WITH A LITTLE LUCK. . . An American Odyssey by Helen F. with Nancy Dunnan Boehm

WITH A LITTLE LUCK. . . An American Odyssey

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How the nervy extrovert daughter of Italian immigrants, from Brooklyn, made her husband famous and happy, and earned herself a white Rolls, invitations from royals and heads of state, and (""the ultimate luxury and proof of success"") a championship polo team. Helen Franzolin Boehm, widow of Edward Marshall Boehm (d. 1969), maker of porcelain animals and birds, tells her story with undisguised pleasure in her own coups and ""conspicuous consumption."" And while her anecdotes are of the how-I-got-a-flat-tire-on-the-way-to-the-White-House variety, the foundations are authentically out-of-the-ordinary. Helen Franzolin was receptionist for the family optometrist (""my first break"") when, on a WW II visit to a brother in an army hospital, she came upon handsome, taciturn Ed Boehm--head of an animal program to rehabilitate the wounded, and a spare-time animal sculptor. ""Little did he know that three months later we would be married."" It was, as she says, a union of opposites; but his refusal to change made her independent too. Fascinated with optometry, she got an optician's license; challenged by Ed to work for ""the finest optician in New York,"" she wangled a job with Meyerowitz on Fifth Avenue. Ed was working as a veterinarian's assistant and--with her encouragement--experimenting with hard-paste porcelain. Over a fitting for glasses, she talked a rich customer into backing ""the only hard-paste porcelain studio in the country."" During lunch hours, she solicited orders: calling the curator cold, she sold two pieces to the Metropolitan Museum (""Percheron Stallion,"" ""Hereford Bull"")--and capped that triumph with a New York Times story; buyers pressed for something other than cows and bulls, launching ""the now world-famous Boehm birds."" You'll hear how she proposed a Boehm sculpture of Prince Philip playing polo as a state gift from the Eisenhowers; how she discovered, in Texas, that ""opulent"" dress paid; how she continued and expanded the enterprise after Ed's death--tying Boehm fortunes to international philanthropy. It's open self-celebration--but Boehm collectors and conceivably others will grant her something to crow about.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1985
Publisher: Rawson/Scribners