FROM SHOW BIZ TO SUNDAY SCHOOL
Sharon Leann Wyatt’s autobiography
Is It Sexual Harassment, Or Boys Will Be Boys? (Conclusion)
And my First Elvis Presley Movie (Part One)
I was wanted on the sets so I excused myself and started to walk away, as I was leaving Ms. Crawford said to the makeup man. “What a lovely girl, hope this business doesn’t ruin her.” Once the work on “I saw what you did” was completed that night, I went to a club in Beverly Hills where a good friend was singing, and another friend was her accompaniment. I was asked to get up and do my “Adelaide’s Lament” from “Guys and Dolls.” Oh, it felt good to be performing, and in front of a live audience to boot.
MY FIRST ELVIS PRESLEY MOVIE
Monday morning, and I was at the Paramount lot working on, of all things, an Elvis Presley movie. The set was a restaurant bar with a rustic western feeling, I believe the movie was “tickled me” or was it “roustabout?” I’m not certain at this juncture, and it really doesn’t matter, for I found after working in quite a few Presley movies, that they possessed a similarity. Was it the dialogue, the songs, the constant bevy of beauties surrounding him dancing in some sort of gyrations that were sure to make every crucial part of the female anatomy bounce? Anyway Elvis was a quiet sort, and seemingly quite shy. I am recalling my first impressions of him, for as I stated I worked on so many Presley movies.
In this particular scene we were the innocent bystanders at a typical Presley pugilism. His sparring partner was Red West, who I saw fight Presley on every movie thereafter. As we sat in our booths, Presley and Red began to scuffle and shout, then it was upgraded to fist flying about wildly, seemingly to strike with a vengeance the face of the opponent. Ever notice that after all the battering these “heroes” have supposedly taken they always seem to come away unscathed, save for a trickle of technicolor blood placed ever so carefully at the corner of the mouth. Or to confirm the feeling that the altercation was a real knock-down-drag-out, some poor bloke will be painted with a shiner with no less care than Michelangelo gave the Sistine Chapel.
The rehearsed and precisely gaffed exchange of blows continued, being sure to be just at the correct angle from the cameras keen eye. This way each of the so-called contact blows only seems so, when in actuality contact was never made, at least it wasn’t supposed to. But on this day one of the contenders forgot the rules of stunt fighting and Elvis’ fist met with Red’s brow.
How did that blood get there? I thought to myself, just then Red bent forward and reached for his unscripted wound. Elvis didn’t overdo any remorse for what he had done, but he was concerned, even though they both tried to laugh it off. It seemed to me Red was a bit provoked, but it was only a flash in his eyes that led me to think so. Could he have been a bit tired of Elvis’ over rambunctiousness during what was supposed to be a carefully executed action scene and under control?
Red was a big, raw-boned, strong fellow, who on occasion donned a shiny black wig and actually doubled for Elvis. Within a few minutes Red’s wound had been closed up and makeup put over it to disguise the bandage. All I could think was that Elvis was fortunate he wasn’t on the receiving end of the same blow from big Red, or production would have been stopped for two days rather than the 15 or 20 minutes that it took to patch up the much more formidable Red. I was told Red and Elvis were cousins once removed, whether or not it was true I couldn’t say. There were always these so-called cousins on a Presley set, especially after he went over to M.G.M. But I wasn’t to run into them for some time to come.
Things were really beginning to look up for me. Work was steady and the money quite good. I found myself making at least one silent bit a week. (A silent bit was doing something more special than that of a single double or triple whammy. A single whammy was an extra $7.49 added to your daily base pay, which was then $25.47. A double was twice that amount, but a silent bit was at that time $45 over and above the 25.47, bringing the grand total up almost to $80, and if there was overtime added to that well….. that was sheer delight to any a “day player’s” bank account, for this was the ’60s). Oh, yes there is another moniker given the Extra.
(Continued next month)