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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Odds & Ends not in my book

Just for the hell of it, I'm going to post random stories that aren't in Late Bloomer.

My book, while fairly thorough, skipped around some and I left a lot of tidbits out. Some by accident; I simply forgot them. John has reminded me of a few I wish I'd included. I'll write up some of those at times, when the mood strikes. Others I omitted because I didn't want the book to be overlong.

One friend said I should have put in a lot more Hollywood stuff: stars I'd met, people who came to our house, etc. I chose to keep that to a minimum. Why? For one thing, I thought too much name-dropping would be kind of obnoxious and detract from the story. For another, we're talking about another time -- celebrities from 40-50 years ago. If I mentioned some of these people, at least two-thirds of my readers wouldn't know who the hell I'm talking about.

For example, any of you remember Gig Young?

Didn't think so.

Gig Young was a suavely handsome actor who did movies in the 1940s through the early 70s. He could do both comedy and drama and he was quite talented, but he never made it to leading man. He was always the second banana, the sidekick, the co-worker, the best friend. He was one of those actors you knew you'd seen before, but you couldn't remember his name.

Here he is in some pictures from a popular episode of Twilight Zone:

Yeah, I know... what kind of a stupid name is "Gig"? Again, remember the time. Back then, actors had names like Rock, Tab and Skip.

He was married five times, including to Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched.

In 1969, he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in a dark little film called They Shoot Horses, Don't They? But after that, his career declined.

In the early 70s when I was living with my dad, he had a friend who was a chef and owned an Italian restaurant in what was then the Beverly-Comstock Hotel (today, it's the Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel). We went to this restaurant all the time, gorged on mountains of pasta and hung out talking with other patrons. On any given night, you could find Gig Young sitting off by himself at a table, chain-smoking and drinking himself into a stupor.

One night, my dad and I were there, along with the daughter of one of Dad's oldest friends (coincidentally, she too was named Erica). After we ate, at Dad's lead, we got up and went to join Gig at his table. He was charming, in a slurry drunk sort of way.

Don't know if you guys have ever noticed this, but a lot of times, intoxicated people will say the most mundane things and think they are profound, amusing, or profoundly amusing. My father, who'd had his share that night, said out of nowhere, "How many other tables do you think there are in the world right now, with two Ericas sitting at them?" Uh... Dunno, Dad. Didn't give it much thought, really.

He then lifted his glass, gestured to include Gig, and added, "Or how about two Ericas and a Gig?"

I decided to cut him off. "I don't know, Dad, but I gurantee that nowhere in the universe is another table with two Ericas, an Everett and a Byron." My father's birth name was Everett. And Gig Young's real name was Byron Elsworth Barr.

Everyone snickered, especially Gig, tickled that I knew that bit of trivia. I'd out-profounded my father, and I wasn't even drunk.

When it came time to leave, Dad got up and gave Gig a man-hug and a clap on the back. He then turned away to help the other Erica on with her jacket, so I reached up to give Gig a hug too. And he very quickly shoved his booze-pickled tongue in my mouth.

Shame on you, Byron. I was 15, for heaven's sake. I didn't tell my dad, though. I was already well aware that people do weird things when they're plastered.

So whatever happened to jolly old Gig Young? In 1978, three weeks after marrying his fifth wife, he shot her to death, then turned the gun on himself. He was 64.

Yup, fun Hollywood stories! But people do enjoy them, I suppose. John is always fascinated with my celebrity stories. His one brush with fame was meeting Buddy Ebsen once, when his family went sailing. Apparently Jed Clampett had a boat too.

Oh, and a side story about that restaurant. For a while, a maitre d' worked there -- a young man (20s) with a loud voice, an overabundance of energy and wildly curly hair. He had a habit of telling people what they should and shouldn't eat; I recall one time when he very pointedly told me that I would have been better off choosing a salad over the fettucini alfredo. (Yes, thank you, I know I'm chunky. Fuck off. I want my fettucini.)

Any guesses at who he turned out to be?

EDIT, 10/17: Karyn was the first to guess correctly -- it was Richard Simmons.

One more bit of trivia about Gig Young. He was the first actor cast to play the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. However, he was replaced with Gene Wilder when he kept showing up to the set with DTs.


  1. I remember Gig Young, but didn't know about his marriage to Elizabeth Montgomery.

    This idea of telling additional stories from your past is wonderful. Please do continue.

