Monday, September 24, 2007

New York Lives

244 West 11th Street, Lady Jeanne Campbell's final address.
She died last June 9, unnoticed in the media. Her nephew, Torquhil Ian, the 13th Duke of Argyll, his mother, her sister-in-law, Iona, and her brother Lord Colin Campbell were in attendance at Perezzo’s Funeral Home on Bleecker Street.

To the passing parade in New York today, Lady Jeanne Campbell was quite unknown. To her neighbors who might have seen her pass by on this quiet little street in Greenwich Village, she was just an old woman who lived modestly in a small walk-up apartment in an old brick townhouse where she slept in her last surviving treasure, Napoleon’s campaign bed.

In her last days she was very ill and living in reduced circumstances financially. In her life, however, she loomed large for several decades, very much on the world scene. She had been twice married — first to Norman Mailer and secondly to John Sergeant Cram, a New York socialite — a grandson of Anthony J. Drexel Jr. and a great-great-grandson of Jay Gould.

Baby Lady Jeanne Campbell with her grandfather Lord Beaverbrook
In her youth and early womanhood, she was also fond of taking lovers, even if briefly, and often out of one curiosity or another. Randolph Churchill, son of Sir Winston, first husband of Pamela Harriman, once complained that she came to his hotel on the night his father was dying, in a sexy red velvet dress and left the next morning in some of his clothes. Gore Vidal is said to have once asked her why she got involved with Norman Mailer (to whom she was married for about a year in 1963, and with whom she had a daughter, Kate). “Because I never slept with a Jew before,” was her reply.

Before Mailer and the other aforementioned, she had had an affair as a 30-year-old woman with the sixty-ish Henry Luce II, the founder of Time-Life. Luce was said to be so besotted it almost destroyed his long marriage to his playwright wife Clare Boothe Luce.  It was said during time span of 12 months in 1963 and 1964, she slept with the three most famous political figures in the world (of that time): Nikita Krushchev, Fidel Castro and President John F. Kennedy.

She was born December 10, 1928. Her father Ian Campbell was a handsome playboy, heir to the bachelor 10th Duke of Argyll, one of ony five double duke titles in the United Kingdom. The Argyll dukes were created in Scotland in 1701 and in England in 1892.  Jeanne’s mother, Janet Aitken was the daughter of Lord Beaverbrook, Canadian born-and-raised business tycoon and presslord/owner of the London Evening Standard and Daily Express.

Little Jeanne’s mother and father’s marriage was doomed from the start. Ian Campbell was one of those fabled British aristocrats who were refined in nurturing their hedonistic impulses. He gambled. His wife Janet later remembered him as “long on charm but short on judgment at the gaming tables.”

The new Mrs. Campbell almost died from hemmorraging at birth of the girl child. That did not stop her new husband from demanding she hand over her jewels so that he could gamble. When she refused, he threatened to shoot himself. When she refused again, he left the room and she heard two gunshots. Blam-blam. He missed, but his wife relented and turned over her jewels.
Among the men in her life (Clockwise from top left): Randolph Churchill at his wedding to Pamela; Henry Luce; JFK; Castro and Khrushchyov.
The second year of her parents’ marriage was spent the summer in the South of France where the father gambled and took up with a young American socialite known as “Oui Oui” Clews. The young Campbells divorced and he married Miss Clews. A few years later her mother who was by now a heavy drinker and evidently not an attentive mother, married Lord Drogo Montagu, second son of the 9th Earl of Sandwich. The marriage was not successful but Montagu was killed at the beginning of World War II.

In 1942, two years after the death of Montagu, Lady Jeanne’s mother married again and took her younger children to Canada, leaving Jeanne and her half-brother William Montagu behind. The mother and daughter had a very stormy relationship as time passed. Eventually much of the daughter’s personal problems would be attributed to her mother’s neglect.

Lady Jeanne’s father eventually divorced his second wife and married a woman named Margaret Whigham. Mrs. Whigham was the daughter of a Scottish millionaire. Campbell was her third husband, as she was his third wife.

