Saturday, October 28, 2006

Robert Conrad was a singer in Chicago

 Conrad starred on TV in "WILD, WILD, WEST"

Nick Adams had been asked by Warner Bros. to go to Marion, Indiana, where Robert Altman's film, "The James Dean Story," was to premiere. It was Altman's first film and was a documentary on James Dean. It was to premiere in Marion, because this is the town where James Dean was born, although he would later live in Fairmount, Indiana with his aunt and uncle after his mother died in California. When Nick went there for the premiere, he also visited Jim's uncle and aunt, Marcus and Ortense Winslow. They introduced him to Robert Conrad who had introduced himself to them, as he had wanted to meet Nick, whom he knew was coming there for the premiere. So, that was how Nick met Conrad, who had been a singer in Chicago. Robert was a very handsome guy. I mean the type of face that would literally stop traffic. And Nick would convince him to go to Hollywood and try for an acting career. Of course, this is what Conrad had wanted, so it wasn't hard for him to make a decision.

Nick brought Bob to my apartment and introduced us and showed Bob the fan mail I had been answering. I was sort of sorry Bob came to Hollywood because Nick started spending all of his spare time with him and then I would hardly see Nick. I had went with Nick to purchase a typewriter for Natalie Wood. She was in San Francisco with Robert Wagner on a boat, and I believe they had just gotten married and Nick had wanted to send her a present. We went to a discount warehouse (new in those days) and like today, had to be a member to get in. Many people there recognized Nick and I sort of drifted away from him. When they would ask him for his autograph, they also asked for mine! I wasn't anybody, but they would still insist. I would think, what the hell, and do it just to satisfy them. Then someone started playing an Elvis record and Nick, being a ham, started dancing and lip syching to the record. I was embarrassed because it was drawing more attention to us, so I drifted away. When we left, some young guy was crossing the street and said, "Nick Adams, the stupid actor." Nick replied, "Fuck you," way before fuck became a common everyday word.

Conrad went with Nick and I, to the Hollywood Post-office on Wilcox, to mail Nick's mail to his fans. Nick bought the stamps and the three of us were there, licking and pasting stamps on the envelopes. Nick was on one part of the lobby and Conrad on the other. Nick said out loud, "this is the most licking I have ever done." Then Conrad would come back with, "I hear Tab Hunter likes to lick them too." And it went on and on. A crowd was soon gathering. Nobody knew Bob at that time, but they all recognized Nick. We had gone to another Post-office on Highland, but it was closed. Conrad got out of the car, and swished to the front door, looking like a nellie queen, part of his act.

One time while walking down Hollywood Boulevard, I ran into Nick and Bob and they asked me to go to Micelli's Pizzaria on Las Palmas Avenue. I said I wasn't hungry but went with them anyway. As we left, Conrad grabbed me and held my arms, while Nick pretended he was punching me out. It was across the street from a newsstand and it attracted a lot of attention. Then they ran and jumped into Nick's Thunderbird and took off. People were running up to me asking me if I was hurt? They didn't know it was Nick Adams who was playing around with me. I walked across the street and started browsing magazines. A few minutes later, Nick came driving by and was yelling, "Hey, Bill, hey Bill." I never acknowledged them and everyone was asking, "Who's Bill?"

Nick would often use my phone and make calls trying to get Bob a part in a film, even when he wasn't working himself. Finally, Bob got a part in a film called, "Juvenile Jungle." I heard that during the opening credits, he was shown on a beach, kissing a girl. I don't think he was in the rest of the film. I never saw it.

When Marge Grant, the girl from Detroit, married Clemmon Poor, they had a wedding reception at the home of Jim Brown (not the black actor) but the guy who was on "Rin-Tin-Tin," on television. Of course Nick and I were invited. On the way we stopped by Bob's apartment, and I was introduced to his wife. I never even knew he had been married. I think they had one kid too. They were using orange crates as end tables by the couch. They couldn't afford to buy furniture. They were having a hard time making ends meet. I was surprised that neither Bob or Nick had told me Bob was married. But, in those days, young male actors, were at a disadvantage if they were married. Girls wanted to think that they had a chance of getting them, but if they were married that chance was nil. So, many married actors pretended that they were single. The studios preferred single guys too, unless you were an older established actor. This is why, when I offered to let Bob share my apartment, he didn't want to. He had a wife and kid.

Nick drove me to Jim Brown's but soon left leaving me behind. I was pissed. I ended up with Nancy Streebeck, a writer for a magazine called, HEAR HOLLYWOOD, and a gay friend of hers at Googie's restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, where we had gone (my ride home).

Yvonne Lime, had been at the reception as well as actor Dan Duryea, a very good actor who played many heavy roles. Jim Best, was also there. His most famous role came later on "The Dukes of Hazzard," TV show. I spent some time talking with Yvonne and a lot of time standing in the punch bowl line. Nancy would one day write a book about Burt Reynolds, whom she had become a secretary for. She had also asked me to write an article on Nick for HEAR MAGAZINE. It was called Hear because the cover had a vinyl, 45 rpm record which could be played on a regular phonograph player. It would be an actor saying a few words. I told her I would try. (I bought a copy of HEAR a few years ago for $75. It has a record on the front with James Dean talking and also Tony Perkins. I never took it off the cover, a nice keepsake).

