Miss Bang Bang

Ann Woodward was born in Kansas but was smart and talented enough to get a job in radio in New York

She won the odd title of “Most Beautiful Woman in Radio” and in 1942, her beauty caught the eye of William Woodward Sr. 

image found here

At some point in 1942, William Woodward Sr. passed the 27-year-old Ann on to his son, five years her junior. It was love at first sight and very quickly the two were wed.

While her son’s marriage started off happy, Elsie Woodward, the socialite who ran the most exclusive parlor of the New York 400, saw her new daughter-in-law as a gold digger who latched on to her son merely to get her hands on his $10 million fortune.

Billy’s sisters also froze off Ann. Even though she had been famous in her own right — her work on radio had gained the notice of The New York Times — she was too gaudy and flashy for their tastes. She once made the unforgivable faux pas of wearing red shoes with a blue dress and was seen smoking in public long before such behavior was tolerated in their circles.

image found here

The friction Ann felt in high society contributed to the problems at home. Both had roving eyes that created fireworks. Billy’s rumored bisexuality only made things worse.

Billy and Ann had one of those relationships that was too fractious to keep together and too strong to break apart. They sparred openly in public over many things, not the least of which were her affairs with the likes of the Aga Khan and Franchot Tone and his with any number of debutantes.

Franchot Tone found here

In between fights there was obviously affection, as the couple soon had two children, William III (nicknamed Woody) and Jimmy, born in 1944 and 1947.

At a swank party for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Billy and Ann Woodward were noticeably agitated, guests would recall later, talking incessantly about the recent spate of burglaries in their upscale Oyster Bay, Long Island neighborhood.

image found here

No one at the party remembers Ann or Billy squabbling that night, although many guests do recall the event had been particularly boozy.

By the time the couple returned home, it was 1 a.m. and 11-year-old Woody and 7-year-old Jimmy were fast asleep in their beds. Ann and Billy bade each other good night and retired to their own rooms. Behind locked doors, Billy slept with a revolver nearby while Ann was armed with a double-barreled shotgun.

shotgun found here

Two hours later Ann awoke to find her dog, Sloppy, barking at her open door. Ann told authorities she saw a “shadowy figure” near Billy’s room, backlit against the pale moonlight streaming in from a hallway window. She reached for the 12-gauge shotgun and pulled the trigger.

“Almost immediately,” Ann testified later, “I realized it was my husband. I ran and fell on the floor beside him.” Ann pulled herself away long enough to call for help. She summoned an ambulance, police and, in a move that some would use to damn her, an attorney.

image found here

In the face of widespread press coverage, the district attorney convened a grand jury to investigate the shooting. Shortly after she buried her husband, Ann Woodward appeared before the grand jury and told her account of events.

The jurors took just 30 minutes to deliberate and find that Ann had acted without malice and that the shooting was unintentional. She was completely exonerated in the eyes of the law.

Over petit fours and champagne, the grande dames whispered that Ann had once been a prostitute. She had been previously married and had killed Billy when he discovered that her first marriage had never been legally ended. Unfortunately for Ann, the rumors gained a measure of truth when it came out that her father was not the “late Col. Crowell,” as was listed in the Woodwards’ wedding announcement, but was, in fact, alive and well and estranged from his daughter (he erroneously thought the actress Eve Arden was actually his child).

image found here

The Woodward boys were whisked off to European boarding schools shortly after their father’s death. They had slept through the shooting and could offer no helpful information to investigators. The move would have profound ramifications in later years, as neither boy was ever given a satisfactory explanation by mother or grandmother about the events leading to their father’s death.

Jimmy Woodward managed to make it through Switzerland’s exclusive Le Rosey school (its alumni included Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Shah of Iran and the King of Belgium) and volunteered for service in Vietnam so he could serve with a friend who had been drafted. When his friend was killed, Jimmy turned to drugs and drink. 

Prince Rainier found here

Jimmy became paranoid and convinced that people were spying on him through his television set. He attempted suicide by jumping out the window of a friend’s apartment and succeeded in breaking his arms and legs. It was while Jimmy was convalescing that he started seeing notorious prostitute Xaviera Hollander, author of the book “The Happy Hooker.” Hollander included several stories about Jimmy in her second book, “Xaviera, Her Continuing Adventures,” in a chapter called “Jimmy, Don’t Jump Again.”

image found here

In time, the stories about Ann Woodward reached author Truman Capote, who ingratiated himself with Elsie’s circle and began collecting anecdotes and gossip. The idea for a novel based on real-life characters – began forming in Capote’s mind and Ann Woodward was at the center.

Capote never let the facts get in the way of a good story and wasn’t above using his skill as a storyteller to get back at those who had slighted him. When he and Ann quarreled at a debutante ball and Ann, her tongue loosened by drink, called him a “little faggot,” Truman responded by dubbing her “Miss Bang Bang.”

Capote found here

At the request of a friend who edited Ladies Home Journal, Truman penned a wicked story about a woman of loose morals known as “Madame Marmalade” by the boys of the French Riviera for a “trick she did using her tongue and jam.” The story proved too racy and too controversial for Ladies Home Journal and Capote looked elsewhere for a market.

image found here

In September 1975, Ann received a shocking telephone call from a friend in the publishing business. Capote had sold his story to Esquire magazine. “In a few weeks, everyone would be talking about the thinly disguised Capote story in which someone very like Ann Woodward turns out to be a bigamist and the former girlfriend of a gangster who traps her rich society husband into marrying her by becoming pregnant.”

