The Dead Diva of Hollenback Cemetery: The Notorious Florence Foster Jenkins
If someone was going to play you in a movie about your life,
who would you want it to be?
Meryl Streep (along with Hugh Grant) recently signed up to appear as one of Wilkes-Barre’s former residents, now eternally residing in the Hollenback Cemetery, Florence Foster Jenkins, who became infamous for her artistic incompetence since she was an Opera Diva who could not sing. The concept isn’t that hard to grasp today, in the age of talentless nobodies who become amazingly famous–Florence Foster Jenkins is the undisputed Patron Saint of that genre!
Known, and sometimes ridiculed, for her lack of rhythm, pitch and tone; in addition to her generally poor singing ability, legions of people came to see Florence perform, thanks to her highly eccentric behavior. It is rumored that she would often order massive bouquets of flowers to be delivered to her concerts, and then genuinely forget that she‘d done so, thinking they were from her throngs of admirers. She wore ridiculous costumes, in Lady Gaga-esque fashion, that she made herself, often featuring wings and tinsel. Ms. Jenkins once pulled an “Axl Rose” by hurling a basket at the audience. And after an accident, she rewarded a taxi driver for injuring her because she was convinced that she could “sing” a higher F than ever before (after the incident). When faced with ridicule and criticism, Ms. Jenkins had the amazing ability to rebrand herself as a victim of “professional jealousy”.
The only way to obtain a ticket to one of Ms. Jenkins’ performances was to purchase one directly from the Diva herself! She certainly understood the “leave them wanting more” theory since she refused to appear in New York more than once a year, often restricting attendance to her annual recital to a select few loyal admirers.
According to Carnegie Hall, it is Ms. Jenkins who has the honor of being the performer of their most requested archival concert program.
Seeing Ms. Jenkins, who was independently wealthy, perform at small venues like fashionable hotel ballrooms became “the thing to do”. Everyone wanted to listen to her screw up every song she tried to sing. Her concert-goers always had such a great time that they convinced her that she needed to make her Carnegie Hall debut, which she did on October 25, 1944. The performance sold out in just two hours! And the audience would not let her go home. And like the Diva she was, she died one month and one day after that performance. Forever leaving her fans wanting more.
Cheri Sundra © 2014
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