As a young girl I was never really interested in boys. After all, I had a brother and he was a pest. Why would I be interested in another boy?
And, besides this, I was always much younger than my classmates. While the other girls in my high school were wearing makeup, bras, and flirting with boys – I was not allowed to wear makeup, I was only 11 when I entered the 8th Grade, had no reason to wear a bra, and boys were ugh!
By the time I graduated from high school I only knew one boy that held any interest for me. His name was Thurston (a family name) and he was once kind enough to drive me home after a play rehearsal. He was nice looking and intelligent, not a football player or a big burly male. He mostly wore plaid long sleeved shirts, buttoned up to his neck, and had a crush on a pretty blond girl named Diane.
Entering the full time work force at 16, looking like I was 12, I had to carry my work permit and high school diploma with me at all times to prove that I was legitimately out of school. My area had Truant Officers and they were quite diligent.
The women I worked with, who were all married and in their thirties or forties, spent every break drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. I became their pet – the daughter most of them didn’t have or never would have.
Of course, while I worked during the day I studied acting on the weekend and appeared in plays at night. On Sundays I would volunteer at the Veterans Hospital working directly with patients, some of whom were only a few years older than I was. I played pool with them, ran an 8mm projector for movies, and called out Bingo.
At 17 I moved to Hollywood and into the first real home of my own. And this is where I met the first group of men that became my protectors.
Being so young, living alone in Hollywood, and appearing in plays could have spelled disaster for me, but instead most of the actors I worked with became protective of me – even to the point of covering my ears with their hands if anyone even attempted to tell a dirty joke or swear in my presence. There were many of these kind men, with names like Mike, Charles, John, Eddie, and so on. Most of them had girl friends (or boyfriends) and some of them were married.
While starring in “Wuthering Heights”, a young man came backstage to say hello. Ironically he and I had attended the same high school and he recognized me (is that the Leo thing?). He had a friend with him, a young man named Mark, who was very shy. My high school acquaintance said that his friend wanted to ask me out for a date, but he was too shy to do so. Having never gone on a date before I wasn’t exactly sure what to say – but I gave him my phone number and said Mark could call me, which he did.
Since I lived alone I wasn’t going to have a virtual stranger pick me up at my apartment so I told him to pick me up at my friend’s home. My friend, Ronnie (real name Runghild), lived with her mother in Hollywood. We had become good friends after appearing together in a musical production of “Cinderella” . Ronnie was very pretty and had long blond hair which her mother set in rags every night. Naturally she played Cinderella. I was one of the wicked step-sisters.
On the night of our “date”, Mark arrived right on time and I introduced him to Ronnie and her mother, and then we left for dinner. Mark was quite nice, quite quiet, and quite shy. Our entire dinner was spent with my trying to carry on a conversation – to no avail.
That was my first foray into dating.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I wasn’t really interested in the handsome, athletic type. I was more interested in the brainy, nerdy type. If a young man was also good-looking that was a plus, but he better have some brains or no-go.
Through the years I was fortunate to meet many men that met my criteria for – friendship first, romance second, if at all.
One of my favorite men friends was an intellectual named Ernie – who was 35 to my 20. Ernie and I appeared in several plays together. He looked like he belonged to the Kennedy Clan, having red hair, a Bostonian accent, was a strict Roman Catholic, married with 5 children, AND he was smart, very, very smart. There was no romance between us, only a mutual respect for knowledge. He made up a book list for me to broaden my education – just as F. Scott Fitzgerald had done for Sheila Graham. This is when I found books I fell in love with – Steinbeck’s “The Short Happy Reign of Pippin IV” and Guareschi’s “The Little World of Don Camillo”. From this beginning, my personal collection of books grew exponentially. I preferred to buy a book to a dress, preferred to read a book to watching television, and preferred to talk with Ernie about books rather than go on a date with someone who didn’t read at all. Ernie was part of my life for many years, even after I married – until one year he moved back to the East Coast and we lost touch.
When I did date it was generally a short lived relationship. Two policemen came into my life during those dating years – the first one patrolled by squad car the area where I worked. He would stop by and talk to me now and then. On one of his regular visits he asked me out on a date. Now all men in uniform are very good-looking, no matter how they look wearing regular clothes, and this policeman was no exception. The only date I ever went on with this person was so bad his name has been completely erased from my mind. The two things I remember, in fact will never forget, is the gun he kept in his glove compartment and his hatred of blacks. He was very scary.
