Some girls were famous for the “all play and no work” life style. Selene Walters was one of them. She was in the papers all the time back in 1940s and 1950s, and for what reason? Was she a working actress? Not really. Was she a famous singer? Not really. Was she an alluring seductress? Oh yes, and how much so! She was connected to a long string of prominent and wealthy men, and is somebody who lived in the times when the jet set was at their peak – despite her obvious lack of professional success, one cannot help but wonder how many interesting stories she has to tell.
Elizabeth Florence Walker was born in February 21, 1924, in Dexter, Missouri, to Francis M. Walters and Florence Norris. She had one brother, 10 years older than her. Selene came from a good family. Her father was a lawyer (graduate of the University of Missouri) and a politician. Her uncle James Francis Walker, was a U.S. Congressman representing southeast Missouri, and her grandfather Benjamin Walker was a state senator and successful businessman in Dexter, MO.
Selene was a very talented youngster, having studied piano, dance and theater as a child. She won numerous local pageants, and was very popular. At some point during her young years, her parents split and she remained with her mother, a single parent. After leaving high school, she started college in Missouri, studying writing and journalism. She also became proficient in secretarial skills, including shorthand and typing, which served her well at different points in her life. While in college she visited her brother who was working in Washington D.C. during wartime, and was encouraged to try modeling by her sister-in-law, who was a model, and became quite successful at it. She was then encouraged to go to New York to model, and was signed by the top agency, John Robert Powers. Not too long after, she was approached to go to Hollywood and sign with Paramount Studios. Her mother, Florence, joined her in Hollywood.
Selene had a very thin, almost non existent career. She was signed by Paramount in about 1944, and later was freelancing, but it took her years to actually make a movie – it was finally made in 1952, and called Lady in the Iron Mask . The film is so obscure there in no information about it even on imdb!
Her last movie was Jet Over the Atlantic in 1959.
When Betty came to Hollywood in early 1944, she tagged along her ardent admirer, Count Cassio Pardo, a Brasilian nobleman whose family got rich through coffee trade. They got engaged in August 1944, and were wed by the end of the year. Easy come, easy go, and the marriage quickly disintegrated, and by March 1945 they were living apart. They divorced in July 1945.
Selene wasted no time in getting herself a new beau – and, ironic or not, he was Prado’s personal physician, the eminent Dr. Alfred Huenergardt. They were wed on February 10, 1946. The couple honeymooned in Cuba. Huenergardt was born in 1905, making him almost 20 years Selene’s senior – he was also a staple on the Hollywood social circuit, and once dated actress Helen Wood.
Ina case of history repeating itself, the couple tiffed and separated in July 1946, and he sued her for a divorce in August 1946, claiming she was still married to Pardo when he wed her.
Selene dated Brad Dresser, but was constantly in a weird, dysfunctional relationship with Alfred. He was even told by the court to stop molesting her in May 1947. By August they were semi reconciled and dropped the divorce suits. They idyll was to last only so long – Selene was seen with her former husband, Pardo, and a short while later signed the divorce papers (again). Even the fact that she was now pregnant with Alfred’s child did not deter her from going all the way this time. They divorce was made final in August 1948. Their daughter Scarlett Norris Huenergardt was born on September 8, 1948.
Motherhood did not seem to change Selene that much. By October she was back on the dating stage, snagging Horace Schmidlapp, Gene Bohr and Belmond Kellerman, a socialite.
In January 1949, she was dating Charlie Morrison just as her former husband, Pardo, was romancing Elaine White of the MGM legal department. Every bachelorette in Hollywood at some point dated Turhan Bey, and Selene was no exception – she was on his arm in Late January. When you start with one lothario, they come flying, and Marquis of Milford Heaven, who romanced almost all the pretty actresses in Britain, tried to do so in the US. Of course Selene was one of the many girls he dated.
In mid March 1949 Selene brok her arm in a accident, but guess what, that did not spot her from an active nightclub life. She was especially funny when paired with Bill Hollinghworth, a wealthy socialite and future husband of Sara Shane, who broke his leg and walked around with a cast, nicely paired with her sling.
This whole time, under her careless playgirl facade, serious trouble brewed for Betty. She and Alfred were constantly at odds over their infant daughter. They went to court over the child in April 1949,
Selene settled in New York with her daughter and actress June Maley, was courted by a wealthy Canadian fellow, Frank Clark, and was partially homesick for California. Yet, the big adventure just started – she departed for Europe in August.
