“There was no question of payment. Marlene would be paying my fares and hotels, and I would be together with my husband,” Gene later recalled. “With the enthusiasm of ignorance, I convinced myself that after years as a dresser helping little girls in and out of ballet costumes, I could cope with an international star.” Marlene had dismissed the Polish dresser that had been supplied – “I don’t want a strange dresser round me, they stare so” – and proceeded to show Gene what would be expected of her.
In 1985, she shared memories of life on the road:
· New York, 1967: ... at rehearsals she was very demanding and kept everyone on their toes. A violinist was ticked off for wearing short socks ... ‘ they come to see my legs, not yours.’
· San Francisco, 1968: She liked her dressing room to be functional and sparsely furnished, but in San Francisco, it had been furnished and bedecked with beautiful antiques and rich brocades. She took one look and said to me: ‘Let’s move in next door, honey, who needs all this!’
· Paris, 1973: Marlene excelled herself before one of the most exquisitely-dressed and sophisticated audiences we had ever seen. Among the celebrities ... who came backstage after the performance, was a very well-known female singer who, overcome and in tears at Marlene’s performance, embraced her. Marlene seemed equally moved. A moment later she turned to me and whispered, ‘Who was that, honey?’
· Palma, Majorca, 1973: ... the orchestra had to be flown in from Spain because there were no musicians on the island. It soon became obvious something was very wrong. Marlene hadn’t even bothered to sing her parts in rehearsal. She realised the situation was hopeless. When the orchestra was trying to play Honeysuckle Rose, she started doing a striptease, no doubt intending to show that their playing reminded her of a sleazy joint. Whenever she was confronted by something like this, she would let go the discipline and laugh it all off. The show on Saturday night was a shambles. Some of the players sounded so many wrong notes that they were told not to play, and the show carried on with just three regular musicians, including Chic.
· New Orleans, 1975: ... our last date with Marlene. This was due to a contractual misunderstanding between my husband and Marlene .... A few months later I heard the news that Marlene had fallen just as the curtain rose in the theatre in Sydney, Australia ... We still correspond frequently by letter and phone and have remained good friends until the present day.
(From the fabulous Crees Collection – photos via Tumblr)