photogalerie by J.H.
for Dr. Juergen Hocker in 1991
Revised by Luis Stephens 2005
was brought up in a very intellectual and upper middle class household.
We were surrounded by books, magazines and music. My father’s hobby
was theatre. He had attended, when young, the 1901 class of City College
called the “Naughty One” class. He had been a ghost-writer for
newspapermen when their alcoholic bouts prevented them from meeting the
deadlines. After my father met my mother, on the tennis courts in
Central Park, and fell in love with her, he knew he would have to become
financially able to support a wife. He became an importer and was an
excellent salesman. He then became president of a large merchandise
exchange, featuring bargain-basement apparel. He was an excellent
comedian and mimic and popular speaker for charitable organizations. He
joined the Provincetown Playhouse Theatre where Edna St. Vincent Millet
and Eugene O’Neil’s plays were performed, like “The Hairy Ape,”
“Great God Brown,” “The Iceman Cometh,” etc. He met Sinclair
Lewis, John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser and many other American writers.
In his business, when New England and Southern store owners came by
train to New York for merchandise, he gave them with compliments,
autographed books of the current writers. He gave away 10,000 copies of
“Main Street.” He was on the publisher’s list and received books
at a big discount. Truly he was the forerunner of the Book of the Month
I had a sister and a brother. From the time that I was a child, we were
driven to school in a large Marmon car with a chauffeur. My parents left
New York City and bought property in Kew Gardens and built a 14 room
slate gabled house where we lived and entertained many luminaries
including George G. Nathan, H.L.Mencken, Oswald Garrison Villard, editor
of “The Nation,” and many others already mentioned. I was too young
to be included in the evening soirées. We children would curtsy and
shake hands and then retire to the bedroom. In spite of this, I had been
brought up in a very modern way because my father felt that girls should
be as well educated as boys, and I had the freedom to read anything I
wished that was in our library. At the age of 12, my father took me to a
lecture, featuring Clarence Darrow and Scott Niering, entitled, “Is
There A God.” After the lecture I became an agnostic.
I was always the prettiest girl in school and college. In the high
school year book it was written about me: “Talents many - Beauty too,
who would not wish to be like you.” In college I designed my own
clothes made from unusual materials. I used corduroy and designed A-line
skirts and boat neck tops, form fitting to the waist. I combined
unconventional colors like turquoise, shocking pink, chartreuse green,
purples, yellows, oranges, honey colors and browns. I also designed
velour and felt hats, unblocked, with lots of strings of colored beads,
some of bone or shell. I later used archaic fragments from pre-Colombian
diggings, which I began to collect on my first visit to Mexico. (My
jewelry was later exhibited in a show at the Museum of Modern Art,
called “Painters as Jewelry Designers,” along with artists such as
Sandy Calder and Salvador Dali.) I never wore make up, a little lipstick
at most. My auburn hair was very curly and worn up, like a Medusa. One
of my friends said I combed it with an eggbeater. At the time, I never
wore a brassiere.
I was always painting or drawing. I studied art at Hunter College and
received a Masters in Fine arts from Columbia University.
Both my parents died when I was quite young. At age 18, I married a
lawyer, Sydney Pepper, my first husband, with whom I had a daughter,
Cherry, some years later. Her name originally was Cecily after my mother
Cecilia, but someone brought us a jar of cherry peppers when I was in
the hospital. So we nick-named the baby Cherry. That name stuck and has
been hers ever since.
Sydney and I were not very compatible. On a trip I made to Mexico with
my sister in 1935, a friend of mine, Charles Kaufman, suggested I look
up his close friend, Lou Stephens (Stevie), which I did. It was
practically love at first sight and I later returned to Mexico to pursue
this relationship. Because of this, my daughter was taken away from me
by her father, a shrewd lawyer. But I won’t go into the details of
this awful tragedy in my life.
My life with Stevie was very exciting. We had an ardent relationship; he
exceeded my wildest dreams as to his inexhaustible energy and variations
on the mating theme. We made many friends, among them artists, dancers
and bullfighters as well as people in the business community. I also
decided to continue my artistic development and attended classes at the
“Academia San Carlos” under the direction of maestro Manuel
Rodriguez Lozano, a very accomplished Mexican painter.
When Stevie and I got married we were living in a rented house on
Providencia Street in the Colonia del Valle section of Mexico City. Our
two boys were born there, Charles, in 1937, and Louis, in 1938. We had
many parties and gatherings there with artists and dancers and friends,
and I still have some photos from those times. On one occasion Diego [Rivera]
and Frida [Kahlo] came over to have
lunch in our garden. After eating we all dressed up in Mexican costumes,
hats and “Charro” outfits, and Stevie filmed us with his little 8mm
movie camera while we were hamming it up and acting silly and dramatic.
Sadly, these films were lost in transit when I later tried to mail them
from New York to Mexico.
After Providencia we rented a house in Polanco on Ibsen Street. Stevie
then bought a sizable piece of property in Tlacopac in the southern part
of the city and we began building our own home there with the young
architect, Manuel Parra.
While I was married to Stevie I was busy entertaining tourists,
Hollywood celebrities, Kenneth McCowen, director Eddie Kaufman, Edward
G. Robinson, and driving them to fiestas and Mexican markets. Stevie and
I also became close friends of the painters Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego
Rivera and Siqueiros, known as the “Big Three.” Orozco painted my
portrait; I posed for him wearing a necklace of my design made with
Mexican pre-Columbian beads. I commissioned Diego Rivera to paint a
portrait of Stevie. Stevie posed wearing the “cesta” of a Jai-Alai
player on his right hand. He was very athletic and had become a skilled
competitor in that sport, a rare accomplishment for a foreigner. I also
managed to sell many paintings of these artists to some of our visitors.
