9 March 2004
HAMBURG – Maria Weissmuller, widow of athlete-turned-Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller, died at a hospital in Acapulco, Mexico, following a long illness, their former agent said. She was 83.
A native of Berlin, she was the last of six wives the five-time Olympic gold-medal swimming champ and Hollywood movie star had married. The others pre-deceased him. She was with him when he died at the age of 79 in Acapulco in 1984.
Aside from his Tarzan fame, Weissmuller and his wife are well- known in Germany for an infamous television appearance in the 1970s when a chimpanzee pulled Maria’s wig off her head in front of a live national TV audience of millions.
Born Maria Bauman, she had been married as a teenager in Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II, when her husband was drafted, sent to the Russian front, and killed. He left her the mother of a baby girl, Lisa.
She then married a flyer who was shot down only eight months later. At one point she was interrogated by the Gestapo because a lawyer friend of the family was accused of working with the resistance and ultimately was hanged.
Claiming she had been persecuted by the Nazis, she was able after the war to emigrate to the United States, where she took up residence in Santa Barbara, California, with an uncle. She married again, but this ended in divorce.
She met Weissmuller in 1963 just as his marriage to Allene Gates was breaking up. He was in financial difficulty at the time and Allene wanted out.
Johnny’s last matrimonial venture was his longest, although Maria was said to have been unpopular with Johnny’s children. It was the only marriage that did not end in a divorce court.
Weissmuller’s first wife, Bobbe Arnst, was paid USD 10,000 by MGM to divorce Johnny in 1932. The studio preferred Johnny single for publicity purposes.
His second wife was temptestuous Latin firebrand Lupe Velez (1933- 1938). Her reputation for bedding every co-star she ever worked with did not help the marriage. She committed suicide in 1944.
He reportedly was also wed to Camilla Louiee, according to the Internet Movie Data Base, though that claim has been challenged.
His next wife was Beryel Scott (1939-1948) a San Francisco socialite. All of Johnny’s children were by Beryel. Reno was the site of Johnny’s January 29, 1948, divorce from Scott and his marriage to Gates on the very same day.
A golfer half Johnny’s age, Gates dumped him when the money ran out in the early 1960s.
From 1965 until November 1973, Weissmuller and Maria lived in Florida where he was chairman of The International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale.
In spite of his swimming prowess and obvious strength, he had a history of heart problems and suffered a series of strokes in 1977, after which the couple lived in seclusion in Acapulco.
Subject: German news