Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nick was Jimmy Dean's best friend

At the Commodore Garden Apartments, there was a pay phone on the second floor, close to my apartment. One day I wanted to use the pay phone (this was before I had my own), but someone else was talking on it. Then I recognized who it was. It was Nick Adams who had been Jimmy Dean's best friend. I was in a near panic. How could I meet him? I overheard part of his conversation and he was talking to Natalie Wood. He told her that the president of his fan club was here from Detroit and he wanted to take her to meet Natalie. I later learned that she said she was moving and told him it would have to be another day. I had three scrapbooks that I had filled with James Dean clippings and when Nick got off the phone I said, "Hi Nick. Would you like to see my James Dean scrapbooks?" He looked at me and said, "Sure, where are they?" I said, "Right here in my apartment." So he followed me in. He started glancing at them and then suddenly picked them all up and said, "Come on." We walked down to the far end of the hall and he introduced me to Flo Steingraber, who was his first fan club president. At one time she had a fan club for actress Marilyn Maxwell. She had also been the president of James Dean's fan club, just prior to his death, through Bill Hendrix of Warner Bros. publicity department, and when Jimmy died, Nick asked her if she would start a club for him? A friend of hers, Marge Grant, was also there from Detroit.

I became friendly with the two girls and one day they rented a convertible. We drove near Marilyn Maxwell's home, that was on a hillside off Laurel Canyon and then we tried to find Natalie Wood's home in Sherman Oaks. Well, the people who were there, said she had moved. So, Natalie hadn't been lying. She had been living with her parents. I didn't own a car, so this little trip was fun and exciting. I saw things I would have never seen. My expense budget, after rent, was around $15 a week. This included food. How could I rent an apartment and buy a car?

Fan clubs were very popular in those days. Actors were under contract to the studios and the studios would do anything to get their actor's publicity. There was a stream of actors, who stopped by to see the girls. In turn, they would get written up in the fan club news letters. I remember meeting a girl at their apartment named Yvonne Lime, whom Elvis had been dating, but broke up after someone announced they were going to be married. Clem Poor, who was visiting the girls said, "Yvonne was mad because they called her Yvonne Lemon, instead of Lime." I had started writing a story outline about a teenage werewolf. But, when I met Yvonne she said, "I just finished a picture with Michael Landon called, "I Was a Teenage Werewolf." I was really surprised. I had just started writing this idea and now it was all ready a movie that had been filmed. This also started Landon's film career.

I wanted to become friends with Nick but didn't know how to reach him after the girls would leave. I told Flo that I would be happy to help him with his fan mail, when she said he had been looking for someone. She relayed the message to Nick and a few days after they left, he stopped by to see me. Nick was the most energetic person I have known. You just couldn't be down, when he was around. He wouldn't let you be. He said he needed someone to help him with his fan mail but couldn't pay anyone right then. He had just bought a 1957, white Thunderbird and had just co-starred in, "No Time For Sergeants," with Andy Griffith and was starting, "Sing, Boy, Sing," with Tommy Sands, a pop singer at that time, who would later marry Nancy Sinatra. Nick's first movie part was in, "Mr. Roberts," which was the first film playing when I was hired at the Capitol theater in Flint. Nick had also been an usher at the Vine theater on Hollywood Boulevard until one day he put his name up on the marquee as a joke and was fired. I told Nick I had plenty of spare time, when I wasn't at the theater and I would be glad to help out. He was soon surprised when I could master his handwriting and I could autograph his pictures and write letters like they came from him.

He drove us to Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, where he picked up his fan mail. Then we went on Sunset Boulevard to Claire Rochelle's fan mail answering service and picked up more boxes. I could see my hands would be full but I was looking forward to it. If anyone has an autographed photo, of a celebrity from the fifties, and didn't witness it being signed. Then forget about it, it probably isn't a real signature.

I now had my own phone so I could keep in touch with Nick, without having to go out into the hall. One time he phoned Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper telling them he was going to fly to New York to try out for a play called, "A Light in the Forest." After he hung up, he said he was really going to Memphis to see Elvis. He had been bum rapped by many people, saying he was with Elvis just to ride on his publicity. After James Dean died, every publication had wanted to publish a story on Jimmy. Nick and Jimmy both had been in a Pepsi-Cola commercial together. Nick had lived with a guy who had rented an apartment from theater owner, Louie Federici, and Dean often stayed with them. (Federici told me they used to argue over who would wear their one good pair of Levis to hustle in.) Nick had written a few stories about his relationship with Jimmy and then everyone started saying he was just doing it for his own publicity. Adeline Nall, Jimmy's acting teacher in Fairmount, said Jimmy and Nick had been working on a nightclub act for Las Vegas.

