And so, Joe’s financial instability was revealed. He had never been able to make enough to really support Nina. He’d begun gambling in the volatile commodities market, and he soon began taking money from the company (Taylor, Pinkham & Co) that employed him. When the company was purchased by J.P. Stevens in 1952, they found close to $100,000 missing.
By that point, Truman had published his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms about growing up in the South, and was working on movie scripts (Beat The Devil). He sent Nina almost all of the money he made so that Nina would not have to move to a “cold water flat in the Bronx.”
Nina began drinking heavily.
Truman wrote in a letter to a friend “Odd, I seem to think about money all the time, I used to not ever. But the whole Nina-Joe situation has given me such a jolt; and it goes on and on and on – and I have to pay straight down the line because I don’t know what else to do.”
Nina began avoiding all her old friends, terrified that they would realize her difficult financial situation.
Eleanor Freide dined with Nina at the Plaza shortly before her death and remarked that she was shocked to see Nina’s roots showing. Her hair had always been dyed so expertly that Freide had thought she was a natural blonde (in Breakfast at Tiffany’s Paul goes through Holly’s trash at one point, and discovers that she “dyes her hair, and receives love letters by the bale.”). Towards the end of her life Nina could no longer go to the beauty parlor to have it done.
One night, Nina had a fight with Joe, and he went to stay at the best hotel he could afford, the West Side Y.M.C.A. No one knows precisely what happened, but sometime in the next few hours, Nina swallowed a lethal dose of Seconal sleeping pills. The next morning, when he found her, Joe saw that the phone was off the hook, and wondered if she’d tried to call anyone. The windows were also open – it’s possible that she thought the cold air would stop her from passing out. It did not. She was taken to the Knickerbocker hospital where she died, a few weeks before her 49th birthday.
Upon hearing of her death, Truman, who was in Paris with Jack at the time, wept “she didn’t have to do it. She didn’t have to die. I’ve got money.”
His lover, Jack, describes taking Truman to the bus to fly to Nina funeral, in a way that sounds remarkably similar to Doc’s departure in the book. He said, “I put him on the bus to the airport – he was the only one – all the other passengers had driven out, presumably in their own cars. The Driver said “look, Mr. C, you hve the bus to yourself.” Truman was holding his dog. He looked at the driver, then at me, and then, to please the driver, he said something he would never say if he’d not been so desolate: “that’s because all the other passengers are so rich” he said – making a joke. Then he drove away in that big blue bus. It began to snow. It sounds like a story, but it really did snow – and the wind rose – and it was freezing cold.”
At the funeral, which was held at Frank Campbell’s funeral parlor on Madison Avenue, because it was commonly agreed to be the best in the city, Joe and Truman told everyone that Nina had died of pneumonia.
Shortly after, the district attorney concluded his investigation of Joe, and Joe was sent away to Sing Sing. Truman visited him consistently while he was there, but vowed never again to loan money to anyone.
I cannot help but feel that this explains so much, afterwards.