DEBBIE REYNOLDS FEARED HUSBAND PLANNED TO KILL HER IN VEGAS
Debbie Reynolds feared her third and last husband was intent on throwing her off the 12th floor balcony of her condo in Las Vegas. She made the claim about real-estate developer Richard Hamlett and their doomed marriage in her 2013 memoir “Unsinkable.”
The alleged incident took place at Regency Towers inside the Las Vegas Country Club in June,1993, she said, after Hamlett was seen leaving her first show at the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino and then disappeared for two days.
Hamlett was supposed to be helping her open the hotel and casino, where she would perform. It was also the home of her collection of Hollywood memorabilia.
Guests at the hotel would be greeted at the entrance by the sight of a Steinway piano previously owned by silent comedian Harold Lloyd, one of Reynolds’ many treasured items, including that dress Marilyn Monroe wore in “The Seven Year Itch” during her iconic scene while standing over a subway grate.
In her book, Reynolds wrote: “Getting the theatre ready for the gala opening was a nightmare. Everything that could go wrong did so. My dreams were collapsing around me. "Then my son discovered Richard had placed a $10,000 bet that we wouldn’t open on time. I couldn’t believe the treachery, but worse was to follow.
"His name mysteriously appeared on the deeds to a property that I owned — something that I had certainly never agreed to.
“A confrontation was inevitable, but he disappeared for 36 hours, and all I could do was wait for him to reappear at our 12th- floor apartment in Vegas.
“When he did roll in, at 4 a.m., he looked and smelled like he’d just clambered out of bed — someone else’s. I was hazy with wine but seeing my anger he just smiled his charming smile. I was certain then he had a lot to hide.
“I brandished the deeds at him and demanded answers. Richard reached for my hand. ‘Why don’t we go out on the balcony and talk?’ he said.
“That balcony was barely three-feet wide, not big enough for two adults to stand on and have a conversation. But it also looked down on a 100-foot drop to the sidewalk. He kept urging me towards the balcony. The look in his eyes scared me.
“Was he thinking about the million-dollar life insurance policy?
"At that moment, I was sure he planned to toss me over the railing — ‘Poor Debbie!’ he would tell the police. ‘She was under so much stress, and she’d been drinking. She must have fallen. I just wish I could have saved her.’
“Telling him I had to go to the bathroom, I tore my hand out of his and ran to my bedroom. Silently opening the vast closet, I shimmied up a pole to the top shelf and hid behind coats and bags.
"After a couple of minutes, my husband began calling my name and angrily slamming doors. I didn’t move a muscle for 20 minutes. He had to believe I had run out of the apartment. Finally, I heard the front door slam, and then there was silence.
“Terrified, I crept from my hiding place and bolted the door. Then I called security and told them never to let (Hamlett) back into the building.
“The divorce (after a 12-year marriage) that followed was a nightmare. I could never collect the millions I was awarded in the settlement. My broken marriages were hard on my beloved children. Carrie was especially sensitive to the changes in our lives.
“When I was a passionate collector of movie memorabilia, one of Richard Burton’s costumes from Cleopatra went up for auction. I couldn’t afford to bid, so I called Elizabeth Taylor for help.
“She told me to go ahead and buy it and sent a check to cover whatever it cost. In the end, I paid $16,000.
“Many of my friends told me I was mad to collect these things and advised me not to waste more money in my efforts to set up a museum.
“I never did manage to establish a permanent home for my treasures. But in 2011 I did the next best thing — I used them to sort out all the financial wrangles that had dragged on for decades after my disastrous marriages, and to give myself and my family some real financial security.
“In other words, I sold them. And they fetched sums that proved I had been far from mad in my passion for collecting.
"As I opened the auction, I told the excited audience: ‘I know you love everything as much as I do. I’m so thrilled that I was around to save this collection — because I was stubborn!’
“Silent-screen idol Rudolph Valentino’s ‘suit of lights’, his matador’s outfit from the 1922 classic Blood And Sand, was one of the first items up.
“It fetched $210,000 and I knew then we were going to break some records. "Judy Garland’s original ruby slippers from The Wizard Of Oz (not the ones in the film, but a pair worn in early screen tests) fetched a staggering $510,000.
"Judy’s blue dress, with a reserve price of $60,000, went even higher, to $910,000. “”And finally it was time for Marilyn Monroe’s dress, the very one that billowed so famously up to her waist over that subway vent. The bidding rocketed, going up in leaps of $100,000, to $4.6 million.
"Whoops burst through the room as the hammer fell and the auctioneer cried: ‘Sold!’ “The crowd started cheering as we realized we had witnessed history being made. “At my side, my darling daughter Carrie threw her arms around me. I had saved the collection, and now the collection had saved me.”
(Note: I wrote in a Wednesday post that Reynolds lived in Regency Towers at Las Vegas Country Club nearly 40 years, starting in 1974. She was my neighbor, separated by three floors, for nearly 15 years. After reading her account involving the incident on the balcony, I took a tape measure outside to check. The balconies extend five feet — Norm Clarke)