Let's raise a glass to the glamorous and controversial Georgia Frontiere, the former nightclub singer and chorus-line dancer who in April 1979 became the owner of the L.A. Rams football franchise after the death (by accidental drowning) of her sixth husband, Carroll Rosenbloom. A native of St. Louis, in 1995 Frontiere moved the team, which by then was playing south of Los Angeles in Anaheim (just a mouse-ear away from Disneyland) to her home town.
Georgia's life was claimed by breast cancer. She was 80 years old.
The colorful Frontiere had been Rosenbloom's mistress and bore him two children before he divorced his wife Velma to marry her in 1966. Rosenbloom and Frontiere had met in 1957 at a party hosted by Joseph P Kennedy in Palm Beach. With the Rams, Georgia demonstrated her own management style, standing on the sidelines and often smooching the guys who had just made a great play.Georgia is on my mind now because Olivia "Venus" deMarley, the protagonist of CHOOSING SOPHIE (which hits the bookstores this coming Tuesday, January 22), was also a former showgirl who inherited a ball club. In the fictional case, the team was a basement-dwelling minor league baseball club, the Bronx Cheers, not a legendary football franchise.
According to today's New York Times obituary, Rosenbloom had groomed his son from a previous marriage, Steve, as his successor, but he left 70 percent of the Rams’ ownership to his wife, evidently to minimize estate taxes. She quickly asserted control, firing Steve Rosenbloom and replacing him as the team’s top executive with Don Klosterman, the general manager.
She bristled at what she apparently perceived to be snickering from the news media and the football world at a woman running an N.F.L. team.
“There are some who feel there are two different kinds of people — human beings and women,” she said at her first news conference.
This woman-in-a-man's world element is most certainly a key one in CHOOSING SOPHIE as well. But Georgia was not on my mind when I wrote the novel, nor did I research her life or her press clippings. The fish-out-of-water premise of a woman who'd spent a life in show business suddenly landing in the middle of a highly unfamiliar sphere, one ruled by men and fueled by testosterone, appealed to me. So I put that ball in play and then added a few twists: the double loss of a romantic relationship and a familial one; the sudden, surprise appearance of another familial one, and the testing the waters of a new romance. Cycles of birth (of a sort) and death mirror the cycle of a sports season: up one day and down the next, ending with the usual "Wait'll next year!" war whoop.
We respectively bid ciao to Georgia and welcome Olivia, who, in my imagination, always looked a bit like Marcia Cross.