I never asked for a commission, only that if the painters had a little
sketch it would be available for me. Apart from the “big three,” I
assembled quite a collection from other well know Mexican painters and
sculptors including Juan O’Gorman, Tamayo, Luis Ortiz Monasterio, and
later Jose Luis Cuevas, Carlos Merida and Francisco Zuniga and others.
Also from Jesus Guerrero Galvan, Federico Cantu and Pedro Friedeberg,
all three of whom painted my portrait. Frida Kahlo gave me a small
lithograph with an inscription, “Para Anita, la vida nos ha juntado y
After Orozco died, when Mrs. Orozco needed money to buy food or pay the
rent, or clothes for her children, she’d bring me some small canvases
on which Orozco did preliminary sketches for a mural he planned.
Siqueiros’s wife, Angelica, while he was painting in jail, would bring
me sketches that I would buy from her, and she used the money to pay for
daily expenses. I also sold a large nude painting of Diego's called
“Woman with Nardos,” which was to be used in the Hotel Reforma.
Another friend, Millie Johnston, wanted a portrait by Siqueiros. I
arranged for that portrait and she posed wearing one of my pre-Colombian
Perhaps my most memorable experience during this period was with the
renown muralist J.C. Orozco. He had been commissioned to paint a big
mural on the ceiling and dome of a church in downtown Mexico City called
the “Templo de Jesus.” This church had been built by Hernan Cortez
after his siege of “Tenochtitlan” (the Aztec name for Mexico City),
and in memory of his wounded troops felled during the battle. The
mural’s theme was The Four Horsemen of he Apocalypse. We worked on the
curved surface of the dome 20 meters up from the floor. Orozco asked me
to paint the necklace on the harpie
[Harpy], since I knew more about jewelry than he did. This is my
original piece of work on that mural. This was a most exciting project
for me, a highlight in my life, to work and study with such a genius of
our time. More about this will appear in my Memories. Beside painting my
portrait Orozco gave me his last self-portrait before he died, with a
dedication, “para Annette.” Stevie never came to see me once while I
worked with Orozco.
In our new house in Tlacopac, Stevie and I lived together and raised our
two boys. He was working very hard spending many hours in his businesses.
We began to have marital problems. World War II was in full swing and he
chose to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He felt strongly anti-fascist and
wanted to be part of the effort to combat this tyranny. Before he left,
I asked him for a divorce. He said no, for the sake of our two boys, it
depended on the outcome of the war, if he didn’t survive there was no
need for them to know about our problems. He also said that I was free
to live my life, but to be careful that my children would not get hurt.
I knew that in Mexico the gossips would be watching.
I also had to
give my permission for Stevie to go to war, since he was over 40 years
old and we had two young children. Stevie, on the surface seemed to be
doing a heroic deed, while in reality he was looking for an out to our
On a number of occasions I had to go to boot camp with my sons, where
Stevie was training, in Gulfport, Mississippi. I also visited him on
leave in New York, at the Fifth Avenue Hotel where we stayed. Charles
Kaufman and his wife Joan, and Frankie Cohen, another Hollywood writer,
had brought Helen Hall, later called Laney, a very pretty redhead, of
Quaker and Episcopalian background, to the hotel. She was twenty-three,
a zoologist who had studied at the University of Wisconsin, and was
working in New York. All of us went out for dinner and dancing at a
nightclub. Then Stevie was shipped overseas.
For three months I mourned Stevie’s absence, and then I decided to
paint, and have an exhibit. I turned my large bedroom into a studio,
bought lots of canvases and paints, and returned to the solace of my
painting, which I had neglected during my second marriage.
The miraculous coincidence of Conlon meeting with me in 1943 was an
event that changed both our lives radically, I believe for the good. We
met at a party, given for Freddie Martin, a nurse in the Spanish Civil
War. The party was given by Elinore Lincoln and Peggy Irwin in a house
and garden in Mexico City’s Colonia del Valle. Conlon’s early life
in Mexico was very anti-social after two years in the Spanish Civil War.
Also he feared reprisals from the FBI and since he had some friends in
Mexico, he moved there for his peace of mind and the necessity of
regaining his health.
When I met Conlon, I had already been married twice, with three children,
a daughter from my first marriage, and two sons from my second marriage.
I was thirty-six and he was thirty-one. I thought I was over the hill
and that I would never fall in love again.
Both Conlon and I had been living without love and companionship and
assurance – in a sort of vacuum. Conlon and I began a friendship,
which quickly ripened into intense physical and tender love. We went to
concerts, dinners, art shows and museums. We went to bullfights and
“La Lagunilla” thieves market on Sunday. He would look for piano
parts and books, and I hunted for antique furniture, picture frames,
archaeological pieces, folk art, and toys, etc.
Though we enjoyed each other Conlon and I were very different in many
ways. I was living in a beautiful, large
colonial house and garden, with servants and two cars in the garage, and
a full social life. Conlon did not realize that I had children until his
first visit to my plush set up. I was very busy as a den mother for my
people and he preferred living as a hermit. When Conlon would take me to
a cocktail party, he would have a drink, find a chair in some corner,
smoke a cigarette, and never speak to anyone until I was through
socializing. Some people thought Conlon was my chauffeur!
Conlon lived in an apartment on the roof of an old building in the
Zocalo is the original city centre square, flanked by the National
Palace, the main cathedral and the mayoral buildings on three sides. It
is the downtown, historical heart of Mexico City]. I helped decorate his
apartment for him. I encouraged him to get a driver’s license. He was
afraid of authority, but he finally did get his license, and when my
sons had school vacation, he drove us down to Acapulco.
Conlon was very handsome, skinny but handsome. He was about 5’9’, a
little taller than I was. I began to select his clothes and helped him
to dress beautifully. He had a wine coloured, cashmere suit made, and
wore it with a pink shirt and a pink tie with hand painted black monkeys
on it. I chose pink and pale green and lavender shirts for him. In
Acapulco he wore beautiful slacks, “huaraches” and beach robes.
