Margaux appeared on an April 1996 instalment of tabloid host Geraldo’s show talking about her bulimia and alcoholism at length and the time in the mid-70s when she slit her wrists after a long night drinking at Studio 54. She showed off the scars on her arms.
She was talking suicide, something which might have raised alarm bells for those who knew her… but few would tune into the trashy talk-fest in the first place.
With four suicides in her family tree perhaps it was a cry for attention…
People magazine didn’t think so and invited Margaux to be celebrity host for a group of People advertisers being treated to a lavish few days at a spa at Miami Beach. It was the type of thing – fund-raisers and charity functions – to get big names to appear for big business.
Margaux’s star had waned despite predictions by Dino de Laurentiis she would be big and her performance in Lipstick is far from the catastrophe that became her career. For someone who had troubles, including dyslexia, she acquits herself well, especially with that sexy voice of hers. The freeze frame at the end of the movie was more than just a model, it was an actress with promise. Her career ruined by uncaring critics while Mariel’s thrived for a spell, by the late 1980s, Margaux was at the Betty Ford Clinic trying to kick alcohol.
Losing weight and starting afresh, she posed for Playboy’s May 1990 issue and she still looked young and beautiful. But little screen work resulted and she did baldness infomercials as well as work for the Psychic Friends Hotline. By the time she turned up for the People gig in 1996, things were looking up with the promise of a television series for the Animal Planet Network. There was also an almost sealed deal to market a new perfume Margaux Hemingway’s Rainforest Elixir – and talk of a new clothing and jewellery line.
People’s manager of special projects Louise Lague said the guests were surprised by the appearance of the celebrity. She said the actress looked very calm and sedate. She was probably on a number of medications for her conditions.
“She seemed very serene and not particularly depressed.”
Lague remembers she dressed casually and turned up to the events and lunch and dinner. She noticed Margaux would pray over her meal before eating and said it was some sort of Eastern thing.
Neither happy nor unhappy she seemed emotionless.
“I believe in rolling with the punches. You have to keep fighting. That’s what life is all about, leading with your heart,” she said in a 7 June interview.
Following the failure of Lipstick, Margaux had married a burger magnate named Errol Wetson. It ended in 1978 after a year. The following year she married Bernard Foucher the Venezuelan photographer and director. It lasted three years and they divorced in 1985. Many men followed.
One on-again off-again relationship was with investment banker Stuart Sunlun. They had lived together for a few years and he saw her through the Betty Ford experience into sobriety.
“We were always close,” said Sunlun, who said they were sometimes boyfriend and girlfriend and “at times we weren’t.”
She called him in early June to accompany her on a job in the Bahamas for a fishing show. The vibe wasn’t right – too macho – and she walked out. Something that may have affected future deals. They stayed together a bit until Margaux returned to Los Angeles, meeting with another man in her life Reverend Bill Minson, a spiritual counsellor who once worked as a Hollywood Talent Agent. It’s no mean guess he would befriend many a disillusioned Hollywood performer through his ministry. Margaux was positive about his ministry and they would see each other on and off. Meanwhile his star friends like Robert Guillaume (1927-2017 prostate cancer) would say: “What are you doing with that woman?”
This poor woman with the scars on her arms and an ear where a piercing had been ripped out leaving shreds.
Minson and she got serious around 1995.
“She even went to church with me one Sunday,” said Minson.
It was then Minson’s son said his father was stupid not to realise how serious Margaux was about him. So they went on a date – she cancelled what might have been a serious one with a producer – and they talked for hours.
“This was a remarkable woman, despite the problems she had in her life… And she never hid from her problems.”
Minson thought her a champion in how she related to other people with similar problems and encouraged them.
Her girlfriends were jealous she was spending so much time with this new man in her life and Margaux told him this on a hike to Santa Monica Canyon on 16 June. But according to a girlfriend Jennifer Josephs who also hiked the canyon that week, the men on her mind were her ex Bernard Foucher and producer Robert Evans (1930-2019) who she was also dating.
“Margaux was a little down that day we hiked,” said Josephs about how Margaux thought that Foucher was the love of her life. She had only been to Venezuela recently to rekindle things but had her heart crushed when he would only think of the former model in terms of business.
“Margaux was like a little girl who really wanted someone to take care of her.”
Foucher had done that and was fun, dashing and intelligent – all the things she loved.
Joseph hadn’t heard of Minson but knew Sunlun was madly in love with her.
“She really, really trusted Stuart.”
But without Foucher – and that love – she was lonely.
As for Robert Evans, Josephs said he just wanted a piece of her and wasn’t interested in her career.
“She was a mountain girl at heart, and a little girl inside,” said Josephs, who saw the sadness of a career that burned all too bright, too early and too briefly.
Margaux lived modestly in Los Angeles plagued by tax problems. Money was always an issue.
By that June, she was going to live in an apartment above a garage and behind a house a block off Santa Monica Beach. As the pair hiked, Margaux said she was excited by the move.
Minson helped with the move and said Margaux was happy “like a child at the Ringling Brothers Circus”.
On 26 June, she was flashing a big smile at friend Judy Stobile as they had dinner out.
“I adored her… she had the nicest disposition… never said a bad word about anybody, ever.”
