THE UNUSUAL (part two)
My first encountered with Betty was in the ladies room. She waltzed in full of cat hair, went into the stall, and when she came out she washed only two fingers on one hand! Several of the other girls were in there primping at the mirror as I was. When Betty was finished “washing,” she asked Virginia if she could borrow her hairspray. We were all amused with Betty, but we didn’t want her to know we were watching her. Our amusement turned to amazement when she took the can of hairspray, lifted her sweater and sprayed her armpits! For the rest of the day, all I could think of was her wash job, and sticky under arms. The sight of her would have been enough with the hot pink lipstick and high heels worn down halfway, which made her toes stick straight up in the front of her shoes. Surely, if she had fewer cats to feed she could’ve afforded new shoes. I was informed that there was money there, she was just eccentric. Months later I heard that Betty and her mother were fined for having too many cats. They were living in one of those Hollywood bungalows that are hardly big enough for two people, much less 125 felines. Apparently there was an odor that was offending the neighbors. Well, the smell couldn’t have been from Betty, I saw what she used for deodorant!
We had our share of health food fanatics at the studio as well; apparently there is nothing new. And diets that ranged from the pomegranate and fig diet, to smoked fish, and then the prune juice purifier. All were making the rounds among the most daring dieters. The all juice diets were somewhat in vogue, as they are again, and seemed to be successful for those who don’t mind abstaining from the fine art of chewing for days and weeks at a time.
Then there were those who for no apparent reason would inflict a torturous regime upon themselves and swear by the results. One fellow drank carrot juice incessantly, and he was actually orange in color. Now, I love carrot juice, but believe me if I drank to the point where my complexion was turning that color, I’ve no doubt that I would quit immediately. But Gary didn’t seem to mind at all. Another man was a sunflower seed fanatic. One could always tell where he had been seated, for you’d find piles of shells here and there.
My thing was the watermelon diet, as I have shared. Every Thursday without fail, I would eat nothing but watermelon. Nothing would keep me from having my slice of watermelon for lunch, and fortunately every studio carried it year around. One Thursday I was working on “Run For Your Life,” when the music department called me on the stage, and asked if I could sing descant. Yes, I could sing the counterpart to the melody as a soprano. The powers that be, made the unusual arrangements for me to be taken off “Run For Your Life,” and then allowed to go over to the recording stage on the Universal lot.
The sun was shining brightly that day, so when I entered the dark stage I could see nothing but the one light on the music stand. They had been waiting for me so when I walked in everything was quiet. My eyes were not adjusting very quickly as I stumbled in trying to grope my way toward the lights. A voice came out of the dark, “Is that Sharon Leigh?”
“Yes,” I said, “Please somebody smile, I can’t see a thing.” A hand reached out for me, and I was guided over to the music director, who immediately started to show me the music score. By now my eyes were seeing straight, and I felt a flush of embarrassment come over me. He was a man of color. I wanted to apologize for my statement, but that would have truly been in poor form, and fortunately he was so sophisticated that he made no sign of being upset.
I went up on the risers and began to rehearse with the black choir from a church in Central Los Angeles. It was soon time to break for lunch, and the choir insisted I joined them in the commissary. They were a delightful fun loving group, and may I add they could sing great. I was really pleased with the opportunity to be part of their effort. Most of them were in their 60s, but were young at heart. We shared a million laughs. We got to the commissary, I excuse myself to go to the little girls room. By the time I got back to the group at the table, they were already ordering. So I would be ordering last. The eldest gentleman in the group said, “And does Miss Leigh know what she is going to have?” “Well yes, I know exactly what I’m going to have.” I looked right at the waitress and said, “I’ll have watermelon, please.” Needless to say, although this was Thursday, I realized too late that I had perhaps committed another small faux pas.
Among the Hollywood storytellers, there were a select few that could truly spin a yarn. I had my favorites in this elite group, and without exception, Joe Flynn and Larry Stortch were the best. And of those lesser-known Roy Cabine could hold court with the best with his many hilarious stories, which he experienced as Lee Marvin’s stand-in for many years. It appears Lee Marvin was a target for many a prank, and practical jokes are par for the course on most out-of-town location shoots. While filming out on a desert far from civilization, anyone is fair game for just about any caper. And the longer the duration of time spent in these remote places the wilder and crazier the antics became.