They were lovers for 20 years without marrying, because the alimony she was collecting from Rose was too sweet to forgo. They finally married in 1974, eight years after Rose died. Rose had been married three more times after splitting with Eleanor, twice to Joyce Mathews.
"Tommy and I were in love," Holm says. "We used to walk the beaches and go to Europe every year. We took a house in Pebble Beach and belonged to the Del Monte Beach Club, where you'd sit around and get a tap on the shoulder and turn around and it would be Dinah Shore saying, 'Listen, do you have a tennis game? You like to play?' Oh, it was fun. I was mad for Tommy."
Their life-style changed drastically in 1981 when Whalen was discovered to have polycythemia, an illness in which an increase in the total red-cell mass causes the blood to thicken until it reaches the consistency of honey. Holm nursed her husband for five years as the hulking man withered to a shadow of his former self. He died in 1986, at age 76.
Holm still lives in the luxury condo that she shared with Whalen. She manages her own money and is doing well for herself. "I have so many friends who have been left money, and their husbands never taught them anything," says Holm, who went to school to learn bookkeeping after Rose died. "I don't buy anything I don't understand. At my age I want to preserve what I've got. One reason I still have pretty good money is that I sold a lot of diamonds Billy gave me."
Holm drives her new Cadillac around North Miami and surveys her haunts, past and present. She points out the country clubs where she used to play golf and tennis but where she now plays gin and bridge. "I fell—don't laugh—off a treadmill and broke a tiny bone in my shoulder two years ago, so I haven't gone back to golf or tennis," she says, chuckling.
Holm, who made a career out of being beautifully fit long before the advent of aerobics, doesn't like the physical pain that age often brings. "No matter how athletic you've been and how well you've taken care of yourself, there's no substitute for youth," she laments.
She thinks about old friends who are gone now—Buster Crabbe, Weissmuller and, most recently, Sonny Werblin, whose widow, Leah, sang with Phil Harris at the Cocoanut Grove back in the '30s. "I don't know how it's all going to end," Holm says. "I try not to think about it. But I'll tell you one thing: I just don't want any aches or pains. Other than that, I'm perfectly content. I've got a lot of good friends, I have a lot of fun, and I'm laughing: I outlived all those guys who kicked me off the team."