This was not the girl her sister Mariel knew… the disturbed girl with manic depression and schizophrenia. They were both apparently diagnosed.
Stabile said Margaux was always trying to centre herself emotionally and she thought her career would follow once she did that. Margaux didn’t tell Stabile that she had heard the Wild Guide series with the animals wasn’t going ahead. She was out of a job and keeping the news to herself.
Later that night, she showed up unannounced at another friend’s place, Gigi Gaston. It was ten at night and the two women had known each other since 1982. There was Margaux in her white Ford Bronco outside the documentary maker’s house and Gaston thought… what’s she doing here, she’s usually in bed at this hour? Gaston had an early start the next day but talked to Margaux who was “very out of it” that night.
She was perhaps off her medications as the side effects back then could be pretty horrendous. Or maybe she had a revelation and decided to stop taking them. Perhaps she was taking too many?…
“She did seem tranquillised,” said Gaston, who said Margaux would sometimes drool as a result of being on her meds. “She had a dazed look in her eye,” said Gaston, who said she should have seen the signs, but didn’t.
They made a date for dinner that Friday at Margaux’s apartment.
At a dinner date on Thursday 27 June Margaux said the owner of her new apartment was trying to evict her after just ten days. The “crazy” landlady didn’t like Margaux’s trash cans among other things… and wanted her out. Unhappy to stay at the apartment, she was set to stay at a friend’s house, and she did, on a pull-out bed… disappearing before morning.
“She seemed fine,” said her friend Linda Livingston. “If she was depressed it was because of this woman who owned the house.”
Margaux was not okay and on Friday morning she was reaching out again. She called a longtime friend in New York, Zachary Selig, and asked him to marry her. She’d done it before… and said to him: “Pray for me. There’s something big that’s going to happen.” Selig thought it was some sort of project. Again her desperation was missed.
“There was nothing odd about it. It was Margaux being Margaux.”
Margaux added: “You’ll see. Everybody’s going to see.”
She seemed to be reaching a stalemate in reaching out to men and women alike. Gaston cancelled dinner that night by voice-message which wouldn’t have helped. She was too busy working. Margaux paged a friend at a Buddhist temple just outside L.A. When the friend returned the call, she knew Margaux was in a bad way.
“Please, please Caren, I need to know. Does everybody get to see the light? Does everybody go to the light?,” said a distressed Margaux. Caren Elin tried to tell her all problems must be resolved on Earth and spoke at the payphone for half an hour to the “really depressed” Margaux. Her friend pleaded with her not to take her life…
Early on 29 June, Margaux pounded on the front gate of Gaston’s house crying her name: “Gigi! Gigi”. Then disappeared.
She wasn’t answering her phone and many people tried to reach her…
On 1 July, Stabile went to her apartment where Margaux’s Bronco was parked out front. No answer on the bell and Stabile found a ladder and climbed it and saw a woman on her back – Margaux lying still. She asked a couple of construction workers to help her break in. It had been a hot weekend and the body was decomposed… but Stabile knew it was Margaux, lying dressed in little more than a t-shirt. There were reportedly candles still burning beside her body in some sort of makeshift shrine.
On 6 July, which was a Saturday, Margaux’s ashes were buried in Ketchum and two months later the coroner found she had died of “acute barbiturate intoxication”. It was an intentional overdose of around 100 tablets, according to the report.
“I think she may have thought there was a better place than this one,” said friend Jennifer Josephs.
Other friends disagreed, as there was no note, and thought it was accidental.
Her male friend Sunlun said: “If people feel better that it was an accident and not suicide, fine.” But he thought Margaux was a note writer…
Or are these guilty excuses from so-called friends who didn’t intervene in time? Who thought it was just a depressed woman going through the motions as she always did?
Watch Margaux in the film Killer Fish, before she found herself cast in soft-core type low budgeters, and I am still awestruck by her beauty, especially the moment she falls in the pool and comes up smiling from beneath the surface. Such a beautiful smile and so full of life! Like the freeze at the end of Lipstick, she is perfect. Which is why she was better as a model than an actress. The crossover killed her and is the reason why most models do not act. Margaux is a cautionary tale in that respect. It is probably not ironic that the look on her face at the end of Lipstick is one of a woman who faces a troubled future.
It is sad that mental illness played such a big part of her life along with alcohol addiction and epilepsy and dyslexia. The poor girl had a lot to contend with.
But Margaux shone for a brief time in Lipstick as a victim who takes revenge…. Hers is a strange case of family and friends and the different behaviour with both: Home Devil and Street Angel. Was she always torn between the two? Did she take revenge on her family, the opposite to the ending of Lipstick where she takes revenge for her family? Or was the lure of fate and the Hemingway Curse just too much? Lipstick is the defining event in the life of Margaux Hemingway and those critics who are guilty of destroying her just for good copy should still be ashamed!
I wish I could have been the dashing and intelligent hero who could’ve saved Margaux as I hate to think of her as a victim of a vindictive landlord who threatened to make her homeless and lying there surrounded by burning candles alone with her demons as her life ebbed away.
Please listen to your friends, make sure there is a network for them if they are depressed and the same for yourself. Don’t let them, or yourself, fall between the cracks!