Ann was a stand-out beauty in 1931 when Tip brought her a room service tray at the Fort Wayne Hotel, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Tip reported that she was reading a script when she opened the door, dressed in a dressing gown, and that she was performing at the Fort Wayne Theater. Tip and his roommate, Bob, saw the play twice.
Ann Sothern was 22 years old, and Tip was 18. He was working at the Fort Wayne Hotel to support his studies at the Midwestern Aeronautical College, and he didn’t usually deliver room service trays. The hotel was shorthanded that night, and so Tip pitched in and scored this cherished celebrity sighting.
Tip did not fall in love with Ann Sothern, nor did he graduate from Midwestern. He was flying his Curtiss Jenny JN4 in open fields, recovering from boxing matches, and trying to find his way to aviation in the depths of the Great Depression. In a couple more years, he would join the Army. But on that one night in 1931, he brought Ann Sothern a room service tray.
This excellent personal service from my grandfather did not, to my knowledge, feature prominently in Ann Sothern’s life. She had started acting at age 18, and was destined for movies and television, but had started out in theater. She was already appearing on Broadway at the time Tip knocked on her door, but one of her Broadway producers had business ties in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and so the show went on there.
Looking at Ann Sothern’s career in comparison to modern celebrity standards, I can see that she was a hard-working professional. She had no reputation for extravagant living, serial marriages, or extraordinary behavior. She married at a reasonable time in her life and had one daughter. She went from theater to film, and kept working in an amazing number of films until she had a break-out success with the “Masie” films, and then a TV series in her own name.
Many of the famous people who met my grandfather were far more involved in his life than Ann Sothern was. She increased his pocket money by tipping generously for the room service tray, but other than that, she was just a fun story for cocktail hour. I include her in my series because she represents, to me, a person who achieved her goal in a methodical, professional, patient, hard-working, and diligent way. I am surrounded by stories of people who make it to the top of their profession by lightning strikes of luck or coincidence, but what I need instead are stories of people who got there the hard way, by working for it.
Ann Sothern, who was born Harriet Arlene Lake, died of natural causes in Ketchum, Idaho in 2001 at age 92. Ernest Hemingway, who also met my grandfather, also died in Ketchum, Idaho. This seems like a highly suspicious coincidence to me, (well, not really, but as I’ve said before… I don’t get out much.) What is going on in Ketchum, Idaho? If I was a famous person, I’d probably take up residence somewhere else. Like, Malibu or the Bahamas. Or Corfu.