I had an old typewriter that Nick had given to me to use, answering his fan mail and I wrote a short article on him, (as I would do for the Berwick Enterprise years later when he died). I decided to let him read it first before giving it to Nancy. I guess I had a flare for writing because he said he liked it. But, he really got upset when I quoted him for calling me "schmuck." I didn't know it was jewish for prick! I don't recall if the article was ever printed, although I did meet a young, cute actor who had been in the magazine. His name is Bart Mattson. He was a friend of Raphael Campos, a young Mexican actor of the fifties who was featured in "Blackboard Jungle." It starred Glenn Ford who recently passed away. I wrote to see if he needed anyone to answer his fan mail? It had been an excuse just to meet him. He came over, we talked and eventually had sex. He was gorgeous. He was featured in one film, or at least he had screen credit for a film titled, "The Story Of Mankind," a real turkey. He played Cleopatra's brother and if you blinked, you would have missed his performance.

Ricky Nelson was also becoming popular as a singer, singing Fats Domino hits. Rick was also very handsome and I decided to try to meet him. Somehow I managed to get his home phone number and his mother, Harriet, returned my call to see what I had wanted? I used the excuse that several of Nick's fans also requested photos of Ricky and I asked if he could bring some over or send some to me? She said she would be glad to and had Rick sign a photo for me and my sister, along with a dozen or so other ones for me to send out, with just his signature on them. Of course they were mailed to me and not delivered by Rick. I heard they had lived near my apartment but until his death, I had no idea where it was. I used to walk the streets at night, hoping he might drive past. He lived a mile or so away on a dead-end street.

One time Nick was getting his T-Bird worked on and he borrowed a sports car from a girl named Debbie Minardos. We were driving near Beverly Hills, going up a steep hill, when the car would suddenly stall-out. Nick would coast the car backward, down the hill, get it started, and up the hill, only to have it stall out again. The problem was, it was a foreign car with two gas tanks and one was empty and Nick didn't know how to switch them. We got up to Sunset Boulevard and Nick parked it at the curb. He said he had to phone Debbie to see how to keep it running. I sat in the car for about forty five minutes. He later returned with Debbie. She turned a switch and the car started right away. She immediately started arguing with Nick about meeting Elvis. Nick said he couldn't take her to Memphis and she was yelling, "fuck you, fuck you." A few months later, I read in the paper that she had married Tyrone Power.... so, I guess she was a "star fucker" of the highest degree.

I advertised for a roommate in the Los Angeles newspapers. I had wanted to save some money. I had sent so many "I Love you," telegrams to Bart Mattson, that I was about to lose my phone. My phone rang constantly because my ad had read-NINETEEN YEAR OLD MALE WOULD LIKE TO SHARE APARTMENT WITH SAME. This was before personal ads became the fashion. Many callers asked me if I had wanted to move in with them? And they hadn't even met me. I guess they just wanted a young man's cock, no matter what he looked like or who he was. I never put my address in the newspaper ads but somehow a few managed to find out where I lived and knocked on my door. I learned to leave the front door of the apartment open as they looked over my small apartment. One guy chased me around the apartment and tried to grab me.

An older guy came by wearing a yacht cap. He seemed like a rich playboy. He said he had worked for Jack Benny and showed me an engraved wrist watch that was engraved to him from Benny. (now-a-days anyone can get an engraved watch with anything they want to have engraved on it). But, I knew he was looking for a young lover and I brushed him off. Then he started dropping by the theater where I worked. I explained the situation to Mr. Quann, the manager, and would hide whenever I saw him coming.

Nick had an answering service, HO-75191. And until 1995, it was still in service. I had once phoned Nick and the operator screwed up and connected me with Tab Hunter, who was also on the service. Tab called and asked for Bill and I said, "I'm Bill, who is this?" And he said Tab Hunter. I said, "yeh, and I'm Rock Hudson too." Then he asked if I was Bill from Chicago? I said no, then we knew there was a mix-up. I told him I worked for Nick and then I got all excited because Tab was one of my idols. He used to wear a red and white plaid bathing suit and I would dream about being there next to him. He was a beautiful, blue-eyed blond. In "Battle Cry," he had a very sexy scene with (for those days), Dorothy Malone. I could easily have fallen in love with him. I really wanted to meet him and gave him my address. (I talked with Dorothy Malone a couple years ago. She was turning 80 and lives in Texas. She hates Hollywood. Said all agents are rapist bastards).

A few days later, there was a knock at my door. It was Dick Clayton, Tab's agent. He said he was going to buy Tab some organically grown fruit and asked if I had wanted to go along? Dick was in his forties and I recalled seeing his picture in magazines, escorting women to premieres. He was extremely handsome and seemed to have perfect teeth. I told him I would be glad to go with him. (I was in hopes of meeting Tab in person). I learned Dick had been James Dean's agent when Dean came to California. Jane Deacy had been Jim's agent in New York. Dick had also been a partner of Henry Willson who had been an agent for Rock Hudson, Rory Calhoun and many other leading men. These were "the" agents of the fifties.

