DON GALLERY (1922-2014)

Kathleen Phelps
For those who met Don Gallery over the 18 years that he and his wife, Patricia, lived in Puerto Vallarta all would say that he was a kind, generous, and helpful man. He loved to walk and would become friends with the locals and the expats alike. Walking around town he would visit with his old friends and the new ones as they arrived in Puerto Vallarta. Sadly, Don Gallery, died at 91 years of age on October 11 after suffering a fall a few days earlier. As sometimes happens, Don had been spry and full of life until the fall hastened the final downward spiral.
Don had been a driving force during his years in Puerto Vallarta. He started his brainchild, the Writer’s Group, in 1998 and that group has nurtured and spawned numerous amateur and professional writers. It still meets today, twice a week, with overflowing crowds during the high season. He and his wife Patricia also had managed a few homes early on before there were many gringo or bi-lingual managers.
But his full life here in Puerto Vallarta never hinted at the fascinating life that he had been born into. His natural mother was Barbara La Marr, a well-known silent film star who had been dubbed “the girl who is too beautiful”, who gave birth to him between her 4th and 5th marriages and named him Marvin Carville La Marr. She died in 1926 at the age of 29, of debatable, but much whispered about causes.
After his mother’s death, Marvin was adopted by her close friend, ZaSu Pitts and her husband, Tom Gallery and renamed Donald Michael Gallery. As their son, he often said that he led a charmed life. Raised among the stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood, he had stories to tell of being a childhood friend of Shirley Temple, dating the young Elizabeth Taylor and selling glimpses of his neighbor Greta Garbo sunbathing in the nude to his buddies. Once while on a date with the young Liz Taylor, they had a flat tire. Liz sat on the curb, hubcap in hand, collecting the bolts while Don changed the tire. Hoagie Carmichael happened to be walking by and serenaded them on a ukulele while Don did his work.
After attending Stamford Law School, he joined the Air Corps to become a pilot during the war. His instructor at the airfield in Arizona was Gene Autry. Behind the scenes, ZaSu did not want her boy going off to war. She called and used her celebrity to get him grounded at a desk job. Don was not happy with her meddling! He had wanted to be a flyer!
After the war, he was involved in the Intelligence Unit that tracked down war criminals and worked in movies like Conan the Barbarian, a Chihuahua in Beverly Hills and many more. Several books have been written about Barbara La Marr and ZaSu Pitts and Don is always a featured part in them.
During the 40s, Louis B. Mayer took an interest in an Austrian actress and inventor born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. When she had expatriated from Austria, she had brought her invention for spread spectrum communication, which had been co-invented by George Antheil. This was the precursor to our modern day wireless communications. Without this we would have no cellphones! Louis B. Mayer wanted to name her Hedy La Marr, after Barbara La Marr, but did not do so before getting approval from Don and the La Marr family.
For some years, Don lived on Catalina Island and owned an ice-cream shop. 30 years ago, he met and married a beautiful woman who owned a jewelry shop across the street from his shop. When Patricia would sell a piece of jewelry in her shop, she’d say “Go across the street and that nice man will give you a free ice cream cone for making a purchase in my store”. One day, Don returned the favor. A woman came into Patricia’s jewelry shop and said, “That nice man across the street said that you’d give me a piece of jewelry since I bought an ice cream cone!” hahaha
Having been introduced to Puerto Vallarta by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Don and Patricia retired here 18 years ago. For some time, Don managed Casa Kimberly, as Liz and Dick’s home was dubbed. For many years, Don and Patricia lived in Amapas and managed homes for the ever growing number of gringos taking residence in Puerto Vallarta. A few years ago, they moved to the Marina where Don could walk on a flatter terrain. He would leave first thing in the morning and walk all day enjoying his many friends and acquaintances and “checking in” to make sure that all was well.
Don Gallery truly did have a Tale to Tell. He will be missed by his many Mexican and Expat friends and acquaintances throughout Puerto Vallarta.
If you have a Tale to Tell, contact me at 322-142-2245 or kphelps1948@gmail.com. Your name and picture can be featured or you can choose to be anonymous. There are so many fascinating people in Puerto Vallarta. Why don’t you share your story?

One comment

  1. My husband and I had the pleasure of having a tour of Casa Kimberly by Don Gallery. He had many wonderful stories to tell if Liz and Richard, their guests, the fights and plate throwing across the bridge, the secret gate used by guests to avoid the Paparazzi. While there, he called Liz to wish her a Happy Birthday.

    It was a memory we will never forget. He was a charming man and will be missed.

Comments are closed.