During the war, before she married Campbell, Margaret had accidentally stepped into an empty elevator shaft and suffered traumatic injuries. She recovered however, and was able to walk again. She was also said to have acquired as a result of the accident, an insatiable sexual appetite. When she met Ian Campbell, however, the future Duke of Argyll, however, she put her appetite aside and traded her cash for his hand in marriage. They married two years after he succeeded to the title.

The Campbells' ancestral seat, Inveraray Castle.
After the marriage, the duchess embarked on a series of affairs, many of them simultaneously. In the early 1960s, as a result of her father’s suspicion about his wife’s extra-marital activity, Lady Jeanne, dressed in pants and headscarf, went into her  despised stepmother’s Mayfair apartment when she was away, and retrieved four years of the duchess’ diaries as well as some Polaroid photographs.

The duchess’ diary entries were explicit about her sundry affairs, but the Polaroids were explosive. Taken in the duchess’ bathroom they were of her wearing nothing but a string of pearls and performing a famous sex act on a man whose head was cropped out of the photographs. The photographs showed the man in different states of arousal, each with a caption – “before”, “thinking of you”, “during”, “oh”, “finished”. 

The duke brought the evidence to court for the divorce trial and of course it caused an enormous sensation. Eighty-eight different men were conjectured to be the Duchess of Argyll’s “headless” man, including Sir Winston Curchill’s son-in-law Duncan Sandys, then the Minister of Defense. The scandal led Sandys to offer to resign his post. The prime minister instead sent him off to a Harley Street doctor for some forensic investigation. The doctor concluded that Minister Sandys couldn’t have been the man. However, the duke got what he wanted, the divorce was granted.

Ed’s notes. On her deathbed, however Margaret Argyll reminded a friend that at that time (1951) “the only Polaroid camera in the country ….. had been lent to the Ministry of Defense.”

Growing up in the midst of all this parental activity might have been difficult for the child Lady Jeanne, but she had at least one advantage – her maternal grandfather, Lord Beaverbrook, adored her.

William Maxwell (“Max”) Aitken was born in Canada in 1879. Already a very successful businessman, he moved to the then Mother Country in the first decade if the 20th century. In his investments he acquired (and later sold) the control of Rolls-Royce Motors, and eventually newspapers beginning with the Evening Standard, and not only turned them into cash machines but also used them to acquire huge political influence. In 1910 he became a member of Parliament and was knighted by King George V in 1911 and made Baron Beaverbrook in 1917.
During the Abdication Crisis of Edward VIII in the 1930s, Beaverbrook tried to persuade the King to give up his relationship with Mrs. Simpson (whom he would later marry as the Duchess of Windsor). His papers also made a fortune out of reporting every inside tidb it of the affair, including the King’s interest in Hitler. He joined Churchill’s War Cabinet as Minister of Aircraft Production and later Minister of Supply, increasing production so much that Churchill noted “His personal force and genius made this Aitken’s finest hour.”

Meanwhile Aitken/Lord Beaverbrook’s beautiful granddaughter was growing up and showing great interest in her grandfather’s business. She was now tall, buxom, and vivacious. And with an eye for the men. When she had an affair with a much older Oswald Moseley the formerly jailed English Fascist (who was married to Diana Mitford Guinness, but famous for his peccadillos), Grandfather threatened to cut his granddaughter off.  Realizing that Lady Jeanne was unimpressed by his threat, he finally sent her to New York to write for the Evening Standard.

She was 29 when she came to New York, and the world was at her feet. Because of her grandfather, her connections into the corridors of power were numerous. An early report that she wrote was critical of the CIA, about which Grandfather admonished her to “be careful” about what she wrote about her host country’s secret service. “Emphasize human interest,” he wrote. “Put the best strawberry on top of the basket. Write short sentences. Cut, cut, cut. Always interview people face to face ... Keep widening your circle of acquaintances – even if it means accepting the invitations of bores. Use your feet.”

