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Frank Sinatra: Four decades by Ava Gardner’s side: love, movies and rebellion | Culture

Mearene Jordan photographs Ava Gardner in the mid-1950s.
Mearene Jordan photographs Ava Gardner in the mid-1950s.

During a career spanning nearly half a century, Ava Gardner loved, fought, cried, laughed, suffered, relished and acted. She was a star. Lauded by Hollywood as “the most beautiful animal in the world,” she battled against the norms of her time, and did what she could to improve the weak scripts that – by contract – she had to follow. She even fled to Europe to escape Hollywood’s conventionality.

Always by her side was Mearene Jordan, who began as her maid, became her assistant, and, finally, ended up as Gardner’s best friend and confidant. Jordan saw and heard Gardner’s secrets, keeping them for decades. That is, of course, until 2012, when, at the age of 90, she published Living with Miss G. via the Ava Gardner Museum.

Jordan decided to write down everything she experienced alongside her friend, so that readers could truly understand Gardner – who she knew as Miss G. – and discover that, beyond the love affairs and wild times, there was a woman who dreamed of being free.

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner in 1953.
Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner in 1953.GETTY

Mearene Jordan – Rene to her friends – was born in a humble part of St. Louis, Missouri. Eleven months later, Ava Gardner was born in Grabtown, a small agricultural community about nine miles south of Smithfield, North Carolina, where the museum that now honors her is located.

Aside from the notable racial difference – Jordan was Black, and Gardner was white – both women grew up in large families with parents who struggled to pay the bills. Jordan left her home at the age of 16, moving to Chicago to earn her living however possible: babysitting children, hanging up jackets in a nightclub’s cloakroom, and sewing in a factory. She eventually moved to Los Angeles, where it was easier to find work.

One of Jordan’s sisters, Tressie, worked as a servant for Artie Shaw and Ava Gardner, when the actress was married to the bandleader. When Tressie sensed that the marriage was crumbling, she recommended her sister for the position of taking care of Gardner in her new bachelorette apartment.

In 1946, Gardner had been in Hollywood for five years. Her divorce from Shaw was her second. At age 24, she already had two ex-husbands, and had played dozens of small roles that had failed to materialize into a big break. While waiting for an opportunity, she earned a meager salary.

The author describes how Gardner looked during her job interview: “Slender as a bamboo pole, but with visible curves, hair caught up in a red bandana, oval face, cleft in chin, green eyes sparkling, and a wonderful, warm smile.” Jordan accepted the job offer and spent many nights sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room of the small Los Angeles apartment.

Ava Gardner and Mearene Jordan, with publicist David Hanna, on the promotional trip for 'The Barefoot Countess.'
Ava Gardner and Mearene Jordan, with publicist David Hanna, on the promotional trip for ‘The Barefoot Countess.’

Gardner’s career improved thanks to the 1946 premiere of The Killers, although she had to contend with an unfair contract that bound her to MGM Studios. Jordan describes Gardner’s acting talent as being far superior to what was shown on screen. She also emphasizes Gardner’s frankness in business, her poor choice of male company, and her ferocity when Jordan accompanied her into hotels and restaurants in the segregated Jim Crow South. “Ava was my bodyguard,” she writes.

The author is a privileged witness of Gardner’s ascent to fame; of her friendship with Gregory Peck and Charles Laughton, both of whom saw the actress’s potential and encouraged her; of her work in One Touch of Venus or The Great Sinner, until, by the 1950s, she finally achieved stardom.

“Gregory Peck also recognized Miss G’s immense potential and tried to encourage her to believe in her talent and work at it. She never did. She lacked that ambition and lacked that confidence. She made her mark because she was always playing herself, her natural self,” her friend writes in the book.

In Living with Miss G., Jordan records the love affairs of her boss. She confirms that the greatest love of Gardner’s life was Frank Sinatra. The actress fought to revive his singing career when, at the beginning of the 1950s, nobody would hire him. While they were only married from 1951 to 1957 (they began dating in 1949), Sinatra always checked up on her until the end of her life, as a friend.

Ava Gardner, pictured in 1952.
Ava Gardner, pictured in 1952.Virgil Apger (Getty Images)

However, neither Sinatra nor Gardner are beatified on the pages: both are described as quarrelsome, drunk, stormy, jealous… adjectives that easily corrode a relationship. The two times that Gardner became pregnant, she opted to abort. She never discussed this with Sinatra: he already had three children from a previous marriage. “Did Miss G want to add to that total? I don’t think Miss G ever thought that through completely, and we never discussed it,” writes Jordan.