The other policeman entered my life when I was accosted in my garage by a stranger who was obviously on drugs. He was the officer who responded to my frantic 911 call and for the next week kept watch outside my apartment (I was working until midnight each night). He would wait until I was inside my apartment and call to make sure everything was okay. On Friday nights he would sometimes stop by for coffee. We were good friends for a short period of time (just friends, no romance here either), until he was transferred to another precinct.
During these periods in my life I continued to work a full-time job and act in plays at night. My life was happy, content, and fulfilling.
There were two other men that brought changes into my life. The first one was Frank, a nice looking young man who I did date for a short time. He wanted to be a model and spent many hours preening in front of any mirror that came into his view. He was much better looking than I was (we were both Leos wanting to be the center of attention), drove a Thunderbird, and supported himself by managing a small restaurant. He had been with the 101st Airborne and loved to parachute jump, that is until a woman, who was his mentor, died during a jump when she panicked and forgot to pull her emergency chute. That was the end of Frank’s jumping hobby. Shortly after this incident Frank began to pursue his modeling career full time and we broke up. However, before that happened, Frank introduced me to Nils.
Nils was from Denmark and was very intelligent. In looks he resembled Oskar Werner, for those who remember this great actor, and he worked for the then P & O Orient Company. He had been sent to the United States to work in a local office, and to perfect his English. The most interesting fact about Nils was that he was raised in Siam (now Thailand) where his father had been stationed, and spoke fluent Siamese (Thai). The other languages he spoke fluently were Danish, German, English, Italian, French, Spanish, and also had a smattering of all the other Scandinavian languages. He would translate my favorite Yves Montand records for me, as Montand only sang in French and I had no idea what he was singing, but I loved the way he sang and pronounced the French words. Fortunately, the words were as beautiful in English as they were in French.
Nils had two friends, Bietta and Kirsten, both also from Denmark. The four of us had many good times together and it was fun while it lasted. But all things must end and Nils had to return to Denmark to resume his career and that was the end of our foursome.
The man who made the biggest difference in my life (not counting my husband) was a friend for over 40 years. Ted died a few years ago, at the age of 92, and each and every day I still miss him and his influence on me. He was a Virgo to my Leo – an interesting combination. He had the Virgo qualities of being a perfectionist, punctual, practical, logical and was always a teacher of knowledge, with the plus of being handsome. I had the Leo qualities of liveliness, ingenuity, elegance, intelligence, wit, strength and talent, (not being egotistical, just being a Leo). I loved and respected him and was an eager student of his knowledge. He and his partner – (life partner and business partner) owned the finest gift store in San Francisco. It was called Frederick’s and people came from all over the world to visit his store. In fact, I have a photograph taken many years ago of Ted and Princess Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, when she visited his store. Everything I know about porcelains, china patterns, antiques, collectibles, etc. I learned from Ted. And many of the beautiful porcelains I have in my home today were either purchased from Ted or were gifts he gave me.
And now we come to the final man in my life, the Delightful, Delicious, De-Lovely David – 4D (thank you Cole Porter). We met many, many years ago when I walked into his book store (what else?). Something seemed to click almost immediately, but David was a true Cancer Male and came across as an extremely shy person. He spoke very little about himself even though I visited the store many times to pick up books he ordered for me. As he likes to say, “By the time I paid for the shipping for those special books I was lucky to break even”. It took a large number of meetings to get even a little close to him. I soon found that he was a true romantic and had many fairytale dreams – our courtship was a romantic one with class and style. He made me feel cherished and much loved. He became my dearest friend, the only person in my life that I have every completely trusted – and the only person who has been able to tame this Lioness. He has the shoulders I can cry on and a twinkle in his eyes that can make me smile. His dry sense of humor turns my laughter to tears and his intelligence keeps me on my toes.
The only negative I can say about our very long and happy marriage is that we are both book lovers – and as such our home has close to 5000 books in it. There are several bookcases in every room, most holding books, but some of them are now holding DVD’s and since they are a lot slimmer than a book, we can put more of them in a single bookcase. David now has an iPad on which he can read books and I am thinking of getting a Kindle so I can always carry a book with me, though there is nothing so gratifying as opening a real book.
“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day,
so I never have to live without you.”
— Winnie the Pooh
When Betty White, who was married to Allen Ludden for 18 years, was interviewed by James Lipton on the Actor’s Studio, he asked her the question – “If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?” Her answer was “Hello Betty, here’s Allen”.
Unfortunately, life for David and I will be too short to contain all the happiness we have together. If one of us should have to die before the other, that is exactly how we would want God to welcome us into Heaven – “Hello Aurore, here’s David”.