The Curse of Mario Lanza
Hollywood Legend's Daughter Opens Her Heart About Family's Years Of Tragedy
National Enquirer - International Edition
P. 44
Legendary Hollywood tenor Mario Lanza's daughter has talked for the first time about his shocking death - and the tragedies that have plagued his family ever since.
Ellisa Bregman says she will never forget the day 40 years ago when her father died - he was only 38. "I remember there was a terrible commotion in the house.
"The chauffeur and nanny were both sobbing. My sister Colleen went to find out what was wrong and, to our horror, saw the body of our father laid out in the living room".
Mario Lanza was a kid from Philadelphia who became one of Hollywood's biggest stars, appearing in seven films from 1950 until his death in 1959. His albums sold in millions - figures unheard of in those days.
His great fluctuations in weight, his battles with the studios and his financial woes kept him in the headlines, making him even larger than life to his legions of fans.
He even got to play his idol, world famous tenor Enrico Caruso, in his biggest film, "The Great Caruso".
After a series of financial reverses left him broke, he fled to Italy with his family. Ellisa was 8 when her father died after checking into a clinic in Italy because a movie producer had asked him to lose weight.
It was ruled a heart attack, but a book later claimed Lanza's death was the result of a Mafia plot. Ellisa insists it wasn't true. "My mother started that," she recalls. "She just couldn't accept that he had died and she needed a reason".
Only a few months after Lanza's death, the children's mother Betty died of an accidental pill overdose. "It was a broken heart," says Ellisa.
"My mother didn't want to live. My father's death was such a shock, so sudden, and she was heartbroken. She was killing her pain with pills, and just taking too many.
"And one day, she just didn't wake up. It wasn't an intentional suicide. She was just trying to dull the pain." Ellisa and her two brothers and a sister were the focus of a custody battle between two sets of grandparents.
In 1991, Ellisa's brother Marc died of a heart attack, just like their dad. He was 37, a year younger than Mario was when he died.
Only two years ago, her sister Colleen was run down and killed by a car as she crossed a street. "I spent two weeks with her in the hospital, but she never recovered consciousness," says Ellisa. "I talked to her all the time and told her I loved her with all my heart. But I don't know if she heard me. I hope so."
Ellisa, 48, is married to businessman Bob Bregman. They have two sons, Tony, 25, and Nick, 22.
While the public was wild for Mario Lanza, both in concert and on the big screen, he always saved his best performance for his children, says Ellisa.
"The most wonderful times I remember are when he would put us to bed at night. He'd sing us lullabies," she recalls. " "Guardian Angels" is still my favorite. It reminds me of him."
Pic1 - After a life scarred by family tragedy, Ellisa is very close to her sons Tony (left) and Nick. Pic2 - Ellisa denies the Mafia had anything to do with her father's death. Pic3 - Photo of Ellisa (left) and Colleen with their dad is one of many treasured by Ellisa in her Beverly Hills home. Pic4 - Mario Lanza in his famous role in "The Great Caruso".