Icons / April 2016

Tuesday Weld

Tuesday Weld never wanted to be a huge star, which is just as well, for her choice of movie roles was ‘self-destructive’, and off-screen she made Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton…

Benedict Cumberbatch wouldn’t have lasted a moment. Back in the day, actors and the power-players at Hollywood studios would change names quicker than you could say Maurice Micklewhite. (Maurice is better known as Michael Caine.) Issur Demsky became Kirk Douglas; Joan Crawford spent her formative years as Lucille LeSueur; and little Audrey Hepburn was christened Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston.

Tuesday Weld was one such nominative confection. She was born Susan Ker Weld in New York in 1943, but because of the pronunciation trials of a young cousin (who called her ‘Tu- Tu’), she eventually became known by the second working day of the week. Her father, Lathrop Motley Weld — strange names seem to be hereditary in this clan — died when she was four. A preternaturally beautiful child, Tuesday was put to work as a model by her mother, Yosene (yes, Yosene), to make ends meet.

And meet they did, thanks to a parent who was part showbiz mom cliché and cautionary tale. Tuesday later said: “I became the supporter of the family, and I had to take my father’s place in many, many ways. I was expected to make up for everything that had ever gone wrong in Mama’s life. She became obsessed with me, pouring out her pent-up love — her alleged love — on me, and it’s been heavy on my shoulders ever since. Mama still thinks I owe everything to her.”

Still-life gave way to motion pictures and Los Angeles. In 1956 she made both her television debut and first film appearance, in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man. She was 12 years old and had already had a nervous breakdown, was battling alcoholism, and had tried to take her own life. Your standard Hollywood trifecta.

Her career gathered momentum with a role in the 1956 film Rock, Rock, Rock, and she was introduced to the television viewing public en masse in 1959’s The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. She was girl-next-door cute with just enough woman- your-mother-warned-you-about. The eyes that flickered above those astral cheekbones suggested that with a bottle of hooch, a secluded parking spot and a warm summer night, this was a girl who might well go all the way.

Such perceptions were only heightened by her off-screen behaviour. In short, she made Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton look like prim sorority girls door-knocking for abstinence pledges. She was the true north of tabloid magnets, as you might be when (as a not-yet-legal teen) you sprout sentences like, “The man I marry will have to be richer than I am”. Yosene didn’t help matters. Asked if her daughter was allowed out after 11pm, she roared: “Ha, ha. That’s when she starts out.”

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David Smiedt