Tuesday, August 2, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Caitlin Thomas, 81, Boozing, Brawling Wife Of Welsh Poet


LONDON - Caitlin Thomas, a boozing, brawling partner in marriage to the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, has died at age 81.

She once described their lives together as "raw, red bleeding meat," a torment of mutual infidelity climaxed by her violent tantrum at the bedside of the dying poet.

Caitlin Thomas died Sunday in Catania, Italy, said her daughter, Aeronwy Thomas-Ellis. The cause of her death was not announced.

"I was surprised when I heard she wanted to be buried with my father. I felt that she had been in Italy so long that she would want to stay there," Thomas-Ellis said. Thomas is buried in Laugharne, Wales.

The former Caitlin MacNamara, free-spirited daughter of a bohemian family, married Thomas in 1937. They had three children - Llewelyn, Aeronwy and Colm, all of whom survive.

"Ours was not a love story proper. It was more of a drink story. Predominantly a drink story, because without the first-aid of drink it could never have got on to its rocking feet," she wrote in a 1982 memoir.

"In those long-ago, wrongly romanticized, deliberately mad (they were deliberately mad), absolutely unpardonable days, our primary aim was to get ourselves noticed at any cost: to show off like crazies to gain attention. So we used shock tactics. We knew only too well that is much easier and quicker to get oneself noticed in a bad light.

"It was essential to give people a legend. And a legend to be efficacious has perforce to be monstrous, with a fatal ending . . ."

It was a famously discordant marriage, with infidelity on both sides and angry scenes in public.

Dylan Thomas was notorious for extraordinarily bad behavior, from never repaying debts to fouling walls and carpets of friends' homes.

"Even great poetry cannot excuse such rude, drunken behavior," Charlie Chaplin said after Thomas' performance at a party given by the comedian.

Thomas died in New York in 1953, collapsing after a night of heavy drinking in Greenwich Village. He lingered long enough, however, for Caitlin to burst into his hospital room, where the comatose Thomas was attended by his current mistress.

"Is the bloody man dead yet?" Caitlin reportedly said on entering. In a rage, she bit an attendant and fought with bystanders until she was subdued.

In "Left Over Life to Kill," a memoir published in 1977, Caitlin wrote that Thomas' death caused "a dropping out of the bottom of my all in Dylan world, the one deadly, organic entanglement of a lifetime."

She found a more settled life with Giuseppe Fazio, a Sicilian movie director. They had a son, Francesco, when she was 49, but she named him Francesco Thomas and fought to gain a share of the Dylan Thomas estate for him. He also survives.

Funeral arrangements were not announced.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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