On Sunday, March 1, 2009, I attended a special gathering of Jean Harlow fans held at one of her former Los Angeles homes and the party turned into a surprise one of sorts when one of the guests revealed that she had a message for us all -- and that it was from Jean herself.
The afternoon get-together was hosted by Dr. Charles and Rebecca Chandler of Club View Dr. in Beverly Hills, to mark what would have been Jean's 98th birthday on Tuesday, March 3.
Jean's thoughts on such a shindig? Right on! But, according to Sara Larkins, a professional medium and spiritual counselor in attendance, Jean had a serious request to make when it came to keeping her memory alive:
"Don't you dare feel sad for me, I am not pathetic."
Sara was invited to the party by her friend, Harlow historian, Darrell Rooney. She said that although she's known Darrell for twenty years, she knew next to nothing about Jean's life story.
She explained that two weeks earlier she had spent some quiet time at the residence in order to do her specialized brand of homework. "The less I know the better," Sara told us, explaining her "starting with a clean slate" approach.
Seated alone in the living room and without touring the house, Sara said she began picking up images of the layout of the home and in particular, places that seemed to mean something to Jean in the relatively short time she lived there.
Among them were the kitchen pantry and a small closet nearby to where Sara was sitting. She got the sense that Jean, along with a tall, good looking man with dark hair (my immediate thought was her cousin Donald Roberson) and a dog, spent time giggling there together while purposely ditching apparent parties going on in the house.
According to Sara, Jean used these places in the house to intentionally hide from people who were in her home but were not guests of her own choosing and the "the obligation of being a dog and pony show" that came with such situations.
Another room appearing as meaningful to Jean, another place to hide out, was an upstairs front room with several windows. This room, as later verified with MGM publicity stills, was Jean's bedroom. According to Sara, Jean enjoyed the view and especially loved to leave the windows open to let the air and sunshine in.
Across the hall things didn't feel so light and breezy to Sara, filled instead with oppression and manipulation. In it Sara saw a "mean, squatty lady and a dark-haired man who were married but did not sleep together." This room which indeed contained separate beds during their time in the house, again verified with historical photographs, was shared by Mother Jean and her husband, Marino Bello.
Sara described Jean's presence as being "the sweetest soul" who had been manipulated by what she could only describe as something maniacal, someone who Jean had really given her heart to, but who manipulated her naivete in order to get what they wanted for themselves.
"Someone envied her talent, and used it against her," said Sara, who also spoke of Jean feeling double-teamed with subtle mind games in the home, as if she was getting dual messages. She felt put down when it came to her personal creative aspirations but then boosted up to fulfill the creative aspirations of someone else who had their own agenda. Throughout the emotional turmoil, Jean was on a quest to "just be herself."
Like hiding away at parties, Jean seemed to have a real need to escape in order to feel "like a normal person with nothing to prove to anyone, freedom and a sense of normalcy." Indications of alcohol abuse, flirtations with prescription drugs, possibly sleeping pills, and driving around in cars all seemed to point to ways she tried to get away from a lot of arguments and pressures that were coming at her from every which way, and the overall feeling that people were "messing with her head."
By this point in her homework, Sara said she felt an overwhelming sadness for Jean's apparent tragic life. And it was at this moment, said Sara, that "Jean showed up," appearing next to her in the living room with the message that she was not pathetic.
Instead, said Sara, Jean told her that she had loved acting because it was something she became good at. "I'm a proud, gifted person," Jean told her, adding that she wanted to be thought of as a "talented, gifted actress up for the challenge of pursuing her craft." One unrealized challenge that Jean revealed to Sara was the desire to act on the stage.
Photos of Jean taken in the Club View home were strategically placed in the exact locations where they were shot, and included quotes by Jean that illustrated her sense of humor and what was important to her. Sara said that this idea came from her brief conversation with Jean because Jean said it was important to her that guests at the birthday party have a sense of who she was as a person.
I'm a fairly open-minded person, and while I've never seen a ghost much less conversed with anyone beyond the grave, I have to say that Sara's revelations certainly have me thinking "anything's possible!"
With so many people still intrigued with Jean and her life more than 70 years after her death, is it possible that this Harlow-focused energy we've collectively generated in this world truly has kept her alive on the other side, tethered to the here and now? Enough so that she's compelled to have a say in what we're doing when given a channel to speak?
Human beings are the products of what we experience in our own lifetimes. Jean certainly had her share well-documented challenges, and it's been a natural response for many of us to feel love and a sense of protection toward her. As a celebrity, she has also become a product of other people's lifetime, quite literally, in books, photos bought and sold, memorabilia, souvenirs and yes even websites. Branded as a commodity.
If nothing else, it's a great reminder that Jean Harlow was not a commodity but a real person with thoughts of her own about who she was -- born Harlean Carpenter, on March 3, 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri. And what Baby wants for her birthday, The Platinum Page delivers.
Happy Birthday, Harlean, a proud, talented and gifted person - cheers!