After Three Marriages Crooner margaret Whiting Lands Her Ideal in X-Rated Star Jack Wrangler
Reference: People Magazine
by John Stark
When Margaret Whiting met Jack Wrangler, she had no idea he was a star with 85 films under his belt -- including Raunch Ranch, Heavy Equipment and Summer Heat. Not even Rod Serling could have come up with this scenario: Famous pop singer (Whiting's hits include That Old Black Magic, Moonlight in Vermont and My Ideal) meets gay male porno star 22 years her junior. They fall madly in love and have been in this blissful state (yes, inquiring minds, the relationship is sexual) for 10 years. For the last eight years they have lived in Whiting's spacious midtown Manhattan apartment. In the words of T.S. Eliot: ''Oh, do not ask what is it, let us go and make our visit.''
Wrangler, 40, opens the front door wearing jeans and a Pendleton shirt. He has gray hair, blue-gray eyes and an aw-shucks smile. Whiting, 62, charges out of the bedroom wearing pink pants, a pink top and running shoes. Everyone who knows Margaret says she's always ''up.'' ''She's never depressed,'' says Jack. ''She wakes up singing, then overwaters her plants until they drop dead.'' The apartment is filled with memorabilia from their disparate careers, like Whiting's gold records, as well as framed publicity shots of Wrangler in various macho poses. In the living room is the grand piano at which Margaret's father, songwriter Richard Whiting, composed such hits as Hooray for Hollywood and Too Marvelous for Words. Throughout the apartment are pictures of bunny rabbits, Jack's favorite animal.
Whiting and Wrangler are seated on a gold-colored couch in Jack's den. Behind them is the framed book jacket from Wrangler's 1984 biography, The Jack Wrangler Story, or What's a Nice Boy Like You Doing? Whiting, too, has just published her memoirs, called It Might as Well Be Spring (William Morrow, $18.95). In her book Whiting talks about her three marriages and her affair with John Garfield. ''I've always had men around, so Jack is not someone I have to cling to because there's nothing left for me,'' she says. As for the age difference, ''That has never entered my mind,'' she says. ''With all the other stuff to deal with, there hasn't been time,'' figures Wrangler. Were Hollywood to film the Whiting-Wrangler story, it might be called When Worlds Collide. Even so, they share a common heritage. Both were reared in Beverly Hills, just blocks apart. Jack's father, Robert Stillman, was a TV and movie producer who did Bonanza. Wrangler attended the same dancing school as Whiting, albeit some two decades later. Margaret has a vague memory of meeting Wrangler when he was Jack Stillman, a hotshot young director of regional theater productions. But it wasn't until 1976 that they were formally introduced at a Broadway nightclub. At the time Jack was performing a one-man erotic stage show in Greenwich Village. He had just made the crossover from homosexual to heterosexual adult films, such as China Sisters and Jack and Jill. ''I was with my manager when I looked over at Margaret, who was surrounded by five guys at a booth,'' recalls Wrangler. ''There she was with the hair, the furs and the big gestures. I thought, 'Boy, now that's New York! That's glamour!' I had to meet her.''
Wrangler nervously approached Whiting's table and knocked a drink off a waiter's tray. ''I didn't know what a Jack Wrangler was,'' says Whiting. ''The face looked familiar, but he had changed his hairstyle and built up his body.'' Charmed by his boyish demeanor, she asked him what he did. When he told her he was starring in an off-Broadway show, she said she'd love to come see it. A week later Whiting showed up with three friends. ''To my surprise, the audience was all male,'' she says. Wrangler walked onstage to the strains of Daphnis and Chloe, lit a cigarette and talked about the great outdoors. He then took off his clothes, turned his back to the audience and simulated an orgasm. Whiting stayed cool. ''What could have nauseated me was done with humor, taste and imagination,'' she says.
Still, the best was yet to come. Wrangler introduced Whiting to the audience. ''I said, 'She's the only woman who's got more balls than I do.' The whole place stood up, which was difficult since everyone was adjusting their clothes,'' says Wrangler. ''I know nothing of that,'' says Whiting. ''I just know it was a hoot.''
After the show Wrangler asked Whiting to lunch the next week. She accepted. ''We talked for four hours and discovered lovely things about each other,'' she says. ''I knew I was attracted to him. I thought we'd see each other a few times and that would be that.'' Says Wrangler: ''Although my experiences with women were limited, I was physically attracted to Margaret.'' He claims this was not a new sensation. ''I'd been previously turned on by ((screen actress)) Joan Caulfield,'' he says. ''And don't forget that singer you met the other night,'' Margaret points out.
