by Stacy Conradt – May 6, 2010 – 5:44 PM
With Mother’s Day coming up in a few days, I thought we’d take some time to recognize a very particular breed of mom: the stage mom. Not all stage moms are bad, of course – some are just looking out for the welfare and well-being of their children. But others… not so much. Here are 10 Hollywood moms who were (or are) quite entrenched in their children’s careers, either for the better or the worse.
1. Jaid Barrymore. An aspiring actress herself, Jaid had Drew auditioning for commercials before she was even a year old. She landed her first gig at 11 months (a dog food commercial) and made her film debut in 1980 at the age of five. By the time she should have been in junior high, Jaid was out partying and drinking with her tween-age daughter. She later appeared in Playboy just eight months after her daughter.
2. Gertrude Temple had Shirley primed for Hollywood from the womb. It’s said that she desperately wanted her daughter to be in the industry and did everything from the pretty standard (having her listen to music in the womb) to the kind of weird (making her memorize the words to popular songs). And don’t think those famous ringlets happened by accident – every morning, Gertrude carefully styled Shirley’s hair to look like that of a young Mary Pickford, setting it in exactly 56 curls in a lengthy process that took hours.
3. Sara Taylor. Before Elizabeth’s violet eyes took the world by storm, her mother, Sara Viola Warmbrodt Taylor, was attempting to do the same. After having children, Sara never performed again and focused instead on Elizabeth’s career. “I knew there would come a time when she would want to follow in my footsteps,” Sara once said. “I could still hear the applause of that wonderful night when The Fool opened in London at the Apollo Theater and I had stood alone in the middle of the stage and taken a dozen curtain calls while a reputedly staid British audience called, ‘Bravo, bravo, bravo!’”
4. Minnie Marx was probably one of the original “momagers” and went by the name Minnie Palmer so others wouldn’t know her boys’ agent was actually one of their parents. She sounds like she was a pretty good one, though – her family thought very highly of her. Groucho once wrote, “She never got over the habit of working with [her sons], and they never got over the habit of going to her with their troubles, their problems and their joys.”
5. Teri Shields was a notorious stage mom back when Brooke was just coming on to the scene. A September, 1977 New York magazine cover story basically said Teri had sold Brooke into Hollywood slavery, forcing her to do intimate scenes at a young age and spouting off in interviews about Brooke’s breasts and her first period. And you thought your mother was embarrassing!
6. Ruby Dandridge was an aspiring entertainer as well. She devised an act for her two daughters, Dorothy and Vivian, calling them “The Wonder Children.” They toured the U.S. instead of attending school.
7. Carol Connors starred in a couple of dozen porns from 1971 until 1981, which is when she became pregnant with her daughter Thora Birch. She was in the notorious Deep Throat and also appeared on The Gong Show as the “hostess” who introduced host Chuck Barris at the beginning of every show. Carol and her husband, who was also in the adult entertainment business, had Thora audition for commercials from a young age. She appeared in a couple of commercials for Vlasic pickles and Quaker Oats before getting her first steady job at the age of six.
8. Rose Hovick was Gypsy Rose Lee’s mom and practically invented the term “stage mom.” In fact, her antics became quite well known when the musical Gypsy came out and exposed her as the type of woman who would practically slit throats to get her daughters agead in the business.
9. Dina Lohan. I probably don’t need to say much about Dina, really. You probably hear enough about her as it is. But I’m not sure a list of stage moms would be complete without her
10. Ethel Gumm was of the Ruby Dandridge school of thought – if she could get her daughters to be in a successful stage act, it was almost the same as being famous herself. Ethel, a vaudevillian, created a show that involved the whole family, including the Gumm Sisters. One of these sisters was introduced to the act at the age of two and a half; she would later become better known as Judy Garland.