Zelda Sayre was a writer who grew up in Alabama in a prominent southern family. She was a wild kid; she danced, messed up her studies at school, drank, smoked, and hung out with boys -- not the sweet accommodating southern belle ideal of the time. Her meeting at age 18 with Scott Fitzgerald sparked one of the century's most famous romances.
Their relationship was one of like-meets-like: they were both romantic, passionate, egotistical. They fought often, but loved one another deeply; unfortunately they both drank a lot and tended to become physically violent with one another when drunk. Their daughter, Scottie, was brought up by nannies. When a magazine asked Zelda to contribute a recipe to their "Favorite Recipes of Famous Women" section, she wrote:
"See if there is any bacon, and if there is ask the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily. Also, in the case of bacon do not turn the fire too high, or you will have to get out of the house for a week. Serve preferably on china plates, though gold or wood will do if handy."
My kinda gal. She was Scott's kinda gal too, and many of his heroines were thinly disguised versions of her, even copying portions of her diary entries into his books.
"It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald — I believe that is how he spells his name — seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home."
At the age of 30 she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, although it seems more likely she had bipolar disorder -- schizophrenia was a kind of catch-all diagnosis in the early days of psychiatry. While being treated in a residential clinic, she wrote a novel, Save Me the Waltz. When her husband read it, he was furious, as it was an autobiographical account of their marriage and, worse, contained material he planned to use in Tender Is the Night. His contempt (he called her a plagiarist and a third-rate writer) and its failure to sell well was humiliating, and it was the only novel she ever wrote.
Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940, by which time Zelda was living full-time in a sanatorium. In March 1948, the hospital caught fire, and she died, along with eight other inmates.
Here's a fragment of a documentary about their meeting, including interviews with people who knew her personally as a girl.