Successful Producers Attended Shows at The Greek
I also spend some time with Mr. Burr before the show being presented (which meant most of the day). I had an incredible experience with Mr. Burr, but will not share it on this Blog. Over time we had many celebrities visiting us in the office. Helen Hays, Elizbeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and many more. This list doesn’t even mention some of the most famous producers in the industry. Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna who produced many of the cartoon series of the time were in attendance many times. They were credited with changing the methods of creating animation. The most famous was “The Flintstones”. So many successful producers attended shows at the Greek that I could go on forever.
I Had the Most Experience in Huntington Hartford Theater
My time at the Greek was an incredible learning experience but nothing compared to my experiences at the Huntington Hartford Theater. It was where I learned everything that changed my life. The Huntington Hartford only did plays and had an incredible season every year. First, the woman who was in charge of season ticket holders was Countess Florencia Falzone. She was an incredible woman, who had 6 children, probably from several different men (with the likely exception of the Count). She had many admirers and was always receiving gifts from them of incredible value. One of the largest diamond rings I ever saw was given to her as a friendship ring with no strings attached. I mention all this because she was considered royalty in Beverly Hills and managed to bring in many very prominent season ticket holders for the theatre. I got to know her quite well, I remember when I couldn’t afford to get a television. She told me she had a couple of large televisions in her garage and I was welcome to them. I thanked her and rushed to go get one which worked beautifully. Another thing she did for me was hiring my wife as her assistant in the Season Ticket Department at the theatre. Of course, this was with the blessings of Mr. Doolittle. The hiring of my wife helped us meet our living expenses. Our life at this point was making many massive changes for the good. It started when one of my fellow classmates at the Pasadena Playhouse, Sally Struthers, got a recurring role on the Smothers Brothers show and she ultimately started dating Tommy Smothers.
My Wife and Friendships
The reason this helped my wife and I was the fact that Tommy Smothers decided to produce the musical “Hair” at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood. I can’t remember what the deal was, but my wife got loaned to the theatre to work with their opening night and celebrity ticket sales. This was all possible because of my on-again / off-again relationship with Sally. Also, we got to meet Tommy Smothers several times, as well as Jim Rado & Gerome Ragni who wrote the music and the show. We also got to spend some time with the cast. My wife moved over to the theatre and worked directly with Harry Blackstone who was, at the time, the General Manager of the Aquarius. Harry, for those of you that know your magic, k was one of the most famous Magicians in the country. He got us into the Magic Castle in Beverly Hills many times. Back then you had to be a magician or be sponsored by one in advance to gain entrance. They have opened it up somewhat today, however. The reason I bring this all up is because of my wife and friendships, we got two great tickets to the opening as well as the after-show party. The after-show themed party was mind-blowing (just like the show). Mentioning the show, it was absolutely at the time like nothing ever produced. It was so different and exciting and one of the first musicals to have a nude scene.
But the thing I remember the most was the after-party, which we attended with Josie Pollack, the booking agent for the Greek Theatre. I got to know Josie quite well and we became fast friends. Josie knew everybody who was anybody in Hollywood and was close friends with them. I have many other stories of the time I spent in her company. The party was phenomenal!
The producers had put up a massive tent in what was originally the parking lot. It was what I saw that night that gave me a sense of what a themed event could be, and the memory of the event set me up for what I wanted to do later in my life. Everybody who was anybody in Hollywood was there. The list of celebrities was endless. I remember the night to this day. The food and beverages were first class, the seafood, the specialty food stations were numerous, caviar, fillets and just about everything you could want. It also had at least 12 open bars and a staff of 24 minimum passing hors d’ oeuvres. They must also have poured 1000 bottles of champagne.
That night, my wife and I within the company of Josie Pollack, met many stars and producers. The one I remember the most was Liberace. I spent most of the time being chased around the event by him and no matter how much I tried to explain that was not into that kind of behavior, he just wouldn’t give up. He finally did, however, give up. Other than that, he was really quite nice to my wife and I. I later found out that he went to Josie Pollack and got my wife and I’s birthdays, Anniversary and address. With this information, he would always send my wife and I a present on our birthdays, anniversaries and at Christmas time. He also would send me five first row tickets to his performances in Las Vegas. We got these presents every year until he passed away. I was told that he literally did this for almost 1000 people he had met over the years.
