I have known many interesting people, some notable, and the other day I was telling some friends about some of the tales I have been told. Today, I will try and recall some of those stories and tales as I remember them.
About 12 years ago I was living and working in Los Angeles and a close friend who lived in West Hollywood said that he had met an English author who he thought I would find interesting. I said I would very much like to meet this person and a Saturday morning was set for the meeting at my friend’s apartment. I knocked on the door of the apartment and he met me with another gentleman standing behind him. I was introduced and we proceeded to the outside deck and took chairs. There was lemonade waiting in a pitcher and my friend filled the glasses. It was a perfect summer morning in Southern California.
The gentleman (we’ll call him Bob) was smiling as I inquired about his background and how long he had been living in the United States. He had been here more than 20 years to this date, but said he returned to England twice each year to stay acquainted with his home country. He had first come to the United States to write the only authorized biography of motion picture star Bette Davis.
Bob ended up living with her in a West Hollywood condo for the last 14 years of the actress’s life. During this time he wrote her biography, which I have since read.
Bette Davis was a most interesting woman and a movie star when stars were really stars. She scored many notable rolls during her screen years and became known in Hollywood as a fighter for the acting trade. She was instrumental in getting equal pay for female stars. Earlier, the men received more money for the same amount of work.
She also insisted on producers casting her films with very professional actors. She had no use for actors who were late or no-shows on the set or those who hadn’t studied lines before shooting day.
Her favorite actor, whom she claimed was the most professional, was Claude Rains.
Miss Davis had many problems through her lifetime and I invite you to read her biography sometime for details. I did ask Bob what Bette’s hobbies were. He responded that she had a passion for costume jewelry. He stated that she would almost always put on a sailor suit top, black slacks and wear large dark glasses and go to department stores and drug stores to shop the costume jewelry sections. She would spend much time looking at and trying on the jewelry. He said everything went well until Bette opened her mouth. The cat was out-of-the-bag and the sales clerk knew it was the famous Bette Davis. The word quickly got around the store that Bette was shopping and the clerks would come and ask for her autograph. She hated this, as do many movie celebrities and would dash out of the store only to find another store to continue her quest for junk jewelry. Bob told many other interesting stories about the actress. He said she was a wonderful woman and he misses her now that she is gone.
He also told me that when he was a child, he attended school with Prince Charles of England. They often played together and when Charles was home in one of the royal palaces, Bob said they would play in the palace and gardens.
He got to know the Queen and Prince Phillip and would sit with them at teatime while the sweet items were served with the tea.
He told me that the Queen always liked a special baked chocolate cake with her tea. He said the service would arrive on small carts through small serving tunnels within the walls of the palace. When the carts were brought into the sitting room where the Queen was sitting, the sides of the carts were pulled up and latched in place. Bob said he remembers once during one of the tea servings one of the leaves fell while the serving cart was next to the Queen and dumped the chocolate cake in her lap. It was a mess and she was firing mad. She yelled a very profane word at the server, stood up, brushed off the cake pieces to the floor and stormed out of the room.
I asked Bob if he ever heard the Queen use bad language again. He said the Queen, Charles and he were riding in the back seat of one of the Queens limousines one day and a car darted in front of them from a side street prompting the Queen’s driver to slam on the brakes causing all in the back seat to slide to the floorboards. The Queen was so upset that she yelled a profanity so all could hear.
As he and Prince Charles grew older, they continued to be the best of friends. He told me that when Charles became a teenager he had to make an appointment to see his mother. Hard to believe this Royal life can be so cold.
He said also that when the Queen walked her dogs in the garden, no one could enter the area until the Queen departed.
The Saturday morning I enjoyed with Bob lasted more than five hours and I took away many interesting stories when the meeting broke up.
As a television director, I was in a position to meet quite a few celebrated people from show business. All were interesting, some more so than others.
One lady who I will never forget is Lucille Ball. Many of us older citizens will remember her and her first husband as the stars of I Love Lucy. Many half-hour shows in this series were re-played recently on several cable channels celebrating Lucy’s 100th birthday. She never lived to be this age, but it was a good excuse to re-play many of the I Love Lucy shows. The shows may be over 50 years old, but they are just as funny today as they were when first aired. Lucy in person was not at all as she was portrayed on the TV show. She was a loving mother and concerned about her two children’s well being. When they were away from home she would speak with them on the telephone every day.
Lucy was also in love with hair care. When a new female guest would come into the home, she insisted on her being able to wash, color and set the guest’s hair. She had a beauty parlor set up in the guesthouse next to the swimming pool. This was her secret hobby and always amazed the new guest women.
A friend of mine was a good friend of one of England’s best male actors.
The actor came to Los Angeles to star in a film. He invited the actor to reside at his place during the filming. The production took more than six months to complete (very long over the estimated production time) and during this time. This same actor was in a film that was released three months into the stay with this friend.
The film quickly became so popular that the two had problems going out to restaurants and other venues because people would crowd around asking for autographs.
Soon, my friend would pull up to a restaurant and step inside and ask to see the manager. He would tell the manager that outside in the car was this important actor. He inquired if he could bring the celebrity in through the kitchen and be seated facing the wall in the dining room. This presented a problem almost every day and my friend was glad when the actor’s film was completed and he returned to London.
I guess it’s fun to be famous, but also a problem for the celebrity and friends. People can be so rude in the process of getting autographs and to just speak to them.
When you spot celebrities, leave them alone and let them be private. They enjoy getting out of the house also.