An impersonator from Shearstown in New York City
I’m a writer today partly as a result of Ann Frances Sharpe Ameen Brown. She was born in Shearstown in 1908; she died of heart disease in her hometown in 1998.
During those 89 years, her life was what J. M. Sullivan called a “ wide-ranging odyssey.” It was rich and colourful, varied and strange. Artist Bruce Johnson described her life story as “a novel of her own telling.” The details about this fourfoot 10-inch artist and evangelist “ were invented and idealized,” Johnson adds.
In 1928, a newspaper reporter wrote that Ann “shared the worldwide feminine longing for an actress’ fame and romance.” Inspired by a magazine picture of Swan Lake, she “cast a few meagre belongings in a handbag and started for New York.” Her age? Nineteen. Her ambition? To become a ballerina.
If Ann herself is to be believed, in vaudeville and on Broadway, she played the role of angels and swans. She modeled in the windows of Gimbels department stores. Her image was used for the cartoon character Betty Boop.
“ Frances wanted to be in the movies and had the good sense to realize that the desire alone would not convince producers she had the makings of a star. But one day someone who knew more about the idiosyncracies of producers than (Ann) did gave her a tip.
“ Publicity,” he advised. some publicity.”
However, Ann’s rising career was cut short by scandal. A moviestruck girl posed as Lady Florence Rohan, alleged to be the beautiful daughter of Sir John Rohan, a wealthy English baronet. Ann claimed to be the impersonator, believing “ that a title and a wellspun tale might be the open sesame to Hollywood.”
The persona of Ann Sharpe disappeared from public view. In her place was Lady Florence, who began an affair with an art dealer, Bernard Rosner.
Lady Florence was seemingly unaware that her lover was already married.
Shortly after, Lady Florence was called to an attorney’s office “and told that Mrs. Rosner contemplated a $100,000 alienation of affections suit.
“ There Lady Florence made her great gesture.
“He’s worth it,” she said as she put her arm about Rosner, standing at her side. “I’ll pay the $100,000.”
Not surprisingly, many pictures of Lady Florence and Rosner appeared in newspapers.
“ Ultimately, of course, Rosner had to learn that he had not met a titled lady. When he did, he refused to see Frances any more.”
The next day, “an ambulance drew up to a little rooming house on Manhattan Avenue. Lying limp in a gas-filled room was Frances Sharpe. In her hand was the summons in the alienation suit, addressed to ‘Lady Florence Rohan.’ Nearby were two notes — one addressed to Frances’ mother and the other to ‘ Dear Anybody, the World.’
“My love was real,” the latter one said, “ but I am not. I am just a simple country girl who wanted to get into the movies. Life is too complicated. I lost the love I wanted and I do not care to live any longer.”
Ann’s budding romance was shattered.
“ That was the end of Lady Frances, but not of Frances Sharpe. When she was taken to Bellevue Hospital and revived for a brief moment, she told the doctors feebly that she wanted to die.” But she was kept under watchful care to ensure against further suicide attempts.
The reporter concluded, “ The romance of Lady Florence ( had) lost its tinsel and left only bitterness.”
Earlier I noted that I’m a writer today partly as a result of Ann Frances Sharpe Ameen Brown.
In the 1970s, when my late parents pastored in Shearstown, Ann Ameen occasionally attended the church.
She was then in her sixties. She had lost a husband, Rev. Ameen, and remarried a Brown. She had taken the title of “ Sister.” She had written a three-volume autobiography.
And, she had a ton of stuff in her house in Shearstown. My father and I visited her from time-to-time.
Once I saw an antique typewriter among her belongings. I had
“ Get started writing as a teenager. Dad owned a typewriter, but I often said it came over on Noah’s Ark. When I saw Ann Ameen’s typewriter, which looked like a more recent model, I mentioned it to Dad, who mentioned it to Ann.
Within days, her typewriter was in our home. I used it for years.
Ann Frances Sharpe Ameen Brown of Shearstown, at age 57.