Brooklynite Henrietta Kaye lived an incredible American life, from Cooper Union sculpture study to half-draped Broadway showgirl, comic foil to Orson Welles in the Surrealist theatrical sensation Horse Eats Hat to noted Hollywood hostess with second husband Jim Backus. Oh, and Thurston Howell the Third’s ridiculous speech patterns were based on Harvard boys she’d dated (“like he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and they forgot to take it out”).
Henny Backus left this plane in 2004, but the Backus family estate is just coming to auction tomorrow at Kimballs in Massachusetts. Included among the baubles and beads and Polaroids of George Burns holding court at cocktail soirees is one of Henny’s astonishing 1930s celebrity portrait busts, a sinuous, pouting likeness of the young Greta Garbo.
Sadly nowhere in the auction is her rumored caricature of Orson Welles, rendered in a special stone the exact color of aged Virginia ham!