    Sorry, no idea who the maitre d' was. Peter Falk?


  2. I remember Gig Young and his role in the movie. Also, I remember him from The Twilight Zone as well.

    No idea who the mystery man is.

    Thank you Erica for a really fun story.


  3. Since we are about the same age as you, we do know of Gig Young, Bacall more than me. Can't speak for your many readers, but we enjoy the star studded tales.

    Bacall was kissed by Dean Martin on the cheek when she was 8.

  4. I love your Hollywood tales--perhaps it is just as well that you left some out of your book because you can share them here with all the people that have not read it.

    I know of Gig Young, but did not know about the murder/suicide. How awful! I have no idea about the mystery maitre d'... Did you ever meet Burt Lancaster? He was one of my favorites. Absurdly handsome, even in his old age!

  5. Richard Simmons? ;)

    Yes, I know who Gig Young is. I think I'm older than you, so I could probably come up with some YOU haven't heard of! LOL! Do you have one of those 'most embarrassing' moments stories with a celebrity? Those moments where you wished the floor would open up and swallow you? Mine was with Frank Sinatra Jr.

  6. Erica, I enjoyed hearing your 'Hollywood by-gone story, of the actor such as Gig Young. My fifteen minutes of fame came, when I had the honor of interviewing Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton, at the Plaza Hotel, here in New York.

  7. I'm going with Richard Simmons as well.. he's about 15 yrs older than us now.. :-)

    I too remember Gig Young.. damned handsome in my book.. suave 'n debonair. (grinz)

    Love your stories!! Keep em' coming Erica!!

  8. --> 'as far as hollywood-y type stories' .. Well.. I worked for 7 yrs in a very prominent (and fun as hell) bar on the island. Made incredible cash money.. and should have written a book JUST on what happened in that bar! SEX-DRUGS-and-ROCK 'N ROLL! "enter Roxanne Pulitzer" for just one sassy wench! .. oooh the tails I "could tell!

  9. oops! .. helps to know where.. and that was the island of Palm Beach..

  10. DAMMIT! .. that's TALES.. not "tails"!

    when I'm outta the loop like here lately.. I'm loopy! LOL

  11. Please share more of these stories Erica. I remember Gig Young but no idea who the maitre d' was.


  12. I, too, remember Gig Young. Sad story. Then there is Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and I don't remember who Skip was, but if I knew what movies or TV roles he had, I would then maybe remember. How about Lillian Gish? Or John "Fuzzy" St. John? Buster Keaton?

    Am I really dating myself here? LOL We know the list can go on and on. :-)

    Keep the stories up. I love them.

  13. Hermione -- yup, they were married from 1956-63. I saw some lovely pictures of them while researching.

    joey -- I hadn't realized how far back he went. He really should have been a leading man.

    OBB -- oh, lucky Bacall!! I loved Dean Martin.

    Dana -- nope, never met Burt Lancaster. I actually met very few movie stars. Mostly TV people -- comics, writers, etc. I agree, he was stunning!

    Karyn -- OK, I need to hear that FSjr story! And you win -- it was indeed Richard Simmons. Freaking obnoxious little twit even then.

    six -- Wow... now that's a story, I'm sure.

    Zelle -- LOL! Yes, loopy you are. Would love to hear some of those tails... er, tales. Probably were some tails involved, too.

    Ronnie -- I'll try to come up with more stories. I wish I could ask my dad for some.

    Bobbie Jo -- there was an actor named Skip Ward; he was a blond hunk who did some 60s surf movies and some other stuff.'re dipping WAY back, with Gish and Keaton -- that's the silent era! My father was crazy about silent movies. I never got into them.

  14. WOW Erica, your celebrity storie's sure are interesting :-)I never heard of any of the people you were writing about, but i still enjoy reading about them :-)I agree with Zelle with Richard Simmons, he is also called slim good body hehehe LOL. Love you sending you big hugs my dear friend from your naughty girl Jade xoxo

  15. Jade -- well, they're all before your time, hon. Glad you still enjoy them!

  16. At the Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton, interview, for the movie "Dr. Faustus". I asked Liz, "Would you like your husband to be knighted by the Queen' She answered with a smile. "It will be the first time, that I will be a lady". The answer, brought lots of laughter.