Conlon smoked very strong cigarettes - French Gauloise and Mexican
also smoked these but did not inhale. He also brewed his own coffee from
beans he roasted and then ground in an espresso machine. He drank about
20 cups of what I called “mud” coffee a day. I liked the Cappuccino
but not the espresso. We ate very well and I began to put on weight,
which I didn’t like.
Stevie heard about Conlon and my relationship and was very angry. He had
served two years in the South Pacific, on an aircraft carrier, the
“Bonne Homme Richard,” and from an able bodied seaman, became a
navigator. When the war was over, he called me to come to Los Angeles
and start divorce proceedings. By this time Conlon and I had decided to
call off our commitment. I took my boys and flew to the home of John
Kaufman, the father of my old flame, Charlie K., who had introduced me
to Stevie. Charlie’s father was very sympathetic to me. I thought
perhaps I should try a reconciliation with Stevie, but Stevie insisted
on the divorce. I went to Reno, Nevada to spend six weeks there with my
boys to process the divorce.
I returned to my home in Mexico. I had not seen or heard from Conlon or
communicated with him in the meantime.
In September, Stevie returned the conquering hero to Mexico, and his
factory workers came out in full force to make a big celebration and
barbecue for him. There was also much publicity in the papers concerning
his splendid deeds. He was pleasant and friendly, and the children were
wild about him. He was a good father. Then, after another feast at a
famous seafood restaurant, he ate some poisonous shrimp and that night
he came home writhing in agony. He was doubled up with cramps and
dehydrated. I took him to the hospital and he almost died. After a few
days, I brought him home and watched him recuperate slowly. Finally, one
day, when he felt better, I asked him about his plans. He said he wished
to find a house for himself as soon as possible. I asked him, “Do you
have a girl friend?” He smiled strangely. “Oh, are you engaged or
married,” I asked? He then confessed that he had married Helen Hall,
and she was coming to Mexico. “Well,” I said, “Why didn’t you
tell me?” I shall never forget his answer. He said, “I didn’t want
to hurt you.” This was December 10, 1945.
The divorce gave my husband and me joint custody of the boys. Stevie
planned to live in the States, since he wanted the boys to learn better
English, without a Latin accent, and to be exposed to the moral values
in the States. He thought he might be able to run hisfactories from the States by telephone with occasional short trips
to Mexico. He had bought a 16-acre farm in Westchester County, New York,
in a town known as
Somers. The boys were taken to New York to live with their
father and stepmother.
By chance, again on a shopping trip to the centre of Mexico City,
near Sanborn’s, I walked into Conlon. We both stopped and I began to
cry. He took me into a coffee shop, Lady Baltimore, for coffee and I
told him my story. He was very emotional and his eyes began to tear.
“Oh,“ he said,” I may not be able to live with you, but I cannot
live without you. Let’s get married.” We both needed one another.
After the boys left, I too left for New York. There I met Henry Kleeman,
who had leased a large four-story house in East 57th Street, and opened
a gallery on the street floor. He rented rooms, a bath and kitchenette
on the second floor, and used the third and fourth floors for his
private apartment. He liked me and my jewelry, and some of my paintings,
and offered me a street window to display my creations. At the same
time, he rented me a small apartment, furnished with a kitchenette and
bath, which I shared with a painter of horses who had his studio at the
back of the house. It was a perfect arrangement, and quite inexpensive.
I did not tell him I planned to get married as soon as my husband-to-be
would be arriving. And Henry had his eye on me. However, when Conlon
arrived, he was delighted. A friend of Conlon’s, Bill Davis was our
witness, and we were married at City Hall. Bill was a friend of
Hemmingway and Peggy Guggenheim. His father had left him a legacy and he
began buying up Jackson Pollack’s drip and abstract paintings very
While in New York, Conlon introduced me to Mrs. Nell Daniel [her
pseudonym was Minna Lederman], who edited a music magazine.
Conlon had written articles for them. He had also sent some of his
written music to her from Mexico. She was a charming person and most
enthusiastic about Conlon’s genius as a composer. She invited us to
have dinner with her one evening in her lovely townhouse, and I brought
a gift from Mexico, which she still remembered many years later, and
Conlon made the dinner salad. The gift was a pin of my design, with an
original pre-Colombian piece.
We also visited John Cage in his roof apartment in the East Village one
evening. It was a walk-up, very bare with large rooms, a few chairs, a
table, a bench and two grand pianos. I believe I was the only woman in
the room. I met Henry Cowell, Virgil Thompson, Elliott Carter, Aaron
Copland and other well-known composers. They were discussing new
innovations in music, changing the timbre of the piano by putting coins
in the strings. It was a fascinating evening, they all talked shop.
Perhaps we had a few drinks, or sodas, and we stayed until quite late.
In New York I had a dear friend from high school, Margot Gregor. She had
married, and then lived in The Village on Barrows Street, with her two
children. Arthur Gregor, her husband, was the principal of a school. I
introduced Margot and Arthur to Conlon and they both liked him. Conlon
discussed his musical problems with Arthur, and about the technical
difficulties involved with two human hands playing his compositions on a
piano. Arthur suggested that since his music was too difficult,
technically, for human hands to play, he could punch holes, representing
notes from his compositions, on a roll of paper, and then insert the
roll into a player piano which would then play the music mechanically.
Arthur also suggested that Conlon should go to a factory in the Bronx,
where player pianos were being manufactured, and find out how to use
these to record his music. But this system was different; usually a
pianist would play music, which would then be stamped automatically on
the roll. That was a dead end. Finally, Arthur knew of a music shop
where a man had built a machine that could hand punch holes representing
notes onto a roll. Conlon was ecstatic. He went to the shop and asked to
purchase this devise, made of steel, and worked with the owner to learn
technical details, such as how to record loud and soft, and different
types of notes, and improve the machine.
