Denise Brown and the Story of a ‘Storybook Marriage’

Denise Brown has been much interviewed; she’s adept at repeating certain key phrases: Her parents had “a storybook marriage.”

Lou and Juditha Brown used to say, “If you’re happy, we’re happy.”

Several times while we were together Denise used the phrase “a good wife” to describe her mother’s relationship with her father. The Brown household was obviously paternal; the mother deferred to her husband, but she was at the center of her daughters’ lives.

The Brown Family in Court

At one time, Lou Brown was in the insurance business; he later bought and sold car washes. It is telling, according to one psychiatrist, that Denise and her sister Dominique, both single mothers, have chosen to live at home.

There are facts, however, that remain unexplored: Juditha Brown was a teenager during World War II; her family lived in Rollwald, 40 minutes outside Frankfurt. What went on in thirteen-year-old Juditha’s life?

Her father was a “prison guard,” according to Denise. She added quickly, “Not a guard in a concentration camp… He once went to jail for helping an American.”

As a young girl, Juditha played “keep away,” running in and out of bomb sites with her friends. Although most of the German population was starving at the end of the war, Denise was told by her mother that their family always had food.

In the 1950s, Juditha married her beau, who worked for Stars and Stripes. Protective of her parents, she brought them to America.

They never learned to speak English but always lived with their granddaughters, as if banded together against the world.

When I asked Denise what her father’s occupation had been in Beaumont, Texas, she said, “I have no idea.”

She also said that in the family, there was never a discussion of Nazi Germany or the Holocaust…

Marie Brenner

Beyond the Courtroom for Vogue Magazine (May 1995)

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