Celebrities I Have Known…. Well, Sort Of!

| January 23, 2011 | Comments (3)


I remember distinctly the day I joined the world. The moment I knew I had really arrived on earth and had figured out  what it was all about.

I was twelve years-old, still hidden in baby fat and possessed of a high, squeaky pre-pubescent voice. Enveloped in the darkness of a movie matinee I was making serious inroads into a gigantic bag of popcorn.

The feature film was “Snows of Kilimanjaro” and the scene was Mediterranean. Gregory Peck is lounging on the deck of a yacht clad in a bathing suit, his leonine limbs absorbing  the sun’s rays as he radiates a perfect tan.  He stretches and looks out across the  limpid,  blue water at a figure moving towards him, cutting through the sea  with deft, graceful strokes.  It is Hildegarde Neff.

As she nears the hull of his sleek craft, Gregory leans over the side and says to her in what seems almost like a whisper,  “Natasha, how charming you are today, my dear!”  The camera pans to her face for a close-up  and, with only the slightest hesitation,  Neff pauses by the boat (she must be treading water at this point), looks up at Gregory and smiles with slightly parted lips saying, “‘ But, darling,  how could I help but be when swimming to you is my objective.”

That was  60 years ago and   I am still totally in that moment as though it happened just this minute; I remember emitting a low moan as my bag of  popcorn  fell to the floor, my jaw dropped and I became weak with the realization that there was a world out there filled with …things, things heretofore unknown to me. Glamor, sophistication, beauty, clever dialogue, wealthy people having forbidden fun (as I recall Gregory and Hildegarde were both married to other people at the time of this boatside exchange.)

Maybe my life would have taken another path and I would have ended up a different person had that film been “The Good Earth” or “Spartacus” or  “The Life of Christ.”  But as it is, although I appear outwardly to be a rather boring, humdrum person, I have a secret, inner life that I share only with Hildegarde and Gregory … and now you, dear readers. 

 I consider Gregory and Hildegarde to be  my good  friends because they have given me  the gift of  fantasy. Since that  moment in the dark when I waddled into the theater,  took my seat, drooling into my popcorn, I have lived in a magic world of make-believe. Thank you, dear friends, Gregory and Hildegarde.   

Gregory and Hildegarde are only two of many celebrity friends I have. Ofcourse, you see, I have never actually met the famous people I know, but that doesn’t matter. If you have the gift that I have,  given to me by my dear friends, you can know anybody you want to know.

So here’s another story about another friend, Mae West. It was told to me by my friend, Tom, but I feel I was there too when it happened.

One day quite a few years ago, Tom, who is a well-known Hollywood photographer, got a call to come to Mae West’s apartment  on Wiltshire Boulevard to shoot the publicity stills for her new film, “Myra Breckinridge.” Tom had not seen Mae in long time and was eager to make the connection after so many years.

When he arrived at Mae’s door,  he was greeted by Edith Head, the famous Hollywood costume designer. Edith said that they were running a bit late, but that Mae would be ready soon. Over the next couple of hours Tom watched as they readied Mae for her still close-ups. Normally talkative and full of fun, Mae was totally quiet and seemed old and a bit dis-oriented.  As she sat in her terry cloth bathrobe  looking out blankly into space while she was being made up, Tom thought she was a different person.

Finally with her wig on and corsetted up into her gown, Mae at least was starting to look her old self. Tom readied his cameras and turned on the flood  lights. As he moved in for the shoot, he stooped and pulled a small jar out of his  camera bag. Suddenly Mae became alert and asked,  “Wazzat?” Tom replied, “Mae, it’s Vaseline. I’m going to put a dab on the lens to soften the picture.”  With that, Mae came fully to life, drew herself up and, with perfect timing, uttered her trademark growl,  “Oh…they use it for that too…!”  

Aren’t my celebrity friends fabulous?

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Comments (3)

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  1. Gary Presley says:

    This is kind of a six degrees of separation sort of thing, isn’t it, Sam? I was fascinated with the concept several decades ago. I knew a guy who had known Eisenhower (or at least he said so), and when I thought about that — Eisenhower connected to Churchill connected to Stalin connected to Lenin and …). Of course, the guy may not have known Ike and it would have been all hot air.

    Happy to see you’re having fun with you blog site. WordPress is a great tool. I happened to get started with Google’s Blogger tool and have simply continued. Blogger is finally catching up to WP with some more elaborate features.

  2. Sam says:

    This comment just in from “S” who lives in exotic Arkansas.

    Re your fantasy friends….. your latest message has hit yet another home run !!! I love both the subject and your writing style.
    On the subject of Miss Hildegarde Neff, I remember one of her movies that I saw decades ago on a late, late show. In it she played a night club singer and pianist, Berlin circa 1944, the bombs falling all around during her song. Suddenly there was a very “close one” – the building groaned, dust fell from the ceiling in great amounts; and the lights all went off, blinked a few times, and after an agonizing long moment, came back on. A few of the women in the club screamed, but not our Hildegarde. With the lights back on, she smiled laconically and called out to her audience in her deep alto voice: ” Ladies und gentlemen… ve must enjoy za var…. za peace will be a bore.”. LOVE IT !!!! They don’t write ‘um that good anymore

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