To return to my subsequent life with Conlon, I left New York and came
back to my large house in Mexico to re-arrange my life with him. I had
already left my sons with their father and their new stepmother in
Somers, on the estate where they went to public school. I rented my
luxurious, furnished house with a big garden in Las Aguilas, and I moved
into the old colonial house that Stevie and Helen had vacated when they
returned to the States. This was a 17th Century house in San Angel and
Conlon joined me there.
I packed up a large quantity of
extra furniture, personal belongings, when I moved out of the
Aguilas #50 house. I had two steamer trunks full of clothes,
jewelry and furs that I had designed, including jackets patterned after
Spanish bullfighters suits, Spanish shawls, made into cocktail dresses,
fine jewelry matching shoes, silk damask capes, paisley shawls and
special clothes for the Acapulco season. It was a tremendous amount to
move and pack, and I forgot to lock the trunks. I only had the help of
the movers and an old gardener from the Aguilas house. I was so tired
after moving that I fell into a deep sleep. During the night, on the
street behind my street, a gang of vandals had broken in and were
looting the place. They went up to the roof, hopped onto my roof and
climbed down into my garden. They dropped their loot from the first
house when they opened the trunks and saw my rich contents. They cleaned
me out. I lost all my treasures.
When I awoke the next day and found the
disarray and the ravaged trunks, I was hysterical. I felt as though part
of my flesh had been torn off my body. It was such a cruel slap of fate.
I was never able to recover or replace any of my stolen personality. But
I had to pick myself up and start again to furnish the new house.
Conlon came back with his special steel-punching machine. In the new
house I made a wonderful studio for his music and his two mechanical
pianos. He began to buy up rolls of paper to be punched for his
composing. I also had a studio for painting. We would both work the
whole morning, then break for lunch together, enjoying a wonderful
Mexican meal, sometimes with friends, but mostly just for the two of us.
After that, the siesta, which was truly very warm and loving. We were
both very happy together. Conlon began to collect cookbooks for his
library. He wanted to try all kinds of foods and wines. I would teach
the maid to make some Chinese stir-fry, Chinese meals and other special
We had a Chinese friend, Doreen Feng. Her
father was the Chinese Ambassador to Mexico. She was very slim and
seductive and came to our house because I had rented my first house on
the property to three very handsome bachelors, two of whom turned out to
be F.B.I. agents, which we did not know at the time. I guess they
thought Conlon was a suspect, because he had been in the Spanish Civil
War in the Lincoln Brigade. I was completely non-political and
couldn’t have cared less about the red terror.
Doreen who was writing a Chinese cookbook,
would go to the market in her chauffeured car and pick out all kinds of
Chinese vegetables, fish, chicken or pork and arrive at my house to work
on her recipes. Conlon would offer her wine and then keep her company as
she cooked. There is a lot of preparation for cooking Chinese food.
Although she didn’t eat with us, she nibbled and tasted while she was
cooking. By early evening when the food had been prepared she was
dog-tired and loaded and collapsed in sleep.
I have many
photographs of this wonderful old colonial house, which the owner would
not sell to us. Financially I was comfortable, and Conlon had received
an inheritance from his father’s estate. We shared expenses. Then,
since I had quite a lot of land back in the Aguilas section, we decided
to build our own house on part of it. There were 15,000 square meters
with access from both Aguilas and Leones streets. Of this, 7,000 square
meters were to go to my boys, to inherit when they came of age, though I
managed it for them and paid expenses, taxes and such, in the meantime.
The remainder, I divided in half.
I rented Aguilas #50, and we built a house on the other parcel, Aguilas
#48. When it was finished we left the colonial house in San Angel and
moved there. In the rear of the garden Conlon decided to build a
During this transition Conlon had another friend, Bob Allen,
a journalist, who had reported events in the Spanish Civil War.
Although Bob had graduated from M.I.T. [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
a degree in Engineering, he preferred journalism. We became very friendly with Bob and his Mexican wife, Angeles, a pretty
young woman. Conlon wanted to use the player piano system to create a
whole percussion orchestra. He invited Bob to help him on the technical
side with this project. Conlon had built all types of drums, some from
Mexican clay pots. He had designed a variety of other odd objects that
could be struck, and he and Bob tried to connect the player pianos to
these so that the punched rolls would trigger a mechanism that might
strike the drums. They also experimented with the pianos, one of which
they had prepared to sound like a guitar and the other to produce a
sharp, staccato noise.
We would have a wonderful leisurely lunch in the garden and Conlon and
Bob would ignore the ladies. They spent hours discussing their projects.
I was treated like a Mexican wife, ignored, and I certainly didn’t
appreciate this. But Conlon seemed to be happy. It took a lot of
painstaking work to convert the pianos and to realize the percussion
orchestra. Unfortunately, it became quite complicated and they finally
had to abandon the project. Today Conlon could have used electronic
devices and synthesizers.
In December of the first year of my marriage to Conlon, I finally
arranged with Inez Amor to have a one-man (today called one-person) show
at her gallery. There is a story connected with Inez Amor and how I
first met her. In 1935, I made a special trip to Mexico to stay with
Stevie to test our physical compatibility. This trip was coincident with
a lecture series I had arranged to give at the University of Mexico
summer school. I was offered this series through recommendations from
the faculty of Columbia Teachers College and from Edward R.Murrow, who
was an Associate Dean there. I was to discuss the importance of the
Mexican Mural Movement in connection with American art of today.
During this trip Stevie decided to give me a gift and we went to a folk
art shop called “Industrias Tipicas.” There was a young lady who
attended to us. She was very shy but well mannered and spoke English
with a British accent, and showed us many of the lovely silver creations
she had in her shop. I selected a beautiful, thick silver bracelet, with
a figure of a “guacamaya” parrot engraved on it. The name of the
young lady was Inez Amor.
