A Life With No Regrets – maybe Part 2 – “Rebel Without A Cause”
Douglas, my Director friend, got an opportunity to go to Paramount to work on a film with Bette Davis and Glen Ford. He took me along with him and what a time it was. Peter Falk was in the film along with a new young starlet from Sweden. I am sure you have heard of her, Ann Margret. Such a beauty and so innocent to the ways of Hollywood, given time that would change. But the best part of being on this set was Bette Davis; she turned out to be the most wonderful Movie Star I had ever met. So kind and friendly, not like so many other big stars at the time. When she was in between shooting her scenes, she would come sit with the crew and even take lunch with us. Miss Davis was nothing like what I had heard or read about her. She was the most down to earth woman I had ever met and the laughter she had just warmed the soul. She had the most wonderful stories of what it was like being a starlet in the studios of the late 1930s and into the 40s. Told that she was too homely to be a leading lady, she was determined to prove them wrong. Man, were they wrong, and later on, she had two Oscars to show just how wrong they were. Only one other Actress affected me the way Miss Davis did and that story will come later.
After Paramount, Douglas was asked to come to Warner Brothers to help on a film with James Dean, Natalie Woods and Sal Mineo. Even though I wasn’t a part of making the film, I did have the great pleasure of meeting James and Natalie. The three of us became good friends and our relationship is something I will cherish all my life. I will never forget the night that James and I went to the Pike in Long Beach. The Pike was a grand old amusement park with all the carnival rides and the greatest wooden roller coaster in the world. We had drunk a little too much beer and decided to have a contest to see who could survive all the worst rides in the park without throwing up. We both won as neither of us succumbed to the torture of the rides. We found an old photo booth, had pictures taken while making funny faces and just fooling around. On our way back to Hollywood we were stopped by a cop, who, when he saw that James was driving the car, all he wanted to do was get an autograph. Then he spied the photos of us from Pike Park and said he would give us just a warning in return for the autograph and photos. Naturally we agreed and went on our way. Made it safely home by the way.
The death of James was a devastating time in my life and later, the death of Natalie was almost too much to bear.
After James was killed I moved into Hollywood but still went to the studio with Douglas a few days a week. In order to make a little more money, I took a job working late night as a fry cook at one of the last drive-in restaurants in the Country. The drive-in was located in Beverly Hills, on Wilshire Blvd, but sorry to say closed several years ago. I doubt that there is another one anywhere in the USA, which is a shame as it was strictly an American idea. This drive-in had male car-hops on roller skates, it was so famous that people and Stars from all over the world came to eat there. Natalie lived in the area and late at night when I was closing the drive-in, she would drop by and we would sit out at one of the tables and just talk. She had grown up in Hollywood and had many stories to tell. The death of James upset her a lot as it was so soon after filming ‘Rebel.’ But those evenings chatting with her gave me so many wonderful memories of a fascinating and beautiful young Lady which I will remember fondly all my life. But….. things were going to change in a big way……….