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Hi, I'm Tamera, a professional wedding, portrait and boudoir photographer in Colorado Springs. But this blog isn't about my professional work; no, it's a daily love note to my beautiful city, where I've lived for most of my life. I love it here and I hope you enjoy seeing Colorado Springs through my eyes and lens!

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06 June 2015

Old Hollywood drama in Colorado Springs!

I took this photo in mid-March and am just now getting around to posting it. This wall at the Omelette Parlor, one of our favorite breakfast places, pays tribute to Ruth Etting, a famous singer and actress of the 1920s and '30s. An extremely popular recording artist, she had over sixty (!!!) hit songs, including "You Made Me Love You", "Mean to Me" (give that one a listen HERE, it's wonderful) and "Love Me or Leave Me". She was also a film star, appearing in three feature length films and a number of shorts. Ms. Etting led quite a colorful life before she chose to live out her retirement quietly in Colorado Springs. In 1938, she and her husband Myrl bought a property at 900 East Fillmore and lived there, also operating a supper club at that location called the T-Bone Club. I'm not clear on exactly when, but at some point the T-Bone Club became the Hackney House, which lasted for quite a long time there. 900 East Fillmore is now the Omelette Parlor.

Ruth's colorful life was so dramatic, a movie, "Love Me or Leave Me", was made of it 1955, starring Doris Day as Ruth and James Cagney as her malevolent gangster husband, Marty "The Gimp" Snyder. Her story was definitely film-worthy! Here are the highlights:

  • Ruth was born in 1897 in David City, Nebraska. Her mother died when Ruth was only five years old. Ruth was raised by her grandparents, as her father remarried and disappeared from her life.
  • At age 16 she moved to Chicago to attend art school. She got a job designing costumes at a nightclub, and was soon drawn into performing, eventually becoming their featured vocalist.
  • Chicago was notorious for its violent gangsters during this time. In 1922, Ruth met and married Marty "The Gimp" Snyder, a member of the Chicago criminal underworld. He managed her career for many years, but their relationship was apparently not ideal.
  • In 1927 she signed with the famous Ziegfeld Follies. This was where her career really began to take off. Soon she found herself in Hollywood, recording numerous hit songs and appearing in films. Ruth was scrupulous about saving money, investing, and living frugally. She made some wise investments in real estate in Los Angeles. Smart lady!
  • In 1937 she divorced Marty on the grounds of cruelty and abandonment, paying him $50,000 in settlement (about $680,000 in today's money).
  • Ruth then fell in love with her pianist, Myrl Alderman. This didn't sit well with her ex-husband. In a series of increasingly aggressive phone calls, Marty threatened to kill her and Myrl, causing Ruth to seek police protection.
  • In 1938, Marty traveled to L.A. to make good on his threat. He tracked down Myrl at a recording studio, forcing Myrl at gunpoint to take him to Ruth. Marty's grown daughter from a previous marriage, Edith, was home with Ruth. Marty gathered Ruth, Myrl and Edith together, threatened to kill all of them, and shot Myrl. Edith then fired a gun at her father, but missed. The whole scene must have been incredibly dramatic!
  • Marty was arrested and, after a sensational, complicated and public trial, convicted of attempted murder (although he apparently did very little time in prison). Ruth and Myrl married in Las Vegas in December of 1938. By then, Ruth was largely retired from entertaining. She and Myrl bought the property in Colorado Springs, where he was raised, and they lived here for the rest of their lives. Myrl died in 1966, and Ruth died in 1978, at age 81.
So there you have it. There's more to the story, so I'll refer you to her Wikipedia page if you want some interesting reading over your morning coffee. I've heard that, in addition to the T-Bone Club, Ruth and Myrl also reportedly co-owned Henri's Mexican Restaurant in Old Colorado City. If you're an long-time Colorado Springs resident like me, you'll remember it fondly -- especially the margaritas!

Ruth Etting in 1937, via IMDB.


Randy said...

Nice collection and information.

William Kendall said...

Wow! Quite a history for her!