Janet Banzet is certainly not a household name today, nor do I believe she ever held that distinction (it probably didn’t help that she used a few different names throughout her career). But to those of us that are familiar with the sexploitation films that came out of the mid-to-late 1960s NYC underground she is somewhat of a star (even though she rarely held that role in her films). Like many of her contemporaries she didn’t make the jump from the relatively tame soft-core films into the hardcore world. Some, like Linda Boyce, would stay in the adult film world for a time behind the scenes (she ran an agency supplying talent to the films). Others, like Uta Erickson, would just fade into obscurity. And still other would meet more unfortunate ends. Janet was one of those unfortunate few.
But today’s post isn’t about that end, nor is about her career (for a brief overview of that you can see this Rialto Report post or many others across the internet). No, today we’re going to look back beyond her arrival in New York City, back to her youth and childhood in Texas, and even go a bit further back to help paint a picture of where Jeanette Banzet (her real name) came from. We will also briefly touch on after-the-end, but in a way that too will take us back to the beginning…
* Gotta get off, gonna get
Have to get off from this ride
Gotta get hold, gonna get
Need to get hold of my pride…
We could begin at the beginning, which for Jeanette Banzet was May 17, 1934 in Dallas, TX, the first and as far as I’ve been able to determine only child of Alfred and Lucy Banzet. But actually we need to begin before Jeanette’s beginning to get the full story.
So we’ll actually begin with her father, Alfred Banzet, if for no other reason than his portion of the story is shorter and not as complex. Alf was born in 1897 in Texas, the first of at least four siblings. His parents, Henry and Mary, had immigrated from France in 1883 (his mother was originally from Switzerland). Beyond determining that he worked as an oil driller at one point I wasn’t able to find much additional information on Alf prior to his marriage to Lucy, who’s story we’ll now shift to (I told it Alf would be brief…for now).
When did I get, where did I
How was I caught in this game
When will I know, where will I
How will I think of my name…
Jeanette’s mother Lucille M Patyk was born in 1891 and was one of at least four siblings, all of which appear to have been born in Poland. At some point in the first decade or so of the 20th Century the Patyk family immigrated to the USA, and around 1918 Lucy married Henry Lamoreaux (1853 – 1930), a carpenter (to be more precise a coffin maker during the 1920s) originally from Canada. For those quick at math you will have noticed that Henry was 38 years older than Lucy, and in fact he was 5 years older than her father!
Throughout their marriage Lucy and Henry lived in a house on Binhgam Lane in Dallas (it’s since been demolished). In 1919 Henry and Lucy had their first child, John Henry Lamoreaux, followed in 1920 by their second child William James Lamoreaux (1920 – 1985). In 1921 the first of many tragedies in the Lamoreaux/Banzet family occurred when two year old Henry was accidentally scalded to death by boiling water. A third son, Thomas Henry Lamoreaux (1923 – 2012), would be born in 1923. Henry SR continued to work well in to his 70s (his last job was as a nightwatchman at a box factory in Dallas), and he would pass away in 1930 leaving Lucy alone in Dallas at the age of 41 to raise their two sons by herself.
When did I stop feeling sure, feeling safe
And start wondering why, wondering why
Is this a dream, am I here, where are you
What’s in back of the sky, why do we cry…
Lucy and her two sons would continue to live in the house on Brigham Lane after Henry’s death, although how she earned living is unknown. On April 5, 1934 Lucy would marry Alfred Banzet (those paying attention will notice this was just six weeks to the day before Jeanette was born). There’s evidence to suggest that around this time William and Thomas were sent to live with Lucy’s sister Katheryn (Katie) (1895 -1982) and her husband William Pugh (1869 – 1941) on their farm in Sherman, TX. Lucy had immigrated from Poland with Lucy, and her and William had at least seven children (3 sons and 4 daughters), so adding two more teenage boys to this probably didn’t phase Aunt Lucy and Uncle William, and the two additional sets of hands I’m sure were welcomed on the farm. That being said, I do believe Jeanette continued to live with Lucy and Alf in Dallas, at least for the first eight years of her life. But in the early morning hours of October 22, 1942 Lucy would pass away at the age of 51 from heart failure. And it’s at this point or soon thereafter that I believe Jeanette too was sent to Aunt Lucy’s farm (Uncle William has died the previous year).
