By Charly SHELTON
The associates of the Westside Center for Independent Living presented their annual literary tea at the private home of Betty Deutsch in Beverly Hills last week. The annual tea is a fundraiser for WCIL and features an author who speaks on a certain book or topic. This year’s guest speaker was James Curtis, author of many old Hollywood biographies including W.C. Fields and Preston Sturges. The topic of this literary tea was another of Curtis’ works, “Spencer Tracy: A Biography.”
Spencer Tracy was, for those unfamiliar, a movie star of the 1930s through the 1960s. At one time, he was the most popular American actor and is still considered among the best actors ever. Tracy brought a complete believability and a twinge of emotion to every character he played. Tracy’s life was fraught with hardship, though.
As Curtis explained, Tracy considered himself a man condemned. He felt that no matter what he did, only bad things could come of it and he was bound, irredeemably, for Hell. A devout Catholic, a drinker, an adulterer and an overall sinner in his own mind, he famously courted many actresses outside his marriage including his long-term affair with Katherine Hepburn. These infidelities and his sin is what he believed caused his son’s affliction, Usher’s Syndrome (although at the time no such name was known for the ailment), which affected his hearing and eventually his vision causing him to lose both – the act of a vengeful God.
Many little insights like this were shared by Curtis with the audience of attendees who listened with deep interest.
Before and after the presentation, a silent auction was held for original artwork, and tea and finger sandwiches were served. The view was breathtaking from the home in Beverly Hills looking out over a cliff to the south and the day was so clear that ships could be seen out on the ocean from the backyard.
All in all the tea was a success. The Westside Center for Independent Living annual literary tea was a lot of fun and this reporter looks forward to it next year.
For more information on WCIL, which helps rehabilitate disabled and infirm people so they can live on their own and lead independent lives, visit the website at www.wcil.org.