Maude Adams, Biggest Star of The New York Stage Had A Stalker Committed To Bellevue
Today the paparazzi are considered the primary stalkers of celebrities and their children. But every now and then we read about the true psychopaths who are scary or downright dangerous to those who are in the limelight (see Rebecca Schaeffer and David Letterman).
What is interesting is that the phenomenon is not new. It was happening over a hundred years ago.
Maude Adams was one of the biggest stars of the legitimate stage in the late 19th and early 20th century. James Barrie the playwright, author and creator of Peter Pan wrote roles specifically for Maude.
For those who have seen the 1980 time travel love story Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, there is little doubt that author Richard Matheson based Seymour’s beautiful Elise McKenna character on Maude Adams.
Morris Gottlieb of East 14th Street had a thing for Maude Adams. Unlike many who just capitulated or ignored their overbearing admirers, she did something about it.
On April 9, 1906 Morris Gottlieb, 39, an unmarried, former assistant electrician at the Empire Theatre, where Maude Adams was starring in Peter Pan was committed to the psychopathic ward at Bellevue.
In his (Gottlieb’s) own words:
“Yes, I was and still am in love with Miss Adams and I know it’s no use, and I’m all right now. I went to the Empire Theatre to help the electrician with the lights. That was seventeen weeks ago, I believe. I loved Peter Pan- that is Miss Adams – right then. I was an honest man, so I didn’t think it was wrong for me to love her. But I see now that she couldn’t love me. I won’t bother her ever again.”
“I wrote her letters but she never answered them. Yet she would sometimes smile at me kindly, and I thought she wasn’t angry at me for writing. So I kept on. But now and then I’d know it wasn’t any use. So about two weeks ago I went to Chicago. I hoped to forget it all, but it wasn’t any use. I was worse. So I came back.”
“Last Friday I went to the Manhattan Hotel to see her. Miss Louise Boynton, her secretary came downstairs to see me. She said that Peter Pan- that is, Miss Adams – wanted me examined, and that she would be pleased if I would go to Bellevue in her carriage. I went with the secretary. I thought I was crazy- but I am not any more. Now I want to get out. I want to come back.”
Good thing for Louise Boynton. Her version had Gottlieb acting hysterically. He was walking through the hotel corridors muttering Miss Adams’s name and crying. After consulting with Maude Adams and her physician it was decided that they should get Gottlieb to Bellevue. Adams had received the letters and discussed them with Miss Boynton. By the content of the letters she knew that this man was a threat to her safety.
Upon examination by Dr. Gregory of Bellevue, it was discovered that Gottlieb suffered from several delusions. One that he was being persecuted because he was a Jew. Another delusion was that sometimes the “Advice to the Lovelorn” column in one of the afternoon papers is conducted by Miss Adams who seeks in that way to express her love for him, she being unable for some reason he can’t exactly explain to tell him about it in any other way.
Gottlieb believed that certain paragraphs of advice like “never giving up your love for another person if they don’t respond to your advances,” which were often repeated throughout the column, were speaking directly to him.
Dr. Gregory diagnosed Gottlieb as being mentally unbalanced and felt that he would never be released from the asylum.
There is no further newspaper mention of Morris Gottlieb and what became of him is unknown.