Mr. Doolittle and The Greek Theater Pushed Me Back to Orlando
When we finished the technical rehearsal we decided we were hungry and thought we would grab some dinner before the show and headed off to a restaurant just a few buildings down from the theater. Peter Fonda, His Wife (I think her name was Diane) and Jossey Pollack and I think my wife was with us as well. We got to the restaurant and, you won’t believe this, we were refused admission to the restaurant because we didn’t have a coat and tie on. I remember screaming at the Maître D saying this was Henry Fonda and him telling me that he couldn’t let anyone in without being properly dressed and that includes any celebrity no matter how famous, I thought here we go again after my experience with Sammy Davis Junior and Johnny Carson. Se we ended walking down to a MacDonald for a burger and fries and then back over to the theater for the show. The show went off beautifully. For whatever reason Mr. Fonda decided not to extend the run past the weekend and I don’t believe he carried forward with the one-man show.
My last show at the theater was with Judy Garland. She hadn’t been performing for quite some time and the theater was taking some risks as to the state of her health in making the booking. But she had been reported in great health at the time of the booking. The booking I believe was for the weekend but I’m not sure. I remember meeting her and going through her needs for her show.
At the time Ms. Garland was married to her former driver and we were told he would be managing her performances. To say this manager was a loser would be an understatement, but that was our instructions and we followed his instructions. To say Ms. Garland looked fragile was giving us all some concern. However, on her opening night, she provided a stunning performance and received a rousing standing ovation. There were a tremendous amount of celebrities in the audience including her daughter Lisa. Backstage was like a who’s who of celebrities wishing her well. However, the well-wishing was short-lived as she was very spaced out for her next performance thanks to her driver/ manager (to my way of thinking). She was a tremendous talent that at her peak was a not to miss performer. She never finished her last performance having to leave the stage before the show was to end.
That was the last show I was to manage at the theater for a while as the season came to a close, but the Greek Theater was just getting started.
I had mentioned that Mr. Doolittle who managed the Greek and the Hunting Hartford could have been the poster child for the most horrible boss you could ever imagine.
Mr. Doolittle was never overly friendly to his staff (except his immediate staff members) which consisted of his admin, (sorry I can’t remember her name but she was extremely efficient and friendly and she and I got along beautifully. So much so that she saved my job several times when Doolittle was hell-bent on firing me for some reason that didn’t make any sense. She would always calm him down and convey to him my positive qualities and outstanding work ethic it should be said that my average day would start at 7:30 AM and generally not end until around 11:00 PM. With only one day off if I was lucky. Also, while my pay was decent it wasn’t a lot for the number of hours I had to put in in order to get my job completed daily.
Doolittle had several triggers that would get you fired instantly. One of which was if he caught you with your feet on your desk while you were on the phone. If he saw that he would walk into your office and fire you on the spot. He reasoned that if you had your feet up you were wasting valuable time you could spend doing your job. It doesn’t make any sense but that was what we all referred to as a Doolittle. He would fire you and then go to the bookkeeper and have your severance check ready within 30 minutes. This was one of the ways the staff got even with someone they didn’t like was not to share that fact with them.
We all had a security system when we all worked directly with Mr. Doolittle. Some of us would have to report directly to Mr. Doolittle’s home every morning to discuss his days’ activities. Sometimes it would be me but it would always be his admin and office manager. Mr. Doolittle lived in Truesdale which was in the hills overlooking Beverly Hills, He had an incredible home that had his swimming pool begin outside and flowed into his living room. I had never seen anything like this before. It had an automatic screened gate that came down in the evening so that no one could swim in when he was not home or during the evenings when he or any guests were sleeping.
