I knew from the time I was in the sixth grade what I wanted to be in life. A private detective. I wanted to be the hard-boiled kind, like Humphrey Bogart portrayed. Even though I was a girl, I knew I could be just as tough as he was. But at 12 years of age, that wasn’t going to happen, so I started writing hard-boiled mysteries. They were short stories that one of my teachers insisted I read before the class… this was in junior high. By the time I was in high school I knew I wanted to be a foreign correspondent, traveling the world in my trench coat with the collar turned up around my neck. Also like Humphrey Bogart.
In my junior year in high school the editor of the local weekly asked if I would like to write a regular column. I jumped at the chance. They were pretty basic, but one or two still stand out, like the one I wrote after having lunch with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. They were going to be in Steubenille, Dean’s home town, for the opening of a new movie and were having a luncheon for the press in a conference room in the Stueben Hotel – on a school day!
My editor arranged for me to attend and my dad asked a local man who drove to Steubenville every day if he would take me with him. I had to find my own activity to fill the morning until lunch, so mostly I sat in the lobby of the hotel and watched people come and go.
At the luncheon Dean was accompanied by his first wife and oldest son. Jerry was there with his wife, but I don’t recall any children with him. Probably not, because he was something else…never sitting down, perhaps didn’t get a bit of food, never being still. All else paled next to his frenetic motion.
The phone in the room rang several times and he was always right there to answer it. “Joe’s pizza, we have a pepperoni special today,” he said and went on to describe it. Another time he answered in a phony language with words that sounded like Chin Yon’s Chinese Laundry. When not on the phone he made faces at everyone, told silly jokes and worked his way around the room, teasing everyone. Somehow he overlooked me. I was the only student in the room.
I can’t recall what we were served for lunch, or what questions, if any, were asked about the movie or their next venture. Throughout the meal Dean was either quiet or pretending to be upset with Jerry and trying to get him to sit down. Given the fact that they broke up not long afterwards, maybe he really was upset. He was certainly being upstaged!
But I didn’t see that. I saw two big stars having lunch with a dozen or so reporters and me. I was star-struck and the column I wrote reflected it. It’s a wonder I didn’t want to become a movie star after that. Like Humphrey Bogart.