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Friday, February 11, 2011


"I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. All we demand is our right to twinkle.
.....Marilyn Monroe

"Where are the real stars? Today it`s four-barreled carburetor and that`s it."
...............Robert Mitchum

"Bogart's a helluva nice guy until around 11:30 every night. After that he thinks he's Bogart."
............David Chasen - Founder of Chasen's Restaurant, Circa 1950's.

* * *



"I've been fortunate enough to work with - and befriend - many of the stars of the past," Julie Adams said, crossing her long fine legs. "I'm doubly blessed to be able to count a few of them as dear, dear friends."

Julie was visiting us in our office at Code Red, a series helmed by Irwin (The Towering Toupee) Allen, which was so dismal that even Julie and her co-star, Lorne Greene, couldn't rescue it. (See Episode #36 - Julie Adams: The Lady Even Movie Monsters Fell For. For the full Hollywood Monte of Code Red, check out Episodes #28 through #37 of The MisAdventures Thus Far)

"Who was your favorite?" I asked.

Julie smiled, and said, "Oh, I couldn't choose any particular one. And there were so many stars in Hollywood those days. When I was at MGM the studio's motto was that 'There are more stars at MGM, than in all the heavens.' A publicist's concoction, for sure. But when you were walking around the lot seeing them all, it didn't seem like such an exaggeration."

She leaned forward, voice becoming conspiratorial. "I wouldn't want to diminish the talents or screen presence of the new generation," she said, "But stars were... well... actually Stars, in those days. There's really no comparison."

Warming to the topic, she said, "I like to count Shirley (MacLaine) among my friends - we met at MGM... she was doing a romantic comedy, I was doing a Western... and I remember this delicious story she liked to tell.

"You might not know this, but Shirley was an unofficial member of Frank's (Sinatra) Rat Pack. A lot of actresses like to claim membership these days. But there were really only a few - 'Broads,' as Frank might say - who were welcome members of the Pack.

"Lauren Bacall was the Rat Pack's 'Den Mother,' because the original chief rat packer was her husband, Bogie. (Humphrey Bogart)." Julie gave a little musical laugh. "And there was Judy Garland, of course. If for no other reason than she was Judy Garland.

"And, of course, there was Shirley. You can't imagine... She's lovely now, of course. Beautiful, talented, and oh, so sweet. But when she was young.... Well, she had this quality - she could stop a man's heart with a look. Or stir the mothering urge in a woman."

Chris laughed. "She stopped my teenage heart a helluva lot," he said. "She has this... quality... on the screen."

"Star quality," Julie agreed. "Which brings me back to my story - or, Shirley's story, really. She and some of the other rat packers were having lunch at the MGM commissary one day.

"Frank was there, of course...And Dean (Martin) and Sammy (Davis Jr.) and Peter (Lawford), naturally. She didn't mention Joey (Bishop), so I suppose he wasn't in attendance.

"Well Shirley said Frank was at his best. Cracking jokes, trading jibes with the others. She said he was so full of life that day, his eyes so blue they would break your heart. And you could see right then why so many people - especially women - adored him.

"But, then Frank spotted someone coming into the commissary and suddenly fell silent. Shirley and all the other looked, and in came Clark Gable!

She said he looked so handsome... so... so... Clark Gable that she had to catch her breath. He walked right by their table, turned slightly and flashed them that glorious Gable smile in greeting. And then he vanished among the tables.

"And Shirley said she heard Frank murmur in absolute awe: 'Now, there goes a Real Star!"

Julie chuckled that musical chuckle she had. And she repeated, "'There goes a Real Star....' "And from the mouth of one of the greatest."

* * *

I'll always remember that conversation, and the prickles running up my spine listening to how Frank Sinatra, a star himself, was overwhelmed by the likes of Gable, and, presumably others like him in those days now known as Hollywood's Golden Era.

And I think of it often when I hear people call this actor, or that actress, a Superstar. We seem to confer that status on anyone who is the latest box office and scandal sheet darling. In many cases, the person's sole talent is the ability to avoid falling over cables while posing before a Blue Screen. Not just a Star - but a By God Superstar. One word! Not two.

The Age Of Aquarius has instead become the Age Of Empty Superlatives.

So, what's a Real Star? I guess it's like the guy said about art - "I know it when I see it." (Or was he speaking about porn?) Here's a page from my own scrapbook of Star memories:

When I was about twenty or so, I took care of Jack Kelly's house (the other Maverick) for a few months while he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Donna, went through the throes of divorce (Donna Kelly's stage name was May Wynn. A former Copa Girl, Donna was also known for her small part as the only woman in the Caine Mutiny and as the (not-so) former girlfriend of Mafioso Boss Jack Entratter, who ran the Sands, in Las Vegas. (Entratter reportedly put a "hit" order out on Jack when he and Donna eloped. They fled to Hong Kong, where they cooled their heels while doing an awful movie - the aptly named "Hong Kong Affair.")

The Kellys had three poodles - a standard, Misty, a medium sized one, Sammy, and a tiny one, Mitzy that suffered epileptic fits, poor thing. One of my jobs was to exercise them a couple of times a day, being extra careful with Mitzy.

The Kelly's lived on Sunset Boulevard in a stretch where a lot of stars had homes - Jayne Mansfield's house was two doors up. Beyond her was Jim Backus. And next door to Mr. Magoo was none other than Walter Matthau.


I used to have friends over and we'd sit in the windowed breakfast nook that looked out on Sunset Boulevard, drinking frozen daiquiris and playing cards. When the Star Tour buses went by, pausing to show off the home of TV star Jack Kelly, we'd wave at the tourists and give them a thrill! ("Oh, look, Myrtle, that must be Jack Kelly and his chums!")


