Vale Shirley Temple
The quintessential child star, who touched the hearts of almost everyone in the English-speaking world, passed away on Monday night, February 10, 2014, at age 85, in her Woodside CA home, surrounded by her family. Her husband since 1950, Charles Black, preceded her in death in 2005.
Much will be written about her in the mainstream (print) press and numerous well-deserved accolades will be verbally heaped on her via radio and television memorials, of course, so instead of repeating the words of others, let’s instead mention what might not be noted elsewhere.
In her best-selling memoir, “Child Star,” she mentions that she once shot Eleanor Roosevelt, while she was the First Lady.
It was 1936 and there was a picnic that she had been invited to attend at Val Kill, the 180-acre Roosevelt family compound near Hyde Park, New York. Inside Ms. Temple’s lace purse was a slingshot, and how she managed to get that past all of the Secret Service agents guarding the first family, remains a mystery to this day.
As Mrs. Roosevelt was bending over a table to serve herself some food, Ms. Temple mischievously decided that the First Lady’s backside presented an irresistible target, so she loaded a pebble into her concealed weapon and fired, scoring a direct hit. We are left to assume that a Secret Service agent quickly confiscated the slingshot from the moppet celebrity.
Another fact about Ms. Temple which might not be published elsewhere, is the fact that at the height of her fame (which began at age 3) during the 1930s, she was the sole breadwinner for herself and the 12 adults who lived with her. Most folks hearing about that are left scratching their heads, wondering, “how? and why?”
A non-alcoholic drink was adorned with her name for over 50 years, but she never received one nickel of royalties for that, and in 1988 she filed a lawsuit over that issue. You can read the article about it, here.
She pretty-much set the standard for kid actors who followed her and was idolized as a role model by millions of pre-teen girls, worldwide. More importantly, she survived being a child celebrity, achieving moderate success as an adult actress and as an internationally-known diplomat, who was serving as the US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia when the Iron Curtain began collapsing in 1989.
And finally, let’s not forget that she was the first person in the movies to perform an interracial, precedent-setting dance routine (twice!) with the legendary Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878 – 1949). No one raised any public objections to her stair-step tap dances with him.
We’ll mourn her passing (and remember her) for a very long time, mostly because her many accomplishments and unselfish contributions to the entertainment industry will never be equaled.
Contributed by Fred T. Beeman