The romance officially blossomed two days after lunch when Wrangler had dinner with Whiting in California. She had gone to L.A. to perform with Rosemary Clooney, Rose Marie and Helen O'Connell in the nightclub revue, 4 Girls 4. After their second date Wrangler sent Whiting an autographed photo of himself, which she put up in her dressing room. ''Here's the photo,'' says Jack, reaching into a trunk near the couch. ''Can you believe I sent this?'' he asks, laughing heartily. ''Look where my hand is.'' ''Oh, Jack,'' says Whiting, ''women don't notice those things.''
Their first few years together were not easy. There were major obstacles to overcome, such as Whiting's insistence that Wrangler get out of the porno game. ''I didn't understand then that was his way of being financially independent,'' she says. There was also friction between Jack and Margaret's only child, Debbie Whiting, now 36. ''She was just being protective of me,'' says Margaret. ''She has since come around and asks about Jack all the time.'' A feud erupted between Whiting and her 4 Girls 4 co-stars when she canceled a couple of performances to visit Jack in the hospital. He had injured himself falling onstage while performing his one-man strip show and had to have his right hip replaced.
Whiting caught Wrangler lying to her a few times -- for instance, he told her he was no longer doing his erotic act, when he was -- and she was afraid she couldn't trust him. Their relationship came to a turning point the summer of 1980, after Wrangler called Whiting from L.A. with shocking news. He, his step-grandmother and his manager had gone out to dinner. When they returned to his step-grandmother's house in Bel Air, they were met by six thieves, who tied them up and pistol-whipped them. Whiting was skeptical of the story and told Wrangler she couldn't talk because she had to catch a plane to Las Vegas to do a TV show. ''When I got to Vegas,'' reports Margaret, ''Rosemary Clooney ran up to me and asked, 'Have you read the papers? Jack was almost killed!' I felt awful. I called him up and said, 'Jack, I'm so sorry. I'll meet you at home.' '' ''I learned my lesson,'' says Wrangler. ''I'll never cry wolf again.''
Although Whiting and Wrangler are not married, ''Everyone calls us husband and wife,'' says the husky-voiced crooner. ''I've been with Jack almost longer than my three husbands combined.'' In 1979, shortly after moving in with Whiting, Wrangler proposed. He picked Whiting up at the airport in a stretch limo with a bottle of her favorite wine. He then took her to a restaurant he had rented so that the two of them could be alone. When he presented her with a braided gold band and asked her to marry him, she said yes. The subject has not been raised again. ''What was important to me is that Margaret accepted,'' says Jack. ''That's all I needed to know.'' ''There's no point in us getting married,'' says Margaret. ''We're not having kids.''
One of the qualities that attracted Wrangler to Whiting is her straightforward approach to life. ''I never felt I had that grip,'' he says. ''I created the Wrangler persona to help me get over my insecurity and timidness.'' ''Because of Jack my life is better,'' says Margaret. ''He has made me more aware of my talent. I see more. I read more. My life has more depth. He's a gifted, sensitive, thinking dear.'' Both love to laugh, and humor often puts their relationship in perspective. Once, during an argument in a restaurant, Wrangler shouted at Whiting: ''I'm trying to tell you I'm a f ------ faggot!'' Replied Margaret: ''Only around the edges, dear.'' Wrangler hasn't made an adult film for four years, although he does accept occasional live stripping gigs. He's currently directing cabaret acts, including Whiting's, and has just written the book for a new musical, I Love You, Jimmy Valentine, which includes a starring role for Whiting. Whiting and Wrangler enjoy attending the theater, going on movie binges and taking walks through Central Park together. They do benefits to raise money to combat AIDS and are staunch defenders of the freedom of speech. ''I buy Playboy for the literature, the jokes and the recipes. Nobody's making me buy it,'' says Margaret. ''Wait a minute,'' interjects Jack. ''You buy Playboy for the recipes? You haven't found the kitchen since you moved in.''
Whiting and Wrangler's neighbors seem unfazed by their union. ''Honestly,'' reasons Whiting, ''there's so much unhappiness in the world, if you can find someone who makes you happy, and you can make him happy, then c'mon, who cares? We're not hurting anybody. We're not doing anything wrong. We're enjoying each other, that's all.'' And as for the skeptics, Margaret answers them by breaking into a Gershwin song: ''But ha ha ha ((here she squeezes Jack's arm)), who's got the last laugh now?''
© 2005 LINQ Communications