- Mario Lanzas Keep
You, Too, Can Benefit By Mario
Secret Formula For Wonderful Wedlock
By Fredda Dudley Balling
- (Thanks to Pat Burkhart for this
- 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
- 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.