  17. six -- HA! That sounds like her. :-)

  18. Ok, you asked. I was 13. My parents took me to see Frank Sinatra Jr. at a Brown Derby Gaslight Room here in Ohio. Those were the dinner theatre/nightclub rooms off the Brown Derby Restaurant back in the day. We were sitting at a table back by the coat room. Sinatra and his entourage came in, walked thru the room, and into the coat room behind us. My father insisted I take my camera and go in to see if I could get a picture. That alone was mortifying to a 13 year-old. You don't want to go where you think you don't belong. But I finally went. Entered the room and there was one man standing in there - the others had all gone thru the door on the other side of the room. Back to the dressing rooms, I guess. I timidly asked this man if it would be possible to get a picture of Mr. Sinatra. He just smiled, said yes, but then just stood there. I started to get a bit uncomfortable. A little bolder, I asked "Is he here?" Again, a "yes", just followed by him still standing there smiling at me. Finally, with all the righteous indignation I could raise at that age (including the hands on the hips), I said, "Well, could you please go GET him, then?" (Can you see where this is going?) His reply: "Darling, I've been standing right here the whole time!" with the most amused and indulgent smile yet. My father picked that moment to walk in to see what was taking so long. I wailed "Daddy!" and then the picture was taken. Me, with a face 16 shades of red, with Frank Sinatra Jr., with his arm around me and a big shit-eating grin on his face! For his show later, we moved up to a table by the 'stage area' (it was actually at floor level). All during his show, he would look over at me, smile again, and wink. Wanted the floor to open up and eat me.

  19. Well, you know I enjoy those old Hollywood stories--even if some perv played tonsil hockey with a minor and then offed his spouse and himself in a fit...who knows?

    Oh, and Karyn? That is a fucking AWESOME story! Well done!

    Here's a brief "Hollywood heydey" story for y'all: I was on my mobile a few years back outside a soundstage for a shoot I was working on and this old man came shuffling by, hunched over and grey. He went into a room down the hall. Something about the guy seemed familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

    I was on a conference call, so I was standing out there for a while. About an hour later the same guy came back, dressed up in a suit and standing tall. He wasn't shuffling, but it was definitely the same guy. Just as he was about to pass me I realized who it was! "Milton Berle!" I blurted. "Hey!" He looked and me and snarled, "Fuck off!"


  20. Thanks, Craig! And love your Uncle Miltie story. Always heard he was a bit of a bugger.

  21. @Karyn--
    Love your Sinatra story. I have a friend who had the honor of dancing with him at a local event back in the 70's. At first, she did not know who he was. I guess he got off on being "incognito," lol.

  22. Karyn -- oh, my freaking God. How mortifying! Well, at least he was nice to you; good for him. :-)

    Craig -- nice, indeed. Yeah, from all accounts (including my father's), Berle was a putz.

  23. I have a not so exceptional story, but it was kind of nice and totally unexpected. When I was 9, we went to Harrah's in Tahoe and saw the Lawrence Welk show. Now I did not particularly care for Joe Finniy (Sp?) and it wasn't so much him as it was the music he sang. We were at a table right against the stage and I was sitting right at the stage. Guess who sang to me? Yep. Joe. When he was done, he leaned down and kissed me. I sure wasn't prepared for that. I had a better view of him after that and I did begin to appreciate his voice.

  24. Bobbie Jo -- well, having anyone sing to you is nice, for sure. And when you're a kid, that extra attention is special.

    However, I was mercilessly subjected to the Lawrence Welk show as a child (yes, with Joe Feeney, Myron Floren and the Lovely Lennon Sisters), so I'm not sure how I would have reacted to that... :-D

  25. What? You mean you did not like the Lawrence Welk Show?!!! That was a Saturday night must see for us, along with Gunsmoke. I actually liked the show. I liked Larry Hooper, Aladdin, and also the Lennon Sisters. Oh, and Joanne Castle and her playing the piano. She was really good at it. I know. So I'm weird. I can't help it if I liked the show. I also liked Gezele (sp?)McKinsey, the singer. I got to see her at Harrah's. We went to Harrah's a lot so I got to see many entertainers. How about Eddy Peabody, the banjo player? Jack Benny, who could really play his Strad well enough for Carnegie Hall. I won't bore you anymore. LOL I was just fortunate that I was able to see them live on stage.

