If I had my life to live over? Hmmm! Reckon I’d live it just the same, with 186½ exceptions. One boo-boo still gnaws at my craw—on Golden Boot night, long ago, Babs and I sat at a big, round table hard-by the noisy kitchen. The couple seated across from us was noisier. They reminded me of a herd of old horses: Nag, nag, nag. One honoree made his entrance via the kitchen door. He sauntered across the darkened room, arriving on stage just as his intro ended. Clasping his Boot, he uttered a few words, then vanished back into the dark. Cowgal Jane Fonda and Son of the Sage Ted Turner were awarded matching Boots. As they briskly approached our table on their way out thru that ol’ swingin’ kitchen door, I was shocked. Shocked! Mr. Turner looked daggers at me (He forgot his gun.). His steel, blue eyes bored into my watery blues with laser-like intensity that sears my memory to this day. Whyforso, Bubbie? We root for the Braves (when they ain’t playin’ our Mets). We subscribe to TCM. We find your buffalo burgers tasty little devils. What the hey! Oh, I tell ya, that was one crummy Boots for this ol’ waddie.
Outside, we jawed with two of God’s masterpieces, Royal and Peggy Dano. Felt cheerier.
Nothing makes me laff louder than the lore of La La Land. Plum hearsay evidence, wouldn’t hold up in a court of law, but I love it just the same. Here’s one gem. Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette hopped into a taxi on their way to a recording session. Gene bet a fast sawbuck that Smiley couldn’t compose a song off the top of his head before they got to the studio. Smiley took the bet, and by the time the cabbie pulled down the meter arm, Smiley came up with “Ridin’ Down the Canyon”. Genial Gene happily forked over the 10 bucks—Why not? He pocketed half the royalties. Later, Smiley left Gene’s side in search of greener pastures of happy lettuce.
Gene got a phone call: “Hello, Mr. Autry, Pat Buttram here. I understand you’re lookin’ for a sidekick for your new TV show. I’d like to apply for the job.” “Tell ya what, Pat, let’s do lunch. Noon at the Brown Derby. We’ll talk.” Pat was a few minutes early. “May I help you sir?” asked the bartender. “Yeah, I’m lookin’ for Mr. Gene Autry.” “Sir, you’re standing on him.” Pat said Gene discovered it’s just as easy gettin’ drunk on water—as it is on land. Buttram drove into a gas station and said, “Fill ‘er up.” The attendant pointed to the cash register and said, “You first!”
You qualified to join Pat’s Red Neck Club if you’ve ever been fired from your job down at the sewage treatment plant for your appearance. Or if your Junior Prom had a Day-care center. Or if you ever tried to spray-paint your name on a chain-link-fence. Or if you believe sex before marriage is permissible, unless, of course, it interferes with the ceremony.
One July 4th week Babs and I joined Boyd and Donna Magers and pals in Iowa. The City fathers and mothers treated us to brunch overlooking a beautiful golf course. (Do they still call it golf? Motorized polo, more like it. Sometimes, I shout out to linksters in their carts, “Golf was made for walking!”) We had to speak for our brunch. I got up and said, “I will now recite ‘Gunga Din’ with gestures.” Babs yelled, “Oh, no you won’t!” I mumbled, “Oh, no I won’t,” and sat down.
Denny Miller stood, “Before I speak, I’d like to lead a round of applause for Claude P. Mumphrey. He’s 111 today!” We all cheered. “Oops! I misread that. Claude P. Mumphrey is ill today!” Oprah oughta plug Denny’s bio. Heavy on the humor, light on the ego. And his book on health! I read it and in two weeks my hangnail cleared up.
Panel discussions galore. The Elvis panel—a powerful scene from “King Creole” with the King and Jan Shepard flashed on the screen. Hearsay tells us Elvis wanted to make one more madcap musical before hitting the concert trail, and he wanted me for his sidekick. Hi Ho—and so it goes.
On another panel Dirk London read from his 74 page book in verse of the history of Wyatt Earp. Wyatt meets Doc Holliday: “On introduction Doc had a coughing fit, before he could shake Wyatt’s hand, Wyatt learned Doc didn’t have long to live, a tubercular, I understand. When he shook Doc’s hand, Wyatt was surprised. His grip was as strong as steel. Maybe this was Doc’s secret, in his skill with a gun or handling the cards in a deal.”
Brian Aherne read poetry at my college long ago. The local newspaper’s headline featured the mother of all typos. “Brian Aherne’s coming to Holmes Hall in a rare pubic appearance.” During the show I sat behind the director, Charles Laughton. As Aherne recited, Laughton churned and squirmed. Body English. I leaned forward and whispered, “Mr. Laughton, it’s too late.”
Charles the great also directed “Night of the Hunter” starring Bob Mitchum as the nutzo preacher with “Love” and “Hate” tattoed on his fingers. A fellow coffee klatcher, Bob Rothwell, was a pal of Bob’s and acted in that fine flick as well. He told me that one day Laughton upped to Mitchum, nose to nose, to depart a deep psychological subtext for the next scene. As he droned, he noticed he was losing his audience. Mitchum’s eyes clouded over. In horror Laughton jumped backwards, bellowing, “Good God, Bob, you’re pissing on my shoes!