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For Better or for a Couple of Months

From The Scrapbook

Nov 14, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 09 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook, which is a strong believer in the institution of marriage, couldn’t help but notice the collapse of the 72-day-old union of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries last week. Readers will be forgiven for not necessarily recognizing the name of either the groom or bride​—​he’s a second-tier professional basketball player, she is difficult to characterize in a single phrase​—​but anyone who has stood recently in a supermarket checkout line or watched cable television should be aware of their glittering nuptials (Lindsay Lohan attended!) and the now-disputed price of the 20.5-carat wedding ring ($2 million). 

Photo of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine


Anyhow, after all the fabulous parties and sponsored accoutrements and exclusive coverage of the ceremony near Santa Barbara, it turns out that Miss Kardashian and Mr. Humphries are less compatible than they might have hoped. And so she has filed for divorce, he has publicly complained that he still loves her, and the bride’s mother has set the record straight on the value of the wedding ring (“It was not $2 million; it was less than half of that”). 

Another celebrity marriage gone with the wind.

But not so fast. Somewhat to The Scrapbook’s surprise, the public reaction to this high-profile domestic calamity has been not sympathy, or even humor, but anger​—​directed especially at the bride, who has been accused of staging a “sham” wedding, and breaking the heart of poor Mr. Humphries, in order to harvest some impressive swag and publicize whatever it is she does.

The Scrapbook is puzzled by the public indignation, and for two historic reasons. First, in the realm of high-profile celebritydom, enduring marriages​—​say, unions lasting longer than five years​—​are the exception, not the rule: For every Bob and Dolores Hope there are two dozen Jennifer Lopez and fill-in-the-blanks. And while the Humphries-Kardashian merger was exceptionally brief, even by those standards, it was hardly unprecedented. 

In fact, being of a certain age, The Scrapbook was reminded of two other famous marriages that ended before the bills were paid. In 1952 the glamorous Metropolitan Opera stars Roberta Peters and Robert Merrill wed one another, to the delight of America’s consumers of High Culture​—​and separated after two months. (The fact that Miss Peters’s mother reportedly accompanied them on the honeymoon couldn’t have helped.) And in 1964 the great Broadway belter Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine (then starring on TV’s McHale’s Navy) got married in Las Vegas​—​and began proceedings to get unmarried 32 days later. 

In contrast to the current crisis, the public reaction to those two marital debacles was good-natured laughter: Who could not smile at the incompatibility of two operatic soloists, or the star of Annie Get Your Gun locking horns with Commander McHale? A half-century ago there seems to have been some recognition that love (or something close to it) can lead to foolishness, and that human beings make occasional mistakes. Now the public is furious when it learns that celebrities are in the business of being celebrities, and that Hollywood occasionally puts on a show.


Just the Facts

Herman Cain was the source of a controversy last week .  .  . well, a controversy other than the one you were probably thinking of. On October 30, Cain reaffirmed to CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that it was his belief that Planned Parenthood was founded with the purpose of aborting black children in disproportionate numbers. 

Wherever would Cain get such a crazy idea? Well, let’s start with Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who was a well-known advocate of eugenics. Her writings are littered with talk of birth control as a matter of “racial hygiene,” “cultivation of better racial elements,” “a cleaner race,” and “the solution of racial .  .  . problems.” There’s also the small matter of that time when Sanger fretted, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” (Sanger’s defenders say the context suggests that she didn’t actually want to exterminate the entire black race, just its less desirable elements, or something.)

It’s long been one of liberalism’s most inconvenient facts that the modern family planning movement was largely founded on an ideology that Hitler also found agreeable. Naturally, whenever someone has the temerity to point this out, and heaven forfend it be done by a black man, out come the spin doctors. 

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