Inez later became associated with one of the pre-eminent art galleries
in Mexico City, the famous “Galeria de Arte Mexicano.” This began
when Inez’s older sister turned a part of their parents’ house, a
“Porfiriato” building on Abraham Gonzalez Street, into an art
gallery. Inez later took over the business. I saw my first Tamayo there,
a painting with watermelons, which I wanted to buy, but Stevie was not
interested in buying paintings then. The gallery was then moved to Milan
#18, and Inez worked very hard to develop it into a first class
When I spoke to Inez she was very cordial and interested in my having a
show at her gallery. I made arrangements to pay for the invitations,
some of which she printed on yellow fabric and some on white paper.
Orozco, who was a close friend and whom I had worked with on one of his
murals, wrote the dedication for the catalogue. Inez took 1/3 commission
on the sale of my paintings, which I considered very reasonable. When
however, I did arrange for the show, it was said, “Oh, Annette must
have paid Inez a fortune to have a show!” Quite a few of my
“friends” boycotted the opening. I was terribly hurt by this. In
fact, I resolved, then, never to have another show of my work in Mexico.
Luckily, my show was a huge success. I had lots of good publicity, sold
many paintings and I was also featured in an article in the newspaper,
Novedades, as Women of the Week. Stevie, who said he always wanted to
help me if I had a show, bought two of my paintings and gave them to our
sons. I later made a sequel to one of those paintings, which is now in
the collection of the Fine Arts Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In 1949, I won a contest to do a mural at the Hotel Borda, in Taxco. The
contest was called “A Wall to Paint On.” While painting this mural I
lived at the hotel and when the mural was completed I named it, “Dream
of a Boy to Become a Bullfighter.” This mural was done on four large,
masonite panels, using egg tempera paints in the style of the old
frescoes. It was executed so that it could be moved to different art
galleries or hotels. I was awarded a prize by Miguel Aleman, the
President of Mexico. It was also sent to the Hotel El Mirador in
Acapulco for temporary display.
To get back to my life with Conlon in Aguilas #48, we had a couple
working in our house, a male cook named Romolo and his wife Esperanza.
Romolo had worked for a German family on a coffee plantation in the
State of Chiapas where he learned much about bucolic culinary arts. Our
neighbourhood had a chicken farm run by a Hungarian family and they also
had a registered cow. Romolo churned our butter by hand using the cream
this cow gave. He also made wonderful, home made ice cream with the
original vanilla bean, and cakes and cookies and good wholesome food.
Conlon decided we needed a vegetable garden. We had two gardeners and
grew some fifty vegetables. We grew snow peas, asparagus, Brussel
sprouts, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, zucchini, beans, corn, and
more. We didn’t know how to plant small plots that would mature at
different times and so we ended up giving away much of the produce. We
also grew Chinese vegetables. Conlon began to buy up Spanish wine such
as dry sherry, “Manzanilla” and cheeses -- high priced delicacies.
In Mexico in those days smoking marijuana was not considered improper
and was legal. Conlon grew marijuana behind his studio and he and a
friend, John Langley, both smoked pot. I tried it on a number of
occasions but found it a dull experience. In a gathering where people
were smoking, they would get high, say something nonsensical and then
laugh about it. To me it was just silly, and I never got high.
During the McCarthy witch-hunt period, many motion pictures people in
Hollywood moved to Mexico. Quite a group of ex-patriots from all over
had to leave everything and barely made it to Mexico. Since Conlon had
served in the Lincoln Brigade in Spain he knew some of these ex-pats and
also played poker with them. One friend, Luis Lindau, was a German
refugee married to a blond Texas “gringa.” They paled around with
many of the group of artists famous in Mexico, such as Francisco
Dosamantes and Juan O’Gorman. O’Gorman painted a very nice portrait
of Betty Lindau. Some of the other poker
players were Spaniards who had formed a business called „Meximex,
S.A.“ importing typewriters and other office equipment from East
Germany. Conlon bought shares in this company, and so did I. Then Julian
Halevy, a well known script writer from Hollywood, also invested in this
company. All went well until Mexico banned imports from East Germany.
The typewriters were very good, and the business was doing well. Alas,
we all lost money. Whatever money we had made in the past, we all lost
later when Meximex, S.A. folded.
Conlon also was very friendly with Rodolfo Halffter, another refugee
from Spain. While I was married to Stevie a dance group under the
direction of Ana Sokolow came to Mexico. Rodolfo Halffter composed a
beautiful composition called “Paloma Azul,” or Blue Dove, which Ana
choreographed for presentation at Bellas Artes, along with more of her
compositions. One in particularly was dedicated to the Mothers of the
Spanish Civil War. I was very moved and impressed by her work and made a
painting inspired by this dance. She came to my house a number of times
to have lunch and then borrowed a trunk, which she promised to return
when she left for New York. Rodolfo H. had a brother who was also a
composer but a loyalist. I don’t know if they ever reconciled after
the Civil War. There was quite a group of refugees whose names I have
forgotten, whom Conlon occasionally greeted and met with, without me.
Conlon had another friend, Edmundo Flores, an agrarian economist who
spoke good English. Edmundo was the illegitimate son of a famous
politician. His mother had been a secretary in the politico’s office
and his father never acknowledged him or took care of him during his
youth. This was a typical practice among the macho, well-to-do, big
shots in Mexico. They always had a “casa grande,” where their legal
wife and children would be indulged and taken care of. Then there was
the secret “casa chica,” where the younger “enamorata” would be
kept. The weekends would be reserved for the family functions, Saturday
night was always the movie night, and Sunday visits were reserved for
the in-laws or grandparents for an enormous three o’clock comida, with
trimmings. During the week, however, long work hours were not questioned.
And if a big shot was seen dancing with his “amante” in a famous
nightclub, one would only greet him if he greeted first, otherwise one
had better ignore and be ignored.