Dick was wearing shorts and looked quite like the Playboy type. He was driving a white Cadillac convertible and had his German shepherd, Sam, with him. When we got back to the apartment, he said he had work to do. I asked if Sam could stay with me? (I was only kidding), and he said, "sure if you can get him out of the car." I said, "Come on Sam," and Sam jumped out of the car. Dick laughed and said you have stolen Sam's heart. I was thinking, yeh and you are stealing mine. He was the only older person than me, that I ever had serious feelings for. I didn't think I would ever see him again, but a week later he phoned again. I wondered if he had been checking me out for Tab? But, Dick came by and took me to his home in the Hollywood Hills. When I first arrived in Hollywood, I thought the Hollywood Hills was Beverly Hills, but it's called what else but, the Hollywood Hills. Dick's home was on top and what a beautiful view of Los Angeles. I wanted to stay there all night but when I heard the phone ringing I knew there would be problems and I held my breath. Sure enough, it was Tab Hunter. He had been dating Etchika Choureau, who was his co-star in "Lafayette Escadrille," and he had run out of gas, so he phoned Dick to go get some for him. This meant I was out and Dick drove me back home. (Wonder if this was a fixed call. Hum-m-m).

Dick told me that all of his clients were gay, and among his clients were Angie Dickinson and Jane Fonda, who had lived with him at the beginning of her film career. When I printed this in the Hollywood Star and someone phoned him about it, he denied it. I was sorry I had printed the item although he had never asked me to keep it a secret or not to repeat it to anyone. Neither of us knew I would one day be a gossip columnist. I probably used bad judgment, but when you are into gossip writing, this is the type of person you become. A gossip columnist cannot keep a secret. But, I must admit, I did love Dick Clayton, my first older man affair. And a few years ago he was courteous enough to talk to a young discovery on mine, a Dean type, Preston Brown. But, like Jan-Michael Vincent (a client of Dick's), Preston got on drugs and is now incarcerated. (Preston died in prison from pneumonia, 2006. Broke my heart). Dick had been Burt Reynolds manager and had made quite a bit of money from him, in addition to Jan-Michael's one time hot career, whom Dick had discovered before he got into drugs. And Dick made enough money to buy the property next door to the home where I knew him, (formerly owned by James Dean) and he built a beautiful home on it. It's in a private secluded area, very large and I am glad to see his years of work had paid off. Dick is now in his nineties, God bless him. When Tab was interviewed by Larry King, I phoned him from Ohio and reminded him of the phone exchange number that I had remembered since 1957.(Dick died September 29, 2008. The day before Dean's death day.) Preston died December 7, 2007, at Corcoran Prison in California. He was 32.

Dick's former partner, Henry Willson, died penniless at the Motion Picture Actor's Home. Henry, at one time, was the biggest known agent in Hollywood. It was his idea to change actor's names, that sounded better than their own (wish they would do that today). If you are into Hollywood, you know Roy Fitzgerald became Rock Hudson and Art Gelian became Tab Hunter. Guy Madison was also one of his clients. I don't think Rip Torn was his client but it's a Willson sounding name he could have made up.

Henry loved reading the Hollywood Star, and often phoned me from a pay phone at the home. But when I finally went there to see him, he was on his death bed. His liver had given out and he was suffering from a lot of pain. I put cold wash cloths on his forehead and even had the nurse bring him some pain pills. Although he was in a lot of pain, he wanted me to stay there and talk with him. We laughed over many stories we shared. I told him that a male model said he was approached to do the Tab Hunter Story on film. His name is Wayne Pickett and he did have a Tab look about him. Henry just laughed.

After leaving the home I phoned Tab, who was living in Virginia, to let him know about Henry's condition, as well as Dick Clayton. And of course the trade papers, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. I wanted to notify Rock but he was away filming.

I only knew Henry briefly, in his latter years, and mainly through phone conversations. I liked him a lot and he died a very lonely man. I only wish he had written a book he expressed a desire to do and to tell the whole truth. Recently reading, "The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson," I learned Henry had been a gossip columnist at the beginning of his career. I guess this is why he loved the Hollywood Star.

I went to the funeral parlor on Santa Monica Boulevard, across from the Hollywood Memorial Park cemetery (now known as Hollywood Forever), but he hadn't been made up for viewing. I signed the registry, the first on the list as I recall, and had to go somewhere on business. When I returned a funeral procession was leaving the parlor. I followed it to North Hollywood to a cemetery. When I approached the crowd, I thought it was strange that I didn't recognize anyone there. Dumb me. I followed the wrong funeral. Sorry Henry. I am a fuck-up.


 Must be 18 years old. Rated "R" for expletives

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ISBN  978-0-615-37758-2

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( Homesick back to Flint-Mistake!