Husband Of Natalie Trundy Tries Suicide
My I cut in?” a soft voice asked her partner, and the next second Natalie Trundy was in Charles Hirshon’s arms for the first time. His fingers, when they closed around her left hand, were gentle yet firm; and the pressure of his right hand against the small of her back, as he led her up and down the crowded college dance floor, was reassuring.
The first meeting
“I’m Charles Hirshon,” he said. “But that sounds formal . . . my friends all call me Charlie.”
“And my name’s Natalie Trundy,” she answered. Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, she kept saying to herself, immediately liking the feel of his name.
“I know,” he said. “I found out who you were exactly three minutes and twenty-two seconds after I first saw you.” And he told her he had seen her in “The Monte Carlo Story.” Then he blushed a little bit and looked over her shoulder, but a moment later he was gazing at her face again, shyly, yet with an expression that suddenly made her feel that she was the most beautiful girl in the world.
The spell was broken
The music stopped and the spell was broken. She was just an 18-year-old Briarcliff College co-ed again, and he was just another boy—someone she didn’t know—who had cut in on her at a dance. But, as she circled the floor with her next partner, whom she did know, she kept waiting for a soft voice, Charlie’s soft voice, to interrupt and say, “May I cut in?” She didn’t hear his voice, and she didn’t see him on the dance floor or on the sidelines, and all at once she just wanted to go home.
At the end of that number, she told her next partner-to-be that she had a headache and was leaving. Then she took one of her girlfriends aside and asked her to make her apologies to the others. Quickly, she put on her wrap and slipped out a side door.
She found him again
A cigarette glowed in the darkness. lt was Charlie, Hirshon, Charles, sitting on the steps. “You’re not . . . not going?” he asked. “Yes . . . no . . . what happened to you?” she replied.
“Well . . .” he began and, again, he gazed over her shoulder in embarrassment as he had back on the dance floor, “‘it was a ‘No Cut-In’ number . . . and I didn’t want to dance with anyone else . . . and you had a partner . . .”
A romance begins
In the weeks and months that followed, Natalie Trundy and Charles Hirshon were inseparable: bowling and fancy-dress balls, baseball, tea at the Plaza, hot-dogs and horse shows. She’d been a New Yorker since she was six, but Charlie, a recent arrival from Tahiti, introduced her to pleasures and places she didn’t know existed: jazz concerts at Nick’s in the Village, ferry rides to Staten Island, row-boating in Central Park, old-time laugh movies on Forty-Second Street.
Most fun of all, was just walking and talking. They’d both do the walking but she’d do most of the talking. She found it easy to talk to Charlie—about her hopes, her fears, her past, her plans, her family, her friends. He’d listen, really listen, and that was great. A boy she could really talk to.
And the list of eligible men who courted Natalie—from Arthur MacArthur, General Douglas MacArthur’s son, to the nephew of the Shah of Iran and the son of General Batista—was reduced to just one: Charles Hirshon.
He didn’t really know her
When Charles Hirshon asked Natalie Trundy to marry him, he knew very little about her.
He did know about her sister Beverly, whom she adored, and her father who could waltz better than anyone and her mom who’d been the one who insisted Natalie give up show business for at least two years to spend a couple of “normal” years in college and to make her social debut, before resuming a movie career.
And he’d discovered little crazy things about her: she’d gotten that first part of a 16-year-old girl, when she was only 13, by forcing her feet into high heels, padding herself in the proper places, putting on a form-fitting dress and convincing the producer she could play the role; she liked the bubbly feeling of champagne but couldn’t stand hard liquor; she loved ice cream and spaghetti and hamburgers and loathed cottage cheese; she’d practiced the piano for three years and hated it; she had seventy-nine pairs of shoes and $300 worth of gloves: and she had a little more than 10,024 freckles on her face.
This last thing he was pretty sure of. After all, he’d spent hours, one afternoon, counting them, seriously and with a straight face. When Natalie had finally stifled her giggles, for a moment, to declare she was starved and refused to sit still another minute and be “counted,” he solemnly announced that he had finished anyhow. A smart businessman like himself didn’t have to count every freckle. One-fourth of her face, 2,506 freckles, was sufficient, he declared; now all he had to do was multiply by four.
A lot of freckles, but not really very much—this and everything else he’d learned—to know about the girl you want to be your wife. But Charles was hopelessly in love. That was enough for him.
And when Natalie replied, “Yes, Charlie, I’ll marry you,” she knew even less about him than he did about her. Most of the time, she talked and he listened. That was one thing she was sure of: he was a good listener. And soft-voiced. And gentle. And when he looted at her in that special way, she felt she was the most beautiful girl in the world.
