Monday, August 14, 2006

Mary Ellen's Will

The Dallas Morning News is running a sensational five-part story called "Mary Ellen's Will: the Battle for 4949 Swiss." Here's the opening:
The mansion at 4949 Swiss Avenue sags like an aging diva. Rusty screens cover dark windows. A beam props up the porch roof, obscuring a once-grand entrance.

If you talked your way inside before the courts started auctioning things for the legal bills, you’d stop in that doorway and stare at the sweeping staircase, trying to place it in some old movie.

Once your eyes adjusted, there’d be more to gawk at: gilded candelabras, faded sprays of plastic flowers, a pair of grand pianos reflected in a mirror bigger than a garage door. The last occupant, Mary Ellen Bendtsen, liked to say her home was built around that mirror, the biggest in any house in Texas.

You’d see her, too, in oversized glamour shots hazy with dust from collapsing ceilings. Those portraits dominated everything. In every one, she was a platinum-blond ingénue.

Forty-nine forty-nine Swiss Avenue was like a forgotten movie set, the kind with too many sad endings. Almost anyone who knows its story will tell you it’s straight out of Sunset Boulevard. And Mrs. Bendtsen — she was Norma Desmond, that old movie’s faded star.

Her crumbling mansion is now a battleground for her relatives and two art-deco antique dealers with a history of befriending elderly Dallasites — and ending up with their homes and money.

It's absolutely riveting, and the first two parts (it started yesterday) are available online here.

There's also an amazing article in the new issue of Discover magazine (not yet available online) titled "The Burns Archive: The Deadly Rays that Cured Cancer." It's a photo gallery straight out of The City of Lost Children, seemingly--the photos of early radiation treatments are so surreal that it's hard to even believe they're real at first. Like I said, it's not online yet, but if you're at a newstand, either pick up the magazine (September issue, with a rocket on a cover and the caption "Does NASA have a future?") or flip to page 44 and take a look. They're shocking.

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