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Pier Angeli Kidnapped My Son

Vic Damone spoke to us long distance to clear up the whole story about Pier and him. He started to say:

“l’m tired of being pushed around. I feel sunk at being deprived of seeing my son, Perry. I was just getting used to the fact that my marriage was over, and then I get this jolt that my wife might be taking my son away from me—to Europe for four months, maybe longer.

“I would have agreed to her taking the baby to Europe, but it’s the way she did it that burned me up. I felt that I had to do something desperate to keep her from taking him away.

“What happened was this: I had just flown in from New York where I had done a Garry Moore TV show. I flew in to California specifically to see my son. My work takes me all over, and I like to have my child in California so that at least I can see him when I’m home.

“I didn’t know until that Sunday morning (before Pier left for Europe) that she was planning to go to Europe for a long time to make a picture, or a couple of pictures. I was in Fresno, California, where I have a ranch when I got a call from my lawyer telling me that Pier was going to Europe and was going to take Perry with her. I was told that she planned to leave for Europe the following Tuesday night. According to our divorce decree, Pier can take the baby out of the country for a period not to exceed nine months. I’d agreed to that provision.

“I was asked to give my permission for her to take Perry with her to Europe this time, and I gave it. I was told they’d be gone two months.

“I’m tired of being painted the villain in this thing, and I want to point out that I did give my permission for my wife to take our son to Europe.

“But I can’t be taken advantage of. I love my boy, and didn’t want to be pushed around like an outsider. I said I would come to Bel-Air for a few days so that I could spend as much time with my son before he left. After all, I wasn’t going to see him for several months, and I didn’t think I was asking too much to have Pier arrange for him to spend as much time with me as possible before he left.

“I checked into the Bel-Air Sands Hotel, just about a block away from where Pier lives. I didn’t go up to her house to pick up the baby; ever since our divorce it has become increasingly difficult for me and Pier to see each other. We fight too much these days. Whenever I’d go up to the house there would be a hassle; Pier would get overwrought and call her attorney. I thought it would be better if I didn’t come to the house.

“I arranged to have the nurse bring Perry to me. It was so good to see my little boy again. You know, he’s a wonderful kid. A near-genius, if I do say. He seemed to have grown a lot since I last saw him, and I was so proud. We had a wonderful time together—there’s a pool for kids at the hotel, and a sandbox and shuffleboard, and we played together and we really had a great time.

“When the time came for the nurse to pick him up and take him home again, I felt so lonely and blue that I wanted to make sure I’d see him the next time, too. I just couldn’t get enough of my kid.

“I called Pier to tell her I wanted to make arrangements to see my son the next day, which was Monday. I’d been told they were leaving Tuesday night. I didn’t think it was too much for a father to ask to be with his son every day until he was leaving.

“Well, the first thing Pier told me was that they were going to be gone four months.

“ ‘Four months!’ I said. ‘I thought it was only two.’

“ ‘You don’t think you’re going to stop me, do you?’ Pier said. I began to boil. I told her I wasn’t so sure about that. I didn’t like having stories changed around like that. If they told me two months, when she meant four, maybe the trip would extend to a year. Maybe forever. How could I know for sure? I felt she ‘wasn’t leveling with me.

“One word led to another and we had a fight on the phone. But I told her I intended to see my son the next day.

“When I phoned the house the next day to make arrangements to get Perry, the nurse answered the phone. I told her I wanted her to bring Perry to me.

“She replied, ‘I’ll have to ask Mrs. Damone first.’

“I began to get irritated at that. I thought I’d made it clear that I was to be with Perry. I held the receiver for a long time. Next thing I knew, the phone was hung up in my ear.

“When I tried to call back, I couldn’t get through. The line was busy. I got madder by the minute.

“Then a funny hunch came over me. It suddenly struck me that Pier wasn’t leaving Tuesday night as she told me, but that very night, Monday. I know that as a mother she has the right to have the child with her. I wasn’t trying to deprive her of that. But I’m the father, and I have some rights, too. And one of my rights was to see my son before he was taken from me for such a long stay in Europe.