So, Nick had been a close friend and had many stories to tell. Nick had written a few stories about his relationship with Jimmy and then everyone started saying he was just doing it for his own publicity. I knew Nick didn't want to talk about Jimmy anymore, to anyone, although as we drove around, he used to point out places Jimmy often frequented. Even being close to Nick, I never asked him what Jimmy was really like. I know they had built a car together and Nick had recently sold it. He said if he had known about me, he would have given the car to me. I felt good that he liked me that well to make such a statement. One of the reasons I went to Hollywood, was to try to learn more about Jimmy, moreso, than wanting to become an actor. If Nick had wanted publicity, he sure wouldn't have phoned the two gossip queens, to tell the he was going to New York, when his visit to Graceland to see Elvis would have been more news worthy. Many people today are still critical of Nick, even though many never even met him. I guess it was a case of jealousy. Nick and I drove to the corner of Hollywood and Vine where American Airlines used to have an office, to buy his plane ticket to Memphis. He let me stay in the car so he wouldn't get a parking ticket.

When I met Nick, I was working at the Hollywood theater, after I left Grauman's. It wasn't a theater like Grauman's and not too clean. It was a block away and open all night. They paid .25c an hour more than Grauman's. They would run a first run feature with a "B" film. Bill Quann was the day manager and Victor Bugliosi was the night manager. Bob Pierce was the assistant manager. Mr. Quann, had previously worked at one of the studios. He was a nice old man that always dressed in a dark suit. He really liked me because I was the first doorman he ever had that would say. "Good Evening," while taking tickets from the patron, then saying, "Thank you." The first day I was working, he was standing by the door and did a double take, which was funny and I could tell he was pleased. If Victor's name sounds familiar it's because his brother Vincent Bugliosi, was the prosecutor on the Manson case. Victor was a run of the mill manager. He was a big guy who could handle the job but he just didn't look the manager type. He was there just for the money. And he was pussy crazy. I worked the night shift and every night he would go to his nearby apartment for a quickie. I remember when one of the cashiers was killed in a car accident going to Las Vegas, Victor's comment was, "she was a good piece of ass." This really made me dislike him. How could he be so cold? He never wore shorts and you could see he was hung like a horse and he also knew girls were eyeing him. I sensed he had a dislike for me, because he knew I was gay.

Nick wasn't very tall, and he wore built-up shoes. His blond hair was even thinning at a young age. He had a large nose and was contemplating plastic surgery. He often used my phone and once got into a deep conversation about someone he knew who had had their nose fixed. I think the nose job was for either singer, Kenny Miller, Molly Bee, or maybe even Jack Simmons, who had been Jimmy's lover at one time. I believe Simmons had his nose fixed before Jim died. Prior to his nose job, people called him The Hawk.

One day Nick asked me if I wanted to be in movies? I was surprised he asked me and although this had been one of the reasons I was in Hollywood, I said no. I saw what he was going through and it seemed like too much of a hassle. I was working and just making ends meet but I was happy.


The Hollywood Vice Squad had put a two way mirror in the men's room so they could watch for homosexuals and bust them if they approached anyone. The mirror was on the wall next to the projection booth's wall, where they had made a hole, so they could see through the mirror but nobody in the restrooms could tell they were being watched. The New-View theater, a couple blocks away, was set up the same way. Of course in court cases they were held as unconstitutional. An invasion of people's privacy.

There was a restaurant next door called Coffee Dan's, that was a gay hangout after the bars closed. There would be dozens of gay people there. One used to walk past the theater, in the earlier hours, and wink at me and say, "Hi honey." Mr. Quann would just laugh out loud with his funny laugh.

When the night-clubs would close on the Sunset Strip, we'd often get celebrities for our last show. Comedian, Joey Bishop, used to like the horror films. He would leave the auditorium for a quick smoke in the lobby, then rush back inside. Jack Lemmon brought his son to see Jerry Lewis in, "A Visit to A Small Planet." Jack made so many trips upstairs to the restroom that I thought he may be gay and was cruising the John. Marie Wilson, of "My Friend Irma Fame," came to the movie and had a ton of make-up on. Marie was famous for playing a dumb woman on a radio show, and later in a couple of films. She was a real camp. She was much older than I had pictured her to be. Johnny (Tarzan) Weissmuller, used to stop by and chat with Mr. Quann. They had known one another for years. Comedian, Andy Clyde (Hopalong Cassidy's side kick in westerns), used to stop by too and sit on the couch in the lobby and talk to Mr. Quann. Rick Nelson's brother, David, came one time and sat on the couch waiting for intermission. It was a small theater with hardly any lobby, so people would notice anyone who was famous.