Gotta get off, gonna get
Out of this merry-go-round
Gotta get off, gonna get
Need to get on where I’m bound…
As for Alf, there are some hints that he may have fathered another out-of-wedlock daughter in 1944, perhaps with Eddie Mae Fullington (1917 – 2001), who he would eventually marry in 1947. If in fact there was a second Banzet daughter then it would appear she was immediately adopted by another family. I’ll not go into any further details on this except to say the potential half-sister of Jeanette’s passed away in 1995.
Alf and his new bride Eddie Mae would continue to live in the same house on Brigham Lane, and in fact Eddie Mae would continue to live there even after Alf’s death 1957 (if you’re keeping score, that means Eddie was living in her dead husband’s dead wife’s dead husband’s house). Alf would meet his end when his car was struck by a train, and while he actually survived the initial accident and lingered on in the hospital for over two weeks, he finally succumbing to those injuries on November 17, 1957 in Dallas. But now let’s go back a few years and pick up with Jeanette, her brothers, and cousins in Sherman, TX.
When did I get, where did I
Why am I lost as a lamb
When will I know, where will I
How will I learn who I am…
As mentioned above, at some point, my guess is in 1942 when Lucy died, Jeanette also went to be raised by Aunt Katie, and help run the farm along with her two half-brothers and numerous cousins. By this time however her oldest half-brother William had enlisted in the Army and was already fighting on the European front. In 1944 William would be awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat. While on a mission in Italy he was pinned down for 10 or 15 minutes and a shell fragment struck him in the heel, but instead of seeking medical aid he removed the shell fragment himself and completed his mission. It’s possible that Jeanette might have lived with William and his wife and child when he returned from Europe, but this is just speculation.
Whether she lived with her Aunt, brother, or other family members, Jeanette would attend Denison High School from 1949 until graduation in 1952. She participated in the newly formed Cosmetology program and something called the Pin-Curls and Poodles Club, and would also be recognized as an Honors Student her senior year.
That’s all the information I was able to find (so far) about her youth, although it’s generally accepted she worked as a cosmetologist in Dallas for a time, and in 1955 she does show up as a member of a wedding party in Dallas (thanks to Dennis Campa of Vintage Texploitation for that find), and there is a “Janet Bonzet” listed as living in the Biltmore Apartments in Dallas, and I’ve found no other traces of that name, so this could be her. But in any case I think we can assume she didn’t head off for NYC until at least 1955 or later. Again, for this post I’ll not go into any detail on that part of her life, but the Rialto Report article mentioned in the intro has an uncharacteristically short overview of her time in New York, which ends of course with her suicide by hanging on July 29, 1971 and a reference to her grave at Oakdale Memorial Park in Glendora, CA, but they failed to ask the obvious question…
Why, if she was born and raised in Texas, if she’d spent the last decade of her life in New York, and if she died in New York, is she buried in Glendora, California?
Is this a dream, a I here, where are you
Tell me, when will I know, how will I know
When will I know why.
For the answer to that we need to look back to Aunt Katie.
In 1941 one of Katie’s sons, William M Pugh (1921 – 2000), left the family farm in Texas for Los Angeles, initially working as a mechanical engineer for close to a decade, and then breaking out on his own in 1950 and starting the Pugh Manufacturing Company which made screw machine products for the defense, aerospace, and commercial industries (the building still stands on Alhambra BLVD in Los Angeles). At some point Katie (and at least one of William’s sisters) also left Texas and moved west to be with her son and his growing family (William had 8 children).
My guess is she had already made the move by the time of Jeanette’s death in 1971, and I can’t help but think since she more than likely had raised, or had a significant part in raising Jeanette from the time she was eight years old, there must have been at least some parental urge to have Jeanette buried close to her. And while this is of course just a conjecture, it is a fact that when Katie herself passed away in 1982 she was also buried in Oakdale Memorial Park not far from Janet’s grave. In any case, we now have a much better idea of why Jeanette Banzet’s final resting place is in California.
* Lyrics from “(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls” – (w & l) André Previn and Dory Previn