“What was Pier trying to do to me? Keep me from seeing my kid? Trying to whisk him away from me? And without an explanation. I was entitled to an accounting of what was going on. I’m still the father.

“I got more riled by the minute.

“I played my hunch by trying to find out from the airline companies if Pier had a reservation to leave that night. Airline companies don’t give out the names of their passengers, but through a friend I was able to track it down.

‘My hunch was right. When I got the report back I learned that she had made the reservation for that very night. Well, I was ready to explode. I was real hurt—real mad. I’m not going to just stand still and have something underhanded going on. When I was first asked to give my permission for her to take the baby away for two months, I said okay. Now the whole situation had changed. It wasn’t for two months, but longer. And I didn’t think it was fair for her to try to sneak the baby out Monday night.

A father’s prerogative

“I thought back to a lot of things . . . how Pier never let me have the baby with me on my ranch. I have a ranch near Fresno, and a real nice house there. I even bought a beautiful little colt for Perry. Many times I wanted to take him to the ranch, teach him to ride his little colt, give him a taste of wholesome ranch life. That’s a father’s prerogative. But each time I wanted to take Perry there, my wife gave me some reason why he couldn’t go. Always she used to tell me, ‘Perry’s sick, he can’t go.’

“I remember, too, my mother-in-law always talking about how wonderful it would be to raise Perry in Italy. I began to get panicky. Was she taking him to Europe intending to raise him in Italy? He’s my boy, an American kid, I didn’t want to take a chance on having him brought up in some European country.

“I couldn’t even go up to Pier’s house to try to grab a look at my boy. She had an armed guard up at the house. Something funny was going on. I didn’t like it. If only she had called me and told me herself what her plans were; but I felt that she was taking too many liberties by making these plans to keep our boy in Europe without letting me in on it.

“I wasn’t going to stand for that. We’ve all heard of ‘mother love.’ But there’s such a thing as ‘father love,’ too. I felt I had to do something to stop her from taking my boy away, so quickly, and without telling me what was going on. It worried me like crazy. There was no time to lose.

“I tried to get my attorney to issue a restraining order preventing my wife from leaving that night with the baby. My lawyer was out. It was getting late; I was desperate. I had to do something fast. So I hired a new lawyer, right on the spot, to get out a restraining order—fast.

“At 6:30 that night we served the papers on her. She was getting ready to leave the country with Perry and the nurse. Her mother was there. Even though she was served with the restraining order, she got in the car with the baby, rode to the airport—and they were gone. . . .

“It’s too bad there’s such bitterness between Pier and me now. We can’t even talk things over together any more. Things started to go bad in our marriage when I left for a singing engagement in England last fall. I took the singing engagement in England in the first place because I wanted to be near my wife. She was going to do a picture in Italy, and I had planned to join her there. At the last minute she canceled her picture; but I had my night club engagement in London which I had to keep.

The Helena Sorell incident

“The day before I was to leave for England, my wife had her drama coach, Helena Sorell, at the house. They were working together, rehearsing for Bernadette which Pier was going to do on TV.

“However, I was looking forward to spending the evening with my wife—alone. Just before dinner time, Pier came to me and said she hoped I didn’t mind but she’d asked Helena to stay for dinner. I said I did mind. ‘This is our last night together. I’ll be gone seven weeks. Don’t you want to spend it with me alone?’ But she’d already asked the woman, and she couldn’t go back on her invitation. All night long, at dinner, my wife and Helena were discussing the script. I was completely out of the picture. After dinner, they continued rehearsals.

“I’m as sentimental as the next guy. I was so anxious to be with my wife that I changed my flight to the following night.

“The next day, Pier told me Helena was coming over to coach her some more and that she was staying for dinner again. I blew my top. I felt blue all day, and when I saw that woman sitting at my dinner table, I really lit into her. Here I’d changed my flight just to be alone with my wife, and this woman stayed on, talking script all night long and ruining my evening. I got so mad I let her have it! I said, Look here, what are you doing here anyway? Don’t you know I’m leaving for Europe tonight? Didn’t it occur to you that I want to be alone with Pier?”