Natalie Wood came with a friend to see Jayne Mansfield in "The Wayward Bus." Jayne, herself, had phoned the manager when we played "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" to see if she and Mickey could get in free. Of course she could get in free.

She arrived wearing a white leather jacket with a hood over her head. Mickey had his shirt unbuttoned, looking the ever macho man. Jayne had stopped to read a special standee poster we had outside. Mickey said, "Come on." But, she said she wanted to read what it said first. The Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team had just moved to Los Angeles and the whole team was sitting about ten rows behind her and they didn't know it. They had arrived by bus and were yelling at her image in the screen, whistling and carrying on, and with her sitting, unknown to them, right down in front of them. Word had quickly spread around the Boulevard, by someone who saw Jayne go in and at intermission there was a crowd waiting for her leave. When she didn't come out, they thought they were staying for the second feature and they left. About five minutes later she and Mickey came out and nobody was there waiting. They drove away in their black Jaguar.

One time two men walked up to me and flashed their badges asking, "Which way did he go?" I asked, "Which way did who go?" Then Mr. Quann pointed upstairs towards the restrooms. The person they were looking for was Mickey Cohen, a well known gangster. I had read where he had been dating a stripper called Candy Barr, but I had never seen him in person. They didn't arrest him. They didn't even see him. I think he just walked through the theater and out the back door exit, so as to lose them, knowing he was being followed. I often wondered if Mr. Quann hadn't told them he had gone upstairs, just so Cohen could get away? Actor, Charles Coburn, came with his wife. I asked for his autograph, and he gave it to me and then when another person asked him, he handed them his "business card."

Another time Nick came by with Robert Conrad and I let them in. Victor knew I worked for Nick and asked me if they had bought tickets? I lied and said they had. Then he asked the cashier, Kathy McRae, and she nodded her head that they had. It was our little secret. James MacArthur (Hawaii Five-O) was there that same night, as well as Robert Mitchum's son Jim. At intermission they were all around the concession stand and passerbys could see inside and it would draw a small crowd of, lookie-loos.

I met Sal Mineo's brother, Mike, at the theater. We talked a few times and he visited me at my apartment. Flo and Marge were still in Hollywood at that time, and I introduced him. They thought he was strange, that maybe he was on drugs. He was strange acting but not on drugs. I was surprised that he had passed away, when I recently talked with the author of Sal Mineo's book.

One day Mike told me that the mansion, where "Rebel Without a Cause," was filmed, on Wilshire Boulevard, was being torn down. I didn't have any way to get there and didn't even know where it was. I also had to work and didn't have time to go. Mike appeared with Sal in, "Dino." And when I was in Flint, Sal made a personal appearance at the Palace theater, signing autographs. I knew Eddie Gould, who had Sal's fan club, and at that time, it was the largest fan club in the world. So, when Sal arrived there was a line around the block. He signed his autograph for hours. Mike was there too. This is how we got into a conversation in Hollywood, when I mentioned it to him.

Marjorie Main of ("Ma & Pa Kettle"), asked Mr. Quann of she could come in just to see her part? Well, she starred in it! Fred Astaire came in wearing a yellow suit, with an orange, silk, handkerchief hanging from his coat pocket. And, it looked good on him. I was at Nick's home when he received a phone call from Elvis. Judy Tyler, Elvis's co-star in "Jailhouse Rock," had been killed in a car accident. He was (no pun intended), all shook up about it. Then Nick reminded him of Jimmy Dean's death and how much that had affected him. Elvis, soon after, lost his Mother while he was in the Army.

I answered Nick's fan mail during the day and worked at the Hollywood theater at night. When Bob Conrad moved to Hollywood, Nick brought him by my apartment to see all of the fan mail I was answering. Nick gave me a large photo of Jimmy Dean, that was a copy of a Dean photograph (copied in pencil and then photographed), where Jim was laying on a diving board, with his arms by his chin. It was large, 18" x 24" that I would one day display in my Flint bookstore window. When a young guy came around "everyday" to look at it, I waved him inside. He was a James Dean fan. And I told him if he wanted the picture, he could have it. He was really happy and couldn't believe I gave it to him. I also had a statue that was a foreign acting award given to Nick, that he gave to me. It was about a foot and a half tall and painted silver and shaped similar to an Oscar but there was a flower in the hands. I had also displayed that in the window. And I also gave that away to someone, but can't remember who? I used to have a photo of Nick, with the statue and the photo of Jimmy, I had given away, hanging on the wall in the background. But, like a lot of things over the years, it got lost. You can't take them with you when you die.



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( Hollywood in 1957. No drugs, or muggings.