Mario Lanzas Keep
Marriage Glamorous
You, Too, Can Benefit By Mario And Betty's
Secret Formula For Wonderful Wedlock

By Fredda Dudley Balling
(Thanks to Pat Burkhart for this submission)
Ask any ten married persons to analyze the way to keep marriage glamorous and you will be given ten different recipes for happiness. If, among those ten, you asked Mario and Betty Lanza, "What rules do you follow to keep a happy marriage?" you would be supplied with a swift reply.
Mario would do the talking, although Betty is also articulate and humorous. He would say, "No rules can be made. Rules imply regimentation and regimentation is a word I hate; I hate the very sound of it; just as I hate everything the word means."
The Lanza marriage is very much the union of two arch-individuals who delight in the diversity of their partner's personality and wouldn't change it for the world, even if it could be changed--which it couldn't. In some ways there are much alike. Both are inclined to make careful plans. Both are inclined, having made such plans, to abandon them with never a backward glance. This is illustrated by the facts of their engagement and marriage.
In the Spring of 1944, Mario had been discharged from the Army and was planning to resume his singing career. He and Betty were in Hollywood, but they wanted to be married in the East. There were quite logical and farsighted about it: Mario would return to New York and announce his engagement to his parents. Betty would go to Chicago and supply the same information to her parents. Then, all arrangements for a white satin affair having been made, the wedding would take place with traditional pomp.
On Thursday, April 12, Mario secured his contract with RCA to make recordings. On Friday, April 13, Mario and Betty applied for their marriage license, looked up a Justice of the Peace (they were married again in a religious service later), and moved into the large double apartment with Betty's sister. In twenty-four hours they had accomplished a domestic situation which - according to plan - would have taken them that many weeks.
The average bride discovers with tearful misgivings that everything she has learned about cooking has to be unlearned, modified, and well-salted to the tastes of the new star boarder. In a way, Betty was prepared for her extensive role as chef extraordinaire because she had been taken out to dinner by her fiance, when he had announced himself as teetering on the brink of starvation. She knew that his appetite was roughly equivalent to that of a large lion.
So, the first morning of her marriage, she sailed into the kitchen and started to prepare breakfast. After fifteen minutes had elapsed, her sister made and inquiring entrance. At first there was only a dropped-chin silence in the room, but eventually the sister managed to laugh a little and then to chide, "Honey, you're preparing far too much for this small family. We won't be able to eat even half of what you have cooked."
Responded Betty, "This isn't for the family. It is for Mario alone." An expression of disbelief spread over the sister's face. What Betty had readied to place before her lord and master was as follows: one pint of orange juice, one dozen eggs, one 3-pound steak, medium rare, one loaf of bread, one-half pound of butter, and one quart of milk.
(Relevant information: Mario is about five feet nine inches tall, weighs 205 pounds, wears a 16 and 1/2" collar, and has a chest dimension, unexpanded, of 50 inches. His waistline dwindles away to graceful moderation beneath this vast rib cage.)
In many a household, Mario's magnificent talent as a trencherman might have encountered the frustration of prompt diet, but Betty accepted, unquestionably, her husband's artistry with knife and fork. To this day, when Mario diets (which he does with the same gusto he applies to non-dieting), the diet is not imposed by Betty. Mario's own decision and the needling of his business associates are responsible.
Now that Mario's great success has moved the Lanzas from a family-shared apartment to a massive Mediterranean-style mansion, and has provided Betty with a full-time maid, the maid always has to be instructed in Mario's rules about proper table setting and the fare to be offered guests. Any maid who has come from a sliced-pineapple-on- lettuce-leaf household, is rendered slightly aghast by Betty's suggestions, and is inclined -- on one, exploratory occasion only -- to make her own plans.
One such competent and well-meaning household manager tried to spare expense by cutting Mario's suggestion for a dinner menu in half. The entree was to be chicken, cooked Italian style, and the maid decided to serve one-half chicken per guest instead of two halves as specified by Signor Lanza. Extra portions for approximately half the guests were provided as hospitality insurance.
The buffet was so successful, and so many "seconds" were sought, that the kitchen ran out of food while the guests were still saying blithely, "I really shouldn't, but I think I'll take my plate to the buffet just once more."
After the guests had departed, Mario laid down a law: in his house--even if he had nothing to serve but bread and water--there must be so much of it available that the guests would leave while the tables were still loaded.
Mario has the monarch's pride in lavish feasting. "To break bread with a person brings that person closer to you," he says. "Food, considered for itself, is merely a satisfaction of hunger. But food, plenty of it saying 'welcome and stay late,' bring out the best in host and guest; it warms friendship and it renews love; it stimulates good conversation and easy laughter; it stresses one of the truths of life--that all men are brothers. In the need for food, every man is identical with every other."
