The Wives of Artie Shaw
“None of them were real marriages,” said Shaw. “They were legalised affairs. In those days you couldn’t get a lease on an apartment if you were living in sin.”
- 1932-1933: Jane Cairns
- 1934-1937: Margaret Allen
- 1940-1941: Lana Turner
- 1942-1943: Betty Kern
- 1945-1946: Ava Gardner
- 1946-1948: Kathleen Winsor
- 1952-1956: Doris Dowling
- 1957-1985: Evelyn Keyes
Third wife, 1940-1941
Born Julia Jean Turner
February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995
Lana was 19 years old when she married Artie Shaw, who was 30 years old. Lana was a famous actress and pin-up model. Her image was featued as nose art for many military aircraft during WWII. Lana became one of the highest paid women in Hollywood. She and Artie met on the film set for “Dancing Co-ed,” and impulsively eloped to Las Vegas In February of 1940. One version of Artie and Lana’s story is that the marriage ended after only four months after they realized they had nothing in common. The other version is that Mr. Mayer went to great lengths to break them up because he wanted to protect his investment in Lana. Mayer anticipated making millions from Lana in the years ahead and couldn’t risk her getting pregant as that would tarnish her money-making image. During WWII Lana also dated musicians like Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey, and actors who included Ronald Reagan, Mickey Rooney, Robert Stack, and Frank Sinatra.
Fourth wife, 1942-1943
Artie was 32 when he married Elizabeth Jane “Betty” Kern Miller who was 24 years old. Betty was the daughter of Academy Award winning songwriter Jerome Kern who was one of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, having written more than 700 songs that were used in over 100 stage works, including “Ol’ Man River” and “The Way You Look Tonight”.
Artie Shaw and Betty Kern had one son, Steven Kern. Artie was estranged from his son most of his life. Steven Kern passed away August 2015 at the age of 72. Steven donated his collection of over 500 guitars and mandolins to Belmont University in Nashville which opend The Gallery of Iconic Guitars at Belmont.
Fifth wife, 1945-1946
Sixth wife, 1946-1948
Artie was 36 when he married Kathleen, who was 27. Kathleen was the author of ‘Forever Amber’, a 1944 romance novel set in 17th century England. The novel was banned in some countries and condemned in others for its sexual content. While tame by modern standards, ‘Forever Amber’ shocked audiences in 1944 and banning it only made it more popular as people wanted to know what the uproar was about.
Seventh wife, 1952-1956
Artie and Doris had a son, Jonathan Dowling Shaw, who was born July 4, 1953. Jonthan Shaw is best known for his tattoo art, but in the words of his close friend Johnny Depp, Jonathan is also an, “Author, artist, connoisseur, madman, thug, pirate, villain, Buddha, sage, Satan, gypsy and most solid of brothers.”
1940 – 1941 : girlfriend
Betty Asher was was a publicity worker who was apppointed by MGM to be Judy Garland’s personal assistant and become her confidant. Betty stood up as maid of honor for Judy Garland during her wedding to Vincente Minelli in 1945. Certain elements of the press have reporterd that Betty was tasked by MGM to steer Judy away from Artie Shaw, and as a consequence became romantically involved with Judy. This was confirmed by Betty’s brother, William Asher, who later directed and produced episodes of ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Twilight Zone’. Judy fired Betty on the spot after Vincente revealed to her that Betty was hired by MGM to spy on her and regularly report back to Eddie Mannix. Betty is credited for having gotten Judy addicted to amphetamines, barbituates, and alcohol at the direction of MGM. Heartbroken, Betty committed suicide a few years after being fired. It was also an open secret that Betty was used by MGM to break up Artie Shaw and Lana Turner’s spontaneous marriage by sleeping with Artie. During the Shaw-Turner divorce trial Betty Asher testified against Artie Shaw.
1979 : girlfriend
Midge Hayes, Artie Shaw’s former assistant and companion, helped provide records, tapes, and photographs, encouragement and pertinent observations which helped bring the book ‘Artie Shaw : His Life and Music by John White” into being.
“The fact is that he is bigger than most of us,” says Shaw’s last live-in partner, Midge Hayes, who moved in with him just before his 80th birthday. “He tried more, he did more, he studied more, he wanted more, and he got more.” In addition to being a self-taught clarinetist who grew into a class by himself, Shaw broke the racist code of American pop music by hiring Billie Holiday, whose genius he recognized almost at first hearing. He also became mythic for the long list of Hollywood beauties he became involved with. The darkly handsome musician had affairs with Betty G table and Rita Hayworth, and his eight wives included Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, and Evelyn Keyes.
His life has been amazing almost from the start, and for more than half a century friends, enemies, lovers, and scholars have been trying to figure out the Shaw enigma. f anybody comes up to me and says, ‘Oh, I just love your “Begin the Beguine,”‘ I want to vomit.”
Shaw may be 89, but he’s hardly your kindly old gent, nostalgic about the past. “I made that record 60 years ago, man. I’m through with that.” He’s indignant that anyone would even think that he might want to discuss such a thing. “It was a good record. Good-bye. Buy it if you want to talk about it. Don’t talk to me about ‘Begin the Beguine.’ It’s over with.”
Source: Vanity Fair 1999