But “love’—about that, Natalie wasn’t sure. Excitement, yes, especially when her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frances Campana, opposed the marriage (not because Charles was of a different religion, as some of the columnists claimed, but because her father and mother knew how set she was on a career and also because she was too young); but “love”—perhaps. When her parents finally gave in and gave them their blessings and officially announced the engagement to the press, Natalie was even less sure of love than before.
Two weeks before she married Charles Hirshon, Natalie confided to a close friend that she didn’t love him, and claimed that “Charlie’s imagination always gets the better of him.” That same day she broke the engagement, and the fact was duly reported in the New York papers.
The next morning, Charlie and Natalie were seen walking hand-in-hand alone Fifth Avenue. The engagement was “on” again. Two weeks later, the young couple eloped to Baltimore, Maryland, and were married by Pastor Hans Wagner at Zion Lutheran Church. The ring was a simple. plain gold band. But Charlie’s wedding gift to his bride was far from simple: a yacht “between 80 and 100 feet long” (the groom was so excited he couldn’t remember the craft’s dimensions, when questioned by reporters after the ceremony) and a white Alfa Romeo automobile with red upholstery. The bride said she was “very happy.”
Charles wanted to take his bride to Paris and then home to Tahiti. But Natalie’s TV commitments, in New York, forced them both to stay there for over a month. Natalie was intent on carving out a career for herself in Hollywood. “I want to be a great actress,” she told an interviewer—while Charles begged her to forget about making a name for herself in pictures. Her mother had warned her to try for a career, wait till she knew more of the world, but it didn’t seem necessary then.
Charles owned almost half of the island of Tahiti, but the money was tied up in a trust fund by his father and he received only one check a month—and not a very large one at that. Not that they starved. On their anniversary, Charlie gave her a wedding band every month, but she wore neither the original ring nor any of the others.
They began to pick at each other. and then one or the other would sulk for hours. They were such strangers that they didn’t even know how to fight. to get what was bothering them out in the open, to clear the air. They were young . . . very young.
Then, Natalie, whose career had been at low tide—got the break she’d waited for, a call from Hollywood for a featured role in the “Adventures in Paradise” TV series. Charlie couldn’t get away from New York, on such short notice, so Natalie went out to the Coast by plane, alone.
At Idlewild airport, in New York, she met Vic Damone and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rocco Farinola of Brooklyn, who were all on the way to California. Natalie knew Vic casually, but her mother and his parents were old friends. On the plane, Vic invited her to be a guest at his house as long as his parents were there, or until her husband came out, and gratefully she accepted.
Marriage isn’t all sweet music
A week later, when Charlie was able to break away from his business in New York, he flew out to Hollywood, and he and Natalie rented a modest apartment.
Marriage, the young Hirshons learned, wasn’t champagne and soft lights and sweet music. It was bills, and disagreements, and washing dishes after supper. It was squabbling and quarreling over little things and big things—over whether or not Natalie should continue her career, over who should put the garbage in the incinerator.
Then, one night, came the biggest fight of all. Neither of them knew just what started it, but this time they didn’t just pick at each other in controlled voices; this time they screamed at each other, and having had no experience in screaming, of really letting off steam, they were both shattered by the experience.
“Well, Natalie,” Charlie said, after they’d both pulled themselves together, “we’re both very unhappy. Don’t you think we ought to separate for a while?”
Natalie agreed, and the next day Charlie packed a few of his things in a bag and moved into the relatively inexpensive Montecito Hotel at 6650 Franklin Avenue. As he was leaving, he said, “I’ll have the telephone turned over to you tomorrow.”
Exactly what happened in the next day or so, is a little confusing (it depends on whom you talk to, Natalie or Charlie), but she claims that she returned home from work and she found her phone was dead.
The following day she called her husband and asked, “Charles, why?” And, according to Natalie, he told her the phone was in his name. “Now it’s your business,” he is alleged to have said. “If you want another, get it.”
Natalie also claims that a few days later, when he came by to pick up his mail, she asked him, “Charles, shall I buy myself a car?” He had bought her a new car, a Dual-Ghia, but he hadn’t given it to her.
According to Natalie, Charles answered, “I’m not going to give it to you. But, I’ll tell you what. I’ll sell it to you.”
Some observers say that Charles was increasingly jealous of Natalie, not only of her career but also of the men she’d meet—men like Jeff Richards, with whom she played a love scene in a bathing suit in “Adventures in Paradise”; even men like his own best friend, Gustavo Rojo, who was dark, suave and handsome. Whether this was true or not, it was apparent to everyone who knew him, that Charles was extremely depressed by the break-up.
