Stan Laurel was among the most beloved comic actor, writer and director in Hollywood history. Shortly I will explain his connection to my long time friend Liliane who recently passed away and is profoundly missed by her family and many friends.
In 1910 Laurel came to the U.S. as Charlie Chaplin’s understudy with the London-based Fred Karno comedy company on a tour of the American vaudeville circuit. Laurel didn’t achieve success until he teamed up with a comic from Georgia, Oliver “Babe” Hardy. In the 1920’s Laurel and Hardy became world famous. Laurel spent his last years in a luxury ocean view apartment on Ocean Avenue. He passed away in 1965 at the age of 74.
Typical of Laurel’s humor, at his funeral he had posted “If you cry at my funeral, I’ll never speak to you again.” Among the mourners was the legendary Buster Keaton who once said, “Chaplin wasn’t the funniest, I wasn’t the funniest, Stan Laurel was.” Keaton tried to hold back his tears but wept openly.
Laurel was so carefree he had his name and number in the Santa Monica phone book. (Richard Orton, a local historian who publishes a terrific free online newsletter, still has the phone book!) Liliane who was 70 also had an ocean view apartment and died in Santa Monica but that’s where their similarities end.
Liliane guarded her privacy. In fact, if she found out I wrote this, like Stan’s joke, she’d never speak to me again, only she wouldn’t be joking. Though occasionally stubborn in her views, Liliane had many remarkable traits and accomplishments.
Liliane’s need for privacy was with good reason. It’s actually how we met. In 2010 I wrote a column about Sally Breiter, a Dutch woman in her 80’s who lived at the Shores. When Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, she, her younger sister and her mother, escaped into France. They wound up in a relocation center but were told by a guard they better flee once it got dark or likely wind up in a concentration camp.
By any means available including trains and hiking for weeks at night, they heroically sneaked into Switzerland. Having read my column, in February the Santa Monica City Council held a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony prior to a regular meeting. (A tradition I’m going to lobby the council to resume!)
Liliane boldly persuaded me to review “And No More Sorrow,” her inspiring book about her mother who survived years in Auschwitz. There’s a saying among children of concentration camp survivors, “If your parents were in were in the camps, so were you.” It seemed especially true for Liliane.
Whereas Laurel loved mankind, Liliane felt the human race was an abject failure. Mark Twain agreed, “The more I learn about people the more I love my dog.” Liliane adored all animals. She also loved my columns about Trump’s buffoonery. However, she thought most of my other columns were “fluff” in an America where fascism, racism and antisemitism were rampant.
Liliane’s myriad of talents were impressive. She spoke three languages, was highly educated, including bravely going from the Netherlands to an Israeli college. (But first learned Hebrew a language that fascinated her by its richness and wisdom.) When she returned to the U.S. she received a degree from USC.
Divorced and without children, Liliane began her working life. She spent years as a flight attendant for the Dutch KLM airlines which only added to her worldliness. Later she became a journalist for various foreign press outlets where, with inexplicable confidence, she interviewed a who’s who of movie stars and other luminaries promoting their book or a movie.
To me Liliane’s work ethic was downright intimidating such as when she wrote a suspenseful book about her father “MK the Black Cat.” He was a Dutch spy during WWII. At night he was parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue dozens of allies trapped in hiding and, defying death at every turn, led them back to safety. For his incredible valor, a street in Amsterdam is named after him.
Self taught, Liliane founded Seaside Press, a boutique publishing house. It’s library includes two dozen Holocaust, Migrant and Expat memoirs and illustrated Children Adventure stories. She would occasionally narrate her audio books and did so flawlessly as though she’d been doing it her whole life.
A beautiful swimmer, almost daily Liliane completed a mile in the Shores Olympic size pool or in the ocean. Whatever the project, she never procrastinated, all day and into the night; kept her ocean-view apartment spotless, was financially prosperous, intellectually curious and always politically informed.
On the occasions where I nailed Trump’s hypocrisies, ever-serious Liliane could let loose with a wonderful laugh. It was music to my ears and the sound of which, hopefully, I shall always remember.
As per her wishes, Liliane’s estate will be donated to save an animal refuge. To hear her narration Google “And No More Sorrow” click on the book cover and click on “play sample.” Please Google “Rare footage Stan Laurel’s funeral” ” which includes Barbra Streisand’s heart-warming rendition of “Smile.” Jack is at: [email protected].