Fanne Foxe Dies. Yes, There’s A Westport Connection.

Back in the days when sex scandals could actually ruin a political career, Fanne Foxe was at the center of a doozy.

At 2 a.m. in October 1974, police pulled over a Lincoln Continental that was speeding, without headlights, near the Jefferson Memorial.

The Washington Post recalls:

A female passenger in an evening gown ran from the car, climbed the stone parapet along the Tidal Basin and — acting on what she later described as a frantic impulse — leaped headfirst into the frigid, inky water. Her splashdown would ripple into one of the capital’s most infamous sex scandals.

The woman, 38-year-old Annabel Battistella, was a plumage-shaking striptease dancer with the stage name Fanne Foxe. She was billed as “the Argentine Firecracker,” and patrons of the local burlesque circuit were captivated by her elaborate costumes — complete with five-foot-tall headdresses and tropical-colored ostrich and pheasant feathers — as well as the artfulness with which she removed them.

Fanne Foxe

On that particular night, after a boozy party at the Silver Slipper club, where she had performed, she got into a loud quarrel with her married lover….

With her plunge into the Tidal Basin, Ms. Battistella (later Annabel Montgomery), who died Feb. 10 at 84, secured her place in the annals of political scandal. Standing near the car — drunk and bleeding — was her paramour, 65-year-old Wilbur Mills, the gravelly voiced chairman of the tax-writing U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and a man esteemed as a pillar of Bible Belt rectitude and respectability.

Mills said that Foxe — a divorced mother of 3 who lived in the same luxury apartment complex as he in Arlington, Virginia — was a “family friend and a social companion of his wife, Clarine.”

Mills was re-elected to his 19th term a month later. But after an alcohol-fueled appearance with the Argentine Firecracker in Boston, he was removed as Ways and Means chairman, and treated for alcoholism.

“With his career in tatters and citing exhaustion, he left office in 1977 and became an advocate for recovering alcoholics until his death in 1992.”

Arkansas Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe.

As for Foxe — renamed the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” — she soon earned more than 5 times the $400 a week she made at the Silver Slipper. She acted in low-budget films, and an off-Broadway show called “Women Behind Bars.”

She gave up stripping after a December 1974 arrest in Florida, for public indecency. She was cleared of the charge.

So what’s the Westport connection?

The Post story says:

The next year, she was living with her children in Westport, Conn., in an eight-bedroom, seven-bath manse called Tally-Ho that needed constant upkeep. The only stripping she was doing, she told a reporter, involved. paint.

After marrying contractor/businessman Daniel Montgomery in 1980, Foxe moved to Florida. She earned a BA in communications from the University of Tampa in 1995, and two master’s degrees — in marine science and business administration — from the University of South Florida.

Foxe — then known as Annabel Montgomery — died in Clearwater, Florida this month. She was 84.

(Click here for the full Washington Post obituary. Hat tip: Marc Selverstone)

11 responses to “Fanne Foxe Dies. Yes, There’s A Westport Connection.

  1. An, as chance would have it before we moved to westport we had rented an apartment to her in nyc. Was always a nice neighbor

  2. I was at a dinner of about 6-8 people with her, a mutual friend, the 1st Selectman, and a couple of others in the late 70’s. I remember her red hair, and that she was very nice indeed. Our mutual friend told me this unfortunate story about her: that she was or had been living in a house in Westport with an option to buy. In the 70’s, inflation was really rocking, and house prices were moving up accordingly. Annabelle (you definitely didn’t call her that to her face) had forgotten about the drop-dead date on the option, believing it to be a couple of months later. She forfeited a big chunk of cash because of it.

  3. Mary Ann Batsell

    When she lived in Westport they lived on Greens Farms Rd., the former home of Sen. Jacob Javitts, it’s the one on the curve across from Prospect Rd., in those days it was yellow and when Javitts had it there was a helicopter pad in back which is now Signal Lake, that part of the property was sold off and the state used the fill for the then building of the “Thruway.”
    She didn’t live here long, she was supposedly writing a book about her life.

  4. Mary Ann: are you sure that home belonged at any point to Senator Javits? I ask because there was a prior “06880” reference to Senator Javits having lived here—and I was skeptical then that he would have lived here at any point during his long tenure in office (even as a summer home) because he certainly would have had plenty of choices in New York State for a nice summer place (and I imagine his former constituents would not have been pleased if he had opted to spend even July & August hanging out at Compo and Longshore).

    His brother, a former law partner of his way back in the day, did live on Greens Farms Road. So it is possible that the Senator was simply visiting him and his family?

    As for the helicopter pad: the story I had heard (but I admittedly never witnessed this myself so it could be a Westport urban legend) was that Warner Communications exec Jay Emmett, who I believed lived on Prospect, on occasion traveled by a helicopter that would land in his backyard.

    The helicopter story I can confirm since I was there: Paul Newman absolutely landed via helicopter on what was, for many years, the Coleytown Junior High football field—but was set up as a soccer field in the summer of 1972—because I was among those engaged in a pick-up soccer game at the time of the chopper landing. Contrary to urban legend, I did not say: “It’s been a long time since I last saw you in Fresh Meadows.” I was pretty much speechless.

  5. Mary Ann Batsell

    Fred, you could be right about Javits brother, I was told it was the senators house and the same about the helicopter pad, I never witnessed it, but they did say that it was where Signal Lake is now, and the fill was used for the
    Thruway. But that was definitely the house she lived in while she was here.

  6. oops, what I meant was you didn’t call Anna “Fannie” to her face

  7. Peter Gambaccini

    Gloria Cole (Sugarman) did a very good interview with Ms. Foxe for FAIRPRESS. I have no idea what FAIRPRESS archives even exist. But I recall Gloria thought Fanne was a nice woman.

  8. Fred:
    My family lived across from Jay Emmett and their three sons Paul, Steve and Andy. He did try to get permission to have a helicopter land in his backyard for his daily commute to the city until the neighbors and town said no. It seems that Mr. Emmett didn’t take into account the power and telephone lines. Jay Emmett did purchase the very cool car from one of the James Bond movies.
    Mary Ann is correct. Fanne Fox lived on Greens Farms Road at the end of Prospect Road. The house was later owned by former chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission Ron Corwin. I never heard the Javits connection.

  9. Connie Atkinson Holberg

    Jim: Jay Emmett did land the helicopter once or twice in that field. Our yard ran along side the field (I am Sue and Tom Atkinson’s daughter.) It made a heck of a noise and the cops came and that ended the helicopter visits…..

  10. Connie:
    Huh. I never knew that. It obviously didn’t last long and I do recall Jay Emmett was very unhappy that he couldn’t land his helicopter.
    Connie, your parents were terrific people. Your Mother helped my through economics…..a few times 🙂

  11. I went to parties at Fanne Foxe’s house. Her two kids were at Staples for at least a year. Her daughter worked with me for a while at Clam Box; her son Alex was at WWPT with me. Thanks for this Dan, a much-forgotten moment in the town’s history.

Leave a Reply