Norma Storch, 81, Actress, Mother
Family Saga a Documentary Subject
By STEPHEN MILLER Staff Reporter of the Sun
Norma Storch, whose life and family were the subject of the 1996
documentary "Secret Daughter,"died August 28.
In the documentary, Storch's daughter, the documentarian June Cross,
interviews her at length about the circumstances that led Storch to send her
illegitimate, mixed-race daughter (Ms. Cross's father was black) to be
raised by a foster family in the 1960s.
Storch's husband, Larry Storch, was starring as Corporal Randolph Agarn
in the series "F Troop," and such a daughter would not fit the sanitized
standards of the day for television celebrities. (This despite the forward
behavior on the show of Wrangler Jane Angelica Thrift toward Captain Wilton
So young June was fostered out to friends. In "Secret Daughter," which
first aired on the PBS show "Frontline," Norma Storch called it "the most
difficult thing I've ever done."
Norma Storch was born Norma Greaves in 1922, in Pocatello, Idaho.
Abandoning her husband when Norma was age 9, June Rose Greaves moved with
Norma to Long Beach, Calif., where she took up housekeeping with another
man. Norma said her mother was "flirtatious," married seven times, and "just
used to disappear a lot."
In high school in Long Beach, Norma excelled in swimming and tennis, and
then married, over her mother's objections,shortly after graduation.Her
husband was Jack May, a surfer of some renown. According to June, the
documentarist, her grandmother June Rose got wind that Jack May had
appropriated a typewriter from the naval base where he worked. She turned
him in to authorities. He was thrown into the brig, and that was the end of
Divorced by 1945, Norma moved to Los Angeles,to pursue a career in
acting. She became a member of the pioneering Circle Theater, whose
productions were sometimes directed by Charlie Chaplin.
It was around this time that she became involved with Larry Storch, then
a New York-based comedian on a West Coast tour.The two sometimes traveled
together as he performed on the nightclub circuit. In 1952, she moved to New
York to be with him and to pursue acting. That same year, she presented for
adoption the child they had together, Candace.
In New York, she managed to make a living as a coat checker at a swank
nightclub, but things with Mr. Storch were rocky. She became involved with a
friend of his,Jimmy Cross,who was half of the black vaudeville team "Stumpy
& Stumpy." Cross was a frequent attraction at Harlem's Apollo Theater. Their
daughter, June, was born in 1954.
Cross's career was on the downswing, and he was increasingly alcoholic
and occasionally violent. (Once, this led to interesting results, when he
fell onto Dizzie Gillespie's trumpet, bending it into its trademark elbow.)
Norma left him and found her way back to Mr. Storch.They married in 1961 and
moved to L.A. two years later. Mr. Storch's career was taking off, and Norma
was ecstatic to be, at last, happily married.
Despite her unorthodox domestic arrangements, Norma believed in certain
kinds of propriety, especially when it came to show business. "In our
family,you didn't wear brown shoes at night, because Frank Sinatra didn't
wear brown shoes at night," said Lary May.
The presence of June represented a potentially embarrassing challenge. In
the documentary, Norma said, "I lived in fear that some day, somebody might
find out and it would be in the Enquirer or something like that which then,
I thought, would ruin Larry's career."
June was raised by a middle-class black family, who gave her the stable
upbringing that Norma feared she couldn't. Yet Norma's life, too,
stabilized, and remained more or less stable for the rest of her life. As
Mrs. Larry Storch, she became a consummate hostess, one who "could have
taught Martha Stewart how to do it with some panache," according to June.
Norma vacillated over whether to participate in the documentary, worrying
that her hard-won respectability would be compromised, but then told her
daughter on camera, "I always felt that it was vitally important to you.to
have your background acknowledged, so here we are."
When it finally appeared, the documentary also helped her long-lost
daughter Candace to find Norma and then become reconciled with her. Whether
or not the documentary succeeded in its goal of bringing to light aspects of
race relations, it most assuredly emphasized what June said were some of her
mother's final words.
"You can say I lived."
Born Norma Greaves on April 6, 1922, in Pocatello, Idaho; died of cancer
August 28 at her home in Manhattan; survived by her husband, Larry, her son,
Lary, her daughters Candace and June, and six grandchildren.