The untold story of the OTHER Steel Magnolias house
I have watched the movie Steel Magnolias so many times that I sometimes unwittingly recite the lines in real life. (Blush and Bashful anyone?) Like many people, I fell in love with not only the memorable characters in Steel Magnolias but the quaint small town in Louisiana and the beautiful homes where the stories take place.
Chinquapin Parish in real life is the town of Natchitoches, Louisiana and the movie was filmed on location in the actual town and in the homes located there. Many of the townsfolk were even extras in the film. The movie was based on a true story written by a man named Robert Harling who modeled Chinquapin after his own home town of Natchitoches.
There have been many articles and blog posts written on the wonderful house that was home to M’Lynn Eatenton and her family - it is now the Steel Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast - and it just came up for sale this past spring.
But one home in the movie gets far less attention in the media world… and that is Truvy’s house. Truvy’s house was also her home-based beauty shop business where many of the movie’s most poignant scenes take place.
Truvy (played by Dolly Parton) is a working class citizen of the town, and as such, her home is smaller and more humble than some of the other larger stately mansions featured in the movie.
I fell in love with Truvy’s historic bungalow because it is the kind of house that I would live in – I never could quite picture myself in one of those huge southern mansions.
Although some of the interior shots of Truvy’s beauty shop were filmed on a sound stage on the NSU campus in a gymnasium, the exterior shots and a couple of interior scenes were filmed in this actual house in Natchitoches.
So I wondered why there was never any mention of Truvy’s house in all the websites dedicated to Steel Magnolias and on the tours of the movie filming locations.
Then I came across this local Natchitoches discussion forum. I was broken-hearted to read what the posters described.
I’ll just display the posts as I found them below… it starts innocently enough with a simple question:
Q: Can anyone tell me where the scene with Truvys beauty shop was filmed in natchitoches for steel magnolias? i took the horse and carriage tour but it didn’t tell anything about the beauty shop scenes.
A: It is located on Henry Blvd.(which is off Williams avenue)& corner of East 5th street.
A: Yeah, they probably wouldn’t include that house on a tour b/c then they’d have to throw in how a year after the movie was filmed the owner killed a little girl there who came to the door selling candy for the school band.
Q: Please explain what happened.
A: What happened was just what was written. He’s in prison for the murder. Her body was never found.
Q: How did this not make the news. I mean it should have read “Owner of home used in “Steel Magnolias” filmed in the peaceful little town of Natchitoches louisiana – Kills innocent child selling candy for school.” What a sicko!! Did they sell the home to someone when he was incarerated?
A: It was all over the news. Google “Phillip DeSelle” if you’re interested. His wife divorced him. I cannot state with accuracy what happened to ownership of the house.
[to read the complete exchange, see here]
If you are anything like me, your heart probably just dropped into your stomach.
Yes, it’s true, almost exactly one year after the movie Steel Magnolias was released, an 11 year girl was murdered at Truvy’s beauty shop house by the home’s owner. He admitted to assaulting the girl and killing her, then leaving her body in a dumpster. Her remains were never found.
Here’s how the house looks today…
Averie Grace Evans was selling chocolate bars for her school orchestra – she played the violin – when she had the great misfortune of knocking on Phillip DeSelle’s door on November 5, 1990. He lured her into the home, or to the garage out back and ended her life.
Although no one knows for sure except the killer, investigators believe that Averie died either by the back door of the house, right between the house and the garage, or in the garage which has since been torn down and replaced with a new one.
The murderer was arrested a couple of months after Averie’s disappearance and plead guilty to manslaughter and kidnapping in a plea bargain. Since Averie’s remains were never found – the perpetrator said he disposed of her body in a trash dumpster - prosecutors did not believe they had enough evidence to get a murder conviction.
Nonetheless, Phillip DeSelle was sentences to 50 years in prison. He became eligible for parole in 2007 but has been denied parole at least twice since then. The community of Natchitoches and Averie’s family rally to keep the perpetrator behind bars for the rest of his life.
The house has reportedly sold three times in the twenty-plus years since the murder took place and it has been remodeled inside and out in recent years. As the photos indicate, the home is well kept and well-loved by the current owners.
I learned about Truvy’s house being a crime-scene a few months ago. As the mom of young children, I wrestled for the longest time about whether to do a blog post about it or not. I had decided not to for the simple fact that I wished I had never found out about it myself. Learning about the horrible tragedy essentially dashed my glowing perception of the movie and the beautiful small town where the movie was filmed. And I didn’t want anyone else to feel that way – sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.
But the more I thought about it, and the little girl who died there, the more I felt like it was okay to talk about it. Perhaps I even felt even compelled to cover it - in an act of bearing witness and honoring her memory, so that Averie NOT be forgotten.
A terrible thing happened at the house on a quiet street corner in Natchitoches, but it doesn’t mean the house is bad. Or that we can’t remember the house or the victim with joy and fondness. I guess it’s kind of like the overall message in the Steel Magnolias movie – bad things do happen in life, yes, we can’t control that, but we can move forward with strength, grace, and dignity.
So that’s what I like to think of when I look at Truvy’s house – strength, grace, dignity. Sadness - yes, but as M’Lynn says at the end of the movie: life goes on…
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