From the Latin, meaning “there’s no accounting for taste.” This came to mind as I was reading the new memoir, Dick Van Dyke: My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business. In the introduction, Van Dyke referred to spending 35 years of his life with a woman named Michelle Triola. That name sounded familiar. Hadn’t a woman named Michelle Triola famously sued Lee Marvin for palimony once upon a time? Given the difference between mild-mannered, confrontation-averse Dick Van Dyke and tough guy Lee Marvin, it couldn’t possibly be the same Michelle Triola.
Except, I discovered as I read on, that it indeed was the same woman. I always thought I kept abreast of all the good gossip in Hollywood, but this one slipped past me. That got me thinking about some of the wild swings of taste that some people in Hollywood had exhibited over the years.
Perhaps the most recent example is Jane Fonda, who married both radical Tom Hayden and capitalist Ted Turner. But the one I remember most vividly is Mia Farrow, who was married to Frank Sinatra for two years in the 60s and then later spent many years with Woody Allen. Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra – not a lot of crossover there. (Speaking of juicy gossip, Farrow wrote in her autobiography that when Farrow discovered that Allen was sleeping with her adopted daughter, Sinatra offered to have Allen’s legs broken; you just don’t see that kind of devotion in ex-husbands too often.)
There must be something about Woody Allen, because after he lived with Diane Keaton when they were doing Play It Again, Sam on Broadway, she went on to date Warren Beatty. Woody Allen, Warren Beatty – not a lot of crossover there. She also dated Al Pacino, who co-starred in Beatty’s Dick Tracy (along with Dick Van Dyke, strangely enough).
There may also be something about Frank Sinatra, who was not in Dick Tracy but was married to Ava Gardner. Ava Gardner was also married to Mickey Rooney, who eventually married eight times, and Artie Shaw, who also eventually married eight times. I realize that in Auntie Mame, Rosalind Russell (married just once) said, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death” – but some of these folks headed back to the smorgasbord way too often.
Perhaps the queen of the “variety is the spice of life” award is the late Liz Taylor. Over her eight marriages, she tied the knot with actors (Richard Burton), singers (Eddie Fisher), senators (John Warner), and construction workers (Larry Fortensky). Then there was Ethel Merman, who, among her four marriages, was married to both the CEO of Continental Airlines and actor Ernest Borgnine (though the latter was only for 32 days).
I can’t pass myself off as a marriage expert, having only had the one. I’m certainly no expert on why they fail. Clearly, sometimes it takes a while to find the right person. Some of us are lucky on the first try. Some may need to experience what they don’t want to figure out what they do want. And others, sadly, are doomed, no matter how old they get, like cursed Flying Dutchmen of romance, to just keep looking.