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NOVEMBER 2019

Howdy! A few years ago, Babs went kicking and screaming into the 21st century—she bought herself an Apple laptop computer. Me? I have a lapcat, Rufus by name. I remain in the 20th century, first half. I call Babs Barney, she Googles. Our local post office misses her. She’s too busy emailing. She transmits Jacquie Lawson animated greeting cards to friends all over the world. I still communicate by dint of pen and paper. The callus on my writing hand’s middle finger hasn’t shrunk a jot over the years. Performing in “Love Letters” with Betsy Palmer sharpened my love of letters. Sadly, it’s a dying art in this age of instant tweeting. Poor letter carriers, hefting all that junk mail. I quote from Allison Joseph’s “Elegy for the Personal Letter” from her book MY FATHER’S KITES: “I miss the rumpled covers of correspondences, the ink blots and crossouts that show someone lives on the other end, a person whose hands make errors, leave traces…letters arrive so rarely now that I drop all other mail to the floor when an envelope arrives and the handwriting is actual handwriting. I open these envelopes first, forgetting the claim of any other mail, hoping for news I could not read in any other way but this.”

Belated blessing to the Bros. Goldrup, Tom and Jim, for their nifty mention of me in their column a few WESTERN CLIPPINGS ago. They went on to reminisce about a “Sugarfoot” episode, “Vinegarroon”, sort of a low budget “The Westerner” with Walter Brennan and Gary Cooper. The town’s main street looked not unlike a ghost town. Must have been August, and the extras were on vacation. Frank Ferguson played Judge Leroy Bean (Brennan), and I played Gary Cooper. Cooper lost. I first met Frank Ferguson when I attended Pomona College (‘48-‘52). He was there to act in a short movie directed by Irving Reis and starring Jascha Heifetz. That was my first stampede. A horde of us sage hens madly charging down the auditorium aisles to grab seats. “Action!” yelled Reis, and Heifetz fiddled. Sheer genius, up close and personal. Apres le shoot, a fellow drama student, Dick Dobbins, and I upped to Mr. Ferguson and invited him to dinner. We’d pick his brain. Ever know an actor turning down a free meal? We drove to Guasti’s famous Italian restaurant, way out in the boondocks, where we sampled more than one bottle of Guasti’s raison de etre, their invigorating Grignolino wine! When I was a freshman, I was initiated into the Masquers out thataway and indoctrinated into the pleasures of Grignolino. I ordered a beer chaser. There’s a quaint arched footbridge there. Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. I left my spaghetti and meat boalls ‘neath the footbridge. Next day, I suffered the wrath of the hair of the dog. I plopped down in class, alone in a far corner. A pretty gal came into the room. She stopped short, sniffed. “Someone’s been out to Guasti’s.”

Anyway, we Vinegarrooned away—Ferguson, Richard Devon, Don Harvey, all splendid. Ric Roman—Wow! I doubt Warren Douglas ever created a more dastardly villain. Ol’ Ric played him to the hilt. He made Simon Legree look like an Eagle Scout. I love it! Came time for me to do several close-ups in a row, covering several pages of dialogue. The sun was turnin’ yeller, close to 5 o’clock, I was feelin’ mighty loggy. I tried something new. I announced that since Clint Walker went home every day at five, I was going home at five. I ay, carumba! Bill Orr phoned and told me he’d called my lawyers—Lawyers! Didn’t know I had one lawyer. I went home at five. Next a-Yawn—first shot me and the pages of close-ups. Director Bill Hole leaned in and told me, “That was the worst display of rudeness and disrespect I have ever seen—ACTION!” Heh Heh. Ol’ 20 takes Hutchins nailed that sucker in one!

PS  I wrote this column by hand.

 

                                        —Adios