From Showbiz to Sunday School
By Sharon Wyatt
Chapter 1,part 2
Born to Entertain
I would reply with whatever my song and dance would be called. Then Milton would say something like “I understand you just has a birthday.” To which I would reply, “Yes, I did.” His reply then was, “What did you ask for.” “Oh, a few blocks.” He would then state, “That’s nice some blocks.” Then I would add the punch line, “Yes, some block on Wilshire,” still a very upscale commercial address. It was usually something like that, and it would always get a good laugh from the thousands in attendance.
I did love my years with Milton, but as I matured I would also train in the Ballet, only to discover from my Russian instructor Madam Tamara Lebro, that as I matured it became apparent that I would be anything but a slim svelte ballerina and instead strong and busty. My parts would be as the wicked witch or the evil villainess, rather than the prima ballerina. That was not why I was killing my feet on point. So what could I do but go back and concentrate on Jazz and interpreted dance, where I could, if good enough be the lead.
Of course, growing up in the Hollywood area will mean with any luck there are the possibilities of acting work. My parents enrolled me as a member of the Actors Children Guild, where I began work at the ripe age of five with a small bit on “Champaign for Caesar,” with Ronald Coleman. I was to be lifted by Mr. Coleman to a water fountain to take a drink. However, I was big for my age and I proved to not need to be lifted to the water fountain, so a smaller girl was found. I would only skip to the fountain take a drink and was relegated to the background playing on the swings, which was fine with me, but that should have forewarned me concerning my future in Hollywood. Still in the years to come my mother would dutifully take me to various interviews, and I made enough such roles that when I was no longer considered a child I joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
One note of interest, my father primarily did stunt work in Hollywood, and his Christmas tree business was a Holiday sideline, but in 1944 he worked in the Canterville Ghost, with Robert Young. A young girl impressed him with what my father described as a delightful “accent.” The girl was Margaret O’Brien, and he determined that his infant girl would have the opportunity to speak such perfect English. As soon as it was feasible I found myself studying at the Gibson School, learning to speak “Universal English.” It would be a great help in all that I would do later, even and perhaps especially in the religious world.
At sixteen and seventeen I had two studios, Universal and Fox, offer me six figure contracts to sign with them. However, the studio systems at this point were not what they had been, and when I learned that they would be telling me what to wear, where to be seen, and with whom I turned them down. I was very independent and had absolutely no desire for such a life, but desired the normal life of a school-girl. Then it was Hollywood High School would try to recruit me for their very fine dance and drama department, but with many of the King family attending North Hollywood High near my home, our stage productions gave us no reason to hang our heads. Many of us did go on to make a living in various forms of the entertainment world.
During my teen-aged years I did find some work, with all the ups and downs of anticipation and disappointment. You dress to kill, drag yourself and your portfolio filled with photos of yourself in every conceivable pose; from ingénue to sophisticate from one casting office to another, from one interview to the next in hopes of one more job. You read some ridiculous out-of–context dialogue often with someone pursing the same career, perhaps one of the prima donnas doing their best to upstage you, and worse….
(Continues next month)