Once we had attended the show and went back to the Greek and Huntington Hartford my wife did stay on, however, in the ticket department at the Aquarius as the Countess left the theatre and hired a new woman to run the Season Sales Department. She turned out to be great, and we got to know her and her husband quite well. As I mentioned before, my wife would suffer from depression and the new woman was a Christian Scientist and did her best to convert her to the faith, which seemed to help her a lot. It didn’t necessarily help me, as I never endorsed the faith, but we didn’t have any children so I didn’t object to her involvement.
Things really started happening for me at the Greek & Hartford (mostly the Hartford). I was getting some incredible opportunities there. First, I had the opportunity to meet Gregory Peck and his wife and one night at the theatre he invited me to join him and his wife for dinner across the street at the Brown Derby. There was another couple invited as well but I don’t remember their names. I do remember them as being quite nice. The evening was as memorable as I was star struck and he was one of my favorite actors of all time. Also, back then if my wife drank wine it would be fortified and cost a couple of dollars a gallon, This night, however, will remain in my mind forever as Mr. Peck ordered two bottles of wine that cost almost $1,500.00 a bottle. They had a Sommelier come to the table and decant the wine and serve it to us. I must admit I absolutely hated it, it tasted moldy to me. Of course, we just had no pallet for the wine of that vintage and quality. It took years for me to develop a taste for good vintages and, for that matter, spend more than $10.00 for a bottle of wine. Today, however, it’s a bit different. But I will always remember that evening,
Another evening I will never forget was when Josie Pollack decided to go out for a couple of drinks after a show and ended up at Daisies (which was a bar that a lot of celebrities went to after they did their live shows). We came into the place and got a high top table and settled in as Josie went off to say hello to some of her friends. At some point, she came back and we were just sitting there talking when Sammy Davis Jr. Came to the table to say hello to Josie and took a seat. I have to say he was a lot shorter than I could imagine. Josie introduced me and we all engaged in conversation. We had been talking for about 15 minutes when all of a sudden, up comes Johnny Carson to say hello to Josie and Sammy Davis. We sat around talking about our day when Johnny Carson asked if anybody was hungry. We all agreed that we could have a bite, so Johnny he could get a limo from the studio and we could head over to Chasen’s (famous for its Chili) for dinner.
The limo arrived and off we went to the restaurant. When we got there, we were refused admission as we did not have a coat and tie. I couldn’t believe it, it was Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr. and they wouldn’t admit us without a coat and tie. We started to leave when Johnny Carson held back and he said let’s all get back in the limo. He had a suite at the Sheraton so we all went to his suite and he then distributed ties, and sports jackets to me and Sammy Davis which was hilarious. When he got into one of Johnny’s jackets (wasn’t all that bad as Johnny was a very short man as well). I, however, looked ridiculous. Johnny removed his shirt as the restaurant hadn’t said anything about having to have a shirt. Back we went and the restaurant had to let us in as we were wearing coats and ties. That was a hoot.
Had another interesting evening of fun when my wife and I went to the Beverly Wilshure Hotel for dinner and were sitting in the lobby waiting for some friends to join us. A Frairs Club Dinner was going on in one of the ballrooms at the time. At some point, Don Rickles and Redd Fox came out of the ballroom and into the lobby and Rickles started doing his act with all of us in the lobby. Fortunately for us, Sydney Poitier came into the lobby and Rickles started in on him. It was hilarious. Sydney could not stop laughing. Rickles told him that if he hadn’t become an actor he would have ended up as a naked druggist from the Bronx. You had to be there. It was an evening that no one in that lobby will never forget.
All that experience in Hartford Theater was great, but I’d like to share to you more about My First Professional Stage Management Responsibility.