Some people are born with fabulous names and then a sidestep of fate takes it a twist further.
Elda Furry was born in 1885 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. She left home for the Big Apple at an early age in hopes of becoming an actress. Her attempts caused Florenz Zeigfeld (Zeigfeld Follies) to call her a “clumsy cow”. Not the recognition she hoped for.
A few years later she joined matinee idol DeWolf Hopper’s theater company. It was a pivotal move. She remained in the chorus and as an understudy until she realized it was not acting. She wanted to act.
She convinced Edgar Selwyn to cast her in the lead role of his play The Country Boy. The show toured for 35 weeks. She was on her way.
Remember what I said about the twist further? In 1913, Elda became the fifth wife of DeWolf Hopper. It’s worth noting the previous four wives were named Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella. Hmmmm. Calling her by the name of a previous wife caused a bit of friction. So Elda Hopper took it upon herself to get some advice on a new name. She paid a numerologist the whopping sum of $10 (in today’s adjusted dollars that’s $244) to give her a new name. The answer: Hedda.
Hedda Hopper was born and two years later so was her son, William DeWolf Hopper, Jr., better known as Paul Drake from Perry Mason. Then she divorced DeWolf because he was in someone else’s hen house.
Hedda appeared in over 120 movies during the next 23 years of her life. When her movie career dimmed, she looked for another avenue for income. In 1937 she hit the jackpot. She embarked on a career doing something she loved—gossip. Her gossip column, named Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood launched in the Los Angeles times on Valentine’s Day in 1938. Over time she garnered somewhere near 30 million readers.
The coin rolled in.
She christened her new Beverly Hills home, “The House That Fear Built”. Over time, she built a rivalry with gossip columnist and former friend, Louella Parsons, for the title of “Queen of Hollywood”. She, like her new name, became the “Hedda” Hollywood Gossip Columnists.
Hopper became know for her love of hats. Even making the cover of Time Magazine sporting one.
Her columns caused quite a stink among the Hollywood elite. She could wipe a career of the map with a swish of her pen.
After she published a blind item (a column listing details, but not names) detailing the Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn relationship, Tracy confronted Hopper at a night club in Hollywood and kicked her in the rump.
It was the skunk Joan Bennett (best know today for playing Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on TV’s Dark Shadows) sent Hopper for Valentine’s Day that takes the cake. Known as the $435 Valentine. $35 for the skunk carrying the note which read, “Won’t you be my Valentine? Nobody else will. I stink and so do you.”
Hopper then wrote a column about the incident where she named the skunk, Joan. She gave the skunk to James Mason and his wife since they made the first bid for the “pet”.
Once English actress, Merle Oberon, asked Hopper why she wrote such horrid things. Hedda patted her on the arm and said with a smile, “Bitchery, dear, sheer bitchery.”
So there you have it folks, fur, sins, and ruffled feathers. Hedda would be proud.