“She gave me a fishy look and said, ‘But your wife invited me to dinner.’

“ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘haven’t you enough sense to know when to refuse an invitation? Maybe she asked you just to be polite. Can’t you see when you’re not wanted? What are you doing here, eating my food, monopolizing our time? Why don’t you just get out of here before I toss you out!’

“I really blew my top. After she left, Pier and I had a fight. When I left for London, there was a decided coolness between us. When I was abroad, I thought we could make up when I returned. But I think my wife listened to a lot of gossip about me while I was away.

“It was the beginning of the end. When I returned from Europe, I thought, Now Pier and I will have another honeymoon. We’ll be happy again. But things were no longer the same. She asked me to leave the house. She said she wanted a divorce.

“I’ve taken our divorce very hard. I’ve lost my wife. I’ve lost my home. But I have no intention of losing my son. I won’t let her sneak him off.”

The irony of the situation is that Vic wouldn’t have been able to be with his boy very much even if the child had remained behind. Vic was due to leave for a Las Vegas night club engagement the following week. Also, following that he was to do the lead in Oklahoma in Kansas City, and then some more night club engagements all over the country.

The persecution of Pier

From Mrs. Enrica Pierangeli:

“Why does this man persecute Pier so? She is an actress. She goes to Europe to make a picture; to work; not for a good time. Vic Damone knew she was going to Europe, and he knew she was going to take her baby. What does he think, that as a mother she is going to leave her baby behind? He would have a right to criticize her if she went to Europe for four months and left her baby in the house with a maid. But she will not be parted from her son.

“Pier has every right to take her baby out of the country for at least nine months. This was in the divorce papers. It was important to stipulate that. Pier has made many pictures in Europe in the past, and she would not be able to accept any picture offers in Europe unless she knew she could take her son with her. This was not an issue; Vic Damone knew this when he signed the divorce papers.

“Vic knew for weeks that Pier was planning to go to Europe to make a picture, S.O.S.-Pacific, there. There was no secret about it. It took time for Pier to get ready to leave for Europe with Perry, and with Perry’s nurse, a very fine Swiss girl named Abby. This was no sudden decision on Pier’s part. And it could not have been a surprise to Damone.

“She had to report in London on the 15th of April; she was to leave California on the night of the 13th. She permitted the baby to spend the day with his father the day before they were to leave. It would have been very upsetting for the baby to spend a day with Vic the very day he was to leave. You know how excited children get just before they are to take a long plane trip. This was a particularly long plane trip, on the SAS over the North Pole from Los Angeles to Copenhagen, Denmark—about nineteen hours. She wanted him to spend a very quiet day at home, so that he wouldn’t get upset or sick on the long plane trip.

“Everything was going along fine. Pier, who had been so unhappy after the divorce, was finally finding peace of mind. She was going to make a picture she liked; she was all prepared, mentally and physically, for the big job that lay ahead; baby Perry had had a good nap during the day and was all dressed to go. Then suddenly the doorbell rings at dinner time, and a man gives Pier a paper. Pier read the paper and she screams hysterically; she was laughing and crying wildly. It was the restraining order from Vic’s lawyer, telling her she couldn’t take Perry out of the country.

“This all happened at the last minute. Pier couldn’t eat, she was so distraught. She knew she had to leave. If she didn’t report on the 15th, her contract could have been terminated.

“Why did this man wait until the very last minute to do a thing like that? If he objected to her going with Perry, why didn’t he tell her sooner, so she’d have time to do something about it?

“It was her duty to leave for work. Did he think she would go to Europe and leave her baby in the street behind her? Did he think she would go off and leave the baby with the nurse? Would she have been a better mother if she had done that?

“Not Pier! She is very devoted to her baby. Wherever she goes, her baby goes with her. She could not live without him.”