  26. Speaking of - Richard Simmons is in the audience on Dancing With The Stars tonight! LOL!

  27. Karyn -- LOL... I cannot stand the sight of him, truth be told. Those outfits! At least when I knew him, he wore big-boy long pants and collared shirts. (snark)

  28. Tonight was 80's night, so they are dancing to hits of the 80's. Carson Kressley was dressed in a cheerleader outfit with the short nylon shorts. Carrie said that Richard wanted his outfit! Hard to believe Richard is 63 now. Time is passing too quickly...............

  29. Thank you all-- Erica, Karyn, O.B.B., Six and Craig-- I loved your stories!

    It is off-putting that a lot of the folks I enjoyed chose to be putzes in their "off time!" Mark Evanier (who has lots of great stories at his website, too!) quoted Vincent Price: "It amuses me that people think I'm the villains I play, and that Danny Kaye is a nice man." :-D

    On the other hand, there are gratifying tales-- like the one Erica told about Harvey Korman at her dad's funeral-- that reveal fine hearts behind fine talent.

    And speaking of Harvey and "Blazing Saddles," I heartily recommend that everyone enjoy it again with the Mel Brooks commentary turned on-- if for some bizarre reason you've missed that!

  30. Oh, and Bobbie Jo, your Welk story reminds me-- there is a photo around I hope you've seen of him playfully spanking one of "his" gals-- someone here will remember who! It's wunnerful, wunnerful!

  31. Love this story!

    I never knew Gig's name, but as you say, recognize his face.

    Keep these tidbits up -- much better than E Online!



  32. David - Jayne Walton. Picture is here - You have to go almost to the bottom of the page.

  33. Dave -- I always imagined that Danny Kaye was as sweet as his on-screen persona. When my former stepmother (the nice one, not the bitch), who worked with him on "Hans Christian Andersen" told me what an absolute prick he was, I was crushed! Now Vincent, from all accounts, was a love.

    Pink -- yeah, I think just about everyone has seen the "Martin Sloan" TZ episode.

    Karyn -- oh my gawd, I'd forgotten that photo. I don't know why, but Lawrence Welk gives me the squicks!

  34. I know one current actor is a really nice guy. There was a man that got lost in the Tetons and the guy I am talking about risked his own life to fly his helicopter to save the guy. As they were flying back to Jackson, he asked the guy if he knew who he was. The guy did say he looked familiar. Then he told him who he was: Harrison Ford.

  35. Oh, one more thing: :-)

    My dad and I were watching the Mike Douglas show once and Mike had the Gabor sisters on there. Now they were Hugarian. They got into a bit of a tiff and Mike just sort of looked puzzled with it all, as in "What is this all about?" Of course, they were speaking in Hungarian. My dad was Hungarian though born in this country, his parents came over from Hungary. He told me later that he understood what they were saying to each other and it wasn't very nice.

  36. I love these remembrances,'s like reading hidden chapters from the book. Thank you.

    - Dana

  37. Erica, I toldja you should have put more celebrity stuff in it... people still love all those Rat Pack era celebs, you know. I got your book in the mail yesterday, and I reviewed it on Amazon today...

  38. Bobbie Jo -- I did hear that story about Harrison Ford. What a cool guy, huh?

    Dana -- I'll dig up a few more, and some scene stuff too. The book would have been 700 pages if I'd let it. :-)

    Danny -- I saw! Love it. Yeah, just buy it! :-D OK, when you're right, you're right. But I walking a fine line between being interesting and shamelessly dropping names.

  39. Richard Simmons I've heard of. Gig Young I have not. Learn something new every day in spankoland. ;-)

    My only brush with fame was sitting behind Billy Crystal at an Angels game. (He was there to cheer for the Yankees, who won.) I was maybe 12 at the time and my mom was telling me to get his autograph. I said "Who IS that?" Lol.

  40. Lea -- hang around me, and you'll learn all sorts of useless information. :-D

    Billy Crystal -- king of the Oscar hosts!

  41. I readily agree with all of your friends that you should write a book about your family and your experiences in Hollywood. There are a lot of celebrity stories but few about those who were behind the scenes and whose contributions were not recognized. Your Dad sounds like a hard worker and he was associated with a lot of greats and near-greats (and in the case of Mr. Young, fallen-greats).

    Still, it's your life and you get to chose what to share. We can only sit and hope that you will share with us.

    I kiss your hand, little girl (no tongue, that would really be gross).

  42. Chev -- I appreciate the vote of confidence. Unfortunately, my memory can only go so far, and I have no one to help me remember the details, since most of them are gone. My father belonged to another era; I just want to do my little part so he won't be forgotten. :-)