Edmundo had great ambitions. He came regularly to dine with Conlon and
myself, praising the cook and the food, and would hold forth on
political gossip and the gringas he was dating. He received a grant to
write a master’s thesis in his field at the University of Wisconsin.
There he met a modern dancer, Sage Fuller, who shunned ballet and was
pursuing the modern dance style created by Martha Graham, taking classes
with a Graham pupil. Sage was a typical debutante, a prize horsewoman,
etc. Her grandfather had planned and executed the Russell Sage
Foundation in Forest Hills Gardens, supposedly for middle-income
Sage was wooed and won by Edmundo Flores. Her father was most shocked
and unhappy and claimed that his daughter, a thoroughbred, had
condescended to mate with an ordinary dray horse. But, the father
notwithstanding, the wedding took place. Of course, her picture was
published in “Town and Country,” and it was written that Sage Fuller
de Flores was married to a high politician in Mexico, an economist.
Sage and Edmundo came to our house to celebrate and I helped them find a
small house in our neighbourhood. Edmundo had quite an assignment. He
hired a maid and was trying to teach Sage Spanish. She didn’t know any
domestic skills such as cooking, marketing, washing, or ironing. I felt
that this made her pretty unhappy, though she was very much in love. One
day, since I had so many vegetables in my garden, I asked her if she
wanted some to take home. I pointed out the patches that were ready for
picking. She just stood and looked. She had no idea how to go about
pulling up a carrot or picking squash or corn form the stalk! I left her
to struggle a bit, and then I told one of my gardeners to fill a basket
for her to take home.
Edmundo began working for the Mexican government. He had a plan to
re-organize the “ejido” land and divide the absentee landlords’
property among the “campesinos.” He had great ideas about teaching
the farmers new modern methods. Unfortunately, the “campesinos” had
little preparation for accepting those technologies. He, nevertheless,
became a professor in agrarian economics at the National University and
later held important government posts. He was Mexico’s Ambassador to
Cuba, and headed the CONACIT, the National Council for Science and
Technology. He and Sage had a daughter, Tessa, but their marriage was
short lived. Edmundo remarried a number of times and in his later years
wrote an autobiography [Historias
de Edmundo Flores, Vol. I, Autobiografia 1919-1950. Martin Casillas
Editores, México] in which we are all featured, Conlon, Stevie, Laney,
Sage and myself. Edmundo’s father tried to reach him on his way up in
the world, but Edmundo would have nothing to do with him.
Conlon also knew Fred Vanderbilt Field, of Marshall Field and Company.
He was a famous fellow traveller, generously donating much of his
fortune to the Communist Party. Conlon and Fred shared certain political
ideals and, as with Edmundo, there existed a certain camaraderie there.
Fred was later married to a beautiful, dusky woman, Nieves, who several
years previously had been Diego Rivera’s favorite model and is
featured in many of his paintings.
My life with Conlon went well for a few years. Conlon continued building
up his collection of early jazz recordings on the old 78 format. Louis
Armstrong was especially his favourite. He also had recordings of Bessie
Smith and other artists. When my children came for their vacations they
would beg him to play some of these records. One particular piece of
Louie Armstrong is called “Laughing Louie,” recorded when Armstrong
had probably had a few drinks, was asked for repeatedly. This brought
great moments of laughter, hearing Louie mumble and slur the words to
the song he was performing. My children were awed, as I was, by
Conlon’s knowledge of jazz and, through Conlon, were exposed to many
kinds of music at a young age.
When the children went back to the States, I wanted Conlon to go to some
concerts and social gatherings with me. He pleaded with me that he had
too much work to do. When I proposed that we take a trip together, he
said, “Sorry, I don’t have the money for that.” He had begun
spending his inheritance very recklessly. He bought up old machinery for
pianos, cookbooks, and Chinese utensils and began drinking the imported
Spanish sherry and cognacs daily.
Conlon had bought a small Dachshund from Baron Alex von Wuthenau. I
called the dog “Dali” after the painter Salvador Dali. This special
animal was imported from a pure breed of the Danish Dachshunds. In the
afternoon or evening, Conlon would fondle this puppy for hours. It made
me quite jealous since he had gradually stopped fondling and petting me.
As to our life together, fortunately or unfortunately, I was a highly
sexed woman and suffered when deprived of affection and sex. I could not
sleep well or paint or truly function.
day, while he was punching holes in his roll paper, his hands began to
sweat profusely. He went to visit Dr. Paul, a friend, who now was a top
radiologist. He offered to give Conlon radium treatments to check this
affliction. After a number of treatments, the sweating stopped. I
wondered if this did not have some unhealthy side effects. Then he
discovered that he had an ulcer. When that happened, our life fell
Conlon decided to live in his soundproof studio at one end of our
property. He turned a corner of it into a kitchen and bedroom. A
bathroom had already been installed. In the garden he had a small
swimming pool, which he stocked with goldfish, and he began to live
again like a hermit. This was the beginning of our separation.
Since Conlon was living in the back of our property, I decided to rent
our house and make my base in Acapulco. On the portion of the original
property that was to go to my boys there was a small cottage that I
could use when I was in Mexico City.
