Long time actress Charlotte Rae, best known for her role as Mrs. Edna Garrett on TV shows Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, has recently written a memoir of her personal life. Though Charlotte Rae’s television persona was always cheerful and a pillar of strength and wisdom for the girls she mentored, behind the scenes Charlotte dealt with life changing events that were both devastating and heartbreaking.
According to Fox News, Charlotte Rae decided to write the story of her life at the urging of her son, Larry Strauss, whose career is in writing and teaching.
“He said, ‘Ma, I think it’s time we did your memoir. You talk to me and I’ll do it.’ He was very sensitive to what I was talking about and wonderful (writing about) his brother, very sensitive and beautiful.”
Larry’s brother, Andy Strauss, suffered from autism in a time where very little was known about the condition. The book, appropriately entitled The Facts of My Life, begins at the time when Charlotte Rae learns her son has autism. Andy was 16-years-old and imprisoned in the Bellevue Hospital juvenile ward due to dangerous behavior. Charlotte Rae views her son’s diagnosis as the most devastating issue of her life. Sadly, Andy also had other health problems, and he passed away of a heart attack in his 40’s.
— Deb (@dlkrenzer) October 22, 2015
Unfortunately, Charlotte Rae endured another bombshell that shocked her to her core. After 25 years of marriage, her husband, composer John Strauss, revealed to Charlotte that he had been hiding a huge part of his sexuality during their relationship. In fact, John was bisexual, and in 1976 the couple divorced. Like many of us, Charlotte turned her negative feelings about the break up inward, and felt that somehow she was to blame.
“I felt there was something wrong with me and took it personally. But I gradually realized what he was going through. My God, the poor guy, hiding it and being ashamed.”
Though John went on to find a long term relationship, Charlotte Rae never remarried. She had her fair share of relationships over the years, but none that led to a lifelong commitment.
“Between the children and my career, I just didn’t have time. It didn’t happen. There were people I had little flings with that were lovely, but nobody I wanted to marry.”
Frontiers Media reports that once Rae was over the initial shock, she could understand what her husband had gone through, and they became great friends.
“What happened was that it took a while to get over the shock and learn to accept, and then I realized the other side of it. The poor guy! It was always such a shame, such a hideous shame, and people would never even talk about it, and I realized what he’d been going through and how much he had suffered, and I had great compassion for him.”
Charlotte Rae, at nearly 90 years of age, has led a life of impressive accomplishments. She has been an actress since the 1950’s. The latest film Charlotte has participated in is this year’s Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep and ’80’s heartthrob Rick Springfield.
The following video clip is from an interview with Cyndi Targosz in 2013. Mrs. Garrett’s iconic voice and personality shines through Charlotte Rae even decades after the show completed its final season.
— Harlan Boll (@PRMaverick) October 16, 2015
The Facts of My Life, the story of Charlotte Rae’s life, will be available for sale on November 1.
[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]