Inside Chubby Checker's Interracial Marriage That Faced Danger as His Mother Did Not Understand His Wife
Musician Chubby Checker rose to fame with the song "Twist." He fell in love with a fan at one of his concerts, Catherina Lodders, but his mother was not accepting of their union.
Checker was born Ernest Evans in 1941. He picked cotton on his father's farm throughout his childhood, which also grew tobacco. His family did everything by hand, and they lived without water or electricity. Until one day, a concert changed his young life.
When Chubby was four years old, his mother took him to a fair in Georgetown, South Carolina. While there, he watched country singer Ernest Tubb, popularly known as "The Travelling Troubadour." At that moment, Chubby realized that performing on stage was all he wanted to do.
Twist idol Chubby Checker and his bride-to-be, Catharina Lodders of Haarlem, Holland, who was Miss World of 1963, kiss after the he presented the 21-year-old beauty with an engagement ring, Chubby Checker and Catherina Lodders. | Source: Getty Images
His wife, Catherina Lodders, was born in the Netherlands in 1942. She worked as a model and was crowned Miss Holland in 1962, which qualified her to compete in the Miss World pageant in the same year, competing against 32 countries. She won the Miss World title that year.
CHUBBY FALLS IN LOVE WITH CATHERINA
In 1964 Chubby was performing in a concert tour attended by several models in the Philippines, Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss World. He spotted Catherina in a bathing suit. He immediately fell in love with her and resolved to marry her. "I didn't even want to get married, but I couldn't breathe," Chubby recalled.
As per the pageant's rules, the couple began dating but could not get married while Catherina was a reigning Miss World. A month after her reign ended, the couple got engaged and announced their engagement to the newspaper, "The Reading Eagle," from Chubby's home.
American rock 'n roll singer and dancer, Chubby Checker, in1960. | Source: Getty Images
The interracial couple met with challenges when they announced their engagement, even from Chubby's mother. Press reports claimed that his mom, Raymond Evans, did not get along with Catherina even while they were dating because she was white.
Chubby explained that only one misunderstanding due to a language difference took place between his mother and Catherina while they were dating. Catherina called him crying. "I went home and got it straightened out," he said. "There is no problem between my family and my wife. My family takes care of our two Doberman Pinscher dogs, and we are over there often."
A PRIVATE WEDDING WITH A POLICE PRESENCE
Because the couple was interracial when interracial romance was discouraged, they did not have a lot of support for their marriage. They drove all night from Pennsylvania, where interracial marriage was illegal, to New Jersey, where it was allowed, to find a priest to marry them.
Chubby Checker and Catherina Lodders. | Source: Getty Images
The priest who officiated the wedding, George Garver, recalled that in 1964, a young man approached him with a photograph of Chubby and Catherina, asking if he would marry them despite their racial difference. Garver said that he would marry them if he didn't find a reason not to marry them during pre-marital counseling.
Garver sought approval to marry the couple from the council of the Lutheran Church and his bishop. Garver had no idea that Chubby was a famous musician and guessed that he was a football player. "I was pretty square," he said.
Following Garver's approval of the wedding at the conclusion of pre-marital counseling, Chubby and Catherina married in a private ceremony and had police outside to quell any trouble. The media and protesters who were against the union gathered outside the church, but the wedding continued with no chaos.
Chubby Checker and his new bride, the former Catharina Lodders following their wedding at temple Lutheran Church. |Source: Getty Images
THE CHALLENGES OF MARRIED LIFE
The newlyweds wanted to buy a house together, but they were racially discriminated against and unable to buy a home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Chubby and Catherina asserted that they would keep looking for the house they wanted and could buy with dignity. "We are of a new generation. We don't believe in this segregation stuff, and we won't take it," he said.
"I want so much, however, to have our own home," Catherina said. While they looked for a home together, they lived in a small apartment in downtown Philadelphia and later moved to a larger apartment soon after renovations were completed.
Even though Chubby didn't want to get married before he met Catherina, he loved married life and enjoyed his role as a husband:
"Sometimes I say, 'oh hell what did I get married for?' But in the very next moment, I know why, without really arriving at the definite answer."
Musician Chubby Checker with his wife, Catharina Lodders, when he performs with a full band at The Cutting Room on March 6, 2008, in New York City. | source: Getty Images
Chubby was also arrested on a morals charge involving a 17-year-old white college student. The girl's mother laid a complaint that her daughter spent the weekend with Chubby in a Chicago motel. He was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and admitted that he was with her but wouldn't reveal whether they slept together.
Chubby was handcuffed after he knocked a camera out of a photographer's hands and was later released on bond to go back home to his wife. Catherina withheld comments about the charges, and the couple went on to have three children and seven grandchildren. They remained married for more than 50 years.