I had read the story of the life of Gauguin who left Paris and went off
to live in the island of Tahiti. I went to Acapulco instead and made my
Tahiti there. I bought a place high up on the side of the hill known as
“La Quebrada,” with a broad view of the Acapulco harbour. I fixed up
the old structure and right below it I built a thatched-roof cottage
called “Jacalito,” which was a screened-in large bedroom, closet and
bathroom, with a wooden ceiling under pointed palm fronds forming a
“palapa” roof. It was very cool and breezy and there was also a back
porch with a little bar and hammocks where I could paint and relax.
led a very active life in Acapulco. I set up a shop in the Hotel Mirador
where I sold my jewelry and my paintings. I also worked for the
Associated Press. Since I had a telephone, I arranged with Mr. Charles
Guptill, head of the Associated Press, to phone him news-worthy items
when they occurred; such as the burning of the Morgan yacht in the small
bay off Caleta Beach; the Mike Todd and Liz Taylor romance; visits of
Errol Flynn and visits by President Miguel Alaman in his government
yacht. British and military American ships came into our port, and since
I was a member of the Navy League, I also covered these events as I was
invited to their luncheons and fiestas and cocktail parties. The “La
Perla” nightclub at the Hotel Mirador, designed and run by Teddy
Stauffer, became internationally famous. Many starlets came to visit
from Hollywood. I was introduced to Tyrone Power, Annabelle, Heddy
Lamar, later married to Stauffer, Linda Christian and Rita Hayworth, who
was very sweet. She was being directed in a movie by Orson Wells, called
“Lady from Shanghai.” Friends of mine, Judy and Alex Singer, the
director, came to do the movie, “Love Has Many Faces,” starring Lana
Turner. I was hired as an extra in the picture.
I was also introduced to Albert Finney. Albert Finney had taken a
vacation to Acapulco after his phenomenal success in the Tom Jones movie.
When I met him he was in great pain as he had been scuba diving and had
stepped on a sea urchin and the poisonous spines had entered the sole of
his foot. I could see he was suffering from a fever. I took his pulse
and immediately took him to a doctor friend of mine who applied a
primitive remedy known in Acapulco. This doctor lit a pork wax candle
and let it drip on the foot where the spines had penetrated the skin.
Miraculously, the spines came out. The doctor also put him on
antibiotics, and Albert Finney recovered very quickly.
Other friends of mine, the Milton Rattners, hired a fishing boat to go
deep-sea fishing. I invited Albert to join us, which he did. I don’t
think he was prepared for the rolling sea, but since he was offered a
seat and tackle to catch a sailfish this kept him from becoming seasick.
And when he felt the tug, he knew he had a big fish on the line. He
worked hard, and with counseling and advice from friends and the crew,
he landed his first sailfish. He was truly enjoying every moment of his
triumph. We all took pictures later and I have proof of this special
incident. I unfortunately did not pursue our friendship, and when Finney
took the part of Daddy Warbucks in the musical “Annie,” which was a
big hit on Broadway for a few years, I did not go backstage to
congratulate him when I went to see the show, for which I am sorry!
While I was living in Acapulco, friends of mine, a doctor and his wife,
arrived from the States and called me. They were staying at a near-by
hotel and met a young and attractive golfer who had driven down to
Acapulco in a Cadillac convertible, an architect. He worked for Skidmore,
Owens and Merrill. They introduced me to him.
His name was Henry “Hank” Twardy. I told him about my house
and he came to see it, and began to make many suggestions about how to
re-build it. This young architect planned to stay for three weeks in
Acapulco and play some golf, but when he saw my house and decided he
liked me, he changed his plans and stayed for three months. He was very
sweet, a talented designer of Polish origin, who had been in the Second
World War, and invested his earnings in Cessna aircraft. He was hoping
to take time out to enjoy life at that point, deciding there was no
better way to spend his leisure than in this hedonistic life-style in
Acapulco. Of course, I was still married to Conlon and cared for him,
but the bloom and excitement of our marriage had faded. I had to face
the end of our marriage.
Conlon finally cured himself of the ulcer and we were in contact,
although I lived in Acapulco, we were still friends.
There are two incidents concerning Conlon’s music that I should
mention. When Conlon first tried to have a concert of his music in
Mexico, the programs were printed, and it was organized as a piano
recital. At the last moment, however, the pianist called it off. He said
the music [Sonatina] was too complicated,
rhythmically, for human hands to play. Later, the piece was transcribed
for two pianos. And when it was finally performed in the Alice Tully
Hall in New York City, at the Juilliard School of Music, it brought
accolades of enthusiasm. Conlon had also written a symphonic sketch that
he presented to Carlos Chavez, the Mexican composer and conductor. To my
knowledge, this was never performed for similar reasons.
The second incident happened quite a few years later. Though he had not
wanted to publicize his studies he had, by this time, a large repertoire
of exciting compositions punched out on rolls for his player pianos.
Finally, he consented to have his music performed at Bellas Artes, the
Palace of Fine Arts, in Mexico City. He rented a truck to carry his
pianos to a small concert salon where the performance was to be held,
supposedly, for just a group of friends. Once installed, the pianos had
to be re-tuned and properly prepared. He had not provided much publicity
for this concert though by word of mouth the hall filled up to capacity.
When the concert began he came on the stage with the first roll of paper,
inserted the roll in one of the pianos, I think it was called Opus No.
11, and left. The electrical piano played the music. He returned to
retrieve the roll and insert another. He did this about twenty-five
times and also named most of his works by number. Sometimes he said
Sonatina or Fugue and the number, but there were no further descriptions
of the work.
After each piece there was much applause. Conlon would bow shyly and the
applause would continue. He would bow again and then, since there were
no performers he could point to, he would gesture toward the mechanical
piano! This, of course, brought laughter and amusement from the crowd,
and a wry smile from Conlon. At the end of the concert there was lots of
applause and olés!
Conlon called his music polyphonic music, related to classical church
music. Though most of it was Spanish type Jazz and abstract. Of course,
Doctor, you must have information concerning his final effect on groups
of avant-garde musicians and publicists recording his music. Later a
large company, Columbia Recording Studio, sent their technicians to
Mexico to make records of his music.
Dr. Hocker, you asked me about Anais Nin.
Conlon and I met Anais at the Hotel Mirador in Acapulco. At this hotel
there was a long staircase that curved downward into the dining area.
Anais was there, and I would come down the stairs with my two sons
skipping ahead, and the room would sort of “ah” at my outfits.
Conlon would follow somewhat sheepishly laughing at what I said. We were
an odd couple and attracted much attention. I believe this is what
prompted her to start talking to me.