Next time we encounter her, and had traveled half the globe, passing through Europe in flurry and was now in Teheran, Iran. And guess who was her host? Non other than the Shah of Persia, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Much like Turhan Bey, Milford Haven and Aly Khan, he was a lover of beautiful women and en expert charmer. This news bought a tons of publicity to Selene, many of it not at all kind. I was surprised at how vindictive the press was, and how petty the things they wrote were. Somebody even said she was an FBI agent to try and push Shah out of her way, which was in all probability not true (between her nightclub escapades and her “nice” Hollywood career, there’s little chance she was Hoover’s secretary!). She returned to the States in late November, the Shah came not long after, and they probably enjoyed a prolonged sojourn in Sun Valley, skiing.
Alas, as most royal affairs go, Shah returned to Persia and Selene stayed in New York. She was not lonely by any account – Maurice Berkson, a noted real estate tycoon, was her constant escort. Then it was back in court again for the custody of Scarlett, pinned against her former husband. To add to her distress, her home was looted for an estimated 7000$ worth of jewelry. Yet, all the bad things were forgotten when Selene won the custody battle in January 1950.
Selene planed to visit the Shah in his native land, but that obviously did not belt out, and the press never neglected to mention her big rival for the Shah’s heart – Grace Kelly, then an unknown actress whom the Shah courted during his time in New York. She shot back by being seen with Lawrence Tierney. Tierney was quickly showed aside for Charles Heinz, of the Heinz clan, who was rumored to her fiancee in July 1950.
After shuffling from New York to Los Angeles frequently for her career (I ask again, WHAT career?), Selene admitted that her movie offers were dried up and that she wants to formally settle in New York again. Things got even rougher for Selene before the year was out. Her former husband was at her throat constantly, even putting her acting ability in question, her career went downhill, and she allegedly even had to take a second job looking after children to pay the bills (I am very skeptical about). To add insult to injury, in October the Shah announced he was getting married to another woman. Then Alfred struck again, sued for custody, and accused Selene of being a gold digger who is teaching their daughter to follow suit. Selene was obviously distressed over this when she testified in court how those are only vicious rumors. She admitted at painting Scarlett’s nails bright red at one time, but denied that she taught her daughter to date men only for money. The battle continued, and not in a nice way.
Things got a little less hectic in 1951. She got a job at the Ben Blue TV show, and started dating the dashing German actor, Helmut Dantine, and later dated Bill Buckley. She took a vacation in Rio De Jainero.
But 1952 was very active. She started the year by dating Claude Terrail. In April 1952, after months of pushing forward and backwards the custody issue, Scarlett was given a green light to go and rejoin her mother in New York. June was reserved for George Jessel, who went through girls like paper tissues. August brought Jose Centro, a wealthy South American coffee man, into her life. In September she was rumored to be engaged to Mildred Walters (yes, that’s a guy’s name), whose father was the president of a food corporation. Those nuptials never took place. Next in line after Mildred was Bob Peters. One of her ardent admirers gifted her with a diamond ring in November 1952, but it as never disclosed who or why it was given to her. In December 1952 the press indicated she was the next to get hitched with the freshly divorced Bill Treadwell. Their affair lasted until mid 1953, and Bill seems like a man who got very close to permanently merging with Selene. .
Selene traveled to Europe in 1953, and was romanced by the very troubled Gary Cooper in Paris. Gary was not her only Parisian admirer – she was also seen with Prince Peter of Yugoslavia. Back home in August New York she was seeing Bob Calhoun, former husband of Ginny Simms, and B.B. Robinson. There were even news that she and Dr. Alfred reconciled and were about to be wed again. Luckily that did not happen! In April 1954 she was on with John Hodiak.
In August 1954, Selene went toe to toe with another international femme fatale, Zsa Zsa GAbor. How? Well, Zsa Zsa’s beloved scoundrel, Porfirio Rubirosa, a charmer like no other, tried to “promote” Selene, and hot a full bowl on soup on his head, courtesy of Zsa Zsa. The two (Selene and Zsa Zsa) hardy had a cordial relationship afterwards.
1954 was a good year for Selene, especially the later half. Not only was she at the peak of her beauty, but men flocked to see her. She scored not less than an Indian Maharaja of Baroda and Liberace at that time (the fact that he was a homosexual was kept hush hush then, and he was considered quite a catch for the ladies). Of course, all of this was shallow and none came even close to going steady with her. The first man who broke the steady barrier became Ed Bobbyshell Jr., a East Coast socialite who started dating her in late 1954, and managed to hold her until mid 1955. He must have done something right! Anyway, despite them being serious, Selene had beaus on the side, most notably Jack Denny.
