THE TRAVILLA COLLECTION’S ARIZONA CONNECTION
Marilyn Monroe and Barry Goldwater
Why mention Hollywood’s bashful blonde and Arizona’s perspicacious politician in the same sentence? What could these two definitely disparate characters possibly have in common?
Well, they both were in the spotlight; They both had their own unique style of speaking; and I believe he once ran for president, while others believe she once ran after a president.
But the most important thing they had in common was that they both had a fashionable friend, an incredible ally of unspeakable style.
His name was Billy Travilla.
In the case of Marilyn Monroe, she depended upon her friend Billy for every item in her Hollywood costume arsenal. All of her famed 20th Century-Fox costumes, Travilla designed; including the “white” pleated halter dress she wore, fluttering above a subway breeze. Someone recently paid nearly SIX million dollars for the pleasure of owning those pleats. Marilyn never owned that dress. Debbie Reynolds did … until she sold it at her Profiles in History auction in Beverly Hills, a short while back.
In the case of Barry Goldwater, the former senator of Arizona depended upon his friend for a stunning collection, the Travilla label, which sold well in the politician’s Goldwater’s Department Stores. They became fast friends attending each other’s cocktail parties, socializing, and even sometimes vacationing together. Billy shuttled easily, between Hollywood and Phoenix, to play with the statesman in the state of Arizona.
Sally Goldwater, Barry’s sister in law, was one of Billy Travilla’s closest friends. He designed all the stage costumes for the budding actress. Billy even flew around the world to many exotic locations with Sally and friends, including a memorable trip to an elegant casino in Puerto Rico in the mid sixties.
With Barry, their friendship was sincere and Billy once enjoyed sending a special animal print sequined jacket to Barry’s wife, Peggy Goldwater. In doing so, Billy Travilla generated what has since become a treasured gift. Senator Goldwater’s daughter, Joanne Goldwater, is the current competent steward of that Travilla-Goldwater heirloom and she knew the designer as well.
Marilyn showed Billy’s style to the world; Goldwater’s sold Billy’s style to the world; at least in Arizona.
Billy was deeply devoted to both of these good friends. And in keeping with the universal principle of “what goes around, comes around;” Marilyn and Barry were each mutually loyal to Billy.
When 20th Century-Fox discovered Billy had taken their studio property, “Marilyn” to a downtown Los Angeles nightclub, in what was considered a seedy part of town, they fired him. Immediately. Staunchly loyal, Marilyn marched right into Daryl F. Zanuck’s office and demanded they, ‘hire him back or she walked.’ The studio welcomed Billy back instantly, with open arms and a sweaty brow.
When Billy had brought a young male friend, Giorgios DeMakis, from Greece to Beverly Hills to act as his personal assistant, and the Greek’s Visa expired, Billy’s good friend Senator Goldwater stepped in to help “speed things along.” The Senator ensured that the Visa process was smooth sailing, in an otherwise snails-pace-government bureau.
The Travilla label was such a sales success in Arizona at Goldwater’s Department Stores that some of those garments are still preserved in the archives of the Phoenix Art Museum’s garment vault. One or two of those were even donated by a Goldwater family member.
Billy Travilla’s Arizona connection goes still further. Billy had loyal ties to other Arizona friends.
Whenever Yvonne Fedderson and Sara O’Meara, the ladies who launched the Childhelp, USA Foundation, held a charity fashion show to raise money for their ‘children in need,’ Billy was always right there to help out. “He always lent us his [runway] collection to use for a fashion show,” Yvonne said, “When we were done using it to raise funds, we sent it right back. It helped us significantly to raise funds in our social gatherings.”
So what did they all have in common … Hollywood’s bashful blonde, Arizona’s perspicacious politician, and ChildHelp USA’s compassionate co-Founders?
They all shared something vitally important … a timeless trait, which blesses humanity eternally … Loving Friendship.
Well that AND Hollywood’s humble style genius … Billy Travilla.
To see the collections of KAHC and more photos of Travilla and Marilyn Monroe visit her FB Page KAHC/ Website / About.me
[This article is the fifth of a 12-part series of articles by Kimberley Ashley for 2015. Next month see her article, “Marilyn Monroe’s Itch To Be Famous- How A Priceless Travilla Dress Cemented Her Fame.” Stay tuned for her upcoming articles on Billy Travilla and his design muse Marilyn Monroe.]