Meeting with Fame

Written in response to my son asking what famous people had I ever met:

After my dad and his brother sold Wolf Brand in 1957, he innocently became in some ways victim of many opportunists. The first one I remember began when we had the actor Russell Hayden for fried chicken lunch. Hayden had played the character Lucky in some of the famous Hopalong Cassidy television shows. He was accompanied by another man who I don’t remember but was likely his business partner. They were looking for money to make films and my dad was the “luckless”prey. Dad was dazzled by the attention of a “famous” person, now sitting at his table in our home. So, he invested in a business he didn’t understand.
His investment made a terrible movie, “When The Girls Take Over,” starring a former Miss Sweden or Miss Denmark or Miss Nordicwhatever in a skimpy bikini. But then most of the actors were in skimpy bikinis. The wardrobe budget was likely low. (Bikinis were a new and scandalous phenomenon at the time.) I remember Dad telling us that the actress Miss Whatever asked the director (another nobody), “I know who I had to screw to get in this movie. Who do I have to screw to get out?” (That was either one of my dad’s jokes or not.)
The film, however, was certainly no joke. Daddy’s good friend, Sidney Miller, who we called Uncle Sidney, owned the local Corsicana, Texas Ideal Theater and had a “premiere” of the film there. Very few people other than us were in the seats. It was in black and white and an absolutely B- film with a dumb plot, focused on the bikinis, of course. He asked us afterwards what we thought but it was hard to be kind.
Lucky also got Daddy involved in another film project, “Eye of the Needle” that was so bad it was never released and a television series about a U.S. Marine called Mike Leathers. Never saw that either. I don’t have a lot of memories of Lucky being at our house. But, I remember him telling us he had only one child, a daughter whom he gave a new convertible on her 16th birthday. This was over strong objections of her mother. It was the 1950s when there were no seatbelts. She had a crash and died and her mother never forgave him. Divorce followed.
Unfortunately, the financial bloodletting involving media didn’t stop with Lucky. Dad was “unlucky” enough to later meet a supposed New York television executive who also came for fried chicken. He wore a three-piece suit and carried a brief case. He talked my dad into investing in the first cable subscription television service… the Virgin Islands no less. Another enterprise my dad didn’t know anything about. He was always so trusting.
When my dad flew down to check on things, the buttoned-up executive was wearing cut off shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and thongs. He had left his wife and was living with a native woman, paying absolutely no attention to the business, but a lot of attention to the local alcohol. Soon, he died of a heart attack. When Dad heard about the death, he again went to the islands only to find the man’s wife had thrown all the cable tv records in the ocean. At the office was only a pile of furniture and crate after crate of film reels, mostly out of their metal cases, with little identification. Dad closed the office and had all the crates shipped to our house and down to our basement. He paid Joanne and me to load each reel on a projector and identify and label all the reels so he could return them. We sat in the basement for weeks. The reels were old television shows, mostly westerns as I remember. All were black and white, naturally, except The Cisco Kid reels, which were for some reason filmed in color although there were no color televisions at the time. A few of them might have been Hopalong Cassidy and his sidekick Lucky.
So much for the movie and television business. Dad always told the stories while laughing. Really.
The famous people we saw when we went to Warner Brothers Studio and Disney Studios in 1958 gave us autographs on a small pad supplied by our guide. I still have my autographs from Will Hutchins, who played Sugarfoot in the television series of the same name, John Russell, who played Marshall Troop in the Lawman series, Jack Kelly, who played Bret Maverick in the Maverick series and Guy Williams who played Zorro in the Disney series of the same name.
We watched from the sidelines scenes of Auntie Mame and the John Wayne movie Rio Bravo (which included Joanne’s crush Ricky Nelson). (I previously wrote about this trip, see the story, ” WWW.TALESOFAWAG.COM. “Borrowed Celebrity” if my web page is working.)
In about 1970, I was living on the lower floor of a duplex on Rosedale behind Snider Plaza in University Park, Dallas with my small son, West. Above me were the mother and aunt of my friend and landlord Lilian Prather, two wonderful women, Resa and Verdie. Their granddaughter Joanie and I became good friends and she moved in with me while studying at the SMU Theater Department. Joanie had been famous herself, having starred in a popular local television show, “Something Else.” Through Joanie, I met quite a few famous people, beginning with her godmother Nonie. Nonie was Louise Latham, a well-known character actress who had been nominated for an academy award for her role in Hitchcock’s Marnie. She was married to an MGM film executive named Paul Picard. They lived in Beverly Hills just below Frank Sinatra. In their back yard one day I met Hal Holbrook, who invited me to go horseback riding the next day. Well…yes. So Hal, Paul, Joanie and I went riding. After that, I sent Hal letters and followed his career. When he came to Dallas twice doing Mark Twain, I picked him and his manager up after the show and they came to dinner at my house. A truly lovely man. I should add here that Paul and Nonie couldn’t have been nicer to me.
Through Joanie, in California, I met John Travolta, who she had starred with in a forgettable movie called “The Devil’s Rain,” and Jeff Bridges, who we smoked marijuana with and discussed how to decorate his house. I also met Billy Crystal on the movie lot sitting on a curb. She had starred with him in yet another forgettable movie called, “Rabbit Test.” He was depressed and told Joanie the critics had called the movie a bomb, although it was the only movie ever made and directed by Joan Rivers.
One day when Bill and I had moved back to Dallas from Corsicana, I was complaining about Hillary Clinton. Bill said, “Well you didn’t like her when you met her.” What? When? He reminded me that our friend Rudy Moore had been Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff when he was governor of Arkansas and we went to dinner at Rudy and Judy’s house with the Clintons, just the six of us. It boggles my mind that I have absolutely no memory of the Fayetteville event. I suspect it was wholly fiction, conveniently “remembered” by my ex-husband..
I met Associate Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg on board the Secretary of the Navy’s yacht during a sail down the Potomac outside Washington, D.C. I didn’t know who he was. The Secretary of the Navy was a cousin of our friend Clara Wheelock and I was there with their son, Robbie, who had just graduated from Washington and Lee University.
As for the subject of this writing, some of these people I, of course, only met casually, some more lasting. Joanie is still a dear friend, whom I treasure.

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