In the memoir, Jordan paints magnate Howard Hughes – who was sexually obsessed with Gardner – as a weirdo. The actor George C. Scott appears as a man of the worst kind – who drunkenly beat her. Jordan speaks highly of Spaniard Luis Miguel Dominguín, but less so of Mario Cabré, another bullfighter who crossed paths with Gardner. She laughs at the scores of Gardner’s co-stars who bragged about sleeping with her, when those dalliances never took place.

Gardner in Spain

In 1950, Jordan and Gardner arrived in Spain for the filming of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. The movie was set along the Costa Brava, and prefaced the streak that made Gardner a star: Show Boat, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Mogambo, the last of which earned Gardner her sole Oscar nomination. Eventually, during the filming of The Barefoot Contessa, the actress and her maid moved to Madrid. Jordan remembers their time in Spain with affection, describing the endless parties, the horror felt at watching the bullfights, their unpleasant experience living next door to exiled Argentine dictator Juan Domingo Perón and Gardner’s friendship with writer Ernst Hemingway.

Ava Gardner attends a bullfight in Las Ventas ring in Madrid, in 1961.
Ava Gardner attends a bullfight in Las Ventas ring in Madrid, in 1961.

Of course, the memoir talks a lot about cinema. They are reflections on certain scripts, descriptions about how directors such as John Huston, George Cukor and Stanely Kramer worked, and anecdotes from the sets of films such as The Naked Maja, On the Beach, 55 Days at Peking and Seven Days in May. Overall, Jordan spends a lot of time discussing the filming of The Night of the Iguana, “the happiest film that Miss G and I ever worked on, and arguably her best-ever movie role.” Of the 37 chapters in the book, five of them focus on this production, which was a rollercoaster of emotions onscreen and off. After wrapping the shoot in Mexico, Gardner moved to London, where, at the age of 44, her career began to slow down.

There were certainly moments of anger between the two women: in one fallout, Jordan moved from Madrid to Paris, and began working as Gene Kelly’s assistant. She returned to Gardner in the end, but more as a friend: the role of the maid was taken over by a Colombian woman named Carmen, who stayed in Gardner’s service until the end of her days in London

Ava Gardner (l) and Mearene Jordan, in New York in 1977.
Ava Gardner (l) and Mearene Jordan, in New York in 1977.

Jordan studied to become a beautician. She married, got divorced, returned to London to be with Gardner, and finally, in 1975, she opened a beauty salon in Sacramento, where she would live until her passing in 2014.

After wrapping a miniseries titled The Long Hot Summer (1985), Gardner suffered a stroke from which she never fully recovered, no matter how much she exercised (she had always loved working out, especially swimming, and during productions she would eat frugally, avoid alcohol, and sleep a lot). In the summer of 1989, Gardner and Jordan spent their last months together preparing the actress’s autobiography. In London, Gardner confessed – and Jordan transcribed this confession into the last chapter of the book, which is titled Last of the Laughter – that she regretted not having become closer friends with Winston Churchill, one of her heroes.

Half a year later, on January 25, 1990, at the age of 67, Ava Gardner succumbed to pneumonia and passed away.

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Culture

Top 10 Urban Property Hotspots

Bradford And Blackpool Lead The Pack

Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, exclusive data from OnTheMarket reveals.

A combination of affordable house prices and growing number of buyers being priced out of nearby Leeds is helping lift Bradford’s property market, OnTheMarket said.

Speaking to This is Money, Robert McCarthy, manager of Hunters estate agency in Bradford, said buyers were attracted to the area because properties are ‘dirt cheap.’

Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals
Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals

He said: ‘Bradford is seeing a high increase in first time buyers and investors, with properties ranging from around £70,000 for a two bedroomed terrace, £110,000-£130,000 for a three to four bedroom terrace and £120,000 to £240,000 for a three bedroom semi-detached or detached property.

‘This gives a buyer much more for their money, while keeping the mortgage payments lower.’

He added: ‘This week we had a three bedroom semi-detached property go on the market needing some work at £100,000.

‘We we had over 90 requests to view, with some buyers offering before a viewing at well over the asking price.

‘I personally bought a three bedroom semi-detached renovation project in the area with a large garden for £51,000 a few years ago.

‘Now fully renovated, if I was selling to put it on the market it would be around £180,000 to £190,000.’

