The creative genius of American writer, Stan Lee, who was born in 1922, brought us 'Spider Man', 'X-Men' and 'The Hulk'. They climbed tall buildings and fought the bad guys, but had normal worries too, about love, acceptance and family. Readers loved them and Marvel Comics, with Lee at the helm, went on to become hugely successful. In 2010 the Stan Lee Foundation was founded to focus on literacy, education and the arts. On January 4, 2011 Lee received the 2428th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
One day… I had a cousin named Morty Feldman, and he was in the hat business. And he work… he was connected with a company, I forget the name of it but they were on Fifth Avenue and 48th Street. And he said there was a model — a hat model — at this place named Betty, and he thought I'd really like her, and she might like me and… he told her about me and would I go and see her so I said: ‘Fine’. And I went up to this place… now I might add, when I was a kid I used to draw pictures of girls. Most guys who think they can draw, draw pretty girls, and there was one face I always drew. To me, it was the ideal, gorgeous-looking girl's face. So I went up to this hat model place, and somebody opened the door — a model — and I took one look at her and it was the face I had always been drawing. I couldn't believe it. On top of that she said: ‘Hello. May I help you?’ and she had this beautiful English accent, and I'm a real anglophile. I mean an English accent knocks me out. So there was the face I had always drawn, there was an English accent, and she was gorgeous. And I think I said something like: ‘I love you’. I don't remember but it… I didn't know what to say or do, I was knocked out. So I took her out to lunch. I never did meet Betty; I mean this was not Betty. Her name was Joan. And it was really on my part, love at first sight. I found out she was married; she had been married a very short time. In England, she had broken up with a guy she thought she liked and on a rebound she married some American army officer. Then she came over here to stay with his family while he did what he did overseas. When she got here she realized she had made a mistake, she didn't even know the guy and why had she married him? Just to show the other guy, who she had since forgotten about.
To make a long story short, I took her to Reno… I… I sent her to Reno, 'cause in those days you could get a quickie divorce in Reno in 6 weeks. And she said she'd marry me. So off she went to Reno, and I was so happy. And she wrote me a letter once a week, and every letter said, ‘Dear Stan’, ‘Dear Stan’. On the fifth week it said: ‘Dear Jack’. Now I'm not the brightest guy in the world, but I said to myself, I think I'd better fly to Reno. And it's funny, everything in my life… we're never going to get finished because everything leads to a story, but in order to fly to Reno… I had never really flown commercially, I flew in army planes but… I went to a ticket office somewhere and I said, ‘Give me a ticket on the first plane to Reno’, which was a stupid thing to say. I should have said, a plane that will get to Reno the fastest. But the first plane leaving for Reno was a local that took three stops to get out of New York State. And it took me like twenty four hours to get there. Anyway, I finally got there. I told her I was coming and there she was, waiting at the station. But there's a lot of guys with her and they all looked like John Wayne, especially one real big, handsome guy in jeans and a leather jacket, and a sombrero, and boots and a half a day’s growth of beard; I mean, you'd have cast this guy as the hero in any western. And I get off the plane from New York, and I'm wearing a little pork-pie hat, and I got my gloves on 'cause it had been cold in the city, and a little scarf neatly tied, and a suit… and I could just picture how I looked next to John Wayne standing over there, who had apparently been trying to romance her all these six weeks. And Joanie said, ‘Stan, when I saw you get off the plane I thought, what am I getting into?’
Anyway, by some miracle I got her to stay with me and we went to a judge in Reno, and he divorced her in one room and then he let us in to the next room where he performed his marriages, through a little door. So he married us. So finally I had made that… I had beaten John Wayne. But we needed witnesses, so there was another couple, so Joan and I and this other couple… we were all kind of tearful and melodramatic, this was a big moment; we had gotten married. And we said to the other couple, ’Would you be our witnesses?’ and they said, ‘Yes, would you be our witnesses?’. And it was such a bonding moment. And after the ceremonies we said: ‘Every year, no matter where we are, anywhere in the world, the four of us will get together and commemorate this moment’. And then Joan and I went back to New York. God knows where they went. We forgot all about them 24 hours later. We never heard from them again. I don't know who they are, they don't know who we are, and that was our marriage.
Leo Bear is a Hollywood-based features writer. Her background is in news and features writing. Leo spent five years on the entertainment newsdesk at BBC Worldwide before going freelance and moving out to Los Angeles. She specialises in writing lifestyle features, celebrity interviews, health stories and travel features for publications including Eve Magazine, OK! Magazine, Total Film, TV Hits and Conde Nast Gourmet Travel Guide.