The few photographs in the short story – link on the right – were given to me by Audrey’s mother in the fifties when I met her at the house of my grandfather’s sister, Aunt Nini van Limburg Stirum, where she stayed sometimes. I had glued them in my scrapbook at boarding school, proud that I was given “personal photographs.” However, on researching their origin, it appeared they were all copyrighted.
Aunt Nini bequeathed to me the photo that is on the cover. Audrey’s mother, Aunt Ella van Heemstra, had told her she should leave it to me. It was an old frame that stood later in our house on my grand piano. To verify if it had a copyright, a professional framer friend carefully opened the fragile back and then we noticed that Audrey’s photo was collated to a photograph of another unknown beautiful woman taken by a high-end studio in Rome! Did they feel at that time that Audrey’s photo was not important enough to buy a new frame for it? Audrey was not “famous“ yet at that time, and that’s probably the reason why this photograph is not as widespread as some of the others.
On the back of the photo figured a stamp stating that photographer Noel Mayne of Baron Studios in London was the copyrighted photographer, but he died in 2011 and we could not find an estate handling his copyrights posthumously.
Noel Mayne had taken the picture when Audrey was modeling and doing cabaret shows in London around 1950, and that was before she was discovered to play Gigi on Broadway.
We found that the photograph of Audrey and Mel Ferrer and their son Sean appeared on the audreyhepburn.com website.
They apparently used it as a Christmas card to close friends in 1962. We copyrighted it to Sean Hepburn Ferrer, as we could not find the original copyright holding photographer. In the process, I became aware that Audrey must have been the most photographed film star ever. Just look at the Wikipedia and Google sites. Even her sons reportedly said that they did not realize how famous their mother was, despite all the paparazzi.
The short stories are published by Willow Manor Publishing of Virginia (www.willowmanorpublishing.com) which also handles cover design. They will be offered to readers in the USA through Amazon Kindle, which sells for the regular low introductory Kindle price of $0.99 cents. On Amazon.ca (Canada), the price may vary around CDN$1. Readers in the Netherlands may want to go to amazon.nl, which leads to amazon.co.uk., which, in turn, is the source for readers in England as well. (I understand that Amazon will open a Netherlands bookstore this fall.) Readers in other parts of the world will have their own directives how to reach amazon.com and get access to the stories.
I would have liked to offer the Audrey short story for free but the Amazon Kindle system does not allow that. Whatever proceeds I will receive from the story will be donated to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, http://www.audreyhepburn.com. This site also includes many charming photographs of Audrey throughout her life. She never boasted, had no scandals, was always gracious and seemingly self-conscious about her fame as an actress. Audrey says herself that she seemed to have been floating on heavenly air, unaware what was happening to her. She was a natural, who at the end of her life gave herself completely to the poor hungry children of the world, as the unforgettable Ambassadrice of UNICEF.
I admire the work the Children’s Fund and UNICEF do. In my career at the World Bank, I have seen many destitute children as well, but was unable to do much about it as one person. I was able to lift two young women from their doomed poverty cycle in Africa, but even though two lives saved is better than none, it is a drop on a hot plate.
Readers may, therefore, also want to donate to this Fund directly by going to the website. It is managed by Audrey’s sons Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti. Sean was given a preview of the short story and he was agreeable to us publishing it. I hope you like it, too.
I got to know Audrey when I was seven and she a young girl seven years older than me, and while she had that lovely smile and endearing face, how could I expect at that age what she would become?
I have been fascinated – as so many others – by her star, and it is because she gave me that goodbye kiss at seven that I stayed glued to her till she died. A remarkable woman, or as her son Sean titled her for his wonderful book: “Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit.” You can get it on Amazon, too. It is published by Atria Books (Simon & Schuster, Inc) and warmly written, as you can understand from a son of a wonderful mother, including most interesting and moving views from those who were close to her. It also contains marvelous photographs not found on the “internet”.
When I saw the book’s advert, I felt I wanted this more than any of the many biographies written about her because of its personal nature. An elegant spirit, that’s what she was.
The ten Short Stories entitled Some Women I Have Known start with a personal story about Audrey Hepburn. She died way too young in 1993, but her life was such an amazing whirlwind of brilliance that she will remain an icon for many into the far distant future. She was 7 in 1936 when I was born, from a Dutch mother, Ella Baroness van Heemstra and a British father, Joseph Ruston. Audrey spoke English, Dutch and French (from their stay in Brussels, where her father worked for a while.)
Audrey 7 years old with her mother from Wikipedia.nl – Family photo.
Why write about it now, as it is twenty years ago that Audrey left us for another world? Because her disappearance keeps coming back to me. A cousin, Anne van der Laan (http://www.genealogieonline.nl/en/stamboom-smits-van-oyen/I1066.php), and I talked about the women we had met in our lives at a family reunion at the Maarten Maarten’s house in Doorn in The Netherlands in 2002, where Maarten Maarten’s Some Women I have Known stood prominently in the Library. Shaking hands, we agreed we would write our own Some Women together.
John and cousin Anne van der Laan – 2007
He asked me which woman I would write about first. I mentioned Audrey at once. Not because I had been part of her living circle, but because I had met her at a very young age as a normal girl who came to visit us, played with me, and then ten years later suddenly stood shining at the firmament, leaving me bedazzled of her beauty and charm. Was that the same girl? My whole life I remained bewildered by her inspiring personality. Anne and I started writing our stories but then Anne passed away shortly after we took the above picture. Project down. I took it back up only a few years ago.
The Audrey story starts how I met her when I was 7, in 1943, during World War II. She and her mother, then divorced, fled to Holland from England in 1939 when the war broke out, thinking Holland would remain neutral as it did during World War I (1914-18). It turned out different, when Nazi Germany invaded Holland in May in 1940, bombing Rotterdam to smithereens. I was just four and a half, but still remember seeing from our backyard the bomb explosions clouding over Schiphol airport. Her mother, two step brothers, Alexander and Ian Quarles van Ufford from an earlier marriage, and Audrey, stayed with her grandfather, Arnoud Baron van Heemstra, in Velp, a residential suburb of Arnhem in the center of Holland. Arnoud was previously mayor of Arnhem (1910-1920) and thereafter Governor of Suriname (1920-1928), then still a Dutch colony (“Dutch Guyana”, in the Caribbean).
Arnoud knew my grandparents van Coehoorn van Sminia through family (linked with the van Limburg Stirums), and of course, through local life. He took Audrey and her mother one day to see them in the small village where they lived, about ten miles from Velp, when I was there on vacation. The Germans must have given them passage or visiting was still allowed during the day, I don’t know. It was 1943 and Audrey must have looked like this, as I remember:
Young Audrey at thirteen – Wikipedia.nl, probably a family photo
The family suffered enormously from the harsh living circumstances enforced on them by the Nazis, but Audrey’s mother Ella saw to it that Audrey could take ballet dancing lessons, Audrey’s dream of becoming a ballerina, at the Arnhem Conservatory. My personal story starts there.
Photo from Wikipedia.nl, in 1944, a family photo.
Would Audrey have become as famous had she pursued her dream to be a ballerina? I am sure she saw the ballet movie The Red Shoes that reached the theaters in 1948 and was widely acclaimed. Perhaps she would have liked to act the ballerina role of Vicky Page and if a bit older she might have done that very well, but would she have reached her pinnacle and touched us the way she did in the much broader medium of the movies? I doubt it.
With the next blog, we will publish the short story.