Anais was married to Hugo Guyler at the time, and they lived in
Greenwich Village in New York. On one of her frequent visits to her
brother Joaquin Nin, a professor at the University of Los Angeles, she
met a fellow called Rupert Poole, a step-son of Frank Lloyd Wright. She
had come to the Mirador with Rupert and some young gay men.
Rupert was much younger than Anais, handsome and sensitive, a
schoolteacher and musician, and part time fire fighter. She was living
with him. On the West Coast she was Mrs. R.P., where she lived with
Rupert, and on the East coast she was Mrs. H.G., where she lived with
Hugo. She had a
“captain’s paradise!” And her friends protected her. She was a
gifted writer contriving unusual stories about her friends. She admired
me, and I her, a mutual admiration society. I introduced her to many
people in Acapulco and Mexico City.
Anais not only put me in her diaries, but also wrote a story about me in
her book “Collages” where she called me Lisa. She did not know very
much about my early background. So in her story about me called “Collages,”
aside from the Diaries, she wrote about me as Lisa. Of course it is a
writer’s privilege to invent what she doesn’t know.
Anais also had a strange smile. Evidently she had lost her front teeth
and the dentist did a bad job when he replaced them with false teeth and
exposed her gums. She hardly smiled because of this but later she took
care of it.
We continued our friendship in New York, where I attended her lectures
at various colleges. She became a cult figure, continuing to live a
double life. Originally Hugo, who was a banker, also lived a double life
in his career. During the day he was an investment broker, and at night
he made beautiful engravings. Then one summer he and Anais began a
series of documentary films about characters in New York, street people
whom they interviewed, adding music later. One of them was Moon Dog, a
well-known street figure for many years, who dressed in monkish clothes
and had a mangy dog. The city movie was called “Jazz of Lights.”
They made half a dozen or more of these films, which I believe are now
in the film archives at the Museum of Modern Art.
Next in Acapulco, during one season there was an international sailfish
tournament. I had a house full of company. One of my Mexican boyfriends
serenaded me with his guitar then drove me to the Club De Pesca, where I
met an international group that was on a scientific sea exploration.
Among these people, there was a man, Pop Marron, who was a big shot in
Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. He had brought Stan Smith, the Rod
& Gun editor of the “New York Daily News,” with him. Stan wrote
stories in sports magazines about wealthy businessmen who joined
scientific groups to explore the southern seas. They also competed to
win prizes in fishing using very delicate plastic filament fishing line.
The point was to catch a giant marlin or sailfish that would then be
weighed and measured, to establish a record and show their prowess. At
this dinner I sat close to Stan who spoke no Spanish and he began to
complain to me about filing his story to the Daily News. The Latin music
began to play and he asked me to dance... and surprise, surprise he was
an excellent Latin dancer. After the dinner, I told my Mexican friend to
take a powder, and dedicated myself to helping this very handsome and
attractive journalist. I drove him to the telegraph office to file his
story. Then, since the night was young and moonlit, I asked him if he
wanted to take a ride. I think he was a little frightened, but we talked
a lot and admired the gorgeous tropical starry night. That started the
saga of Stan Smith, later my 4th husband.
When Stan had to return to his assignment in Florida, I returned to
Mexico City, and saw Conlon. He was dating, and asking me about my girl
friends. Most of them were in their forties. He confided to me that he
wanted to have a child. (When I was pregnant by him, he said, “You
already have three children, why do you need another child?” So I had
an abortion.) In any case, through other friends, he met a young
Japanese archaeologist, who was studying in Mexico, and was twenty-nine
years old. Her name was Yoko and she was small, pretty and shy. They
began to date and she became pregnant. We had already agreed to an
amicable divorce. He was 59 years old. I believed in his genius and I
always wanted to help him when I could. He told me that Yoko was
pregnant, and then asked, “What shall I do now?” I answered,
“Well, you wanted to have a child, marry her.” Which he did. She
suffered quite a bit during the pregnancy and had to have a Caesarean
section performed. She gave birth to a healthy son called Mako David and
was bed ridden for a few months. So Conlon, who had never been involved
with babies, began reading all the Dr. Spock books, and became the best
“mother” a baby could have! He was enchanted with his son and Yoko
finally recovered enough to hold her baby and to stand up and take care
and my youngest son Luis bonded very well together. Both live on the
original property that I owned and they touched base frequently. Luis’
daughter, Caitlin, from his second marriage, celebrated her 5th birthday,
this March 24th past, and Conlon and his family were invited. I, too,
and Luis’ stepmother, Laney, and his half sister and other friends
celebrated this event. I took a picture of Conlon, Yoko, Laney and
myself, around the heated swimming pool, in the large garden. I enclose
a copy. (Copy in New York, will send later). It was a splendid day, and
an outdoor barbecue, with excellent food, and a fun reunion for all the
children. Luis also took pictures, which I hope to see.
I then went to New York.
Hocker, I continue to write articles, to paint and to work for
charitable organizations. I practically wrote the script for a
documentary called “The Unfinished Revolution in Mexico,” for a
company called Intertel. One industrialized powerful nation, (the United
States) looks at another, a third world country, (Mexico) in its
development toward industrialization. I received credits as Research
Associate for Channel 13, WNET, and expenses and pay for my time.
As a passenger in an automobile I had an accident in 1973. I broke
several ribs. I had to have a pacemaker installed in 1975. I am now on
my third pacemaker. I have three children, ten grandchildren and two
Sorry I wasn’t able to get the manuscript to you sooner.
is a short outline of the events leading up to the meeting
of Conlon Nancarrow and Annette. After the mutual divorce, we continue
our friendship to the present and until the end of my life or of
I hope your
book will be a great success.
ANNETTE NANCARROW May/August 1991
The Biography was published in 2002. Jürgen Hocker: “Begegnungen mit Conlon
Nancarrow”, Schott Music International.
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