LIke any high-powered mechanism, Mario gets somewhat overheated at times. As he says, he 'flips his lid.' He will rampage into the house, calling on high heaven to note that the devil is at his heels. He will stalk the floor, swinging out his arms, describing his afflictions in two or three languages, and dwarfing the fall of Rome in contrast to his woes. Betty does not interrupt. She nods violently to show agreement, or, with doleful eyes, she yearns toward him to show sympathy.
Eventually, the storm blows itself out, and --abruptly--Mario finds himself and his difficulties very funny. He falls into a chair and laughs, too. She smooths his hair, kisses him, and begins to laugh, too. If the original tumult had been caused by a genuine problem, they discuss it and reach a solution. If mere nerves were at the barometric center, the whole thing is forgotten as quiet returns.
During the early months of her marriage Betty had been inclined to take these Mario monsoons seriously, but, in time, she came to understand their meaning, their importance, and their lack of it.
Another example of the value of marital insight is the compromise worked out between Betty and Mario in the small details of their marriage. Mario, immaculate about his person, used to be inclined to distribute his clothing in a trail on the way to the shower: a pair of trousers on the bed, a shirt on a chair, a sock on the chest of drawers, and other garments sprinkled here and there seemed to create a casually domestic atmosphere. Furthermore, he was likely to assemble the clothing he planned to wear, post-shower, in one wrinkling heap on the dressing table.
(Added Item: He likes to sing in the shower and the acoustics on the present accommodations are so satisfactory that he could spend thirty to fifty minutes in the mist, happy as a choir of ducks. Inevitably, he was late for appointments because of this.)
Betty refrained from pointing out his careless and dilatory ways. She simply provided antidotes. First, she purchased a tricky trouser hanger which so intrigued Mario that he embraced, with eagerness, the habit of hanging up his nether garments the moment he shed them. She installed a convenient soiled-clothing hamper, and a "silent valet" on which Mario could arrange his next outfit. She sought out and purchased a pair of sponge-type shower mitts which would cleanse a serious scrubber through two layers of skin in ten minutes.
Result: a tidy Mario, always punctual for appointments; a happy Mario, proud of his wife's ability to manage a husband's vagaries with gadgetry.
A traditional male shortcoming is the inability to recall the date or what to do about the sentimental holidays of a marriage. Mario is brother to his sex in this respect; two days before a birthday or an anniversary, he suddenly recalls that an important date is in the offing, and he begins to chew the calendar. He ends up by sending flowers or a check.
However, on the moment of a professional triumph, he likes to rush out and buy a surprise gift for Betty. One of her most cherished possessions is a daisy wrist-watch, it's face the flower's golden center, it's surrounding petals a frame of enamel on gold. This was purchased in November, 1949, after a "Life With Luigi" program.
One fascinating aspect of life with Mario is that no wife could predict his next accomplishment. Take his sudden interest in ranching, for instance. Mario is strictly a product of the city, but Betty grew up in Central Illinois where her grandparents had a truck farm. She spent her childhood summers with them, and learned the country child's usual lessons about agriculture and animal husbandry.
Her stories about summers on the farm only added to Mario's already great curiosity about the arts of the land. He began to study. He read farm journals and livestock magazines. Whenever he could strike up a conversation (during his concert tours) with a farmer or a stockman, he did so. He attended county fairs and stock shows. He began to prepare himself to be a competent operator of a cattle ranch he plans to own some day in the not-too-distant future.
Whereas, Betty, in the beginning had been the grass roots member of the household, Mario soon surpassed her in pastoral savvy. Not long ago, when attending a stock show, he was admiring a black angus bull which was posted for sale.
"How much?" Mario inquired. "Twenty-five thousand dollars," the handler said. Mario shook his head, "Not worth it."
The handler, the corners of his eyes crinkling, asked the tenor why he discounted the price. Mario explained the animal's shortcomings in stock judge's language, as the smile of the handler widened into an appreciative grin. "You know your stuff," he conceded. "You'll do okay in the cattle business."
If the average wife were asked what single social attribute she desired from her husband, the answer would probably be: simple appreciation.
Certainly Betty Lanza is supplied with a generous and constant supply of this ingredient for happy marriage. As Mario expresses it, "An entertainer knows how sweet applause is. I realized years ago that if it meant so much to me in my work, it must be as welcome to others in their undertakings."
He is always quick to compliment Betty on the appearance of her hair, on her choice of clothing, on her knack for interior decorating, on her ability to manage a household, on her accomplishments as wife, mother, friend, and hostess.
"He makes me feel that I'm doing a good job," says Betty. "She makes me feel that I am important as a human being, as a husband, and as a father," says Mario.
Could those two statements sum up the secrets of keeping a marriage glamorous? We think so.