It was Autumn of 1968 when…
Wait. Let’s go back further for a minute.
I want to talk about Hollywood.
Not long after Dad left his position as Executive VP and General Manager of Columbia Pictures, he dove into a few big films, “Mister Roberts”, “Oklahoma!” and “The Spirit of St. Louis”.
It was 1958 and I was just two. Dad had many celeb friends, not the least of which were Judy Garland and her husband, Sid Luft. Since I was so young, I don’t remember much about this time. Mom and Dad would visit Judy and Sid at their home for weekend parties. One weekend it was their son, Joey’s 3rd Birthday and Judy planned a big party for him. Her daughter, Liza Minnelli was 12 and her sister Lorna was six. Mom and Dad both told me how taken Liza was with me. Mom said she thought I was a “cute little doll”. Liza had me sit on her lap during most of the party while feeding me cake and ice cream. I wish I had photos. Sadly, they were destroyed in a fire with many of Dad’s memorabilia. Thank God for my precious memories.
Every December I looked forward to the Director’s Guild Christmas parties. Dad would take me and there were always lots of kids, decorations, yummy food, festive music, Santa Claus and lots of presents for us little ones.
The holidays were a special time for Dad and I. He loved our time together. He would spoil me rotten with lots of gifts and weekend trips. Sometimes he would drive me up the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Carmel, even San Francisco. Other times, we’d stay in LA and go to Beverly Park (at the corner of Beverly Blvd. and La Cienega) or Pacific Ocean Park (P.O.P) We always had fun.
Now back to the Fall of 1968. It was a hot October afternoon at school. The heat and smog were so bad that we had to stay inside. It was recess time and I headed back to the “cloakroom” to get a snack from my lunch bag. My classmate, Paul followed me back there. As I was reaching up to get my bag, he came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and kissed me right on the lips! He quickly bolted back to his desk. I stayed in the cloakroom for a couple of minutes to compose myself and try to figure out what had just happened. Was it “gross”? Or did I like it? To this day, I’m not quite sure. I know I was flattered and definitely shocked. Neither he nor I ever spoke of it again.
Mom used to love to take me to Beverly Hills to shop and have lunch with her many lady friends. Mom was particularly fond of Margaret O’Brien, who got her start in the film business as a child star. We would meet and have lunch at some of Mom’s favorite haunts, like the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel or other restaurants on Rodeo Drive.
Then we would shop. This little girl always came home with something new. Margaret was very fond of me and was always so sweet. She told me that if she ever had a daughter, she would name her after me. Years later, Mom told me that Margaret did indeed have a daughter and named her Mara.
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen Margaret, but from what I understand, she is doing well and so is Mara.
One last thing. In 1965 when I was nine years old, we all moved into a home together on Mansfield Avenue in the Hancock Park area of LA. Imagine that. Finally, all of us, Mom, my step-father, Grandma and my great aunt, all living in the same home. What a novel idea. All of us together made me very happy.
I would later learn that having everyone under the same roof came with some very bitter challenges.
Until next time…