret on Broadway which opened new avenues. She was singing again after she worked to recover her voice which was damaged by smoking.

Anyway - my prescription started a ripple of memories of a very interesting time and a lovely brief friendship with Polly Bergen.

R.I. P. Polly

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