One last call
A little more than two weeks after Charles Hirshon walked out on his wife, he picked up the telephone in his hotel-apartment and made two calls, one to his friend Gustavo Rojo, of Beverly Hills, the other to New York City. Just before he put through the call to New York, he told the switchboard operator, Miss Eva Shalle, that he wanted the telephone service disconnected after he made “one last call.” Something in the tone of his voice alarmed the operator, and she told her fears to Walter Smith, the hotel manager. He told her to listen in on the New York call, and she heard Charles Hirshon say that he’d taken an overdose of seconal tablets. The manager immediately called the police.
The police broke into his apartment and found him unconscious. In his hands, he was clutching a photograph of his wife, Natalie. There were two notes; one saying that his five-month-old marriage was breaking up; the other, addressed to Gustavo Rojo, which read: “Please don’t let them take me to a hospital ward. You know that I am sane. I just got so weak that I gave in. Your best friend, Charlie. P.S. Please just put me in bed, floor or on a couch at your house.”
Charles Hirshon was rushed to the Hollywood Receiving Hospital where he was given emergency treatment. It was discovered that he had taken twenty-five seconal tablets. Later, still unconscious, he was transferred to Beth Israel Hospital.
Ironically, Natalie’s phone still wasn’t working the night Charles tried to commit suicide. She learned of the situation when she received a telegram from Gustavo Rojo.
New York gossip columnists speculated as to whom Charles had called in New York, just before he lost consciousness, and most agreed that it was Wendy Vanderbilt, whom he had dated, occasionally, before he married Natalie. Miss Vanderbilt denies he called her. And Charles vaguely remembers placing a call to New York, but doesn’t recall to whom. “I felt completely alone,” he says. “I hadn’t been able to sleep. I had to talk to someone.”
Investigation narrowed Hirshon’s phone call down to three possible people: Miss Vanderbilt; Natalie’s mother, Mrs. Frances Campana; and his sister, Joan Hirshon. One of Charles’ close friends insists the call was made to his sister, who flew out to be with her brother the next day.
They blamed Natalie
Shortly after the near-tragedy, front page stories, throughout the United States, reported that the cause of Charles Hirshon’s suicide attempt was his wife’s infatuation for singer Vic Damone. Vic immediately declared, from location on Okinawa: “There’s nothing to it. Ridiculous. I just tried to be nice to the girl. She stayed at my home for about six days and then moved out when her husband came. No, I don’t have any feeling for the girl. She’s not my type. I got burned once by an actress. I make it a point not to date them. I never took Natalie out.”
A less serious, but nevertheless irritating charge, was also levelled against Natalie by the press, when she was accused of not even bothering to visit or call her husband during the four days he was in the hospital, until just before he checked out. During the first couple of days when he was slowly returning to consciousness, his only visitors, the newspapers said, were his sister Joan and his cousin, Marianne Benson, and her husband Ray.
Natalie finally told reporters her side of the story: “After all,” she said, “if you’re going to commit suicide, you don’t call up Wendy Vanderbilt in Manhattan. . . . She’s a friend of his. She’s twenty.”
Then she switched to the charge made against her that she hadn’t attempted to contact her husband in the hospital. “I called and asked, ‘Charles, how are you?’ He said, ‘No comment. That’s exactly what he said. Then he asked did he have any mail. I said two letters. He said drop them by the hospital tomorrow between ten and eleven. It’s the only time I have free to see you.
“The next day Charles appeared at the apartment. He had his cousin, Mrs. Ray Benson, with him. I said, ‘Charles, how are you?’ He said, ‘No comment.’ Then he said he wasn’t allowed to talk to me.”
Less than ten days after her husband tried to take his own life, Natalie Trundy Hirshon announced that she was seeing her lawyer and would get a divorce. She surmised that her husband had already seen his.
For his part, Charles Hirshon moved in with his cousin and her husband after checking out of the hospital. going to Tahiti for an indefinite period to “forget about Natalie and the whole episode.” He also asserts that “she won’t get a cent” of his family’s estate.
Less than one year after Natalie Trundy and Charles Hirshon hurried into marriage, against her parents’ advice, they are split so wide apart that only a miracle can reunite them. The soft-voiced boy who’d asked at the dance, “May I cut in?” and the freckle-faced girl who’d whispered to herself, “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” are together no more.
One can’t help wonder—how much tragedy might have been avoided—if they had given love some time to be tested and given their young years some time to be matured before rushing to marry.
—BY JIM HOFFMAN
SEE NATALIE IN PAR.’S “WALK LIKE A DRAGON.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1960
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