Ann became increasingly forlorn and depressed. As she prepared for bed, she made up her face with makeup, lipstick, eye shadow and mascara. Then Ann Woodward lay down on her side on her bed, took a single cyanide capsule, and died.

Jimmy never recovered from his mother’s death. The cocaine and heroin, guilt and remorse took its toll on him and less than a year after Ann Woodward died, Jimmy did jump again. This time he was successful in ending his life.

Woody married in 1985 and lived overseas in a life of comfort. But in 1996, his wife filed for divorce. The divorce and separation from his child took its toll on Woody who suffered from bipolar disorder and in 1999, after revising his will to leave his $35 million estate entirely to his daughter, the 54-year-old Woodward followed in the steps of his mother and brother, and leapt out the window of his Manhattan co-op.

the lions with male patterned baldness

James Audley Blyth was an heir to the Gilbey liquor fortune; his wife Effie, was young, beautiful and wealthy in her own right.

Gilbey’s subliminal advertising found here

They set out on safari from Nairobi in 1908 with their friend and guide John Henry Patterson.  Effie was a brilliant shot and star of the safari. Her husband, James, became ill on the trip leaving Effie to spend many hours alone with Patterson.  Just before they reached Liasamis they encountered a rogue elephant. Effie fired two shots into it but the elephant escaped into the bush where Patterson shot it twice more.

image found here

Later the three of them argued about the elephant and its tusks. They appeared to patch it up but the following day James became deliriously ill and that night Effie left the marital tent to sleep with Patterson instead. The following morning she rose and returned to her husband’s side where two things happened but accounts differ as to which happened first.

luxury safari tents found here

Effie screamed and a gun went off. She ran from the tent as Patterson and his porters ran towards it. They found James with a gaping wound in his head and a revolver. Later the porters all testified that the wound was in the back of his head and the gun in his hand. Patterson, however, first testified the wound was in the temple and that he had picked up the gun and handed it to his headman, Mwenyakai. The headman corroborated this.

image of Mr Stanley found here

At which point, somebody must have put it back in James Blyth’s hand, because that’s where the porters saw it, unless they somehow saw it the instant before Patterson handed it to Mwenyakai. It seemed impossible that a dozen porters all saw the same thing and reported it in exactly the same words after only a second or two of looking. At Patterson’s direction they burned all of the dead man’s clothes and buried him in a shallow grave.

shallow grave cake found here

They then continued on their safari for six more weeks, with Effie sharing Patterson’s tent all the way. Despite the ensuing scandal and private accusations of adultery and murder, an official verdict of suicide was issued.

This is the basis from which Hemingway supposedly formed his fictional story, The Macomber Affair. Patterson wrote his own version of the events in The Lure of Nyika. An earlier book, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, detailed the fascinating and frightening months in 1908 when he oversaw the building of a bridge in Kenya.

Tsavo man-eaters at the Chicago Field Museum by Jeffrey Jung

Almost immediately after his arrival, lion attacks began to take place on the worker population, with the lions dragging men out of their tents at night and feeding on their victims. Despite the building of thorn barriers around the camps, bonfires at night and strict after-dark curfews, the attacks escalated dramatically, to the point where the bridge construction eventually ceased due to a fearful, mass departure of the work force.

The man-eating behaviour was considered highly unusual for lions and was eventually confirmed to be the work of a pair of rogue males, who were believed to be responsible for as many as one hundred and forty deaths, although the actual number is still uncertain due to a lack of accurate records at the time.

image found here

With his livelihood and safety at stake, Patterson, an experienced tiger hunter from his military service in India, undertook an extensive effort and after months of attempts and near misses, he finally killed the first lion on the night of December 9, 1898, and killed the second one on the morning of December 29 (narrowly escaping death in the process). The lions were maneless like many others in the Tsavo area and both were exceptionally large. Each lion was over nine feet long from nose to tip of tail and required eight men to carry it back to the camp.

Now biologist Bruce Patterson (no relation) studies the descendants of these lions.

Many locals still believe that old and sickly lions, possibly with tooth problems, are responsible for most human attacks today. While that might have been the case in the 1898, Field Museum researchers have found that attacking lions these days are typically under five years old and healthy.

image found here

Another hypothesis Patterson’s team is exploring is whether Tsavo lions have elevated levels of testosterone. More hormones might lead males to vigorously defend larger territories, leaving less room for youngsters. It could also lead to a condition similar to male-pattern baldness in people, when testosterone receptors on hair follicles are overloaded and cause hair loss, contributing to the absence of manes on the lions.

image found here

Regardless of hormone levels, environmental factors likely play a greater role. In a part of Tsavo East where maneless lions are common, annual rainfall is just 12 inches. On Taita Ranch, however, there is significantly more rain. There lions feature what Patterson calls a modest mane: a mohawklike growth on the head, hair on the neck and chest, but bare shoulders.

image found here