Together again, one more time, Betsy Palmer and your obedient servant performed “Love Letters” at the Glen Cove, NY, middle school (in October ‘09), proceeds going to the town’s Adult Day Program. You really had to be there. SRO! Standing O! They forgot to install seats. At curtain call her Betsyness was enveloped in flowers. I was presented a trophy: “To Will Hutchins with gratitude.” Two beautiful, long-maned horse heads atop a spurred boot, entwined by a lasso, a horse shoe, and driftwood. The folks at the Day Center thought it was a gag, sort of horsin’ around. Hah! I love it! Sort of my Golden Boot East! I told the audience, “Wait till my dentist gets a load of this plaque!”
Say, y’all, come visit us at our house, Limberlost. Ve bid you velcome. Note the bronze statuettes in our front room of Dobe Carey and Buffalo Bill, echoes of western conventions gone by.
Hungry? Chow time in the dining room. Against our Will Rogers wall stands a statuette in fired clay of a cowpoke, hat back, gun holstered, casually leanin’ on his saddle, readin’ a lawbook—know him? It’s ol’ Sweet Toes in color! Didn’t win him playin’ Skee-Ball at the county fair. He’s a gift from Pastor Russ Sacco of Deer Park, NY. He read an article about Babs and me in Long Island’s NEWSDAY—Presto! Instant pen pals.
One Sunday afternoon we drove out to meet Pastor Russ and his wife Rose. They greeted us on the porch with open arms and warm smiles. Teeth gleamin’ in the sun. First off, they showed us their lush, backyard garden. I munched on a tasty licorice leaf. Down in the basement Pastor Russ showed his masterworks: beautiful clay figures, all in a row on eye-level shelves. There’s Mark Twain, Liz, Liberace, Buffalo Bill, famous folks from history and the Bible. Is that Flash Gordon? No, it’s a caped Elvis. What wonders doth Russ perform in his laboratory! He’s a benevolent Dr. Frankenstein, giving new life to good creatures.
“Er, where’s Sugarfoot?” I asked, Igor-ly. There he was! Dust-proofed, A peasant under glass. In return, I meekly gave him a “Sugarfoot” DVD, “Short Range”, featuring a wee Sugarfoot doll that I give to a little girl at show’s end, jes’ before I ride out into the canvas sunset backdrop. A small token compared to Pastor Russ’ great gift. ‘Twould be wonderful if at a distant western convention the celebs were each presented likeness of themselves, courtesy of Pastor Russ. “Personificlaytions,” he dubs his original portrait sculptures. Interested? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
He’s a master craftsman, and his wife Rose is a master chef. She treated us to an Italian supper. Smacka our lips. We rated it 5 smiles. I’m a fool for pasta fazool.
The late John Hart was a soldier of fortune. No one better at spinnin’ yarns of his fascinatin’ life. One October in Newark, NJ, at a “Friends of Old-Time Radio” convention I sat with John in the hotel bar after a re-creation of a “Lone Ranger” radio show of the ‘30s. I played the sheriff. Derek Tague approached. A fellow of infinite jest, every year he conducts the riotous celeb panel discussions. “Mr. Hart,” he said, “I’ll not trouble you for your autograph. It would be an honor to buy you a drink.” He said the magic words and joined our party, which grew and grew along with all the dead soldiers on the table. Mr. Hart held us spellbound. Awesome! (to use the Cliché de Jour).
Derek was right, you know. Autographs are all too soon consigned to duty scrapbooks in musty corners. Memories of brief encounters with the revered last forever. Here’s an example. Back in the ‘50s I was in London on a three-day pass from my army post, SHAPE HQ near Paris. An old college chum and I attended the theatre one night. During interval we moseyed to the bar to wet our whistles. A long line led to a bald chap signing autographs. “Alec Guinness!” I said. “Let’s queue up!” Actually, the gent was Humphrey Bogart. Lauren Bacall sat nearby. I got Bogart’s scrawl on a damp cocktail napkin. The real thrill was jawin’ with him. An affable fellow, he spoke of his recent visit to SHAPE as guest of the Head Honcho, General Al Gruenther. “A smart man,” deemed Bogie. I looked at Ms. Bacall. She gave me the look. Gulp! I proceeded to spill Guinness ale all over my coat.
Soon after, some Signal Corps pals and I were sitting at a table at an outdoor café on the Champs Elysées, fully alert, helping to make the world Safe for Democracy. Gliding up the avenue, convertible top down, was a tomato red Cadillac. Sugar Ray Robinson at the wheel. On hiatus from his illustrious boxing career, he was starring at a local night club, tap dancing his way into our hearts. I snapped his picture with my trusty point and shoot.
“Hmmm!” I said, “This street is a magnet to the rich and famous. Let’s keep our eyes out.” Good buddy Wally piped up, “Guess who’s at the next table.” My boyhood idol Orson Welles, that’s who. “Wally, I’ll sneakily sidle up next to him. Here’s my camera. Shoot fast!” Ol’ Wally futzed and fiddled way too long. I stood there like a ninny. Welles looked like a citizen in pain. Click. Finally! I skedaddled, forgetting to turn my camera to the next number. Next day, I entrained to Copenhagen, Den-mark, for 10 days. I quickly unpacked and headed for the harbor to photograph the statue of the Little Mermaid. Had the roll developed. Ooo La La! The pic of the litter: Me, Orson, and the Little Mermaid in all her topless glory. I took it to be a flourish of Orson Welles’ magic.
—Adios and Happy Holly Daze