Mr McCarthy told This is Money that it was possible to buy a one or two bedroom flat in the centre of Bradford for between £20,000 to £60,000.

Urban property hotspots

Blackpool, Rochdale and Plymouth came in second, third and fourth place respectively in OnTheMarket’s latest rankings, with Rochdale climbing from 23rd to third place.

As cities like Manchester become increasingly expensive, Rochdale has ballooned in popularity with buyers.

Andrew Cardwell, manging director of Cardwells Estate Agents, said he wasn’t surprised about Rochdale’s colossal climb in the rankings.

Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining
Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining

He said: ‘Earlier this year Rochdale was recognised as one of the most affordable places to buy a property, with an average house price of around £206,000.

‘As well as offering excellent value for money, it’s within easy reach of Manchester city centre and has beautiful countryside.’

Plymouth jumped from 22nd to fourth place in the rankings. It is the only southern location to make it to the top five, OnTheMarket said.

Plymouth is home to HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in western Europe and the city is brimming with shops and restaurants.

Jacob Tebb, president of OnTheMarket, told This is Money: ‘Property buying decisions continue to be heavily influenced by affordability, according to our latest hotspots index, which reveals that some of the most active or “hottest” areas also offer buyers the best value.”

He added: ‘Overall, the north/south divide is holding firm, with some of the most vibrant and cheapest locations in the north seeing the most heat in terms of housing market activity and only one southern location making it into the top ten.’

Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Sunderland, Wakefield and Derby also made it to the top ten, while Middlesborough, Burnley and Coventry were just outside the top 10.

Wakefield rose from thirtieth to ninth place, while Birmingham climbed from forty-third to twenty-third place.

Where is the market cooling? Urban property hotspots

OnTheMarket added: ‘Moving in the other direction, demand in Wigan cooled significantly, dropping from second to fifteenth place in our rankings, while Liverpool has fallen from eleventh place in the first quarter to thirtieth.

‘Worthing, one of the few southern locations to be considered a hotspot, fell from twentieth to fifty-third place. The “coolest” hotspot on our list is Brighton.’

The average price of a house in Brighton and Hove was £422,000 in April, according to the Office for National Statistics. Its coastal location and proximity to London makes it popular but expensive with buyers.

Activity in Gloucester, Norwich and Warrington is also cooling, OnTheMarket said.

How is the London property market faring?

OnTheMarket crunched separate data for the London property market. The data suggested there has been ‘less fluctuation nationally and very little movement’, On The Market said.

Within the London-focused rankings, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Sutton, Redbridge and Newham comprised the top five, followed by Bexley, Hillingdon and Enfield. Hounslow and Croydon also made it to the top 10.

However, Hounslow dropped out of the top five London hotspots in the quarter, while Lambeth, Southwark and Merton all fell four places.

In the last few years, higher mortgage rates have put a dampener on the property market. However, the Bank of England is expected to cut interest rates this summer and some banks and building societies have already started trimming rates on their mortgage deals.

Barclays recently upped the ante in the mortgage price war currently playing out between banks and building societies.

The mortgage lender cut rates by up to 0.33 percentage points across a wide range of deals for both homebuyers and those remortgaging, resulting in several new best-buys.

Halifax also announced it was cutting mortgage rates by up to 0.13 percentage points on selected deals.

What’s on sale now?

1. Three-bed semi-detached house, Bradford, £190,000

This three-bedroom semi-detached house at Hopefield Way, Bierley in Bradford, is on sale via Hunters estate agency for £190,000.

It has a light and airy living room and a spacious kitchen-diner. The property has gardens at the front and rear and comes with one driveway parking space.

Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford

2. Two-bed flat, Plymouth, £220,000

Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds

This two-bedroom ground floor flat on sale via Julian Marks is set in a substantial end of terrace late Victorian-era property and is listed for £220,000.

The newly fitted kitchen is modern and stylish, and elsewhere charming period features have been retained.

The property has been owned by the same people since 1994 and comes with use of a small private garden, as well as a communal garden.

3. Four-bed house, Rochdale, £325,000

Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition

This four-bedroom detached property located in Milnrow, Rochdale, is on sale via Hunters for £325,000.

The house is in mint condition throughout with light and airy rooms. A family could move straight into this home without needing to lift a finger. There’s off-road parking, a single garage and gardens to the front and rear.

It’s an ideal property for a growing family.


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Culture

Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by ‘Savills’ reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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