One or more of us would report to the house each morning while Mr. Doolittle was getting ready to start his day. When he was almost ready one of us would call either the Hartford or the Greek to let the staff on the properties know when we would be leaving and where we would be going first. To communicate effectively we had a security code. Yellow alert meant he was about 30 minutes out departing the house. When he was ready we would call and give a red alert which meant we were heading out and would be heading for the theater (which would mean we were 30 minutes out). If we were heading to the Greek first then the staff would know we were 40 to 45 minutes out. Then we would repeat the alarm system when he would move from the Greek or Hartford to return to either property or go back home. We found that using the system we would give the staff a heads up as to what was on his mind before getting there so they could be prepared to address his concerns for the day. Also, every week Doolittle would invite the stars from the plays coming into the Hartford and Greek Theaters. On those days we would have it catered by Chasens or the Derby,
We would have to set it up and move about the guests to make sure we provided them with their beverage of choice and be ready to arrange for their transportation back to either the homes or hotel accommodations during their stay in the city. Of course, we also had to arrange for their transportation, accommodations and in-room food and beverage requirements outlined in their contracts. Part of my responsibilities as the Assistant General Manager of the theaters. I had mentioned before that I worked incredible hours for the theaters. Doolittle had done some special things to help me along, especially making me a stage manager for the Hartford Theater. But he had absolutely no socially redeeming qualities when it came to his employees. He cared only about himself and never stopped criticizing your every move and worked you for as little and as much as he could. He seldom, if ever, complimented your efforts and for that matter your accomplishments. He did occasionally but very seldom. He just seemed to belittle you all the time to keep you from feeling any pride in your accomplishments.
He treated everyone that way except those who he knew he couldn’t replace easily. The last straw for me was when I came into his office to ask for the weekend off as I hadn’t had a day off in months and that I had promised my wife that I would take the weekend off to celebrate our anniversary. I told him we were thinking of going to the beach. He told me that of course, I could take the weekend off and not only that, but he had a condominium in Laguna Niguel and we would be welcome to use it for the weekend (actually 4 days). I thanked him and explained how important to my marriage the weekend was as my wife and I had not been able to spend much time together over the past few months and how much we thanked him for the time and accommodations. He said not to worry, he would make sure we had the time together to celebrate our anniversary. I thanked him and went home and told my wife what Mr. Doolittle had said and that we were going to go for the weekend.
Based on Mr. Doolittle promise we left the next morning for his condo in Laguna Niguel for the weekend. We arrived at his Condo which was right on the ocean and quite roomy and comfortable. Once in, we took a walk on the beach and went out to dinner at a restaurant close to the condo. After dinner, we went back to the condo and settled in for the night. The next day we got up and went out to spend time on the beach and take a swim and just lay out in the sun and water. We were having a great time and didn’t get back to the condo until late in the afternoon. We showered and were getting ready to go out for dinner when I got a call from Mr. Doolittle ordering me to get back to the Greek right away. I reminded him that he had promised me the time off and he told me he didn’t care what he promised because he needed me back at the Greek Theater ASAP. I can’t remember what the big emergency was for me to return but he wanted me to return ASAP which my wife and I did ruin our anniversary celebration.
We got back to the Greek at about 7:00 PM to find that Mr. Doolittle wasn’t even there. So I remained on duty for the rest of the evening, I also can’t remember who the act was at the Greek but I think it was “The Carpenters”. Who, when I got back, was happy and not unhappy about the arrangements we had made for them to support their performance.
So I couldn’t understand why I was forced to come back from my weekend early. It wasn’t anything at the Huntington Hartford Theater or the Greek. At this point, I had decided to quit my job and go back home to Orlando. I went into the office the next morning to return Mr. Doolittle’s Condo keys. He went into a tirade about something I hadn’t done before I left that made no sense and was of no importance to anyone other than himself. In short, what had set him off was just not important at all. It had been handled by the General Manager Ralph, what Doolittle was upset about was the fact that no one told him of the request in advance because it had been handled in advance. He started in on me right away when I showed up and at this point, I told him where he could put my job and walked out of the theater for good. After years of hard work for the theaters, he told me to get out. Which I did and never looked back.
The Beginning of my Disney Years
I went home and told my wife that I quit and we needed to go back home to Orlando and face the fact that any hope of an acting career for me was over. Fortunately, we had been saving money in case I quit at some time so we had some money to keep us going for a while. As I had mentioned before, I had a friend from my playhouse Tony Alley who was working as a stage manager on the “Disney on Ice Show”. I had called him about a possible job with the show and he told me that I should look into getting a job at Walt Disney World as they were looking for technicians and stage managers. I immediately checked it out and arranged for an interview in Orlando. I traveled to Orlando and interviewed and got a job as a technical advisor. I then packed up my belongings in California, put my wife on a plane to Orlando to stay with her parents and loaded up our car and the dogs and set off for Orlando to start our new life with Disney. I should mention that I was originally in the Airforce in Orlando, I met my wife in Orlando, got married in Orlando and my wife’s family lived in Orlando. So we had a support system in place immediately, you can read about my Disney Years in the Disney Years Chapters. Here are each Chapter: