A photo that appeared in one of my columns last week featured movie stars Esther Williams and Marilyn Monroe with gossip columnist Earl Wilson at a Hollywood party in 1952.
This fun reference to the stars of yesteryear got readers buzzing with some fun stories to share. My favorite letter came from a reader David Ellis, who recalls how in later years, Williams used to market and sell her line of swimming pools. Here's what David had to say:
"Phil - Thank you so much for your wonderful columns each and every day. I grew up in the Region, and I look forward to your Offbeat column every morning with my cup of coffee. When I went to college in Washington D.C., I was so glad that you were published online so I could continue my tradition reading you every day. I wanted to pass along a photo from my mother about famed Hollywood legend Esther Williams. As a frequent reader of your columns, I know that you and your readership enjoy reminiscing about Hollywood legends. There is a tie to one of the most famous Hollywood legends to our region. Yep, Esther Williams! My mother grew up in Gary, and my grandmother was in the home building business. Esther Williams was retired from movies, but used her fame to launch a pool company. Pools in the 1950s were considered more of a luxury then they are now. For years, my grandmother and Esther Williams formed a partnership as they brought swimming pools into the homes of Gary and other towns and cities across Northwest Indiana. My mother, who was 5-years-old at the time, described Esther to be a warm and generous person. Esther was even kind enough to give my mother her very first swimming lesson in their pool! How amazing to have your very first swimming lesson from such a Hollywood pool legend! I've attached a photo of promotional material that was used in the 1950s. I even have a picture of Esther with my mother in the pool if you would like to see it or would be interested in running this story in a future column. Thanks so much for your reporting, and I hope that this story would be something you and the readership would find interesting. Please keep up the good work and continue reporting! I so much enjoy both your From the Farm columns on Wednesdays and your daily Offbeat entertainment column, each and every week. Warmly, David Ellis, now of Chicago"
Thank you David for this great story. I know readers will enjoy reading this. Esther Williams, who we just lost last June at age 91, was certainly a marketing maven, besides her film and Olympic careers. Over the years, I know she lent her name to products like Jergens lotion (using her slogan: "7 hours in a swimming pool each day leaves my skin dry!") and her own bathing suit line, the latter being what she was pushing at Marshall Field's when I interviewed her back in 1996. But I certainly didn't know she had such a close Northwest Indiana connection. Please send along the photo of Esther with your mother, and I'll be happy to share it with readers.