After she and Bobbyshell broke up, Selene went on an extreme dating spree, dating in very short succession Sinclair Robertson, I. Hoderson and Pete Howard and Mike Silverman, all prominent members of the social set. Then came a radical change of heart – Selene decided to join Johnny Grant’s troupe that entertained the soldiers in Korea. From a playgirl to a patriot in just one step, and by Janauary Selene 1956 was indeed in Korea. The experience seemed to slightly change her. During the junket she met Cantflinas, the Spanish comedian, and the two had a brief affair that went nowhere due to the distance. Wanting to feel useful, Selene enrolled into school for TV directing, getting up every day at 7 AM. She graduated after three months in July.
In August there were some very solid rumors about her impending marriage to Philadelphia socialite Thomas Woods, but instead she choose to return to Hollywood to try at a second career. She dated insurance broker Laurence Winkler and did the town with Eleanor Parker, an old friend. She and Wood were still “kind of” engaged and went out frequently. Yet, the old ways were too strong – Selene dated Edmund Purdom in parallel, and when she visited Mexico in April 1957, she dated Miguel Alleman. Wood obliviously had enough of that and the two were kaput by May 1957. She returned once again to New York, became the favorite of powerful oilman Warren Alpert and enjoyed a brief courtship with Seoul’s Mayor Kim when he came to visit the US.
Then, in her typical fashion, she again became career minded and enrolled into the prestigious Actor’s Studio. She did some theater work, but did not slow down her nightlife, as she took up Alfred De Vega, an immensely wealthy Spaniard. Afterwards she departed for Mexico – but not only as a vacation spot, but the place where she was to meet and romance George Sanders. It continued for some months, but they were bi coastal, she in New York and he in Los Angeles, making it a tangled mess that was bound to snap. When it did snap finally, well known charmer Dick Krakauer took over from George. She was also at hand to give George Guinle, a wealthy, roving Brazilian, a goodbye kiss before his departure for Paris.
Her hectic love life catching up with her, she was persuaded by friends to take it more easy, and to some degree she did. Contrary to her habitual fashion of having at leats one court suit at any given time, she dropped a suit against a Broadway producer she accused to being a Peeping Tom, signed a business deal, and changed the color of her hair.
It was only months later that a new beau, bullfighter Antonio del Oliver, emerged. The romance moved at a nice and slow pace, and Selene went to Mexico every chance she got to be close to her beloved. Yet, several things slowed her down. First, whiel she was dancing in a Mexico night club with Antonio, her golden lighter was stolen along with 300$ from her purse. Second, she suffered a serious injury on a movie set, and had to have 11 stitches in her leg. Then, on April 2, 1959, while she was at the home of socialite Nina Anderton, a gang of robbers broke in, tied the people present to chairs, and looted them out of their jewelry. The court case was dragged for months before Selene gave up and left for Europe in July 1959. On the bright side, she worked steadily during the whole ordeal. Problems arose when she wanted to take her daughter Scarlett with her, but was unable due to the custody agreement. By September she was again in court with her former husband, and again she won, and took Scarlett with her to Europe for six months. She tried to enroll the girl into a private school in Switzerland.
In Paris she made the rounds with a California multi millionaire who was allegedy to become her next husband. As per usual, nothing happened. She was back in the States by March 1960, and dated another lothario, Vic Orsatti. Quite expectedly, that didn’t last long. When Selene won’t come to Paris, Paris will come to Selene – a moneyed Parisian, Francois de Salles, pursued her in New York in August 1960. She was back to dating actors when she briefly romanced Christopher Plummer in December 1960. She ended the year by getting around town with the Persian prince, Sadri Khan.
1961 bough more legal troubled for Selene as she was again locked in a custody dispute over her daughter with Alfred. Much drama was involved when she executed a foolish and risky coup. She flew the route from California to New York and hid the child in Long Island. It all got sorted out in the end, but the problems between Alfred and Selene were not meant to stop there. A bright spot of the year was Pete Arnell, TV producer, her newest escort.
