Countess Felicia G., New York City.
(p. 401 in 2nd edition, p. 400 in 3rd edition.)
They Stopped in Time
“A titled lady, she still saw her world darkening. When the overcast lifted, the stars were there as before.”
Felicia entered A.A. in 1943, and relapsed briefly during the first year. Her last drink was in 1944. Marty M. (“Women Suffer Too”) was her sponsor.
She was born in 1905, in the family castle in Poland, the daughter of Count Josef G. and Eleanor Medill “Cissy” Patterson, editor of the Washington Times. Cissy was a cousin of Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune.
Because of the Count’s violent, abusive behavior, when Felicia was about two years old Cissy fled with her to London. The Count followed them, and succeeded in literally kidnapping his daughter and taking her back to Poland. For two years he parked her in a convent to be cared for by the nuns. Then, through the intervention of President Taft, four-year-old Felicia was returned to Cissy in a dramatic event that riveted the attention of the world’s press.
Felicia believed her alcoholic problem began long before she drank. Her personality from the time she could remember anything, was “the perfect set-up for an alcoholic career.” She was always out of step with the world, her family, with people in general. She lived in a dream world.
Until her early thirties, when her drinking became a problem, she lived in large houses, with servants and all the luxuries that she could possibly want. But she never felt she belonged.
Felicia was married three times, first to Drew Pearson in 1925, (the newspaperman she mentions on page 402). She divorced him three years later. (She met him again when she had been sober ten years and he told her he had always felt guilty because she became an alcoholic after their divorce. She was able to explain that she would have become an alcoholic anyway, that she had been a sick person, unfit for marriage.) She married Dudley de Lavigne in 1934, (the husband mentioned on page 493), but was again divorced less than a year later. She married again after her recovery. Her third husband John Kennedy Magruder, whom she married in 1958 and divorced in 1964. For most of her professional career she went by the name of Felicia G.
Through her first two marriages, and several geographic cures in Europe, her drinking caused more and more degradation. By 1943 she had moved to New York and was living a Bohemian life in the Village. Her daughter, Ellen, was taken away from her during this period.
Felicia sank lower and lower, but eventually had the good fortune to find a new analyst, Dr. Ruth Fox (who later became the medical director of the National Council on Alcoholism). Dr. Fox told her about A.A., gave her the Big Book, and finally persuaded her to meet with Bill W. Bill arranged for her to meet Marty M. (Marty told how Bill called and said “I have a dame down here whose name I can’t pronounce. I don’t know what to do with her.”)
The woman who answered the door at Marty’s apartment (page 413) was Marty’s longtime lesbian partner, Priscilla P., a very glamorous art director at Vogue magazine. Felicia speaks of Priscilla on page 414. They took Felicia to her first AA meeting and Felicia and Priscilla became lifelong friends. Marty was sponsor to them both.
When Marty spoke at Felicia’s 16th anniversary celebration, she joked about how at their first meeting Felicia said little. But Marty talked on and on about her own history. Finally, Felicia admitted she drank a little too, “not much – once in a while. Nothing very serious, you understand.” It was a long time before Marty heard the full story. Little by little episodes came out that were not so mild. “I remember as though it were yesterday the first time I heard about her fighting ability.” She turned to Felicia and asked: “What was it they used to call you?” Felicia replied, “Sadie, the fighting Pollock.” It wasn’t until after Felicia had a slip that she dropped her defenses and started to really talk about what alcohol had done in her life.
She was a talented writer and – with Marty and Priscilla – helped start the A.A. Grapevine. She also kept journals, one of them entitled “To Those Who Didn’t Make It.” In this journal she describes Marty’s form of sponsorship. She called Marty from a bar expecting Marty to run to her rescue. Instead, Marty said “Well, honey, what can I do about it?” Marty didn’t let her dramatize herself.
Felicia wrote an update of her story for the November 1967 Grapevine. It was signed “F. M., New Canaan, Connecticut.” In it she said she was disappointed to learn that her story would be in the section labeled “They Stopped in Time.” She thought she had sunk pretty low.
Felicia celebrated her 55th anniversary of sobriety in 1998. That same year she gave an interview about her friend Marty M. to Marty’s biographers. During the interview she was unable to communicate more than five minutes at a time, then she’d fall asleep in her chair. Her grandson, who was present, said it was a pity they hadn’t come six months earlier, when her mind was still clear. But they were given access to Felicia’s journals (1950-1988).
A few months later, on February 26, 1999, Felicia died at the age of 92.