It all started with a box. He arrived last October 6 at the second-hand store Opniew & Co., "pioneers of recycling" in Flanders. In the premises located in Mortsel, just 30 minutes by car from Antwerp, they receive dozens of boxes like that with donations every week. They resell them and, with what they take out, they help people at risk of social exclusion and refugees.
But this time the story was not going to go by solidarity paths, but rather by those of the serendipity. Something inside that cardboard would dust off the exciting life of a Belgian woman who fought her hollow in Hollywood to the end with the big stars until the end ... And left graphic proof that she had succeeded.
The box was in the warehouse with the others until last week. "When one of the employees opened it, he knew that it had such sentimental value that no one could have voluntarily donated it," says Saskia Van Nuffelen , a spokesperson for Opniew & Co., in conversation via Facebook. He left the back room with the album decorated with roses and teddy bears at the ready, more kitsch impossible, put it on the counter and asked, "Well, what do we do with this?"
It was one of those notebooks with plastic piglets for photos, two per page. In the images, always the same woman: a blond lady with short curly hair in her fifties with different printed blouses and long necklaces of matching beads; always the same smile; Next to it, the main floor of the Hollywood of the 90s, about 200 photos. From Johnny Depp to Tom Cruise, passing through Luke Perry, Will Smith and even the mythical Aitana Sánchez-Gijón from A walk through the clouds . All very young.
From the same Facebook through which Saskia speaks with Paper today, an appeal came out last Wednesday: «We are looking for the owner of this photo album». The donor in question remains a mystery, but one of the local photographers who came to cover the mysterious news noticed a lapel accreditation in one of the images of the blond lady with Jane Seymour: «Association of the Foreign Press of Hollywood Maria Snoeys-Lagler » . Yes, the same HFPA, according to its acronym in English, which organizes the Golden Globes. They had a name and a great story was coming.
His viral post and subsequent Flemish journalistic display did the rest, and the second-hand store in a small Belgian city spoke with the daughter of the woman they were all looking for: Rita Radowicz; 74 years; resident in Danville, California. This newspaper has tried to contact her without success, but has been able to access the only interview she has granted, in the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad .
Maria died in 2016 at age 93. She had been an HFPA treasurer and guest star in all Hollywood Hollywood since she landed in Los Angeles in 1953, at the hands of her first husband, Jan Snoeys . "He had many albums, a full closet," says their daughter, "interacting with movie stars and writing about them was his life." He did it until the Belgian magazines of which he was a correspondent told him that it was worth it. He was 87 years old.
Actually, Maria did not enter Hollywood as a starter, but as a consort. The photojournalist was Jan, one of the first non-American reporters in movie mecca. When he died, in 1975, she inherited her accreditation. «Everyone helped her at the beginning. They taught him to use the camera and even to drive, because he didn't know. In a short time she was a girl among movie stars, ”recalls her daughter.
No one knows how the printed memory of a movie life in a box stacked in a second-hand store in Flanders ended. The last time Maria stepped on Belgium was 88. Three decades later her sister Paula, who lived on the coast, died more than 100 kilometers from the final destination of the album. «Maybe some distant cousin? Maybe he died and his grandchildren emptied the house and didn't know what to do with the album? ”Rita wonders. In any case, Maria would have loved to attend her own epilogue: "She was very proud of her work."
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