Mr. Matthau had dog-walking chores of his own and we'd pass each other now and again, strolling along the back gate of UCLA. (Sometimes you'd see Elvis Presley out on the field playing touch football with his entourage.) Anyway, Matthau would pass by, nod in greeting and say, "Hello, young fella," and continue on,

Years later Chris and I landed a Story Editor gig at MGM. (See The Movie Rock Mogul) One day we were standing in line at the commissary cash register, (the very same one in the Gable story) waiting to be seated, when in walked Walter Matthau.

He hesitated, looked out across the room, spotted the people he was meeting, and started toward them. But, then he noticed me. Paused for a minute. Frowned that patented Matthau-Beagle frown.

Then his eyes lit up and he said, "You're the kid with the poodles, right?"

I was so star struck all I could stammer was "Yessir, Mr. Matthau," and he gave me a smile and continued on - with that long, loping Matthau stride.

Damn. Now there was a Real Star.

But, that's not all, folks.

A few years drifted by. A young actress friend (Laurie Prange) landed the ingénue part in Sean O'Casey's Juno And The Paycock, starring none other than the original Odd-Couple - Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon.

It was at the LA Music Center downtown and our friend left four tickets at the box office for me and Chris, his true love, Karen, and my wife, Kathryn. During intermission, Laurie came to escort us backstage to meet Matthau and Lemon. (I hadn't told Laurie that Matthau and I had sort of met before.)

She led us to the dressing room, and the two of them were in there, door open, joking with each other and passing a bottle of Scotch back and forth. Half in and half out of costume, makeup smeared. Talking to beat the band to keep revved up.

Laurie introduced us and right away Matthau recognized me, poked Lemon, and said, "Hey, Jack, it's the Poodles Kid."

Then he explained how we used to walk our dogs together on Sunset, making it sound way more than it was, but making me feel like a king.

Then he said, "You doing okay, Kid?"

I said I was a writer now and he said "Good for you," and that was that. We tactfully withdrew, then went back out to enjoy the remainder of the play.

To echo Sinatra once more, "There goes a Real Star."



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort.  However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out.  Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think. And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    


  1. From Allan: Saw this at

    Claim: Actor Walter Matthau was born 'Walter Matuschanskyayasky.'

    Status: False.

    Origins: In the world of entertainment, the performer who bills himself under his real name sometimes seems like the exception rather than the rule. The need for catchy sobriquets easily remembered by the ticket-buying public has spurred many entertainers (or their agents, or their managers, or their studios) to fashion new appellations in place of birth names deemed too plain, too long, too ethnic, too difficult to spell or pronounce, too patrician, or simply not sufficiently reflective of the performer's stage personality.

    Through this process vaudeville entertainers Benny Kubelsky and Nathan Birnbaum shed the surnames of their immigrant parents and achieved national fame as radio comics Jack Benny and George Burns, stuffily-named Archibald Alexander Leach was transformed into suave film star Cary Grant, actor Roy Scherer's masculine physique was emphasized through his Hollywood rebirth as Rock Hudson, a Hungarian Jew from the streets of New York dodged both anti-Semitic and anti-German prejudices in 1940s Hollywood by changing his name from Bernie Schwartz to Tony Curtis, the plain-sounding John Charles Carter acquired epic fame as film star Charlton Heston, and aspiring singer-songwriter Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. forever associated himself with the natural beauty of the Colorado he sang about when he adopted the name John Denver.

    A son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, born in 1920 in New York City's Lower East Side, began his stage career at age 11 playing bit parts in Yiddish theater. After a holding succession of jobs (a forester, a gym instructor, a boxing coach, an Army Air Corps radio cryptographer) throughout the Depression and World War II, he landed a role on Broadway as the understudy to Rex Harrison in 'Anne of the Thousand Days.' His starring roles opposite Jack Lemmon in the mid-1960s film comedies The Fortune Cookie and The Odd Couple brought him international fame and acclaim. We knew him as Walter Matthau, but numerous film biographies and countless "Guess who was born as ..." trivia lists have informed us he was actually born under the incredibly cumbersome name of Walter Matasschanskayasky (or Walter Matuschanskyayasky, or some variation thereof). Given the plethora of genuine Hollywood name-changers, who would question such a mildly outlandish yet seemingly mundane piece of information?

    That unquestioning acceptance was exactly what Walter Matthau was counting on, for the tale of his unusually lengthy surname was one of several practical jokes he impishly perpetrated over the years. As Matthau biographers Rob Edelman and Audrey Kupferberg disclosed in their 2002 biography of the film star, his father's surname was actually the unremarkable Matthow; the only alteration made later was a slight change of spelling that altered neither the pronunciation nor the length of the name. The story of Walter's multi-syllabic original name, along with some other whoppers (e.g., his mother was a gypsy; his middle name was 'Foghorn') were simply fictions he invented to liven up some of the tedious, repetitive interviews he had to endure as one of the obligations of stardom.

    Matthau did make his fictitious surname "official" in a least one sense, however — he was credited for his role as a 'Drunk' in the 1974 disaster flick Earthquake as 'Walter Matuschanskayasky.'

  2. There's a (possibly apochryphal) tale about the "British Marilyn Monroe" Diana Dors, who was born Diana Fluck. She returned to her home village for a charity event and the local vicar was panicking in case he accidentally dropped the 'l' when reminding former neighbours of her original name. Finally, the day arrived and he stepped up to introduce her on stage, adding "Of course, many of you might remember her as Diana Clunt".