Gossip Girls: Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons

During my winter stay in Palm Springs, which is rapidly coming to a close, I’ve been steeping myself in the romance and deception of Old Hollywood, whose denizens would escape to this desert community when the glare of publicity became too harsh.

I’m in the process of reading Hedda and Louella: A dual biography of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons by George Eells. I picked up a first edition of the 1972 book at a used bookstore. At least, I was told it’s a first edition when I asked the proprietor of the Palm Springs Book Exchange why she was charging $15 for a book that originally cost $7.95. I thought used books were supposed to be bargains.

This one is a real gem, though, and worth every penny. It chronicles the catfight of the century, between the rival columnists who ruled Hollywood gossip for roughly 40 years. As some older readers or cinemaphiles may know, Parsons got her start in newspapers and was made into a Hollywood institution by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, actress Marion Davies.

Hopper was an actress first and then took on Parsons as the queen of Hollywood by stealing the show with her flashy wardrobe and signature hats. She also took better care of her health than Parsons, who was a heavy drinker and battled tuberculosis and other serious ailments throughout her life.

Another difference between the two: Hopper made fewer mistakes in her columns than Parsons, who was known for running many corrections. Eells suggests that some of Hopper’s success was due to the studios’ desire for a duopoly, rather than a monopoly, on gossip.

In the beginning, Parsons actually was a booster of Hopper’s and ran favorable items about her in her syndicated column. But once Hopper became a newspaperwoman in her own right and started “scooping” Parsons, the claws came out.

Parsons was a Leo, born Aug. 6, 1881, in Freeport, Ill., according to both the book and the Wiki. Hopper was a Taurus, born May 2, 1885, in Hollidaysburg, Pa. (My sources are the same as for Parsons.) Having reliable data is important because both women lied shamelessly about their ages during their lifetimes.

The periodic feuding between Parsons and Hopper was punctuated by high-profile rapprochements, usually celebrated at a swanky Hollywood restaurant so everyone in town would see they were pals again — until the next battle.  Given this volatile relationship, I was curious to see what the composite or “combined” chart of the two women would tell us.

Here’s the composite, courtesy of Astrodienst: http://www.astro.com/cgi/chart.cgi?cid=41laaaa19347-s971800598&lang=e&gm=a1&nhor=228&nho2=227&btyp=621&mth=gw&sday=13&smon=5&syr=2008&hsy=-1&zod=&orbp=&rs=0&ast=

One of my friends suggested that I  keep my posts shorter so I’ll attempt to be brief here. I’ll note that the huge stellium in Gemini, which rules communications, in the composite chart is squared by electrical Uranus in Virgo, giving the relationship an on-again, off-again character. The inclusion of powerful Pluto in the Gemini lineup tells us this relationship was about mass communication and power struggles.

I couldn’t find birth times for either gossip gal, so I set the charts for noon. As a result, the Ascendant, house cusps, and degree of the Moon are not reliable in their combined chart. Still, it’s likely the composite moon is in Sagittarius.

As the book jacket for Hedda and Louella says, “Their like will never be seen again.” Not even the formidable Liz Smith wields the power that these women did through their relationships with the film studios, which kept stars on a leash back in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Today, nobody can control the Tom Cruises of the world when they want to jump up and down on Oprah’s couch.