Monday, January 28, 2019

The Truth About Vanessa Marquez

It is unfortunate that rumours, often founded on no or little truth at all, spread after the death of a celebrity. A number of reprehensible rumours spread following the murders of Sharon Tate and four others by members of the Manson family in 1969, some of which placed the blame for their deaths on the victims themselves. In the book Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger published a scurrilous, racist, and wholly untrue account of actress Lupe Vélez's death that is still accepted as fact by many today. Singer Cass "Mama Cass" Elliot died from heart failure in her sleep at age 32, but an urban legend has persisted ever since that she died choking on a sandwich.

Sadly, among the celebrities about whom rumours have spread following her death is my beloved Vanessa Marquez. These rumours are particularly hurtful to me as Vanessa was not only my best friend, but literally the love of my life. We were in contact nearly every day, through various social media sites, through texts, and through phone calls that often lasted hours. Each of us knew secrets about the other that no one else knew. Knowing Vanessa Marquez as well as I did and loving her as much as I do, it then hurts for various media outlets to print outright untruths about her. Many of these untruths have been published by the tabloids, who have never had any real concern with printing the truth, but some have appeared in the mainstream press as well. Regardless of the motivations of these media outlets, I thought I would then address some of the misinformation about my Vanessa being disseminated by various media outlets.

1. Vanessa Marquez Had a Number of Health Problems: One fact that has been ignored in many media accounts of Vanessa's death is that she was not a particularly healthy woman. In the Naughts she was diagnosed with stage 2 refractory coeliac disease. Among the symptoms of refractory coeliac disease are extreme abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. It was not unusual for Vanessa to be unable to eat for several days at a time, and she had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, let alone gaining weight.

In addition to refractory coeliac disease, Vanessa also had fibromyalgia. Because of fibromyalgia, she experienced pain all over her body, fatigue, disturbances in her sleep, tingling in her hands and feet, and muscle spasms. Vanessa often had difficulty walking and it was not unusual for her to have to rely upon a walker or even a wheelchair.

In addition to refractory coeliac disease and fibromyalgia, Vanessa also experienced seizures regularly, although their cause was never determined. It was not unusual for Vanessa to lose consciousness due to seizures. It was also not unusual for Vanessa to experience a period of confusion following a seizure. The time it took for Vanessa to recover from a seizure varied. It could be a few minutes or it could be hours. While Vanessa always looked beautiful in her pictures and much younger than she really was, her health was generally poor much of her life.

2. Vanessa Did Not Have an Eating Disorder: Contrary to early reports regarding Vanessa's death, she did not have an eating disorder. I can only assume that these false reports of an eating disorder originated from the fact that she was very thin. As noted above, Vanessa had refractory coeliac disease, a disease which makes it very difficult to maintain a healthy weight, let alone gain weight. On top of this, for her entire life Vanessa had a very high metabolism that made it difficult for her to gain weight. This is a problem I have also had all my life. I am five foot five and the most I have ever weighed in my entire life is 130 pounds. Vanessa used to joke about "our tiny, little bodies." It is for that reason I find the falsehood that she had an eating disorder particularly insulting.

3. Vanessa Did Not Have "Mental Problems": Whatever difficulties Vanessa might have experienced earlier in her life, Vanessa exhibited no mental disorders other than compulsive shopping (something she fully admitted to) in the many years I knew her. In our many conversations on the phone, she was always lucid and rational. The same was true of her many texts to me. On various social media sites she was capable of writing eloquent pieces on everything from politics to television shows. Vanessa Marquez was saner than a good number of people I know. I would seriously question the claims of anyone that she was mentally ill.

4. Vanessa Was NOT Suicidal: Not only did Vanessa exhibit no symptoms of any mental disorders beyond compulsive shopping, but she never expressed a desire to kill herself in the entire time I knew her. Vanessa was never suicidal, nor did she ever express a desire to harm herself. In the days leading up to her death, Vanessa was very much looking forward to life, even given the difficulties with her health. In the days before her death, Vanessa and I talked about the X-Files marathon that was going to air on BBC America upon that show's 25th anniversary in September. She was also very excited about a John Williams concert that was going to be held in Southern California. As always, we talked about the day when I could visit her. She talked with a mutual friend about a sale on cosmetics that was being held that weekend. Individuals who want to commit suicide do not plan ahead, nor do they talk about the future. Despite experiencing refractory coeliac disease, fibromyalgia, and seizures, Vanessa never lost her sunny disposition nor her enthusiasm for the things she loved.

5. Vanessa Was Not a Recluse: Although no media outlets have come right out and said so, there are those that have implied that Vanessa was some sort of crazy recluse. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that because she had difficulty moving around she did not get out a whole lot. That having been said, she did go out when she felt up to it,. She went to see the Batman '66 exhibit at the Hollywood Museum in January 2018. She also had a wide circle of friends with whom she talked regularly on the phone, texted with on the phone, and interacted with on various social media services. Vanessa and I were in contact nearly every single day. Paula Guthat referred to Vanessa as "the Sweetheart of #TCMParty", #TCMParty being the group of Turner Classic Movies fans who live tweet movies on the channel using that hashtag. Vanessa was a sweet, gentle woman with a wide number of friends, all of who loved her dearly. She was not Howard Hughes by any stretch of the imagination.

Here I want to stress that there have been many media outlets that have been very responsible in their coverage of the death of Vanessa Marquez. Many went to the trouble to talk with Vanessa's friends (myself included), and their stories on Vanessa's death were both balanced and sympathetic. They treated Vanessa like the warm, wonderful human being she was. Unfortunately, there have also been those who published stories without checking their facts or bothering to look any further than flawed, initial reports of her death. A very few, the tabloids, have even used a tactic employed by the old scandal magazine Confidential, that of taking a kernel of fact and then lacing it with a good deal of innuendo and suggestion.  As someone who loved Vanessa desperately and still loves her, such behaviour on the part of various media outlets only serves to make even more painful what has been the most painful situation in my life. They not only show no respect for Vanessa, but no respect for those of us who loved her as well.

Vanessa Marquez was a warm, loving, gentle, and giving woman who was loved by a good many people. She had a very wide circle of friends with whom she was in contact regularly. Even given her poor health, she was always enthusiastic about life. She was also a talented actress who still has a legion of fans around the world. Vanessa deserves much better than the picture of her painted by some media outlets. She deserves to be remembered as the remarkable woman she truly was.