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Growing up with the Stars

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

Looking back on the Summer of 1964, it was pretty darn cool. 

The Beatles had just arrived in the U.S. Beatlemania had hit  like a hurricane and Dad was working with Alfred Hitchcock on the 'Hitchcock Hour’, a weekly TV series. 

He found a small part for me as a little girl alongside the actor Alejandro Rey in an episode called “The Life Works of Juan Diaz” written by Ray Bradbury.  I remember the long time spent in make up getting me ready for the part.  We shot for several days on a very hot movie set and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

Later that summer I worked on Northern Tissue and Beanie and Cecil commercials followed by parts in Arrest and Trial and The Virginian.  Little did I know that by summer’s end most of this Hollywood fun would come to a screeching halt for the next few years. 

My parents really wanted to me to focus on my education, not Hollywood. Yet they wanted me to ‘keep my foot in the door’ should I want to continue in the movie business in the future. During the following years throughout middle school and high school I was just an ordinary kid.  Well, sort of.  Nothing seemed ordinary to me living at home with my Italian family and a bully for a step-dad. I actually craved being part of a ’typical’ American family. You know what I mean… having meatloaf on Tuesday nights and Taco Thursdays, going to sleep-overs at a friend’s house, walking to the ice cream store with a friend, having either a bologna sandwich or PB & J for lunch at school.  I was never allowed to sleep over at a friends. However, Mom would occasionally let me have a friend stay the night and that was usually Annie. As for PB&J's. they were just too “pedestrian” for Mama’s taste. Grandma would prepare a gourmet lunch for me every day. Sometimes it was left-overs of a fabulous Italian meal (mostly Mondays), or freshly made hot soup and Italian bread, sausage and peppers, etc.  All the other kids had the sandwich thing. I would often trade lunches with them on the school yard. They were fascinated by my fancy meals. All I wanted was a PB&J.  In hind site, I was the lucky one. But it didn’t feel like it at the time. I just wanted to fit in like everyone else. Thank God we wore uniforms! I can only imagine what Mom would have dressed me in had we not - no doubt Armani, Versace or Valentino for kids. I loved my least I fit in that way.

Mom would also drive me to school in her new Cadillac, yet another thing that stood out. She would volunteer at school doing yard duty or be room-mother for our classes. Interesting how after not really being involved in my life for the first 5-6 years, she became a very diligent and participating parent. 

Mom loved attention. She was always dressed ’to the nines’ even when volunteering at my school. Designer everything. She was quite the looker and everyone stared at her. The constant attention is exactly what she wanted. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t at all resentful or envious. Quite the opposite. I was so proud of her. What I wasn’t comfortable with was her having to put on ‘airs’ at school. I just wanted to be part of the crowd. The kids made fun of me. I felt as if I wasn’t part of the ‘in-crowd’. I always felt self-conscious. 

Even the nuns thought Mom was gorgeous. She had an eye for beauty and not just her own. She admired it in others as well.  

It was 6th grade and I fondly remember our Principal at BSS, Sr. Frederica. She was tall, thin and drop-dead gorgeous.  She and Mom would spend hours talking in her office. I wondered what they talked about, figuring it was about parent teacher issues, the upcoming school carnival or the yearly Monte Carlo casino night. 

I later learned that was only partly true. You see, Mom was advocating for Sr. Frederica to leave the order. She told her that she was far too beautiful to be trapped in a convent and that she should find a handsome man and get married. (Yes, Mom was un-apologetically brazen.) Within three years, Sr. Frederica would leave Blessed Sacrament, meet a man and get married.  Mom would proudly recount this story for years to come. 

The coming years were very interesting times all made so much better by my beloved friend Annie. We experienced so much together - fun times at school, birthdays at Disneyland, cooking Italian food with my grandmother, dealing with challenging times in our respective homes, and surviving the ‘mean girls’ who loved to ridicule us in grade school.  

Michael Philpott was my first crush, a blond-haired blue-eyed English lad. I was so excited when he asked me to go to the school carnival in 6th grade. We were on the Ferris Wheel and he took my hand. I thought I was going to melt...HE HELD MY HAND! That was it. I found my forever love. Well, a few days later, one of the tough girls in our class by the name of Sylvia confronted me on the school yard. “You stole my boyfriend!” she yelled. “Michael is mine! Stay away from him!”  I told her to get away from me. She grabbed me and pushed me against the fence and started punching me and slapping me in the face. I managed to get away and ran into the girls bathroom to hide. The bell rang and after putting some cold towels on my face I walked to class.  I told the first teacher I saw, Sr. Christian, what had happened.  To my surprise, she already knew. Apparently, Silvia had spilled the beans and turned the story around in her favor. The next thing I knew I was the bad one and about to be punished.  I was so frustrated. Sr. Christian yelled at me and raised her hand to slap me. I grabbed her arm and yelled back, “You don’t know the truth. How can you call yourself Sr. Christian when you act like a monster! My mom will make sure you get thrown out of BSS,” I screamed. She was shocked at my words and very angry. I ran to Sr. Frederica’s office where a warm hug awaited me. She told me everything would be OK. We called my mother and she came to school to pick me up. As we already know, Mom was brazen. She took no prisoners. She demanded that Sr. Christian be let go from her teaching position at BSS. Guess what? A week later Sr. Christian was gone. Remember, Mom and Sr. Frederica were good friends. ;)

It was 1968 as I entered 7th grade and Mr. Orlando’s homeroom class. He was always the jokester and I was clearly one of his pets. My grades were always stellar and he knew I liked him. In fact, he would be my next crush.  Annie doesn’t have fond memories of him at all. But somehow my experience was very different. I would go home and dream of him and then remember feeling embarrassed at school the next day--almost as if he could read my thoughts. 

However, the most exciting memory I have of 7th grade was not  Mr. Orlando. It was Paul Newman. Meeting him was JUST PLAIN AWESOME!

Until next time...

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