1962 was a bit better for her. She dated Randolph Creel Jr., a dashing, handsome New York socialite, and went to Europe at some points, dating Jon Terail, brother of famous restaurant owner Claude Terrail. Just when you tough things were looking up, it all crashed down, big time. 1963 was absolutely the worst year for Selene. A huge blow happened when, during yet another custody battle with Dr. Alfred over their daughter Scarlett, the girl self willingly expressed the desire to live not with Selene but with Alfred. This effectively deemed Selene the losing subject of the court case. Scarlett from then on stayed with Alfred in California, and Selene was in New York. Another blow came when her father, Francis Walters, died in April 1963. Selene inherited quite a lot of land from him, but it did little to lift her dampened spirit. Sammy Colt, son of Ethel Barrymore, cheered up the later part of the year.
Selene took it more easy after all of this. She quietly dated a pianist, Don Drum, in March 1964. Later that year he started a passionate, long romance with John Jacob “Jack” Astor. It lasted, on/off, until 1970. For one reason or another, the two never wed, and I assume it was Astor who did not want to take the big step. She relented by dating, for a time, first Pierre La Mure, author of Moulin Rouge, then Alexis de Moira, a Spanish prince, during her Parisian sojourn in 1965, and later her old beau, Ed Bobbyshell. In November 1965 she pursued the same man wanted by Washington hostess Gwen Carter – toy manufacturer Chas Merzbach. In 1966, she dated a much younger Yale student, member of a powerful Hollywood family.
Selene finally married for the third time to Franklin J. Lamm in June 1975. Lamm was born in 1914, making his 10 years Selene’s senior. They commuted between New York and Los Angeles for most of the 1970s and 1980s, and were active socialites on both coasts. In the 1990s, the couple permanently moved to Beverly Hills.
Selene had her five minuted of fame completely unexpectedly in 1991:
In April 1991, major newspapers carried the report that actress Selene Walters claimed that, in 1952, Reagan, when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, had raped her in her home. The charge was initially publicized in Kitty Kelley’s unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan and then repeated in a People magazine interview with Walters. “I opened the door,” Walters told the magazine. “Then it was the battle of the couch. I was fighting him. I didn’t want him to make love to me. He’s a very big man, and he just had his way.” According to Kelley, Walters shared contemporaneous accounts of the encounter with friends. No physical evidence has been produced to support the allegation. No legal action, civil or criminal, was taken against Reagan based on the allegation.
Selene’s husband, Franklin Lamm, died on February 9, 2007. She was quizzed in 2012 over her romance with the Shah of Iran. here is an article, taken from Pardess Rimonim blog, about the event:
On Tuesday night, January the 29th, 2013, Jewpers of IAJF, Los Angeles, was host to the 89-year young Ms. Selene Walters, born Elizabeth Florence Walker, a former American model and actress, who, as we were told, had once been in a romantic relationship with the young Shah of Iran.
The program began with a succinct audio-visual introduction to the life and times of the Shah, presented by Ms. Deborah Zakariaei, the organizer and host of the event. Thereafter, Ms. Walters spoke of her childhood and education, her life as a beautiful model and rising actress, her times as a young divorcee mother among the famous names in Hollywood and New York, and of course, how she had met the Shah. An eloquent speaker, an absorbing story-teller, with a reassuring, trustworthy and attractive tone, she recounted with youthful energy the lively story of how through a hint from Aristotle Onassis, the billionaire, she made it on time to Nice and Riviera, in Southern France, and soon enough ended up dancing with a recently divorced Shah. A short while later, she was cordially invited to visit the royal palace, in Tehran.
Ms. Walters remembered the Shah as a kind and polite gentleman, modest in demeanor, who communicated most courteously with her with his developing English skills. She recalled both the interiors of the palace, the Peacock Throne, as well as the pistol Shah carried with him in their tours of Tehran, something he felt necessary, having survived a recent assassination attempt. Once, she even let the Shah, a self-described skilled shooter, to aim a rifle at an apple placed on her head, and splatter it into “thousand of pieces”. And yet, as soon as the rumors of the romance began to leak into Tehran tabloids through Hollywood press, the Shah quickly asked her to leave back for America, for the Iranian public was not yet ready to absorb an affair between their king and a foreign actress.
Ms. Walters’ memory was impressively precise, even as she was clearly trying “to get her facts straight,” as she put it. Her answers to the questions presented to her by the audience were equally candid and devoid of any exaggeration.
This author, for one, had the clear feeling of having been offered an intimate chunk of history, both that of the earlier decades of Hollywood, as well as the private side of the Royal family. The program justly ended by celebrating the birthday of this most kind and vibrant lady.
Selene is still alive today.