The girl took her grandfather’s advice in many ways. The affair with Luce began in 1959 and ended in 1961. In 1962 when the topic of gossip in the Washington –New York corridor was the Kennedys and also the faltering marriage of Nelson Rockefeller and his new love interest, the younger, prettier “Happy” Murphy, for whom he would later divorce his wife to marry.
Another view of Inveraray Castle.
Lady Jeanne broke the news abroad with a dispatch in the Evening Standard  in December 1962: "Whenever two people are gathered together in New York today, they fall to talking about the Kennedys or the Murphys. Now, the Kennedys are spoken of in loud voices while the Murphys are but whispered of — to date. The prettiest Murphy of them all is said to be called 'Happy' Murphy. She is young, in her early 30s, and a country-loving girl. Already people are comparing her to the Duchess of Windsor when she was plain Mrs. Simpson. However, this seems a strange comparison, for the two women have nothing much in common — except perhaps energy. Mrs. Murphy has worked tirelessly for the Rockefeller Foundation."

Meanwhile Lady Jeanne had left her interested in the media baron Luce for the brilliant young American novelist Norman Mailer. When she  got pregnant, her grandfather, who was not impressed by the liaison, advised her to have the child but not marry him. She did anyway. Little more than a year later, the child, Kate, was born, and the couple divorced in Mexico in 1963.

Mailer, it is said, rewarded Lady Jeanne by depicting her as the bitch in his “American Dream,” although he later described her as a dear pudding of a lady,” and “a remarkable birl, almost as interesting, complex and Machiavellian” as himself.

Shortly after the Mailer divorce, Lady Jeanne married Mr. Cram. In a way, John (Jakie) Cram was the American version of her father the duke. Son of old money aristocrats. The couple had met ten years before when both were en route to Nassau on the maiden voyage of the Caronia. Right after they were wed, the bride, who was then living in a duplex studio above Carnegie Hall, went to New Hampshire to cover the primaries.

Those were busy times for Lady Jeanne privately. It was during that period that she had her famous trifecta of affairs with famous men. Mr. Kennedy, it was said, rendezvoused with her in her Georgetown house. Mr. Krushchev was her host at his dacha outside Moscow (in 1964), and Fidel a month later in May, in Havana.

In covering the funeral of John F. Kennedy for the Standard, she wrote "Jacqueline Kennedy has given the American people… one thing they have always lacked: majesty.”
The entrance to 244 West 11th Street.
The facade of 244 West 11th Street.
Perazzo Funeral Home on Bleeker.
The marriage to Jakie Cram was rocky. When she threatened to divorce him, her father-in-law, Henry Sergeant “Harry” Cram of Foot Point Plantation, Bluffton, South Carolina (mentioned in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”) told her that if she left his son, he would cut her and their young daughter Cusi out of his will. Whereupon Lady Jeanne got up from the table saying casually, “Well, she’s not Jakie’s anyway.” It was later revealed that the girl (now an award winning playwright and actress in New York) was the daughter of a Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations.

Through all this she remained close to her reproachful grandfather who frequently berated her for her willfulness and extravagance. Once during a rant, he pointed to a maid on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor, suggesting his granddaughter emulate her – “a real woman.” Granddaughter remained unimpressed. Instead she recognized his double standard toward the opposite sex. When Lord Beaverbrook died in 1964, however, he left his granddaughter at trust of $500,000, not huge but healthy in those days and those dollars. The trust no doubt gave her some financial space and independence. British women because of primogeniture were used to being left out of Wills.

She remained with the Standard and after divorcing Mr. Cram, remained living in New York. It was said she received a large advance for her memoir but tht she spent the money on a villa in Greece and never wrote the book. In January 1974, the Clan Campbell Society of the United States was created in New York City at the request of Lady Jeanne’s half-brother, the 12th Duke, and she was appointed by him to serve as the Society’s High Commissioner, i.e., personal representative of the Clan Chief, therefore, Head of the Campbell clan in America.

She is survied by her two daughters, both actresses and artists, Kate Mailer, and Cusi Cram.

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