Hysterical, Pier called her attorney after she received the restraining order, and apparently was told she could go. But the joyous mood was gone. Pier is a very sensitive girl to begin with, quick to frighten. It was getting time to go to the airport. Weeping and trembling, she entered the car and held the baby in her lap, the nurse beside her. Her mother was at the wheel in front. At the airport, Pier clutched her baby in her arms, and disappeared into the plane.

When she landed in Copenhagen, an army of reporters and photographers met her.

“What do they mean I’ve kidnaped my son?” she said. “How can a mother kidnap her own son? I only know that my boy is with me, and nobody is ever going to take him away from me.

“I nearly collapsed when the court order was served on me. I was handed the order only two hours before I was to leave. What Vic did was a terrible thing to do to any mother. He knew perfectly well I was due to leave, and he left it right to the last minute for a man to serve me with some sort of paper.”

Pier had to leave to make this picture. It was very important to her. She needed the money, for one thing. Pier has not made a picture in more than a year (Merry Andrew was her last one). She was no longer under contract to MGM or any studio, so she was not receiving a salary unless she worked. Her alimony and child-support are certainly not sufficient for her own expenses and Perry’s unless she earns her own movie star salary, which she’s accustomed to. Although she seems to be a very simple person, actually Pier is a sophisticate and has lived high. Her home is a $100,000 home—very beautiful, very beautifully and expensively furnished, on top of a hill in Bel-Air, with an acre of ground, the last word in a new, elegant modern home. Pier’s clothes are very expensive, usually Italian imports. She always has at least two servants plus a nurse for Perry.

Besides the money, Pier is an actress; she cannot be happy unless she is acting. Depressed after the divorce, she needed to go to work in a picture as quickly as possible to restore her zest for living.

Her mother feels that Pier’s career suffered after she married Vic because he was so inordinately jealous of her that he wouldn’t let her go out. Pier used to stay home in her big beautiful home night after night after night, all alone except for the baby and the nurse. This went on for years. Vic was usually out of town on night club engagements; Pier stayed at home, waiting for his calls which came at night. She seldom went anywhere. Her mother and friends feel that she stayed home because Vie would go into a jealous rage if she went out with other people. Because she didn’t go out, those close to her feel she lost out on many contacts, and lost out on many good roles because she was forgotten. One of these roles which she lost was the girl in Green Mansions, which she wanted so very much to do. “She was in a cage,” her mother says.

According to her mother, Pier lost her sparkle while she was married to Vic. She became a virtual recluse, at the age of twenty-six.

Mrs. Pierangeli says, “This whole thing made it seem as though Pier were fleeing from the United States, which she loves, and ‘kidnapping’ her own boy. Pier is not that type. She is very gentle and sweet. She is not brazen. She would never do anything that was not perfectly right.

“We are not worried about the outcome of all this. Pier was right in doing what she did. But I am worried because she became almost sick about the whole thing.

“Some day Pier will find happiness again. She says she is happy with her son. That is true. Perry is her whole world. But she should have love and protection. She is lovely, she is talented, she is young and she is full of the love of life. She will start a new career; a new life. She will find a new happiness. Maybe, some day, she will find a man who will protect her. Like the man Marisa (Pavan—her twin sister) has found in Jean Pierre Aumont.”

Pier had been trying for a long time to make her marriage work out. She married Vic impulsively. They are actually direct opposites (she is fine, sensitive; he is more the night-club type). But Pier, being a Catholic, tried to make a holy sacrament of her marriage.

Even though Pier is a Catholic, I think she would remarry if the right man came along some day. In Europe, she intends (after her picture is over) to rest in a beautiful villa she has rented on the Cote d’Azur, right off the coast of France, with Perry, her sister Marisa and Marisa’s baby, and her mother. Mama will follow soon.

Meanwhile, Pier’s beautiful home on top of the hill in Bel-Air—one of the most beautiful out here—is up for sale (or for rent). She may never return to this beautiful home, which turned into scenes of heartbreak for her.