My teenage years, from 14 to 19 were spent during WW2,split between New York and California. On the east coast, we dealt with threats of German U-boats in NY Harbor. There were air raid warnings that demanded all lights off, dark curtains drawn across the windows,and created an aura of fear. Rationing was rampant: meat,butter, sugar, gasoline, silk stockings, for example. I was a member of the Womens’ Hospital Reserve Corps at Forest Hills High School. In the summers, I worked at a local hospital as a volunteer. My boyfriend was drafted and sent to the South Pacific. My male high school friends were girding their loins to enlist in one of the armed services. It was an uneasy time, yet, being teenagers, we still went to the drugstore to drink cokes after school, to go ice skating in the winter and to the beach in the summer. We took the subway to NY city to see plays and movies and Frank Sinatra. When we moved to West Hollywood in California, where I spent my high school senior year away from all my friends, I had to make new ones. My father was a publicist for MGM Studio. I went to a private school from 8 to 12 as it was geared for show business teenagers. At noon, I’d rid the streetcar to the beach by myself and do my homework on the shores of the Pacific Ocean before heading for the apartment where I lived with my parents. I made friends, and most of them were connected to show business in some way.
Virgina Weidler, an extremely talented child actress, (“Philadelphia Story,” “The Women,” among many other films)was one of my first and dearest California friends.We originally met in NY when we were l6 and she was in town for publicity on an MGM film.My father was assigned to show her and her mother around town,and he took me along. Ginnie and I hit it off right away. So,when we moved to West Hollywood, she was the first one to knock on the door and welcome me. We did what teenage girls did in those days….went to movies, lunches, and dances with servicemen who always wanted to go to the Palladium where the big bands played. After we both married, when I returned to see my parents, Ginnie and I would take our little children out for ice cream.
I met Lucille Norman, a well-known concert singer, in a strange kind of way. My boyfriend was overseas serving in the Army Air Corps, and I was always afraid for him.One Saturday, my mother and I went to see the film “For Me and My Gal” in Manhattan and were going to meet my father for dinner at Sardi’s. In the movie, Lucille sang “Til We Meet Again,” and that did me in. I cried my way out of the theater all the way to Sardi’s. I finally calmed down and ate dinner. After he paid the check, my father said, “There’s someone I want you to meet,” and ushered me to a table where an Army Colonel and his date were sitting. My father introduced me. The date was Lucille Norman. It was a stunning moment for me. When we moved to California, she and I became good friends, but I never asked her to sing that song.
Another friend was Eddie Ryan, a young heartthrob at the time of his appearance as the youngest brother in the film,”The Fighting Sullivans,” a real life story about five brothers who served together in the war and were all killed. Because of that, the Sullivan Law was passed. “Saving Private Ryan” was based on that incident. Eddie was in love with Ann Blythe, who had been in a Broadway play with him, but it came to naught. He was a friend of my future husband who served in the Army in Germany where he received a Bronze Star before serving in the Army of Occupation in Japan.He,Eddie, and I often played cards with Eddie’s folks or went clubbing to hear Harry the Hipster and t he Slim Gaillard Trio…..if you could see them through the haze of marijuana smoke. “Benzadrine,” the Hipster would whisper from onstage, “aspriin with hash marks.” Piano bars were popular then.
When I was an adult, working in show business, my closest woman friend was Margo Albert, a well-known stage and movie actress (“Lost Horizon) and wife of Eddie Albert, actor. She was a jewel of a human being, and one day I will write about her. She died in the 80s, and I find it hard to put down the wonderful memories I have of her. Some day.Another close friend was Stan Jones, the songwriter and actor. He is another person I am finding difficult to write about, but that, too, will come.
Today, I am still friends with a lady I have known since grammar school. She lives in Florida, so we don’t see each other, but we call once a week and talk. We share a lot of memories. Today, in California, I have a group of seven friends with whom I go to the theatre, birthday dinners, etc. We are a mixed bunch of a stage director,a dealer in movie posters, two CPAs and their wives,and my closest male friend…a retired Spanish teacher who used to work for Universal Studios. My closest woman friend now is Peggy Lennon, one of the original Lennon Sisters. She is one of the most loving, spiritual, intelligent people I know. On Sunday mornings, she picks me up and we attend an 8 am service at The Little Brown Church near me, followed by breakfast. Think of it…I get to sing hymns with a Lennon Sister!
I have been most fortunate in my friendships with people who are bright and caring and giving of their talents to others. They and my daughter are the truest treasures of my life.