Last week’s column just about did me in with a big case of the “Missing Burt Blues.” An amazing amount of mail from readers is still arriving, much of it from folks I don’t know. The consensus is that the story is spot on, but it will be a long time before I dredge up such personal memories again.
Not that I’m veering away from truth, but for this week, I am going to answer the often-asked question: “Did you ever see or meet any movie or television stars?” You don’t have to be part of the Hollywood scene to run into famous show biz people. It happens if you simply live in Los Angeles, particularly the area referred to as the west side, or Malibu.
My very first experience was shortly after arriving in Los Angeles from Omaha. I had bought a car for $400 because you can’t survive in L.A. without a car. One day, I drove to Beverly Hills and into the parking lot of Saks Fifth Avenue. I sat in my well-used Studebaker looking at all the fancy cars and thinking, “Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas anymore!” Just then, not far from me, a woman stepped out of her car. It was Loretta Young in a full skirt, and she did the exact pirouette twirl in the parking lot that she did at the beginning of her weekly television show. This won’t mean much to my younger readers, but for this country bumpkin, it was a big “first,” and I could not wait to tell my parents who loved the Loretta Young show.
In all those years of life in Los Angeles, I never reached the ho-hum-no-big-deal status. This is being written with the same honesty as last week, but I’m having fun with this star-studded subject, so let’s keep going just to see if you recognize any of the following. Many of these people are gone from this world, but not all. Maybe because I often rode my bike around L.A., there was more opportunity for star spotting.
One day in Beverly Hills, I nearly (literally) ran into Doris Day, who was also riding her bike on famous Rodeo Drive, both of us on the sidewalk. She was a star with a squeaky-clean image, a rare commodity these days.
On another typical sunny California day, my friend, Roz ,and I were on our bikes. We stopped to check out a cute little shop on the highway in Malibu called “The Shell Station,” which (duh) specialized in selling seashells. Who to our wondering eyes did we spot at the counter but Barbra Streisand, dressed in a shirt and jeans. Roz and I nearly choked with excitement and hid behind a post to get a better look at Barbra, the still-famous superstar.
I’ve written before about having neighbors Burt Lancaster and Zsa Zsa Gabor, but that story had to do with being burned out in a raging wildfire that destroyed 500 homes. For today, I’m sticking with happier stuff. Burt and I were neighbors of the Jackson family. Most fans know Michael loved exotic animals, and one day, while driving, I swear there was a giraffe peering over the high wall that surrounded the Jackson property.
Mickey Rooney was a neighbor and could often be seen in local grocery stores. I recently read that the famous former television series, The Twilight Zone, is coming back. I can still picture Rod Serling, the brains behind that show, visiting us in our living room, a very nice and interesting man. Not long after that evening, Rod died at age 50 of a heart attack.
I used to model for charity fashion shows and trained my Russian Wolfhounds (aka Borzois) to work the runway with me — no leashes, just hand signals. Once, at the Ambassador Hotel, Phyllis Diller was doing the commentating. Someone told her I would be coming out with dogs. Later she said she expected “little ankle biters.” Somewhere in all our photos is an 8x10 of Miss Diller’s reaction when she saw the dogs. It might be the only time she was speechless in her long show business career.
I think my favorite “sighting” took place at a Hollywood roast, one of the rare ones that included women. I don’t remember who was being “roasted,” but I can still picture Burt and me seated at a table in an overly-crowded hotel dining room. Everyone’s chair was jammed against one at the next table. During the evening, I needed to head for the ladies room, and my chair banged into the chair behind me. I turned to apologize and looked right into the famous violet eyes of gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor.
I never once asked a star for an autograph, but obviously I have never forgotten seeing any of these famous familiar faces up close and personal.
Yep, you can take the girl out of Nebraska, but don’t even try taking Nebraska out of the girl!
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor.” The book, with all proceeds going to the Rotary International Foundation, is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]